Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ice Cold In E11

Last friday I constructed a wardrobe. It's a massive, hugely heavy thing and looks like a coffin for a couple of obese giants. I even had to affix battens to the wall to keep the beast from falling on us, which given my DIY 'skills' is the equivalent of a caveman making fire. It took me about nine hours and was like wrestling with the Ark Royal. By the evening I could barely walk. I needed a beer. The one I reached for was a Tsingtao that Mrs Wheels had put in the fridge two days earlier. Yes, that adjunct-heavy Chinese lager which invariably gets a hammering from all corners of the beer blogoshire for (among other things) its uncompromising lemony blandness. You see, I have a soft spot for the stuff, which provided one of the milestones on my 'journey' to becoming a beer nerd.

Some years ago, I walked eight miles of a lesser-visited and more or less unrestored section of the Great Wall of China, with 80-degree vertical climbs in some parts. It was a quite incredibly hot day. The hottest i'd ever experienced, and despite the guerrilla water sellers in some of the watchtowers, very difficult to drink enough fluids to keep off a raging thirst. At the end of the hike I staggered into a 'bar' - really a collection of plastic garden chairs with an enterprising local flogging drinks from an oversized coolbox. In all my years as a beer drinker, nothing has ever come close to tasting as good as the ice cold can of Tsingtao I glugged down that afternoon in Simatai. I'm pretty sure steam was actually coming out of my ears.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Those We Have Loved

I'm a photographer who loves beer, so I've often got my camera with me in the pub. I've had nothing much to blog about just recently, so I hope you don't mind me sharing some images of beer that i've enjoyed over the last year or so. Apologies if some of the captions read like an optician's wall chart - It's times like this when I wish i'd chosen Wordpress over Blogger.

Bush Inn, Morwenstow

The Lamb, Bloomsbury

San Sebastian, Spain

Bad Toelz, Bavaria

Georgbrauhaus, Berlin

Elizabethan Bar, Westward Ho

The Narrowboat, Skipton

The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers

The Ship Inn, Lyme Regis

The Beaver, Appledore

Blue Bell, York

Seehaus Biergarten, Munich

Landsberg Am Lech, Bavaria

Starnberg, Bavaria

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Biked Drinks

It's amazing how much you can carry on a bicycle. In those far off, pre-car, pre-Vespa days of dwelling in Zone One I could bring home a weeks shopping on my bike. Rucksack on my back, newspaper down my jumper and carrier bags swinging from the handlebars. Easy. Beer bottles are hard work, though. Awkward shapes, hard to pack. Easy to smash - and they're heavy.

But look at this, from Etsy's Walnutstudio. A darn site more useful than its original purpose of carrying a bicycle polo mallet. A what?

(Thanks to my old friend Rubyspirit - creator of fine and unique jewellery - for the tip-off)

Sunday, April 10, 2011


First proper trip on the homemade singlespeed this morning. Normally, it takes me about 40 minutes to ride the 5 or so miles to work. Even though it's a nippy bike, I tend to ride like one of John Major's spinsters cycling to evensong on my Trek 7.3FX. The head-down geometry of the Raleigh shaved more than five minutes off my journey, and that's with stopping at every red light on Mile End Road Of Death. Having just the one gear really encourages you to get spinning. My legs now feel like they're made of wood. As for comfort, It's not exactly like sitting in an armchair, but neither is it like sitting astride a mediaeval torture device. It's just right for the job. The narrow bars make it track like it's on rails.

The only original components on the bike are the frame and forks, the seat pin, the handlebars and the crank. The frankly dangerous sidepull brake calipers were the first bits to be replaced, followed by the wheels. I had to 'cold set' (a posh term for 'bend') the rear triangle with a plank of wood to accommodate the new Rigida Chrinas, a procedure that filled me with terror but was actually a doddle. A delightfully 80s (and surprisingly comfy) 'new old stock' saddle was sourced from ebay, as were those creaky but effective bargain bin Tektro levers. The all-important 16 tooth singlespeed cog on the rear hub is from Superstar Components. The spacers that came with it made it easy to get the correct chainline - a crucial bit of fettling; you don't want the chain jumping off at precisely the wrong moment.

I originally intended to keep the handlebars as drops, but the brake levers work far better with the 'bars chopped and flopped - a ten minute hacksaw job. So, now the bike goes in the direction I point it, and stops when I want it to. And very quickly too, for what the bike snobs sneeringly call a gas pipe bike. Can't really ask for more than that.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Missin' Linx

The final part of the singlespeed jigsaw arrived this morning; a cheap - and hopefully cheerful - KMC chain which will be fitted this weekend to my new ride. The only original components left on the bike are the frame, crankset, handlebars and stem. The build has been fairly straightforward so far - the biggest hiccup being thieving ratbags at our Royal Mail depot a pair of new brake calipers being delayed in the post. Test flight to follow - no doubt it'll ride like a garden gate fitted with pramwheels.