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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Ride 2014

I sneaked out of the house at 8am with a Fiat full of mountain bike and a radio full of Planet Rock. Half an hour later, I met up with Deadly Dan and Craig and we headed off to the Lickey Hills. Dan was riding a 10-speed fat bike (VERY similar to the one reviewed by RocketDog here) while Craig was astride his trusty Beast (Orange 5!). Today, I was testing my first pair of mountain-bike specific cycling shorts. I've only ever worn roadie Lycra, cut-offs or running shorts on a mountain bike. I was eager to see if this new kit suited me.

Our 26s ain't dead!

Thanks to my shoulder injury and this horrible cold that everyone has, I haven't been training properly since I turned 40. As a result, I'm almost a stone heavier than I was in the summer and my fitness levels have suffered dramatically. I'm at the end of my cold now, thank goodness, and so is Deadly, but Craig was still suffering big time.

We got stuck into (literally) the muddy conditions at the Lickeys and were thankful for a dry, sunny day without much wind. The Lickeys were beautiful - sometimes deserted, silent apart from the clicking of Hope hubs, and always full of life.

"This is Nature," I thought to myself.

By the time we had skidded down 'Bono' we were sweaty happy chaps, cheerfully covered in mud and not minding our colds so much any more.

In the Waseley Hills, Dan was kind enough to let me try his fat bike. What a revelation! I only rode it for a short section (Badger) over rough but flat terrain, but my word, the difference was astounding! I felt as though I could ride over anything! It also felt as though the bike was pulling me forward, like it was desperate to keep going, over, through, on and on. As soon as I win the lottery, I'm getting one!

The café stop was most welcome. Cake, bread pudding and tea was consumed whilst chatting about the important things in life (you can guess what they might be).

We slowed things down on the way back, taking opportunities to take photos and finding the most fun way to go. Dan even spotted a baby tree that someone had decorated for Christmas.

The shorts were great. How could I tell? Because I forgot all about them for the entire ride. Comfortable and functional, I wish I had purchased mountain-bike specific stuff earlier. The shorts themselves are budget-priced Muddyfox kit from SportsDirect.

Back at Dan's house, we were treated to homemade mince pies while Dan did a great job of cleaning all our bikes!

Another great Christmas Eve ride with the AMBS/NWAlps.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to annoy your Local Bike Shop (and its customers)

It was a fantastic start to a Saturday - a cold, crisp, bright morning; singing along to the radio on the motorway; being the first to the dojo and warming up with a few laps of the hall. I realised that I was still suffering the effects of the cold that I'd had for the last two weeks, but not badly enough to stop me from training.

I was asked to take the warm-up for the class which I always enjoy doing. I managed to do it without succumbing to a coughing fit. Sensei Jim took us through Heian Yondan - the kata I will need in order to get my purple belt. Heian Yondan used to be my competition kata so I was pleased to find that it didn't take long for me to get the hang of it again. There have obviously been some minor changes to the kata since I was first taught it - but nothing I can't adapt to. (EG after the first kiai and turn into back stance, I was taught to push the opponent back before kicking. We don't do this anymore.) We finished the lesson off with some good old-fashioned sparring. Perfect.

I left the dojo feeling wide awake and ready for action. Back at home, after second breakfast, I climbed onto the mountain bike and headed off to Birmingham for some Christmas Shopping. It felt great to be back on two wheels - the first time I've ridden a bike in two weeks. Surely some sort of record for me! I cycled into the city centre, passing the queues of cars sitting angrily together before they started fighting over parking spaces. I did some shopping (some great deals in Forbidden Planet at the moment!) and then headed back on the A34.  I noticed that my back brake wasn't very effective so I thought I'd stop in at Scott's Cycles to see if they could supply me with a brake pad (and maybe some GT85 for the gears).

This is where my Saturday started to take a turn for the worse...

Upon entering the shop I saw that Pete was the only member of staff present. He had three customers already: a mother and daughter buying a new bike, and a miserable cyclist with his bike literally in pieces on the counter. The cyclist was in his cycling gear with his arms folded standing motionless at the counter with his broken machine. I waited for a couple of minutes while Pete explained the differences between the children's bikes. I had a good look around the shop and couldn't see any brake pads for hydraulic disc brakes.
I interrupted Pete when he paused for breath. "Sorry Pete, you don't have any disc brake pads do you?" I fully expected him to just say "no" so I could then hop back on my bike and pedal up to Halfords.

"What kind?" he asked.

"Hydraulic disc brakes," I tried, ready for him to shake his head and release me on my way.

"Yeah, but what kind?" Silence in the shop now. Miserable Cyclist staring at me and I could feel the mother and daughter boring holes in the back of my head with their laser stares.

For some reason I could rattle off the disc brake pad I needed exactly: "Shimano BR M445," I managed to say.
At this, Pete made his way around the counter and started pulling things off hooks. I hadn't considered looking behind the counter...

"Sorry to interrupt, " I offered sheepishly to Pete's back.
Then Pete mumbled something, almost to himself. I couldn't hear all of what he said, but the last word was definitely, "...rude."

Rude? RUDE! Uh-oh, I've managed to piss-off my local bike shop repair dude by pushing in front of three customers who were about to spend a lot more money than I was.
Pete now began to make things worse. He started flicking through manuals. Shimano manuals, running his finger down columns: "Yeah I think the 445 was replaced. Yep. This one. No. Yeah, definitely this one." Then another catalogue came out from under the counter...

In desperation, I turned to Miserable Cyclist. "Sorry, chap. I thought it would be a 'yes or no' question." Then I tried a smile. Miserable Cyclist simply made a noise. The kind of noise that Tom Hardy makes in the film Lawless. It meant nothing. Miserable Cyclist gave the noise no more meaning than Tom had. I didn't know what to think.

Finally, Pete turned around with a pair of brake pads.
"Thanks," I said. "I'll wait my turn."

Pete looked at Miserable Cyclist. "He's alright...mumble mumble women," said Pete. WHAT? What on earth does that mean?! Then Pete looked at me "Twelve ninety-nine," he said.

HOW MUCH?! I can get a pair of brake pads from ebay for about £5!. Oh crikey, there was no turning back now. The weight of the silence in the shop was threatening to collapse in on itself as I dug my wallet out of by backpack. Oh crap, I had no cash! Out came the debit card. A breathy sound like a punctured tyre issued forth from Miserable Cyclist.

Finally, the world's most expensive brake pads paid for and packed away, I turned to head towards the door. I tried again to get Miserable Cyclist on my side. "I'm sorry about that, chap." I offered. All I was met with was silence. Utter silence.
I managed to get out of the shop without screaming, "Fuck you, I'm going to Halfords next time!" which I think is a victory in itself.

I forgot the GT85.