Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Its all about me, me, me with you, you, you

I just got a new app for my smartphone, its called Everytrail and like all these apps I had to get the Pro version rather than the free Lite version because nothing works on the Lite version. Hey ho its only a few bucks so not worth worrying about.
The App is by the by really as I found that people had been uploading their rides onto the Everytrail website.
Now thats something that I have been wanting to do for a long time, share routes. Its one thing talking about being a 'community' of mountain bikers but being all possessive about a great trail you know seems, well, kind of childish to me.
A couple of years ago I floated the idea of publishing an online mountain bike trail book to a few of the other operators here in Borneo, it was utterly refused, point blank.
All I wanted to do was encourage more people to go out to more routes and get more of thier friends interested in this sport that we love. Seems that people out here are more interested in jealously protecting a route that they know.
Sure, we sell trips to tourists and locals alike but I dont see how having routes published would undermine any of our businesses.
SO - 
Being a sneaky and humorous kind of a guy I have decided to go ahead with the project with my colleagues at Bike Borneo by sending spies along with our competitors armed with GPS units so we can publish thier routes anyway. This way we will get the credit for the routes as we published them! Its a shiney silver lining that one.
Asked Santa for anything special this year? I want a Brookes leather saddle please Mr beardy fat bloke and no I dont want to play with Rudolphs nose..........

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stand up and be counted

The worlds a fast-changing place, the United States of America has re-elected a mixed heritage person (is he black? everyone keeps saying he's black but his mum is white and his dad is black so surely that means he is just as non-black as he is black, I dont get it?).
What does that mean for us? well it might mean that the yanks are not all that stupid anymore, after the Bush family tried to start war with anyone who wouldn't sell them oil they seem to have learned about crackpot religious megalomaniacs. If so that means that the US might start to regain some of its recently lost international respect and that has great implications for the world of mountain biking.
You have to be a dead earthworm not to be aware that the US has, and continues to be, the worlds greatest mountain biking nation. As much as many of us would like it to be different, thats the way it is. Maybe its because the sport arguably was invented there and all the first heroes were americans. Anyone not seen the Red Bull Rampage? thought not,'nuff said.

America has one thing that the rest of the world craves, sheer vastness. Not only geographically but also in the scale of product ranges and we all know that most things are cheaper there than they are Here (wherever you are too probably). I never heard of anyone who flew to the states and decided they only needed hand luggage for the return journey.

I need a few new bits for my bike - dont worry, this entry will not feature the ongoing saga that is my full-susser, its too upsetting - and if I could nip to the states I would get everything I need at a rock-bottom price, not to mention many more calories than I was needing.

As the US improves its reputation for the economy and foreign policy (from "kill 'em all" to "run") trade can only improve. For the mountain biking world that is great news, not only because the Asian and European brands could do with more vigorous competition but also because so many excellent innovations come from the US, innovations that we all want to play with.

Yes I did go out this weekend, a short blast on a favourite trail. There was plenty of water around and my rear wheel bearing blew, Oh and I took a bit of a tumble too which is quite amusing to see on the GoPro I had on my helmet. One of those fallen branches across the track that whipped out my front wheel, ayah.

Monday, July 23, 2012

tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, begger man, thief

Not all of us are born into wealth, not all of us achieve good levels of wealth throughout our lives and that means that not all of us are able to choose whatever bicycle that we want.
To my mind its a good thing that I have to find a way to get the best bike that my relatively humble bank balance will accommodate. Hey I'm not about to say I dont want more money but I aint no breadfan either. Theres things I wont do for money, work for example.

So I have been on the case with finding a replacement for the Litespeed full susser that I killed. I did ask Litespeed to help me but their big corporate faceless response was non-human and told me that I would have to pay the price of at least two limbs to get a replacement rear subframe. It seems that riding it on rough terrain was irresponsible and I got what I deserved.
They are American.

So I found a discounted frame by a company called Viper from Belgium. Now one of my good mates is a Belgian and he's is an all round good egg, married a gorgeous Mexican chick and wrestles elephants for a living so I figured if a nation can turn out a bloke like that, their bikes must be good.

As always I will write some kind of poor prose to inform and educate of the outcome of this purchase but as ever I remain optimistic and full of hope. In some ways it is good to be back in Europe after another disappointing sojourn into the U.S of A.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wheels of fortune

Summers been and gone in the old country, my mum reported foul weather back in the UK while I sat bare-chested under the blast of a struggling air-conditioner.
My last ride was simply delicious, non-stop rain from the moment we set off until we returned some 5 hours later.
Its always a trade off, good for bad. Lovely cool rain means you dont overheat or burn but once you get rolling down hill the grit starts flying and it invariably goes in your eyes. Glasses are a waste of time in these conditions so I find a tight squint and keeping my head held just off to one side of the centre line helps to minimise the sudden blindness brought on by a lump of mud in the eyes.
The soppy conditions do mean that you dont go quite so fast and that your brakes dont overheat. All in all I prefer the rainy rides to dry sunny ones.
Best conditions? out here an overcast windy day is the ultimate, maybe a little drizzle, like a glace cherry on a cake.
I have been avoiding the subject of 29ers on this blog because I always felt quite ignorant. In real life I have only actually seen one in the flesh so to speak, in a shop in Sydney, I noticed it straight away, the wheels really do look bigger and the whole bike seemed to be a different shape.
Now I understand how it would roll better, there is ultimately a larger curve which would mean that it deals better with uneven surface and there is more of the tyre on the ground at any given time. Thats all just basic physics.
I read that they suit larger people better, that is something that I hate because I am what can be described as 'not very tall'. I'm no midget but does that mean that if I went and spent a pile of cash on a 29er to discover that my inverticulatedness meant that it was a load of rubbish? Someone needs to definitively state the facts here and let us know just how tall you need to be to get any of the benefits of these machines. Obviously the manufacturers wont, they just want to sell their products magazines wont because they only print what they are paid to print (or given free stuff). That leaves the independant bloggers and forums.
If anyone can point us all in the direction of an honest guide to 29ers I for one will be most grateful!
Now go out, oil your chain, get on your bike and ride to the pub.....

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wearing pink pyjamas

Some kind of roadside sculpture, no idea what it means...
An international cast, who weren't very fast, but had a blast....
A week is a long time in politics.
On a mountain bike saddle it is far, far longer I can tell you.
Five days it took us, a team of six, to circumnavigate Mount Kinabalu. Five riding at a time and one driving the support vehicle.
Its always a surprise to me just how unfit I am but never more so than after 6 hours riding, facing a hill in the midday heat.
Had it not been for the great company I was in and the fact that my bike seemed to be working quite well it would have been a trial. As it was we all enjoyed it on the whole, sure there were times when it was quite tough and we weren't enjoying ourselves 100 percent but I've yet to ride a two hour climb that I loved all the way up!
While we have been using this route for the last eight years or more we have decided to shorten it to a three day ride which is both easier and more fun. Starting at Park HQ and ending at Sorinsim substation it has jungle trekking, technical riding, villages and farms and never gets boring.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Too good to be true

Its easy to feel victimised by fortune, bad luck besets a great many of us, some shoulder the situation with fortitude and stoicism, some complain, some use faith, some use drink or drugs and some simply crumble like a biscuit under a falling rider.
I'm a complainer, the other options are useless to me, silent stoicism would make for a rubbish blog (even rubbisher than this one), faith took its leave long ago and while I do quite like a drink I think my particular poor fortune doesnt really warrant developing a serious addiction.
Its a matter of degrees anyway, my crops didnt fail, I havent been diagnosed with a terrible illness and I havent caught my wife getting jiggy with the gardener (yet), but my mountain bike woes continue to do two things that bring me down; Firstly the fact that I cant get my machine to work properly implies that I am a crap mechanic and that hurts (truth = pain), secondly I seem to have spent a skipload of cash and a long time to find myself in the same headscratching situation all the time.
Tubeless tyres, now demystified as far as fitting goes except that the rear one has suddenly decided to start deflating after a couple of hours, I thought tubeless tyres were less hassle? If it was my old tyres I would just change the tube, what now?

New brakes, heres the thing; my old brakes (Avid Juicy 5's) squeaking like crazy the whole time, local bike shop charged me and made it worse, I got fed up and bought a set of Avid Elixirs, guess what? oh you got it, making a bloody racket they are, shouting like a baby thats lost its bottle.

To top it all the seatpost has started slipping, I cant get the clamp to go tight enough to hold it, now I slowly slide down as I ride.

So picture this: tyre deflating, seat sliding down and brakes that are making a hell of a noise. Is it any wonder that I dont find stoicism, faith or addiction any kind of comfort? This problem is TOO BIG for regular reactions.

There now, a problem shared is still a problem but thanks for reading anyway, I may soon be selling a very good, trouble-free mountain bike if anyones interested (preferred buyer should have addictions, religion or basic mechanic skills).........

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breathing fire

A choice of three brake sets, two were Avid Elixirs and one was a cheapie Shimano. The difference in price was interesting, lets just say I saved over 100 quid by wandering across town.
Anybody got a pile of money and wants to set up a bike shop in Borneo? Its a sure-fire winner, all you need is a small selection of bikes, a mechanic that knows how to bleed Hydraulic brakes and a reasonable selection of stock. Two dark, dingy and grubby old units is what we have here, which is wierd considering how many people have good bikes and like to go riding. Its no wonder that everybody buys online or goes to Singapore to find their bits and bikes.

So thats me, back on the trails. A good thing as I am about to head down to start work in Tabin Wildlife reserve where the riding is fantastic if you can avoid the elephants and snakes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bleeding Brakes

Enough is enough, I have stood by Avid Juicy's above and beyond the call of duty now, its time to call it a day and see what I can find to replace them.
This is the third time that they have let me down and only a few weeks after being fully serviced which is enough to piss anybody off. Dont get me wrong, when they were working they were awesome, sensitive, quick to cool and bloody strong, all they lacked is reliability.
I have been offered some Avid Elixirs but I wonder if that is not just tempting fate so I am on the lookout for something else. Here in Borneo we have little to choose from, with only two bike shops worth stopping at its all down to what they have in stock and whether or not the dragon is behind the counter.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dismantled biscuits

Thats right, crumbs.
Imagine the scenario; you are on a new descent, you know the kind of trail you are on, watching for rocks, watching for patches of mud, taking conservative lines around the bends, head up, everything is just fine. In fact its a ripper of a trail and even at a reasonable speed you are pretty gripped with a tense grin under your mud-spattered sunnies.
In a split-second it all goes wrong, a tiny quantity of time but a complicated sequence of events that leads to, well, lets get back to that.
It all goes back to the time that I hit upon the neat idea of using tennis racquet grip covers on my handlebars to counter the slippiness of sweaty hands. A very good idea that was born when I had another crash not 5 kilometers from this scene of shoulder-pain. What happened (back then) was that I was a tad sweaty (its 33 degrees here with 98% humidity for goodness sake), I did a little bunny-hop over a small rock and as I lifted the bars my right hand slipped off the bar, you can imagine how good the landing was with one hand....SPLAT!
Back to the present and now those towelling tennis racquet grips are quite old and have a lot of threads hanging off..... threads that flap around and get attached to the velcro on my gloves.
I sat up as the trail levelled out, glad for a few moments to relax went to look at my watch and as I took my hand off the bars I turned left extremely quickly, well the bike did anyway, I went straight on quite quickly but without a bike to stop gravity from claiming me.....SPLAT (again)
Once the adrenaline had worn off and the self-loathing was getting started I took out some snacks in the form of individually wrapped chock-chip cookies which seemed to have taken the brunt of the fall, right after my shoulder had as I rolled over and were almost dust.
The shorts I was wearing now have a hole in which makes them indecent and to this day I have never touched a tennis bat again.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A diamond in the dirt

Hands up if your time in the saddle mentally recharges you in exactly the same way that it physically exhausts you?
I thought so, and in times like these there are plenty of reasons to get away from the pressures and distress that flood every day life.
Lets face it, there are very few of us that are able to say that we have had a bumper few years recently, well unless you are a banker(!) and if you are then shame on you (may your fancy carbon frame fall off the back of your Land Rover and get run over by a very big truck).

Its clear to me that I get a primitive urge to do certain things, drink beer (that one is more frequent than I would like), listen to old rock music very loud and go mountain biking. Yeah yeah I know what you are thinking but some things are best left unsaid....

Sometimes I am so ready to go out for a ride, ready to hurl myself down the ugliest, slimiest track knowing that I better get it right and I think its because I need something to challenge me so much that it needs to scare me a little too. Without conscious effort I am swilling out the garbage in my head and almost without exception get back to my car with a daft grin on my face and all the worries put a little closer to perspective.

I pity people who have not found mountain biking as a life tool, it seems sad that people actually go through life without having that fix of two-wheeled fun to provide succor in difficult times.

This is the gospel according to MTB.......

Monday, January 16, 2012

I'm not angry, I'm disappointed...

The jetwash debate (pressure washer),
When my pedal decided to die on sunday (10k up an 11k climb, just before the sweeeeet downhill) and end my ride, the guys who were with me immediately insisted that it was because I use a pressure washer to clean my bike after a ride.
This myth about pressure washers destroying.... er... pedals and stuff is starting to bug me. Does a jet of water really get into bearings and destroy them? No seriously I would love to know for sure one way or the other. Obviously you would have to be pretty dumb to shove the nozzle into a fork seal or bearing dust cap and blast away so discount any of that.
My company has about 50 bikes and we use a pressure washer to clean them, its really the only way to do it without employing half of the Philippines, bikes are tricky to get clean, its complicated and tedious. I do sometimes wonder, when something breaks on one of them; is it because we use a pressure washer?
My pedal is two years old, had a lot of time in rivers, covered in mud and silt and done quite a few miles, is it at all possible that the pressure washer had bugger-all to do with its demise?
I stand to be corrected, at your service, let me know the results of your research, or the considered opinion of a respected professional (I am afraid that since I know several MTB journalists I do not consider their sayings as particularly sooth).
My ceramic bottom bracket is fine, not a hint of a grind or wobble but when it eventually goes, as will all the moving components on my bike since I am too tight to replace them out of vanity, I have little doubt that someone will utter the words "thats what happens when you use a pressure washer" with a knowing grimace (and probably a maid that cleans his / her bike).
Its not a rant, more of a rail against nonsensical mountain biking mythology. It is human nature to hear something and simply believe it because it sounds like it might be plausible, the problem is that it then gets repeated and repeated like an old piece of wisdom passed down through the ages like 'dont lick your razor' or 'wear trousers in the snow'
Off to get some new pedals tomorrow then.....

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Message to me

A depressing truth about modern society is that we have to take more and more responsibility for ourselves in completely new ways.

Sure we have more trappings of civilisation; legal institutions, UN conventions, media, communications, free markets and all that but these things in themselves present us with dilemmas and issues that have been hitherto almost unknown.
Yes it is a mountain biking blog, bear with me.
I dont need to move too far in my everyday life, got motorised vehicles, got remote controls, got portable communications devices, so there goes most of my 'incidental' exercise.
Food of a high standard (protien and fat loaded) are extremely accessible, even delivered if I wish and at a very affordable price so theres the fuel that my everyday life no longer requires.
You see where this is going?
The upshot of this situation is that we are in need of a reality check from time to time. For one there are millions of people who cannot find enough food to fuel their every day life, despite the shrinking world. Secondly it is a dangerous situation for our physical wellbeing, ah you know what I am saying, it makes us fat. Too much food, not enough exercise = lard-ass. ipso facto.

That is right, back to the subject of the blog and dont think this is purely a 'get out there and ride to stay slim' message I'm not that banal (not today leastways), its a case of performance and physical shape that  affect your riding.
For a start heavier means slower climbing & harder climbing. It also has impact on how the bike and you perform technically, more top weight means balance is harder, more chance of pinch flats and loss of traction not to mention the potentially hazardous (or comical) situations when the brakes are not up to the job of bringing you to a stop in time!
Sure Mountain bike riding is a great way to stay in shape but the very sport you love could become far less fun if you put on the weight.

I will be headed to the hills this sunday, rain or shine, to slog it out on the trails and remind myself why I got a carbon frame and lightweight components, not for the sake of being able to eat myself into a huge sofa dent but so my riding could be better.

Its going to be a good year for riding, I have a list of trails that I need to explore and lots of people to go riding with.