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Xmas 2005

Had a great time, photos uploaded.
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Story of a single speed

Last year I had got a bit slack and when it came to riding mountain bikes.  I was lazy and enjoying getting fat and unfit and everytime my mates tried to get me out biking I’d make some excuse.  It was pretty sad really as just that summer I’d bought a new bike.  So coming up to the worse time of year for biking I got my act together and started riding a bit more frequently.  At the time Ed was riding a single speed and was trying to convince me to have a go.  Now to be honest it does sound pretty stupid, mountain bikes usually have a lot of gears to get you up hills easily so the thought of a bike with just one gear didn’t really appeal.
However at Xmas that all changed because my brother and his family bought me a single speed conversion kit.  As I’d bought a new bike in the summer the old one was hanging around making the garage look messy.  And, apparently, because the frame is older it’s ideal for converting to a single speed.
So I did the smallest amount of work I could to get my old Kona Explosif working as a single speed.  With the addition of the conversion kit and some useful grinding of chain ring bolts by Ed I ended up with a single speed.  The trouble was I now had to ride it.
It actually turned out to be a lot of fun and over the winter some amusing times were had in Swinley forest with only one gear.  Sadly the good times were not to last and one afternoon I was riding along and thought the back of the bike was a bit ‘twitchy’  It turned out I’d snapped the frame .  Luckily at the time my brother had just converted another old frame that I had given him to a single speed so I ended up borrowing it.  The Marin was even more basic than my Kona, not a suspension fork in sight.  I must say that the suspension on my Kona, some old Rock Shok Judy’s weren’t the bounciest of forks.
I decided that I ought the get the Kona frame fixed, have some track drop outs installed and a repaint, this was wonderfully sorted out by the people at Argos Cycles.  Once I got the frame back I didn’t just want to stick old bits on it because it looked so good.  So with the help of Ed and my brother Graham who works at Pedal On we built up a new single speed from scratch.  Check out the photos for the old and new bikes to get a look at the transformation.  For you people who like to know what bits are on the bike here’s the run down:
Frame – Kona Explosif c 1997 (I think)
Forks – Brand new Kona Project 2 courtesy of John
Chain Set – Middleburn Uno
Rear Wheel – Reetard rim on a On-One In-Bred hub with a Shimano 18t freewheel
Front Wheel – Reetard rim on a PlanetX hub
Tyres – Panaracer Trailblaster 2.1
Stem – Thomson
Seat Post – Thomson
Head Set – Chris King
Brakes – Some old Avid Ti’s that I’ve had for a while (pretty much the only old pieces)
Sadly I’ve not been that well lately and so the bike is still unmuddied, hopefully that will change some time this week and I’ll be able to post a proper photo of a mountain bike how it should be, totally covered in dirt.
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American cars part II

I finally got home after an uneventful and food free flight from the US.  In a desperate attempt to try and stay awake though the jet lag I went out in my Mini.  I was soooo right about yank cars, once I got the hang of using the clutch again it was really fun, not like driving a US car.
I’ve just been catching up on some recorded TV and the last episode of Top Gear had Jeremy Clarkson revieiwing the Ford F150 Pick-up.  Now at the beginning of the review I started to get worried that he was going to like it but it’s turns out the truck ‘is rubbish’.  So cool that’s at least two of us 🙂
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If Paul ever reads this he’ll probably never speak to me again as he is not a blog person.  The pictures of the Seattle skyline were taken from his apartment, he’s just moved house though and I thought ‘there’s no way the views will be as good’.  Well I was wrong, I added a couple of photos taken from his deck.
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Americans and their cars

The US is a tough place to get around in if you don’t have a car.  So as I’m over here for three weeks I have a rental, it’s a red Pontiac Grand Am.  I’ll post some photos of it if my camera can handle the strain.
I know Americans love their cars but goodness knows how they drive around in these pieces of shit all the time.  The first time I came over here it was very odd to see non-US cars on the road.  Nowadays there are a lot of Japanese cars and some European cars.  The latter is probably due to the fact that I am staying near Seattle which is quite well to do.  The Pontiac is probably the worse car I’v ever driven.  It’s automatic for a start which is great when you don’t know what you’re doing but I can’t wait to get back into a manual.  It handles, well it handles like a boat, the only way I can think of describing the handling is ‘boaty’, ‘wallowy’ is also another word that springs to mind.  However it’s not too much of an issue, you can’t drive very fast here, maximum speed between home and work is 35 mph, if you go on the Freeway it’s 60 mph.  The roads are so wide and so straight that steering is obviously not top of the list of things that the car is suppsed to do well.
So I don’t like American cars but Americans do, they love them so much that if they could they’d do everything from a car.  Now I’m sure everyone knows this but there are lot’s of ‘drive through’ opportunities in the US.  Obviously fast food outlets are the biggest thing, but there are drive through ATM machines, and a drive through Pharmacy and that’s just on my way to work.  I’m sure if you looked hard enough you could find a drive through for pretty much everything you needed.
I wonder if they’ll continue and take the drive through to it’s logical conclusion?  Drive Thru hospitals maybe?  A Drive Thru Dentist would be easy, you’re already sat down.  How about ‘Drive Thru work’
At least in this part of the country it’s easy to drive about, I hate driving on the right and what’s with al this turning when the lights are red.  However it’s easy, everyone is very polite and you can usually find someone to let you pull out if you are in the wrong lane.  Apparently this is not normal for the US but hey it means I have an easy life.  Talking of driving check out this link that one of the guys I am working with from India sent me.
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The U.S.

Well I’m working in the US for a few weeks.  I’ve been out here before for work so I’ve got a rough idea of what goes on and how to get about.
Things were not looking good though from as early on as Heathrow 😦 I went for the ‘Fast’ bag drop as it always seems to be the easiest way to go, besides the Q’s at terminal 4 were massive.  Unfortunately the fast bag drop was sloooooooow.  I’m utterly sure that the slowness was caused by people who had not checked in and were just ignorant or blind, maybe both.  One of the very helpful BA staff walked down the line to make sure that we’d checked in, two guys in front of me who were together answered that they were checked in.  Later on a few of the BA staff tried to speed things up by getting baggage stickers for everyone in the Q, the two guys in front of me had not checked in at all and so the poor guy from BA had to go and check them in as well as sorting out their baggage stickers.  I eventually got through and with a free upgrade to business class for some reason.
Business class, what can I say but WOW!
So the nine and a half hour flight was quite comfortable and got into Sea-Tac airport feeling OK.  Very quickly through passport control, fantastic going from the guys who work there it was much less painful than before even if you did have to have your fingers scanned and a photo taken.
Baggage grabbed, although I missed it the first time round the carousel.  I have borrowed a suitcase and so didn’t recognise it  Got the hire car, and after a few false starts with the automatic and trying to remember how to get it into gear – you have to have the foot brake on, DOH! – I was off.
I’m staying in an apartment and so had to go and collect the keys, found the apartment although I ended up doing a few circuits of the ‘block’ to find the underground parking.  One last hurdle I couldn’t unlock the apartment door.  Eventually I had to ring the emergency helpline and they were just about to send someone out to help me when I worked out what I was doing wrong.
Finally sorted, it was time to crash out and see if the jet lag kicked in and tried to wake me up at two o’clock in the morning – which it did, but not for long.
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