Tuesday, 26 January 2010

I can't help it ...

... I just love the houndstooth.

2010 Trek Session DH. Proving a little bit of style goes a long way.

Monday, 25 January 2010

So that's what snow is for

I admit, the pages of this blog saw me get all breathless over the snow which fell a few weeks ago. I must have been drinking. It was cool, but quite hard work and actually got a bit boring for a while. Yet reading other blogs it seems I'm in the minority. Gorgeous pictures, poetic text, people comparing Dorking to the MegaAvalanche glacier and going all gooey at how lovely riding with you mates in 12 feet of white stuff is. It is. On skis.

Then, Le Humpage sent me this picture and suddenly it all made sense. Aaaaaaah, that's why snow is so good. A kick ass skid. Rock on. Quality shot as well, I'm sure you'll agree. That boy will go far.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Panic! Whistler is for sale

News is in that Whistler resort is to find itself well and truly plopped on the auction block come 19 February unless naughty parent company Intrawest LLC find some spare change to make up for missed payments on a $1.4 billion loan.

Let's ignore the irony for the minute that one of the exasperated impoverished lenders is Lehman Brothers (you'd think they of all companies could cut a defaulter some slack) and think about the effects this could spell for mountain biking and its mecca. A totally unverified and unnamed source close to Whistler that I made up but who could easily fill in for any desperate news organisation, said: 'It could well be goodnight Vienna.' Meanwhile a spokesperson for Intrawest LLC - and let's face it we can probably trust them just as much - said: 'No foreclosure has happened. We are looking forward to the Games.' Remember them, the O-L-Y-M-P-I-C-S. The winter sporting event, the summer version of which doesn't include DH. Ah, now you're with me.

If we're honest, nothing will happen. BUT. Check this. In a public notice, the group of lender companies stated: 'Each qualified bidder must be a financial institution or other entity that has the financial wherewithal to purchase the membership interests in immediately available funds on the closing date.' In other words: blah, blah, blah. Or, WE CAN BID FOR WHISTLER! Now my mate Benji who is a superb journalist of immense disrepute, recently bid £350 for West Ham. He didn't win it but they were pretty worried for a bit there. So, let's get involved!

How cool would it be to own Whistler? If I owned the resort I would immediately make Wednesdays (because they can usually dowith some jazzing up) a compulsory Led Zepp appreciation day. No need for getting your headphone chord wrapped around your saddle - just listen to II powering out across the treetops.

Having solved the soundtrack crisis I would then outlaw any clothes by Altura. Sorry, just not a fan.

Hand wipes in cable cars would be quite good. Not for my hands but for my face as I always seem to end up wiping the crap from my gloved hands across my head.

Absolutely totally free all week demoing on any DH bike. Financed by Lehman Brothers.


Friday, 22 January 2010

Pothole gardens

Now I'm not one for cycle advocacy, much preferring a slug of vodka and The Datsuns on the iPod when it all gets a bit too much.

But sometimes a bit of direct action makes me smile. Enter photographer Pete Dungey in Oxford who has decided the best way to solve the pothole crisis is to bung some geraniums in them.

"It's just a project to highlight the terrible state of our roads across the country," he says.

Now that's what I call rock and roll.

Check out more of his work and the project at www.petedungey.com

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Passportes 2010

Wahoo! Registration for this year's Passportes du Soleil on 26 and 27 June opens on 10 February. Proper nice event, mainly because you get to eat and drink beer every 15km. Or so. The 75km route is taking in nine resorts this year as opposed to seven with the MTB fair rocking Chatel. Passportes may be in and around Morzine but do yourself a favour and leave the DH bike in the chalet.

Did I complete it last year? Did I hell. I got sucked into a pothole near Chatel (Question: why has Fionn stopped on that berm? Answer: to point out the massive hole in the trail I've just nosedived into.)But after the ensuing paddy, I did still manage to drink beer and eat every 15 minutes. I mean kilometres.

In 2009 800 people registered on the first day and entries are limited to 4,000. Tie it into a week in Morzine and then on to Mega Avalanche which kicks off 5 July and you're laughing.

Run Rabbit, run

Me in Chamonix. Photo: Tom Humpage

I went out with my sister last night and we weren't on the bikes. God no. The last time she got on a bike was when I hauled her sorry ass over the Golden Gate Bridge on a tandem. So we went out and we got to talking and we both agreed that it's taken a while but we can no longer avoid the crushing realisation that: This. Is. It. This is it. You can hum the Strokes here, I find it helps. And this realisation reminded me of a sentence from Updike's Rabbit which has literally been on my mind for years. I paraphrase of course, but it's something like: 'somehow overnight I had morphed from being someone who had so much potential, into someone who could have been so good.' We decided, over our second bottle of Pinot Grigio (natch) that the morphing had indeed taken place. No matter, we both still had our health and wrinkled youth, besides what's the future when you have chilled white wine?

But as I ploughed into work this morning, a sole cool-clad cyclist in a sea of day-glo and bad, bad footwear, I got cataclysmically panicked. Agreed the hangover wasn't helping but let's just focus here people, yeah? Jesus I thought, I've missed the boat. I didn't even know where it was going, but it's gone. Look at all these people pedalling so fast on squeaking chains, flashing lights clinging to every orrifice, they're still racing to catch the boat – they can still see it. Me – I'm sat on the harbour wall with a big bag of chips, tenderly groping my extra fat wondering if it's worth trying to swim. Nah.

Back in the day before I morphed, cycling for me was amazing. It was challenging, every route a personal triumph. My road riding took me across America and through the Alps, opened up the landscape and a side of me that relished in the present and enjoyed overcoming obstacles. Mountain biking used to be about beers and berms, rock music and the closest thing I could find to mad, off-piste skiing. Even commuting was a great way to start and end a day, a chilled ride through one of the greatest cities on earth.

And I'm sorry to be depressed about it, because all the blogs I read are really upbeat all the time about bikes. And I'm still stoked on bikes and I think the chicks are amazing – 2010 is a wicked year for MTB for sure. But it's getting really boring have some over weight bloke get pissed off when I pass him on the way to work, and then try and sandbag me the rest of the way to Farringdon. It's quite sad the way the industry is so cliquey. It's frustrating the way mainstream journalism can't get its head around using experts to write their bike information; and it's so demoralising when it seems like everyone is so caught up outdoing each other with all the bollocks that they forget everyone is free to ride a bike however they like.

My mate Mark who runs GPM10 and re-inspires me every summer when I ride with him in Chamonix, says it's all just a load of bollocks and if you hang out in Cham with proper cyclists you rise above all that stuff. So maybe it's time to make the move. Plus he's like 46 or whatever, so has done a lot more morphing than me.

In the meantime I watched this montage of the TransAmerica trail from a blog on Adventure Cycling's website. I did this route in 2006, on my own. Wicked. I hope it's not the best thing I've ever done on a bike, but it feels like that today.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Women of Dirt


Here's the link: http://bonesovermetal.com/womenofdirt/

The girls in San Francisco

I'm not cool. No way. I'm not even sure I embody geek chic (unless it's geek sheek.) Juliet Elliot and Posy Dixon on the other hand = cool. Charge riders, PR agency owners, totally into track bike culture. Cool.

Here's their lowdown on cycling in the bestest city in the USA and home of MASH, from a recent trip there. And a photo of Juliet outside a funky taco bar. Look - she eats and she's skinny. Cool.

San Francisco being famed for its undulating topography, would not instantly spring to mind as a cycle-friendly city. Yet bicycle culture is booming. From fixed gear hipsters to commuters in suits, rent-a-bike tourists to serious roadies, the city heartily embraces the bicycle. And at a fairly compact seven square miles, a bike is an awesome way to see the city and enjoy the massive diversity of the various neighbourhoods that fill the bay.

You can pretty much grab a bike, grab a map, and explore the city at your own pace and leisure, seeing as all the roads are pretty cycle friendly, and non motorized bike routes through parks and along the bayside are well advertised for those less confident riders. However, here are a few tried and tested ideas for some rides to get you inspired.

1) The city Loop, difficulty: medium

Start your ride at the mouth of the Panhandle heading into Golden Gate Park. Enjoy the road all the way through the park before shooting down John F Kennedy drive where you'll be welcomed by a vast expanse of empty beach. Pull a right and climb the road up to Sutro Heights Park. From here follow the coast line around South Bay taking in a steep climb before enjoying the descent back to the coast and the swimming beach of Aquatic Park. From here, continue to hug the shore and pedal on to Fisherman's Wharf, not forgetting to check out the resident seals at Pier 39.

Recommended bike shop: Mojo Cycle Cafe 639-A Divisadero Street; +1 415 440 2338.
Where to eat: Herbivore, 531 Divisadero; +1 415 885 7133.
Where to sleep: The Fairmont hotel, 950 Mason Street; +1 415 772 5000.

2) The alternative cruise, difficulty: medium

San Fran is famous for its alternative scene; follow this ride to enjoy the full extent of it. Start your ride in The Mission, the latest happening spot and from here head up Market Street towards the hill. Turn right by the large Safeway's near the top of the slope and from here follow The Wiggle, (ask anyone local for directions to this mystical route) which will bring you up to Haight-Ashbury whilst avoiding the bigger hills. In this famous hippie outpost you can stock up on tie-die T-shirts and stop in at the world famous Amoeba Records. From Haight wind your way up to North Beach to explore the spiritual home of the Beat poets, the
bookshop, before fuelling up on Italian food.

Recommended bike shop: Push Bike 3045 24th Street @ treat; +1 415 647 7222.
Where to drink: Pop's Bar 2800 24th street; +1 415 401 7677.
Where to eat: El Farolito 2779 Mission St; +1 415 824 7877
Where to sleep: Green Tortoise hostel 494 Broadway; +1 415 834 1000.

3) The car free cruise, difficulty: easy

Beginning at Fishermans Wharf (where you can easily rent a bike if need be) follow the National Park Bike Path around the headland to the Golden Gate Bridge. Head over the bridge on the car-free cycle path and enjoy the downhill cruise into Sausalito. After a look around the chi chi bayside town you can opt to either catch the ferry across the bay home (last ride at around 6pm) or face the uphill ride back to San Fran.

Recommended bike shop: Blazing Saddles 2715 Hyde Street; +1 415 202 8888.
Where to sleep: The Union Street Inn 2229 Union Street; +1 415 346 0424.
Where to eat: Winship restaurant 670 Bridgeway, Sausalito; +1 415 332 1454.

General tips for first-time visitors

• Get a bike map! You can buy these at all the bikes shops for $5.

• Although San Fran is hilly, most people don't just power themselves straight up (or down) a killer slope. Follow any local for a mile or two and you'll quickly pick up the left, right, left, right traverse that allows you to mount some mighty hills without taking on too deadly a gradient.

• Despite the city's state-provided cycle lanes, it's worth noting that there is a lot going on roadside. In particular, be careful of the tram lines, which run down the inside lanes of many of the city's key arteries; these are easy to cross at an angle but take extra care when it's dark or rainy.

• The weather here can change by the minute as the famous Bay fog rolls in, so always carry layers and be prepared for warm days and cold nights.

• As in most major cities, bike theft is rife so always lock your bike up in sight, never leave it overnight, and when possible use a separate wire lock to secure your wheels.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

No mojo and a round up which is quite interesting

You know what? I've totally lost my bike mojo. And what's more I'm getting tired of being ashamed to admit it. The papers, the blogs, the audio the blah blah blah, people everywhere on bikes looking horrendous and trying to be the most committed cyclist. 'Did you cycle in today?' Erm no because it's four feet of snow and I don't like getting salt gravel up my ass. 'Oh well ha, you know I did, do you want to hear about my merino base layer? And I went cyclocross racing at the weekend and then ate my own face.' Not even a trip to Aston Hill at the weekend helped. Gone, the bike love has gone.

So in its wake I have done a round up of interesting bike travelly stuff. It may or may not go up on the big G's website but some of the nuggets are quite useful so I figured I'd post here as well, just in case. Here goes, knock yourself out:

It is by no means obligatory to set yourself a goal simply because it is January. But if you spend the vast majority of your cycling life breathing in car exhaust and rolling over shattered glass in gutters, it is nice to have something to look forward to. And if you're a moderately enthusiastic cyclist, it's got to be a pretty impressive challenge. So why not try your hand at the Alpine Epic 2010 (http://www.alpineepic.co.nz/), registration for which has just recently opened? It's a multi-stage, four-day mountain bike race held from Mount Somers to Lake Tekapo in New Zealand, 24 to 27 February. This is the race's second year seeing 100 teams charging 243km of untamed singletrack in New Zealand's spectacular South Island high country.

Not based Down Under? Never fear. 2010 seems to be the year of the endurance race, a sector of mountain biking which has gained a huge following recently. And if you're not a fan of teams, then the inaugural '24 Hours of Exposure' (http://www.24hoursolo.co.uk/) race – the UK's first solo 24 hour MTB championships - could be just for you. Whipping around a 10 mile loop in the Newcastleton section of the 7Stanes in Scotland on 22 May, novices and more experienced riders can all pit their physical and mental strength against some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK. Until it gets dark. Then you won't see much at all.

As for you roadies, well I've got my challenge sorted: I'm off to Cesenatico on the Italian coast in May to tackle the 40th Nove Colli (http://www.novecolli.it/) on 23 May, called such because there are 'nine hills' within its 200km loop. But those of weaker thigh are also provided for with a 130km option which cuts out quite a few climbs. In true Italian style the race is almost completely overshadowed by the pasta party at the finish. The terrain is gorgeous and in May the temperatures are high – around 27 – 30 degrees. If you fancy joining me, check out the packages offered by participants in the Italy Bike Hotels consortium. The Belvedere Hotel in buzzing seaside Riccione has excellent facilities for cyclists.

A bit closer to home and if you've got Christmas money saved up or are looking for a bike bargain then get yourself up to Manchester Velodrome (http://www.manchestervelodrome.com/) for the 14th annual Cycle Jumble on 24 January. Vendors will be selling everything from new to pre-owned frames, equipment, accessories and memorabilia, so it's a great place to check out kit and pick up stuff you wouldn't normally find in your average high street cycle store. While you're there, check out GBH Bikes (http://www.gbhbikes.co.uk) in the Northern Quarter – custom build and fixed gear Heaven.

If your idea of Heaven differs slightly and figures gold of the liquid variety, Highlands and Islands Adventures (http://www.handiadventures.co.uk/) based in Inverness have just added a whiskey tour to their 2010 itinerary. Coinciding with the Spirit of Speyside Whiskey Festival, the six day tour from 26 April to 3 May, takes in five different distilleries as well as the fantastic mountain bike trails in and around the Caingorms. Hopefully the snow will have melted by then. Full cost for the week including all accommodation, breakfast, lunch and guiding is £725pp.

And finally, if you're into cyclocross chances are you've heard of this site already and perhaps bought the book. But for those who are new to it and in need of inspiration on those frost Sunday mornings, check out pdxcross.com (http://www.pdxcross.com/) based out in Portland, Oregon (and if you read this blog often enough, you'll know how much I rate the cycling there.) The website pays visual homage to all those hardy 'cross types and the collective have just released their first book: Dirty Pictures. Well worth gracing any respectable cyclists coffee table (or tool bench.)

No didn't work. WHERE'S MY MOJO?!