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Friday, 27 July 2012

Random thoughts on a Friday

Usual ramblings

Its funny how just after a week, having a British TdeF winner appears normal, run of the mill, ordinary. I am always amazed how humans can move on and take on board the incredible and make it almost mundane. I suppose its a survival tool, as the good stuff is often outweighed by the bad and by evening it out, it keeps your head in a good place.

Enough of the cod psychology. So what is on my mind this Friday? Well, its the men's road race tomorrow. As a kid I lived within cycling distance of Box Hill, which is a popular picnic site in the Surrey Hills, a "honey pot" in the trade and home to the only decent climb within reach of the Mall for a "Cav Sprint". I occasionally took my bike up Box Hill, which was a good effort for me at the time. Not because I was unfit, but because, I was and still am, more rugby player shaped than cycle racer.

I did the research for my MSc. Rec Man on Box Hill. Spending many a happy hour wandering around with a questionnaire and cue cards, hassling dog walkers and families who's greatest wish was not answering a number of questions based around where they have come from, how old they were and what they thought of the facilities. One question missing was of course, "do you think this makes a good climb for an Olympic Road Race?"

Now, that's not too surprising as I was 25 years too early, and I doubt anyone would have cared! If you do ride your bike to Box Hill in the next few months, then I hope you enjoy the climb. I recommend coming down the "switch backs" in the sun as this is the nearest you'll get to a mini Alpine descent. Do make sure your brakes are up to it as the corners are not forgiving and nor are the trees.

I am hoping that the facilities at Box Hill are now excellent. If so, my work back then was not wasted, if not, then they should have paid more attention to my findings!

So, enjoy the Olympics, good luck to Cav and boys (Cav or David Miller or any of the team could win,....) and with 24 HD BBC Channels on SKY, I guess my sofa might be getting more use than my bike, least over the next two weeks

I made a frangipane tart. Its terrific. The recipe is in the Co-op mag I picked up a week or so back, its stuffed full of good recipe ideas.

I can't find an online version by this is not too far off  -frangipane-raspberry-tart

A couple of extras

a) I made my pastry with two egg yolks, it's delicious, but a pain to work with. In the end I just pushed the pastry into the tin with my fingers
b) I blind baked it for 20 mins
c) I spread the base with raspberry jam before filling with fangipane
d) Just cream the butter (soft) and sugar, beat in eggs with a little ground almond to avoid it splitting too much and mix the rest in

I pushed the fruit in and sprinkled with flaked almonds

I used a long loose base tin (oblong) not round - easier to cut slices - cook until nearly all the "wobble" has gone!

Friday, 20 July 2012

BUG News - 20th July

Opening ramblingsA recent  YouGov  survey suggested that the main reason that cyclists cycle is for "enjoyment". A number of other reasons including fitness, stress busting and saving money.

Now, I am pretty sure that I've never saved money by cycling, indeed, cycling is my biggest cost outside of buying a house! I've certainly spent less money by building my own bikes, doing my own upgrades and buying "bargains" off the web, but buying an £800 fork for £400 is only a saving if you can justify the £400 in the first place. Still, the fork looks great on my wife's mountain bike - the one that used to be mine........grr

Anyway, back to the theme of enjoyment. Enjoyment covers a wide range of emotions and satisfactions, so the survey made me wonder what people meant by "enjoyment". I "enjoy" many aspects of cycling, I enjoy getting up a steep climb on the road, I enjoy "cleaning" a difficult technical section of trail, I "enjoy" the feeling of having "got away with it again" after a helter skelter ride down a rocky chute.

So, perhaps what I enjoy is achievement. The achievement of 30 seconds across the rocks or a 50 mile ride amongst the hills.  I also enjoy the sensation of cycling, speed, the sound of the wind, the corners. Cycling is a very sensual sport in the way that surfing or skiing are.

So perhaps YouGov needs to do a little more research on this, if they want to find the motivations for cycling. For me it varies day to day, but whilst "enjoy" might be a cover-all definition, it doesn't really drill down to the detail. And that detail is needed if cycling is to be encouraged.

My definition of "enjoy" might scare the pants off many proto-riders - hell they don't want to follow me down the last last mile of rocks on the Whytes Trail at Afan, well not unless they don't value their safety, but as a starter might enjoy the solitude of riding a tow path in the early morning light of a summer's day? Actually, I quite fancy that too!

Cycling in the news

Olympic lanes to include cyclists?

A group of five MPs from all three major parties has tabled an early day motion calling on Transport For London to allow cyclists to use the special lanes reserved for athletes and Olympic bigwigs to woosh through the congestion of London traffic.
The call comes in the wake of last week's claim by the Environmental Transport Association that banning cyclists from Games Lanes would put lives in danger, and the somewhat clueless response from Transport for London.
Cyclists face a £130 fine and possible impounding of our bikes if we stray into a Games Lane, for example to overtake stationary traffic gridlocked because half the road has been allocated to the Olympics. The Environmental Transport Association said that the combination of the ban and the removal of bus lanes from routes with Games Lanes would put cyclist's lives at risk.
Amazing - a £130 fine and concerned for safety! It must be "A London Thing" as here in Bristol, the "special lanes" are for buses, taxis, motorcyclists AND cyclist. We all get on fine. We share the fact we're being eco friendly and slightly privileged.

But is not really a matter of safety in London, is it? Its the way that in a "meritocracy" cyclists are seen as "lower down the food chain" than others and so compromising their safety is allowed or tolerated, "otherwise you'd be in a car, no?"

Victoria Pendleton - on the BBC

I don't know if you saw the documentary on Vicky. Wow, it was honest, perhaps all too honest. It was on the BBC and is probably on I-Player. I found it painful to watch and to find (I think) that Vicky's need for approval appeared to provide the spur for her efforts rather than an inner confidence. It may just be me but I prefer my sports people to be more like Daley Thompson or Steve Ovett or Kelly Holmes where confidence in themselves leads to not even considering defeat or "doing badly" as an option. It might even be called arrogant. 

That a load of work had been done by the Team GB psychologist means that this public image of Vicky is the one after she had been "worked on". In one way, I'm really impressed that Vicky has held it together to be one of the best track cyclists of all time, but my concern for her as a fellow human being means that I will be secretly happy once she retires and doesn't have to put herself through the torture every day. If you see the programme, you might also agree that it would be good for her Dad to get over himself, too.........

Recipe time - millionaire shortbread

This  recipe is one like the one I found in the Co-op food magazine and which I made this week. This one is made by someone called Ginger, apparently. I include it as it look a good recipe, only I included ginger in the base, using crystallised ginger, a couple of "balls" plus some syrup.

Be careful when making the caramel, I slightly burned the bottom of the pan and had the odd "fleck" in the final product. I used "light" condensed milk, but its still a million Kcal per slice. Anyway - its way better than shop bought and a treat to definitely share......

Maintenance task of the week

I hate look at the doing it but its worth cleaning your bike frame and inspecting for damage. Most modern frames are made of aluminium and usually well over engineered. But it is possible to break or crack your frame and aluminium does not have the resilience of steel once damaged. So the occasional inspection of the welds and the tubes especially around the head tube is not a wasted 5 minutes. But first - you have to clean the bike! It will also make you feel good and encourage you to go and make it dirty again!

Ride on!

Friday, 13 July 2012

BUG News Friday the 13th of July

Introductory rambles
Its funny how things turn out. In another parallel universe I am currently cycling between Moffat and Penrith as I successfully negotiate the middle section of my JOGLE. As things turned out, it's probably just as well that I'm not.

Anyone who has followed any of my ramblings over the last few months will know that my JOGLE plans were some what scuppered by a knee injury forcing a break from the bike and in turn creeping sloth and unfitness. However, two other elements have contrived to make this cancellation look fortuitous in the extreme. Firstly, it been November since April, apart from the very nice weekend I got married which was August in May. The amount of and intensity of rain over the last week means that even if I had no fitness issues, no one would have blamed me for throwing the bike in a ditch, thumbing a ride to the nearest station and heading for home and a warm pub. Secondly, I have managed to stuff my back up so that I am woken every morning at 5 with a searing pain in my rib cage. Apparently, my facet joints are "not having a good time at present". So I am at the osteopath more often than fiscally sensible, and mainly sitting on the sofa watching the TdeF with an ice pack on my upper spine.

Now a number of people have told me that adversity is a good thing as it provides a testing environment against which our achievements can be measured. All I can say is, you are welcome to the extra satisfaction of cycling in a monsoon whilst your back is in spasm and you're on your tenth puncture of the day. These are the same people who asked if I was rough camping or going soft and using camp sites. My reply, least the printable part, was that I was going to travel light, indeed the first thing I was going to pack was my credit card and the list of nice B&B's I had booked which provided drying rooms, cyxle storage and a less than 5 minute walk to a pub serving pies.

So what are my plans for a challenge now? Well, having lost a little confidence in the body to stand up to 16 days cycling in a row (well "a day" at present) I am looking at the "Side2Side". This is a ride linking St David's in Pembroke with Lowestoft in Suffolk, the longest crossing of the UK, if you ignore that pesky SW peninsula. It's 400 odd miles, doable in 7 days and gets easier the further you go. The hills in East Anglia needing a survey team to find, let alone worry about.

So finger crossed that my "sofa time" is not wasted and I recover to full fitness ASAP. Of course, anyone fancying 7 days of B&B's and pubs and pies is of course welcome to get in touch!

Cycling in the news
Oh no, it's "Cycling on the pavement" crackdown time in Wales. Apparently the Cardiff police are going to run a 7 week operation because of "concerns raised by residents"

I know I go on about this, but really, is that the worse thing that people have  "concerns" about? I mean given the carnage caused on the road by drivers, I hope the Cardiff Police will be just as vigilant on drivers in the same period. I'm not holding my breath.

One comment on the BBC page said this
Sure, there are bad cyclists, bad drivers and bad pedestrians. Instead of wasting money patrolling the streets looking for cyclists that sometimes don't have any other possible way to go due to illegal parking and aggressive driving the council should apply that money to create a valid cycle network in Cardiff. That might even change the attitude of most drivers and they might even start cycling. How many people I ask why they aren't cycling and the reply is always due to the road being dangerous... Get the police to patrol the roads instead and no considered cyclist will use the pavement. It's too slow to get to places anyway
This sounds sensible and proportionate, otherwise it looks like a Police force has some KPI's to fulfil.

Read all about it Here and Here

Any in "other news" Somerton Residents were apparently "outraged" by cyclist at a charity event urinating in the bushes.......Busting for a Pee

I'm not quite sure what the great British obsession is about bodily functions, it's not like cyclists were flashing at residents, I mean, how could they be sure, were binoculars invoked, were people so outraged that needed to take several looks just to make sure?

As one commenter said

“You had better not ever visit Paris luvvies! . Your vituperative spirit would be crushed, and your poor prim hearts just would not stand it.”
Which about sums it up!

Recipe time
I like a curry, it's been a long time obsession, which started in the 70's when my parents would go to the Taj Mahal in Staines and have a Malaya Curry or a Meat Madras and share a bottle of Black Tower. As a kid keen to eat anything, I got to go along and move on up from a korma and a coke to vindaloo and beer. not with my parents, that was with the cricket club!

One of the concerns about curry is the high fat content and consequent calorie load, not helped by your choice of "beverage". So over the years, my visits to a proper takeaway have been less regular and homemade curries have been the way to go. I particularly recommend Pataks Curry Pastes, but it's even better to make from scratch. This   Low Fat veggie curry is made from scratch and takes no time at all.



Thursday, 5 July 2012

BUG News July 6th 2012

Opening rambles

Summer. I remember summer. Not only has it been raining since I got married in May, there's been no surf either. Now cycling and surfing don't really share a culture or heritage, least not amongst the roadie brigade, but a challenge is a challenge. One of the main reasons for MTBing is that the challenge is both mental (skill based) and physical. Road cycling is (mostly) a physical challenge.

For me at least, if I'm having a bad day on the road, I'm not having fun, yet even a rough day on the trail is uplifted by the views, the scenery, the quietness and the odd glimpse of nature, close up.

Now surfing offers many of the same features. The opportunity to see (or indeed swallow) nature close up, a challenge of skill and luck and no wave is like any other, every ride is unique. So what is my point? Well, one of the reasons I go MTBing is for getting out there, sharing an experience with friends and relaxing afterwards in the pub. Since I've been surfing I've discovered surfing and riding share some common ground. The need for a bit of individualism, the often slightly unconventional lifestyle (well least in spirit - no auditor was ever THAT unconventional) and the lifting of the spirits that happen on every ride, on a bike or on a board.

Actually getting to surf was not a forgone conclusion. I've loved going to surf beaches since I was little, but after a weekend spent on a "learn to surf", all I could do was do a quick wobble and then go drink the sea. I did manage to make progress by getting a bigger board and now I "ain't too bad for a land locked old fat git". Anyway, try it - you'll earn your refreshments!

Cycling in the news

In a word - CRASHES. given the weather, I've had the "chore" of watching the Tour de France, live. I don't know if its the route, or its early in the Tour, but there have been crashes galore. Team Sky have lost one rider already and Cav went down hard on Weds. These guys really earn their corn.

I see that forgiveness has come to David Millar now selected for the GB Team at the Olympics. Of all the people who have admitted using drugs, David always seems to be the most repentant. I am in two minds on the drug issue. One part of me likes the idea of a life time ban, indeed a lifetime ban from all competitive cycling, yet that provides no room for redemption or forgiveness. Whilst not for a moment being at all religious, the human idea of forgiveness seems important to me and so I welcome David Millar into Team GB. It should also be to Cav's advantage to have such a strong team mate in his quest to get that gold!

Again, "cyclist causes accident" is in the news again..Dangerous cycling conviction

Whilst not for a moment condoning the actions of this cyclist, on the same day (using a crude average) some 8 people died in traffic accidents and yet I fail to see these all reported in such vivid detail. Common sense suggests that this is because such incidents are so rare that they get reported, my cynical side suggests it plays well to "a particular demographic". I t also means that everyone of use have a responsibility to be "good cyclists" and not lower ourselves to the level of carnage caused by drivers.

Recipe of the week - in a word CAKE

Cake and cycling go together like beer and skittles. I made this Victoria Sponge  for my neighbour's birthday. Its an all in one recipe and took me all of 10 minutes to prepare and get in the oven. It will take the full 25 mins to cook and need a while in the tin to cool on a rack, before being strong enough to get out of the tin. I greased and floured the tins, and this worked fine. It's a very moist cake so go careful when handling it, especially before it totally cold. I used strawberry jam, (I picked out the fruit!) and butter icing, flavoured with vanilla. I would like to say I how long the cake lasts, but it was reported to have lasted about 15 minutes once my neighbours three kids got home.......

Maintenance corner
I'm not sure why, but after a winter of neglect, spokes tend to break in the summer. (I use the word "summer" in the vague sense of being in July) so, my task for you this week is to check the tension of your spokes.

This is easily done by running a tyre lever round the spokes and listen for any which are not in tune with the others. NB. on the back wheel, the different sides of the wheel will have different tones due to the way rear wheels are constructed. The front wheel should be of even tone.

If you find a lower tone (or possibly rattly) spoke its tension is lower than its neighbours and visa versa. If its a lot, then tighten or loosen the spoke to have an even tone with its fellow spokes. Take care, as this may affect the trueness of the wheel, but a loose spoke may already have caused the wheel to go out of true.

Here is a bit more information to help you out. Spoke maintenance isn't hard, but might save your ride and the cost of a new wheel

Keep safe


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

New Bling from SRAM - MTBs only!

I'm as liable as anyone to have my head turned by a new piece of kit. I've been riding 3x9 (nine speed, 27 gears) for many years ,ever since the race from 6 speed was "won" by the 9 speed system. It's been the default system for trail riders for at least 8 years and is reliable, incredible value these days and easy to work on a fix.

Recently, the 2x10 system has been released by Shimano, SRAM and RaceFace, this offers 20 gears from a cassette with 10 speeds and two chainrings, but hot on its tail, comes SRAM with "XXI" an 11 spedd MTB system that offers the benefit of no hard to adjust front changer, low weight and best of all mega trick-ness!

The promo film from  SRAM . Its the usual corporate slick presentation, but I detect a real enthusiasm for the product. I've no idea what it will cost, but expect it to be at a premium price, sadly, for early adopters!

It of course, got me thinking. I was going to update my main MTB to 2x10, partly as it looks "trick" and partly because I like the idea of a simpler set up. But what do I do now? Well, my view is that for most riders, 2x10 will become the new MTB standard with XXI being the premium option for pro's and poseurs. and whilst I would admit to being a bike-tart, there is a limit, especially on the cost. I expect the XXI system to require a new and expensive back wheel, and in a couple of years time, the tech with trickle down to lower priced systems, ones that might make me think "I'm worth it" (well I've got no hair to worry about).

So it looks nice, it probably half the price of the XXI, and I don't have to wait until November to even set or buy it. Looks like a done deal, and I can even recycle the parts from my MTB onto my road/hybrid to do the upgrades, I've been promising myself.

Anyway - hope that was of interest for the MTBer's!