Thursday 26 August 2004

Oh, I completely give up!

Since 2001 I've used a standard stylesheet for my home page which has the navigation panel fixed to the right hand side of the browser so it doesn't scroll with the page but is always available. It's a nice trick. When I wrote this stylesheet, there were two browsers available which rendered it corectly. One was Konqueror, and the other was a late beta for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.

That beta was really very, very good indeed. It correctly dealt with all the interesting test stylesheets I threw at it. So I was really frustrated and annoyed when the final version of Internet Explorer 6 - the one which actually got released - had a very broken CSS engine.

Now, three years later, most of the available browsers render my stylesheet correctly. Mozilla does, and consequently, so of course does Netscape, which uses Mozilla's rendering engine. Konqueror does, and consequently so does Safari, which uses Konqueror's rendering engine. Opera, naturally, does. But one browser notably does not: Internet Explorer.

And what is really irritating is it isn't because they can't. It isn't because poor ickle Microsoft don't have sufficiently skilled software people to manage it. Not only is Microsoft the biggest and richest software house on the planet, they have already done it - as the IE6 beta proved. They know how to do this. They choose not to.

For years I've put up with the fact that Microsoft's customers could not see my home page as I intended it. It shouldn't matter, of course, because my page is designed to degrade gracefully, so they get the full functionality even if it doesn't look as good as it could. But over the past couple of days I decided to work up a new stylesheet which would look good with every browser. I did away with the fixed right hand nav panel and instead floated it left. I kept the visuals simple and attempted just one visual trick: using a fixed background graphic for the body text, and a the inverse of that graphic as a fixed background for the sidebar.

On standards compliant browsers the result looks simple but elegant, and I was extremely pleased with it... until I tried it on Internet Explorer.

And Internet Explorer, of course, naturally, doesn't use the same graphic origin for the backgrounds of embedded elements as it does for the background of the page. And also it doesn't compute relative widths correctly. So the headers which in the new stylesheet should line up exactly with the edge of the sidebar don't do so. And the graphic, which should flow seamlessly from a positive image under the body to a negative image under the sidebar doesn't marry up correctly.

So why do Microsoft choose to distribute a broken browser? Is it because they think the World Wide Web is not important enough for them to bother with?

It could be, but frankly I don't think so.

I think it's another example of 'embrace and extend'. Microsoft, I think, hopes to force people either to code their pages and stylesheets twice - once for standards compliant browsers and once for Internet Explorer - or else put up with the fact that their pages are going to look pretty crummy either on Internet Explorer or on standards compliant browsers. Microsoft hopes also that naiive customers, looking at websites which are coded for Internet Explorer with other browsers, will assume it's the other browsers which are broken.

Allegedly Microsoft are now getting a little rattled by the success of the new Mozilla browsers. Allegedly they plan to do something about how far behind on technology Internet Explorer is getting. Allegedly there will be a new version out soon.

Perhaps this new version will fix Microsoft's broken rendering engine. Perhaps. I'm not holding my breath. And furthermore, I am not changing my stylesheet, either. If this page looks crap to you, just consider whether it's my fault. Or yours, for choosing to support a monopoly which is deliberately breaking standards.

Friday 20 August 2004

#1 Road C


It was my partner who first drew my attention to Terry Dolan's bicycles. My partner inherited my sister's Raleigh Royale when my sister died; it's a thoroughly nice bike quite apart from the sentimental attachment, but it bears the scars of twenty two years and she was thinking of having it professionally repainted, so she went trawling round websites looking for people who could make a good job of repainting a precious bicycle.

Terry Dolan, among other things, paints bicycles. But he chiefly paints bicycles because he makes bicycles, and he makes some very nice bicycles indeed. The first time I looked at his site my attention was caught by his carbon monocoque frames, which look almost organic with their flowing curves. And ever since I'd had a sort of distant fantasy of having a new road bike built on one of those frames.

It was a distant fantasy, frankly, because my Number 1 Road Iron was (is) perfectly good, so I didn't actually need another road bike, and any money I did have for another bike was supposed to be going on a recumbent. So when the subject of 'what would be your dream roadbike be' came up in conversation I mentioned the Dolan monocoques, but that was really all there was to it.


Sometimes in the evenings I find myself sitting in front of my computer idly browsing the Web because I'm frankly too tired to go to bed. And on such an evening a couple of weeks ago I was idly browsing bike frames on eBay, frankly looking for interesting mountain bike frames. There was a link without a picture: 'EX DISPLAY DOLAN CARBON FRAME'. And I looked, and there it was: a Dolan frame, in my size, with no bids on it. It wasn't actually the frame I'd been seduced by on his website - slightly less swoopy and organic - but gorgeous, and if the price didn't rise much I could afford it.

I watched that auction obsessively, and for days there were no bids. 10 minutes before the end someone put in a bid which was just ten pounds over the start price. I waited until two minutes from the end and put on twice the start price... but the other bidder didn't bid again and I got the frame for just twenty pounds over the start price - a very good bargain indeed.

When I spoke to Dolan's they agreed to throw in a carbon wing fork for half retail price, which made it even more of a bargain. And two days later it was here.

The next decision was the groupset. I don't know if you, like me, spent hours as a broke young man gazing into bike shop windows at kit you could not possibly afford. I still have memories of utterly gorgeous chainsets and brakes which I lusted after painfully (yes, I know, sad). And the name on the box was almost always the same: Campagnolo. For me that was the ultimate aspirational brand. Consequently, I've been riding around with a Campagnolo logo on my jersey without having a scrap of real Campagnolo kit on my bike.

But it would be a crime to put inferior kit on a frame like this: Campagnolo it had to be. I phoned Oldham Cycle Centre (who'd been recommended to me as Campagnolo specialists, and I'd had good service from before) and ordered a Centaur groupset; after some agonising I ordered it without hubs, and ordered a set of prebuilt Mavic wheels. I wanted to get the bike ridable as soon as possible.

The Saga of the Headset

When I spoke to Oldham, I asked them about what headset to get. Their answer was unambiguous: get it from Dolan. So I phoned Dolan and asked what headset I needed. They said it was a Cane Creek integrated, but they didn't have any in stock. They recommended I phone a particular bike shop, who they had regular dealings with, and get it from them. So I phoned the shop and they said, ooh, no, don't get a Cane Creek, what you want is a Campagnolo. Well, as explained above, I'm predisposed to think that what I want is a Campagnolo, so I ordered it.

And on Wednesday of this week the headset arrived. Then the frame and forks arrived. And finally the groupset and wheels arrived. and I could start playing. Now, putting the crown race of a headset onto the forks is a specialist job, so I took it into my local bike shop, and Marcus the proprietor kindly fitted it for me. And I took it home and started to build up the bike... and it quite quickly became obvious that the headset was not going to fit, no way, no how. Panic. My partner looked up Cane Creek headsets on the Web, and found one called an S2. It was by this time five to five in the afternoon, and I rang Dolan's. Yes, they said, I definitely needed a Cane Creek. Is it an S2, I asked. Yes, the person said, that sounds familiar.

So I went over to Wiggle's site, where my partner had found it, and ordered an S2.

And then, in the middle of the night. I woke up with just one thought in my head: the picture on the website was wrong. The headset in the picture was the wrong shape to fit in the frame; it would not work. In the morning, further phoning revealed that the headset I needed was a Cane Creek IS2, and that none of the suppliers I usually use had one in stock. Google came to the rescue with a list of shops which listed the IS2 in their catalogues, so I rang them one by one; and one by one they said they had none in stock, but two said they had the IS6 - identical in size and shape but twice the price. Having run out of options I phoned one of these back to order an IS6. And the salesman at the other end said that since putting the phone down on my first call he'd had another look, and he did have an IS2. In one and an eighth inch, which I needed. In black, which I wanted. Bless you, I said, put it in the post.

So the next morning - yesterday morning - the headset arrived, and I was able to complete the bike. All up, including my old but comfortable Brooks saddle, it weighs just twenty one pounds. With a lighter saddle it would be under twenty. That's still quite a lot above the UCI limit, of course, but it's far and away the lightest bike I've had.

When I'd finished the build it was, of course, raining. But I had to go for a ride anyway.


I've ridden so far only about fifty miles on it. It's not far. But it already tells me I've got something pretty wonderful. The frame first: it has the very short angles which I like, which make for a responsive and engaging ride. It is, essentially, designed to be a professional time trial frame. But at the same time carbon fibre is quite obviously far more compliant than aluminium - more compliant even than good Reynolds steel. It is just so comfortable. Very little roadshock gets though either to the bars or to the saddle. At the same time it accelerates easily and climbs well.

And the transmission is just so crisp. Every gear change is precise and immediate. I've never ridden a good road transmissions before, but it's far crisper than the high-end Shimano transmissions I have on my hill bikes. I'm very impressed. I'm impressed with the brakes, as well. I had thought until recently that road bike brakes were just fairly crap and you had to put up with it. But less than a month ago I upgraded my road bike to Centaur callipers, and I had been amazed by the difference. But when you team Campagnolo callipers with Campagnolo levers, the brakes are not merely very powerful but also very light. And last but not least, those levers. I've never ridden a road bike with integrated levers before, either; always before I've had downtube shifters. But the ergopower levers instantly felt natural and comfortable and easy to use.

A weirdly enjoyable afternoon

I was doing a bit of fettling on my new bike yesterday evening, and my neighbour came round and asked me for advice on fettling his bike.

It was a mess. Both deraileur cables had frayed under the bottom bracket, and the front one had snapped entirely. The deraileurs were caked in dirt and not working. The brakes weren't working. And the tyres were utterly perished - the worst I've ever seen on a bike.
The frame had minor cosmetic rust everywhere, but no obvious major rust.  He's a very good neighbour; I owe him a lot of favours.

So this afternoon I collected it and started to strip it, dismantling and cleaning virtually everything (I didn't strip the bottom bracket - it felt very good and given the time I had I thought best to leave alone).

It was weirdly like stripping and cleaning bikes I did when I was a lad - because it was in many ways very like the bikes we had in those days. Indeed, just stripping it was a journey of exploration and memory - and some surprises.

The rear deraileur was an indexed Shimano - but it didn't have a slant parallelogram. I had thought that slant parallelograms came before indexing, but obviously not. The brakes were also Shimano, single pivot callipers. They, too, were covered in filth, and the once-chromed nuts utterly rusty. But once upon a time they'd been quite nice callipers, with nice little release levers to slack the cable for getting tyres out. The frame had a label 'Reynolds 500' which I'd never heard of before -  but it doesn't look like a great frame; minimal lug-work and rather sturdy seat stays. The wheels are 700C, but with steel rims - again, I've never seen steel rimmed 700C before.

I couldn't get the cassette off, which was a nuisance because it made servicing the drive side bearing of the rear wheel decidedly tricky. But apart from that it all went pretty smoothly. I fitted all new cables, new tubes and tyres. I thoroughly cleaned and lubricated the deraileurs. I put it all back together and got the deraileurs set just so, so it changed crisply click, click, click. I put new bar tape on just to finish the job. I got the brakes working effectively, although as I haven't trued the back wheel and it isn't perfect they're not as good as I'd like.

It was utterly different from the maintenance I do on my own bikes these days - they are, by comparison, effete machines. And I utterly enjoyed every minute of it. And the best bit of all was not so much when I sent my neighbour off for a test ride and he came back saying it was really nice, but when I got in from my own ride later he came and chapped on the back door and said he'd just been out for another ride and really enjoyed it.

Tuesday 17 August 2004

Review: Cannondale Jekyll 700

In the beginning: Lust and Longing

Long, long time ago, I can still remember when... I walked into Alan Dent's shop in Lancaster, and saw something beautiful. I knew about mountain bikes, of course; I even had one (and had shedloads of fun on it). Mountain bikes were crude, heavy gas pipe things with straight bars, wide gear ranges, tandem-style brakes, huge, knobbly tyres, and garish paint jobs. But what I saw that day was something different. Yes, it was a mountain bike, but in place of that crude, heavy gas pipe frame was an elegant confection of aluminium tubes, so cleanly welded you couldn't see the joins. In place of the garish paint job was plain, simple colour - a slightly muted green. In place of fancy graphics was a simple makers name in a simple bold sans-serif font: cannondale. It oozed quality. It begged to be ridden. But - it cost an arm and a leg, and I needed all mine for riding.

In due course, as happens in Lancaster, both my bikes - my hill bike and my beautiful custom framed road bike - were stolen, and I went down to Alan's shop to get myself a new one. The Cannondales were still there and I still lusted after one, but there was no way I could afford one and I walked out with a Scott Sawtooth, a huge, heavy, ungainly gas pipe contraption in swamp-monster-vomit green with purple and shocking pink banding - but at a third of the price.

It's not that I didn't like the Scott. It's not that I don't like the Scott - I've had it for fourteen years now, and it's taken me many thousands of miles - across floating bogs, up to the peaks of mountains, through literally pathless bits of wilderness, and down hundreds of forest tracks and paths. It's a lovely bike to ride; I still have it, and I still ride it for choice; but not very often any more, because this year I bought my Cannondale.

Every time I have to go up to Edinburgh I allow myself an hour extra to go and visit Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op. All bike shops are good, but the co-op is one of my favourites, partly because I knew the people who founded it, partly because I identify with politics but, mostly because it s'a big spacious its place full of goodies, where you have plenty of room to see the goodies. And it's mostly there that I have watched the Cannondale marque develop. Front suspension came first. I appreciated the engineering of the fatty fork - a single suspension unit on the axis of the suspension travel, highly resistant to twist and allowing the fork legs to be strong and rigid against flex. So much better thought out than the systems with twin suspension units mounted at the ends of stansions which were poorly supported at their upper ends. I watched the development of the Y frame, and its eventual demise in favour of the more elegant Jekyll. I watched, and I admired, and I lusted.

But still, I didn't need another bike, I didn't need suspension, and I couldn't afford a Cannondale. So I'd buy some little bit of jewelry for the Scott, and go home again.

It was on a visit to the co-op last spring that I first actually saw a Lefty. It was such an outrageous piece of engineering that I was immediately intrigued. I saw what the designer was seeking to achieve: the single, large diameter stansion would be so much stiffer than a pair of smaller ones, but could at the same time be lighter. It just struck me as so elegant and at the same time so jaw-droppingly radical. The build quality of the bikes was as good as it had always been - no pigeon shit welds on a Cannondale, unlike most other aluminium bikes; the designs still as clean and elegant. The aura of fine engineering, of quality, still hung about them, even if the beautiful glossy paint work was now slightly marred by irrelevant stickers. The only slight problem is that the price was still scarily high.

But the itch was under my skin: I wanted one. The choice, then, was between the hardtail F800 and the full suspension Jekyll (yes, I know I could also have had a Scalpel but frankly it didn't appeal for aesthetic reasons). I'd never actually ridden a mountain bike with suspension - with any suspension at all - so I hadn't really anything to go on to make my decision. Friends I knew who'd ridden full suspension bikes had said that they were great fun down hill, maybe not so good on the climbs. And heavy.

But the thing was, not for me they weren't. The Jekyll would weigh, all up, about 27lbs. What a terrible thing! My Scott, which I was used to, weighed 31. So the weight didn't feel like a big issue - although I knew lighter was better. But full suspension intrigued me; and slowly the feeling coalesced. I wanted a Jekyll.

First Love

I suppose I must have been a boring nuisance agonising over them through the summer, because finally one morning my long suffering partner asked why I didn't just get one then? I phoned the co-op then and there and said I was interested in a large Jekyll 700 in black, and the person who took my call said they just happened to have such a beast in stock. Two hours and a hundred and four miles of driving later I was sitting on it, riding across the gentle lumps and hollows of - cycling strictly verboten - Bruntsfield links. In a sense it was ludicrous. I'd never even sat on a full suspension bike before, and a neatly coiffured inner city parkland is scarcely a test of seventeen hundred pounds worth of cross country machine. But instantly it was a gas. The bike felt lighter than my Scott. It felt more responsive. It felt more fun. And I was confident I could cope with the suspension. I bullied the poor salesman into giving up his lunchtime to getting the bike through its pre-delivery checks that day (it was, fortunately, already built up) pleading my hundred mile drive. I (of course - this was Edinburgh) picked up a parking ticket waiting around for it to be finished. I loaded it onto the back of the truck and drove home.

The next day at Dalbeattie one thing was immediately obvious. I was faster - quite a lot faster - than I'd ever been before. I was faster downhill, which I'd sort of expected (or at least hoped). But what I hadn't expected was that I was also - and equally - faster on the climbs. This was mostly good, although it caused some ructions in the household and ultimately led to the Jekyll not being - by quite a long way - the most expensive bike under this roof, but that's another story. The bike was better than even I'd expected, and I was enjoying it more.

In fact the first month or so of Jekyll ownership was pretty much unalloyed bliss. Oh - the saddle (a Fizik Nicene) was awful, at least for my anatomy. It was replaced within a fortnight with a Brooks Professional, which I always find comfortable. And, as supplied, the remote rear lockout cable ran into the front of the suspension unit, fouling the upper (and only really useful) bottle cage. However, the documentation which came with the bike showed the remote rear lockout cable running in from the rear of the suspension unit, so I made up a new longer cable and turned the lockout mechanism round, and that cured that.

But apart from these little things the bike was just great: I was going faster, having more fun, and sailing cleanly through places I hadn't been able to ride previously. I remember one ride in particular: after a frustrating day at work I took the bike out and just blasted up the hill behind the house to the two hundred metre contour; up out of the valley farmland, up through the steeply climbing woods, out onto the high moorland of Bengairn's long shoulder. And then I turned round and blasted down again, down the track, down through the hairpins, lumps of rock spitting and jumping out from under the tyres. I remember thinking, OK, this is when you soften the front damping, taking my hand off the jumping and shuddering handlebar and turning the dial on the top of the leg as far as it would go to the soft end, feeling the difference at once.

I remember powering down the track through the wood. I remember making a balls-up of one corner, losing my line completely, knowing I was going to run out of track and then the oh-oh, this is going to hurt moment. I remember that wonderful leg coping, soaking up the huge bang of the edge of the track, carrying me through, allowing me to pull the line back, to recover, to hurl the bike into the next bend and the next, leaping over boulders, hurling smaller rocks aside, burning off the frustration of the day.

The Morning After

And then, the niggles. Once you'd got used to it being so good, you started to fret about how it should be better. The thing that niggled first was climbing steep loose stuff. The bike had even wider gears than anything I'd ever ridden before, and the lowest ones seemed stupidly low. But when I came to a steep loose bank, I just lost traction. I tried it with the rear shock locked; I tried it with the rear shock active; but I still couldn't get traction. I blamed the bike.

The Scott, with it's ancient Biopace set up, actually did this better, or so it seemed. I even thought seriously of getting a Biopace crankset for the Jekyll.

And the Lefty - that glorious piece of outrageous engineering that I had so much wanted - didn't seem to like steep climbs either. It would pant and wheeze like an asthmatic as I struggled up them. The lack of front lockout seemed such a loss. I felt I'd bought the wrong bike, that I should have forked out the extra money for the 1000 with the DLR Lefty and front lockout.

The downhills, too, had their problems. Of course you're out of the saddle most of the time on a downhill. But if you hit a bump too hard when you were in the saddle, the single bolt Ritchey seatpost which was supplied with the bike would slip. No matter how much you tightened it, just when you least wanted it your saddle would be pointing at the sky. Also, to get comfortable on the bike, I found I had the seatpost just on the safe limit mark, and I actually wanted it higher. The fact that the downhills I was riding were both faster and more difficult than I'd ever done before sort of slipped past me in my frustration.

Finally, the tyres which came with the bike, Hutchinson Scorpions, didn't seem to like any surface I tried them on. They didn't like mud. They didn't like loose gravel. They didn't like wet roots. They didn't much like bare rock, and they definitely didn't like tarmac. And if you so much as showed them a hawthorn bush they'd break out spontaneously in a rash of punctures.

Altogether, I felt a little out of love with the bike, a little disappointed. I even wondered whether I had got the right size, whether I should actually have gone for an extra large.

The Sinner Repenteth

And then gradually I realised I was trying to apply skills I'd learnt in years of riding a rigid bike to a completely different machine, and it wasn't going to work. I actually needed to adapt my technique to get the best out of the bike. Facing a steep loose bank, instead of getting out of the saddle and stomping, as I was used to, I tried staying sat down and spinning. And it worked like magic. Suddenly I saw what those apparently absurdly low gears were for: to allow you to spin up ridiculous gradients. Because you were spinning you weren't pumping the bike forward in irregular spurts, and the bike didn't break traction. Also, of course, just as you weren't pumping it forwards, so you weren't pumping it up and down. It didn't bob; the Lefty didn't pant; the remote rear lockout, which I had thought such a wonderful feature when I'd bought the bike, revealed itself to be more or less irrelevant - indeed, I've now removed the remote lockout lever and now only use lockout when going fast on flat, smooth surfaces.

There's a side benefit of this. When I got the Jekyll I could not ride it no hands - a thing which very much surprised me, because I've never before had a bike I couldn't ride no hands, and on the whole mountain bikes with their slacker angles are easier to 'no hands' than road bikes. It would persistently pull left, although not enough to upset you when riding normally. I put this down to the lefty. After all, in the folklore (the folklore that also believes against all the evidence that aluminium bikes 'crack and fail'), lefties are supposed to pull left, so I just believed the folklore. As soon as the cable for the remote lockout was removed, however, the bike was easy to ride no hands - it had been the spring in the lockout cable that had been upsetting its balance.

Two small changes helped in my change of understanding about the bike. With advice from Rik of Rik's Bike Shed I changed the seatpost for a longer, two bolt one. Saddle troubles are now a thing of the past. And also from Rik, I bought a pair of Velociraptor tyres, the modern equivalent of the Panaracer Smoke/Dart setup that I learned to love on my Scott. The Velociraptors love every surface the Scorpions hated, with the exception of wet roots. They're a bit heavier and I think they're maybe a teansie bit slower, but I'll forgive them that for their excellent grip.


I've had the Jekyll a year now. The paintwork isn't quite to pristine, with small scratches where I've fallen on rocky ground, and from rubbing on the car rack. Otherwise, it's good as new. I've changed some stuff - most of which I've detailed above, but here's the list:

  • Saddle: the fizik nicene just didn't suit me; now it's a Brooks Professional, which is all day comfortable (later changed to a Selle Italia SLR, which is equally comfortable but one fifth the weight).
  • Seatpost: The Ritchey single bolt post wasn't quite long enough and kept slipping. Replaced with a BBB two bolt, which is long enough and doesn't slip (later changed to a USE Alien which is lighter and also doesn't slip).
  • Bar Bag: Added a KlikFix mount for a Carradice Super C bar bag, the same one I use on all my bikes (now removed).
  • Bar Ends: Added Cane Creek Ergo bar ends - very nice indeed (I've also, over the years, cut about four inches off the length of the handlebars).
  • Remote Rear Lockout lever and cable: gone, not lamented.
  • Stem: replaced with a slightly longer one, otherwise identical - improves my fit on the bike.
  • Bottle cages: two. What more need I say?
  • Pedals: replaced with Time ATAC, which shed mud better than SPDs.

There's still some stuff I may change. I'd like to upgrade the Lefty, and one of these days I may do so. I had a cycle computer bodged on for a while, but the bodge failed - fitting a computer pickup to a lefty isn't easy. There's a swiss firm who make an adaptor, but it doesn't really look any better a bodge than my own. This does need more thought because I would like the computer back.

So, is it as good a bike as I thought it would be?

Well, firstly, yes it is as good a bike as I'd hoped, and I'm enjoying it as much as I'd hoped. It's made me think much more analytically about my mountain biking; it's allowed me to do things which previously I couldn't have done; it's encouraged me to ride much more - and to ride much more difficult sections - than before. A few nights ago, soloing in the dark through a twisty bit of red route singletrack, I had the sudden feeling that the Jekyll had come with a whole pack of 'get out of jail free' cards: it allows me to get away with things which I otherwise could not. It is quite simply the nicest bike, and probably the nicest physical object of any kind, that I've ever owned.

Furthermore, the 'all mountain' marketing tag means exactly what it says. In a period when mountain bikes are getting more specialised the Jekyll is still a go anywhere, do anything bike, as happy with climbing up hills as blasting down, as happy with tight twisting singletrack as with broader, easier trails.

Secondly, would I advise anyone else to buy the same model? The answer is no. The Lefty is a great concept; the bottom of the range Lefty Jake, which is what you get on the Jekyll 700, is slightly flawed execution. It is worth paying a little extra, not particularly for the lockout which three months ago I would have told you it desperately needed, but for more adjustability (I have since bought a DLR Lefty, and it is a considerable improvement).

Also, the Lefty is quite complex and appears to need quite a lot of complicated maintenance. In theory you're supposed to take it into a Cannondale dealer every forty hours for a strip and rebuild, and there's simply no way I can afford to take a day off work every month to drive the bike up to Edinburgh (or down to Keswick), sit twiddling my thumbs all day, and bring it home again - quite apart from what it would cost every month. So I'm just keeping it well lubricated, making sure it gets properly dried after wet rides, and frankly hoping for the best. And, to be fair, it's stood up to a year's moderately intensive use very well, and is still as buttery smooth and forgiving as it was on day one.


Cannondale's 2005 model range is out, and the Jekyll is retained only at the very bottom of the 'all mountain' model range. The bike which replaces it, the Prophet, is in many ways a logical development of the Jekyll.

Like the Jekyll, it has a single pivot rear swing arm pivoting in line with the top of the middle chainring. The front triangle is considerably simpler, lacking the adjustable geometry of the Jekyll and the rather complex basket of tubes that required. Suspension travel at both ends is longer, too.

Do I plan to get one? No. My Jekyll is doing me just fine.

Friday 13 August 2004

Grin factor nine

It's the middle of the sailing season, and I've got a lot of work on,
and I've also been doing stuff to the house. And the consequence of all
that is I haven't had much time to take a bike up a hill for a while. When I've got on a bike it's been to nip into town or to nip round to see someone, so it's been my road bike.

This evening, after work, I took the Cannondale out and just blasted up Bengairn to the 200metre contour and back down to sea level. And it reminded me why I love that bike so much. 200 metres of climb in under 3 kilometres of track, and it just blasts up - the only time I put a foot down was on a short crest where the track was rising so steeply I couldn't keep the front wheel on the ground. Then, at Forest Hill, turn round, spend five minutes drinking in the glowing post sunset view out over the sea towards the cardboard cutout mountains of England and the Isle of Man. And then blast down the track again, feeling the bike do its magic carpet thing over stones as big as my skull, riding as steady and as comfortable as a road bike on smooth tarmac. Hurling down through the hairpins to the gate, and when the brakes are needed - no fuss, no anxiety, no worry, no noise, just smooth sure-footed stopping.

Through the gate and blast down through the wood, in and out of shadow too quick for eyes to adjust, the track at times no more than a dim grey snake through the trees. And not slowing down because there didn't feel to be any need to slow down - knowing for certain the bike could cope with far more than this track could throw at it.

Total blast. Total fun. Total grin.

I mean, road bikes are fun too... but nothing beats that. I love that bike.

Creative Commons Licence
The fool on the hill by Simon Brooke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License