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?

state of the art

 

Luckily enough, there wasn’t much traffic on the streets when I set out for a ride this morning in thick fog. Through a slightly dangerous combination of peering over my glasses and through the layer of condensation that built up immediately, I did manage to spot quite a large number of cyclists out there… I’m fairly sure I even saw a tandem at one point.

By the time I arrived in the city centre, I’d managed to clear my lenses enough to make out the shivering figure of my friend who’d decided that short finger gloves and a lightweight jacket would be sufficient to keep him warm on this chilly October morning.

Wardrobe choice was not the only mistake he made… but we’ll come back to that a little later.

If you’re a follower of the Northern Walker, you’ll know he’s recently finished building up a rather beautiful new road bike so we spent some time drooling over the details, discussing tube size and other such important matters before he had a quick spin to test out my cafe racer bars on the Ogre and eventually we set off in search of Coffeeneuring based adventure.

Pootling out of Manchester City Centre, we set off down Oxford Road in the general direction of Didsbury and The Art of Tea which Matt had recommended after reading good things about on t’ interweb. I was excited.

The ride down there was great, we continued chatting about nonsense and Matt got all nostalgic about how the place had changed since he’d lived there some years ago… something about “Ey, when I were a lad, it were all fields ’round ‘ere!” and “Ah, good to see Akbar’s is still there…” as we rolled through Kebab Alley.

  1. coffeneuring3 the art of tea coffeeWhere I went: The Art of Tea, 47 Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 6TW.
  2. Date I went there: Sunday 12th October 2014.
  3. What I drank: We both had white coffee which I ordered alongside a couple of simple toasted teacakes.
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: The coffee arrived after a short delay but there was no sign of teacakes. As time went by and we drank the coffee cups dry, still no teacakes. By which point we accepted the fact we’d been largely forgotten about, despite there being a sum total of 4 (count ’em, 4) other customers in the entire place.
    When I went in to pay, I was told by one of the 2 waiting staff (that’s 3 customers or 1.5 tables per member of staff) that the chef was “having a crisis” and asked whether I still wanted my teacakes. I did not.
    I spent a penny before leaving and cut my finger on the broken hot water tap… what a shambles. There are some simple basics I expect: if your so-called-chef is having a meltdown because he either can’t find the teackes, can’t get them out of the packet or can’t work the toaster, TELL ME. If something is damaged (and clearly has been for a long time) and is likely to cause injury to your customers, FIX IT. I’m sorry to say that you got the basics all kinds of wrong today, Art of Tea. And, because of that, I’ll NEVER be coming back again.
  5. Bike friendliness of the locale: Again, The Art of Tea scores extremely poorly here. Not a single bike rack in sight and outside tables crammed in so much that there’s nowhere there to leave your bike. Being a Sunday, the shop next door was closed so we leaned our bikes there and kept a close eye out.
  6. Mileage: Up to this point, around 12ish probably.
  7. Must visit?: For all the reasons above, and despite the clear potential of the place, I have no option but to recommend you don’t even bother going there in the first place, let alone going back time and again.

Well, with that unpleasantness out of the way, we set off in search of more adventure and somehow ended up heading back the way we came and then going on a bit of a tour around Eccles, Monton, Worsley, Swinton and a few other places.

At Worsley, we spotted a small shopfront and an intriguing alleyway running alongside it. We tentatively pushed the bikes down there and found ourselves in The Secret Garden – my official entry as Coffeeneuring ride #3:

 

  1. coffeneuring3 secret garden worsleyWhere I went: The Secret Garden Tea Room, 11, Barton Road
    Worsley, Manchester, M28 2PD.
  2. Date I went there: Sunday 12th October 2014.
  3. coffeneuring3 asparagus soup and teaWhat I drank: This time we ordered tea for 2 which arrived in rather dainty little bone china cups and a bowl of asparagus soup each.
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: Asparagus soup is DELICIOUS! Service was quick, friendly and efficient. Surroundings were very pleasant and I could’ve quite easily sat there all day.
  5. coffeneuring3 matt eating soupBike friendliness of the locale: We just piled into the place with our bikes and leant them against the gazebo in the corner – nobody batted an eyelid. Oh, and they didn’t seem to mind us nomming our soup like we hadn’t eaten in 2 days either.
  6. Mileage: By this point (we continued riding for a while after this), probably about 20.
  7. Must visit?: Oh hell yes. Get yourself down there RIGHT NOW.

 

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

people just love to play with words

 

You may recall, back in March, I had an absolute blast taking part in the Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge. I even managed to complete the challenge with the help of a snow day (even though it didn’t snow) and some rather creative bending of the rules.

Now, I’m a bit of a sucker for a challenge and if it involves even more questionable word-play on “Randonneur”, all the better.

Happily, our friends over at Chasing Mailboxes are putting on the fourth annual incarnation of the now world famous Coffeeneuring Challenge! Don’t ask me how to pronounce it.

The rules are delightfully simple: all I have to do is drink 7 cups of coffee in 7 different places over 7 weekends, riding a minimum of 2 miles for each trip. There are a few more details but essentially that’s it!

So, without further ado, here are the details of my first Coffeeneuring outing of 2014:

  1. Where I went: Deli-Lama Cafe-Bar, 22 Chapel Street, Salford, M3 5LE
  2. Date I went there: Saturday, 4th October 2014
  3. coffeeneuring1 - coffeeWhat I drank: A simple (but very delicious) white coffee with brown sugar (it’s SO nice to find a place with brown sugar)
  4. A detail or two about my coffeeneuring ride: I sat outside and was quickly joined by a rather eccentric Scot who instantly starting swearing at me in that charming way only Billy Connolly can get away with.Wait. Now I come to think of it, this guy looked and sounded almost exactly like the Big Yin… nah, can’t have been.Anyhoo, in the 20 minutes or so we spent together, we discussed all sorts of important things like “Where the f*&k is Islington?”, “What f*&king noise are they compaining about?”, how good his bacon & egg sandwich was, whether it’s illegal to cycle through red lights and why it’s harder to play golf when it’s below freezing outside.

    Normally I hate it when random strangers come and talk to me but I liked this guy instantly. I think this might be the magic of Coffeeneuring… on any other ride, I would never have stopped for a coffee and, therefore, wouldn’t have met my foul-mouthed new friend and experienced his unique (and highly cynical) outlook on life.

  5. coffeeneuring1 - bike racksBike friendliness of the locale: Unfortunately, Deli-Lama suffers from an acute lack of bicycle racks, or anything else you can chain your bike to… I blame Salford Council, not the cafe. You can just make out the Ogre chained to some railings across the street… not somewhere I’d like to leave it unattended for very long, I’m sorry to say.
  6. Mileage: I dunno… I went for a bit of a ride around North Manchester on the way… Maybe 20 miles? Whatever, it was more than the requisite 2.
  7. Must visit?: Despite living only 5 or 6 miles away, I almost never go to Deli-Lama despite it very much being my kind of place – the food is excellent and the menu varied, the welcome is warm and the surroundings comforting. So, is it a ‘must visit’? I think so.

Surly Ogre River IrwellI rode home via the banks of the River Irwell which was looking rather pretty bathed in surprisingly warm sunlight on this beautiful autumn day.

Oh, if anyone’s still keeping count, I think the Ogre is now sporting its fourth or fifth set of handlebars… In the Coffeeneuring spirit, it’s now gone all cafe racer style for… you know, racing to and from cafes.

Surly Ogre cafe racer bars

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

why don’t you get a job?

 

Grump.Grump. Grump.

I’ve had the last week off work, today was my first day back in.

Well, I say I’ve had the last week off but it was actually only 4 working days because I ended up going in on what was supposed to be the first day of my holiday because there was too much ‘urgent’ and / or ‘important’ stuff on my to-do list.

Grump.

On top of that, stupid real life syndrome kept me from spending what remained on my precious week off exclusively on the bike.

More grump.

When I did manage to get out, the trails were blissfully bereft of fair weather cyclists.

Happy dance.

Unfortunately, like any other vacuum, the space left vacant was filled by the only other people able to spend their days somewhere other than at work: The Great British [sic] Unemployed.

Now, I’m not about to embark on some kind of tirade and unfairly pigeon hole those who are genuinely out of work for reasons beyond their control… I know not all unemployed people are the same. I just seem to encounter the worst of ’em. I probably deserve it.

Most of the trial dwellers I seemed to come across were litter-dropping, cannabis-smoking yoof who would much rather deliberately block the way and intimidate me than politely smile and return my friendly “hello”… come back fair weather cyclists, all is forgiven.

Grump.

As I chained my bike up outside the office this morning, I had that familiar feeling of wanting to be out on the trails instead… but then I thought, without this job, I wouldn’t be able to afford the bike(s) I regularly take out on the trails. And, if I had every day to be out there, would I appreciate them as much as I do now? Who knows.

What I do know for sure is that, as much as I could’ve easily just kept cycling this morning rather than going to work, if I had’ve headed for the trails, I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze in my final errand for the 2014 Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee Challenge!

Happy dance.

Yep, just when I thought I wasn’t going to make it, today I managed to squeeze in one last errand.

Errand #12: commuting home from work | category: work | miles: 10 | thing I learned / observed: I might not always like it, but I’m grateful to have a good job | bonus: completed after dark (lighting method: hub dynamo powering front & rear lamps)

1947761_10152514988714863_1039945336_n

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

in the army now

 

We’ve spent a lot of time recently talking about riding cool bikes, wanting to ride other cool bikes and what happens when you spend too long out with other women. I can see you all there, on the edges of your seats, holding your collective breath just waiting for an update on the much anticipated Surly Ogre build. Well, wait no more dear reader, the Ogre is finally experiencing life in the cycle lane.

Surly Ogre LHT Crumbals on the cornerSeen here enjoying a much needed break at the very excellent Crumbals on the corner in Marsden, Huddersfield, the eagle-eyed and elephant-brained regulars amongst you may well recognise the On One Midge bars, Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers and Avid BB5 road disc brakes from early iterations of my Surly Troll.

I’ve also pinched the Brooks B17 World Traveller special edition saddle from my Troll which has started to turn a lovely orangey-brown colour which, whilst not an exact match, works extremely well with the brown Deda bar tape, brown Vavert full wrap mudguards and army green frameset.

Surly Ogre 1The Ogre shares the same horizontal track style dropouts found on the Troll which allow you to slide the rear wheel back and forth to achieve just the right position and, crucially with single speed and internal gear hub (IGH) setups, the right amount of chain tension. I’m almost embarrased to admit that mine was all floppy on chrimbo day.

You see, I was relying on the force applied by simply tightening the axle nuts to keep my rear wheel in place. What I hadn’t realised was that with all the out-the-saddle climbing I’d been doing, the force I was putting through the drivetrain was enough to cause the wheel to slip forward in the dropouts. Not much, but enough to achieve said floppyness.

There are a few potential solutions to this:

  1. Stop riding up hills
  2. Fit some kind of spring loaded chain tensioner
  3. Sling a Surly Tuggnut on

Living in t’ North as I do and given the fact I actually really enjoying climbing (despite my complaining), option 1 really isn’t an option.

Option 2 is out too because it’s nonsense to have sliding dropouts and a derailleur style chain tensioner, besides which I want to retain the clean look.

So, option 3 it is.

Surly Ogre dropout Alfine 8 non turn washerBut wait! Because of how the Alfine hub works, you need to install special non-turn washers which of course aren’t designed to work with the Surly Tuggnut (other inferior chain tensioners are also available). Punch “Surly Tuggnut Alfine” into your search engine of choice and there is plenty of discussion on the forums about how to modify your Tuggnut to work. My favourite solution and the one I ended up going with was really the simplest: just throw away one of your non turn washers.

Surly Ogre Alfine 8 Sturmey Archer crankset Blackspire chainringAs it turns out, you really only need one to do the job of holding the axle in place – taken care of by the left hand (white) one in the picture above. On the drive side of the bike, simply remove the sliver washer, fit your Surly Tuggnut as normal, snug up the thumbscrew to achieve the all important chain tension and hey presto, nothing floppy in sight and you’ve got the ability to crack open a cold one at the end of your ride thanks to the built in bottle opener. Sweet.

It’s important to note here that there are various different coloured non turn washers for the various different shaped dropouts out there and unless you have true horizontal ones like mine, this solution really isn’t for you. I dare say it’s not recommended by Shimano to run your Alfine with only one non turn washer and I’m fairly sure the good folk at Surly wouldn’t recommend any of the above with the probable exception of drinking beer.

Remember kids, read and follow the manufacturers’ instructions [sic].

Surly Ogre Alfine 8 Jtek bar end shifterShifting comes courtesy of a Jtek bar end shifter. Not the one I ordered direct from The States, waited ages for, waited a bit longer for, got tired of waiting for and cancelled, but one I bought second hand from a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who had one lying around in his parts box. With reassuringly industrial indexing at the shifter (not the hub), there is a very satisfying click every time you change gear and none of the imprecise feel I’m told you get with the Rohloff which is indexed at the hub, not the shifter.

Surly Ogre Alfine 8 Tuggnut casette jointSurly Ogre in line cable adjusterThe Alfine hub is particualrly sensitive to gear cable tension, thanks largely to the decidedly el cheapo plastic the ‘cassette joint’ is made from. Once installed, you need to shift to the lowest gear (1), attach the cable inner to the fiddly little cable clamp and pop it into place. Next, shift to gear 4 and you’ll see two little marks in a small window in the cassette joint. The game now is to get them both perfectly lined up. I’m reliably informed this is damn near impossible without the help of an in-line cable adjuster; which is why I didn’t question it and fitted one up near the shifter (it doesn’t really matter where you install it, just so long as you have one somewhere accessible).

You’re going to want to take care of all your chain tension and other rear wheel movement and get it tightened down in its final position before you go anywhere near the cable tension, incidentally. Of course, every time you whip the wheel out for a puncture, tyre change or whatever, make doubly sure to re-check your gear cable tension because I guarantee you it won’t be right (another reason for the Tuggnut – the wheel always goes back in exactly the same place).

Surly Ogre Shimano Alfine ChainsetOh, I almost forgot! Originally I’d planned to fit a Shimano Alfine chainset to match the wheelset but it turned out to be suitable only for 68mm bottom bracket shells and I have a 73mm shell on the Ogre. The solution came in the shape of a Sturmey Archer single speed chainset and traditional square taper bottom bracket – nothin’ fancy. You’ll see on the first couple of pictures on this post that it originally came with a 44t chainring and what turns out to be a nasty silver chain guard; coupled with the 18t rear cog I ended up using, this resulted in gearing that is just a bit too high for my liking.

Surly Ogre Sturmey Archer crannkset 39t Blackspire downhill chainringIn t’ hills I find myself almost exclusively out of the saddle and even hooning down a long descent with the wind behind me, I still can’t make any real use of the 2 highest gears. Not wanting to go through the hassle or expense of sourcing yet another chainset, I simply ordered a new, smaller chainring (104mm BCD for the nerds out there) and took a link out of my chain so I’m now running with a rather fancy looking Blackspire 39t Downhill chainring up front and an 18t cog in the rear. I’ll be heading out on it tomorrow to test out the new combination which will hopefully give me a good balance of high speed on the flats and relatively low gearing on the climbs.

Well, I think that’s about all there is to report for now – more in the next few weeks!

mr. jones

 

Last Friday I was promoted at work.

Last Saturday Karen and I had a lovely time with our friends over in Glossop selling cake to the masses.

Last Sunday I went mountain biking in t’ Pennines with the good folk from Keep Pedalling, Manchester.

As weekends go, it wasn’t too bad.

As my bruises from last week’s ride turn that sickly shade of yellowish purple, I’ve reached a few decisions about the Jeff Jones Spaceframe and Truss Fork I was riding crashing:

1. It’s a hardtail, no question.

This may seem an obvious statement but apparently a lot of folks out there are comparing it with full suspension frames. The Jones website may hold some clues to why as it states A Jones is a high-performance non-suspended bicycle. The ride is both efficient and comfortable and the handling is immediate and assured. With the default choice for off-road cycling nowadays seemingly suspension before anything else it might seem odd to ride rigid but that is the last thing my bicycles are – the geometry and construction provide an extremely satisfying and direct connection between the rider, the trail and the bike. It’s pure cycling and a lot of fun.”.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fatI think the confusion comes from all the talk of suspension. What Jeff’s trying to say here is that, despite being fully ‘rigid’, his bikes don’t have a ‘rigid’ feel; equally, he’s not saying his bikes have some kind of ‘suspension effect’.

Really good steel hardtails (in my humble opinion) are the best choice for off road riding because you really do get a direct connection between you, the bike and whatever you’re riding over. With a full suspension bike, the rear end is flopping about, you’re bouncing around and by the very design of the thing, you don’t have that direct connection. For me, this eliminates most of the experience and, of course, a certain amount of the energy you’re putting into the pedals is getting soaked up by the suspension.

It’s kinda like comparing apples & bananas.

2. ‘Half fat’ is fun but it isn’t for me.

The bike I was riding had been built up with a 29er rear wheel and a 26″ fat bike wheel from our good friends over at Surly. I don’t know the exact measurements but because of the extra rubber up front, the rolling diameter of the mismatched wheels ends up being almost exactly the same. Fat tyres run at surprisingly low pressures (they were after all originally designed for riding on soft stuff like snow and sand) which provides plenty of ‘float’ and they’re generally quite squidgy. I guess that qualifies as some kind of ‘suspension effect’. But again, comparing a rigid fork with fat tyre to a suspension fork is kinda like comparing a screwdriver to a hammer… both are perfectly good tools and, used in the appropriate application, will do a fine job. However, if you need to hammer in a nail, a posi #2 isn’t really what you want.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fat 2We were riding on fairly tricky trails with a healthy mixture of deep ruts and flooded bogs. In the ruts (and this is probably my lack of talent showing), I found the front tyre a bit too wide and a bit too eager to grab hold of the sides. Worse than that (and with more lack of talent showing), on the approach to a boggy section, the front end just floated over whatever I pointed it at whilst the rear schlurped into the mud up to the axle.

This is by no means the fault of the bike. I should’ve picked my line more carefully and I certainly should’ve put more effort into trying to drive through the bog… Looking down at that front tyre, I guess I just kept forgetting I couldn’t float the rear wheel through too.

3. Single speed is also fun but also isn’t for me.

215455_10150160090194863_1113944_nI’ve built a couple of single speeds over the years and for a long time, it was my ride of choice; the thing with single speeds is you need to have enough strength in your thighs to get the thing up to speed and then maintain it. These days, my body has become conditioned to maintaining a steady cadence using the full range of the 27 speed setup I run on all my bikes and, as a result, my thigh muscles aren’t actually that strong.

At least this is my feeble excuse for not being able to monster the Jones up the hills as impressively as I would’ve liked. People who ride single speed mountain bikes are the special kind of crazy. And, I salute them for it.

4. Jones Loop Bars are awesome.

Treat yourself to a Surly Troll, a Surly Ogre or (obviously) anything from Jeff Jones and chances are it’ll come with a set of Jones Loop Bars as standard. If you’re not familiar with them, you can read all about the various incarnations of the Loop Bar here.

Surly Troll Jeff Jones loop barOriginally, I built my Surly Troll with a set of On One Midge bars so I’ve only recently been lucky enough to own a set of Jeff’s horribly expensive yet incredibly excellent bars. For several months, I used them for commuting (mostly on road), making good use of the various hand positions and enjoying the stability all that extra width gives.

More recently, I’ve been using them off road and they’re transfomed my Troll into the highly capable mountain bike I always suspected it would be. I’m still getting used to them and on occasion I still find them a little too wide but coupled to the Jones Spaceframe and Truss Fork, they make perfect sense. Just the right width, all the hand positions you could possibly need off road and as cool as hell. What’s not to like?

5. I’d rather have a Krampus.

563530_10151458835669863_576432359_nI’m lucky enough to have had a sneak preview ride of the legendary Surly Krampus before it was freely available in the UK. The one I was riding had a 1×10 drivetrain, 29er wheels, wide handlebars and a rigid fork; making it quite a fair comparator for the Jones. What’s more, I rode the Krampus and the Jones on some of the very same trails in extremely similar conditions at the same time of year with many of the same people.

To the best of my knowledge, I didn’t crash the Krampus. I remember thinking I would’ve liked one more low gear and the bars were a touch too wide for my taste but otherwise I loved everything about that bike.

It’s also considerably cheaper than the Jones which makes the unavoidable justifying-buying-it-to-your-other-half conversation so much easier.

Odd, I thought I was going to love the Jones…