Elbows out!

Jessie, Haugh Woods from Alex Leigh on Vimeo.

Jess and I have been out a few times “skills training” since our last video production in the woods. And it shows I think, both in how much better she’s getting (although still has that cursed-dad stiff looking riding technique!) and how much time I have to spend showing her the “rushes” before we can go ride the next section.

Today I found riding is possible with a dodgy elbow and we lost the dog. Luckily he retreived the rest of the riding family pacing it out on the fireroads while Jess and I were so busy having fun on dusty singletrack, our reaction to missing mutt would have been “we own a dog? Are you sure?

Trails are lovely. Elbow less so but it’s definitely on the working side of ridable. Off back to local community hospital tomorrow to beg stitches out. I’ve borrowed some elbow pads for the next few rides, as there is no way they will be passing me by in my favourite season.

Still I did miss HONC, so that’s something. Looked hot I thought as a beer and I made an afternoon acquaintance. Much rather ride with my kids than 1,000 lunatics on trails of mostly dull.

Quite small but lots of fun

Jessie on her new Islabike from Alex Leigh on Vimeo.

A phrase that could be equally applied to nearly 10 year old Random, or her new Islabike. Two more crashes, much hamming it up for the camera, occasional dog.

Recording the video was quite easy, especially with a more than willing lens junkie. Riding with Random is always a pleasure – even when I was feeling pretty uggity and grim – but splicing it together using Microsoft’s finest software was not.

Firstly, as with all Windoze products, the support for anything not written in Redmond is fairly poor. But clever with it. For example, it didn’t crash catastrophically until I’d spent an hour editing various bits of the footage. Had I saved it? No, of course not as it takes bloody ages. Did the application fail gracefully? No, it died with an apologetic error message before chowing down on my best work.

Being an idiot, I tried again. Being Microsoft, it trashed my work again. So I switched from AVI to WMA through shareware developed by the admirable Hamstersoft, and went for third time lucky. On this doomed attempt, the application generously allowed me to save my magnum opus in all its’ edited finery, before letting me down somewhat with the resultant video being more occasional jerkiness and static shots than actual 30FPS HD as promised.

I wish my trials and tribulations ended there, but of course they did not. Finally after some video success, I still had to trawl the murky backwaters of the Internet for accompanying free music. That voyage of discovery did bring me into contact with some really decent tunes, so not quite the entirely pointless endeavour I had anticipated.

And now being a keyboard expert on the underground Seattle Indie-Rock scene, I’m 99{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} certain this makes me significantly more windswept and interesting. Possibly not a universally held view.

To summarise, bike good, rider happy, ancient parent proud, Microsoft rubbish, opensource marvellous, free-music lovely, Holland on Thursday. It was all going so well until that last work based directive was slipped in. It’ll probably give me something to write about, I wonder if it’ll give me some more free time to do so?

New Years Bleed.

Haugh Woods NYE Ride
Once I’ve shoehorned one dog, two children, three bikes and my long suffering wife into the truck, any actual riding feels like a bonus. But even before the geometrically puzzling angst of loading the trailer has begun, first we must repair what is broken.

Abi hasn’t ridden much this year. And when she has managed to get on her bike, it’s not long before she’s off it again, furrowing a trowel line with her head – stopping only on contact with a painful stump. This may account for her noticeable lack of enthusiasm when offered an opportunity to hurt herself again.

Still game enough this morning, leaving me with to fettle hastily on her dusty steed* so bringing hammer no.2 to bear on a bent mech with the kind of satisfying twang promising component purchases soon.

The woods could best be described as ‘encouragingly moist“. I know this to be true because they were the exact words I chose in my motivational opening to the children. I didn’t feel this was the right time to ponder the adhesive qualities of slick-wet roots cambered at bike-punting angles. They’d find out soon enough.

They both showed some proper bravery clearly not inherited from my DNA. Jess christened her new bike by throwing it roughly to the ground at least twice, but was usurped for “best crash award” by her Sis who attacked one particularly nasty set of wheel sucking roots with innocent vigour. The tyres held on for – oh – nanoseconds before letting go and starting a sequence of events that could only end in one eleven year old lying on the track.

Again I kept my council other than to offer parental sympathy while checking surreptitiously for unattached body parts. Probably for the best as it is unlikely that a blow by fall account of our two days Welsh “Slush Puppy” tour focussing on exactly how hardcore, skillfull and downright manly their old Pa is would have had the desired effect. Unless that effect was to receive a couple of yawned “Yeah Dad, whatever

As it was – and even tho we’d had to finish with a rather testing ten minute climb – both kids are now mad keen to get out ‘every weekend when it’s sunny‘. I know this to be a fallacy, which in no way shall stop me reminding them of it every Saturday come the Spring.

Riding with your kids is ace. Much as the Wales trip was fab fun, and much as I am properly excited by oodles of mountain biking here and there come 2011, I’d happily give up my weekends to ride with these two.

If only to get the crashes on video next time 🙂

* In my younger years, I would assume that sort of thing would annoy the farmer if he caught you at it.

It’s a new bike. And it isn’t for me.

Jessie's new Islabike Beinn

The last of the little wheelers has gone. In its place is this rather Fab Islabikes Beinn bought today under cover of snow. Random’s little hotrock has passed from third to fourth hand, and I am sure it’ll carry on being a much loved wheeled sidekick.

Islabikes are great people to do business with. Everything they sell is for kids; from the ickle balance bike up to 3/4 size smart road bikes and everything in between. I was tempted by the rather fetching kids full-on MTB with a suspension fork but Isla talked me out of it.

Apparently unless you’re hucking major rock fests and shredding like Sam, you really don’t need anything but the fully rigid. I didn’t think this was a good time to try and justify my extensive suspended mountain bike collection.

The Beinn is lighter that the Spesh it replaces, has more gears with a far wider ratio, some proper off road tyres and oodles of clever designed-for-kids stuff. It even has her name on it – that’s proper factory.

Unusually I am even more excited than when a new bike is for me. Really looking forward to riding with Random (and hopefully her sister who also has a lovely bike but this has so far failed to spark her interest over anything more scary than forest tracks) when we can see the ground again.

It was also more than reasonably brilliant to see her face light up when she realised we could take it home today. It is on this cheery note I shall end, possibly forever due to the high likelihood of certain death on tonight’s FoD ride.

I’d tried being sensible about bikes and riding. It’s a lost cause to be honest.

It’s not about the bike.

And sometimes it is not about the rider either. Or more specifically not about me, as I had my socks well and truly blown off by Little Random and her cycling heroics today. My family – as befits a much put upon group herded around by one individual who is regularly as self centred as a tornado – have spent far too much time not enjoying doing not much while I do my stuff.

Examples include being abandoned in muddy fields while strangely dressed blokes ride round in circles, or suffering 50mph battering’s on remote hilltops while other men throw toy gliders into that wind, before collecting the remains in special bags.

But as I get a little older, I can not but help notice how much more grown up our own kids are on a seemingly daily basis. How long before their idea of a quality interaction with their parents is only in their capacity as personal bankers or 24 hour on-call taxi services?

They do seem remarkably well balanced considering the eccentricity of half their genes, and I cannot but feel proud of their achievements – large or small. Tomorrow sees one reading a rather fine poem to a worryingly large audience, while the other is straining kidfully to pass her first violin exam*

But it’s not really Dad’s stuff is it? And with Verbal confined to barracks until the nice man in the hospital gives her an all clear to, well, be a child again, there has been little in the way of family outings including bicycles.

Carol isn’t really bothered and – even with a superb new MTB hanging up – I feel Verbal may be edging some way along that same genealogical branch. Random however is more a chip off the old block except for her willingness to learn, stupendous progression and apparent lack of fear.

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

Today we packed two bikes, two camelbaks full of water and snacks, and one dumb mutt in the love-bus for some woody singletrack Dad’n’Daughter action. We’ve ridden in these woods a few times, but generally on the easier tracks and with much pushing uphill. And some falling off, getting off, getting cheesed off going the other way. This time around things were a little different.

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

Random rode everything put in front of her. Sometimes with a little bit of help, sometimes ignoring the trail completely and plunging into scratchy undergrowth, but all the time with a smile on her face. One of the reasons for her improvement is that she listens, and after playing back to me “Stand on the Pedals, stay off the brakes, look round corners and remember to breathe“, I just shut up and let her get on with it.

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

On some pretty tough trails especially riding a heavy-ish, rigid bike wearing your dad’s crash-hat** and no gloves. The latter two issues due entirely to my inability to prepare the kids for anything without Carol sweeping up behind me. Asked whether she wanted to try the easy or hard option, she constantly chose the knarly option giving her license to burst back into the house explaining how many injuries she’d sustained. Proud of them she was, that’s my girl!

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

We managed two hours before very tired legs and some bleeding called a halt to our fun. Probably 10k in total (about 20 for the dog who at least had the decency to look a bit knackered), 10 great sections of singletrack conquered, three quarters of the fireroad climbing done in the saddle, and huge improvements in just those two hours. Stuff she couldn’t ride three months ago, is now dispatched with a carefree “Yeah, that’s easy now“.

Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010 Random Ride - Haugh Woods July 2010

So today I chose to ride not with my friends ripping up buff trails in the forest, but with my offspring at not much speed and with much getting-on-and-off. And it was brilliant.

Only one problem, won’t be long before she’s better than me.

* Standing joke is we decided to buy this big (wreck of a) house specifically when both kids registered a strong interest in learning to play a noisy instrument. Still may need more sound insulation tho.

** That’s what it is. I use it for that very purpose all the time.