8 hours of fun..?

Here I am drinking Honey Vodka ( Export strength ) trying to remember all of today's rather 'interesting' adventure....

It started a few weeks back when our friends Liz and Nich dropped an email around saying they would be back in the UK for a weekend near Christmas ( they currently reside in Vancouver ). having not seen them for too many years we looked at the calendar and confirmed that we would be meeting up with them for some Sunday lunch along with a huge bunch of mate type people.

Fast Forward to this week and the country has been sitting under a blanket of snow and ice and the lunch was looking doubtful. However we really wanted to make this work, so after checking on good old FB, Twitter and countless 'accurate' websites we headed out this morning at 09:30 on the drive down to a pub near Oxford ( 158 miles away ).

It was looking good, got past work in record time, hit the M6 Toll and the outside lane had a bit of snow on it...stopped for a quick coffee at the services and then onto the M42. This is when it started to get interesting. Can anyone tell me how cars in really cold countries cope with cold weather and screenwash? As in anything under -2 my squirters freeze and I am left looking through a window covered in road crap. Cars where pulling over all over the place in a desperate attempt to clean windscreens ( to only have them crap up again 5 minutes later ). The missus even tried the bottle out of the window trick ( but it just blew back up her sleeve ). We drove on...

..then it was the M40. The road which took me home from University and also provided that route out of London to the Mountains. I thought it was my friend, but today it was definitely p*ssed off at the world. We went from 3 lanes, to two lanes, to one lane, to carnage. It wasn't looking good. Our ETA started to drag and the roads where not getting better. Just like climbers at the bottom of Hillary Step, we looked at our destination 25 miles away and turned back, it was just getting too silly. The time was now 2pm ( 4.5hrs after starting ).

We turned back on the M40 and started looking for a stop for lunch ( and water the daises ). The first services we slid into was at Bicester. And when I say 'slid' what I mean it slip, slide, wheelspin, drift and will ourselves into. But our will wasn't enough, the carparks were a scene of devastation with cars at all angles, some left, some pumping power through low profile tyres in a vein attempt to grind them into something useful. 2nd gear, low revs and we got out ( with a quick bush stop ).

Back on the M40 we dribbled along with cars now breaking down and ending up in snow drifts. Our wills held out though ( as did our luck ) as the family wagon got to Warwick services and a welcome Starbucks. Re-fuelled we traced back out steps and amazingly somewhere on the M42 the screenwash kicked in again ( vision isn't overrated ). We finally made it back at 17:30, some 8 hours after starting off. Granted we did plan for a couple of hours there and a couple of hours back, but this was a straight 8 hour drive ( strangely the first time I met Liz and Burts I was a passenger in their car on a kayaking trip to the Alps....a long drive with a mini-disc player which ended with a flooded run on the Sanna and me spending a long time under water in a pour-over ). Oh and as we hit -8 on the M6 Toll the screenwash froze again.

What a mission...

..and what people carriers can you buy which are good on the motorway and have 4WD??

p.s. we met a family at Starbucks who had spent the night at Heathrow after their family trip ( for 10 of them ) to Disneyworld had been cancelled. So there is still some perspective to be had.


5 Minutes in the Orange Limelight

I've been working with the cracking chaps at Singletrack magazine a wee bit this year and I've also been lucky to have had spent some time with the team at Orange Mountain bikes as well ( remember the Endurance DH event? ).

If that wasn't enough, issue 61 of the magazine hit my desk yesterday and on the back cover is the 2010 Orange 'Resolve' advert....and yes if you look on the second row down on the far left that is me!!!

Click go largish

It may not seem much, but I am pretty stoked to be honest... like an early Christmas present!


Owle for iPhone

I may have actually found a reason to own an iPhone. Whilst working this past weekend at a rather enjoyable event. I got the chance to play with the most awesome bit of kit I have seen for a very long time ( and this was at an event where I was playing with a £30,000 Phase 1 camera system ).

It doesn't look like much, but the Owle Bubo for iPhone 4 take the finger tapping, app overloading, hyped to the max, Apple junkfood, overated phone and makes it the most awesome movie system i have ever seen. Nothing complicated...just a 36mm lens ( to sort out the lens on the phone ), a little external mic and an very cleverly designed rig and Bob's your uncle...

...still prefer my Crackberry though :-)



Forget the re-make... I want this helmet from the froggy peeps at Ruby

Ok, I don't want this open facer...but the graphics would work on a Troy Lee!

via Highsnobiety


Confessions of a Gear Freak...

For those of you who don't know me, I am a Gear Freak. Yes there you have it, a confession of sorts. I am a borne and bred Freak de Gear....Freako dos Gearo....Freakicht das Gearstein.... whatever you want to call it, I have an addiction which I should warn you all about.

Yes a dude carrying a kitchen sink ( must be American! )

I'm not sure I can put my finger on when it all kicked off. Maybe it was when I was a little Scout and at aged 10 all I wanted was a pair of Troll Omni Climbing trousers that all the grown-ups had? ( now that is a confession ), or maybe it was walking past the old Jack Shorne's shop in Harrow looking in the window and trying to work out how to buy a Whitby Black Widow catapult or original US Army Alice Backpack ( isn't it already worrying that I can remember gear wants from 20 years ago? ). Maybe I was just born with it? Either way it is pretty hard for anyone other than a Gear Freak to comprehend...but let me try to explain.

An Original Alice Backpack ( still awesome )

1) Being a Gear Freak is not just about having the latest kit. It is more than that, it is about getting the kit before anyone else. By the time it is on the shelves it is just too late. The Holy Grail of the Gear Freak is 'The Prototype'.

The Prototype of the Pyranha Burn ( the last kayak worked on at Pyranha )

2) Being a Gear Freak seems to be intrinsically linked to Outdoor Sports. If a Gear Freak knows the difference between an original Berghaus Mera Peak and North Face Mountain Jacket ( in Yellow of course ), then they will also know the differences between an Original Pyranha Acro 270 and Perception Mr Clean ( as well as the difference between a Orange Clockwork and Santa Cruz Heckler etc etc ).

3) The Gear Freak knows the stats. 'Know your Hydrostatic Head!'

Yes it's a Hydrostatic Head Tester ( of course it is? )

4) The Gear Freak is your friend, they will be the one with the spare hat ( ok it won't be spare to them as it will no doubt be designed for a specific requirement ), in fact if you need to borrow anything ask a Gear Freak, they either already have it or they just need an excuse to get hold of one. Just don't use the term 'don't worry, it doesn't have to be a good one'.

5) The Gear Freak is passion unleashed. Don't pretend to understand them, don't try to engage in meaningful debate... just remember pretty much every company which makes cool stuff, be it Outdoors, Automotive, Tech or whatever, was created by a Gear Freak. Steve Jobs= Computer Gear Freak, August Horch ( founder of Audi ) = Car Gear Freak, Werner Von Braun ( one of the guys who helped set up NASA ) = Space Gear Freak. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Come see the Freak Show!

In short, embrace the Gear Freak ( and no that doesn't mean I need a hug )

One last thing ( though I have a feeling this might be a reoccurring topic ), how do you spot a Gear Freak? Well check their reading material.... yes they do like their niche core magazines in their chosen passion ( check out the new Privateer Mountain Bike magazine if you are that way inclined ), but for the most part you will find them reading catalogues. Yep, for me it was growing up with the old Survival Aids brochure, this then morphed into the Cotswold Outdoors Catalogue and it now is firmly stuck with Howies and Patagonia catalogues.

Got to love the concept of every one of these catalogues ( Lomotastic )

It simply is all about the Gear...


The Daddy of Biking Magazines...

Managed to blag a copy of the new Privateer Biking magazine courtesy of top photographer ( and work colleague ) Geoff Waugh.

I've been reading biking mags for what must be 20 years or something ( flipping eck that is scary ), and this is truely the Daddy of mags. Then again what else would you expect from the stable that came up with Rouleur ?

Cover price is 9 squids, which may seem a little steep, but this is set to be a collectors item already ( should have got Geoff to sign mine seeing as he has lots of shots in it! ).

If I were you, I would buy it...


Peanut Butter Power Cookies

Those following my Twitter feed will have noted that in the last couple of weeks I have baked a fair few batches of cookies. Still messing with the recipe, but tonight I banged out a quality batch, so thought I would share the recipe with you.

You will need to find the following:

125g of quality Peanut Butter ( no cheapo stuff and go for wholenut organic stuff )
100g of Margarine
125g of Soft Brown Sugar
125g of Caster Sugar
1 large egg beaten up a bit
225g Plain Flour ( no cheap bleached stuff please )
1 tsp baking powder ( what does this stuff actually do? )
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda ( no idea what this actually is and I have a Science degree? )
125g Rolled Porridge Oats

So not a lot of stuff then!

And this is how you make them:

Oh, put that oven on 180 degrees Centigrade now.

Mix the Peanut Butter, Margarine and Sugars together till smooth.

Mix in the egg

Sift the Flour, Baking Powder and Bicarbonate of Soda in.

Fold in the Oats.

Mix it till it is smooth cookie dough texture.

Wack little balls on some baking paper in the over...move them around a bit so they don't burn ( surely it isn't just my oven which bakes unevenly? ). 15 or so minutes later and you are a baking god.

Put on cooling rack ( but eat one hot, you have earnt it ).



Playing the sheep....

Ok, I admit I was one of those who laughed at the early adopters to the iPad. However, here I am on a train from London back to Stockport able to check work emails, Twitter and FB, as well as writing a blog post ( granted blogger isn't working properly in Safari, but you can't have everything ).

Will I buy one? Probably no.

Will I try to blag the work one for every work trip? That would be a yes!


Retort - Buy the T-shirt ( chapter 2 )

As a comic retort to my previous post, inspired by Father Ted ( thanks Burts )
I'm bored of this now...


Aggressive Atheist - Buy the T-Shirt

In response to some jumped up story teller bloke in a dress...

Buy the t-shirt, badge, sticker, bag, mug...err and loads of other random crap here.

P.S. I don't expect anyone to actually buy these bits of tat, it is actually a really clever political statement? ( well it made me giggle and who reads this anyway? )


Gower 2010 - It's all about the camping!

Been a while since we just went away camping, so was really looking forward to the trip to Oxwich Bay this summer. It didn't disappoint!

The Top 5:

1) Fresh Coffee brewed in the Morning light.

2) A campsite without fuddy duddys in caravans.

3) Tales told in tents ( though will pack more books next time )

4) Running in fields

5) Putting the tent away in a huge thunderstorm ( yes it was so silly it was funny )

All I can say is that we will be back ( that should be advert enough )

Check out the pics here or click the image below.


Cwmcarn Headcam Edits

I really should use the Vholdr headcam more and I have now made a cheeky mount so I can put it on the bike for those crazy angled shots...but in the meantime here are some very rough edits from a recent uplift at Cwmcarn DH track.

As you may be able to tell I am sitting on the brakes, you can blame that on the kick ass Orange 224 Evo I was riding ( it certainly wasn't my skill ). Almost 9 inches of travel makes ragging down trails like this a whole lot quicker!

If you liked these and want to see some real biking footage ( with some crazy headcam ). Check out the boys at MTBCut .


Endurance DH at Fort Bill - the lo-fi review.

The Orange 224 Evo - my toy for the weekend
10 days after the event and I can still remember pretty much every rock on the Fort William World Cup Downhill track, after all I did get 6 hours to get to know it personally.

It's their fault...
So, the short story is that after a phone call from one of the main men at Orange Bikes I ran out of excuses and found myself driving up to Fort William ( with one of the other main men from Orange as co-pilot ) to compete in the World famous No-Fuss events Endurance DH Mountain Bike Race.

Here is the rest of story in Polaroids:

Yes, I burnt the porridge...( an omen? )
Trusty little tent hidden in the woods next to the trail.
One of these was going to be mine ( yes like a sweet shop )
The Orange Factory Team ( David and Vaughan )
( Dave won the in-house comp on an Orange 5, the crazy fool )
Stu from MTBcut was on hand for filming duties.
The pits were set up with spare wheels a plenty
The course is world famous, but it was still my first time on it.
Yes it rained.
Yes it was muddy.
Yes I hurt my handYes it was the an amazing course and stupid amounts of fun.
Yes, I do want to do it all again ( after doing 10 laps in 6 hours )
In conclusion:

If you don't race mountain bikes - this race is for you.
If you do race mountain bikes - this race is for you.
If you just want to do one race for the hell of it - this race is for you.
If you want to have a bloody good laugh - this race is for you.

Check out the Orange Bikes report here

Check out more events by the team at No Fuss ( including the MacAvalanche!? ) here

Check out the MTBcut video here ( pay close attention to 1:05 as well as the load screen )

Additional Photos courtesy John Chennels at Orange Bikes.


Isle of Harris Roadtrip

Far too much to say about our trip to the Isle of Harris...so here it is broken into Top 5:

1. It's a long way away from anywhere, so plan a roadtrip ( we went via Fort William and Isle of Skye )

2. It is a quiet relaxed island, so don't expect lots going on. This is a place to explore and relax into.

3. Without a doubt these are the some of the most mental roads I have ever driven on ( and I have done lots of driving in my time ). Treble your normal driving times! That said if you have a road bike this is a serious Mecca.

4. There is a reason why Stornaway has it's own weather station...they get a lot of it there.

5. Buy some Harris Tweed, it is from a world we sorely miss.

Naturally I took some pics, click the image below to check them out...


Hale Superbole - Suck it and Huck it.

I'm getting a little too used to these dry and dusty conditions and you couldn't get more bone dry then yesterday when Matt and I headed down to an old stomping ground to check out the newly opened 'MTB Pursuits at Hales Superbole'. That is a bit of a mouthfull for what is actually a managed Mountain Bike park.

So what is going on over there? Well it was first set up as a Mountain Board park ( yep the pretend snowboarder types ), but now it is definately more aimed at the 4X and Freeride fraternity.

The hill isn't that big, so a short walk to the top and you have a fair few choices. Look right and you can either jump on the Mini DH run ( nothing too silly here, just one crazy gap which comes out of nowhere ), or walk 20m and you have the ladders, wall ride, dirt jumps ( 2 lines ) and mini-shore section. Looking straight down the hill you have the World Class 4X track ( which splits for a serious PRO line half way down ).

At the bottom of the hill ( and next to the entrance ) is an awesome big jump line with two big tabletops, then a little one into a very smooth Quarterpipe. Of everything in the park, this was the most fun. The sort of jumps you have to hold the bike back from really flying...you could go really big here.

So what else can I tell you? Well it looks like in the wet this place is going to be hard going ( sooo much clay around ), but it does look like it is going to be a dry summer? ( am I tempting fate there? ). The lines here are pretty intense, yes there are some easy pickings which you could build up on, but to get the most out of the day here you really do have to 'Suck it and Huck it'! Think of it as an Alpine Bike Park without the mountain behind it and you will have it spot on.

The only negative point is that to experience this playground you do have to dig out a tenner...yep £10 in new money ( £7 on late nights ). But before you run away crying lottery funding, this is a private enterprise with a passionate set-up who is constantly maintaining the course and developing it ( it has only been open a few weeks ). I would definately give it a try, but pack your armour as you are going to be experiencing some air-time.

Check out the pics by clicking any of the images or clicking here

For more info on the park check out their website here

Also worth noting that my good friends Bob and Ally of Campbell Coaching are some of the instructors on hand here along with the DH legend Neil Donoghue. Check out the details here.


Self Proclaimed? Moi?

What can I say? I must have left an impression!?

decluttr aka 'things are better on black'

Been playing around on Flickr a fair bit recently, mainly as I have up'd the processing on a lot of my shots and I am being a little more selective about how I show them ( so many photographer mates now and they are so hard to please! ).

Now Flickr is superb ( only web service I actually pay for ), but it is rubbish for actually showing images. Up until recently I have used BigHugeLabs to show off some images, but the experience was 'clunky'. So I thought I would check out what other people are using and decluttr kept coming up.

Why would you want to show an image on a black background? ( ignoring the science bit about how the eye and brain perceives colour and space )

Compare and Contrast

Using Flickr

Using decluttr

Need I say more?

( Oh if you are struggling to work out how to use decluttr...follow the link...drag the [decluttr] phrase from your browser to your bookmarks....then after going to the Flickr image you want, just click the link in your bookmarks...simples!


San Fran - Avoiding the Cliché Shot

I did have some grand plans about taking some less than cliché images on this trip to San Fran, but a trip across the Golden Gate bridge and into the Marin Headlands put pay to that.

Every shot has a story...given a bit of time and some more caffiene and I may try and explain them a little bit more. But until then, check them out by clicking here or the image below.

( You will notice some less than glorious attempts at self portraits...I have been considering a Flickr 365 project, but don't think I really have the smile for it! )