simple man

 

You may recall me promising a bunch of things a little while ago; we’ve already shocked the world with pink and most of the others are very much in development. Today, we’re breaking out some of the finest grunge we’ve ever had here at lifeinthecyclelane as we discuss one simple man meeting another.

You see, a little while ago, I was invited along to a 2nd birthday party. Now, I know what you’re thinking: balloons, jelly & ice cream, pass the parcel, cake and maybe even a questionable clown.

With the possible exception of a family wedding, I struggle to think of many places I’d rather be less.

Happily, the birthday in question was not for some horrible little sproglet but was the 2nd anniversary of my favourite bike shop, Keep Pedalling, opening up in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

“There’ll be beer. And pizza. And cake. Oh, and some of the guys from Surly are coming too.” they said.

What’s a simple man to do?

Oh, I should probably take this opportunity to shamelessly plug my girlfriend’s cake business, The Baking Room. That way, if you ever need yourself a Krampus cake (non-scary cakes are also available), you’ll know where to go for it. You can check out The Baking Room in these various places:

DSCF5854Right, shameless plug shamelessly plugged, back to business.

So yes, I slunk away from work early, hopped on my Troll and headed over to the shop. Within minutes, I was sipping on an extra cold Corona (with lime, of course!), nomming a slice of rather excellent pizza from the good people over at Slice Pizza Co. down the road and was being introduced to a dude going by the name of Tyler.

Tyler, with his impressive beard and equally impressive ability to drink beer like it’s going out of fashion, just happens to be the marketing manager over at Surly Bikes and a bloody nice bloke too. We spent a little while shooting the breeze (at least I think that’s what the Americans call it) about bikes, touring, beer, why I NEED a Krampus in my life, how awesome the Krampus cake was, beer, bikes, beer and other such nonsense.

DSCF5851As the night wore on, I met some other people from Surly whose names I either rudely didn’t ask or have since forgotten (sorry about that) along with a bunch of like minded people also drinking free beer & nomming free pizza. Oh, and Sylwia took great delight in being mean to me… seems to be her favourite pastime whenever I’m in the shop actually! No doubt she’ll beat me for posting this picture of her!

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Yes, a good time was indeed had by all. I’d like to say a huge thanks to Rich & Shona for inviting me along and, without getting all preachy about it, I’d just like to remind you how important it is to support small, local businesses. I buy all my bikes & gear from Keep Pedalling, they buy all their cake from Karen and we all thoroughly enjoyed the handmade pizza from around the corner… what’s not to like?

Oh, and by the way, it turns out the boys from Surly think what I’ve done with my Troll is pretty cool. How about that?

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le voyage de pénélope

Just time for a quickie tonight folks; sit back and let the plinky plunky French randomness wash over you…

Oh, and please don’t worry; no shocking pink saddles were harmed in the production of this blog post.

994151_10151707854699863_1000163482_nWe had some friends over for dinner recently and with them they brought this old steel framed Peugeot… somethingorother.

“The gears won’t work” and a few other minor issues were on the list so I quickly threw it in the workstand and gave my friend a masterclass in setting derailleur limit screws and adjusting cable tension. With the rusty old thumshifters back doing what they should be, I turned my attention to the rusty old cantilever brakes which were also horribly adjusted. After I’d whipped out my 4th hand tool (how did I ever live without that???), I realised both wheels needing truing, all the cables needed replacing, the handlebars needed throwing out along with the ridiculous foam grips and… well, the list went on.

Since then, I’ve done a bit of work on it to at least get it rolling and took it out for a spin on Salford’s mean streets. Our good friends over at Keep Pedalling, Manchester (once they’d finished taking the mickey out of me for riding it in public) supplied me with new cables and new handlebar grips which I fitted this avo.

I had all sorts of plans to take Penelope out this evening for a good shakedown ride on the trails but, the Troll gave me that “you-never-ride-me-anymore-since-you-built-that-slinky-little-Kinesis” look so Penelope will just have to wait for another day.

Needless to say, I headed directly for the trails. Didn’t pass Go. Didn’t collect £200. I did however, get mud all over the bike, all over my self and even some in my eyes – that’ll teach me for taking the mudguards off!

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something inside so strong

 

Whilst I was away, suffering from a bad case of real life syndrome and, more recently, a horrible respiratory infection, I had quite literally millio… no, thousan… hundre… OK, so I had one person contact me demanding an update to my blog. Clearly, over a month without a new instalment of Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia! was just too much to bear.

You may even recall me promising a special month long special edition… and, here it is! Please, try to control your excitement.

 

You asked for it, I promised to do it.

You asked for it again, I promised to do it again.

You kept asking for it, I kept promising to do it.

At some time in the last month, you asked for it yet again; so, without further ado, by popular demand, you-kept-asking-for-it-so-I’m-finally-doing-it… yes, yes, it’s finally time for a “Keep Pedalling wheel build review”.

32421_10151271550494863_43233265_nYou may recall I originally built my Surly Troll with an old Sun Rims Ditch Witch wheelset I had lying around the garage. Super wide disc specific rims with a matt black finish, I loved them and I quite literally rode them into the ground; relenting only when the hubs were making so much noise I was worried I wouldn’t make it all the way home (hence the boxes of brand new shiny in my trailer).

206696_10151327132799863_2024200714_nHere’s the finished article being used in anger atop the Hill of Death. For the wheel building nerds out there, here are the specs:

Halo Aerowarrior 26″ disc specific rims in white, Shimano Deore XT 36 hole quick release 6 bolt disc hubs in black and regular, bust-one-and-you-can-get-it-fixed-just-about-anywhere round stainless steel spokes in silver; none of your fancy black bladed [read expensive and almost never in stock] spokes here.

Of course, these wheels were hand built by Rich at Keep Pedalling in Manchester. Interestingly enough, he was actually recommending a cheaper, more sensible, touring bike rim but hey, what’s rock ‘n’ roll about that? So, I splurged the extra cash and went with the Halos.

They’ve been on the bike now for a little over 6 months and have done somewhere between 2000 and 3000 miles (I really haven’t been keeping count) on road, off road, through rain, snow, mud, sand… you name it.

The XT hubs are super smooth and super quiet and will be treated to a service in another 6 months’ time. The rims are as perfectly straight as the day I picked them up and, despite the daily abuse I give the bike, I’m yet to break a single spoke (of course, I fully expect to break several tomorrow now I’ve jinxed it!).

So, how do I rate the quality of Keep Pedalling’s wheel building service? Well, I’m currently saving up to have another one done. What does that tell you?

Oh, I almost forgot! My favourite search term from the last month? Well, it just has to be:

“Olive at Keep Pedalling”

Olive

nothing else matters

 

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about this before (although it will probably come as little surprise to regular readers) but I don’t place a lot of importance on acceptance; in fact, I have been known to shun it, favouring a simple, quiet life instead.

Having said that, and I think this is true for all cyclists, there is something quite special about the feeling you get when a fellow cyclist compliments you on your bike. When said fellow cyclist happens to work in (or even owns) a bike shop, the kudos steps up another level.

Many bike shops actually host organised rides every weekend (normally just for roadies) and, if you’re a member of the club and you ride the right bike and you can keep up, you can turn up and head out for a group ride.

I suppose being part of such a group ride means you have been accepted. You are part of the clan. You have been deemed worthy of wearing the colours. You are fast enough not to get dropped off the ‘peloton’. I suppose this also means you can no longer acknowledge other cyclists on the road because they are members of some rival clan or, shock horror, don’t belong to any clan.

I should say at this point I’ve never been part of one of these groups and I know some of you reading this either have been or currently are. It’s really not my intention to cause insult but the ones I’ve seen out on the road have always been arrogant, superior and often dangerous. I’m sure not all groups and certainly not all members are like this but that’s just my experience.

I’m reminded here of a fellow blogger who was recently told “We don’t crash” when he slipped on the ice…

Anyway, it will also come as no surprise to regular readers that I don’t frequent the kinds of shops that host group rides because, again, my experiences of the guys who work in them aren’t good.

I remember mooching all around Manchester when I first moved here, looking for a decent bike shop. I went to the likes of Evans Cycles, Harry Hall Cycles, Bicycle Boutique, Ridelow and the now sadly closed GBH Custom Hacks to mention but a few. Each of these caters to very different needs and I still pop into Ridelow and Bicycle Boutique from time to time but the others just don’t provide what I’m looking for in a bike shop.

And then, one day as I was mooching around on my lunch break, I saw a simple sign above a window saying “bike shop”. Posing unabashedly in another window was a Surly Moonlander. I climbed the stairs and was greeted with a line of bikes from the likes of Surly, Salsa, Soma, Civia (amongst others) and a cheerful “Hello!” from what turned out to be the owner.

From that moment on, whenever I’ve needed anything for any of my bikes, be it an emergency repair, a replacement brake cable, a complete frameset or just some advice, my first port of call has been the independently owned and rather excellent Keep Pedalling, Manchester.

Owned and run by Rich & Shona (two of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet in my lifetime) and home to Shop Mutt Olive (one of the cutest dogs I’ve had the pleasure to cuddle in my lifetime), you’re always guaranteed a friendly greeting, heaps of knowledgeable advice and only the finest bike porn. I also happen to know nothing comes out of the workshop without being checked over by at least 2 people; you can’t say fairer than that.

644084_10151452375969863_1347449314_nIf you tuned in for this week’s instalment of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’, you’ll know I was forced (very much against my will) into the bike shop for a chat, a cuddle with the dog and a sneak preview of the Surly Krampus a few days ago. So, I popped in, I had a chat, I had a cuddle and then the Krampus appeared and basically stopped me completely in my tracks.

I’ve been following the progress of this bike for a while now and I’ve seen heaps of pictures and even a few videos online; the slightly unhinged guys over at Surly have been riding various early prototypes around in the US and generally making me green with envy. I think this is probably why I put on my very best puppy dog eyes (rivalling even Olive’s) and asked blatantly loaded questions like “What size is that frame?”, “You say you’re out riding with it on Sunday?”, “Where are you going riding?” and “What kind of cake do you guys like best?” (my girlfriend makes cakes, incidentally).

Being the lovely people they are and having a weakness for my girfriend’s apple & cinnamon cake as they do, Rich & Shona invited me along for a ride in t’ Pennines on t’ Sunday.

That. That, dear readers, is what I call acceptance.

I’m supposed to be moving house in a couple of weeks; I was supposed to be packing. I’m exhausted this week, I was supposed to be relaxing. I’m [allegedly] getting older and wiser, I’m not supposed to be hurtling around t’ hills on t’ mountain bikes.

Bah. I’ve never been one to conform and I’m not about to start now!

45866_10151454569499863_85699737_nSo, I stripped as much superflous weight as possible (racks, lights, mudguards etc.) from the Troll, fitted my Fox F100 suspension fork and jumped on the Rochdale canal towpath heading north which just happens to be part of NCN Route 66. A little over 10 miles later and I was rolling into Littleborough, heading for Hollingworth Lake and the Pennine Bridleway.

On an unseasonably warm February day, I sat in the sun eating a banana, watched a buzzard hunt and just enjoyed the peace and quiet. The peace and quiet which was shortly to be shattered by the unmistakable sound of tyres on gravel. Large tyres. Larger than normal tyres. 29 x 3″ tyres.

“Get yourself sized up then!” Rich said as he yoinked my Troll away.

Within seconds I was tearing up the trail on the Krampus, trying to make sense of the hugely wide bars and the surprisingly nimble ride. Sure, I nearly dropped it when I leaned into a corner too quickly but I was soon throwing it around like I’d been riding it for years.

574703_10151459004474863_662423197_nWe headed for the hills. I pointed the Krampus at gravel, wet rocks, hardpack dirt, deep wet mud, up-to-the-axles flooded sections and everything in between; with a mere 10psi in the Knards, it just rolled over and through absolutely everything, smoothing out every mistake my rusty mountain biking skills caused. Eventually, reluctantly, I gave it back and hopped back on my Troll.

Whilst the Krampus had been epic, making impossible climbs seem simple and fast descents an incredible experience, my Troll felt small, sketchy and my On One Midge bars seemed narrower than ever. What’s more, my already heavily worn brake pads were fast running out of what little friction material was left. On the penultimate descent, I pulled both brake levers and… nothing happened. Sensing my impending death, I had to throw the Troll head first into the wall just to stop it from running away with me. Somehow, I managed to mince my way safely up and down the one remaining climb and rode the remaining 15 miles, feathering what was left of my front brake until finally I reached the safety of home.

It was one of those rare days… Awesome bikes to ride, awesome weather bathing awesome scenery and awesome company to enjoy it with.

Perfect.

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are we the waiting

 

If you’re anything like me, you really don’t need an excuse to go to the bike shop; I find myself in there at least once a week whether I actually need anything or not. Very often I find myself buying things I didn’t know I wanted or needed… Most often though, I just find myself hanging out with the guys who run the place, playing with Shop Mutt Olive and drooling over bikes I can neither afford or (if I could afford them) justify buying.

So, when I heard a lot of crazy talk about there being something a little bit rare and a little bit special in the shop… well, it was a no-brainer! I was going in!

Despite many, many gems such as the following, we’re going to skip this week’s ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’:

  • Bruising for Marzocchi
  • porno sportwomen
  • How do I shift gears on a Surly Troll?

Sigh.

482411_10151452376954863_1180841035_nSo, instead, let me tease you with this shot of one of Surly’s new Rabbit Hole rims wrapped in a 29 x 3″ Surly Knard tyre.

Now, as you may or may not know, such things are something or a rarity in the UK just at the minute as they’re normally only found attached to Surly’s new is-it-an-MTB-is-it-a-fat-bike 29er, the Krampus.

So, what’s a Knard doing in a small, independent bike shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter? And, more importantly, what’s it attached to?

644084_10151452375969863_1347449314_nWell, dear reader, everything you’ve hoped for is true! There is indeed a Surly Krampus in my favourite bike shop! Don’t ask me how they got, but they got it, know what I mean? Luckily for me, it’s not for sale which, considering it’s the only one in the UK at the moment that we know of, probably means it wouldn’t come cheap!

I didn’t get to ride it but I did get a good look at it and I’ve gotta say, what a machine! 29″ wheels, 3″ wide tyres, a 1 x 10 drivetrain and disc brakes give it a really simple, clean look and probably all the gearing you’ll ever need. I suspect those tyres are going to be awesome off road and will give you enough confidence and suspension effect to ride over just about anything.

The paintwork is a kind of deep green metalflake which really isn’t Surly’s normal style but it isn’t in the least bit garish and I think it works perfectly with the bike.

Want.

I’m told framesets will be available over here a little later this year and full bikes next year (I think).

call me when you’re sober

It’s been a long week over here at life in the cycle lane HQ… all is not well with the world. I’m in much need of some cycle therapy but pesky real life is getting in the way…

In any event, Thursday is upon us once again and I’ve started a weekly tradition of exploring the murky world of search term trivia and, dammit, explore it we shall; no matter how tired and crabby I am!

Welcome one and all to this week’s semi-thrilling edition of:

Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!

Exciting, no?

This week we’ve had lots of people wanting to know things about:

Is it just me or is it all getting a bit surreal around here?

girls, girls, girls

 

Being the lazy, no good civil servant I am, I haven’t been at work since some time back in late December; even then, I wasn’t really working… In any event, I’ve completely lost track of who I am and what day it is but those in the know tell me it’s Thursday today which can mean only one thing!

Yes, it’s time for yet another round of:

Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!

Please, try to contain your excitement.

As ever, I’ve been inundated with questions and keywords this week and here are my favourites:

  • “will a washer stop axle sliding in horizontal dropouts?”
  • “can you fit a BOB Yak to a bike with disc brakes?”
  • “do bullhorn bars fit any fixie?”
  • “Schwalbe Kojak tyre pressure”
  • “Surly Troll image”
  • “leather girl on bike porn”
    • Wait. What?
  • “spandex bodysuit see through wet messy”
    • Dude, you’re clearly looking in the wrong place.

A fairly obscure selection this week, I’m sure you’ll agree! Perhaps it’s high time I went back to work…

In other news, keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for a review of my custom wheelset I had built by the good people over at Keep Pedalling, Manchester.