Saturday, 27 June 2009


"....Skinned our hearts ,and skinned our knees..." *

Me ,Andy ,Stu and Steve in the van ,met up with Gareth ,Dave ,Phil + Tom ,and Rick.






Tired today . Late bed ,early up ,times 3 . Doesnt compute. Still.
Picked up the team van last night from Alan. Early start . Meet at Stu's just after 7 . Load up. 4 in the van + bikes/kit. Plenty room.
About 2 hrs up to Whinlatter . Keswick area . Bit farther up than you think . Not too many there when we arrive ,9ish. No problem parking up etc . Nice place. Fairly typical forest visitor centre type of place. Pay and display ,4 quid , bikes out , faff ,more faff ,and away.
I'll spare the gory details ,but , literally 30 seconds in ,I'm off. Stupid SPD moment on a skinny balance about 50 yds in. Dave's in front of me and he's kinda decked it too ,landing on his dodgy knee he doesnt like to talk about ,and 'stiff legging it'. This is shaping up. I'm leaking claret all over the gaff,and Daves hobbling about . If we looked back we'd probably still see the cars.
I've lowered my saddle for this play sesh ,so ,my thinking is ,if I put it up I wont be lured into this silliness in future. So I put it up and we set off.
Another 100 yards along theres a bit of a lumpy bit ahead. All the lads are through ,waiting ,for blood ? I dunno ,anyway , I can't say what happened ,but it involved a severely steep line with no transition ,an impending rock face and a handful of super grabby Avid Elixir CRs. The front one , I suppose,and I nail it but can't get my weight back,seat up,see? The end result is I'm doing a fairly good impression of a praying mantis looking for a contact lens. More claret . Other leg ,oh ,and a bit out of the left arm.'O' neg. The bike is 'parked' upside down ,which is a feature I believe Cannondale design in......
So , now I'm paying attention and wish I'd had an early night.

It's easy to say all the trail centres these days are formatted and follow a pattern of bog standardness. Whinlatter is most definitely a trail centre that's up there with the best . OK ,I've not done loads ,but ,this is pretty good compared to the ones I have. In all throughout the day there's something for everyone. The climbing's far from easy, and the downhills ,whilst all rideable ,with a bit of speed dont half keep you focused. The surface ,pretty much everywhere, is loose ,sharp ,skittery stones. It's a right laugh,but I wouldnt want to have a proper 'off'. In the trees ,sawn off branches also vie for attention. It's good ,just dont take your eyes off the ball.



The first loop ,with a few stops ,it's red hot by the way,takes probably a few hours . Who's counting? We chill out in the rest / picnic area. Quite busy now,and after some much needed re-fuelling ,and tales of derring do,we set off for round two,the other loop ,south loop? Whatever.
All a bit more of the same . Tree lined singletrack punctuating more open hillside /view elements. It's very warm and bone dry ,but it's hard to find grip on the skatey stones. I've just spoke to Alan . He went up there earlier on in the year on a Cannondale Rush ( more towards lighter XC ) with super skinny 1.5 tyres on. It was wet through . Imagine the rest. Dodgy.
I nearly overcook it over a bermed corner ,but dont , again focuses the mind. The Rize works well here . Some of the guys are on 'bigger' bikes,flying on the downhills they pay for on the slogs uphill.
The Rize is probably more of a balanced ride. There's enough suss to open it up ,yet it's still very efficient uphill too. Open it up I did ,and there was one point near the finish I ran out of balls before the bike did. And I wasnt hanging about. Big ring and about 3 up at the back,chucking it into the corners,steering with my feet ,y'know?.Flying.It's good.'Rewards bravery' I said last week. Bravado ,stupidity ,recklessness ,call it what you will . It's fun. I occasionally pinch myself that it has come to this. Who'd have thought?
Back at the van ,and later on in the pub, we're all buzzing off it. Very quicky I go off the boil and need coffee. It was either that or another lap.
It's addictive.
I gotta score man ,I'm hurting bad......
Good turnout today ,good company ,good riding ,good weather ,good food ,good good good.
* Seasons in the Sun . I dont normally do requests.
* Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The New Uzzi

The Uzzi is out and we have one in the shop right now for you to drool over. We'll be getting a demo bike for a weekend soon, register your interest with Tim...

Info here.


"How I love
all of the complicating things of life.
Such a little thing
a fumbling politeness.
The difference it saved me
wielding a bicycle chain
Most people keep their brains between their legs..." *

Looking forward to todays little tootle. Cant manage much more than a quick spin though,it being father's day ,an' all.

Met Stu on the usual Barn Rd . Quiet today. Probably in no small part due to the less than mid-summer conditions. Woke up this morning to what can only be described as rain. Drying out though. Driving up through Horwich to no fantastic panoramas. The upper part of the hill obscured in a heavy veil of mist and murk. Still warmish though. Crap weather for biking. If it's hot and nice ,or equally ,cold and not so nice ,one can dress appropriately ,however when it's both damp and muggy ,there's not a technical fabric alive that can deal with the resulting microclimate under your armpits.

But we do it anyway.

Stu's riding his homegrown Specialized singlespeed. I'm on the demo 'dale Rize. The dead good carbon lime green GDP of a small African country one. I gave Alan a few of the bikes back when I was ill the other week ,but I'm not totally daft. It's a flyer.

We head up ,through the murkiness to the foot of the Ice Cream Run,fairly tanking it. My bad leg I dont like to mention is a bit twingy again ,and i could feel it . It serves as a good indicator of when the pace is a bit up.
We stop at the top of the gardens near the Pidgeon Tower for a blow ,and a pump of air in Stu's back tyre. Glad of the rest. And then away.

Passing the Pike,its profile shrouded in doom, I ask if it's on the menu,but dont push too hard when Stu says it's 'off '. Couldnt see much of it ,up there somewhere in the ether.

So we carry on .

Just as the main bridleway starts to drop down in front of the pike ,you know ( ? ) ,it goes just ever so slightly bumpy. Not a great lot ,and there's a definite 'line ' through it ,but I'm reminded of last weeks run out with the kids . We came down this exact bit ,but last week I was on my old(ish) Fisher Big Sur,a type of hardtail bicycle with little in the way of comfort. The Cannondale was markedly different . You can see where this is going.
So we carry on.Regardless.

Past the 'Dog Kennels' and on to the start of Wilders Moor. A slog of a climb in the damp. A couple of guys bring up the rear and enquire as to where we're heading and a brief interlude ensues. As soon as we stop ,in fact every time we have stopped so far , we have been under attack from the terror in the sky. I'm sure there is a point to them in the food chain and all that ,but ,really ,would mozzers be missed? Really ?

Climbing up here ,perversely,I enjoy. Again ,dullness notwithstanding ,the Rize just shines. It kinda bites down and digs in . I didnt fiddle with any shock settings ,front or rear ,just rode it.About a quarter way up ,before the ditch, there's this little funny rutty bit that has had me flailing in the wet before now. OK ,it's not proper wet ,as such , but the Rize just inspires confidence . I just unweight the saddle a little ,not a full out of the saddle burst ,but a burst nonetheless,and it goes on through with not one iota of fuss. On to the the Humphrey's Ditch I dont even miss a beat ,no pre-rest ,just dive in . And fluff it . Hmm . My fault . I clipped a pedal and pinged off something . The bike just feels tooo good . Can you see now where this is going?

At the top on the road we have another little stop to feed the wildlife . My lock-on grips are not quite locked-on . Quick fix .Thankfully. We briefly ride on with the two aforementioned lads before we turn off to drop down across to the Dog Kennels. First kinda proper downhill. Again, I did this a few weeks back on my 'comeback' ride on the Fisher ,skinny tyres etc etc. Again ,Rize ,different. It's supremely talented and in its element here . Initially not too steep, the trail snakes across the moorland,a few boggy ditches here and there ,and some good scalextric sections . In the groove. The Rize feels ace here . Weighting the pedals one way or the other feels super secure ,and farther down into the bigger drops it's like theyre not even there. Flying now ,pushing it ,into the last few big drops ,sketchy landing and then the final chute to the bottom,anchors on , Avid Elixir CRs,mega. They actually slow down the world underneath your tyres. Some poor chinaman has been flung over the bars of his rickshaw on the other side of the globe.

It sounds terrible finding fault with a 3 grand bike. There are no faults . And that's it's biggest fault . It is utterly superb. About an hour later when Stu catches up I mention the 'different reference point ' that I have regarding the bikes. Way way back the bikes were utterly rubbish ,by comparison . But it was all we had ,so we ran with it . They required tons more 'input' ( I said ), and rewarded the skillful over the brave ( I didnt say). I must be one miserable old bastard. The Rize is fantastic. If you 're new to MTBing ,or have only been riding for ,say ,15 years ,get one,you'll love it.

If I had to nitpick ,I'd prefer Shimano over the SRAM ,but....

And ( I said ) for a 40 yr old guy with a bad back it fairly rocks.

So ,we head back ,up past the Pike,avoiding it's call once more. At the top of the gardens we stop again . Stu needs some more air in his back tyre again.hearing a clattery clat, I look up. Just coming to a halt at the gate is another cannondale that's just taken his owner for a ride too. Same lime green ,incredible hulk , 'Moto'.

As we discuss relative merits/carbon weave patterns, another cloud descends on us . We're being eaten alive. Any more and I'll need a transfusion. It's the humidity ,Carruthers. One of his mates turns out to be Scott Williams.Alan's buddy. The world famous BMXer from the 1980s.

We head on our seperate ways,they opting for the gardens ,us the Ice Cream,and the following picture sequence.

The Ice Cream Run is a local legend. Story goes ,back in the day two local bikers ,descending off the Pike would be then presented with the option of the technical trialsy Japanese gardens,or the rocky cutting 'Cresta Run' to the carpark ,with Mr Fredericks selling ice cream at the bottom. Over time this was diluted to the simple call of " Gardens ? " , Or , " Ice Cream Run ?"

Time was you could have an ice cream at the top AND the bottom ,but that's another story.

A promising young I.T. nerd ,with delusions of journalistic grandeur ,sealed it's fate by naming it in a magazine article he contributed on ,and the rest is .....

So ,the bike's a peach . I enter high into the first turn ,almost treating it as a berm . It's even more in its element now . Bigger bangs swallowed up ,no problem . When it gets like this these modern bikes still need to be worked . It's not the full on assault on the senses ,and joints ,and everything else that you get on the old bikes ,but you still know about it . I hit the slabby bit ,probably just pushing it that bit too much,hop off the edge and land ever so wrong hoofed on the loose xylophonic limestone. I a heartbeat I'm pinged offline and ,at speed ,I am ever so definitely heading where I dont want to. 5 or 6 good sized stones ,loosely assembled ,points up.Waiting to pounce on a victim.



If you dont know the feeling you've never lived . That twitch of the arse. You know it's going to hurt ,and you're scared ,elated ,orgasmic ,terrified . It's like just before a fight,and it's out of your hands,and in the lap of Newton.

I'm going down and I know it. Go go gadget bike. I just lean back ,just a bit,really ,all my weight is still 'fore' after the huck. " I've got you ,Dont worry " .

See ,that's the point . I'm 40. I have 4 kids and a mortgage. I need this bike . Ok ,arguably I might not have hucked off quite the same on the MuddyFox Courier ,but I might have .

And you wouldnt be reading this and I'd be eating through a straw for the forseeable future.

And then we wouldnt have found the next bit......


* Such a little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference. Morrissey.

Fathers day Epilogue:

I arrive home ,early as promised ,no cafe today. I've already been treated to my father's day stuff first thing this morning . The kids are milling about ,buzzing and fussing ,swatting them away. I had'nt seen Adam's new tee shirt ,but when I did I had to smile. My legs are covered.

'til next time.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


"It's a family affair, it's a family affair
It's a family affair, it's a family affair
One child grows up to be
Somebody that just loves to learn
And another child grows up to be
Somebody you'd just love to burn
Mom loves the both of them
You see it's in the blood
Both kids are good to Mom
"Blood's thicker than mud"It's a family affair, it's a family affair" *

After last nights 'incident' involving a fixie sprocket slash chain slash finger interface scenario ,I was'nt too keen on hammering the hills. I'd kinda been threatening the kids with a proper ride for the last few weeks as well ,so ,here we are.
After only a few minutes into the ride I'm thinking of throwing in the towel,something I dont tend to do very often ,but my finger is banging off on anything but the smoothest of terrain. I apply a tincture of positive mental attitude ,and press on,chasing the kids.
The kids in question are my 9 yr old twins ,Luke and Adam, who represent 50 % of my procreative output.
We've parked up at the usual spot on the Rivi barn road.As a warm-up I keep 'low' and head back towards Horwich on the lower path,towards the school. The boys are complaining about the bumpy path ,which does n't bode well ,as we're heading on up to the Boneshaker.
Even though they are not yet in double figures,they are veterans of MTBing and know the yin/yang element of it .However,up to now I have purposefully limited their rides to the less extreme end of the spectrum. They both have a fairly good crack at the climb ,but it is very bumpy. Progress is , OK ,but this is probably the longest climb they have ever done. We all make it up ,but with a few stops.
As soon as we hit the edge of the japanese gardens we head inside into the shade of the trees. The temperature is picking up.
more of the same through the gardens ,a bit stop start. Adam's climbing very well ,and lukes doing ok ,but as soon as he loses momentum ,he finds it difficult to set off again.
Their bikes are new Mongoose 24" Rockadiles ,and a a bit bigger than they've been used to. This is a trade off. Their old bikes were OK for blasting around on ,and at 18" (wheels ,not frame) could be chucked around ,and chuck them they did. They were singlespeeds ,also a compromise. Nothing to think about,just pedal ,no maintainance,etc ,but virtually impossible to ride up here.
The new bikes are heavier and more complicated ,but ,well ,there is no but ,they're taller now and need bigger bikes.
As well as adjusting to them physically ,they need to adjust mentally. Theyre not used to having the gears and so ,at the top of my voice ,as theyre ,like 50 metres apart ,but having the same problems ( it's a twin thing . I got over it very early on),I 'explain ' how if they make it easier and spinnyspin through the rough bits they'll be able to make better progress and maintain momentum.
So ,they do.
I'm going to fiddle around a bit with the setup on the bikes . The handlebars are too high and it's debateable if the suspension forks do anything at all at the boys weight. The bikes are good though. Not too heavy ,OK Shimano stuff,21 gears.

They did OK in the end. We got to the Pigeon Tower and then turned to the Pike ,which looks a bit daunting from the front. We scooched right past ,seats down a bit for the blast ,and turned through the gate to hit the Pike from behind.
Another tough one for the kids . Bit too bumpy in places,but mostly we keep to the smoother bits and not before long ,we're at the foot of the final climb to the Pike itself.
Adam goes first and has a really good go. He only goes and fluffs it at the tricky bit ,slipping a pedal ,but gets going again and nails it to the top. Luke follows behind and it's basically a carbon copy. The tricky bit catches him out too. I explain ,quieter this time , that that tricky bit has caught out many a good rider.
Fairly busy on top . We have a rest in the high sunshine ,a cool breeze just nice on our backs.
There are a few options for 'off the Pike',but seeing as how we've been to casualty more times than enough with these two, I choose the safest,to the right hand side of the drops ,on the grass. I go on ahead to take a pic ,and the boys follow. They make a fundamental error of both wanting to go first ,and so ,on one anothers wheel, it all nearly goes pear shaped when Luke decides it's a bit too steep and stops halfway down . Adam has nowhere to go ,and let's him know it. They sort themselves out,andboth fairly nail it. It's nothing tougher than they've done before ,it's just longer. They carry on past me and I follow them down to the gate,where we turn right to head back.

We drop into the gardens with a word of caution from dad,lots of walkers/dogs /horses out today ,and head for the caff.
The boys are in their element here ,going wahay too fast for my liking . I can just see how it can all so quickly just go wrong.Just like that. Teeth and stuff.But it doesnt. Keep yer weight back ,and all that .





We end up at the bottom of the Ice Cream Run,and I'd have got them ice creams ,but a)Luke's weird like that and doesnt like ice cream ,and b) they both want " CHIIIPS !"
So we go to the caff down the sneaky sheep house path. Chips and Earl Grey. Result.
I asked them what they liked best and they both said " The down bits .And the chips "

* Family Affair. Sly and the family stone.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


"Now if you feel that you can't go on,
Because all of your hope is gone
And your life is filled with much confusion,
Until happiness is just an illusion .
(happiness is just an illusion)" *

Was'nt sure how today would pan out. I've not been well . At the risk of elaborating ,I'll just say it was a 'chest thing'.
Anyway , I'm feeling a lot better. Stu phoned last night to see if I fancied a 'local ' in the morning. I mulled it over just thislong ,and got the bike out of the shed .
Didnt quite get to bed as early as I would have liked ,but not mad late . I ws a bit heavy of head getting up ,but we were only meeting at 9 ,so not too bad.
Dave turned up too . He's only just faltering out the last few weeks after a knee op.
Even less need to elaborate on the ride . Absolutely bog standard Rivi affair. Missed out the pike ( I know ),over Wildersmoor then up The Scorpioni . Puncture . Me . Skinny tyres ( I know ) . Then up and over the Two Lads ,Dog Kennels then Gardens to the Caff.
Earl Grey with vanilla ! ( I know ) .
Somewhere in that lot we bumped into Craig Burrows and was stared at by a bull.
All in all , a good little ease back in.
Hopefully normal service from now on.
"Looking back what I have done,
There's lots more life to live,
At times I feel overwhelmed,
I question what I can give,
But I don't let it get me down,
Or cause me too much sorrow,
There's no doubt about who I am,
I always have tomorrow" **
* The Four Tops. ( reach out ) I'll Be There .
**I was there. The GreenDay.
OK .