Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Just for RoCkEtDoG...

This blog is pretty much dead, I have started a new one to tie in wiht my new business of designing and building singlespeed and fixed gear frames.

See you over there!

SSP / Alex

Thursday, November 11, 2004

2nd day off work...this sucks.

Yep, for the first time in a long while I'm off work for a second day, feel better than yesterday but thats not saying a lot! Kind of like a hangover, seasickness and then trying to walk across a bouncy-castle all rolled in to one!

The only reason I am adding to the blog is because I am sick of daytime TV, don't fancy listening to music / reading / etc... I get bored to easy!

OK, nice stuff part 2: The Chrome messenger bag.

I have owned (counting on fingers here....) 8 courier bags before now and the Chrome is the nicest, most practical, and above all durable one I have tried.

The main strap has a built-in pad, not a bit of foam that slides up and down. There is a seat-belt style buckle to quick-drop a heavy bag. Full length velcro for attaching radios / cell phone / ipod etc...and I haven't even got to the bag yet!

Tough cordura with a 100% waterproof liner that is not stiched at the bottome of the bag, it hangs in-side naturally (2 bages died by leeking through the "waterproof" seams) There is a hidden pocket, plus the normal pockets on the front (that hold: A5 notebook, wallet, keys, 2 pens, Leatherman tool, train pass etc...)

There are two there pockets down the edge of the bag that can take a 1l bottles of vodka / Single Malt each OR mindisc player, 12 MDs and glasses case.

The main part of the bag is big enough for a weekends worth of clothes (incluning a pair of size 12 shoes)plus wash kit etc, OR a weeks shopping, OR overnight bivvy kit OR just some magazines and books for a long train journey.

The bag fits well on the back even when empty and can be snugged up or loosened by pulling 1 of 2 D-rings (even with gloves on) There is velcro and 2 straps / buckles to hold the flap closed or they can be used to carry poster tubes / roll mats by poping them in to the "extra" buckles under the flap. There is the usual cross-strap to steady the load on the bike, and all straps have scochlite reflective built in, and the cross-strap can be held out the way by some handy velcro.

The only fault is that the main strap "excess" flaps about when the bag is snugged up tight, this is easy to rectify...just put a large caribina clip through the loop on the end then over the main strap. It will keep the loose end out of the way but still slide up and down.

The bag goes everywhere with me and has really done a good job of carrying some weird loads, OK I'm not a courier but I still have similar needs :-) mine is a Metropolis in red with a black stripe (and lots of patches sewn on!)

Right, cup of tea I think...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Things I love.....

While I don't like collecting "stuff" just for the sake of it there are some items that I just can't do with out. They are eveyday items, but well thought out, well designed, durable and practical.

These are a few of the things, visit the websites, read about the companies (and what they stand for / belive in) You might not agree with my choices, or you might have a sugestion...well lets hear it!

In no particular order:

Howies jeans
Chrome Courier bag
Surly Jethro tool
MC bike frame (not "everyday" but you know...)
Leatherman multi tool
Richo GR-1v camera (and Ilford 1600 B+W film)

So product of the day 1:

Howies are a nice little company in Wales making good clothes. They care about the enviroment, about having fun and most importantly about the customer.

I have a pair of their "classic" jeans and they are made from bomber 14oz denim, stiched with extra strong twine. No fancy chemical washes or "stressing" to give them a false "history" thats your job. The pockets are made from thicker (non-bleached) cotton to stop your house keys wearing through (i'm not the only one to do this!)

To start with they feel stiff and, well, a little odd, but they soon start to mould to you. They will last for years (rather than wearing thin after 18mths!) so the initial investment is worth it.

2 Howies T's and a sweatshirt are also hanging in my wardrobe. Again nice comfortable stuff that fits even my funny shape and is made from organic cotton.

Other Howies stuff on my wish list: Merino wool base layers, Towpath "ventile" trousers for riding in and some more T's (never can have too many!)

.....Tomorrow: Chrome Courier Bag (Metropolis size)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Rant part 2 (and 3)

2) Is it a necessity to have the “Best” bike / part / kit

Or “The Laws of Physics can’t tell the difference between Kalloy and Thomson”

It seems that more and more people have to have the best. For them it is selling them selves short or jeopardizing their standing as the “fastest up the climb to the pub” rankings (* see the first rant) to have anything less. Is your fitness so great that having, say, XT over XTR would really adversely affect your race results?….oh, you don’t race?

When cycling your main opponent is one you will never beat, they never tire, never give up and never, ever pay for the café stop. They are the laws of physics, including but not limited to: gravity, wind resistance, friction, and inertia. Well, you say, I can try and get one over on gravity by building a light bike (is that a beach ball under your shirt?) or fitting skinny tyres to reduce rolling resistance (don’t want to corner then?) Light wheels will “reduce inertia”…I read that in a magazine! (What about the inertia of your body? More of a factor I feel!) No matter what you do, physics will drag you down, slow you and bring you to a halt, whimpering and sweaty thourghly beaten by Newton’s discovery. Don’t let the ad guys and gals tell you otherwise!

Again a simple recreational pastime has turned in to a race, a race on which £millions is spent every year, on which your life starts to revolve around.

Then why do light weight, maximum performance parts matter? It matters for Lance Armstrong, it matters for Travis Brown, and until you match those guys for fitness and skill forget having to have the best, more miles is what you need.

3) Talking about Vs. Fixing Vs. Riding

Or “If only you could ride as fast as you type”

I will put my hand up to this one! While my typing is still pretty slow I do spend way too long on the ‘net reading the various spouting of know-it-alls, er, um anyway….

Bikes are great, I love them and while I can talk endlessly on frame design, suspension tuning, drive chain maintenance but I try not to as it bores the pants off most people. At the end of the day it really does not make a whole lot of difference (unless Rock Shox, Maverick or Shimano offer me a job)

Now I love a good discussion on the merits of a new part / design / set-up, I really do….but I don’t let it detract from the fundamental reason of having a mountain bike: getting out in to the hills! Too many people spend a massive amount of their (and their employers) time wrapped up in hand-wringing discussions about “the best XYZ” (See parts 1 and 2!) Many (me included) would benefit from getting out more, riding different trails, actually meeting new people (face to face!)

Second to talking on the ‘net is fettling your bike, now its fun (and good practice) to check your bike over and correct small problems before they turn in to big problems halfway through a ride. Some people, how ever take things too far…..servicing Marzocchis every 10hours of use, stripping, steam cleaning and polishing the entire drive chain after every trip! A bike needs to be looked after, cleaned, lubed and loved. It does not have to be clean enough to take in to an operating theatre! Perhaps that is where part of the appeal of a rigid singlespeed comes from…very little to worry about, no funny noises due to some dried mud on the chain, no slurp-squish-slurp every time you hit a bump…..all of which gives you more time to type on the ‘net how you just have to have a £2k single speed frame, with £300 hubs and £150 steel forks.

Which makes me wonder if all the marketing driven hype for the latest and greatest has driven the design and execution of the modern bike (road / MTB / hybrid) beyond the simple form of transport that it was designed as and in to a fragile, not very durable bauble?

Stay tuned for more badly constructed, grammatically challenged rants…

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

OK, let me rant!

I like siplicity and thus hate the "all the gear, no idea" ethos that has poisened mountian biking. Here is part 1:

For a seemingly simple sport which consists of a rider, a bike and miles of trails Mountain biking has become one of the breeding grounds for the technologically obsessed and “performance” orientated anal-retentive. Just before you switch off or turn the page let me put this in to context. I like technology (it allows me to write this and you to read it) I like shiny bike parts, I enjoy reading about new products, advances in cycling technology (in fact any science or engineering!) Having a bike that is functional, safe and does not infringe your enjoyment is a great thing. Having cycling clothing that keeps you cool / warm, dry and safe is great.

It is not the be all and end all.

Let me break this down in to bite-sized chunks (think of it as “reduced fat Ranting”)

[b]1)Why is “maximum performance” necessary for a primarily leisure activity?[/b]

[i]Or “First place in a non-competitive situation”[/i]

Well? For the majority of cyclists, cycling is their hobby ie. You do it for enjoyment and relaxation. Then why does shaving 0.42s off the Sunday afternoon ride matter so much? Surely making the ride longer is the plan, thus putting off returning to everyday life and all the stress and aggravation that it contains? Is it really that important that you beat Bob to the café stop? Aren’t you supposed to leave that competitive streak at work?

To expand the remit of the question (and allow me to rant at another group) is getting 72nd in a Sports Class race that much better than 73rd? Considering most “traditional” XC races are in decline there are still a lot of people buying stuff “that the pros use” Are you a pro? No, well is it for you then? Probably not. Now I know more people are entering “Enduro” and 24hr races where the more laps the better (* insert own definition of “better” here) So a part that can shave seconds off a lap time is worth it? Err, no. Say you save 10seconds per lap with “Product-X” if you really push your self you can ride 20 laps in 24hrs (you are doing it solo…right?) so that’s a whopping 200 seconds you are up on last years (pre-Product-X) performance! That’s 3min 20s and still not enough for another 500m let alone a lap!

Was Product-X worth it? Probably not.

OK, say Product-X won’t make you go faster, but how about ride for longer with less fatigue? Well a 24hr race is about as long as most people will ever ride for (for the others there’s the Audax club…) and no matter how well your bike works, how much sports drinks and bars you consume and how many times you change your clothing to suit the weather IT WILL HURT. There is no way round this (apart from not racing….but you have something to prove) Pain is the bodies way of letting you know you are pushing it to its limit, whether it’s a dull ache of a long Sunday ride with friends or the all over burn of a 100k epic race its all part and parcel of physical exercise. By Training you can increase you strength, stamina and speed your recovery time. But riding hard or racing will hurt. Live with it.

So why buy Product-X (and a whole load alphabet of parts –A to –Z) because the whole mindset of “faster = better, more = better” has sunk so far in to your brain that even recreational activities suffer. Advertising guys have latched on to this (hey, they have to sell more of Product-X to get more money to buy a faster car and a better phone) at the start of MTB-ing and used XC or DH racing as the model to aspire to, even when the majority of MTBers don’t race that often!

More later people.....

Friday, October 29, 2004


1-2, 1-2