Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Seafood and pork Étoufée.

Étoufée is a cajun dish - usually a mixture of fish over rice. It is less sloppy than gumbo, but similar in the use of the dark roux and the Louisiana 'holy trinity' of onions, green peppers and celery.

I mix in a bit of pork: lardons, bacon, you choose and i tend to use more veg than the typical recipe.

Here you go (for 4 servings).
Pour yourself a boozy drink.
Quaff deeply.
Make a dark roux.
Add a little olive oil and then the chopped head of celery, 2 chopped green peppers, 4-6 spring onions chopped and a large, spanish onion, again, chopped finely.
Give it about 5 minutes on a medium heat and add the lardons, chopped bacon or whatever. I also will sometimes add some pulled, boiled chicken breast at this point (boil some chicken with some oregano and maybe some garlic, long and slow).
Quaff deeply if you havent already, and take in the aroma of cooking cured pork. Ahhhhhh! bacon!.....
Stir in 500ml of chicken stock. The higher quality (home made?) the better.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper, 1-2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, A few sprigs of fresh thyme (dried will do) a bunch of parsley, chopped and 3-4 bayleaves - again, ideally fresh - scrunch them up to release the oils.
After seasoning, simmer for half an hour or so.
Add scallops - as many as you fancy and prawns too. Give it a couple of minutes, then add a lump of dressed crab (maybe 200g+?) and either a carton of cream (volume as you see fit 200ml or so ?) if you want to chase the heart attacks, or perhaps 2% Total or similar greek yoghurt and get it off the heat.

Serve over boiled rice, with Louisianna hot sauce - i like Crystal - some chopped parsley and perhaps a wedge of lemon.


Monday, August 29, 2011

? φιλοσοφία

That is Greek...and it means 'love of wisdom'...translates to philosophy. A little while back i waffled on about the fact my philosophy as regards riding was changing. Perhaps changing isn't the right word. Developing? maturing? going mouldy? heh!...Then because i didnt actually know how to define philosophy, i ended up doing a bit of wikipediaing and getting all excited by Stoicism. But i'm back now...

Despite arguably having had some good results in the (2 ?) races i entered this year, my interest in racing is waning. Clock watching, intervals, riding not-just-for-fun hasn't been doing it much over the last 12-18 months.

On the other hand, despite significant amounts of hike-a-bike and peat bogs, grand, backcountry-ish style loops have my full attention. Yes, you might end up riding for 10 hours, 1 of which is golden, but all in all a 1:10 ratio isn't all that fact, it's probably good. The work to get to out of the way places, to sample trails or views that few others do, is definitely a driving force at the moment. But it is not a oneupmanship sort of a thing. I thrive on solitude in the hills, i relish hard work in order to witness remote places. Yeah, i hate carrying my bike down rivers or through bogs, but it comes with the territory.

Anyway, yesterday i got a late start and after peering at some maps for a while, i decided to head west along Loch Voil (because i never have) and take a look at the Inverlochlarig area. This is a dead end road that grants access to the bottom of a group of mountains that define the north east end of Loch Lomond.

I have always been intrigued by the area, as the access in and out of it seems to be primarily from the west and north. What if i could traverse this area and by doing so link up the west of Loch Lomond (that acts as a great scar down the centre-west of scotland) and the area to the east - the Trossachs and Perthshire. It would be a big loop, almost definitely an overnighter if not two, but it would link up massive amounts of trail close to home...

It needs more work, particularly as the trail as you move to the west side looks like it could be both steep and very boggy in places. But the tops of Beinn a'Chroin An Caisteal and Beinn Chabhair look like they provide that precious, sweet singletrack with incredible views even if in some places it appears there might be a bit of scrambling. So one or two more reconnaissance trips and then we'll see if we can get it done before the snows fall.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A hack saw, a Dremel and a set of files.

So i got a set of the M985 Trail pedals (185g) and got to work....

It was a little nerve wracking at times...ripping up a brand new set of expensive pedals will do that i guess, but i only slipped with the file a couple of times and pedals get bashed up pretty quickly, so no matter.

Once the cage was cut down and most of the residual teeth filed down (i left a couple to aid flipping during engagement) the weight was 165g - not that i'm counting, but the Race pedals are only 155g...and these have *way* more surface area...

They are going to rock...

Anyone need some M970 xtr pedals going cheap? :-)~

Then i finished off the guide...

This required more cutting, filing, sanding and a little material removed from the outer/lower edge of the plastic bit of the guide cage...this gives me the clearance i need between the crank arm inner surface and the guide. Sweet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This is a shimano M980 'race' xtr pedal.

Notice the pedal surface area (raw aluminium sections over the axle). This represents a huge (was it 400% ?) increase in surface area over the M970 xtr pedal. Can you feel it? most definitely! No foot hotspots, much more solid connect, easier to stand on un-clipped, likely increase in pedaling efficiency without resorting to carbon solde shoes you cant walk in... In some ways it makes the M970 obsolete...a shame as i have 3 sets on the go, all in perfect working order. But in riding, the M980 is streets ahead....i *love* it...Now, if you have seen*, you may have looked at the article on Chris DeNoma's bike - a beautiful orange IF. Being a shimano rep, he's going to have some hop ups and black box type stuff, right? well precious little, but one thing he did have...

...was a modified M985 xtr 'trail' pedal. Basically he cut away the extended cage fore and aft. Look again at the raw aluminium flat area...its HUGE....precious little weight gain over the 'race' model, by removing the near useless extra cage, but a further massive increase in pedaling surface area. Errr, win?

My next project....

*Link to article:

Maul's rear end.

All curves...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Maul: almost ready for tacking and more components.

I'm really, really pleased about the lines of the frame. I wasnt sure what the sliders with the sweet stays (swoopy seat stays) would be like, but all i can say is i'm stoked. No, make that über stoked.

A bit more on this bike: Sean took my random ramblings and created a blueprint for a bike that will allow me to go from a-b as fast as possible for races lasting 10+ hours. This is where i lay my hat, in a competitive sense. There is nothing to hide behind on this build. I thought long and hard on it - optimisation is the word that springs to mind. Even if a choice was complex, everything here is exactly as it should be for the use intended.

A few more parts...

No, it doesnt have any weird, 2 headset sort of things going on. Maul will have a red/black/raw ti theme...the mango bb and headset will get slotted onto BA. King bearings are second to none in the Scottish sludge. Enve/Edge make some of the finest parts and rims i have used. It is what it is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Out and about.

Today, we were out and about - Macpac style.

Daisy's Burley.

It became clear a few weeks ago that we were going to have to get Daisy mobile without the use of petroleum. She loves seeing the trees move in the wind and feeling the air as it rushes by. So i did a bit of reading, a bit of asking around and came to the conclusion that baby trailers and seats *both* have their place.

A good friend of mine had a Burley trailer that he had been on many an adventure with his sons and after he accepted way too little cash for it, and another good friend went way out of his way to deliver it, Daisy got her first wheels.

Burley trailers are ingenious. They are big and, well, burley but they fold down and are extremely user friendly. After attaching it to the bike, we took off for a trial run. Daisy is quite wee for the harness as is. More good advice from a good friend and Burley user was to pack her in with pillows and cushions. We have also ordered a snuggle seat that will hopefully help.

At first it was all smiles, but without padding things got quite sideways and admittedly there were some tears and snotters.

In addition, Daisy will be helping out on the neighbours school run. Or maybe that would be hindering, we'll see! but now, she also has a rack-seat...again, at first it was all smiles...and i'm sure once she is used to it - and the helmet! - it will all be good. But the first run did lead to some tears...and snotters!....

It's all good.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recipe needed...

Apricot and pine nut piñon chutney:

Toast pine nuts in a pan (1/3 cup).
Combine the pound of dried apricots and the 1/2 cup dark raisins in a bowl and pour in 4 cups boiling water, leaving to stand for 10 mins. Drain the fruit but save a cup of the juice.

In a heavy bottomed pan, combine the soaked fruit, reserved water, 2/3 cup white wine vinegar, 2/3 cup sugar and 2 small red dried chiles (maybe de arbol? or japones?).

Cook over a medium heat for 30 ish minutes and let cool, then stir in the pine nuts....leave it to mellow for 24 hours and it will keep for a month.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A day off.

I took a day off work today. Kinda needed some chill time and trina's maternity leave is coming to an end, so we thought we'd take the opportunity (with Daisy kindly being looked after by her grandparents) to go out for dinner.

But what to do during the day? The last few months have left me with a long list of things i needed to do, but were not critical. This was the day.

Mostly this revolved around getting the bikes running better. You guessed, right?

1) Replace gold bolts on crank for The Maul with red ones. Swap 34 tooth ring for 35 tooth one.

2) Clean and replace oil in wiper seals on Fox forks.

3) Replace chain guide and crank on BA.

4) File down the TALAS knob on the Fox fork on BA. The lever, if the fork is in short travel setting hits the down tube as i discovered the other day. You *know* one day you will forget about this, crash and thwack either the lever off or leave a dent in the down tube. Best do it now.

5) Adjust the thru axle so the bite point is in a better place.

6) Strip EBB from Jones and clean it, re-grease and...

...use light Loctite on the thread of the wedges in the mechanism and replace in bike. I've been having to re-tighten the EBB every 4-5 hours of riding which seems like too frequently...after a chat with the guys at Bushnell, we'll see how this goes.

7) Flip Jones bars then re-fit brake levers etc. Re-flip as it clearly wasn't right.

8) Check alignment of TS-2 wheel jig.

9) Carefully strip down the Bontrager Duster rim from a Paul whub and rebuild wheel with a Stan's Flow. Always be careful as Stan's underestimate the ERD of the rims by at least one mm if not two.

Love building wheels...

10) Change tyres over to winter tyres. Its a sign of the times.

11) Replace the block on the road bike (105 now ultegra) and fit RWS skewers to finish off the wheels. Sweet as.

All in all, a productive day.

Also, i got to take Daisy for her first ride in the Burley the other day.....that needs it's own post though...

Sunday, August 14, 2011


After a bit of hurried metalwork, i removed some material from the e type e thirteen guide. it now mounts flush to the Blackspire iscg05 plate and with a bit of messing around with clearances, i had an e thirteen based guide that will work with the chainring in the outer position on the xtr M980 crank. Sweet!. it has plenty of clearance between the crank arms and the guide but may need a tiny sliver of plastic shaved from the bottom of the outer plate/lower radius of the guide *if* i decide to use a 34 tooth ring. With 35 teeth and 36 teeth rings, it clears the outward angled crank arm inner surface well. Phew.

I was nervous about attempting all this, because i really wanted it to work. After looking at it all i knew it would be close.

So it was...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Maul: components, part 1.

Part number one.

The ring may get flipped or changed out, perhaps to a 35 and perhaps to a Homebrrewed Components ring. Or Carbon Ti. Or maybe even an action tec heat treated ti ring. We'll see. But its exciting to finally start getting some of the pieces out of the boxes they have been stored in as i have collected them.

Next up is getting the guide sorted. More to come.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Project Maul.

Dry fitting the front end....

Pretty stoked right now.

Pic is Sean's. Go to Vertigo Cycles flickr for more.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Stuc a'Chroin.

Big day in the hills yesterday. Pretty severely broken. I think i'm beginning to get some sort of appreciation of what My Vertigo is going to allow me to do: despite a fair bit of portage and boggy sections between Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin, the descent down to Loch Earn ranks up at the very top of anything i have ridden. Wild riding.

More on this ride shortly, when i have collected my thoughts. I've been changing my philosophy of route choice recently and not saying too much about it...

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Gears on a singlespeed.

So the pinkster has vertical dropouts, no hanger and an ebb. Its a great bike to ride loaded, it should be! it was designed and built with input from some of the best brains i know - Tim at Sideways, the guys at Independent Fabrication and, well, me :-)~

Although touring on dirt/off/roads is pure and simple on a singlespeed - and makes sense! (are you in a rush? do you want to have fewer mechanical issues? ) - occasional use of gears is something i have become pretty interested in.

Enter the frankenmech.

Saint M800 thru axle mount on a 10mm DT swiss rws. It has an 11 tooth upper jockey and 13 tooth lower on a short cage (just cos...) and i will replace the b tension bolt for a longer version as i will be using it initially with a 6 speed 17-34 block. The arc the mech needs to take to clear this is much more severe than if you use a deeper/more cog block It is not impossible i'll need to space it out from the frame. We'll see....

More once it is mounted and working.

Something wicked this way comes...

Things are afoot.

More as it happens...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Big jockey wheels keep on rollin'

The 13 tooth jockey wheels arrived. Its surprising how big they seem compared to the normal 11 toothers on shimano mechs. I am not at all convinced i will notice any difference, but the theory is that a bigger wheel forces the chain through less-tight bends and is thus more efficient. It may be a little more noticeable in mud as well. We'll see...