Hot and Sandy

Travel writing, pictures and stuff for people I know. Quite a lot of cycling talk, and some semi-controlled ranting. Hiking, outdoor and two-wheeled stuff, perhaps a little computing when it's worth talking about. Meandering thoughts.

Thursday, October 26

Work (again)

Have got an insane amount of work at the moment, so not much time to think about anything else. One thing that did occur to me though is that I *need* to go on a diet. The other day I had to decide which chin to shave first.  Here is a pic of my new bike.  Yay.  Not a bicycle, this one.  Not by a long shot.

Thursday, October 19


Today I was properly foiled by the weather. Yesterday I was riding my yellow bike in gloriously sunny climes and I thought to myself that I would pump the Boeris tyres up *really* hard and take it for a deserved spin today. When I woke this morning it was still in my mind: the thought of the humming of that trispoke.

I realised while I was stilll lying down that it wasn't going to happen. Fshhh. The noise of a street slick with rain. The noise of a "mudguards day". It would be a real shame to get the lo-pro filthy in the rain. I know that I won't have the time or inclination to clean it for a long time too. And it has some super-thin veloflex tyre on the front. Guaranteed puncture in the wet.

The yellow bike's great. I rode it the other day with an eye on the cadence display. I'm happy to report that my natural rpm is about 90 (correct, according to tradition and more recently Mike Burrows). Only problem is that I rarely achieve this in town on either fixie, so perhaps I should gear them down a little.

I suppose that would change the "workout" into more of a cardio / fat burn and less of a strength thing? Last time I went to a gym, many moons ago, we did Boat Club strength trials (a rowing thing) and I was pressing 200kg+ with one leg. Perhaps more strength isn't what I need! Last night there was a real oddity on BBC London news - a super-lame YouTube video. Rubbish. They're trying to show that they're down with the HyperNet.

In other news: tonight I'm riding a Honda to Portsmouth and I've just bought a BMW R1100RS. More, eventually.

Tuesday, October 10


Again, I have to praise the mudguards. In the last 24 hours they have saved me from two soakings. As I may have mentioned, my ancient SKS track pump broke the other week. Its replacement arrived this morning, a fantastic Park PFP3. I was practically floating in, the rolling resistance of 90psi tyres a distant memory. It was a piece of cake to get my 28mm Vittoria's to 125psi, although the strange bit of chrome trim on the pump handle is slightly irritating. Resplendent in blue, the pump will live on the *inside* of our front door, unlike its predecessor which was consigned to the porch. More when I'm less frantic at work.

Saturday, October 7

Bike Death

Docklands is a very strange and unusual place - where crack dealers and delinquent kids live in run-down estates opposite people driving fancy cars and living in half-million pound penthouses.

The result is that you can't be a normal person here and have anything nice. My bicycles obviously live inside the flat, but it seems that my motorcycle was fair game - I saw that it had been taken and immediately went to the local park, where I witnessed a gang of kids setting it on fire. Their motive for taking it was not to joy-ride, or to sell it on: they just wanted to watch it burn.

Look at the bike before and during its demise. Mindless and pointless destruction. It is frustrating to hear politicians discussing "rehabilitating" these kids. More and more, I think that compulsory parenting classes and national service would be a better solution. Discuss.

Thursday, October 5


So I'm standing in the kitchen, enjoying my morning cuppa when I hear some impossibly chirpy lady on the radio: "well, it's 8 degrees in Bethnal Green this morning, and it looks like a cold and wet day ahead". Assimilating the information through a melange of sleepiness and disbelief, I ambled into my room and opened The Winter Drawer for the first time in a few months. From it I took my Gore Wind-Stopper jersey, an incredible bit of clothing. I left the various tights, 3/4 bibs and 'roubaix' this that and the other behind. Wearing the jersey was a mistake because it's not cold today - they lied. Although the ground was wet I did not get rained on. This meant that my ride was at Gas Mark 9 for 40mins.

Today I used some clear sunglass- lenses that I got in HK for the first time too. The funny thing about them is that they're clear, so strictly speaking they're just, well, glasses. I use Oakleys, and the frame is an odd Tortoise-Shell finish, branded "rootbeer". The net effect of rootbeer frames and clear lenses is that I fear someone will think I am wearing the glasses for style. You know, like vain people would don glasses to appear studious, or serious, or just to "frame the eyes a little more, yah". I can only hope that the other elements of my riding gear - some bright blue metallic-finish shoes, for example - will make people realise that rootbeer-framed glasses ain't going to make me stylish!

So, why would I wear them? They are UV-treated, but that's not the reason. With the clear lenses, they don't cut out glare, and they're not polarised. The short answer is that three times in the last few years I have had metal splinters removed from my corneas. These splinters have been kicked up in the road ahead of me, or have come from truck exhaust. There's nothing you can do to avoid getting them in your eyes, except wear glasses at all times. So that's what I'm trying to do, even though it makes me look like a giant two-wheeled Woody Allen.

Please wear glasses when you cycle - or the following will eventually happen. You go to A&E with a scratchy eye that is bloodshot. They put antiseptic drops in, which stings like hell. Then you have to stare into the brightest light imaginable, with your super-sensitive blood-filled eye.

Next is my personal favourite part. They ask you to rest your chin on a bar. Once you're there and the lights are low, a clamp (yep, a CLAMP) fits onto the back of your head and is screwed tight, so you can't move. They sort of spring the clampy bit on you - I suppose no-one would relax if they said "right, let's get your head clamped nice and tight, shall we?" With one hand the doctor holds your eye open in an iron grip. With the other he/she scrapes a cotton bud with iodine on it over your eye (hurts hurts hurts). If that doesn't work - and it rarely does, 'cos you've already tried that at home before going to hospital, out comes the *needle*.

Theoretically there are no pain-receptors on the cornea, so the Doc says something like - "this shouldn't hurt, but it might be a teeny bit uncomfortable". Hand clamps eyelids even further open. Think Clockwork Orange. Scritch scritch, scrape, prick, prod. There is a doctor prodding your eye (which you can still see out of) with a big needle. So you see the needle coming, at close range. Horrifically traumatic. The needle grips your cornea and pulls your vision, as every nerve in your body tells you to blink and flinch. Eventually a very, very small and shiny bit of steel ends up on a cotton pad, you get a giant eye-dressing and you're told to leave it covered for 48hrs. Once it has happened to you once, your cornea is scarred and it's more likely to recur. Nice, eh?

Just think, the simple precaution of wearing dorky clear sunglasses could stop this. It's even more important if one of your eyes is dominant (as in my case). The clear glasses aren't a style thing, OK? They do make me look kind of studious though, in a Geek Chic sort of way....

Wednesday, October 4

Langue d'Amour?

How about this for an interesting link? Now you can say all sorts of technical things in French, mostly to do with planes.

Swish, swish

Last night at about 4:15pm I looked out of my office window and the ground was dry - furthermore there was a charming autumnal light bathing Gower Street. It occurred to me that perhaps I should have ridden in on one of my other bikes.

By the time I left at 5:45pm it was throwing it down with rain and it was getting dark.

I was luminous with smugness, bowling along with dry-ish feet and the knowledge that the insides of my full-length mudguards were getting soaked and covered in muck thrown up by the road. The best thing is that within 5mins of starting my trip, the actual rain had stopped so I had a really nice and quite fast ride home on soaking roads. My bike was even clean when I carried it up the stairs to the flat!

The mudguards have paid for themselves time and time again.

Tuesday, October 3

Want It! The need to buy...

I have a steel bike, which was made for me. It's really nice - actually that's an understatement, because it's fantastic. I am truly attached to it through shared experiences which mainly entail me suffering, sweating and drooling on it! If I was being cranky I'd say there are two main problems with the frame. 1) It has more than enough battle scars, testament to me riding it more than I polish it. 2) It is a little on the chubby side when compared to modern frames. When the Sirius was made, the only carbon-fibre bikes were Look or Vitus frames, ridden in the Tour de France. They were heavy CF tubes bonded into heavy CF (or more often ally) lugs. Aside from being ugly, they were flexy and unreliable. A bit like 3G phones at the moment in the UK, it was a great idea that was in its infancy. Early adopters paid through the nose for something that just wasn't as good as the old-school alternative.

This has all changed now. I think it's fair to say that the frame is now the limiting factor on the bike. All components are upgraded to lighter versions, that are more recent and work brilliantly well. I took a step towards upgrading the chassis (a cheesy Americanism it seems, when applied to a bike), when I fitted some very nice and eye-wateringly expensive Vitus CF forks a few years ago. The original wheels, groupset and other components would be laughable if fitted to a top-level bike nowadays. Yet I cling to the frame.

One of the problems is that I am not fast. There have been many times in my life when I have been far faster than I am now. That has two consequences - the primary one is that my current frame never holds me back. Sure, it would be lovely if my bike was a couple of kilos lighter, but I would be deluding myself if that would make much difference to me at the moment. I would, I fear, be one of those riders who do not, frankly, deserve the equipment they ride. It would almost be embarrassing to throw my leg over a thoroughbred frame and take it out for a club run. Surely these things are designed to have every joule of energy thrashed through them by some tanned pro? My perceptions of normal have not really moved with the times, to the extent that I see people commuting (slowly) on frames that would have literally been beyond my dreams when I was racing..... It would seem a shame to put such a thing of visceral beauty through the shame of being ridden by ... me.

On the other hand, should your bike not be a thing of beauty? Do yourself a favour and Google "Kuota Kharma". Then imagine that you could have one for £400 instead of £850 and tell me you're not tempted... Perhaps in the spring.

Monday, October 2

Monday Blues

The rain in London was pretty amazing yesterday - we're talking flashes of lightning and rain so torrential that I could hardly see the other side of the street from my flat. I loved it. There's something about really extreme UK weather that I really like; it's so elemental. I can't understand how someone can be afraid in thunderstorms. It's nature coming into the city and saying "hey! I'm still here dudes!" The rain seems to give the place a wash, and the sound of it falling and swishing in the streets is soothing.

Today is the first day back in the office for me for nearly 2 weeks. It's very hard work. I have also been off the bikes for a fortnight (during which time I've lost a kilo, probably in leg strength). I am actually dreading the ride because I know I'll feel weak, I'll be gasping up hummocks I normally batter over. It's going to be a literal uphill struggle to get back to riding fitness after a fortnight of char sui bau and noodles, as well as the odd egg tart. To top it off I have a horrible sinus cold, the result (I reckon) of dodgy air-con and a plane full of sick people on the way home. The other passengers smelt bad. Yurgh.

More later when I've dragged my complaining body into town. I also have over 2hrs of video to edit at some point. I'll wait till our new iMac arrives to do that though, spare the iBook another caning. Hee hee. PS > This morning I found a blinding bargain, which I am dying to buy: a Kuota Kharma frame in my size, new for a shade over £400. List price is £850. Hmm.