Thursday, June 21, 2012


"INFORMATION: the facts and the evidence".

Name that tune?

Anyway, stuff thats been going through my mind. The Jones needs a little messing with. The ebb is currently run in pretty much the lowest position. Bottom bracket height is 290mm. Low. Great for stability and cornering. As i have become used to riding the Vertigo-s i've become used to a slightly higher bb. In addition, riding Jones-uk-man biff's 69er (which has a higher bb) reminded me that de-stabilising handling can be a lot of fun in the woods. So, a 420mm Eriksen post is on the way. Bushnell ebb's have a maximum 12.7mm throw, and as i am at curent maximum height on a 400mm Eriksen seat post (not due to the post - it has a minimum insertion of 70mm - but to get below the large diameter top tube, it needs to be more like 95mm)  i need a bit more post. Should be interesting to try - iirc i've been riding the Jones in this configuration for at least 3 years....the thing i'm not sure about is how the weight distribution change will affect where i want the bars (at the moment i have the loop bars flipped, so i get the 13mm drop and run a 100mm -6 dgeree stem. Flipping the stem will raise me about 16mm, or i could flip the bars? we'll see...). Taking some measurements of the front centre, centre axle to centre bar at stem etc reveal some surprising results that i'm not sure how to interpret in terms of how they affect handling. There is only so much number crunching before you need to try it out. I will maintain my saddle tip/bb distance of 83mm not raising the bars will give me a little more reach...but one of the beautiful things about the Jones handling is the ability to weight or unweight the front wheel when you need control or to minimise shock transmission. i'd kind of like to try a slightly shorter (90mm zero rise) stem on there...

What else? more new tyers on the way. Rubber Queen 29x2.2 to be exact. Rubber Queens are the burly big sister of the Mountain king II i'm running at present. Rumor is that a 2.4 will be along soon enough, but if the 29er tyres follow the sizing regimen of the 26" tyre, the RQ 2.2 will be considerably bigger than the 2.2 of the old mountain king. We'll see.

Meanwhile a quick review: Continental Mountain King II 2.4. Absolutely the best tyre for all off road conditions i have used it in. Short and sweet, eh? At 780g it isnt going to win any light weight awards. It is a big tyre, wide and tall. The high volume and square profile mean getting clearance on some frames may be an issue, but if you can and aren't a gram counter above all else, it rolls superbly, is durable, offers amazing cornering grip, excellent braking and dependable traction. The sidewalls are supportive of low pressures. I haven't used it in clay soil yet. I'll update if i do, but so far i'm extremely happy. These were the tyres i was waiting for.

I received a 710mm 20 degree bend flat bar from Seven recently. The aim is to re-examine what bar i prefer. I've been messing with a 30 degree Watson cycles parkarino as well, but this will be the least swept bar i have used for many years. It is on BA at present, the thought being that low sweep bars are probably more useful in the type of riding that this bike is aimed at. I'll need to give it some time so that i can get used to it - the immediate feeling is of having my elbows stuck out at very odd angles...but perseverance is required!...i would never like to consider myself as a blinkered zealot. An open mind and informed choice is key. Oddly, some others are looking at very similar things...

At some point i need to get round to doing a comparo of 'then and now' bikepacking kit. I was looking through some old photos recently and cannot believe how much stuff i used to take along. No doubt as confidence grows you can take less. Also some of the kit i have now is considerably better and smaller than previously - i'm mostly thinking of the full length thermarest neoAir xlite that replaced the old 3/4 length prolite and is smaller and lighter and warmer and more comfortable. Hmm. Yes, it was more expensive. But there are other parts that have helped me minimise my packed volume.

I also have to get round to thinking about what the fat bike i have in the pipeline is going to be like. At present i have no real thoughts other than i want to be able to ride on mushy ground (winter in scotland). Will this be a full-on expedition bike? shorter stays and livelier handling - more like the Maul with fat wheels? Surly have something brewing with 29x3" it seems, is this worth considering?  

Dunno. But i guess i need to get the thinking cap on.

Not been riding much, but i did re-discover the old DH course at a local woods. Was kinda fun to slip, slither and thread the trees...definitely scope for some opening up i'd say, if time allows.

More shortly...

Industrial Action.

Today i took part in the industrial action NHS doctors voted to instigate as a response to the persistent refusal of the government to negotiate, in the true sense of the word, the current pension reform they intend to force upon us.

To be clear, no one was striking. Striking is when you do not work in any capacity. Doctors were seeing all emergencies (which means anything defined by a patient as an emergency) and many were in fact performing routine work in addition. No one wants to see patients suffer.

The level of misinformation Lansley and others are willing to distribute is superficially shocking: efforts are being made to suggest that if we don't pay more, nurses pay will need to be reduced, for example. This is not true, of course. However, anyone who pays any attention to the methods of politicians in general will have no trouble seeing though this: it is typical of the machinations of the untrustworthy and Machiavellian group we currently have in government.

In 2008 an increase in retirement age was agreed (retirement age greater than politicians btw) and an increase of over 40% in pension contributions was agreed with pathways to deal with any increased need that might arise thereafter. Yes, the world has been going through tough times recently but the NHS pension takes in £2 billion annually more than it pays out, and this excess goes to the treasury. The best predictions suggest this £2 billion excess will be the case for the next 5 years. As an aside, politicians still contribute at a level similar to the pre 2008 reform we agreed to, let alone the new level which is another 40% higher again.

So i am a doctor: what do i think about it?

1) the politicians have for too long used the Hippocratic Oath as leverage in order to push through action that weakens and degrades the NHS.

2) as relatively high earners, there is always going to be negative connotations to complaining about action that affects our pay. If NHS doctors (indeed, all staff) were primarily or even significantly driven by their take home salary, there would not *be* an NHS. The pension has been one of the few features of working in the NHS that helps retention other than personal satisfaction in helping others.

3) the industrial action is indicative of the point we have come to in the funding and organisation of the NHS. Yes, it is about pension reforms and the lack of rational discussion that has been unilaterally disallowed by the government, but it cannot be seen without a back drop of staffing issues, NHS reform issues and the overall funding level of a service under increasing pressure.

Will the industrial action damage the trust the public have for us? i dont know. To be honest, i sometiems feel that the NHS is taken for granted. Perhaps a little bit of damage to the perectpion that NHS staff will always provide whatever is asked of them is a good thing? We shall see how this plays out, but my suspicion is that there will be more industrial action in time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Talented Mr Vernor.

Brian Vernor's film about the Trans Andes Challenge. Looks like a lot of fun.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


Moving on.

Plan: Daisy's bath & bed time, pack car, drive to Aviemore, ride, bivi, ride, meet chris and marty and more riding then home.

Route: Aviemore, Glenmore Lodge, Coire Cas, Miaden Creag an Leth-choin at the gaping mouth of the Lairig Ghru, up Ben Macdui, drop down to Glen Derry via Loch Etchachan/Coire Etchachan and (once i'd met up with chris and marty at the Linn of Dee) head up Beinn a' Bhuird and Ben Avon, before dropping down to the River Avon and following this to Tomintoul and back to Aviemore via the Braes of Abernethy.

Bivi site was hopefully somewhere near Lochan Buidhe.

How it went: Started riding at 10pm and despite knowing some fine folks who were taking a wee dram at Glenmore Lodge, i pedaled past and up to Coire Cas. The moon rose over Cairn Gorm and i headed across below Coire an Lochain and began to climb. It was cold but the efforts kept me warm. The forecast was generally good with some precip due in around 1-2am. My plan was to keep going until then and bivi down, get moving by 6am and meet up with the boys at 9am at Linn of Dee.

By 12.30am i was being chased by tumorous clouds. Short of my predicted bivi site, i kept an eye out for some receptive ground, found some and bedded down. Knowing the route allowed me to pack plenty of food and fluid as the initial climbs are not onerous. I had also elected to bring a couple of cans of Red Stripe and i supped a cold one back while i laid out the bed-stuff and manged a turkey, cheddar and mayo roll as the moon was enveloped by cloud. Sometime around 5.15am i woke to rain and wind buffeting my bivi sack. A quick pee led me to the conclusion that the rain had come in later than anticipated and i should head back to sleep for half an hour or so, which i duly did. The next time i awoke, the cloud gave me about 6 meters of visibility and it was wet with a fine drizzle. Nuts. Ah well, i needed to move. The coffee i had looked forward to would have to wait as it was too cold to sit outside my sleeping bag and i again assumed the uphill walk until i could start riding again past Lochan Buidhe. From here it is a steady climb over alternating beautiful plateau singletrack and sack-of-coal-size boulder fields to the base of the summit cone of Macdui. The ground was frozen; the grass petrified in a layer of frost. The wind was rising and i wasn't too surprised when the precipitation thickened to snow. As i made quick time over the last boulder field before the climb up to the summit of Macdui, the wind rose again and the snow turned to hail. Visibility was low, 5 meters max and the hail was stinging any exposed flesh. I felt sure that it would clear: the weather system had generally been very stable with relatively high pressure and good, clear skies, sunshine and moderate wind only. There was no reason to expect this pattern to change, other than it was the Cairngorm.

The top of Macdui is like a giant pile of sack-sized boulders. There is no real chance to pedal and the risk of a sprained ankle is high. Care is needed. There are several cairns leading those who are travelling in poor weather on and there are also many small weather/wind breaks. As i reached the familiar trig point, the weather again worsened. It was hard to keep the bike on the ground due to the wind and it was almost impossible to see if i faced into this fierce, freezing banshee from the north. The hail built up ice on my glasses making them worse than useless and i was slowly becoming hypothermic despite the physical activity. I knew the path down to Loch Etchachan was vague at first. The last time i rode down it i noted how it sort of coalesced as i passed the ruin that is just east of the summit and headed off to the north east. I followed this same route and came to the cliffs south of the desired location. Damn, it was bad weather to make an error, and the ground was hard going. Rather than chance my luck traverisng too far at a lower level, especially as there was a fractured cornice on the edge, i went back up to the summit and followed a new line via the ruin. Again, i came to the cornice, though there was no fracture at this point. There was no sign of any way down although for a fraction of a second i could see the tiny lochan that is en route through the swirling cloud and hail. Back up to the ruin again as i could not believe that the trail was wiped out by the snow and sheltered enough to recheck the map.

In retrospect this was clearly an error of judgement. I wasn't thinking straight at all. I descended again, desperate to get out of the furious weather. Again, the cornice. This time i dropped the bike and kicked a few steps and went to the edge. Again, i saw the tiny lochan and then realised i *was* in the right place but there was no way i could get down safely in this weather with a loaded bike. That realisaton led to some despair as it meant i had to not only turn back, but get back through the ferocious weather. I also could tell my right hand especially was far from functional, the brakes on the bike had become solid and i was in big trouble if i stopped moving or took a wrong turn.

This of course i did almost immediately. Rather than head back up to the summit again, i decided to try and circumnavigate the summit cone and rejoin the path at a snow field that would allow me to drop down again.

About half way round on featureless ground, with extremely poor visibility and a degree of disorientation i lost my grip a little. Several 45 degree turns, looking for a way out or a trail and then i stopped dead, closed my eyes and had a chat with myself. It was time to make a good decision and stick with it. Turn round, back the way i had come following tyre tracks in the snow and back to the ruin and then the summit. From here, rejoin the cairn route down and get out of the weather.

To cut a long story short, i made it down. A significant amount of arm wind-milling restored some function to my hands and so i ate all i could as i moved. I hummed and talked to myself and kept my baby girl in my mind's eye and just kept moving. On one of the snow fields, i encountered a total white out. My previous tracks had been obliterated by the weather and it was a little like wandering through a dream. It was only after i dropped again below Coire an Lochain that the snow and hail stopped and i knew i was out of danger. The ride down to Coire Cas is always a hoot and BA brought a smile to my stiffened face as i popped water bars and roosted the fine shale. Back via Loch Morlich and the sun came out as i rode peacefully through Rothiemurchas. I could see the cloud lift off the summits and it was possible that if i had timed things differently i might have been able to kick steps into the snow and get down to Glen Derry, but it was a chance too far for this day.

Set: on flickr.

Ride on.