Monday, 26 November 2012

Running with a Dalmatian: first thoughts

I've always wanted to run with a dog. Letting them off the leash to run together through field and forest. Best buds going hell for leather, playing along the way.

I never expected it to be a reality if I'm honest. But, when my wife finally agreed to get a get a dog (a life long dream of mine), she set my expectations that it would likely be a collie-cross or a unique looking mongrel with as much oompfh as, as well something with very little oompfh. Little did either of us expect to find ourselves with a delightful 10 month old Dalmatian.

Running with Chewie, our dalmatian

Is tiring. On a walkies on a leash, I ran about 100 metres at about 14kmph; I was heaving. The dog on the other hand was disgruntled that I had brought her up to a 'trot', but quickly settled back into a sniff around once I'd stopped.
That's 1-0 to the dog.

But it has got me thinking about what the possibilities are. I would love to go camping with the dog, run snowdon or perhaps even do a 'Cani-cross', like the ones I found on But I think it's going to take some time before I can even run around the local farm or field with her.

Caution and planning are unexpectedly important

Being new to a dog and the responsibility of ownership I do feel like it's something that will have to wait. I need to trust the dog and vice versa. And also a lot like my training, I need to know what food and water does to her. I need to know whether she even likes running, the cold, the rain and whether she'll return if I call her.

I don't suppose a lot of these things will fall into place all that quickly, and having read a blog post from That Mutt about running with dogs, I've found out age is another concern. It's not something I thought about to be honest, but she's only 10 months old and probably hasn't fully developed yet. So I need to do my research and plan ahead. But I can't deny it's an exciting possibility that one day her and I might be off somewhere running wild or mad, or perhaps even competing in a Cani-cross event.

But for now, she's content with looking sweet and licking everything that moves.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

2013 Cannondale Trail 29ER review

After an accident with a car exhaust which wasted most of my morning, I managed to get out for an hour on my new 2013 Cannondale Trail 29er.

Riding conditions were fair. It had recently rained and the ground was wet, but there was no standing water. The ride took me over roads, farm fields and fire-roads. No single-track and nothing particularly taxing.

The only highlights were a particularly enjoyable descent half way round and then also avoiding the curses and walking stick of an old man enraged that I was riding along his pathway. Here's the Garmin data.

First ride impressions

I'll keep this simple and just fire out what came to mind.
  • Front end is massively stiff!
  • Bigger wheels really do help you roll along better and keep your speed
  • Mountain King 2 tires clog up with mud way too quickly (a poor upgrade choice?) ...
  • ... 2.2 tires are also slightly too wide for general XC work
  • The gear is pretty easy for most flat work, but proved pretty good for the hills
  • Going downhill on this thing is a hoot
  • Like all bikes, it should be set-up for it's rider before you ride
  • Saddle is alright, but there's a lot better out there
  • Brakes work and rarely squeak, but they're not as powerful as hydraulics (obviously)
  • My wrists hurt a little bit after going over some rough ground ...
  • ... but that could be to do with 50psi tire pressures
  • Looking forward to getting out on it again
More feedback to come as I ride her more, but so far it looks promising, although I can't help but wait for summer hardpack - this thing will fly!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

If transporting a bike by car, watch out for the exhaust

What a car exhaust will do to an inner tube
I found out the hard way, but whenever you're transporting a bike on the back of a car, make sure the wheel, or in fact any part of the bike, is not directly over the exhaust. It's common sense really, but something I missed today.

What happened in my case is that I secured the wheel so that it wouldn't rotate and the very bottom of the wheel was directly over the exhaust. The tire pressure was quite high, about 50psi and with the tire not able to move, the above picture is what greeted when after a 20 minute car journey.

It's never happened to me before, but because this was the first time I was moving a 29er bike with much larger wheels and on my small MINI, it just wasn't to be.

Next time I'll be taking the wheel off and putting it in back of the car. Worth thinking about if you're putting a new bike on the back of your car too.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The obsession of Park Tools

I love using Park Tools. It's the trust in the quality of their bike tools that makes servicing a bike enjoyable. And in my own experience I've proven to myself and others that if you don't have the right bike tool, whether that's fit or quality, you're going to have trouble.

That's the pragmatic and objective view.

The other view, which is the driver that makes me spend money with them, is that I love the blue. I love collecting them and I like having workshop quality tools to hand. I like being able to take something apart knowing I've got all the right tools. And I actually hate that I have some sub-par non-Park Tools in my tool-kit.

How childish and silly really. But then, I have 4 bikes in my garage and I can't possibly ride all of them at once. In fact, I haven't ridden one in nearly a year and I've spent more than £3,000 on it. And I have two road bikes, one of which I'll probably never need to ride again. I keep it because it looks beautiful in red with white highlights.

Waste of money or part of the hobby experience?

I'd no doubt agree with my wife that buying a branded bike tool when a local DIY stores version is of at least the same quality, if not better, is a waste of money. Although another part of me says no, the value and enjoyment of owning a set of tools is at least worthy of a premium over other tools.

I'm not so resourceful that I can't ignore my tools whilst getting on with the job and I'm not so focused on making repairs so that I can ride the bike again as quickly as possible. I enjoy repairing bikes, changing and upgrading parts and I love tinkering to see how things work.

In the end, this is me explaining and justifying why I buy Park Tools and perhaps it's simply because I'm a brand loyal elitist, but I enjoy it and that's what counts.

Of course that doesn't explain why I have an inexplicable view that Pedro's tools are scum. Odd that.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Cannondale Trail SL 29ER 3 SS photos and first impressions

She's a bute
It's finally mine and she's beautiful.

I've only had a 15 minute ride on her, but I'm already a pleased owner.

When I buy a bike I'm always on the look out for odd angled photos so I can work out what upgrades I can make or what to expect etc. So here's a whole host of random photos taken with my iPhone. Look out for the huge clearance and the rear wheel configuration.

I'll be posting a review soon after my first ride this coming weekend, but for now, here are my first impressions.

Cannondale Trail SL 29ER 3 first impressions

  • The colour is lovely and it's not something I've seen on many bikes before. It's sure to be unique on the trails
  • It's not too light, but not too hefty either. I can't weigh it, but having owned many single speeds before, this is a 'good' weight, albeit subjective
  • The fork is outstanding, solid yet comfortable and with stacks of mud clearance
  • The 1.5 inch headtube (not tapered) means the front end is rock stable and with just a 15 minute ride under my belt I felt no deflection whatsoever. Really pleased with this
  • The brakes aren't as bad as I thought they'd be. I haven't owned cable disc brakes for nearly 10 years, but they stop me, they don't squeak and I think for the speeds I can expect from this bike they'll do a fine job
  • Levers are Pro-max for Cannondale and feel cheap, but they're solid and offer a good enough level feel
  • Handlebar is quite nice too, although I'm swapping mine out for a new carbon Thomson handlebars (they're currently on back-order)
  • Saddle was nicer than I was expecting and neatly co-ordinates with the bikes colours. So does the seat collar, but I've replaced that with a Thomson model
  • Tires were cheap and nasty and they've been replaced already. They were wire models, relatively heavy and looked like they had no puncture resistance whatsoever. They would however be good on the roads from a rolling resistance perspective
  • The stem that comes with the medium is about 80mm. My new Thomson stem is 75mm and it almost feels too small. The inline post from Thomson as well (yes, I love Thomson stuff :) means the cockpit is quite short
  • The pedals that came with it are tat, dangerous in the wet, but decent enough spares for emergencies or mates bikes
  • The cranks are square taper!? Hoping they last, but I presume the bottom bracket is a cheap Tange model
  • The eccentric bottom bracket was well greased, but I haven't taken it apart yet
  • Grips were nice, with single bolts to keep them on the bars. I've swapped mine for ODI Rogues, but if you like ODI Ruffians, then the originals would be ideal - the bar clamp is also in matching colours to the bike
  • There are no gear tabs for cables or mechs
  • The brakes have full outer cables on them, front and rear - in white, which is 'fetching'
  • It sure is purty
I'll get out on it at the weekend and will share my thoughts again.

Note the huge clearance

I'm 5'11" with a 31" inside leg and a medium is perfect
The frame looks tiny, but it's just the massive wheels

No mech guides. Massively stiff bottom bracket shell

Rear wheel is solid. Dishless too I think. 20t cog