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!

surly-krampus-ops

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.

12524152_10153668442745028_6377085648602606313_n

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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

bicycle race

Heaton Park Surly Big DummyA few days ago, I read somewhere that a cyclocross race was going on in a big park not far from where I live so I made plans to head down there with a flask of something hot and watch a bit of the action.

By pure coincidence, my friends from the bike shop were also planning to go down and heckle support some of their customers who were taking part. When they mentioned they’d be bringing hot chocolate and beer, I was completely sold.

Heaton Park Surly Ogre BOB YakFor no particular reason, I hitched my BOB Yak up to the Ogre and loaded it up with little folding stools, a box of cake and a flask of tea.

“Did you really need to bring the trailer?” Rich asked me. “Of course not!”, I responded. But hey, I’ve never let common sense get in the way of having fun before and I’m certainly not going to start now!

What with it being Sunday, I thought I’d take the opportunity to squeeze in Coffeeneuring trip 2:

  1. Where I went: My first ‘coffee shop without walls’ of the challenge – Heaton Park, Manchester.
  2. Date I went there: Sunday 5th October 2014.
  3. What I drank: Well, therein lies a tale.
    Coffeeneuring2 hot chocolate and cakeFirst, I had an instant hot chocolate made by Rich on his jet boil stove with a blueberry & lemon cake made by Karen – it was a surprisingly good combo and I’m glad I resisted the repeated offers of a shot of Whisky in my hot chocolate. Some of the others were not so strong and ended up with more whiskey than hot chocolate…
    Coffeeneuring2 Duvel beerSoon enough, however, I caved and had a bottle of Duvel. IT. WAS. DELCIOUS. A little later, I caved a little more and had a bottle of Sol. IT. WAS. ALSO. DELICIOUS. All around me, people were supping assorted beers and taking swigs from the ever-present flask of whiskey. Still, I resisted.
    Coffeeneuring2 teaIn between beers, I had some of the tea I’d brought with me. It was tea. It was not especially delicious. I continued to resist the whiskey, largely because I can’t abide the taste of the stuff but mostly because I wanted to make it home in one piece.
  4. Heaton Park Surly Big DummyA detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: My left knee started hurting during yesterday’s ride and is really quite painful today. I stopped at the supermarket on the way to buy marshmallows but they didn’t have any. The road to the park was randomly closed for resurfacing so I had to take a huge diversion. My trailer has developed an odd noise. There was a lot to be grumpy about but, do you know what? I think I’m starting to understand this whole Coffeeneuring business… When you force yourself to ride slowly and then you just spend some time hanging out with good friends, sharing the contents of your assorted panniers / trailers / frame bags in nice surroundings, soaking up what remains of the day’s warmth as you heckle those crazy enough to actually partake in the racing, there’s all of a sudden nothing at all to feel grumpy about.
  5. Bike friendliness of the locale: Well, it’s a public park with plenty of nice wide paths and some really nice scenery so it scores very well on bike friendliness initally. But, if you want to leave your bike somewhere and go for a walk in the woods or pop into the coffee shop or even just take a leak, there is absolutely NOWHERE to lock your bike up. That’s fine if you have someone to watch it or you’re a risk taker but I think it again shows how little thought goes into the needs of your average bike rider when public places in England are being put together. Is this a problem in other countries, I wonder?
  6. Mileage: Probably 10 – 15, especially with the unplanned diversion.
  7. Must visit?: Meh.

So, there you have it. 2 of my 7 coffeeneuring rides completed on the first weekend of the challenge – tune in next week for more of the same!

Oh, and because I know you love ’em and we didn’t see anyone riding one in the race, here’s a few pictures of our collection of Surly bikes.

Surly Big Dummy Surly Crosscheck Surly Steamroller single speed CrosscheckSurly just because sticker

hallelujah

river irwell 1

 

The final rays of the evening sun shone through the treetops.

The snow white tail of a wild rabbit disappeared into the undergrowth.

Overhead, a Heron flapped his awkward way down the river.

I reached down, grabbed another gear and tore through the woods without a care in the world.

Sweat dripping down my face, beard resting on the loop of my Jeff Jones bars and my 8 speed Shimano Alfine hub making that odd clickclickclickclickclick sound, I found myself wondering how something so apparently insignificant can make such a dramatic difference.

Surly Ogre Alfine 8 Jtek bar end shifterYou see, as fond as I was of my Surly Ogre with drop bars and a Jtek bar end shifter, I’ve been having shifting issues ever since I fitted it. For reasons that escape me and two bike shop mechanics, the gear cable tension would inexplicably go out of alignment every now and again even though I know for a fact the wheel wasn’t moving in the dropouts (thanks to a Surly Tuggnut) and there was no issue with the cable or shifter. Meh, blame it on Gremlins.

Unfortunately, Shimano only make one shifter for their Alfine hubs and it’s the trigger shifter type you find on most flat bar bikes (thank the lord it’s not a hideous twist-grip).

Surly Ogre Jones Loop bars Shimano Alfine 8 shifterSo, my only alternative to the Jtek was to take the drop bars off the Ogre and replace them with something a little more conventional… I peered around the garage and spotted the Jones bars on my Troll. A new set of brake levers, a fresh set of cables and a half an hour later and the Ogre was transformed.

All of a sudden, the gear alignment was perfect and the hub was running smoother and quieter than ever before.

There’s just nothing like riding down a perfect trail in perfect weather with the bike underneath you running, well, perfectly.

Surly Ogre cobbles disused canalAnd what of the Troll? Well, I happened to pop into the bike shop and they just happened to have a set of original Surly Open bars lying around… what was I going to do, not buy them???

Surly Troll Open bars

god gave rock and roll to you

 

Caution: This blog post contains graphic images and descriptions of fat bikes and beards.

10151801_10152574827414863_5552446019248003572_nAs I freewheeled down the seemingly endless descent, knobbly tyres humming on the tarmac and crosswind blowing my beard to one side I looked out at the scenery, knowing all too well that what goes down must come up (or something like that).

True enough, just around the bend as the tarmac gave way to sandy, rocky hardpack, the impressive decline gave way to an equally torturous impressive incline. The carnage was almost immediate.

AEC Routemaster & bikesEarlier in the day, I’d climbed aboard an old AEC Routemaster bus (along with my bike and 20-odd other people and their bikes) as part of Keep Pedalling‘s 3rd birthday celebrations. As the pack hit the bottom of the climb, I managed to get myself into a low, low gear, picked a clear line and started dragging myself up the tricky surface. All around me, I could hear the clicking of gears being shifted (amongst those of us who had them), expletives being uttered (by those of us who were too late trying to shift them) and shoes being unclipped from pedals (by those of us who lost our balance and / or momentum as the trail ramped up).

1503459_10152574827599863_1873135250324380089_nI looked down and to my surprise, the bike was still upright and my cranks were still turning. How? I’m not quite sure, but somehow, someway, I was grinding my way up that beast. Behind me, I heard the unmistakable sound of someone coming past me at great speed. As I watched in dismay at the single speed Jones Spaceframe tear up the climb, I lost my balance and fell into the dry stone wall lining the trail.

The only thing harder than riding up a steep, loose trail is trying to get started again after stopping on one.

It took me a few attempts, but I finally managed to regain my balance, get clipped back into the pedals and I ground my way to the top.

As the ride continued, I often found myself riding alone… not strong enough to be up front with the hard men on their steel & titanium single speeds yet not needing to get off and push like some of the fat bike riders at the back of the pack.

Titanium Jones Spaceframe Truss Fork Half fat Surly Troll suspension forkThe fleet was quite a mixture… There was everything from a single speed Surly Straggler with ‘skinny’ tyres, a Surly 1×1, my 26″ wheel Surly Troll, a Titanium Jones Spaceframe with Truss fork, a selection of fat bikes from Salsa and Surly, a Surly Krampus or two, a gigantic Surly ECR, a brand new Surly Insitgator 2.0 and, because a couple of the good folk from Surly Bikes were in town, a matching pair of their latest, greatest fat bike, the Ice Cream Truck. I think it’s fair to say my Troll was the most ‘normal’ thing out there… which didn’t stop the Jones rider making fun of my wheel size several times.

Whatever dude, it’s still just as capable as your ride. And massively cheaper. And I don’t feel the need to be a douchebag about it.

Inevitably, as is the way with certain types of party, we started swapping around… With so much awesome shiny on hand, it was difficult to choose. In hindsight, I really should’ve asked the guy riding the Instigator if I could borrow it for a while but really, there was only one other thing I had on my mind: Ice Cream.

Surly Ice Cream Truck 1With its mahoosive 4.8″ tyres, you would be forgiven for expecting the Ice Cream Truck to be heavy, cumbersome and awkward. As I pedalled it away down the trail, I was struck by just how easy it was to ride! The geometry is largely borrowed from the awesome Krampus, giving the fork more rake than any other Surly fatbike (so one of the Surly enginerds tells me) which makes it more predictable on the trails and gives you the confidence to throw it into the corners at speed.

Surly Ice Cream Truck 3Naturally, there’s the usual amount of float you’d expect from the high volume tyres and, despite the low tyre pressures, an incredibly stiff and responsive feel when accelerating, braking and cornering. This (again according to a tame Surly enginerd) is partially thanks to the new modular dropout system and bolt-through rear axle, there’s also some pretty beefy support built into the frame where it matters, keeping the main tubing relatively thin.

Surly Ice Cream Truck 2Here you can see how the 26 x 4.8″ tyre on the Ice Cream Truck compares with the 26 x 2.75″ tyre on the new Instigator. Compare that the 26 x 2.2″ tyres I was running on my Troll and you can start to see why people just aren’t riding the ‘traditional’ sizes anymore.

So, again, I’m faced with a question… Do I see a fatbike in my future?

Well, the last time I rode one, I managed to crash it in spectacular style after about 100 metres. This time, I only rode it for a few minutes on relatively flat terrain and managed not to crash it at all. I’m starting to understand the whole fatbike ‘thing’ a bit more but I still don’t think I want / need one.

Yes, I came back from my short ride with that same stupid grin everyone else had after riding it. Yes, it was heaps of fun. But no, I don’t have ready access to sand and / or snow so I’d be using it only on the trails… and, if I’m after something to ride on the trails, I can just head out to the garage and grab my Troll (with its tiny tyres).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’d much rather have a Krampus (if Karen ever lets me buy one).

1545887_10152574826579863_373672331288823537_nNow, you can’t go out riding on Ice Cream Trucks and not stop at the first ice cream truck you come across. By the way, there is just no elegant way to eat an ice cream if you’ve got a beard. I was the source of much amusement for quite some time. But hey, it was delicious.

As we approached Hollingworth lake, I heard what I thought sounded like a combination of huge tyres on tarmac, loud rock and roll and the collective tuts of all the well-heeled lake dwellers as a brash American cycled by.

True enough, I looked back to see Tyler barreling down the trail, heavy metal blasting out and an old lady giving him a disapproving look.

Man, I love Surly.

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live is life

 

Corr, they don’t make ’em like this anymore…

“Na na na na na…” I defy you to not tap your foot along to this tune. It’s just SO BAD.

So bad it’s AWESOME.

“NA NA NA NA NA…”

But I digress.

When I last reported on my progress with the Chasing Mailboxes 2014 Errandonnee Challenge, I had 8 errands in the bag and was well on track to complete the challenge with plenty of time to spare.

But, as is so often the way, stupid real life had other ideas.

1926822_10152500650639863_1903618558_nFirst up on the list of things conspiring to prevent me from spending my precious time off work cycling was a blown tyre on the car. It turns out the odd sensation I could feel when driving was a bulge where the carcass had let go. Naturally, the corresponding tyre on the other side was about to let go too so I set off in search of 2 new tyres.

But wait!

When I came to throw the spare tyre on, I realised that was also balder than my friend Geordie (his words, not mine) so I actually set of in search of 3 new tyres. Harumph.

1982055_10152502637289863_979880809_nWith my wallet considerably lighter and any prospect of escaping for a few days camping melting away, Karen took me out at the weekend to cheer me up. We had a lovely time mooching around Manchester museum followed by a quick pint of Dead Pony Club in Brew Dog and then a rather delicious Sunday lunch with cocktails. All in all, it was a great day but again, I got no errandonneering done!

The beer and cocktails helped numb the pain of buying the tyres though.

Yesterday, I’m sorry to say my own laziness and lousy weather was to blame for my lack of errandonneering. The couch was just too comfortable, Star Trek was just too watchable and the rain was just too horizontal.

Soooo…

Today, I set out on something of an errandonneering blitz (I suspect I may be stretching the rules just a little bit with some of these):

Errand #9: Training ride | category: personal care & health | miles: 33 (also covers errands #10 & #11) | thing I learned / observed: My Surly Ogre tows my BOB Yak beautifully (today was the first time I’d taken them out together)

Here’s a gratuitous shot of them both, down by the banks of Rivington reservoir:

Surly Ogre BOB Yak 21975166_10152511519219863_948438478_nWhilst I was out, I thought I’d take the opportunity to stop for a bite to eat so I parked the bike, found myself a sunny spot to nom my sanger and watched people stop to admire my bike and trailer.

Errand #10: stopping for lunch | category: breakfast or lunch | miles: 33 (combined for errands #9 – #11) | thing I learned / observed: I have an unhealthy addiction to sandwiches, particularly when they’re made with thick, soft bread.

Temporarily refuelled by said sanger, I took a gulp of energy drink and set off on the second half of my training ride. On the way, I wanted to swing by the farm shop to see what they had and, whilst there, I grabbed an emergency banana to help quell the ever-increasing build up of lactic acid in my tortured thighs.

1526096_10152511518469863_1919541855_nErrand #11: trip to the farm shop for emergency banana | category: grocery store | miles: 33 (combined for errands #9 – #11) | thing I learned / observed: bananas have actual magical powers

And so, on the final official day of the 2014 Errandonnee Challenge, I’ve come up one errand short – time will tell whether any of the previous so-called-errands I’ve claimed will be disallowed.

BUT WAIT!

Despite the fact we haven’t had a single flake of anything even remotely resembling snow at all this entire winter over here in the UK, the poor old ‘Mericans have been suffering and just this week Washington D.C. had something of a deluge so Errandonnee Challenge organiser MG declared a snow day and extended the deadline to tomorrow! It appears I have one last chance to shoe-horn one last errand in…

In celebration, here’s a gratuitous shot of my Surly Ogre avec BOB Yak outside the farm shop:

Surly Ogre BOB Yak 1

see my vest

 

OK, this whole errandonneering thing is just plain fun! Not only does it force me out on my bike but it also forces me to blog more often. And, with blogging more often comes yet another challenge: finding appropriate song titles for each blog post – this stuff doesn’t happen by accident, you know.

Today, I will admit to a rather tenuous link to the song title and I’m not quite sure it qualifies as a song per se but it’s brilliant none the less. It’s a real shame the actual clip from The Simpsons isn’t available because it’s one of my favourite bits of TV, ever.

“Seeeee my vest, see my vest…”

Huh? What? Oh, sorry, I got a little distracted there for a moment.

Before we go any further, I think it’s about time we had a quick roundup of my errandonneering activities so far:

  1. karma police | errand: commute to / from work | category: work | miles: 16 | thing I learned / observed: cycling in the city sucks but cycling in the ‘burbs is great | bonus: completed after dark
  2. two out of three ain’t bad (also covers errands 3 & 4) | errand: getting cash from the cashpoint | category: personal care and health | miles: 25 (combined for errands 2-4) | thing I learned / observed: working a cashpoint with winter cycling gloves isn’t easy
  3. errand: collecting my cycling jacket from the tailor | category: any store that is not the grocery store | thing I learned / observed: I’ll never, EVER be using that place again
  4. errand: picking up new parts from the bike shop | category: bike shop | thing I learned / observed: squirrels are mischievous
  5. not what I wanted | errand: buying an emergency shirt for work | category: any store that isn’t the grocery store | miles: 6 | thing I leaned / observed: it’s best to check what you’re buying before you pay for it

So, with 5 days to go, I’ve completed 5 of my required 12 errands, covered 47 miles which already exceeds the required 30 miles, done 1 of the 2 recommended ‘after dark’ errands and used 4 of the 7 required different categories.

Phew. And I thought this was going to be easy!

1896726_10152497900819863_1541368638_nErrand #6 is really a re-run of errand #3 as I couldn’t collect my jacket first time around but, as I’ve already used the ‘any store that isn’t the grocery store’ category the maximum permissible 2 times, we’ll have to put this one down in the ‘wild card’ category.

And, here’s some proof. It cost me a mahoosive £35 to have a new zip fitted to my Gore Phantom II soft shell jacket after the last one finally gave way after years of loyal service.

1911975_10152497900984863_349481395_nZip go up.

Zip go down.

Zip go up.

Zip go down.

Why would I go the trouble (and expense) of having a new zip fitted? Because, other than that, the jacket is still in near perfect condition depsite having been worn for just about every ride I’ve been on over the last few years. In the winter, it keeps me warm. In the rain, it keeps me dry. In the cool spring & summer months, I unzip the sleeves and wear it as a gillet. The pockets are plenty big enough for my wallet, phone, keys & a banana or two and there’s enough reflective material to make me visible to other road users and not a inch of flourescent yellow in sight.

Here’s a gratuitous shot of me wearing it with the sleeves removed, for no particular reason.

Me & GC @ Ashbourne TunnelErrand #6: picking up my cycling jacket from the tailor (again) | category: wild card | miles: 20 (I went for a pootle in the woods on the way back) | thing I learned / observed: not all squirrels are mischievous.

You see, after picking up my jacket, I took my Surly Troll out for a shakedown ride to test the new parts I’d picked up in errand #4.

Errand #7: taking the Troll out for a shakedown ride | category: wild card | miles: 20 (combined with errand #6) | thing I learned / observed: my mountain biking skills are as rusty as a 30 year old Volkswagen but my new off road tyres [given to me for free by my friends in the bike shop] are brilliant!

Here’s a gratuitous shot of my Surly Troll avec non-mischievous squirrel, this one didn’t mind posing for a photo at all.

1966682_10152494672014863_1843677791_n