Saturday, May 22, 2010


A single picture for now, but here's my Swift:

Sam sorted me out with this after the Voodoo died again and I needed something pronto to ride the Tour Divide. It's light, fast, and lovely!

Friday, May 21, 2010

When your teeth hurt... you know it was a proper crash!

One of the things I really appreciate about mountain biking is that there's nowhere to hide if you're not up to it. If you get things wrong, there's no "deferred success", no letting you down gently. You don't "not pass", you fail and there's just the smack of you hitting the dirt. That was how last night went:

Work had slipped into the way again, and I set off late. I had deliberately eaten a light dinner in the hope that I could ride light, but that was too long ago. Even on the way to the woods, I was thinking that it could have been better to stay home. But it felt like a ride that had to be done. Even in the first corner, my bike felt like a sack of spanners. Rattling over bumps, dropping the chain, spanging over the roots, everything was disjointed. With my new bike expected the next day (today!), I resented this machine. I lacked flow, and it responded in kind.

I was here to ride though, so I hit the Full 9 Yards as hard as I could. It has some great fast sweeping corners that can usually flatter your riding. They mocked mine. I wasn't as fast as fast or as precise as tidy. I carelessly jumped into a left-hander, and my back wheel clipped a small tree-stump mid-air. In the next moment, I was on the ground. My bike tumbled down towards my back and I redirected its fall into the bushes. I was dusty and hoping that I hadn't broken ribs again. As I sat there, my teeth hurt. So I must have hit my face on the ground. Everything seemed to work ok though: some grazes and a bruised thigh. The bike was fine. So I got back on and limped up the hill.

The rest of the ride was taken at a jog and that's not something I've done recently at Swinley. Suddenly, I could see all kinds of things off the trail: the trees and the deer, the sinking sun and the needles on the ground. It was nice to really feel the corners without trying to go quickly. It reminded me of that feeling you get when trying something new at swimming. I could feel the trails as I could sometimes feel water caught under my hand.

And as I rode, my iPod shuffled up some reminders of the near future. Both Josh Ritter's "Other Side" and Steve Earl's "Fort Worth Blues" mention The Great Divide. As if I don't spend enough time brooding on it already!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

All the usual troubles (and some success!)

I hate whiny blogs. So there were no posts for a while as I tried to sort things out...

Trying to do a big event always seems to push everything else harder. It takes so much time and energy that wrinkles in everyday life seem like mountains. And holes in the plan for the event seem like dark chasms. So while my attempts to reduce my load at work are still coming to nothing and I often have to work until midnight after training; and while the frame that I was going to use for the race is broken; and while my knee has been hurting again; these things are not insurmountable.

The work will do what it does and if some things fall by the wayside, I'm going to try to accept that I can't do it all.

The frame will be replaced by something different and better, but more on that when it's done!

And the knee still feels odd but doesn't hurt today. I've taken some rest, moved my cleats about 1mm - it felt better, and I've been riding with flats for commuting. It'll get there.

The fortunate side of the knee is that it has given me time to nail down those last few bits of gear (aside from the new bike!). I got myself a new 500g tarp recently which isn't ultra-ultra-light, but it's light enough for my budget. With the tarp and my bivvy bag, I'm ready for anything. If it's dry and warm, then I can just use a sleeping bag. If it's wet and warm and I can find a way to pitch it, I can use the tarp and sleeping bag. If it's wet and cold and I can find a way to pitch it, I can use the tarp and bivvy. And if it's wet and cold and there's no tarp possible, I can survive a cold wet night in just the bivvy.

So, today I cut a slot into a carbon pole that I had lying around and tried pitching the tarp using just the bike and that one pole:

Pretty successful (the funny wrinkle in the side is due to only partly pegging that side in). It's wide enough to lie under with gear. It's high enough not to be right in my face. And if I can find co-operative branches or trees, it could be even better. The pole can easily attach to the bike with velcro cable ties, and the same ties can be used to run a guy rope across the bar-ends. Sweet!

So it's back on the bike tomorrow and crossed fingers that the frame damage won't damage me!