Year of the Snail 2015

IMG_7715

Solo, with strangers, with friends, on new trails and old routes, from the front door and abroad, to work and back again, on a road bike, mountain bike, Dutch bike, quick spins and epic rides, in sunshine, rain, hail, snow, ice and plenty of mud, these have been my rides this year, which is my third year of Project Snail – trying to have more fun on my bikes and in particular to increase my skill, confidence and fitness through mountain biking.

I’ve definitely ridden a lot this year, regularly commuting and then getting out most weeks on the mountain bike as well.  Our regular weekly evening rides have been a god send, demonstrating how you can fit riding into a busy work/ life balance arrangement and it has kept me riding with people who are much better than me.  Their encouragement has meant that I think I am slowly improving.  It’s really hard to tell as confidence and perceived lack of skill remain rather large issues for me, but judging by how I ride some of the sections locally I definitely think things are on the up.  I must remember that it apparently takes 10,000 hours before you become a master so I’ve got a bit of work to do yet.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some of my trips to North Wales this year, #MTBMeetUP was a great weekend ,I’ve I returned to ride Llandegla a few times and we’ve had some great weekends crashing in bunkhouses and doing Penmachmo, Marin etc.  Getting round these as well as some of the more challenging local riding has definitely helped and I look forward to more in 2016.  One day I’ll find the flow.

As well as riding it’s been good to take in the Tour of Yorkshire and the Nationals in Lincoln and I launched the Leeds Bicycle Film Club showing monthly bike related films and documentaries that has been good fun and has sold out every event so it would appear that I’m not the only one who likes a beer and a bike related film.  I’ve got a good programme lined up for 2016 so grab yourself a ticket and come along.

For me more than anything though I love the social side of riding and I’ve ridden with some ace people this year, my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you, look forward to more pedals out across the New Year.  Cheers.

Advertisements

MTBMeetup

Screenshot 2015-04-20 at 19.39.10

 

Social media, a bit like the news or politicians gets a bad press – usually I think because we seem for some strange reason to be drawn to the negative in many things.  So social media when it hits the headlines is usually because of people using it to do bad things, rarely do you hear it as a force for good but that in my experience is very much what it is.  It enables you to spread ideas, entertain, inform, bring people together and coalesce them around an interest or idea.  That bringing together can be done virtually but it can also be a physical thing.  On the weekend Si Bradley (@_Si-Bradley) used that very concept and a simple hashtag to bring mountain bikers from around the country together, not to race or be competitive but to share, to meet, to socialise, to eat, to drink and to enjoy the simple pleasure that riding a bike off road can bring, irrespective of your skill or experience.

Myself, Rob (@chasinsheepMTB) and Brian (@oldstuntmonkey) left Leeds very early and got down to Llandegla for 9am to find scores of mountain bikers of every hue milling about and chatting doing that awkward thing of trying to introduce yourself to someone who may only know you via a twitter name …. i.e. hello I’m yetiridingdragon or whatever.  Amazingly the sun was out (I know it’s always sunny in Wales isn’t it) and with charity raffle tickets bought and a brew drunk with the mornings riding began.

Si had organised a great range of options for people to do if they wanted to or they could just do their own thing and people had kindly given up their time to pass on skills or lead rides.  Groups of riders headed out to ride the Blue, Red or Black runs, Craig (@P9ADV) ran a kids ride, Trail Takeover led a women’s ride, Chris (@CMJDavies) led an adventure photography workshop and I went on a skills session delivered by Steve from (@chasingtrails).  All of these people kindly gave up their time and skills for free.  Talking of free after the morning session the fab guys from Kirby Lonsdale brewery were handing out their specially produced Berm Basher beer.  Happy days indeed.

In the afternoon I headed out with Rob and Bri to have a crack at the red run and see if I could put my new found skills into action.  I was a tad nervous as I always am but I got round in a reasonably ok fashion I think.  Slowly my projectsnail confidence and skills are improving.  The beautiful day was finished with tea and cake provided by (@puremountains) and of course a bit more beer.

Could a day get any better ?  What I really liked about it was that there was none of the macho radness that can sometimes infect the MTB world, an attitude I detest.  The atmosphere was really chilled people rode, passed on skills, shared the trails and the tales and a good time was had by all.  Huge thanks must go to Si and all the helpers and sponsors for making it such a great day.  Si had even organised us a great campsite (Llyn Rhys Campsite) so we stayed over and rode the trails again on the Sunday before heading wearily and happily home.

So anyone who knocks twitter again – ignore the naysayers there are good people out there using social media to bring people together to share good times.

CDDuhybWYAAFNP9

Me and the Manics

 

manics2014970

Ever since I set this blog up I’ve wanted (but struggled) to write a post on the Manic Street Preachers and I guess more specifically my relationship with them and what they mean to me.  This week I’ll be going to London to see the Holy Bible gig at the Camden Roundhouse (thanks Phil) and I’m excited beyond belief and certainly perhaps more than a man of my age should be but that in itself is testament to the band, their longevity and relevance.

When the Mancis burst onto the scene in the early 90’s proclaiming they were going to be bigger than Guns N Roses and Public Enemy many (especially those in the music press, yes Steve Lamacq I’m looking at you) sneered and dismissed them as fake but what I heard was ambition.  Ambition was an important attribute in South Wales, not in the naked greed sense displayed by the plastic spray tanned idiots paraded on our TV screens on a daily basis, but in the ‘I don’t want my kids to have to work in the pits type of way’.  ‘I want you to get an education and get a good job’.  Good jobs were often seen to be teachers, lawyers, ministers and to this day if you walk into any secondary school in England there will be a good chance you will find teachers of Welsh heritage.  It was recognised that to escape the manual labour and better yourself then education was important.  This had been the case in South Wales right from the early days of industrialisation through the formation of the strong trade unions, miners welfare and institutes that established principles of looking to improve both yourself and your community along lines of equality and social justice.  Many left leaning leaders came out of this approach none more so that Nye Bevan, founder of the National Health Service. Libraries did indeed give us power.

When the Manics started releasing incendiary recordings chock full of pride, passion, emotion and intelligence I felt a clear lineage through to the likes of Bevan using the microphone in a different way but still using it for powerful oratory, strong messages and vision.  They were light years ahead of any other band at the time and picked up the gladioli dropped by Morrissey and breathed some Welsh fire back into the music scene.  It’s impossible in a simple blog post to cover all of the themes, authors, philosophers, cultural and political reference points that make up so much of their music because to do so would require the writing of a book.  Suffice to say that for me it is so good to have a band writing songs that actually mean something, have been thought about and that provide a fantastic education in their own right.  Having an intelligence in your lyrics however is irrelevant unless you can back them up with brilliant tunes and scorching, visceral live performances which the Manics do in spades.  I’ve been lucky enough to see them in all sorts of venues over the years from tiny sweat stained clubs to Glastonbury declaring they should build a car park over the lot of it.

I grew up in Newport in South Wales, and after stumbling through school travelled north each day up the Gwent valleys to go to Crosskeys 6th Form college.  This was at a time when my home area was being decimated by the Thatcher government and the miners strike was honing my political education.  The year below me at that college were the individuals who would, a few years later, emerge as the Manics and I understood where they’d come from and what they were singing about.  Over the last 20 odd years I’ve aged along with them, but also hopefully changed and developed along the way as they have.  Whenever I hear them, and particularly when it is live, I am transported back to where I’m from and I experience feelings of pride, passion and emotion that no other band can provoke within me.

The Manic Street Preachers – original, intelligent, controversial, ambitious, exciting – simply one of Britain’s greatest ever bands.

Manic Street Preachers - 02 Arena, London 17/12/11 | Photo by Jason Williamson

Photos from far and wide- April 14.

Following my photos in January and it’s great success I enlisted the help of 9 others to join up for an April version of the same thing. Now before you think this is a group of people who all live in Leeds, you are mistaken, these photos come far and wide and have winged their way locally from Leeds, Sheffield, Chester, and Llandinum (its in Wales before you ask!).

I have had great fun collating all the pictures and seeing how people have interpretated the project, and one of the things that sticks out to me is my connection that I have to all the people. The mix of people involved include friends from twitter, neighbours, bestest chums, a friends sisters as well as a few of my family members.

The photos show imagination, excitement, fun and great colour and to me illustrate the commonality I have with all the people involved despite some of us being 100s of miles apart. Unsurprisingly there have been similar images of gardening, craft, cooking, food, the outdoors and architecture and all stand out as things that bring you all together through me.

Whilst gathering the images I asked for some feedback from people, the comments overall highlight that its been enjoyable, and has mainly enabled people to consider positive things and fun activities they have been doing. Below are some of their thoughts….

“Its been fun doing this but even more fun looking back over the last month and seeing how different each day is”

“I enjoyed taking the time out to find something special everyday, even in the ordinary like a trip to the gym. It’s so easy to forget and whizz past what’s important so this made me focus on that. The everyday, ordinary, important stuff!”

“It’s a tiny bit of mindfulness that makes you appreciate the good things”

“The days that just involve waking up, working and coming home can be tough, and it has been really rewarding to identify something that has made me smile”

“Had lovely time taking photos. focused the mind on particular point in the day”

“Doing the April ‘photo a day’ was great fun. It was sometimes hard to remember to do as time flies by at the moment and I struggled to not make every picture of my little boy (being an obsessed parent)”

“Surprisingly I never forgot to take a photo. Unsurprisingly they seem to reflect a busy life”.

Hope you enjoy looking at the photos, and thank you to everyone involved.

Daisy xx

 

 

Daisy’s daily pics!

At the start of this New Year I decided to take a photo everyday of something I had done, experienced, a place I had been to etc. It was my nod at being more mindful about what I was doing day to day (I’m terrible for running from one thing to the next) and to create some record of cool things I had done, and it worked!

This month has been ace, I’ve been road tripping to Welsh Wales to see chums, over the water to The Big Apple to see my brother and had a pretty good few weeks at work. Many of the images do contain food I confess, a few home made creations as well as trips out to favourite haunts, both new and old. Can you guess where I’ve been?

It’s been great and I’ve realised how important connecting with people is to me, and that focusing on something good every day made me feel more positive. If I did ever feel fed up a quick review of the photos made me feel better! How could you not smile at a heart froth cappuccino, a sickly Greggs cake from your work pal, the hail stone storm you got stuck in, the beautiful Kirkstall Abbey, and an all star American breakfast?

Join me in April when I will be doing the photo a day project again, I’ve already roped my welsh chum and big sister in!

Daisy x

howies MTB shorts

52dfecb8d535cf693b000208 

I’m not really a product reviewer type of person as this blog is just about things that I like and I sort of expect that stuff I buy to do what it’s supposed to do.  Occasionally though some things are so good they warrant a bit of recognition I reckon.  I’ve got a fantastic messenger bag that I’ll write about in a little while but first some shorts.

I wear shorts most days, as I ride most days and those shorts tend to be of the baggy cycling variety worn over liners in the summer or as in the pic of me above competing at city cross over bib 3/4 in the winter.  Back in the summer despite various bits of darning my old shorts had given up the ghost and in looking around decided to give the new howies MTB shorts a whirl.  Now I love howies stuff and I hardly ever ride without one of their merino tops on and off the bike I’ve got jeans, T’s and jackets.  It’s great that they are now independent again and can box clever and for me personally it feels good to support a Welsh company that produces good ethical gear so I was interested to try out some of their newish at the time cycling specific gear.

First up out of the packaging you could tell the quality, there was a heft and solidity to them and as soon as I tried them on I knew that these were a well thought out piece of kit.  Whoever designed these rides a lot.  Any of us who ride will know that if you are not wearing bib shorts then with baggies there is a risk of things moving around the shorts sliding and basically showing bits of yourself that you and the world would rather not see.  Not with these bad boys, a high cut back of the shorts make them fit beautifully as you ride.  They are a bit more tailored than my normal shorts but with a stretchiness built in so they will move with your leg movements.   I liked the cut a lot, no material flapping all over the show but enough room for some G-Force pads if you want.  Despite the heft I mentioned at the start they don’t feel heavy on just well made and there are large zipped vents for cooling in the hotter months (remember them).  The material is fantastic, comfy, it moves with you and it’s tough taking all I’ve thrown at them no problem just wang them in the wash and voilà just like new.  They’re not waterproof but will shrug off a shower but when it really hammers down they are still nice to ride in as the bit of give in the material means they will move with you even though saturated.

They were a bit more than my normal shorts but as my mum always said you pay for what you get and in this case that’s absolutely true as what you get are a fantastic comfy pair of shorts that you can wear day in day out.  Nice job howies.

December Photo Fun – Week 3 – Red

BbwZPsIIIAAHFeD

 

Red was the theme chosen by the kids for the third week of this year’s DecemberPhotoFun and it was a lovely theme as it enabled contributors to link it to Christmas if they wanted to as, after all Red is a classic Christmas colour, but gave complete free rein when it came to interpretation and as always there have been lots of lovely photos.  The kids have chosen a single colour a couple of times before (green and yellow from memory) and I really like seeing the gallery with all the interpretations expressed through one vivid colour.  Red is one of the first colours ever used in art as ochre was mixed with iron oxide and used in cave paintings 170,000 years ago and is a colour that runs through many societies signalling as it can passion, love, warmth, life, beauty, danger, happiness, Christmas of course, socialism and is a colour that appears in many countries flags and sports kits.  Many of these were represented in the photos that came through this week.  As always click on the gallery to see all the photos as they came in and huge thanks for all who contributed (hope I haven’t missed anyone) and do let us know which ones you liked.