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.

563530_10151458835669863_576432359_n

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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?

gold

This has to be one of my all time favourite loads I’ve transported in my BOB Yak; it was the first time I’d tried transporting a whole bike and, with the creative use of nothing more than a few bungee cords, it all fitted in just fine and was perfectly stable for the whole trip.

The bike in question was an uber cool, uber rare, vintage Coventry Eagle frame which was my 1st vintage build. It came to me in a fairly rough state and basically needed new… well, everything. The reason it ended up on the trailer is because the 27″ wheelset I’d bought simply wasn’t working out properly with the brakes and I also needed to get the bottom bracket rebuilt so I broke down and took it into the bike shop for some advice.

After a considerable amount of head scratching with the boys at Sprocket Cycles in Digbeth, Birmingham (one of my favourite bike shops ever, by the way), we finally decided that, despite its age, this frame was actually built for 700c wheels, not the slightly larger 27″ ones I’d bought. Oh well, you live and learn, I guess.

Sprocket also fitted this rather beautiful ‘Phoenix’ chainset I found on eBay with new cotter pins after replacing the bearings in the BB; happily the cups and axle were still in great shape. That’s a Gusset Slink half link chain, by the way, which is the only way to go if you’re running a single speed (or internally geared hub) setup as it makes tension adjustment so much more precise; not to mention the variety of colours it comes in!

Oh, back to the Yak! The other reason this is one of my favourite loads is it was one of the first outings with my riduculously shiny, ridiculously heavy, ridiculously ridiculous gold lowrider wheel with white wall tyre! I’d been looking for a wheel to replace the awful stock one that comes with every BOB trailer for some time and, a trip to Ridelow in Manchester and £40 later, this is what i got… I don’t care how absurd it is, I love it!

All joking apart though, if you’re looking to add some stability to your Yak, particularly if you generally only carry relatively light loads, a heavy steel wheel like this really helps to plant the trailer and stop it bouncing up and unsettling the bike on those bumpy city streets. Those 16 x 1.75″ white wall tyres are rated up to 60 psi according to the sidewalls (I’ve run them at 80 psi very comfortably), have a semi-slick type tread but no puncture protection so again, I’d only really recommend them for light duties.