Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Thou Shalt Always Kill.

With apologies to Scroobius Pip.

...Thou shalt not put cyclists on ridiculous pedestals no matter how great they are or were.
Gino Bartali: Was just a cyclist.
Fausto Coppi: Just a cyclist.
Jacques Anquetil: Just a cyclist.
Tom Simpson: Just a cyclist.
Eddy Merckx: Just a cyclist.
Bernard Hinault: Just a cyclist.
Laurent Fignon: Just a cyclist.
Cippolini: Just a cyclist.
Big Mig: Just a cyclist.
Marco Pantani: Just a cyclist.
Jan Ullrich: Just a cyclist.
Lance Armstrong: Just a cyclist.
Alberto Contador: Just a cyclist.
Chris Froome: Just a cyclist.
The next big thing: Just a cyclist.

...

Friday, 28 June 2013

Star Tours.


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Star Tours 

Episode C
A NEW NEW HOPE.


It is time of great change. Unrest in the Senate has spread, old enemies have fallen, and a renewed hope for peace and justice has swept the remnants of the Galactic Empire.

The REBEL ALLIANCE grows stronger, determined to bring an end to the deadlock by overthrowing the crumbling old order and restoring balance to the galaxy once and for all.

Meanwhile, shadowy figures gather, not yet prepared to relinquish their desperate grip on power, and willing to use the seductive pull of the dark side of the force to destroy the rebels who stand in their way…. 

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The lovely folks at Cyclismas have taken a deep breath and agreed to take a punt on my silliness for the duration of the Tour de France.  If you want to see what's going to happen, you'll just have to keep your eyes on http://www.cyclismas.com/.  In the meantime, have a look at http://vimeo.com/69223555. Above animated at 06.40, but don't skip, you'll miss too much.



Sunday, 2 June 2013

Training Diary 1.


It didn't get easier, and I didn't go faster.

There's a girl I used to work with and deeply loathed - to protect the innocent we shall call her Mucy. First Monday at work and I try to strike up a conversation.

Did you do anything nice at the weekend?
Just a bit of training.
Ooh, what are you training for?
Nothing…. I’m just, you know *looks me up and down*, training. *flicks hair, flounces off*
So you went to the gym then?

I'm a bit confused by her use of 'training' in this context - to describe activity done without purpose.  To my mind, training is and always has been a means to an end, not the end itself.  However, here I find myself, end-less, about to become a trainee without a cause, unless you can stretch the term 'cause' to cover 'being a bit less wobbly in the central region and able to go up 3 flights of stairs without hacking up a lung', and I've tried and I can't.

I'm actually feeling quite motivated and suddenly it all seems so easy.  Dig myself out of bed.  Dig my kit out of one of the still-unsorted piles from the move that are dumped in the spare room, roughly divided into 'my shit', 'your shit', 'kids shit', 'miscellaneous shit', and 'do we really need this shit'.  Insert one in to the other.  Find the helmet and glasses, that I'm sure I've seen around here somewhere.  Dig the bike out of the ManCave.  Take a deep breath, and get out and ride said bike a bit.  Bingo bango.  Hell I might even enjoy it, who knows.

I start by examining the bike.  Stacked in the ManCave, my bike has been woefully neglected, and partially cannibalised by the bigger bikes.  When I get to her she's basically up on bricks - the cyclist having 'borrowed' her inner tubes for spares.  Supportive of my mission, the cyclist untangles the hosepipe which has snaked itself around her, replaces all items removed, and cleans and mechanics the shit out of her for me.  She sparkles.  'Come on then chubby, let's get you some thighs to die for', she whispers.

I've decided to do this stealth-style, weekend morning, crack of dawn, while the rest of the world sleeps.  My public excuse is the avoidance of traffic, my deep dark personal one is the avoidance of being seen.  However, somehow word must have got out, as 6AM on a weekend in a sleepy backwater middle-of-nowhere and you can't bloody move for cyclists and runners and ramblers and campers and farmers and cheery opportunist thieves, and I may as well have sold tickets to my debut performance as I self consciously shuffle down the lane and onto the road.

I blame the movies.  Training is reduced to a 90-second montage with a pumping and uplifting 80’s power-soundtrack.  By the key-change, our hero has a fetching sweat-V and is taking the steps three at a time, ready to show Dolph Lundgren who's boss.  That is not quite how this played out.

300 yards up the road I have swallowed my first fly.  600, and my legs burn and my saddle (bum) is uncomfortable (killing me).  3 miles in I am hunched over the handlebars, contemplating toppling on to the grass verge at the side of the road to await the sweet embrace of death, sobbing the only two lines of 'Eye of the Tiger’ anyone actually knows over and over and over again, when the local geriatric club run pootles past me.  These guys have an average age of about 400, and aren't even breaking a sweat.  They don’t even bother to get out of earshot before they start to piss themselves laughing at my expense. One of them is shaking so hard he actually has to unclip a foot to maintain his balance.  The utter bastard.

'That’s not very friendly and inclusive' I try to shout after them, but it comes out a bit like a squeak and a cough, and they laugh harder.  One day, I swear to myself, shakily taking a hand off the bars to wipe the snot from my chin with the back of my hand, one day I will ride these old men down and fuck them up.

My resolve is completely galvanised by this experience.  My legs actually start to shift of their own accord.  It might not be nice, it might not be worthy, but my training may have just discovered itself a purpose after all - the vengeful and complete destruction, nay annihilation, of this band of evil old men.  The iPod in my head shuffles.  Sod the 'Eye of the Tiger', this training montage has itself a new theme tune. 

“I’m gonna knock you OUT [HUUUUUH].
Mama said KNOCK you OUT [HUUUUUH]….”

To be continued…..

Monday, 20 May 2013

West Side Story


Somewhere in a hotel on the French / Italian border, Team Sky back room staff are having an emergency pre- Tour de France strategy meeting.  

David: (Spoken) Come July, against the Shark we’re gonna need every man we got.

Rod: (Spoken) Chris don't belong any more.

David: (Spoken) Cut it, Rod, Chris’s been with the Skys since the start.

Rod: Well, he acts like he don't wanna belong.

Shane : Who wouldn't wanna belong to the Skys!

Steve: Yeah, don’t forget last year when we clobbered the Limes!

Shane: Which we couldn't have done without Chris.

David: Right! He's always come through for us and he will now.

(sings)
When you're a Sky,
You're a Sky all the way
From your first protein shake
To your last dyin' day.

When you're a Sky,
If the spit hits the fan,
You got brothers around,
You're a family man!

You're never alone,
You're never disconnected!
You're home with your own:
When company's expected,
You're well protected (especially in the mountains)!

Then you are set
With a capital S,
Which you'll never forget
Till they scrape up the mess.
When you're a Sky,
You stay a Sky!

(spoken) I know Chris like I know me. I guarantee you can count him in.

Rod: In, out, let's get crackin'.

Shane: Where you gonna find Vincenzo?

David: At dinner tonight at the hotel.

Shane: But the hotel's neutral territory!

David: (innocently) I'm gonna make nice there! I'm only gonna challenge him.

Rod: Great, Daddy-O!

David: So everybody Rapha up, sweet and sharp.

ALL (sing)
Oh, when the Skys fall in at the hotel restaurant,
We'll be the sharpest dressed gang in France!
And when the chicks dig us in our Jet black threads,
They're gonna flip, gonna flop, gonna wilt like plants!

David: (Spoken) Hey. Cool. Easy. Sweet. Meet at the bar at ten. And walk tall!

Steve: We always walk tall!

Shane: We're Skys!

Steve: The greatest!

Steve and Shane (sing)
When you're a Sky,
You're the top cat in town,
With the gold medal kid
And the heavyweight crown!

When you're a Sky,
You're the swingin'est thing:
Little boy, you're a man;
Little man, you're a king!

ALL
Come July, come the Skys
Like bats out of hell.
Someone gets in our way,
Someone don't feel so well!

Shane: (Spoken) Ha ha, yeah! Like that Canadian!

Rod: Shut up Shane! That backfired!

ALL (Sing)
Here come the Skys:
Little world, step aside!
Better go underground,
Better run, better hide!

We're drawin' the line,
So keep your noses hidden!
We're hangin' a sign,
Says "Visitors forbidden"
And we ain't kiddin'!

Here come the Skys,
Yeah! And we're gonna beat
Every last vuggin' gang
On the whole vuggin' street!
On the whole!
Ever!
Mother!
Lovin'!
Street!
Yeah!

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With sincere apologies to Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein.  Please find original material at http://www.westsidestory.com/site/level2/lyrics/lyrics.html

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Bespoked Bristol


In which our cyclist is inspired to order 3 tonnes of pig iron and a spot-welder off t’internet, and our heroine gives the man behind her evils when she hears him say, “There she is.  That’s the one with the really large flanged hubs…”.  Leave my flanged hubs out of it.

Virtually the second the cyclist and I walked into the Bespoked Bristol Hall it became embarrassingly obvious I’d missed the ‘beard and camera’ memo.  I might as well have been naked.  A bit of a wander around (slightly difficult, as the event was packed and could easily have filled a space twice the size), a coffee (don't ask. Just don't ask.) and a cyclist disappearing into the throng to attend a talk on tube and lug prep, and I began to consider my own take on the event.

Look, you should know by now that I can't do this sort of thing straight faced.  And if you're interested in hand built frames and wanted a proper discussion about the event, there are hundreds of blogs and articles covering Bespoked Bristol - hells even the BBC ran a piece (check it here).  But before I get silly, please let me recommend to you Made in England (www.pushprojects.net or available at Amazon), a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to the art of the hand-built frame and those profiled within. 

And so, without further delay, a rundown of the judge's scores for the best beards* at Bespoked Bristol 2013.

*Judges note: Many, many impressive beards could be found wandering the event.  Judges felt is was only right to judge solely those attending the event as exhibitor, rather than risk the inevitable arrest that would have arisen from following members of the public around and making notes about their facial hair.

Ted James Designs – 5/5

Quite possibly the greatest beard in cycling, and the runaway winner of Best Beard in Show, Ted James' beard makes him stand out like a framebuilding JESUS.  As if the beard itself were not wonder enough (it is), The bikes are beset with badass detailing (skull motif, crossed cutlasses etc); and to underline his position as rockstar frame builder extraordinaire who's been up all night partying and filing lugs, dude’s hands look like they need a sheep-dip and swarfega manicure and he has a bucket of actual metal shavings on his stand. This shit got real, and the judges salute you, sir.

Gaze on ye wonder of Ted James' beard, there could only be one winner. Yes, I snuck a photo like a weirdo stalker, I'm not proud of myself.

Badass bucket of metal.

 Nice detailing on the Ted James Designs frames.  Arrrrrrrrr.

Winter Bicycles – 4/5

Honourable runner-up in the beard event, and winners of best track frame.   A thoroughly impressive effort with excellent 'bush', enhanced by closely cropped hair and ably accessorised with multiple tattoos, piercings and an American accent.



Condor Cycles 4/5

A third place beard, solid coverage, good length, insouciantly cool, and propelled into a podium place with the judge’s discretionary style points awarded for the rakish addition of a hipster man-bun. Yes, hipster man-bun.  What of it?



Colourbolt 4/5

A solid 4 out of 5 facial hair combination, with excellent handlebar detailing to the moustache, and teamed with another man-bun.  Just misses out on the third place spot to Condor, as although similar in type, Mr Condor just had the edge in the 'cool motherlover' stakes. 

Fresh Tripe Bikes 4/5

Judges comment: ‘Luxuriant’.  As far as coverage goes, pretty much outstanding -  however those placed higher scored better on artistic interpretation.

Boneshaker Mag 3.5/5

Although not framebuilders themselves, they have solidly embraced the beardy ethos of the framebuilders with which they mix.  Particularly excellent moustache quality, and full kudos for the gingerness.

Royce 3/5

A nice collective effort of synchronised bearding, with a full showing from all present – although nothing outstanding from any one participant.  Judges note the enormous bucket of beer at the side of the stand, and nod approvingly.

Excellent beer showing from the boys at Royce.  Well played.

Tokyo Fixed 3.5/5

Judges on the day award Tokyo Fixed best strawberry blonde beardage, and best rainbow glitter frame paint job. RAINBOW GLITTER, PEOPLE.  That’s probably worth another half point in all honesty.

Rainbow glitter.  Bitching.

Faggin Bikes 3/5

Two representatives of Faggin Bikes here, one offering a solid 3/5 on the beard front, and the judges note a 3/5 rated ‘services to moustache’ from representative 2, sporting a daring ‘moustache only, no beard’ effort, unusual in one so young (could have been a stick-on).

Brick Lane Bikes 3/5

A solid commitment to the art of the beard from Brick Lane Bikes, possibly inspired by the beard master himself, and alumnus Ted James.



Field 2.5/5

Not an overly impressive stand-alone beard, but teamed with a shaved head to good ‘inverted head’ effect.  Excellent work on the paint jobs, Field – Guy Collier (check out his Bespoked Bristol Gallery here) and I met taking a picture of the same frame. His pic of this frame has me in it, and is officially the third worst photo of me in existence (really. Any others that have come out like that have been BURNED) after the one on my passport (Good Lord have mercy) and the one on my driving licence where I look like a seriously surprised mid-meltdown Britney Spears , but don’t let that put you off.



Donhou Bicycles 2/5

Facial hair judged ‘shabby’ rather than ‘beardy’, but additional style points have to be awarded as the attendee has attracted himself a very pretty bobble-hatted beard groupie.

Purdy paintwork.  Judges expect a better beard showing next year.


Downland Cycles 2/5

A fair coverage, which is, however, regrettably lacking in ‘bush’.

Rourke Cycles 2/5

Good potential here, coverage was strong and colour was even, but length was lacking.  Consider upping your protein intake, or possibly some sort of herbal 'Hair, Skin and Nails' supplement to support and promote growth, and we will see you next year, Rourke.

Swrve 2/5

Disappointingly average given the hipster potential afforded by the dropping of the first vowel.  While the judges cannot condone 'over grooming' of the beard region, Swrve were judged to be on the wrong side of 'unkempt', and in danger of skirting 'tramp'.

Swallow 1.5/5

Bespoked’s winner’s of ‘Best Road Bike’, judges liked the brand detailing on the bikes.  Not enough, however to be able to award more than 1.5 points for the beard effort.  You can do better.



Mosquito 1/5

Judges note: The score reflects full beard coverage and ‘bush’ - categories regrettably lacking amongst the friendly and knowledgable Mosquito attendees, who are however rocking the art of facial topiary in some style and artistic interpretation and flamboyant individuality abound.

Flat Frame Systems 1/5

Apologies Mr Flat Frame, but your neatly clipped moustache/goatee combo has been judged as befitting a financial advisor, not a cool-ass purveyor of custom bikes.

Enigma Titanium 1/5

One of the attendees on this stand was actually completely beardless.  Unless he was drafted in at the last minute, we reckon this is worthy of a verbal warning.

Feather Bikes 1/5

Were truly a beard an indication of frame-building prowess, Ricky Feather would have strode* into Bespoked Bristol sporting a white flowing beard to his knees like a steel-working Santa Claus / Gandalf hybrid, and onlookers would have genuflected where they stood.  Winner of Best Bike in the show and the public vote, the Feather Bikes stand was permanently 5-deep on all sides with appreciative folk taking in exquisite detail after exquisite detail.  After all, what’s the point in a bespoke frame if it doesn’t scream ‘YAY! LOOK AT MY AWESOME PAINT JOB AND MOTHERFUCKING FLAME SHAPED LUGS! WHEEEEEEEEE!’?

*Listen, I know it doesn't look right, and dabbled with 'stridden' but strode is the past tense of to stride - I checked.


Superb detailing from Feather Bikes, including the frankly incredible flame lugs (centre). Flame Lugs. I want Flame Lugs.

Merenyi Bicycles 1/5

‘Beard’ as advanced 5pm shadow. Like a slightly patchy Fred Flintstone.

Demon Frameworks 1/5

Tsk.  Did you not get the memo, Mr Demon?  There was some beardage, but given the solid nature of many of the competitors the effort here only merited a single point from the possible 5.  Shame, cos the bikes is nice.

Racer Rosa 1/5

Another lacklustre effort hugely overshadowed by the bearded behemoths judged before.  Be bold! Embrace and nurture your beard!  And don't be afraid to dabble in some Mane 'n Tail for body and shine.

Bristol Bike Project 0.75/5

Poor, poor effort on the beard front.  However, had we been rating the contestants on ‘Hair Like A Pok√©mon’, dude would’ve romped it.  Judges suspect heat styling, mousse and spray were all in effect, rendering him extremely flammable in the event of a stray spark.  It's Health and Safety gone mad.

Cota Engineering 0.5/5

There is a big difference between ‘unshaven’ and ‘bearded’.  Cota Engineering were fully embracing the former, and the judges were not fooled for a second.

Slate 0.5/5

By the judge’s expert reckoning, the dude shaved the day before yesterday.  Offering was less 'beard' and more 'velcro'.

Hobo Cycles 0/5

Hobo actually have a frame on display called the ‘Weirdy Beardy’, and yet no beard AT ALL is in evidence.  Judges are puzzled, and so disappointed they’ve wandered off to gaze upon the wonder of Ted James’ beard some more.