Agent Picolax

I have not laughed like this for years — whatever you do not read this at work!

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On the Benefits of Owning a Heckler

So, after a year of coveting it, and four months of dithering, about four weeks ago I have become a proud owner of Santa Cruz Heckler. I once heard a friend of a friend to say something along the lines that the Heckler is a piece of overpriced, decade-outdated technology; Californian tat. I am fairly certain that the chap never actually rode one, for the Heckler is a truly awesome piece of kit that hugely surpassed my (by no means low) expectations.

So what is so great about it ? It rides incredibly well! I suspect that the secret of the Heckler is that the Santa Cruz guys got the geometry of the bike spot on; if you build it up with a 140mm fork as they recommend (in my case a coil Pike 454), the center of gravity is bang on over the bottom bracket. This has a number of significant consequences:

  • Incredible lateral stability: although the Heckler has a naturally bigger turning circle than my old bike, its lateral stability makes it possible to push it lot faster through bends, neither the front nor the back wheel has a tendency to just let go.

  • Great forward stability: the Heckler does not have a propensity to hurl me over the bars (I am discovering that I can get away with sitting down on bits that I previously had to push well behind the saddle).

  • The front wheel sticks to the ground even on fairly steep ground, making it very good at climbing.

  • The front and back suspension work in sync and harmony with each other, the bike just floats over uneven ground.

  • The bike tends to naturally hold position in mid air.

In addition to the geometry, there is the design of the suspension. I have to confess that what originally drew me to the single-pivot was its mechanical simplicity; the six bearings and two bushes on the classic quad link suspension of my previous bike were not getting on that well with the perpetual Scottish muck; replacing that with only two bearings made perfect pragmatic sense. However, having ridden around 100 or so miles on the Heckler, I have become a true believer in single pivot as an Idea.

When the relative position of the pivot, the bottom bracket and the wheel is got right, the tension of the chain works against the dreaded pedal bob. The Santa Cruz boys got this worked out to perfection, and the bike suffers from very minimal bob. On the quad link, I worked out that locking the rear shock on a climb allowed me to shift by two gears; on the Heckler, this makes no discernible difference. In fact the harder one pedals, the stiffer the bike becomes, i.e., when climbing the geometry is not changing into an aggressive downhill one when you need it least, and when the ground is soft and slippery, the rear positively digs in. The only advantage of the quad link over the single pivot I have to concede is that unlike the single pivot, quad link suspension is much less effected by braking, but then, braking on a mountain bike is a bad habit anyway :-) .

Californian tat ? Aye, but what tat that is!

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Brown to create 100,000 jobs

How about rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall?

(It’s been a long time, I know. I have a whole bunch of half written posts about all kinds of things lying around, but much prefer twitter [tthef] and flickr [tf] these days.)

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NiteFlux Photon Max

For about a year now, I have been meaning to replace my bike lights to get a more sensible performance for night off-roading. I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted: a decent light output, equivalent to at least 20W halogen, and a sensible run time, to be able to get something like 5 hours out of them at reasonable light output (at least equivalent to 10W halogen).

In practical terms, this translates into something as efficient as an HID light running of lithium battery, and this is where my search for new lights has, until now, run into a major obstacle: the price tag. Not being able to shell out £400+, I just kept dreaming, and occasionally looking. Continue reading

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Secure ID card anyone ?

I wish the ******* in the present UK government that are determined to push ID cards upon us would read this and reflect upon it.

In unrelated news it became known that the UK government lost personal details of another 3,000,000 people, this time by exporting learner driver data to the US for processing. It’s been a while I have had to deal with the Data Protection Act, but I am pretty sure that exporting private data of UK residents to the US is prohibited under the Act because the US does not have sufficient (any?) data protection legislation (IIRC, the Act is accompanied by guidelines for data processors, in which this is explicitly spelled out), and if this is the case, then the data was lost not merely through incompetence, but because of the UK government broke the law to start with.

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In case you missed the fuss, these alternative tube announcements are quite amusing. (My favourite one is A Reminder for American Tourists, the runner-up being A Reminder for residents of London.)

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Quote of the Day

Web 2.0 … is basically a collection of random unspecified features written by 23-year-old goth acidheads at Netscape in 1995 [a funny and incisive post on Android]

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Falling from Grace ?

So the saving powers of the self-proclaimed messiah Re and his holy book are now being doubted even at the primary shrine, with allegiances of the most loyal being switched to a new deity:

… we at the OpenDocument Foundation have been displeased with the direction of ODF development this year. We find that ODF is not the open format with the open process we thought it was or originally intended it to be. … [it] does not adequately respect existing standards and does not address the market’s requirements for a single Universal Document Format with which any and all applications can work on an equal basis. [1]

It escapes me how anyone apart from those uninitiated to the word processing netherworld could have expected anything else from the mighty Re and his high priest. It all feels like an Indiana Jones sequel — I wonder, is the holy grail there to be found, or will we all just have to put up with our mortality?

P.S. If we all ask Santa nicely, we will find a universal file format in our stockings this festive season (if it does not turn up, it will be because were up to no good; Santa, as we all know, does not like that).

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Climbing at Kalymnos

Just back from a week holiday at the lovely Greek island of Kalymnos — excellent climbing, food and company. Uploaded some pictures to flicker, also my pals have some more here.

I would much recommend Kalymnos as a climbing destination for anyone leading a French 5 and above; the rock is excellent, as is the bolting standard (only came across one poorly bolted route during the week, called Hibiscus Market), and the routes are plentiful. We stayed at the Melina’s (also to be recommended) in Myrties, which is a bit further away from the cliffs than Massouri, but the main climbing area is pretty compact and it turned out to be of no real consequence (and for the further away places scooter / car can be rented in any case). Plenty of places to eat, and eat well; the Agean was probably the best place we ate at, but none of the other places we tried was anything but excellent. The locals are very friendly, helpful, and everyone seems to speak English.

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Abuse of the ISO Standardization Process

This is just scandalous!

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