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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alive and kicking

 

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

That said, I would like to apologise to the loyal followers of lifeinthecyclelane for the unprecedented break in service. I’d like to say this has been due to the fact I’ve been spending every free moment out on my bike… I’d like to say a lot of things. Truth be told, pesky real life has been rather getting in the way of things recently.

But, it’s not been all housework, chores, family visits, driving lessons and farmers’ markets (don’t ask)… There have been quite a few exciting cycling related developments over here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ of late and, real life permitting, whatever passes for normal service around here will soon resume.

If you think you can control yourselves, just consider these uber exciting upcoming posts / features:

  • The dubiously welcome return of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’ with, seeing as I’ve been AWOL for about a month, a special one-off month long special. I know, right?
  • A few gems from the ‘What I’ve been reading Wednesdays (or whatever day it happens to be when I’m writing this)’ archives. I’m somewhat behind in keeping up with the blogs I read, let alone the one I write!
  • pink – I’m particularly looking forward to this one; not only do we get to listen to Aerosmith but you get to read all about one of my latest custom bike builds. Readers of a nervous disposition should consult a medical expert before tuning in.
  • paint it black – I think officially the first appearance by the mighty (and wrinkly) Rolling Stones; this’ll be one for all the Surly Troll owners, anyone looking for a 60mm wide full wrap mudguard, anyone who’s ever rattled their SKS Commuters to bits at 30mph on an old railway bed and just about anyone else who reads the post by accident.
  • basket case – A nice bit of Green Day, of course and the story of one girl’s bike that has spent more of its life in the workstand than on the trails.
  • broken down – The obligatory lifeinthecyclelane grunge accompaniment to my disturbingly literal blow by blow account of how [not] to fit Froggleg cantilever brakes, brought to you by the rather angry and rather brilliant JJ72.
  • simple man – Now, as a rule, I don’t think cover versions of songs are a good thing but in this case, I’m afraid the Shinedown version is just SO much better than the Lynyrd Skynyrd one. Anyway, we shall be asking some of life’s most important questions:
    • What happens when your favourite bike shop has a 2nd birthday celebration?
    • What would a Krampus cake look / taste like?
    • Vegan pizza, really?
    • Is Corona better with or without lime?
    • What’s it like to have the guys from Surly tell you they were checking out your Troll? Yes, you did read that part right.

21195_10151608679519863_755683448_nStick around kids, it’s gonna be good.

Right now, this is where I’m headed:

(Karen’s out for the night and so am I!)

sexy boy

It’s OK. You can all breathe again. No need to sit on the edge of your seats anymore. I know you’ve probably all got the shakes from missing out on a whole week’s instalment of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’ but worry ye not, dear readers, lifeinthecyclelane is still alive and kicking; we’re just broadcasting to you from a new undisclosed location somewhere to the West of Manchester.

So, with the madness of the move out of the way, whatever passes for normal service around here has resumed.

The usual suspects have been out in force this week…

…all of which is very interesting, I’m sure you’ll agree but the one which really caught my eye was:

“Route 54 porn”

One can only assume this person was referring to National Cycle Network Route 54 which is well known for being quite literally littered with por… no, wait. That’d be weird…

Well, whatever they happened to be searching for, it kinda got me to thinking about the time I spent on NCN Route 54 and, more specifically, the off road stretch of it known as the White Peak Loop – you can read a quick report here.

Route 54 sceneryHome to some of Derbyshire’s finest scenery which, on the day in question, was bathed in glorious sunshine, it’s fair to say the White Peak Loop is a beautiful place to be and you could certainly do worse than spend an afternoon there with a nice picnic and a loved one (or two, if you’re lucky). As per my initial report though, you are hereby officially warned against heading there with heavily laden touring bikes.

Whim AlesHead just off the trail and you’ll (eventually) stumble across Whim Ales; a very small brewery at the top of a very large hill. As we were on ‘The Brewery Tour’, visiting as many breweries as possible (and bagging as much free booze as possible), we stuck our heads around the door and were given an impromptu tour by the poor unsuspecting folks we met inside. Considering they’re not open to the public, don’t do tastings or sales and we were filthy, sweaty and wild-eyed, we received a warm welcome and a cold wine bottle full of one of their beers (for free). It almost made the hideous climb all worth it. Almost.

HartleburyHead off the trail again (free beer safely stashed in the trailer) and you’ll find yourself feeding the ducks in the delightful little village of Hartington.

OK, so there weren’t actually any ducks but the duck pond itself was very pretty and it made for a lovely little lunch spot. Oh, don’t be deceived by this rare patch of flat road, by the way; being Derbyshire, you’re never far from some kind of climb and / or descent… there’s one just down there around the corner as it goes.

TissingtonSo, head just down there around the corner and climb the hill (it’s a beautiful road cut into the hillside) and you’ll soon find yourself turning onto the traffic free (mostly) flat and extremely pretty (so pretty I didn’t take any pictures of it) Tissington Trail; so named because it runs through the equally pretty little village of Tissington which just happens to be an excellent spot to stop and nom some malt loaf.

Me & GC @ Ashbourne TunnelFollow it all the way to the Southern tip like we did and you’ll find yourself posing in front of the Ashbourne Tunnel for a rather questionable picture in your rather questionable shorts.

What’s not to like?

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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