by Wil Barrett
January 3, 2017
Fireworks. A familiar novelty to many of you reading this. But for this Aussie ex-pat, a novelty that is easily the most exciting aspect that comes with residing in the UK.
This may come as a surprise, but fireworks are actually banned in Australia. There are some concessions, but for the large part, you cannot stroll into a shop and buy such devices over the counter. At least legally anyway. The firework ban might have something to do with the fact that lots of things in Australia are very flammable, and we’re usually a little trepidatious about things that catch on fire. As such, fireworks are typically restricted to special occasions like New Years Eve, when our faithful citizens are allowed their annual dose of “oooh’s!” and “ahhh’s!” as we watch the skies being painted with explosions of colour and fire.
Because we can’t revel in such delight upon our own freewill, city firework displays bring hordes of firework-hungry spectators. It becomes quite the special occasion, and it also means that event organisers will go all-out to make the most of the limited window of permitted firework shenanigans. If you’ve ever seen a video of the Sydney NYE firework display, you’ll know what I mean. There’s enough firepower there to start a war with New Zealand. Despite the flashy display, the organisers are always very careful about it, especially given that temperatures can often be 30-40° through the summer period around NYE. In fact, they’re so cautious that they set the fireworks off from the Sydney Harbour Bridge over the water. Nothing is left to chance.
As I’ve learnt over the past few months of living over in the UK though, fireworks appear to be an integral component to all kinds of events all throughout the year. Birthdays, Guy Fawkes Day, Christmas, New Years Eve, Brexit. People love a good celebration, but here you can really let everyone in your street know about it in a highly obnoxious and potentially dangerous way. And I’m into that. Of course fireworks aren’t exclusively tied to such special occasions. My wife and I have both been on high alert on many an evening after hearing ‘gunshots’ fired off down the street, only to find after peering through the crack in the front door that the resonating echoes of gunfire were merely (and thankfully) emanating from loosely aimed firecrackers and rockets blazing off haphazardly above the roofs of nearby houses. We’re starting to get used to it, though thanks to a tip-off from work friends, gin does seem to help ease the nerves.
So did we set off fireworks over the NYE celebrations on the weekend? You bet we did! And I’m not sure I experienced anything more exciting during 2016 then running away from five lit rockets that began popping over my head a lot sooner than I expected. It was absolutely exhilarating, and best of yet, it was perfectly legal. Unbelievable. I don’t care what political turmoil has occurred over the past 12 months in the UK, as far as I’m concerned, this country is A-OK with me.
In fact, I’m off to buy some more fireworks. Because I can. Before I go however, I’ll leave you with our Monday Morning Debrief for this week. Yes I know it’s not Monday, but it sure does feel like a Monday, so just go with it.
With an extra public holiday up our sleeve, and a pretty chill few days in the office last week, the Singletrack Crew has been up to plenty of riding good times since our last date. We’ve had a number of new test bikes waltz through the office doors that have provided the perfect excuse to get out amongst it, though despite that, Chipps decided to dust off his Cannondale tandem to get out for a ride up and over the valley with an old friend. Would you trust Chipps as your Stoker?
Meanwhile on New Years Eve, a bunch of the crew got out for an exploratory jaunt along the top of the valley walls overlooking Singletrack Towers in Todmorden. As you can probably tell from the blue clouds in the above photo, the weather has been pretty darn good lately. Though as I’m regularly informed, the “real winter” is yet to come. Gulp…
One of the latest test bikes to roll through Singletrack Towers is the stunning R160 from Robot Bike Company. This carbon and titanium frame is entirely custom built in the UK and features a unique suspension design not seen anywhere else. Suspension runs at 160mm front and rear, and it’s available with fully customised geometry. Wil has been putting the R160 through its paces over the past couple of weeks, and as you’ll see in the video above, it’ll be going head-to-head with another UK-made mountain bike from Orange.
Are you into the looks of the Robot R160? From a couple of quick trail-surveys with other riders, opinion appears to be split 70/30, with 30% of riders not digging the retro aesthetic. The other 70% were very hard to peel off the frame after the drool had frozen their tongues to the frame.
“Weekend was spent with one of the ‘Beards of Enduro’ Rob Young of the Herriot Allstars (Tweedlove fame) tackling some of the best trails the valley has to offer. Starting with a bacon roll and steaming coffee in No1 Peebles Road coffee shop (obligatory ritual) then Flat White, Waterworld, Green Wing, Jane’s Lane and Caddon Bank before finishing with another fine brew”.
Our main man up in the Lake District, James Vincent, has been ripping up some of that classic Lakes singletrack over the holiday break. Though according to James, “The Lake District was on top form again today, even if it was a little bit breezy at times!”
James has also been bolstering his hardware collection, after taking stock of a new 360° camera. He published this little edit of riding in the Lake District that is absolutely brilliant – check it out and use your phone or mouse to scroll around for a full 360° view of the landscape around him. If you can’t see the video in your browser, click this link to be transported to the video proper.
How cold? The kind of cold where the mud sounds like crunching cornflakes beneath your tyre tread. This is a new concept to me, as colder temperatures are normally not a good thing. For mountain biking on muddy trails however, I’ve been informed that this is actually a good thing. And now I know – firm mud is much nicer to ride on than slushy mud.
Not a bad way to bring in the New Year eh?
So, what did you get up to over the Christmas and New Year break? Did you venture out for a couple of short pudding-fuelled rides? Or did you collate some riding buddies together for a singletrack mission of your own?
Whatever you did, we hope you had a wonderful holiday break, and that you’ve set yourself up for a fantastic 2017. Here’s a video of us from last Friday afternoon wishing you all a Happy New Year. It’s been a mega busy 12 months, but we hope you enjoyed the journey as much as we did. And with that, here’s a toast to saying goodbye to 2016, and hello to 2017 – just make sure you wait for the champagne scull at the end of the video – it’s quite the send off!