friends will be friends

Some time ago, I made the decision to buy myself a Surly Krampus. I’ve wanted one ever since I had the chance to ride an early demo (before they were available in the UK), so when the opportunity came up to bag a Krampus Ops frameset at a bargain price, I could hardly resist.

1463197_10154795386754863_7789395275549329617_nI’d been planning the build for a long time, and had picked out almost every component it was going to have, right down to the matching handlebar grips and saddle. It was going to set me back just shy of £2,500.

As it was, the frameset was ex-display (and therefore slightly cheaper than RRP), a friend was selling a wheelset with tyres and I had an assortment of other parts lying around in the garage. Even after splurging on a Hope rear hub and XT rear mech, the whole thing came in at around £1,200.

I also wanted to try out new things with this bike so I went for a 1×10 setup (a single chainring up front, and a 10 speed cassette on the rear wheel), with a really wide range cassette to still give me plenty of gearing options.

The Ops version of the Krampus comes with a rather clever interchangeable rear dropout system which allows you to run just about any setup from single speed / internal gear hub (IGH) to a standard quick release hub, to a bolt-through axle. I already have an IGH on my Surly Ogre and all my other bikes use standard quick release hubs, so I decided to experiment with the bolt-through option.

They tell me it stiffens the whole rear end up, allowing more of the effort you put in to be transmitted to actually driving the rear wheel (rather than being lost through flexing the frame). In practice, it certainly feels more solid bolting it all together, and when I’m riding the bike, it doesn’t seem to flex as much as other frames. I’ll have to try it out with a standard quick release axle on day to get a real comparison though.

12140687_10154798953009863_6949822147024172815_nThe build was simple enough, but not without its problems. When I first fitted the rear wheel and tightened the axle down, there was a significant lack of clearance between the brake disc rotor and the caliper mounting adaptor. As it turned out, the end caps that came with my axle were the wrong size, meaning there wasn’t the right amount of spacing between the end of the axle and the frame. One late-night emergency parts delivery from the amazingly helpful folks at Keep Pedalling, Manchester and all was good with the world!

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I must confess I haven’t been riding it as much as I’d planned to, but whenever I do, it makes me grin like an idiot and reminds me that I have some good friends. The kind of friends who will not only drive miles out of their way late at night to bring you an axle spacer, but will also be there to tear up the trails, and berate you for running too much pressure in your tyres.

Here’s me and my friend Rich, enjoying a group ride with some of the folks from Surly Bikes when they were last in the UK. If only we could get paid for mucking about on our bikes all day long.

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jesus, he knows me

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Written on the bike, it says “Surly”.

The eyes seem to say “crazy”.

The beardy certainly says “weirdy”.

Small wonder, then, I should be proclaimed: “Jesus. It’s JESUS!” by the neanderthals who joined my Friday afternoon train home, all those years ago.

As the journey went on, so did the drinking of my raucous, but good humoured, new subjects. Eventually, the conversation turned to intellectual matters, specifically what the letters HB on a pencil stood for. Those in the immediate vicinity of the neanderthals didn’t know, and neither did the conductor.

I knew. But I wasn’t going to reveal that.

The conductor went about his business, checking tickets and so forth throughout the train, until finally he came over the tannoy system to pose the pencil question to all passengers. Clearly I was the only person on board to possess such powerful knowledge (and facial hair).

Tentatively, I peeked around from my chair and raised my hand.

“JESUS! JESUS KNOWS THE ANSWER!!!”, the lead neanderthal proclaimed, pointing at me with sheer delight in his eyes.

You can imagine the beer-fuelled cheer that erupted when I quietly proclaimed:

“Hard. Black.”

Just this morning, after performing a minor miracle with 2 slices of bread and some eggs (I didn’t fancy fish for breakfast), I took off on the bike to explore a new route. As I was riding through the park, I came across a group of 6 or 7 knuckle-draggers riding identical bikes. Isn’t evolution wonderful?

I still haven’t figured out what the identical bikes were all about, but as I was making my way through the pack, the questions came thick and fast.

“Whoa. Is that, like, GPS?”

“How fast can you go on that?”

“So, you can charge your phone AND have the lights on?”

Sometimes, it’s hard being the messiah.

I made my polite excuses, and showed them how fast I can go on that, much to their increasingly distant delight.

47583_10154745033894863_7947153800405195520_nAs it turns out, I’ve ridden large portions of this route before, purely by accident. But now I can at least piece together a nice 30ish mile route up to one of the places my girlfriend sells her cakes on a local farmers’ market.

After grabbing myself a coffee and a delighfully-bad-for-you cheese pastry thing from the excellent French bakery stall next door, I headed for home, pretty much retracing the same route back, only minus all the wrong turns my drunk GPS took me down on the way.

Rolling through the park close to home, I was so busy trying to not run over dogs and small children that I hardly noticed my flock coming around the corner on their matching steeds.

I couldn’t help but smile at the cacophony of recognition as I passed them again on my way home.

But wait. I’d been gone for at least 2 hours, and they were still doing circuits around the local country park? On their matching bikes?

As I’ve been typing this, a possibility has struck me. You see, near our local country park, there’s a small prison. I wonder if maybe they were actually (presumably very well behaved, and trustworthy) offenders out on an organised bike ride with a couple of prison officers?

Maybe they were. And maybe their delight was brought about by the correctional powers of cycling. Maybe it was the beautiful early spring sunshine warming their hearts, as it warmed their backs. Maybe it was.

But maybe, just maybe, they were so delighted because JESUS recognised them?

Christ on a bicycle.

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you can leave your hat on

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Dried fruit, mixed nuts, M&M’s and a whole lot of determination.

This is what was required to get me and my good friend Matt through the hellish and seemingly never-ending climbs offered up by the route we picked from Manchester city centre out to our campsite at Monsal Head.

It was an early spring day, the sun was shining and we pedalled off without a care in the world. That wonderful realisation that I was only getting further away with every pedal stroke washed over me and I revelled in the knowledge I’d be under canvas that evening.

As is the way of things, we took a rather indirect route that promised the least traffic and the best scenery. And we took our time about it. We rolled along, chatting about everything and nothing. We stopped for coffee. We went the wrong way. We didn’t have a care in the world.

11023_10153755754624863_6693537081560443662_n“HILLS ARE OUR FRIENDS!!!” cried an over-enthusiastic roadie (with a mountain cassette & rear mech, I might add) as he crested the climb we’d just ground up on our loaded Surly Trolls. We quietly returned our gazes to the view and had another handful of Matt’s Special Trailmix.

Soon we found ourselves crunching down the Monsal Trail, marvelling at the scenery and scaring the bejesus out of wildlife inhabiting the trailside hedges. “You’re not exactly sure where the campsite is…?” I asked Matt as we examined several questionable looking side trails.

Naturally, we turned down the wrong one and soon found ourselves faced with a decision: ford the obviously-deeper-and-faster-flowing-than-it-looked river or somehow portage the bikes & luggage over an extremely narrow concrete bridge. Forming the least efficient two-man chain in history, we took option B and passed bag after bag to each other before we took turns hoisting our heavy steeds over our heads in some kind of obscure strong man competition.

Safely on the other side of the river, I turned right up a slightly sketchy looking bit of single track which very quickly ramped up to at least a 10% off-camber incline through the bracken as the trailside drop to the river grew ever deeper.

Defeated by all that nature and gravity threw at us, we pushed the bikes the final few yards to the top of a much better manicured trail that would’ve brought us to exactly the same spot without the ridiculous river crossing. Dammit.

10 minutes later, we were parting with altogether too little cash for a pitch in a beautiful secluded campsite we had almost completely to ourselves.

In the local pub, we demolished an excellent plate of belly pork, mash & gravy and sampled a couple of pints of local ale. In the interests of science, you understand.

Wandering back to our campsite, our bellies full and the inevitable cold snap settling in, we spotted another pub. Well, it’d be rude not to…

Continuing my scientific experimentation, we sampled several more pints of local ale and (here’s the ‘genius’ part) shunned the siren call of the open fire, preferring instead to drink our beers outside. In early spring. In North Derbyshire. Atop a hill. “To acclimatise ourselves”, I said. Matt shivered, unconvinced, but stuck it out all the same as we put the world to rights like only 2 drunk men can.

Dressed in every scrap of clothing I’d carried with me (including wooly hat and gloves), I crawled into my sleeping bag and spent the night desperately (and unsuccessfully) willing my body to sleep. Dang, that was COLD.

11023_10153755754069863_33251468225833244_nThe next morning, we shared an odd breakfast comprised mainly of questionable malt loaf, squeezy cheese and the most incredible cup of tea I think I’ve ever had.

We packed up and made our way into Buxton where we descended upon an unsuspecting cafe for a very leisurely second breakfast. Man, that was good.

The cruelly named ‘Long Hill’ out of Buxton mocked us and, by the time we reached the Pennine Bridleway, Matt was starting to regret that extra piece of fried bread.

In my defence, I did try to warn him, in between mouthfuls of extra black pudding.

Sufficiently warmed up again, our usual childish ways came to the fore as we tore up the trails, jumping the bikes over everything we could find on the way home.

11173365_10153755754224863_3323704571003065546_nIt was a fine weekend. A fine weekend indeed.

learning to fly

Wait. What? How can the 2015 Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge be over already??? And I was having such a good time, too!

Well, we started out with an entry in my favourite new category (You carried WHAT on your bike?!) so it seems only apt to end there too.

Errand #11: Cake delivery | Date: 15 March 2015 | Category: You carried WHAT on your bike?! | Miles: lots | Thing I noticed: People will eat cake, regardless of how smushed it is, providing it’s free. | Bonus: Carrying a baked good.

Yes, I said cake delivery. I ever-so-carefully placed the cakes in the box and secured them in my Carradice saddle bag… on my Surly Ogre MTB. And then I went mountain biking in the Pennines. You see, the cake delivery was to the people I was riding with and it just so happened the location of the delivery turned out to be several hours and many, many extremely rough miles up the Pennine Bridleway.

Before:errandonnee11 cakes beforeAfter:errandonnee11 cakes afterWhoa. Those cakes did NOT survive well. But that certainly didn’t stop my friends from digging in and eating the whole lot!

errandonnee12 emusErrand #12: Surlyfest with friends (other Surlys and friends not pictured) | Date: 15 March 2015 | Category: take your pick from social call / personal care / wild card | Miles: lots and lots | Thing I noticed: Epic scenery (and some random emus).

Originally, this ride was supposed to be the much anticipated and long overdue Trollfest #4 (and then there were four) but, in the end not a single one of us actually turned up on a Surly Troll!

I neglected to take any pictures of the collection but there were 2 Surly Karate Monkeys (both single speed), a single speed Surly Krampus, a Rohloff equipped Surly ECR and, of course, my Surly Ogre now in all its knobbly tyred off-road glory.

The wind was relentless and chilled us all to our cores as we rode through some of the best scenery the Pennines has to offer, finding new trails, rediscovering ancient packhorse trails and even inventing new trails through tussocks of grass and boggy marshes.

We took turns failing to crest impossible climbs and I had more than my fair share of close shaves as my rusty mountain biking skills were exposed on the technical descents.

My friend Matt and I unknowingly entered into a bizarre competition to see who could catch the most air off whatever piece of rock or whatever we could find as we hurtled downhill. I’d like to think I scored OK and by the end of the ride was even getting quite good at it but when I tell you Matt was carrying luggage on his ECR and was still catching bigger air than me, I think you’ll agree he deserves the prize!

What a way to round out a great challenge – can’t wait for the next one!errandonnee12 Surly Ogre

life is a lemon (and i want my money back)

Well, for a moment there I was getting a bit worried that the 12 days of the 2015 Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge was slipping away and I was running dangerously low on completed errands. And then one simple errand led to a massive five in one day and one more the following day. AND I’m one step closer to getting over not being allowed to have a Krampus (yet) (again).

errandonnee4 bike partsErrand #4: Picking up new shiny from the bike shop | Date: 10 March 2015 | Category: personal business (getting over the whole Krampus thing) | Miles: 12 | Thing I noticed: that doesn’t look like £80 worth of gear, but it is.

The new shiny in question was: 4 new tubes, a gear cable, some jockey wheels, a chain and 2 disc brake rotors. The plan being to convert my Surly Ogre from its current setup as foul weather commuter and dedicated coffeeneuring rig to a fully rigid, knobbly tyred, lightweight (as lightweight as Surlys get, anyway) 29er mountain bike.

Basically, convert it into the closest thing I can get to a Krampus with the meager budget I’m allowing myself to splurge on bikes at the moment.

errandonnee5 Surly Ogre MTBErrand #5: Surly Ogre MTB shakedown ride, part one | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: wild card | Miles: 15 (combined for errands # 5 – 9) | Thing I noticed: I’m too fat to ride a 1×9 setup where 39:36 is the lowest gear ratio available to me.

Errand #6: Showing off the Ogre to my bike shop friends | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: social call | Miles: 0 | Thing I noticed: The Ogre now weighs (only) ~17kg. There’s no picture because I’m sure you’re sick of seeing my bike at the shop!

Errand #7: Getting money out of the cashpoint so I could pay back the tenner I owed Karen | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: non-store errand | Miles: 0 | Thing I noticed: I still can’t work a cashpoint with gloves on (I seem to remember noticing this last year too). There’s no picture because there was a queue of people behind me waiting to use the one working machine and I suspect they’d have beaten me if I stopped to take a photo.

errandonnee6 white spiritErrand #8: Buying some white spirit so I can clean paintbrushes and thin down the yacht varnish I’m using for the new garage door frame (how rock & roll is my life?) | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: store | Miles: 0 | Thing I noticed: One does not simply walk into the store and just buy some white spirit – there must’ve been 20 different options! I went with the one that I felt struck the best balance between value for money and ability to fit in my Carradice saddle bag.

errandonnee7 lemonsErrand #9: Picking up some lemons for Karen to make Lemon Drizzle cake with | Date: 11 March 2015 | Category: store | Miles: 0 | Thing I noticed: People look at me like I’m crazy when I take pictures of lemons and, to quote my friend Tess, the white spirit and the lemons “is gonna make a helluva martini”.

Overall, the shakedown went well and all I really needed to do was adjust the angle of the handlebars slightly and think seriously about the gearing. I’d originally planned to put a standard MTB triple on the front but then I got to thinking about whether I really need a big ring and settled on a double with bash ring.

Then I thought: hang on a minute, I’ve already got a single ring with bash fitted to the Ogre… maybe I can just run that as a 1×9 with a 12:36 cassette. As it turns out though, the 39 tooth chainring I had on there (which I’d wrongly thought was 36 tooth) was just way too tall for the kind of riding I want to do and even on the flat I wasn’t using the high gears so a smaller chainring was in order.

After rummaging in the parts box, I found a 32 tooth middle ring on an old Shimano chainset so I threw that on and headed out for a quick spin to the shops. It’s a shame I’ve already used up my 2 store errands, but there you go.

Errand #10: Surly Ogre MTB shakedown ride, part deux | Date: 12 March 2015 | Category: personal care (because leaving the old gearing on there would’ve killed me). Miles: 1.5. Thing I noticed: the gearing was so high before because what I thought was a 36t chainring was *actually* a 39t chainring! This 32t ring is *much* more sensible.

errandonnee10 Surly Ogre Sturmey Archer Blackspire4 full days to go and only 2 more errands to complete! How are you getting on?

boss of me

It’s been a busy few months here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ with the various things that come with being a grown up (something I never signed up for, incidentally).

If you tuned in for my last post, just before chrimbo, you’ll recall I was childishly giggling over my plans to finally get my grubby hands on the Surly Krampus I’ve been longing after for ages. Unfortunately, being a grown up has ruined all those plans for the short term at least.

But hey, it’s not all bad news. It’s winter here which means it’s time once again for the annual Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge! 12 errands by bike in 12 days with a total of (at least) 30 miles covered. The rules are slightly revised this year and there are even some new categories including my favourite: You carried WHAT on your bike?!

And what better place to start than there?

errandonnee1 chocolate cakeErrand #1: Dropping off an 8.5kg parcel | Date: 5 March 2015 | Category: You carried WHAT on your bike? | Miles: 7 | Thing I noticed: Some drivers are so stupid they’ll still drive directly at you, regardless of how big and ridiculous your bike setup is | Bonus: Carrying a baked good.

The chocolate cakes I took into work actually survived the journey completely unscathed but I didn’t get chance to take an ‘after’ picture because people started tucking into them as soon as I opened the box.

errandonnee1 Surly Troll BoB Yakerrandonnee2 shower gelErrand #2: Commute to the office | Date: 6 March 2015 | Category: Work or volunteering | Miles: 6 | Thing I noticed: It’s probably time to recycle all my used shower gel bottles.

Ever since I started work in my current office, I’ve just thrown every bottle of shower gel back into my locker when it’s empty. It’s a little odd, but it almost feels like a collection of sorts now so part of me is reluctant to drop them all in the recycling…

errandonnee3 Surly Troll Keep PedallingErrand #3: Popped out for a ride and swung by the bike shop to say hi | Date: 9 March 2015 | Category: Personal care (preventing myself from being a couch potato) | Miles: 15 | Thing I noticed: Overwhelming police presence due to some kind of political parade.

I’m off work this week (taking care of yet more grown up type things) but I found some time to escape for a quick ride and decided to swing by the bike shop whilst I was out. As is the way of things, I ended up ordering a bunch of new shiny but this still goes down as personal care because I originally set out just to ride, just to clear my head, just to hear the tyres on tarmac.

As I neared the city centre, I noticed an unusually large number of closed roads (even for Manchester) and an equally large number of police officers lining the streets. Soon enough I got caught behind a pair of officers on horseback creating a rolling (trotting?) roadblock on one of the busiest streets in town… they waved me by and I came face to face with another pair of horses as I pulled up outside the bike shop and 3 helicopters buzzed around overhead.

It turns out the English Defence League were marching / protesting / something and, I’m told, another parade / demonstration of some kind was also taking place. With a decidedly uncomfortable feeling descending, I decided to get out of there and let the police do what they do best.

On the way home, I saw at least 20 riot vans lined up…

errandonnee3 Surly Troll police vansSo, the 2015 Errandonnee is well underway and (political issues aside) I’m having a great time! As MG says “Hey winter, you’re not the boss of me”.

i don’t love you

Did you ever fall in love?

I mean, truly in love.

The kind of love that is all-consuming.

The kind of love that sees you spend countless hours dreaming over the object of your affections.

The kind of love you’d beg, borrow and steal for.

The kind of love you know will only end up hurting you one day but you’re too blind to see it.

The kind of love they all warned you about.

The kind of love that they said should never be…

I’m in love and I have been for some time.

And, do you know what? I know it’s wrong. I know it’ll end up hurting me. I know it shouldn’t be.

And, do you know what else? I. Don’t. Care.

Recently, the internet wet itself when Jeff Jones unveiled his latest, greatest creation in the shape of the enigmatically named Jones Plus. So, when I happened to be in the bike shop a few weeks ago and they just happened to have a pre-production prototype in, I did what I do best.

Jones Plus Truss fork1I put on my very best puppy dog eyes and somehow convinced them to let me take the thing out for a quick spin around the grotty back streets of Manchester.

Now, you may recall I was lucky enough to take a Jones out one time before… That one happened to be the fantastically ridiculous Spaceframe and was set up single speed and half fat. There was a lot to like about that bike. An awful lot. But then, it tried to kill me (or maybe it was user error) after which I kinda went off the whole thing.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fat 2But seriously, what a machine. I do remember it feeling a bit short in the (effective) top tube for my liking though and the whole setup wasn’t my bag (you can read my full ramblings about it here) but the overwhelming decision I came to was that I’d rather have a Krampus.

You can read all about how I first fell in love with the Krampus here. Dang, that was a GOOD day.

And then, of course, I got the chance to ride a Surly Ice Cream Truck. In the UK. Before it was even available in the UK. With the guys from Surly.

Yes, there are perks to having friends who own a bike shop.

Surly Ice Cream Truck 1I have to say the Ice Cream Truck surprised me. I was all ready to hate it, what with its absurd 5″ tyres and brash American ways but it was a surprisingly nimble, predictable machine with a beautiful geometry. If I were ‘into’ fat bikes, I might even be tempted to consider thinking about maybe becoming interesting in buying one. Maybe. Oh, you can read me gushing about the ICT here, if you’re ‘into’ me gushing about things.

If you can handle all that gushing, you’ll learn that once again I came to the somewhat predictable realisation that… I’d rather have a Krampus.

Jones Plus head badgeBut let’s get back to the Jones Plus with its GORGEOUS head badge.

29+? Check.

Ridiculous Truss Fork? Check.

More than 1 gear? Check.

Long wheel base? Check.

Jones bars? Check.

All kinds of fun jumping on and off assorted street furniture in Manchester? Check. (don’t tell the folks in the bike shop!)

Heck. There’s an awful lot to like about this bike. But, do you know what? Yep, you’ve guessed it:

I’d rather have a Krampus.563530_10151458835669863_576432359_n

And now, they only gone and released the Krampus Ops with its stealthy matt black paint job and sensible modular dropout system. Dammit Surly!

I know it’s wrong. I know it’ll end up hurting me. I know it shouldn’t be.

You know I don’t care.

I’m having a Krampus.

The build list is still being finalised but let’s start with this:

  • Surly Krampus Ops frameset in matt black
  • Velocity Dually rims in matt black
  • Hubs, headset, seatclamp all in chrome
  • Seatpost, stem & bars all in black
  • Custom decals and pinstriping
  • Some kind of Brooks saddle (most likely brown) with matching grips

Yes, it’s all been done before and yes, it’s based on classic hot rod styling and yes, I know all of that is absurd on a bike which will spend its life being thrown around t’ Pennines. No, I don’t care.

Merry Krampus, everyone.

Krampus montage