MTB Mods.

I’ve been mostly happy with my Specialized Epic Carbon 29er except for a few minor niggling things which I’ve corrected over the last year or so.

The stock Formula brakes were not great. Fortuitously I snapped one of the levers off in the first few months and rather than replace just the lever; I fitted Shimano XT brakes on front and rear – they have better stopping power, less fade and are infinitely adjustable. They also use mineral oil instead of the nasty Gycol-based stuff.

The Epic’s stock tires were clearly made for speed above all else – I was never comfortable with the grip at the front. While the bike was having some down-time due to the rear shock getting serviced I added a bit more volume – Maxxis Ikon 2.2 on the back; Maxxis High Roller II 2.3 on the front – the bigger front tire really makes a difference. For what it’s worth – you might just be able to go up to 2.3 on the back and 2.4 on the front . I also went tubeless – I don’t know why specialized fit tubeless rims and tires but also ship with inner tubes – I suspect tire sealant doesn’t travel well and gets a bit messy while in transit.

Another thing I found is that the design of the front QR through-axel means it quickly degrades if too tight to the point where its no longer able to function and you have to use a hex wrench – somewhat negating the idea of a quick release. So I replaced it with the non QR version – the Maxel.

Finally I used the same maintenance window to fit a dropper. Without manually dropping the seat-post – my saddle is constantly butting me in the arse mid-jump – making for exciting nose-down landings. I do realize the Epic is a pure-bred XC bike not a dirt jumper – maybe at some point I’ll buy myself an old beater for the jumps.

Getting the right dropper for an Epic Carbon was a challenge due to i) the 27.2mm seatpost and ii) the shape of the frame which severely limits travel.  The only dropper Specialized will recommend is the Command Post XCP 350mm – which is pricy and only has 3 cm of travel – that’s $15 per millimeter ! I tried the 500mm version but that rode way too high for me and would’ve resulted in a riser; not a dropper.  KS now do a 27.2mm internally-routed  dropper and that might have been a better option but hard to know if the bend in the Epic’s frame would’ve restricted travel. Seems to be a fair amount of trial and error with droppers. Either way, you’ll probably want to have your local bike shop fit it because the internal routing is pretty complicated; but in my opinion – well worth it.

So with these new mods in place I hit the backyard trails before dusk. Nice to have a working auto-sag again (the Specialized / Fox Brain really is a decent piece of engineering) and the front tire running about 30 PSI handled really well – feels a lot more confident.

I hit one of the jump-lines and felt much more in control – no saddle tipping me forward mid-air and the trigger is really smooth – feels natural already.

Feels great to have my bike back working better than ever –  now I’ve got to rack up some miles before it gets too hot and humid !



Words to live by

Seen on a recent Reddit : Choose three hobbies :

  1. to pay the bills
  2. to keep you healthy
  3. to encourage your creativity

For me that would be software – though still looking for that pre-IPO opportunity so I can do more of 2 & 3; running / cycling (used to be soccer); and making / fixing stuff – more than happy to DIY vs. pay someone.

I’d add – it’s important to find the balance once you found your three things.

Photo is team Sharples – probably around 2001, Santa Cruz / Big Basin or thereabouts.

The Best and Worst of 2010

On the first couple of days of 2011 I’m sitting down to continue a tradition I started in 2005 (2006, 2008, 2009) I find this a nice way to review the year before its committed to the cobwebs of my long-term memory. So, here’s a quick review of the best and worst of 2010 :

Best Moments

The U7 Soccer team I coach has really come together this year – I’ve coached many of these kids for the last couple of years and this year was the first time I’ve seen teamwork and tactics emerge. They’re also super-competitive which I think is a “skill” that’s being eroded – there are valuable lessons in winning and losing. Making everyone a winner creates kids who are ill-prepared for the ups and downs of real-life.   


We visited Washington, DC over the Thanksgiving break – not the first time I’ve visited but it was the first time I’ve had the time to look around. Reading the inscriptions on the Lincoln Memorial reminds you of how far the United States has come in such a short time and of how great the United States has been through it’s short history – hopefully we now have a leader in office who can restore that greatness. I’m hopeful but only time will tell.


I work for Red Hat and through 2010 we continued to turn in good results; after my final few years at Sun staring into gloomy uncertainty – it’s nice to be on a wining team and looking ahead with optimism. It’s also nice to be in a smaller company where the impact of ones efforts on the company’s growth and success (or otherwise) are much more apparent.

Biggest Disappointment

Last year the TSA just edged out the Right-wingnuts but this year the axis of stupid take the prize. Every time I hear Sarah Palin or Glen Beck talk – I’m stunned at the breadth and depth of idiocy it takes for them to be considered leaders. Their followers are making the rest of America look stupid to the rest of the world.

Best Technology

This is a tough one. I held off buying an iPad for while but finally succumbed in August. Soon after – it replaced the “smart-phone” as the tech. toy I use the most. Apple have done it again and defined a new category – I’m excited about the future of tablets with many competing devices emerging – there are many tasks for which a touch screen presents a far more natural user experience. I still haven’t found the killer app. for the iPad but iCal, Things, Kindle Reader and Flipboard are some of my favorites that have embraced the new form factor.

On the other hand is the Garmin Edge 800 GPS-Enabled Cycling Computer – while it has a few kinks that need to be ironed out (I’m downloading the latest firmware update as we speak) – it generally rocks and Garmin have a pretty nice web service for collecting all the data from your runs, rides and workouts – Garmin Connect. I like Garmin products, like Apple – they generally “just work” and don’t get in the way too much – that, in my mind, is success in consumer technology – “get out of the way and become invisible”. I do need spend some more time playing with routes and maps and workouts on the Garmin – there’s a wealth of functionality that I haven’t tapped into yet.


So in the interests of continued health and well-being – I’ll go with the Garmin Edge 800.

Best Book

I’m still working through Neal Stephenson’s – The Baroque Cycle – a mid numbingly long and complex story of truly epic proportions and as with all Neal Stephenson – impeccably well presented. I’m mid way through book seven of eight so it will be another month or so before I’m finished. For that reason – I’ll go with “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” (Bill Bryson) – a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon at the pool.

Best Film

The only time I go to the Cinema is when I take my kids – so generally catch-up with grown-up movies via Apple TV – a few weeks back I saw Inception – very cool visually with a good story line – good enough to watch again at some point. So I think Inception wins it this year.

Running – Part 5


Lef to Right : Iain, Rich, Craig enjoy a post race “sports drink”

Last Sunday I completed the ATT Half Marathon (or Full Pikermi if you prefer). This series of posts is mostly for my own reference but if you’re interested you can read the rest here.

My personal goal was to finish in 1:50 minutes – the time of my last Half (2002?, Bristol). I managed to maintain a good pace for the first nine miles (sub 8.30 and even one sub 8 minute mile) but then basically ran out of energy and the last 4 miles were a struggle. I went pretty light on breakfast and a second Banana would probably have made all the difference. On my previous long runs – energy had never been a problem.

My official time was 1:57:01 – short of my goal but bearing in mind that just a couple of months ago I couldn’t even run 4 miles without stopping; I don’t think it was all that bad and shows that pretty much anyone can run a half with some dedication and a training plan.

This was the first ATT Marathon and I thought it was very well organized and as I’ve mentioned before – the ATT is a great place to run. My only criticism was the early start (7am) and the lack of parking meant that it wasn’t really possible for my family to cheer me across the line. Free beer and pizza after the race made up for the shortcoming though.

I plan to stick with the running – it’s by far the best way to keep fit, burn fat and clear your head. I plan to do the City of Oaks Half in November and maybe one other Half or 10k over the summer. You’ll likely find me on the ATT at least once a month for the longer runs.

I did consider doing a full marathon this year but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it without injuring my already knackered knees, feet and ankles. However, I am thinking pretty seriously about attempting a Triathlon this year – if anyone has advice on how to get started – let me know !

Running Part 4

Here’s part 4 of my running log – my 10 week journey to train for a half marathon – something I haven’t attempted for over a decade. The log is mostly for my own reference but if you’re interested you can read Part 1 ,  2 and 3 as well.

Well the running is going pretty well – I’m starting week 8 with a rest day after a long run yesterday (on the American Tobacco Trail) – I was scheduled to do 11 miles, aiming to do 12 and ended up doing 13.68. This made up for the previous week which was a complete wash-out in terms of mileage due to travel and picking up a nasty bug between Boston and Raleigh.

I have 2 more weeks and weather permitting should be able to get 2 more long runs in before I start tapering down before the run on March 21st – I’d like to diverge from my schedule and see if I can do 16-18 miles – if I can, then I’m going to sign up for the City of Oaks full marathon in November.

One last thing – if you run in the Cary / Raleigh area and haven’t already – make your next run the American Tobacco Trail – it’s mostly flat; it’s a nice even surface, great scenery and shaded from the sun – there are also mile markers to keep you motivated. It’s pretty much the perfect place to run IMO.

Running Part 3

Here’s part 3 of my running log – my 10 week journey to train for a half marathon – something I haven’t attempted for over a decade. The log is mostly for my own reference but if you’re interested you can read Part 1 and  Part 2 as well.

Yesterday I completed my fourth full week of training. It’s going pretty well – I’m still slightly ahead of plan in terms of distance and with yesterday’s 7-miler I made some good progress on pace as well. I’ve mostly been running on the hamster wheel in the gym due to cold weather and travel – but that has allowed me to get a better sense of my pace. Over the next 5 weeks I start to up the mileage and hopefully I can increase my speed sufficiently to maintain a constant time-investment as time is something I don’t have a surplus of. Yet again, I’ll be working my running schedule around my travel this week so will have to cram a lot of miles in at the weekend. I’ve also notice that I’m losing about 1lb a week – that cumulative advantage should help as I start on the longer runs.

Running Part 2

Just finished week 2 of my 10 week half-marathon training. Despite being away from home most of the week – I managed to exceed my mileage goal again – but didn’t make much progress on my pace. I have goal of finishing under 1hr 50m so need to be aiming for 8 minute miles; currently I’m barely hitting 10 min. miles consistently. With the warmer weather in the Triangle It was great to be running outside for the last couple of days (I find the treadmill desperately boring) and good to hit some small hills which should help bring my pace up.

Next week I’m hoping to squeeze in 16-18 miles and it looks like it will be warm enough to do most of those outside.

For what its worth, here’s my 10 week plan, it’s a variation of one I found here.


The Best and Worst of 2009


On the eve of the last day of the penultimate year of the first decade of the third millennium and continuing a tradition I started in 2005, here’s a quick summary of 2009 – ignoring everything between the peaks and troughs.

Best Moment

Aside from every 3 months when Red Hat announces another knockout quarter 😉

My eight-year old daughter is absolutely racing through the Harry Potter books. She’s finished the first three and is just over half way through the forth (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). After she’s finished with each book we watch the movie version. I’ve always been a big Sci-fi and Fantasy fan and it’s good to have an excuse to watch the Harry Potter movies and fantastic to see my daughter see the magic of books despite the lure of on-demand cable, movies, video games, the internet, etc.

Biggest Disappointment

This is a tough one – it’s a toss up between the right wing nut cases who maintain that this country’s problems only started the day Obama took office; and the TSA who are still punishing millions of innocent travelers every day with their ill-conceived knee-jerk reactions because they have consistently failed to improve air travel security. I can easily ignore the right wing nut cases – but I have to travel and comply with the TSA’s pointless and ineffective rules. So the TSA wins.

Best Application

My utilitarian ThinkPad semi-failed me over the summer so I used that as an excuse to flip back to using a Mac. I still use the ThinkPad as a desktop in my home office running Fedora but it is no longer portable. I’ve been using multiple machines for years (typically running OS/X and one or more flavours of Linux) and never found a nice simple way to share files until I found Dropbox. I use it all the time and now find it invaluable. [note to self – I should probably post some tips and ideas of how I use it at some point]. So Dropbox gets the top-spot. Runners up are MindNode (mind mapping) and Evernote (lists, notes, etc.). Note to personal productivity software developers – it’s no accident that all these apps. integrate with my iPhone.

I should also add; or repeat, as I’ve said it before – AR is going to be *big* – maybe this year enough people will be carrying a powerful smartphone to make 2010 the year of AR.

Best Book

I had high hopes for “And Another Thing”, Eoin Colfer – Book 6 of the HHGTTG “trilogy” but I think it was a mistake to try and replicate Douglas Adam’s style – that’s too high a bar for any author in my opinion. I’m currently wading through “Too Big to Fail”, Andrew Sorkin – an epic and well researched saga of the financial grey goo but I can’t count that as I won’t be finished with it this year. So I’d have to choose the “Omnivore’s Dilemma : A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. The book didn’t change my life in a major way but it has made me a bit more selective about what I am wiling to put in my stomach.

Anyway, enjoy the Blue Moon tonight and have a healthy, prosperous and happy New Year.