Buffing the Swingarm Slayer


Continuing my homage to Sarah Michelle Geller and her ability to destroy apparently indestructible demons with her bare limbs, here’s my what happens when “optimistic” frame design meets Pyreenean leg. My friend Rob broke this on Friday. Just riding along apparently. I am suspicious though since the very same terrain chewed out the bottom bracket of my old ST4.

So maybe it’s the mountains, or blatant copycatting from Rob or – and I think I’m going with this – not enough welding at the point of breakage. Since we’re quoting movies, let’s go with “We’re going to need a bigger weld”. Luckily Orange are already shipping a new rear end that’ll be precision fitted with another mates Mallet.

It’s mildly amusing that the original ST4 – like this one – was lorded by the MTB press as a fantastic bike that broke the trail-mtb mould. Broke itself more like. The latest one is stiffer, stronger and significantly less flawed. So it’s a bit of a surprise that’s getting a panning from the very same press.

Anyway, the new swingarm shall hopefully get Rob back on the trails soon. That’s TWO bikes he’s broken. If that’s some kind of competition, I’m not playing!

What’s in the bag?

Everything really, and then again not much. Plan A was to have all this packed up and finished by lunchtime so I could spend pre-abandonment time with my family. Plan B was quickly enacted once Plan A had gone the way of losing the entire morning to work. And yes, I was booked on holiday although the only person this seemed to make a difference to was me.

Plan C stumbled closely behind Plan B once some ludicrously simple maintenance somehow ended with an attempt to un-cast the fork lockout. A quick trip the Nic @ the bike shop proved once again I am a spannering numpy, and the fix wasn’t in fact to place it carefully in the vice to make it easier to beat vigorously with a sledgehammer.

Ruthless selection of a biking only holiday wardrobe has kept the pack weight below 9kg and that’s including h20 at half of that. Okay I’ll smell a bit (more) and my evening pulling wardrobe of lycra and leg warmers is possibly a target for parody, but at least I shall not ‘go turtle’ each time an attempt is made to heft the pack skywards.

Somehow a trip to the camping shop for a£2 item ended in the purchase of a superbly technical garment that can – according to the marketing blurb here – act as a base layer, or a mid layer, or a “showerproof”* outer – in fact I wouldn’t be surprised to see it dispensing wine and fish once we reach the top of the mountain. Downside it wasn’t cheap. Still you can never have too much shit can you? Certainly seems to work for the kids.

The bike is now in the bag. Every time I face this much hated task I pretend that THIS TIME I will take my time, pursue a logical approach, create a safe cocoon for expensive parts by cunning use of pipe lagging and a small sample of sticky tape. And, in line with previous attempts, the bag looks like a botched kidnapping or an explosion in a masking tape factory. It’s all pointless anyway as the baggage handlers seem to take great pleasure in skimming the bag across the tarmac having launched it from their little truck.

I have not the strength to start on the Camelbak. There’ll be lots of time for that tomorrow because with a 3:30am start come Friday, not a huge amount of point going to bed.

* Beware that word. Someone stole the “for about 2 seconds” from the end of it.

Nice Colours

September Equinox 2009, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

Shame that’s 7:15 in the evening. My last commute started in darkness and ended in dusk. So that’s six months of cold, black and miserable to look forward to then.

While I was taking this picture from my dumbphone, I forgot that I was also walking the dog. The dog walked himself some way away. Let me tell you how easy it is to locate a black dog in the dark with nothing other than the light from a phone.

Not very easy, that’s how.

We’re back!

The Hedgehog is offline, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

My state of the art diagnostic system picked up the hosting failure about 12 hours after the site went off line. Yes an email complaining bitterly that the sender had already expended their “looking out of the window time” because the hedgehog was in “deep burrow”

I’ll not bore you with the details although Andy Armstrong, who is all things webhost to a few of us vanity publishers, was heard to say something like “booseless shucking phosting pompany“.

Make of that what you can.

Much to tell including my first bin bag experience, a nasty lurgey which I’m thinking of as a “seven chapter experience” and – this is the REALLY exciting bit – the ordering of the new structure to house the beer fridge.

Might be a while, much going on in the day job. Until then, feast your eyes on something that would define lunacy in a picture dictionary.

Where’s the F in snow?

Big Log, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

There is no F’in snow. Thank you, thank you I’m here all week. Here, as in unable to leave the county – not because the roads are covered with our rubbish covering of snow, more the hard coded English DNA that somehow prevents everyone else working while white stuff falls out of the sky.

I could bore you with either a) tales of my Northern childhood where we’d be under ten feet of drifting snow for six months of the year, and every child had to dig themselves out of the house each morning or b) my exasperation of really how shit the UK is at dealing with anything other than a slight drizzle.

But I won’t. Mainly because I’m sulking because London actually did something better than anywhere else this week, by standing still while being dumped on*. And then stuttering to a complete and embarrassing halt.

It makes the bankers look half competent. Okay it doesn’t, but you can see where I’m going. Or not, because the pathetic smattering of flakes here could be best described as the midpoint between “light dusting” and “complete traffic carnage” has prevented my entrance to our premier motorway network.

The 4×4 has been superb tho at creating a silence that is to be savoured, as whinging children are dropped off at School. “It’s not fair, why do we have to go?” – because I’ve paid my taxes, and back in the day my generation would sledge 9 miles on t’family dog.

2 seconds into that much repeated anecdote, there protestations cease as they run away in the direction of the local educational establishment. Works every time and I never tire of the story.

Tomorrow I’m heading off to London to see what all the fuss is about. I fully expect it to be a massively hyped up non event marketed by a crisis by metrosexuals who’ve merely been denied their skinny latte.

Stick with a big nail it at the ready then!

* a qualification that would ensure rapid promotion in some places I’ve worked.

You can dance..

Murphy 6 months, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

You can jive, having the time of your life*

I am mired in a pile of shit here. Not literally, although our weekly night ride later in the lamping rain will probably turn metaphorical into the physical. What it certainly means is I have no time to share with you my latest ranting at the world in general, and the railways in particular.

So In the meantime, here’s Murphy at six months demonstrating his:

a) Dancing skills
b) Willy.

I have a picture of me doing the same. I’ll not be posting that just yet 😉

* Yeah yeah you may be pointing and laughing at my homage to the Swedish Gods and Godesses of Pop. But I bet you are humming along.

Old Kona, new paint job

Old Kona, new paint job, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

Arrived today in the midst of a work crisis so deep they’re calling it the “UK Trade Deficit”. I just had time to insert non boingy fork into lovingly repainted frame before spending most of my evening driving to Swindon.

Not for work, to offload the roadrat to a very nice man who has absolved some of my new bike buying guilt, by taking an old one off my hands.

Already the Kona is showing it’s age with a noticeable lack of cable stops that shall require my best shed-bodgery, or a load of white gaffer tape. I’m not in a huge rush to build it as the tyre clearance does not suggest awesome mud performance.

In fact, after last weeks slopfest in the Forest of Dean, I’m considering a switch to tracked vehicles until light again becomes a feature of the hours post 5pm.

Right I’m off to search eBay for a turn of the century mallet. It’s important to respect the age of a thing. As I keep trying to explain to my kids….

Cwm on Down

Pace 405 DH, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

Tomorrow is D-Day. D is for Downhill, or possibly Death. I’ve rubbered up the Pace with some 2.5in wide knobblies, shortened the cockpit with an ickle stem, ditched the SPD’s and bunged in some fat inner tubes.

All of this is displacement activity for thoughts of being a) really slow and shit and b) as previously mentioned, Dead.

I was further concerned by the state of my leg armour – I don’t remember being savagely attacked by a pride of lions, but from the scars and gouges, this can be the only possible explanation. Well there may be others, but I’m trying not to think about those either.

Essentially I’ll be placing myself front and centre in an experiment to test a human crumple zone. So, I’m taking the big camera to record the heroics of my friends, and to give me a good excuse to nesh out, if it all gets a big scary.

Honestly, I’m really looking forward to it. Can you tell?

See that..?

Murphy 6 months (4), originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

… It is a labraphant. A new breed of animal created by fusing the body of a dog with the size of an elephant. I could not help but notice he is now the second largest hound in the morning dog walking pack.

A pack which includes a number of different size animals, but none of which you’d really need to bend down to pat. He is going to be an absolute monster at a year old. If you can stretch the definition of a monster to something that wishes only to please, sleep and eat.

Murphy 6 months

Murf is revelling in his growing fitness. We’re trying hard not to overexercise him, but the bugger just wants to run and run. And then sleep for the rest of the day. Unless there is any food on offer.

Murphy 6 months (2)

He’s a good dog though. We saw one of his brothers over the weekend and what a fat old bruiser he has turned out to be! Our hound is a bit of an young softy really; not very brave and still not a swimmer even after a) we threw in the Airdale terrier* he was chasing around the pond and b) after I accidentally booted him at the deep end.

Got his own back tho. The smell of damp dog is probably illegal in Surrey.

* with the owners permission. Not sure we checked with the dog tho. Can’t say it looked that happy 😉