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56 MPH

  • Posted by james m
  • 6 December 2010

56 Miles Per Hour is a speed that I am very familiar with. The top speed of my old van (on the flat, on a good day), apparently great for the old fuel consumption (important to someone with fists as tight as mine), and a figure that I once again became very familiar with this past summer.

This was my favourite roadtrip of 2010, perhaps the most memorable ever; a 2 week trek around Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Many thousand miles of tarmac, several Elk spottings and a great crew of 5 equally grubby bike riders.. All at 56MPH in a 1976 VW camper.

We trundled up to the Maxi Avalanche race in Are (Sweden) - an incredible part of the world and the craziest bike race I have ever been in! Racing started on a lunar landscape, plummeted through the high pastures and finished by pounding through the rock infested singletrack of the lower slopes, all bar to bar with several hundred other hooligans.

howies’ winter 2009 catalogue claimed Sweden as ‘Super Nice’. Believe me, the words are true! Inspired by the countryside, the cool wheels and the nutty racing, I'll be back for more in 2011 no doubt about it.

For a little flashback to summer and to sign yourself up for one of the best mountain bike races on the planet, check out: www.avalanchecup.com.

Thanks to the MaxiAvalanche organisers for putting on such a great event and helping us get the van started.. And HI5! to Riders Refuge, Kingdom Bike, Shinny Racing and of course howies.

Photo by [email protected]

Up The Beat

  • Posted by james m
  • 30 November 2010

Bumbling around bike races, mountain resorts, trail centres and holiday companies, you get to meet some folk... Some wonderful, some weird, some good, some not so good.

One of those people that I have met on my little jaunts around is Jay Bharadia, a mountain biker, musician, teacher and a wonderfully good person.

Jay is an outstanding guy, a man who seems to permanently buzz, loving every second of every road trip, every bike ride and every day. Jay smiles a lot, his smile infectious as his enthusiasm.

Music isn’t my forte, I wish I had some sort of talent there, but unfortunately I completely suck! Jay on the other hand has shaped this electronic album together, its beats featuring on several upcoming bike films, its flow and friendliness encompassing all that makes the man.

Have a look, play the music and forget about the work that you are trying to avoid doing, drift away and imagine bikes, trees and mountains.

iron horse by Jay Bharadia

Cheers Jay, howies, Riders Refuge, Kingdom Bike and Shinny Racing, you legends.

You know the saying: “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.” Quite clever, whoever coined it. Bit of an annoying naff-orism now.

Sometimes though we need to do it the other way round. We need to live our T-shirts.

Let me explain.

I sometimes wear a T-shirt which says “TIME NOT CASH”. I like it.

T-shirts are a nice way of preaching, of pushing the dogma you have chosen to live by. It’s ramming your beliefs down people’s throats, but in a gentle, non-confrontational, stylish way.

“Money is not the most important thing in the world,” I am saying to the world. “But time is. Time is gold to me. Give me more time to do good stuff, to have fun, to laugh with friends, to read good books, to ride my bike. And, above all, do not waste my time doing unimportant stuff.”

But, in rare lucid moments of frustration, I realise that this is not what I’m actually doing with my life.

I am one of the too-few lucky people in the world who earns enough money to pay my taxes, buy enough food, and have a roof over my head. If you have seen me in my T-shirt you would therefore think I have everything I could want. And I do. So why then do I catch myself sitting through sunset after sunset at my desk, working, working, working to earn more and more money?

It is very easy to wear very idealistic T-shirts, to have wonderful statements of intent emblazoned across our hearts. But it is far more difficult to actually live by these mantras, to pursue an uncluttered life focused on the stuff that really counts.

So I’m going to finish this post now. I’m going to make myself a cup of tea. I’m going to go and sit outside under a tree and stare at the clouds for ten minutes. And if I catch myself fretting that that is ten minutes wasted, ten minutes of work down the drain, then I’m going to punch myself!

Time not cash. It’s not a t-shirt slogan. It’s a manifesto for life.

What does it say on your t-shirt?

The Two Harrys

  • Posted by will
  • 17 November 2010

'Different horses for different courses' or so the saying goes. Bikes I think fit this idiom so very well. It is easy to envisage having one bike as a jack of all trades but I think it becomes apparent (and this has taken me years to admit) that different bikes are designed for different types of riding. I have spent years cycling a bmx bike to school then college and then to work determined to stay 'pure' and not 'sell out' to any other type of bikes. In my old age with knees no longer prepared to put up with riding any real distance on 20" wheels I slowly came round to the idea of getting a 'proper' bike for getting from A to B and keeping the little bike for fun.

The two bikes in the picture are, I think, about as far apart on the spectrum of bike design as you can get but suit my needs pretty perfectly. One has taken me around the world (as a reason to travel if not the means) and the other takes me across Manchester everyday and over the Irwell river into Salford. The link between them as tenuous as it may seem comes in the name of the designers: Both are the product, in the main, of men called Harry. The big one a Harry Quinn frame (I think possibly as old as I am.) decked out with the finest second hand bits that ebay and various bike geek's garages around Manchester had to offer for a reasonable price; and the small one the product of the imagination of Harry Schmitt at wethepeople bike co (in collaboration with Ashley Charles). The two have provided me with everything I need to keep pedalling on a bike suited perfectly to my alternating requirements. Cheers Harry(s).

King of Projects/Welsh Road Trips

  • Posted by james m
  • 15 November 2010

Last year over several of the finest beers to come out of the Alps (anyone that has been to Morzine will know the beer, good enough to keep quiet about), my friend Chris and I started to muse the idea of starting a bike company “to serve the needs of real bike riders.”

Chris may have had a few post-ride ales, yet somehow he stayed true to his word. Myself on the other hand, well I have no recollection of the conversation, only the words that Chris poked at me when he was being pro-active and putting things together.

Fortunately, I was allowed in on this project after all, and for a little while now I have been attempting to refine one of the frames to as close to perfection as possible. That process has involved mainly putting pedals on the bike and going out riding, if I’m to be honest.

But that’s all good according to the ‘boss’, and last month Chris even took me and my friend Al Stock on a road trip around some of North and Mid Wales’ finest testing grounds. This is a little vid that Chris made during the trip, almost lost forever after he left his shiny, expensive laptop in a car park in Betws! Oops. Turns out folk are pretty trustworthy round those parts anyhow.

Here’s to the last sunshine seen in Wales before the green country plunged into darkness for another few months.

Thank you kindly to howies, Riders Refuge, Kingdom Bike and Shinny Racing for covering my back at all times..

Find – The Mountain Bike Film

  • Posted by james m
  • 9 November 2010

Adventures are never ending, bike rides forever commencing.

Earlier this year I travelled to Tenerife with Dirt mag and Rowan Sorrell, bike rider, traveller and crafter of some of the finest bike trails Wales (and beyond) has ever seen.

I moved to Morzine in the Alps just after I turned 16 – I had a job cleaning bogs courtesy of a family friend – and at that time I entered mountain bike utopia. I was young and certainly naïve, but was fortunately well mentored by a good bunch of folk from all over the world.

One of those was Rowan, who I met on the hill one day and he showed me how a bike can be ridden with unbelievable style and grace – I can still remember being in awe of all the whips, tables and drifts that he pulled out in the space of one run, and all the more, how much fun Rowan was having.

Well, that was one day out of a summer that shaped the rest of my life, and now I continue to enjoy bikes and travel as much as ever, and it is so good to see that Rowan still shares that passion.

‘Find’ is a mountain bike film by Mark Huskisson, who joined us on the trip exploring Tenerife. Marks incredible filming skills along with his shared passion for bikes have come together in this film and captured, for me, the essence of it all. Not a high action, huckin’, flippin’ and spinnin’ freeride film, but rather the opposite – a calming, uplifting, motivating bicycle adventure captured.

This is the teaser, and those are Rowans voice and skills at the start. A real treat.

Film teaser by Mark Huskisson of Reset Films.

For making all my adventures possible, thank you to howies, Riders Refuge, Kingdom Bike and Shinny Racing. Here’s to many more.

James McKnight

  • Posted by james m
  • 1 November 2010

I’m James McKnight

I’m 24 years old, born in Britain (Wiltshire), I’ve lived around the world (well, mostly Europe but I did live in Australia for a few years), and this is a bit about me:

Riding, racing, testing, guiding, coaching, writing

Biking, hiking, journeying, pikeying

Veg eating, fun loving


I don’t in any way, shape or form claim to be a world saving activist, nor do I claim to be a hippy .. Er, but I kind of am (not the world saving bit, just the hippy).

I ride bikes for a living – not in a professional kind of way but I scrape through by guiding people around the mountains of Europe, testing products, coaching kids (and adults, but we’re all young at heart, hey?), writing for websites and dirt mag, and working for a chalet firm in the alps (riders refuge, by the way.)

Bikes have taken me on one big journey since I started racing aged 12; since then I’ve worked in the alps, raced and bumbled my way across the continent, and inhabited a lonely Spanish hillside, amongst other experiences.

Throughout 2010 I have travelled constantly around Europe and even across America (in all honesty, the journey was from Nevada to Utah, so not really ‘across’ the US, but it sounds good). I saw a lot of places this year and felt that i missed some opportunities to share them with the world.

Looks like my adventures will continue for the foreseeable future, so I’m going to be subjecting all you howies readers to my weekly(ish) ramblings from my travels from now on.

For what you are about to embrace, god help you.

Oh, and thank you howies, kingdom bike, riders refuge, shinny racing and all the other lovely folk that help me along my way in this endless search.

Ta very much.

{photo by Keno Derleyn}

jump in a cold river

When people ask what my job is, I never know how to respond. I go on journeys and set myself challenges. I write - for books, for magazines, for blogs. I give talks and take photographs. But none of these actually feel like a "job". And for that I am a lucky man. Do what you love, a wise man once said, and you will never work a day all your life.

It didn't start out as a career plan though. I was too short-sighted for one of those. I was too much of an angry-young-man, too frustrated at the golden cage of my nice, easy, dull life, too anxious to chase all the adventures and lessons that were waiting out there if only I would make the effort to begin chasing. I started chasing. I chased hard. I spent over four years cycling a lap of the planet.

Cycling round the world changed the direction of my life forever. For it clarified for me what I really love and care about, the things that make me come alive: it taught me that they are attainable (or might possibly become attainable) if only you summon up the nerve and the energy to take the first step towards them. You might not even know what they are. You might not end up where you thought you were going to go. But, fingers crossed, you'll end up in a good place. This excites me a lot and it's what I'm going to occasionally write about here on the howies blog. (Which, in itself, is an example of the weird and wonderful paths life can take - that someone very un-cool like me ends up getting to write for such a cool lot as howies)

But it's not all sunshine, rainbows, "chasing your dreams" and "being the best you can be". After spending over six years overseas, travelling, and being in the world's wild places I often feel trapped and bored as I try to balance my wanderlust and ambition with a desire for "normality": for friends, family, community, and stabilty. I listen to The Smiths more than is healthy. So I'm also going to write about the small but really significant little things that re-spark the soul in the course of a normal working week: the whooping mountain bike rides on frosty mornings, the great books that teach you as much as travel ever can, and the microadventures that service all the same needs as massive expeditions but in a fraction of the time. And rivers. Jumping into rivers. Yes, mostly I'll be writing about the uncontrollable whooping and grin that comes from leaping into a cold, clear river. However cold the water, however heavy your work woes, you will always feel better after a dip in a river, lake or ocean. Indeed, if I can persuade just one reader to go for a wild winter swim then I'll definitely have done my job.

At last, I know what my job is...

Alastair Humphreys
(Find out more about me and my adventures here)

Caersws Cup

  • Posted by ruben
  • 20 October 2010

Here's our friend and team rider Dan Yeomans on the grass podium after coming down the hill 2nd fastest in round 5 of the Caersws Cup downhill race.

He was under 1 second off the top (or middle) spot.

Nice one, Dan.

(by the way, the shirt he's wearing will be available online shortly as part of our winter range)

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