May, 2005

May 05

Some biking up north

Hanging out at Loch Maree

Dave and I had a great trip up north for a few days last weekend. Dave was on good form, as usual, and the only real complaint was that a long weekend just isn’t long enough. Despite a wet looking weather forecast mid-week, it sorted itself nicely so we didn’t get wet at all and even came back with suntans! Thanks to a complete lack of proper decision making we spent quite a bit of time in the car. After some time chatting to the boys in Square Wheels in Strathpeffer (very cool folk – if you’re wanting to start an outdoor sports shop, this is the attitude to aim for), we found out that the locals have been building some neat little trails and so we rode around the woods at Contin on Friday (there is some fun technical singletrack by the river too). After that we headed over to Gairloch, found an excellent bivvi spot and had a meal and some beers before crashing out.

Dave's an arse. Sorry, Dave's arse (in Skye).

The next day we went to Kinlochewe and headed off around Loch Maree. Basically the north side is all singletrack and takes you into Poolewe, then there is a short 7km singletrack section (which I completely dismissed as “trivial” when looking at the map) before joining the road and blasting down the other side. It was an excellent route, but pretty hard work since there was quite a bit of carrying (OK, a lot of carrying) along the north side of the loch and we arrived in Poolewe tired and much later than planned. After a couple of km climbing we were glad that there was only 4 or 5km of downhill and flat trails left before we hit the road. But we hadn’t banked on the trail being so flippin’ rocky – we were tired and had been riding rocky technical singletrack all day and started to get pissed off. The rocks just kept on coming and the trail required full concentration all the time. We walked downhill sections because we were bored and tired of riding, then we rode, then we walked, then we rode until we didn’t want to see any more rocks again. Finally, we were spat out at the road. It’s hard to communicate what a bastard this section was, made all the worse because we knew if it wasn’t so long and wasn’t after a lot of hard riding that it would be superb.

“How the fuck was that trivial?” Dave asked.

Why would you not live in Scotland? Dave, before the midge season.

Back on the road Dave got one of the worst bonks I’ve seen. I had to feel a bit guilty since he had given me half of his last roll back in Poolewe – thanks mate! Back at the car I started picking some ticks out – 19 of the little buggers. For some reason Dave only had one. I really hate those things. I found one on my foot that refused to come out so we went hunting for tweezers in Kinlochewe and Torridon only to be confronted with a bizare woman and a most unhelpful/dumb man respectively. It was late, so we bivvied at Torridon and slept well.

Woke up to glorious sunshine, ate breakfast at 8 in shorts with our tops off – a perfect day. Dave really fancied a route on Skye so we hot footed it down to Glen Sligachan and, after Dave managed to get the damn tick out of my foot, did the obvious loop there. It was lovely too (and complete piss after the day before) and it was a great time to do it, since there weren’t too many walkers getting in the way. Note to self – must run Glen Sligachan some day.

Loch Maree singletrack

I had a great laugh and am really looking forward to more like it. Hope your eye heals quickly after the operation Dave.

May 05

Trashed iPod

Trashed iPod

Excuse the photo – it was sunny and Stuart and I had been drinking wine! The other day my iPod crashed quite entertainingly. I used a linux program that I hadn’t used before to add and remove some songs and it all seemed to work fine. Then I plugged it into Jonathan’s Mac to charge it up, but after a few hours iTunes popped up and told us that it had detected a new iPod. All a bit strange and we also noticed that the iPod was getting very toasty, so we unmounted it and pulled the plug. I had a quick look to make sure everything was still intact (you know, just in case), but it wasn’t! I couldn’t see any music and resetting the device didn’t help. The ‘About’ screen told me there was only 1.2gig free and (usefully) told me that the iPod had renamed itself from “Mark’s iPod” to “Trashe~1”, which I take to mean “Trashed”. I don’t know what caused this – the linux program, or plugging it into the Mac (I’d be surprised, even though it is FAT formatted) but I guess there may be a case for either. Maybe Apple have a sense of humour if nothing else.

Apple stuff really is as good as everyone says, it even knows when it’s screwed. </sarcasm> ;)

May 05

Aviemore riding

I’m writing this while sitting in my car (the first part only, so some of it may read strangely), killing time before I have to go to bed. I’ve come up to Aviemore for a couple of days biking and to get away from the Central Belt. It’s great to get away, but not nearly as warm as it was when I left Edinburgh (at least I’ve found a bivviers wet dream of a place to sleep – Brendan, this place is five star :)).

There’s something special about mountain biking on your own sometimes. You get to ride at your own pace all the time and have loads of time to chill and daydream. Today I rode a nice loop around Rothiemurchas, around some wee lochs on singletrack and then round to mess about up at the cross country race course, which is excellent. The 7Stanes trailbuilders should be made to go for lessons from these guys. It was good, despite being woefully – stupidly – short of food and my legs feel pretty wobbly just now because of that (and I’m a bit annoyed with myself).

I slept really well thanks to the luxurious bivvi, but my planned Cairngorms route was looking uninviting. The hills were shrouded in rain and I would almost certainly be walking in the wind through snow, alone, a long way from the road and with unsatisfactorily sore legs. I retreated to the backup plan, a shorter ride around Glen Feshie, “The sheltering glen” that felt anything but.

I hadn’t been to Glen Feshie before and I was impressed – it’s a lovely place. I left the car and rode a few kms of perfect riverside singletrack, the type of riding that is so good it can never last long enough. After a while I crossed the river, onto the firetrack that turned right and climbed steeply for quite a long time. At the end of this, the trail turned right and as the hills opened out I felt the full force of the wind and the place took on a completely different feel. I hid in some trees and poured over the map while a nasty storm blew over. The path had turned into an infamous “single-dotty”, the quality of which are always impossible to judge until you’re there, and the headwind was bringing in more stormy weather. I um-ed and ah-ed and generally ponced about for quarter of an hour before deciding just to get on with it. After less than a km, I bailed. It was a scene I had seen too many times before and something didn’t feel right. There was a track, but it was vague and alarmingly wet and the route ahead looked like a prime candidate for a boggy hell. Sure, if it was bad it was only a 5km walk, but if I missed the firetrack that it met up with, things would be much worse than that, so I bottled it and turned around. Some more sleet and a puncture ten minutes later confirmed that I’d made the right choice.

I sometimes think that people, especially kiters, think that I’m some crazed gung-ho fool with no care for self-preservation (OK, so certain photos don’t help). Really though, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not a bold climber or biker and I like to think that all of the risks are carefully measured. To be honest, I don’t even think I was a particularly crazy kiter, although that point is harder to argue. Kiting is really unique to me because, more than any other sport I’ve done, it’s all about confidence and experience. Basically all I did was go mountain boarding a whole lot and fly kites as much as I could (taking six months out of my life to fly kites full-time definitely helped!) and it’s amazing how consistent and confident you can become at kiting with time. I think this is very different to boldness. I don’t find bailing out of routes all that easy, I really don’t like not getting round something, but I’m pretty proud of my decision yesterday. Something hadn’t felt right and I’m glad I was able to back off.

May 05


I brought my laptop on this mountain biking trip because this seemed like the perfect opportunity to take SVK for a real test drive. How geek is that? I’m using SVK to get over one of the problems that had me a little puzzled about version control – on open source projects, like KDE, non developers sometimes like to help test (or just be on the bleeding edge) by running the latest CVS/SVN version, so it makes sense for developers to at least try to keep the repository code reasonably solid. But how do developers use version control while developing unstable codefor their applications? The obvious solution is to use a second, non-public repository and merge changes into the main repository when things are reasonably stable, but these merges seem like a real pain. I guess you could do the same sort of thing with branches, but that doesn’t seem like the right sort of use of them to me.

SVK is a pretty elegant solution for doing exactly that – it mirrors repositories on your local machine, allowing you to work locally, without a connection to the main repository, commit changes and generally mess about until you’re happy and then merge the changes back into the main repository using a single commit (and an auto message generated from your local commit messages). I’m no expert at version control (and I may be missing major stuff here…), but this seems like a really nice way to do this. Of course, the real test will be how well things work when I get back and merge the changes I’ve made tonight back into the main Subversion repository! I won’t be telling the designer/project manager at work about SVK, it adds a extra level of complexity to version control that he’s just getting to grips with now (after some prodding ;)).

Here is a very good three part SVK tutorial that desperately needs turned into a one part affair!