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Las Ramblas

  • Posted by james m
  • 21 February 2011

I’ve just been staying in Las Ramblas, Barcelona for a couple of weeks whilst working on the GSM World Mobile Congress…

My first visit to Barcelona and I was more than a little bit gutted that my BMX wouldn’t fit in my suitcase, but going somewhere without a bike for once did give me a chance to trot around the city on foot and therefore actually take in my surroundings a little, for once.

I had heard all the scare stories about muggings, pickpockets, drugs etc around Las Ramblas, and I can’t deny that all were present, but there are police kicking around and leaving the door prepared meant that I didn’t feel particularly intimidated at any time during my stay. The one man that did try to rob me was very polite about it, and he walked into a tree so I had the last laugh anyway.

Don’t walk alone at night, don’t fill your pockets with valuables and don’t talk to the friendly strangers and you can have a very good time indeed exploring the ancient alleyways, shops and bars of this intriguing district of an architecturally fascinating city full of old world wonders and new school fashionistas. The smoking ban has somehow finally reached Spain too so popping into a pub for a look-see no longer dictates a smoke-screen battle and an engraining scent.

Just below our apartment there were two really good bookshops with speakers most nights, several typically Spanish bars where tapas flowed (unfortunately not freely) and the streets sprawled onwards for a seeming eternity. It took me a whole week before I stopped getting lost on my way home everyday.

I’m back to Barcelona in a weeks time to de-construct everything that myself and the 1,500 other contractors just put up for the GSM show, fortunately the firm that I’m working for will be re-using all their materials, but it really shocked me to see how much has gone into the show that will undoubtedly be put to waste come the take-down. I suppose shows like this are happening all over the world all the time, and certainly aid the economic flow and the progression of The Human Brand™. Lets just hope that the people in charge are thinking resourcefully.

Some days…

  • Posted by ruben
  • 21 February 2011

Some days I just want to move to BC, live in the woods with my bike and spend all my time finding new lines.

spring has sprung…

it's felt like an awful long time coming but we finally have some new stock in the shop to brighten it up a little bit. so far we have only managed to get the new mens product up and out onto the shop floor, but have no fear, womens will follow tomorrow. come down and have a perouse.

also now in stock are the new and extremely good looking 'the ride' journal and 'rouleur' magazine, we only have limited numbers of each so if you plan on getting one don't hang about.

Something Familiar

  • Posted by james m
  • 31 January 2011

With increasing summer resorts, bike parks and relaxed access rights creating an ever growing abundance of riding opportunity across Europe, a mountain biker’s lifestyle is fast becoming close to that of the surfer bum. Large groups of lads and ladies can be spotted all across the continent piling out of beat up vans, piecing together rickety bikes and enjoying each and every venue along the way.

Of course there is more to it than just the sport itself; the people to meet along the way, the places, the views and the ordeals all make the sport bums lifestyle adventurous, fulfilling and therefore enticing. It’s always nice to see something unfamiliar and curious.

This searching could go on forever and ever, which, personally, I can’t see any particular problems with. Yet having recently been cooped up in an entirely non-exotic location in the UK, I have come to realise that sometimes more familiar surroundings could do with a closer look too.

The British riding scene has grown rapidly and from strength to strength over the last few years. With weekly uplift services running across the country, multiple races taking place every weekend and trail centres popping up all over the shop, there is a lifetimes worth of riding to be explored right here on this island. With more investment in mountain biking to come, there has never been a better time to be a mountain biker in Britain.

Last weekend whilst riding at one of the newest downhill venues in Wales, Nant Gwtheyrn, we were treated not only to a superb and demanding track with excellent facilities, but also gifted a stunning sunset across the Westerly cliffs. I think a good sunset can be measured on how long a crowd can be rendered speechless, in this instance there was silence until the last of the light was out. We certainly aren’t lacking in good countryside either then.

Another Super Nice place right here in Britain and I can’t wait to be back and racing the first BDS (British Downhill Series) race. Be there 20th March if you fancy visiting an unfamiliar venue with an interesting history, seeing some of the worlds best riders hurling themselves down the steep hillside and particularly if you like a silence-inducing view every once in a while.


Thank you very much to SRE, BOS, Riders Refuge, Kingdom Bike and of course howies.

‘Puffer video

  • Posted by ruben
  • 25 January 2011

Here's a nice little edit Alastair put together of our Scottish adventure.

Feel free to fast forward over any bits of my speaking. I know I did.

Check out Al's site here for more of the stuff he's up to at the moment, including his A to Z of London food micro-adventure which I think is a really great idea. Sampling the world's food and 'traveling the world without crossing the M25'.

new ride

  • Posted by ade
  • 21 January 2011

This is what the next edition will look like.

We are waiting for the delivery.

There will be a fight between Pete, Aron, Hicksey, Ruben, Peter and me for the first copy.

We will let you know when they are in.

Party invite

  • Posted by ade
  • 21 January 2011

Ride magazine invite you to rock up to Look mum no hands next week to celebrate the birth of ride number 5.

The only way to get there is by bike.

Strathpuffer 2011

  • Posted by ruben
  • 19 January 2011

Strathpuffer, for those who don't know, is a 24 hour mountain bike race. It's held up in the North of Scotland in the middle of January and is considered by many to be the hardest race of it's kind in the world.

Hicksy and I are nothing if not reckless and over ambitious, so last year we decided we'd give it a go. After all, 'how hard can it really be?'

But it was all just talk until an email conversation I had with Alastair led to a more definite 'let's do it.' After that we posted a recruitment note on the blog looking for our 4th team member. We had a lot more replies than I expected. Clearly our readers are as crazy as we are. From the dozens of entries, we selected Hazel from Falmouth as the 4th rider.

At this point, I had a few concerns about the race. Apart from it being notoriously hard, we would be riding with two people we had never ridden with before and who we had only really spoken to through emails. It was all a bit 21st century. A bit digital.

I needn't have worried, though. As I soon realised once we'd picked the others up and arrived at the race, the experiment in cloud sourced team building had been a great success. Both Alastair and Hazel were funny, friendly, down to earth and genuinely nice people. And even better, they could both ride. Fast.

The race started at 10am, and my first lap of the unknown course shook me a bit. The seemingly endless fire road climb covered in thick layers of slippery ice, the narrow teetering bridge, the big rocky decents, the muddy ditches. This was all seriously new territory for someone who's previous 24 hour racing experience had all taken place in the summer months on fast dry trails.

It didn't take much to get back into the swing of things, though. Seeing the excitement on the faces of Hazel and Alastair as they got back from their first laps left me itching to go back out and soon the doubts all faded away and the race melted into a dream of exhilaration interspersed with tired moments recovering in the camper with cups of tea and hot food.

As night fell, things changed again and the course seemed to take on a whole new character. With the ice melting and the wind and rain taking turns to lap the trails with us, things started to feel faster and faster. Although our exhausted bodies complained that this was no time to be riding harder.

Alastair had a couple of flat tyres, and I had folded my rim by riding one rocky section a little too last with not quite enough air in my tyres. Hicksy, still recovering from a bout of flu was also finding things tough. Our times slowed a little, but this is where we were most glad of having Hazel with us, as she continued to push on, never lapping in over an hour.

Some time around this point, we realised we were running second in our category, only a few minutes away from the lead. It was good news, but in a way it seemed almost irrelevant. What did it matter? We were just doing what we could to get round each lap.

Then, just as the night became the very early morning, disaster struck. I was out on my last lap before my turn to sleep. I was tired, but with the promise of a few hours in bed, I thought I could push on and give it a bit more. I reached the top of the hill, passing everyone I saw along the way. I was feeling good about this lap. I turned the bike down the first descent and went for it.

Moments later I was over the bars, sliding across the muddy ground and wincing as my thumb snagged a root. I lay there, winded, leg cramping and thumb piercing white stars into my vision. I wasn't sure what to look at first. I staggered back to the track, checking my bike for damage and pushing off down the hill.

Your mind starts to behave strangely in this situation. It tries to protect you from yourself. I told myself 'take it easy now, this is a good excuse for a slow lap.' But another part of me didn't agree. There's no excuse for backing off. I finished the lap after an all too familiar Jekyll and Hyde struggle and staggered over to the Rescue Medic's station.

'Rest it and see how you feel in a few hours' I was told. I went to bed, but I'm still not sure if I slept or not. I lay listening to Al and David coming and going for their laps, other riders passing outside and the wind and rain fading in and out until my next lap eventually came around and I decided to go for it. My thumb felt better.

All the way up the first climb, things felt good. Maybe it was just a sprain.

I realised it was worse than a sprain down the first hill. I winced at every bump and could hardly use my rear brake. For the first time in my riding life I began to wish the descents away and was longing for the hills.

I don't remember much of that lap. I just got it done, checked on our teams position (still second, but falling back) and climbed into bed, telling the others 'that's it for me'. This time I slept. I didn't wake up until the race was over. Alastair had finished with a heroic double lap after David also declared himself out after a long battle against the tail end of the flu.

Broken, battered and tired we trudged down to the prize giving. We weren't expecting anything, we weren't even sure we had held onto second, until we were called up to the podium to receive our prizes. 4 bottles of Strathpuffer beer, 4 engraved Exposure lights and perhaps most excitingly of all, 4 second place snow globes.

We set off for home, driving back down to Inverness for a coffee with Alastair at the airport before the rest of us made the trek down to Edinburgh for what felt like the most well earned curry and cider in history.

The next day, we disbanded and David and I set off on the final leg of the homeward journey to Cardigan Bay. Pulling in at A&E along the way to discover that my thumb had actually been properly broken and will require surgery and pinning.

All in all, and despite the bump, team howies had a great time at Strathpuffer. Through the wind, the rain, the mud, the ice and the dark, we all kept smiling and we'd like to thank the organisers for laying on such a great event. And even more importantly, thanks to Anna for making it possible for us to keep riding through the night by helping out with food and making sure the right people were in the right places at the right time.

And last but by no means least, thanks to Mr. Tom Johnstone of Carbon-Monkey for lending us his demo pack of Exposure lights. Without his generosity we would have been racing in the dark.

Tom runs skills coaching courses for all MTB riding levels and can also arrange for lights to hire if you need. Check his site here for more details.

What's next?

Changing Priorities

  • Posted by will
  • 10 January 2011

The stack of reading material here is illustrative of my current list of priorities. At the top are two quite magnificent books by Jez Alborough about Bobo the chimp. Bobo is quite a central character in our house at the moment and these books have made bedtime (and most other times) a lot easier for all concerned. I have spent more time narrating the adventure of Bobo than I have looking at much else. Highly recommended for those looking to entertain a 'wee-one' or indeed themselves. No-one is too old for books with titles such as 'Yes', 'Tall' and 'Hug'?

Sat beneath Bobo very symbolically are two of the books I'm attempting to make sense of for a much maligned thesis. Kant, Locke, Marx and the like don't have the draw of Alborough, Cuncliffe and the Ahlbergs and sadly I have no-one else thrusting these books in my lap like I do with those that sit at the top of the pile so I am reliant on self-discipline to open these. But 'needs must' and these books (and too many others to count) are piled up on my desk awaiting my attention.

At the bottom is a field of 'literature' that at one time in my life I read intensely. A combination of the ability to get a 'quick fix' of bmx news and trivia from the web and everything else I have to read means these magazines dont get anywhere near the attention that my 16 year old self was able to give them. My priorities are thus structured in this order and riding has to fit in between everything else rather than everything else fitting around the riding as it has had to do for so much of the last 15 years. Having said that, riding still provides a much needed escape and connects me to a group of friends when around whom nothing much seems to have changed (which is a good thing!). Over the last year or so my good friend Jamie Barron and I have managed to sneak in a number of trips out near and far to ride and film and the video below is the result.

A big thank you to Jamie for putting this together and a big thanks to Jez Alborough and the like for making such damn fine books to entertain a 16 month old. Locke, Kant and co are mostly long gone so I'll spare them the thanks......

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