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Monday, 31 December 2012

Reflecting on 2012

My 2012

I rather hate retrospectives on the year - it's just an excuse for rubbish TV tarted up as The "Best" of. Quite frankly, at a time when so many people are off work, there should be some good telly on to avoid having to talk to your in laws (not my lovely in laws, obviously). If you are reading this - the NY's Day City Centre Ski racing from Munich might be worth a go!

It's been an odd year. I was made redundant in mid summer and had some months of leisure to look forward and some challenges to meet before the hard work of finding another job started. The irony was that the leisure time was difficult and getting a job turned out to be straight forward.

In terms of of life possibilities, having some time off always looks like a good thing. It's odd though, having worked full time for 30 years (I did a science degree, so no slacking at uni) you forget how difficult it can be to move from an ordered day to one with infinite possibilities. I would suggest not getting injured just as your leisure time gets going as that can put a damper on things. Still the approach of July, summer and the open road/beach was what beckoned. A ride from Coast to Coast, becoming an expert surfer and getting all those household chores done all seemed possible.

Of course, as you know if you've been reading this nonsense, I spent July on the sofa watching the Tour de France with a rib injury and failed to cycle anywhere until August as my knee finally gave up after all those years of abuse playing cricket. As for surfing, someone turned off the supply of waves and I managed only a couple of trips before meeting up with the family in Wales to try and show I could still stand on water!

So what do I take from all this? Well, in many ways, I did discover fortitude........eventually. Frustration gives way to pissed-off'ed-ness and finally a realisation that you can do quite a lot of DIY especially if you can't go for a ride. Also, I realised quite quickly that having time to volunteer or help others is of limited use when you know, fairly soon, you'l have to go back to work.

One of the things you get to know, marooned on the sofa, is the demographics of TV advertising....... Apparently, watching when I did meant that I needed:
  • incontinence products
  • a stair lift
  • a pay day loan, or two,
  • an opportunity to play online bingo/bet on my smart phone, play the postcode lottery, and
  • an end of life insurance plan "for those last expenses"

The best bit of 2012 was of course getting married. In a year when rain was the default setting (well post April), getting a red hot weekend in May to get married was great luck. The photos look like we were in Barbados or at least a summer's day in England only existing in distant memory. We were rather greedy and did it twice in two days - probably a good thing as Bath Registry Office really only held about 12 people. Bath University did a brilliant job the next day and I hope everyone enjoyed - what for us was - a relaxed fun day.

I would sum up 2012 as being like an interesting cycle when you occasionally get lost!


So what does 2013 hold in store? Well, I will become a Council Officer and will be trying to help Bristol City Council sort its finances out and do what the new Mayor wants to happen in my adopted City. If I can get off my butt and do it, I have an opportunity to get rather fit as public transport into Bristol is difficult, driving a no no, and cycling a natural fit for my journey to work. Having failed to get fit out of work it would be ironic to get fit in work. But with work eating into leisure time, it would be foolish to waste the opportunity.

The Alps beckon, at least once and I hope the current conditions are still in place in a couple of week's time. There really is nothing like that first morning on the slopes, the quiet, the whiteness, the sparkly snow and the knowledge you really have earned that rather large dinner you are tucking into. No one puts on weight on a ski holiday.

Apart form that, 2013 will look a little like 2012 except I rather doubt I'll be getting married this year or hopefully not be made redundant.

Cycling wise, I haven't any targets other than to get out more. I may consider doing the Coast to Coast as a holiday, even if the logistics are rather nasty and will rely upon the goodwill of relations to provide a pick up form the east Coast

Happy New Year and why not try to cycle more this year!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Strange MTBs and Cycle Safety

Cycle paths - a waste of time?

It's often said that cycle paths which separate bikes from traffic are best. Well, in terms of ring roads and dual carriageways they may be, but it's not the only solution.  They can reinforce the "them and us" issue with drivers and may contribute to making other roads more dangerous. Some of the glass covered, dog messed and poorly maintained excuses for cycle paths I have encountered makes the prospect of sharing a dual carriage way with cars at 70 mph seem quite attractive. 

So what is the solution? Well it's horses for courses. I like the Bristol Ring Road cycle paths - they are mainly looked after, well used and populated by cyclists and pedestrians expecting to see each other. I also like some of the cut-throughs that legally allow a left turn at red lights and clear white markings that give a cyclist at least some feeling of belonging on the road. Vague red lines on normal roads are just a waste of paint, and effort and probably piss off drivers who wonder what they are for.

So, use cycle paths, if they are relevant to your journey and safe to use. But don't use rubbish half hearted efforts - we all pay for the highway, so use them.


29'ers are not cyclists who are forever 29.....(not me...) they are the new trend in mountain bikes which use the  "29 inch" wheel size, a wheel slightly larger than a "26 inch" wheel (obviously), the most common size on a mountain bike. 

You might ask why? Well, the reason for 26 inch wheels was more a matter of history than choice, but the size was good in that the wheel is robust (well as robust as possible - I've bust about three, none of my friends have AFAIK, but there again, I weigh in at least 4 stone heavier than most...) and is easy to turn, lift and is reasonably light.

So why a larger wheel? Well one of the main reason is easier rolling - i.e.  less resistance to rolling as the tyre hits the ground at a shallower angle and also being larger tends not to get "stuck" in so many smaller holes and rollers (apparently) It also means that stutter bumps have less of an effect and it's possible to use a hardtail bike with larger wheels and get a lighter overall bike.

Bike magic have done a review of a Santa Cruz and they really liked it. This is not a cheap bike, but it does give you cause to think outside the box a little, when thinking about a bike. 29'ers tend to be a better fit for taller riders as the wheels take up more room within the frame. And there is the question of cost. The frame is £1750 - and for that I can find you a nice complete full sus "normal" MTB with quite a few "trimmings" to add. However, I have found a recent review of hard tail 29'ers   which provides an alternative look. Now if I had room in the garage, I could be tempted, but it's not justified as I just don't get off road as often these days.....

Be interested to see what people think. Indeed, has anyone tried one?

Winter cycling update

Bike Magic also have an article about winterising your bike I am glad they covered the same ground as I did. Hope it helps.

Bristol Cycle Trails promo

For those who like the feel of a public information film from the 1960s, I've found a promo vid for Ashton Court. Taking the piss apart - if you are in the area - they are worth a visit as they provide an easy to follow workout where you can go really fast. Of course - let me know you are coming and I'll fire up the Gaggia for post ride drinks!

Ashton Court promo   You can even see what's on offer at the golf course...if MTBing is not for you!

I love the 4 year old kid used to show the trail! Look - MTBing is for anyone!

Of course - Ashton at full pace looks like this...... Ashton Court - fast and Leigh Woods looks like this Leigh Woods

Recipe corner - Lemon Drizzle cake - Vodka update

Having tasted the first and second batch of Xmas Pudding Vodka, I conclude that it's more "Mince Pie" flavour - but none the worse for that. Easy to make - easy to drink - straight from the fridge mind!
Lemon drizzle cake often causes the waste of lemon juice. This recipe makes the most of your lemony expenditure. I made this Lemon drizzle "cake" recipe from the Guardian last weekend. It turned out to be more of a lemon brick as it sank slightly in the centre - prob because I had medium eggs and not large ones - so the structure may have been a tad flimsy. 

Do pour the drizzle on top as directed, but keep it away from the edges until you have control of your "drizzling" It's really more like marinating and as it cools/sinks in, it will get harder. So if you just pour and go, it will be a bit of a mess - tasty, but a mess!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Swinley Forest - the end of an era

Never believe spin

The Crown Estates who own most of Swinley Forest have announced that the free cycling that has gone on for years is endangering ground dwelling birds and needs to be controlled. This control will result in three way marked routes. And that's it.

Now, that might sound great - there are trail centres all over the country that offer a choice of trails - but that's fine for destination centres. Swinley is not and has never really been a destination venue. It's a place where local people can ride and ride in peace and quiet on trails which are usually the result of races which have taken place around the forest

Oddly, when the Crown Estate harvest the timber, they plough through the forest in very large machines totally trashing the place. I presume that this probably pisses off the birds a wee bit more than a cyclist in a trail, barely a yard wide, with hardly any other trails nearby. Its also not like there are not extensive areas nearby which are ideal for birds - owned by the Army and really, really out of bounds........

I have no idea how they are going to police where people ride. I rather expect and hope that local riders will carry on regardless - I mean how can any sort of ranger (not that there are any...) catch up with an MTB on some singletrack through the trees (which is where there are no open ground birds anyway?)

Of course, this is nothing about birds, it's all about litigation. Apparently, there are a handful of people suing the CE's because they injured themselves on unregulated trails. Perhaps, given the resources of the Crown, they might take these time wasters to court and see what comes up - as its like slipping off a grass verge and suing the council because it owns the verge. If you are on a bike, you owe yourself a duty of care, surely?

I use trail centres - but it's just so boring to have to follow the same trail as everyone else if that is all there is. Ashton court has such a trial - indeed its linked to another - and is called the "BMX Trail" by locals. It's fun, but its a MacDonalds of a trial. A fast fix, not a slow cooked home made meal of a ride. 

My only hope is that this takes people off the interesting parts of Swinley - which is left to those in the know


Disgusted, late of Bracknell