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

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no pressure over cappuccino

Week #6 of the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is upon us and I’m right on schedule, having bagged a very wet ride #6 this Saturday.

I was once again joined by our friend of Northern Walker fame and, given the unmitigated disaster that was his choice of coffee shop on our last ride together, he insisted I choose the location this time.

“No pressure, then…?” I joked.

We met at our favourite bike shop, Keep Pedalling in Manchester (other inferior bike shops are available) where we spent some time nattering about bikes and drooling over a brand new Tangerine Dream Surly Crosscheck being picked up. Whilst I was there, they recommended a new coffee place that has recently opened up on the other side of the city; we set out riding in no particular direction as the first few spots of rain landed on the lenses of my glasses.

coffeeneuring6 surly troll ecr grindsmith manchesterWe rode north on NCN route 66 along the Rochdale canal until we reached Middleton then looped through Heaton Park into Prestwich and down towards Pendelbury before heading back into the city along the banks of the River Irwell – if you know the area, this can be a pleasant route but it was pouring rain for the entire ride and, by the time we reached Greengate Square in Salford, every single item of clothing we had on was soaked through.

  1. Where I went: Grindsmith Espresso & Brewbar, Greengate Square, Victoria Bridge Street, Manchester, UK, M3 5AS.
  2. Date I went there: Saturday 8th November 2014.
  3. coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bakewell cappuccinoWhat I drank: Standing there, dripping on the floor with my glasses steaming up, I asked what they might recommend for a freezing cold, soaking wet cyclist, especially as I couldn’t read the menu. “Cappuccino” was the response and, despite me not really liking any cappuccino I’ve had in the past, I went with it anyway.
    The friendly staff invited us to take a seat in the nice warm interior which, whilst incredibly tempting, would’ve resulted in us getting mud all over everything so we declined, deciding to sit outside as the rain had finally eased off.
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: Along with my cappuccino I ordered a bakewell slice which was lovingly presented to me on a custom made wooden plank – fancy, eh?
    Despite my previous forays into the world of cappuccino drinking, I’m pleased to say what I had was really quite pleasant; it’ll never be my favourite coffee but it was nice all the same. The bakewell slice was ooey-gooey and easily lived up to its billing as being “spectacular”.
  5. coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bike racksBike friendliness of the locale: Finally, FINALLY! A place with bike racks! As per bleeding usual, there wasn’t a single public bike rack anywhere in sight but the good folks at Grindsmith had solved this problem by simply bolting one to the side of the place! There’s even a vintage chopper there to reinforce the hipster vibe (happily, there’s no requirement to wear tight trousers and a checked shirt or have a carefully trimmed beard).
  6. Mileage: As usual, we didn’t keep track but it was probably somewhere between 30 and 40. In. The. Pouring. Rain.
  7. Must visit: As I say, there’s a definite hipster vibe here, what with the old cable reels and wooden crates to sit on, the trendy people coming and going, extravagantly swiping their iPhones (other, non-knobbish mobile phones ARE available) and, with 2 coffees and 2 small pieces of cake costing over a tenner, it’s hardly cheap but the surroundings are lovely, the staff are friendly and welcoming and the quality of the product commands the price tag. Oh, and we didn’t feel out of place at all, despite my dishevelled appearance of which I am so proud.

We enjoyed our coffees as we sat watching the strangely relaxing fountains dance.

Later on, we childishly zig-zagged our way through the fountains on our bikes, much to our own soggy amusement.

coffeeneuring6 grindsmith manchester bakewell cappuccino fountains

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.

10258968_10152573483604863_3776863221452996315_n

that’s not my name

 

A little something for the young people to listen to this evening while the rest of us break out our slippers, cuddle up in front of the fire and settle down for a story from the archives of:

Ω What I’ve been reading Wednesdays Ω
(or whatever day it happens to be when I’m posting this)

Recently, I paid a visit to the rather excellent Northern Walker blog to read about recent developments with the only other Surly Troll I know of in Northern England. I’m assured there are loads of others but I’ve certainly never seen one… now I come to mention it, despite us living relatively close to each other and frequenting the same bike shop on an all too regular basis, I never even seen this one in the flesh err… steel.

But I digress.

Originally christened ‘Tango’, the Northern Walker’s Troll has recently been treated to a whole load of new shiny including the eye-wateringly expensive but (according to what I’ve read) the-very-best-money-can-buy 14 speed Rolhoff internal gear hub. Behold: ‘The Trolloff’.

Dutifully obeying the n + 1 equation, next up on the Northern Walker shopping list (after some suitably distracting shiny for the missus, no doubt) will be a Surly ECR with the considerably cheaper Shimano Alfine internal gear hub. You can read more about how to pronounce ‘Alfine’ and various musings on said hub here.

During such musings, I somehow decided it would be a good idea to buy a set of spare wheels from our freaklishly tall friend and we arranged a secret rendezvous somewhere in t’ North whilst I was on punishment duty selling delicious cakes to the masses from the incredibly excellent Karen’s Baking Room.

You of course know me as Jimmy Phoenix of lifeinthecyclelane fame but I’m sorry to say my real name is much less interesting… I am known in some circles as ‘The Drizzle Monkey’ (don’t ask) and at work I’m all too often referred to as ‘Slave Boy’ (no really, don’t ask)… but whatever my name actually is, what I did to our friend who so kindly came all the way down to deliver some obscenely cheap wheels to me is simply unforgivable.

Yep, I overcharged him for cake. Massively.

Later that same day, I knowingly sold non-gluten free, sugar laden cake to a celiac and a diabetic.

I also talked an impressionable young lady into buying a whole load more cake than she wanted or needed. And convinced her she was getting a killer deal. Which she wasn’t.

I am SO going to hell.

Anyhoo… all this talk of new shiny has gotten me all itchy and that vacuum in the workshop which I abhor so really needs to be filled. Soon.

Until yesterday, my PayPal balance was really quite healthy and then, in a moment of sheer indulgence last night, I blew the lot on (almost) all of the parts I’m going to need for my next bike build:

  • Shimano Alfine 8 speed internal gear hub built into a 700c wheel and small parts kit
  • Shimano Alfine dynamo disc hub built into a 700c wheel
  • 160mm rear and 203mm front Shimano centre lock brake discs
  • Shimano Alfine 39t chainset and 20t rear cog
  • Jtek bar end shifter

Lying around in the workshop I have:

  • Cane Creek SCR-5 & crosstop brake levers
  • On One Midge bars
  • Avid BB5 road disc brake calipers
  • Brooks saddle
  • Schwalbe spiked winter tyres
  • Various other bits and bobs

All of which will be bolted onto an army green 29er steel frame with rigid fork, more braze ons than you can shake a stick at, horizontal dropouts and dedicated BOB / Surly trailer mounts…

Oh yes I did.

I’ve got my name on what I’m reliably told is the last 18″ Army Green Surly Ogre in the UK.

There are only 2 problems:

  1. It’s currently built up as a demo bike in the bike shop, and
  2. Because of my recent splurging, I have plenty of boxes of bits on the way but insufficient ‘spare’ money to buy the sodding frameset!

I suppose I’ll just have to get out there and sell my body more cake.

In any event, before too long I shall be inviting you to behold ‘The Roadgre’.

See what I did there?

Hello?

Is this thing on?