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Author Archives: alex

Dyfi

  • Posted by alex
  • 9 May 2012

Our May bank holiday was punctuated with a trip to the trails and fire roads in Machynlleth for some epic mountain biking. The weekend didn't start too well after a trip to A&E for stitches, but things only got better on Sunday.

The 11th Dyfi Enduro didn't disappoint, with rain from last week clearing a lot of the surface mud from the slate descents and leaving deep pools of surface water for the brave (and stupid) to ford. 40 miles off-road felt brutal compared to all the recent road riding, but the steep forest hills and crashing downhills left little time to distract yourself from the ride to worry about mileage.

Being my first time at the Enduro I had little idea of what to expect and riding on a borrowed bike, I tentatively span through the course amoung 800 other riders, cheered on by locals, cheer leaders, Welsh hardpists, star wars characters and past beer tents, tempting mugs of free beer 10km from the finish. It's a surreal and hard ride, with every punishing climb followed by teeth clattering descents only to climb higher - rinse and repeat.

If you rode, times are now online. Ruben, Ade and Hazel had a great ride, putting in some fast times. Hazel was even fastest in her category.

Now that my legs have stopped burning and the adrenaline has faded, I can say it truly is an excellent one-of-a-kind event. If you've never ridden the Dyfi, it's definitely something to try - but you'll have to be quick as this year sold out in a matter of minutes.

The Coed-y-Brenin enduro is just around the corner too - run by the same crew from Summit - which will promise another worthwhile trip up the coast.

London sample sale

  • Posted by alex
  • 8 May 2012

We are heading back to London this week to do a howies sample sale and will be in here, opposite Rough Trade Records.

Chris has been downstairs boxing up some great Merino, one-offs, last-in-the-box, odds and ends, and never-to-be-made-agains. As usual, it's first come - first served, so don't wait too long...

The nearest station is Liverpool St, and there's plenty of room to bring your bike in too.

Doors are open:

Thursday 10th May: 4pm to 8pm
Friday 11th May: 10am to 7pm
Saturday 12th May: 11am to 6pm
Sunday 13th May: 11am to 4pm

And don't forget to bring a bag to take your purchases home in.

Rest Less Recipe

  • Posted by alex
  • 4 May 2012

There's nothing quite like real food to keep you going when out doing something challenging. Especially at 3am, when your stomach's raw and another energy bar, shot, gel or gram of raw sugar could not be further from your mind.

That's why we asked Laura to make us a few things for the Rest Less ride. Nothing beats home made food to keep you fueled for adventure.

Packed full of Brazil nuts, Almonds and oats for natural energy,
this flap jack got tired bodies and minds across the country.

Chunky Chocolate Nut Flapjacks

200g Oats
30g Desiccated coconut
160g Butter
50g Light muscovado sugar
4 tbsp Golden syrup
100g Brazil nuts, cut into large chunks
50g Almonds, cut into large chunks
85g Good quality dark chocolate, cut into large chunks

* Grease and line tin.
* Mix together oats and coconut.
* Melt butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan, until sugar has dissolved.
* Stir mixture in with the oats and coconut.
* Spoon into tin and press down evenly.
* Scatter over the nuts and chocolate pieces.
* Bake at 180°C / Gas 4, for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown.

Unlike your usual energy food, we don't have a list of calories, grams of protein, carbs or how many GI's - but on a scale of edible to delicious, we'd say it's excellent.

Recipe: Laura Elsaesser

Rest Less Ride Film

  • Posted by alex
  • 4 May 2012

On the night of the Spring Equinox, Rob Penn and friends took off on an overnight cycle ride across Wales.

The Rest Less Ride took the peloton of 16 riders from the west coast, all the way to the east. They cycled unlit back-roads riddled with pot-holes, gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends. They passed through deep dark valleys, through forests and up mountains, in a race against the sunrise.

The Rest Less Ride celebrates the pleasure of cycling and the friendships it forges.

Riding a bike should be easy

  • Posted by alex
  • 3 May 2012

Isn’t that what we are told? You learn when you are small and, like an elephant, you never forget. What an amazing deal. Once mastered, you have a gift that lasts a lifetime, and even if you part ways for a period of time it waits patiently for you to return. Once bought, it is the gift that keeps giving – health, entertainment, and convenience. So why isn’t everyone riding a bike? Shouldn’t the streets in every village, town and city hum with the sound of rubber passing over tarmac? You only have to observe parts of cities like London, Bristol, and Cambridge at rush hour to see the potential. Hybrids, racers, fixies, bmx, mountain bikes, single speeds, choppers, Dutch bikes, and cruisers all spinning to and fro.

While cycling numbers have increased by around 20% across Britain over the last decade, we lag behind other European countries. The number of cyclists killed or injured sits around 27,000 for that period. This figure is unacceptable and concerns over safety are the main reason many bikes sit unloved in garden sheds up and down the country. This is a terrible shame since cycling represents the elixir to many of our problems. Regular riding can significantly improve fitness levels (goodbye beer belly) and increase life expectancy (hello happy retirement). By swapping an eight mile round trip commute from car to bike, you save 0.5 tonnes of carbon per year – that’s the equivalent of a short haul flight.

It stands to reason that if we want a country that is synonymous with cycling you need to ensure that it is safe. As a result of much hard work by sustainable transport charities and cycling campaign groups we have seen significant progress. Most recently, the Cycle Safe campaign from The Times – coupled with February’s Parliamentary cycling debate - has helped raise the profile of cycle safety. There is much that can be done to improve junctions, slow speeds in neighbourhoods, and provide better road user training. However, this all requires investment – even a small percentage of the road budget could make a huge difference across the country.

Ultimately, the goal is to get people – young, old, male, female – on bikes for their everyday journeys to places like school, work, and the shops. However, currently around 66% of journeys (two miles or less) are completed in a car. While the number of accidents involving cyclists are a concern, the perceived danger can sometimes outweigh the actual risks. It is important to emphasise that cycling is still a fun, exhilarating, and egalitarian means of getting around. You hear of schools not letting kid’s cycle and adults looking on in horror as you ride past on the way to work. It is important to remember that it’s cycling, not war. Going forward, we need more people on bikes and (much) improved cycle infrastructure to ensure that the fun isn’t taken out of cycling.

Words: Ben Addy

Made with Modal

  • Posted by alex
  • 17 April 2012

Categories:

This underwear has been made from an amazing fibre called Modal. Modal is a natural material made from the humble Beech tree.

The fibres are ultra smooth, which makes the fabric feel softer than cotton. Unlike cotton it remains soft, wash after wash, as the soap scum has nothing to cling on to. It also doesn’t lose its colour. Oh, and wood also has natural hygienic properties and is resistant to shrinkage.

We used a fine circular knitting process when we made this underwear to make sure that there are no annoying seams.

The Modal fibre is made by an Austrian company called Lenzing. The beech trees are sustainably grown and the wood pulp is turned into fibre in a closed loop process, which uses up to twenty times less water than cotton production. Any waste is used for by-products.

Pretty impressive, huh? It makes other underwear seem like ‘pants’.

Suggestions

  • Posted by alex
  • 5 April 2012

With 100% more weekend on offer as of now, we've been thinking of a few ways to spend the extra days while we're not at our desks.

After a quick poll in the office, these were the top suggestions. We'd like to hear yours.

Have a great weekend. Whatever you do, we hope you enjoy it.

1. Run in the woods

2. Fix up your bike

3. Get lost somewhere new

4. Read a book

5. Eat outside

6. Skinny dip

7. Go sledging (do not leave the country)

8. Make wild garlic soup

9. Take to the water

10. Make a paper hat for a fly*
(*sadly, this fly was dead when we found it...)

Rest Less Success

  • Posted by alex
  • 27 March 2012

Last weekend the Rest Less Ride took riders across the whole of Wales from beach to border overnight. The roads were riddled with pot-holes, sheets of gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends, dropped into deep dark valleys, through forests and over 25% climbs in a race against the sun on the night the clocks went forwards.

The ride was born out of a story that writer - and friend of howies - Rob Penn, shared from a chance meeting on the road with a passing cyclist, reminiscing over night-long club rides in the late 1950's; the quieter roads, the lack of traffic, and the peloton pushing one another on through dawn.

The roads back in the 50’s aren’t too dissimilar to the country lanes in Wales, so only one question remained; "When shall we do it?"

On Saturday, 16 riders set off from howies HQ to Abergavenny, all that led the way were small road markings, the faith in the peloton and the promise that no-one would get left behind in the wilderness.

The pack was made up some of Rob's and our riding friends, who had come from across Britain, to take on this incredible adventure. A last supper gave time to go over the route, fettle bikes and exchange names with the riders who would help carry one another across the entire country in the dark.

Barely 10 minutes into the ride, a disturbed badger darted into the pack, causing a tumble. The sound of bikes hitting the ground and cries in the night halted riders in front. Once turned upright, we re-grouped and pressed on. What other dangers waited for us in the dark?

Winding out of the Teifi valley, the stronger legs set a steady pace along the undulating road to Lampeter. The hills began to get steeper, breathing deepened and gears simultaneously jumped in the dark to bigger cogs.

The descents made up for the climbs and soon everyone seemed settled, taking to the 40mph bends, down over humpback bridges, free wheeling to allow the legs to rest for the next inevitable climb.

At Lampeter we left the safety of the A roads and towns, heading into the wilderness. The quiet back roads were brown and green down the middle, with fractures to test skinny tyres and fords to test nerves; a surface barely ideal in daylight, let alone in the dark.

These country lanes were bound for the lake at Llyn Briane, up winding valley passes and through pitch-black, potholed hairpins. Chatter in the pack slowed as concentration increased to keep wheels in line over the rough surfaces and spotting markers to keep on course - we had not seen a house or car for miles and rumbling over cattle grids. There would be nowhere to go if you gave up here.

News of the coming halfway stop for hot soup refreshed tired minds. Eager stomachs wound up the pace and soon everyone was huddled around a 2-ring gas burner awaiting some real food. Passing round bread and stretching, we noticed the time, 3am. With darkness all around, we were halfway from nowhere and nowhere near somewhere with an handful of hours 'til dawn. The race against the sun had begun.

The climb past the lake, invisible in the dark, led to fantastically smooth tarmac lining the valley as it wound through the hills and over barrier-less summits with steep drops into the dark.

Approaching the pine forest, a broken chain tore apart Alex's derailleur, demanding some roadside repairs. Stopped in the silence, it was obvious the damage was irreparable. Cut down to a single speed, the best attempt to limp on, wasn't going to get the bike over the 25% climb of the Devil's Staircase and certainly not onto Abergavenny. It was game over for Alex.

The Devil's Staircase is famed for it's 25% walls levelling out briefly before the next step upwards. The set of short, sharp climbs marked the midway point through the wilderness. A series of sketchy but exhilarating hairpin descents to the valley floor followed. Mist collected between the hills as the road bounced along, mimicking the bed of the river until finally a junction and another short rest.

Signposts pointed through a dark forest to Builth, where the pack regrouped. The dawn chorus had begun, and the promise of daylight was in the air. The quiet A-roads were smooth and wide, with street lighting easing the dependence of lights which would surely be near the end of their battery life. These roads gave the pack their best chance yet to work together, forming a train of tired legs each taking turns out front to break the cold air.

Crossing the river, heading for Hay-on-Wye, the B-roads were foggy and felt chilly without the climbs to keep the body warm. Staying together for company and warmth, the pack pressed on in the mist.

Leaving Hay behind, daylight finally broke over the hills of the Black Mountains where the final - and hardest - climb of the ride came into view.

Every rider stopped to shed weight, jettisoning surplus layers and water bottles. Feeling sore and empty, the beauty of the scenery laid out in the early morning sun was enough to make the riders forget their tired legs. The end would soon be in sight, with a 15 mile whooping descent though the Llanthony Valley to breakfast. And it would be the best breakfast ever, in soft chairs with hot food.

The ride forged friendship through adversity; sharing the experience of digging deep when you’ve got nothing left, feeling sick, delirious and weary but pushing yourself and fellow riders further than you could possible ride on your own.

Despite the grueling climbs and rapid descents over tarmac laced with gravel and pot holes, 14 of the 16 riders completed the challenge - 124 miles, over 3000 meters of ascent with only one final question remaining; "When shall we do it again?"

A short video of the ride is here.

Rest Less

  • Posted by alex
  • 7 March 2012

At the end of March the clocks go forward to mark the start of British Summer Time – losing us one hour in bed, but gaining us extra daylight to do more of the things we love.

So on the night of the 24th, a group from howies will be joined by writer and cyclist Rob Penn and friends for a night-long bike ride across Wales, from beach to border.

The 115 mile race against the sun begins in the early evening in Cardigan. Riding east through the night on dark back roads, over rolling hills and alongside lakes, the route will take us over some of the country's most infamous peaks, before descending into Rob's hometown of Abergavenny, in time for the sunrise.

Some of us will be fast, some of us will be slow, some of us may not even make it to the finish. There will be flat tyres and deflated souls, mud, blood, sweat and struggle – the stuff that makes strong hearts and legs.

But whatever happens, there'll be no time to rest.

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