ProjectSnail goes local


Sunday morning saw me out riding off road locally which is something I’ve never done before which sounds a bit odd on reflection.  Normally when I get a chance to ride I head up into the Dales but that does involve a car drive of an hour plus each way which stretches things out and it can often mean that the people I normally ride with can’t make it.  As I work on projectsnail this year I’m keen to ride whenever I can as riding regularly will, I hope, help me to improve and won’t leave too long in gaps for me to try and remember the tips passed on by Ed Oxley in January.  I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve been incredibly impressed by Garage Bikes but not only are they a great workshop they are helping to build a community of cyclists locally by putting on organised shop rides and women only rides as well as riding with friends.  Al invited me to come out with them on Sunday which meant a lie in instead of the crack of dawn car journey and also meant that I could start to learn what’s available to ride right outside my front door.  I’d heard that there was good stuff to ride but to be honest was not sure where it was.  I was a bit nervous as I’m not very good but I’m trying to improve and what better way that riding with local riders on local trails.

When we set off from the shop there was a slight eeeeek from me as they all pulled manuals and bunny hops whereas I was thinking curb/ lip don’t clip it and crash before we have gone 100 yards !  As I began to relax however the ride was a total blast with all sorts of varied terrain but I found it amazingly hard to get my bearings as we looped round areas that I’ve never seen but knew were never more than a few miles from my front door.  Occasionally we’d pop out onto a road somewhere and I’d get my bearings before we vanished off through some gap into a wood which provided a whole new perspective on the area where I live.  The riders were great to me as well providing tips and advice which meant that I rode some stuff I would not perhaps have normally contemplated including a couple of very steep bits and some steps (Ed voice in my head chin up let the bike roll) which went OK.  I found my abilities being stretched but not going to far (ideal) and as things went on I found myself relaxing a bit more as well on the bike instead of my normal death grip which could be to do with slowly increasing confidence but also perhaps that my battered steed has had a bit of serious kit fitted with new Shimano SLX brakes and some Lizard Skin grips.  I can’t tell you much about the technical side of these additions or talk through modulation or anything but they all felt great and the brakes in particular seem fantastic and confidence inducing.

One moment I was pleased with was a steep bit going down to a stream crossing, I was very nervous on the way down but the encouragement to keep rolling meant I got down in a sort of controlled fashion but was so pleased with myself I then forgot about the stream and ended up standing in it.  Following on from this was a steep incline (see pictures) that the lads I was with were determined to try and get up.  They enacted Sisyphus by hurling themselves repeatedly upwards but none of them managed to get to the top.  They made coming down look a breeze though.  I didn’t try this but managed to get myself round everything else and had a great time.  Can’t thank my co riders enough for their encouragement and support, they were seriously good riders but more importantly nice people.  Hopefully the snail will be doing a lot more local rides.


This seems like a good place…

to land.  Thanks Ian for inviting me to join this.  It seems fitting on more than several levels, first and foremost, I live in the central portion of the State of Washington, USofA, the heart of the Washington Apple and Wine region, so orchards and vineyards are easy to come by, and a joy to drive through.  It’s small town life, quiet country roads and mostly very relaxing.

I’ll call myself a halfademic, since I work out of the local university, but don’t work for it, and don’t teach, but I interact and collaberate.  I am a trained geophysicist specializing in GPS technology applied to earth sciences, surveying and imaging.  I get to travel to some pretty cool locations that not a lot of people get to see, much less see from my vantage point.  And I travel, a lot.  Typically there is a bike with me, since admittedly I am a cycling addict.  I ride road, mountain and cyclocross, and race a little of each.  I have latched on part time with the local bike shop, doing bike fitting, leading group rides, doing design work, etc in my free time.

Music…  I like all kinds, but I keep coming back to 3 main genres.  80’s hardcore/punk had a profound impact on my life (some shows had an impact on my head as well) when I was growing up.  Classic rock from the 60’s and 70’s was what my parents listened to, and still one of my favorites, and the last 6 years or so, I have been diving into modern stoner metal.  All that said, I will listen to just about anything, and take music playing over television at any time.

So enough about me, I am glad to be here, and look forward to sharing.


Weekend Photo Fun – Circle


Back in the summer we started off this photo fun lark as a fun activity that people could do either on their own or with their families and using social media to share the results and make it well, social.  Each week over the summer holidays a different theme was chosen by my children and I used Twitter to try and spread the word and pull it all together.  Surprisingly it went well and we had a great time doing it so we relaunched it over christmas for a few weeks which was also good fun and since then have done the odd random weekendphotofun.  This is the second one we have done and as always the children come up with the theme and this time they chose Circle which was such a brilliant choice.  The collection of photos that we have had in has been tremendous and children and adults have got involved and I loved receiving this blog yesterday about a mum and her son going out on a circle hunt.  This was exactly what I had in mind originally, people and families coming together physically or virtually to engage in a shared experience.  The photo at the top of the page is a collection by Molly aged 4 who went circle hunting round her house and garden with her dad – how cool is that?  There were lots of entries from kids this time as well as all the adults (or big kids as we are known) that made this such a great weekend.

What is it about the circle, something that is so simple but is everywhere has played such an important role in our myths and religions through stone circles, the circles of the celestial bodies that we gaze up at, the Arthurian democracy of the round table.  Whatever it is you all clearly had a lot of fun out on the circle hunt and as always the variety and interpretations on what is essentially a very simple theme were fantastic.

Me and the kids would like to express a massive thanks to all who took part, and we loved looking at the photos as they came in.  I hope you enjoyed it and the gallery below of all your efforts (hope I’ve got them all in).  If you click on the gallery you can scroll through the photos full size one by one which I recommend doing as there are some crackers in there.  We will probably do another weekend around Easter time and then may one more before we thing about doing the summer holiday 6 week one if people are interested.  As ever we’d love to know what you think.

The Perfect Circles

One by One … By The Way

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One by One … By The Way is a month long exhibition of photographs by Tony Wooliscroft at Leeds Gallery.  Tony has spent much of the last 20 years photographing The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Foo Fighters and the exhibition shows off this work, primarily focusing on the 2 main men from each band Anthony Kiedis and Dave Grohl.  Now I love live music and have been to hundreds of gigs over the years including seeing both of these bands, who I’m an unashamed fan of, and when live music is good it has a way of connecting those present with the band in a weird alchemy that is as close to magic as I think it’s possible to get.

Capturing that magic and the essence of the personalities involved is a truly difficult thing I think and it’s not something I’ve ever really tried although my co blogger Phil did it brilliantly in this shot at the British Sea Power gig we went to in Brighton last year.  Tony’s collection of the two bands really manages this and the backstage access that he has had provides the opportunity for some intimate and powerful images.  The exhibition covers over 20 years as the bands have grown old disgracefully and judging by the appearances of the band members, particularly Kiedis and Grohl it would seem that the rock and roll lifestyle suits them very well indeed.

All of the pictures are available to buy and this was something that, for me is a bit unusual when going into a gallery.  The Leeds Gallery is an independent commercial gallery (not to be confused with the Leeds Art Gallery) and perhaps I might have been put off with that title as I might think it’s not necessarily for the likes of me.  However I’ve been there quite a bit and it’s very open and welcoming.  I think the fact that it is joined onto Cafe 164 creates a relaxed atmosphere that certainly works for me.  I really enjoyed One by One …. By The Way there are some great images that brought back good memories for me and it’s worth having a look before the end of Feb

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Liberty and Anarchy – Nike Savvas at Leeds Art Gallery


I like it when you experience things that you had no idea were going to happen.  I had no intention of going to Leeds Art Gallery today, infact I’ve not been in for a little while as to be honest I often find it disappointing.  I’ve been critical in the past of the city, in my view, failing to punch it’s weight when it comes to art but today it certainly lived up to the mark.  I ended up in the gallery as my original plans for the afternoon fell through and things turned interesting from the moment I walked through the door as I was drawn away from walking straight in to a flickering light off to my right from a video installation.  The fact that I had turned right meant that I walked around the museum from a different direction which in itself provided a different perspective but also meant that I was completely unprepared for the Nike Savvas exhibition that we then stumbled across.

Fantastically playful pieces highly reminiscent of the designs that I’m sure many of us made with spirographs when we were younger drew me in to gaze in wonder at the mathematical abstract structures that had been created.  I could not help but smile when looking at them and was drawn to looking through the holes that had been created which channelled your view and changed the perspective of the piece.  There was both a simplicity and complexity that boggled the mind and I could have stood looking at them for ages.  (the top half of the photo gallery below is Nike Stavvas and the bottom half some other works we enjoyed in the gallery)

There was a lovely and clever activity for children as well where they were encouraged to take wipeable board and write down the sounds that the art made them think of and then they could record this sound onto a little gizmo and attach the recorder to the board and place it up on the wall.  This in itself was great fun going round and pressing the various recordings, a very clever way of involving children in the art and top marks to whoever thought of it.

It was not just the Nike Savvas that we liked going round today, although perhaps Liberty and Anarchy exhibition put us in such a good mood that the playfullness it engendered in us made the rest of the museum more attractive.  Who knows but for the time being I withhold any past criticism and strongly recommend you get down there to check it out as the gallery at the moment is chock full of fun, inventive, reflective, challenging and interesting art.

Snowy Solo Ride


In order for ProjectSnail to have any hope of success I’ve got to put the work in on the bike and this has proved a bit of a challenge recently as for various reasons the long suffering couple of guys that I ride with have not been around to go out.  So yesterday I headed out on my own.  This in itself asks a few questions, motivation, the only voice will be mine, no social element (one of the things I enjoy most about riding), picking a route.  I decided from a safety perspective not to head out onto into the Dales or Pennines as thought to myself if I do crash then it could be a long time before anyone found me if I was hurt.  I headed instead to a trail centre figuring that someone will find me quicker there if the worst happens – having said that the weather meant that I only saw 1 other person so I’m not sure my logic held much scrutiny.

Now I’m not really a fan of trail centres although I can’t quite put my finger on why, is it that they are man made? carved into bits of the countryside that no one else wants to use and therefore not necessarily that beautiful compared to more natural routes? is it that they are often the mtb equivalent of the M25? or perhaps because of my slowness I spend half my time having to get out of the way of the quick boys and girls? is it jealousy as I watch others seemingly effortlessly gliding around while I puff, clatter and crash my way round?  Perhaps it’s a mix of all of those things but I think above all it’s the fact that they point out my inadequacies in such a glaring way that there is no escape.  However the flip side is that they are perfect places to practice as they pack in a lot in small area so I need to embrace them I reckon.

An extra challenge awaited me as I got out of the car – snow which was coming down at a fare lick.  I decided what the heck might as well give it a go (be a good test for the Christmas present I bought myself, a new waterproof jacket) and if I got back to the car and was snowed in then there was a pub nearby.

I’m used to cycling on my own as I commute to work most of the time but I’ve not ridden a trail centre or off road on my own before.  The quietness was of course amplified by the muffling effect of the snow and the delicious noise my tyres made slicing through it – a weird sound combination of crunch and squeeze.  Of course snow means wet and rocks and northshore and wet don’t go well together especially when the snail is around.  The snow and misty low visibility put an amazing sheen to the ride though as it felt almost Dr Zhivago like and I could imagine the call of the wolves amongst the trees which were eerie in their snow laden stillness.

There were however to loud sounds that I could hear, both of which were in my head – FEAR as I made a hash of so much of the riding and Ed shouting Chin Up Chin Up.  What was interesting is that when I did go wrong I was often able to analyse why that was thanks to Ed’s teaching which I would not have been able to do before.  I did however make a fool of myself quite a lot and got frustrated with my lack of ability and inability to conquer the mental side of the fear game.  However I also did some things right.  When I found my eyes drifting towards my front wheel I repeated the chip up mantra and forced myself to look up and ahead more, to look where I wanted to go, especially on corners.  I tried to be more active on the bike where I could and I know I was doing this as the change in position means that muscles ache in a different way and yes while I crashed on the north shore and on the rocks I also managed to ride some rocks and some northshore.  I was particularly pleased when I stayed on a full section of northshore and then carried on onto the narrow section and rode it (see photo above).  I would never have attempted or done this before so step forward.  Whilst my incompetence is still hugely in evidence I’m trying (Ed would probably say very trying) and I finished tired but happy.  I had fun, I think it was a score draw and ProjectSnail inches forward.