Roger The Pink Hedgehog

Voodoo 008, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

It’s built but it’s not finished. A dish of bodging and rushing spiced up by a side order of frustration is not not a palatable way to build a bike. Still having got this far and given it the round the bloke test, the following has come to light:

– The forks are a bit like my hosting server. Occasionally working, most of the time not, no one seems to know why.

– The rear brake needs bleeding. This process walks a well trodden path from me having a little bleed, then a big tantrum then a cuddle with the beer fridge. I cannot be calmed by even the most rational family members for many hours.

– The rear shock is an enigma. I found an instruction manual in German, but my attempts to translate it triggered an urge to invade my neighbours garden.

– There are apparently 27 gears in this configuration. I can select only 4, of which three make a noise not normally associated with longevity of drivetrain.

– It’s fast though, short chainstays mean sharp acceleration and it carves corners in a n”oh, we’re already round” kind. It feels like it should be great off road if someone cleverer than me can fix all the stuff I’ve broken.

And the best part of riding it in the hills is it may get muddy. I seem to be the only one who thinks pink is a good colour for a mountain bike.

EDIT: My friend Jay has come up with the perfect name for the pink poof as per the new title of this post. From now on, it shall be known by the acronym RTPG. Which – you must agree – sounds better than “yegads, whose is that pink horror?”

Do you do that in pink?

Voodo.jpg, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

I have kids and I’m pretty comfortable with my own sexuality. Rarely do I show any interest in shoes, handbags or anything closer to cosmetics than Tesco’s value underarm smelly.

And yet… and yet I find myself strangely drawn to this pink lovely on sale at Sideways Cycles (from where I stole the picture). Tim has, over the years, put up with much vacillation and the occasional U-Turn as I try to spend money in his shop.

And now he has this on sale. I nearly bought it a while ago. I don’t need it, I have almost no use for it whatsoever. After a recent ebay yard sale, my spares holding has been reduced to two semi slick yellow tyres and a cracked seat post. There is nowhere to put it nor any terrain close by to do it justice.

Right, glad I’ve cleared that up then. By simple dint of disconnecting my phone, eating my credit card and refusing to accept that this is the stonking deal of the year, I expect to remain on the boring yet non starving fiscal road of responsibility.

Nice tho isn’t it ?

Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner.

Post route finding, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

Inspiration is an interesting concept; sometimes it wanders in disguised as an old friend with a new idea, occasionally it is the product of weeks’ of intense rumination, and about once in a lifetime it is a lighting strike of “Good God, The Flux Capacitor, OF COURSE”

I’m currently orbiting a geostationary position in a galaxy full of new ideas; and after a moment of mild epiphany when the trail pixies fired up the adrenalin compressor last weekend, it seemed apposite to try the next thing that came into my head.

Thankfully it wasn’t “go and find a gibbon and see if she puts out” – instead a rather boring go and find some trails and see if they give good vibes, sent me riding from home in the hope of finding something other than field edge rubbish. I’ve tried this before and it’s always been a collision of disappointment and frustration as promising looking mappage is nothing more that hub deep hoof shadow.

So with a low level of expectation and a similar level of light, I struck out with a a map I can’t read and a GPS I don’t really understand. Sat here in the pub a couple of hours later, I reflected on what I’d learned:

1. Footpaths round here are mostly footpaths for a reason.
They’re rubbish field edge slogs on an elevation profile similar to Holland. All the enjoyment one can elicit from receiving a saddle up the Japs eye at one second intervals for approximately ever.

2. Some footpaths aren’t
And they are upgraded to evening bridleways, carefully highlighted and shared only with the other shadowy members of the Creation of Unseen Natural Trails*. We rarely use the four letter acronym as it upsets people.

3. MP3 players rock when you’re riding alone.
Especially when you have a shiny new one that has more memory than you have songs. Okay transferring music to it has sounded the death knell of my elderly PC but as the review goes “when listening to The Throbbing Buttchumpers ‘Sprouts are my muse’ the retroactive bass blends perfectly with a trebly surround bumped acoustically by a deeply pleasing squish fader” it clearly offers something classier than your mate farting Abide With Me.

4. Living somewhere isn’t the same as knowing it.
It’s great to find some bonzer new trails after riding the same ones for over five years especially as some have sufficient cheeky value to promise much fun over the next half decade. There are clearly some very rich people living round here as well with sprawling piles (must be the expense account lunches) marking the end of lost footpaths. I hope they’ve read the Aylesbury expansion plan because they’re about to have 10,000 near neighbours.

5. Riding bikes is just bloody ace.
I was running of light so cut short my exploration at the top of a stingy climb. Reversing direction, it was a delight; some fast switchbacks in the woods then a fantastic trailside up’n’over where a footpath intersected, leading to a flat out brain out rooty gulley finishing in panic stop as cars flashed past on the main road.

It would’ve been about perfect if the player had dished up U2’s Perfect Day or something pumping rock chords from Feeder or Linkin Park. What I actually got was Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes “This is the time of your life”.

Like I said, Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner**

* I stole this joke from Nick Cummins’ about five years ago. I’m assuming he’s forgotten
** I’m not explaining this. If you don’t get the film reference then you’re way cooler than me. If you do /Waves

It’s all about the bike

untitled, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

Saw this on a forum (originally from somewhere else on flickr) and it struck a chord. Every day, threads are posted on bike forums everywhere about someone losing something very dear to them.

And it’s not an inanimate object like a car. I wouldn’t give a shit if my car was nicked, claim, buy another one, job done. But if I lost a bike that is has some of my best memories locked into it, I’d be absolutely bloody gutted.

And they get sold for peanuts, by thieving tossers who don’t know their material or intrinsic value.

You could argue that this guy has taken angst to the extremes and is merely venting with understandable if impotent spleen. But I think you’d be wrong and there’s about 90% of me hopes he finds the low life scum who stole his bike.

Like cheating only different

bw 4, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

No it’s not a duplicate post. This is the original image (below) but has been heavily modified in Adobe Photoshop (or CS3 as it is now). There’s all sorts of high minded debate about post processing although, as Bez reasonably points out, it is not that much different to creating a print from a negative.

Seb Rogers, who takes exceptional pictures for a living, made some interesting points here. Personally, I’ve always been an “click the auto-fix icon” kind of bloke with occasional forays into the image embellishment templates when the image is crap or blurred.

But today I learned something. With post processing, you can transform an uninspiring image into something striking through skilled manipulation. The skill here was provided by others who know better but the argument stands; maybe a worrying percentage of being a digital photographer is the ability to make best use of post processing tools.

I really like the result and – especially shooting raw – it creates a safety buffer around exposures, colours, etc when capturing the original image. So the few photos you salvage off a big, fat memory card can be tweaked to the max for not only the best result but also to reflect some personal style.

It sort of feels like cheating but it also kind of feels like art. I need to be so much better at one of those. I’ll leave you to guess which one.

Fast Glass

Now with added contrast, originally uploaded by Alex Leigh.

I know precisely bugger all about how photography really works. It sits in the 20% of the “how the world works pie chart” under the heading “no idea at all”. Included in this ever widening slice are questions such as “why doesn’t electricity fall out of the socket when you take the plug out” and “Big Brother, what the fuck?”

But proper followers of the dark art actually talk mainly of light. And carrying light through complex multi layered lenses becomes stupidly expensive as the focal length increases.Or, in my case, just turn the ISO up and live with a bit of graining 😉 This picture was captured on the end of about 400mm of Tamron lens.

The Blackbird (actually it’s a female, so it’s brown, go figure) is around fifty feet away on next doors garage roof. To make life doubly difficult, the insanely clever camera has to calculate the correct exposure against a gray sky metered through a grubby double glazed window.

How does it do that? It’s in the 20% somewhere.

Proper nutters

Mark lamented on a previous post that he “wasn’t even a proper nutter”. Now that’s between him and his analyst 😉 but if one took a dry dictionary definition of the term nutter and transposed it across to a 3-D environment, it would look something like this.

(with an appreciate nod to my friend Mike who was all things stitchy in Photoshop)

Momentary insanity saw me add the hefty weight of the camera to my over-hefted form, which was already struggling to push the SX Trail about at Chicksands. Riding in the style of “scared shitless sack of shit having a shit day being shit” was not totally fulfilling, so instead I whipped out the vanity cam and started randomly clicking.

Even flushed with the success of my previous efforts, it’s obvious that there is more to this proper photography than just adopting a squinting position close to the action, then stabbing the shutter release when something passes through the viewfinder. Entire continents of knowledge pertaining to pre-focussing, exposure compensation, positioning and panning require proper exploring.

And so far, I even barely understand the language.So nuttercam(tm) missed some of their almost balletic ability to ride in a third dimension that would have most of us wibbling for our mums and booking extended stays in dirty hospitals. What struck me most about these guys (not a girl amongst them which must make for excessive masturbation amongst dirt jumpers) was their age (from young back to barely developed embryos), Clothes (street threads hiding occasional body armour), attitude (laid back to the point of catatonic) and unstinting enthusiasm (try, crash, dust off, grin, try again).

Check out the guy below. He must have tried this trick (whatever it was, tailwhip to fakie, dirt-face finish) twenty times and never came close to landing it. Well not with the the bike anyway. Didn’t seem to bother him tho.

Back over the other side, older blokes who should know better were having it stupid off the recently rebuilt “little” ladder – Yeah it’s “little” like the Sahara is “a bit dry”. Two Irish guys with huge springs, counterbalanced by smaller brains, were taking a hundred yard run up to ensure they disdainfully avoided the downslope and, instead landed on the flat bottom of the hill.

Flickr: Quite mad.Flickr: Faming bonkers.

Go big or go home was their of repeated mantra. And so I did; go home that is. I’m putting up a reward for my bravery last seen around November 2006. It’s pretty small and hard to spot but if you’ve seen it, I’d still like it back 🙁

Click here for a few more examples of the nutters day out.

You could buy a camera for that…

Having invested (a word that has oft entered my vocabulary when explaining fiscal sleight of hand to those less skilled in the art of complex financial transactions) in a keenly priced pre-loved digital SLR, it was – of course – only a matter of days before it became the platform for expensive upgrades.It’s good to know that the “all the gear, no idea” approach to Mountain Biking which has served me so averagely was seamlessly transferred to yet another expensive hobby.

To replace the perfectly adequate 18-55mm lens which arrived as part of the deal, I spent/spunked/wasted invested around seventy quid more than the entire purchase price of the camera bundle on a shiny new optical placebo. This lens is better is so many varied and expensive ways, it’s hardly worth mentioning that in terms of focal lengths, it is about the same.

But the “aspherical glass with 13 elements in 9 groups virtually eliminates chromatic aberration and a pass through aperture of f/2.8 along the entire length of the zoom ensures perfect composition and world peace“. I know this to be true because it plainly stated it on the marketing material.

I am more disturbed with my choice of subject since after chasing sweaty men dressed in figure hugging lycra through steamy, dark woods the other evening, now I am reduced to taking pictures of flowers. But it was – as seems to be the ground weather state for Spring/Summer 2007 – pissing down with rain so even a girly rose shot was elevated over taking pictures of the back door. If you catch my drift 😉

I intend to give it a proper outing tomorrow during a father’s day visit to Chicksands. I expect this will save me having to ride much, or – if I must – then I can test the efficacy of this mightly lens under fluorescent light in Bedford A&E.