Sunday, October 04, 2009

Mountain Biking Austin

Myself, Tony, Ken and Sandra ... ready to roll!

I am almost positive that if I did ever end up moving to Austin, my waist line would do one of two things, depending on a series of decisions I would need to make. These decisions would essentially revolve around two of the central tenets of Austin culture; high-intensity sport, and high-calorie Texmex food. Until the middle weekend in Austin, I had done a fantastic job at tackling the second of the two pillars, but an astoundingly poor job of moving the centre of gravity (literally and figuratively) the other way.

Luckily, Ken (my big boss), Sandra (big boss' wife, and former pro-mountain biker) and Tony (shave-legged roadie compatriot from the Austin design team) were on hand to lead me round a few of the best trails in and around Austin; quite literally on a large portion of the population's doorsteps.

I spent the week sorting a bike out, eventually opting for a 5" Trek Fuel EX8 from Mellow Johnnie's bike shop - owned by Lance Armstrong no less. I also took the opportunity to top-up on bike kit and clothing that tends to be more expensive or simply unavailable in my size back on the ROC.

Trek Fuel Ex8

We tackled the Green Belt the first day, escaping the rain just as we returned to the cars (the best type of rain?). It mixed in highly technical rocky sections that were reminiscent of our own 'Graveyard' run, but with long flat-out sections where it was possible to stretch your legs in ways impossible in Taiwan. Tony is pretty bleeding fit, and we laid down some rubber for the final kilometres, with Sandra hot on our tail whooping encouragement and tips at us sweaty guys in the engine room at the front. Texmex perfectly filled the hole left by the early start and the exertion.

Pioneer spirit

I was pretty impressed with the Trek, both up hill and down dale.

It was certainly much tighter than the average rental bike, and seemed to have similar responses to my Giant Trance.

Tony, rocking a similar vintage bike to the one I ride back home.

Sandra - a wolf in sheep's clothing. Wonderful to ride with!

Tony and I both flatted on the same rock step, within seconds of each other. As ever, the CO2 cartridges managed to spray a mixture of ice and condensed water everywhere except into the tube.

Trail vision

Hanging on, back up the hill

Tony - I want to see you with some better equipment next time - bloody impressive skills!

The clouds returned the next day, so we opted to head a little further afield to trails that are a little more tolerant of erosion than the downtown trails. Indeed, I was quite impressed to see how protective people were of the trails; riding in the wet was positively anti-social. Not quite sure that would be feasible in the UK. Ending up at Mule Shoe (doesn't that just sound so Texan?) and passing by banks of hill-top haciendas, the trail begins by weaving through an intricate series of tracks with entertainingly technical ups and downs. We managed to get in a few kilometres before the heavens well and truly opened once more, and we got thoroughly dumped on. I was like a pig in shit, but we opted to turn back, since flash flooding is a very real risk.

So, and early exit, but a great experience and two days of excellent riding. Hopefully, I will be back to finish the rest of that Mule Shoe trail some day. I hope I also proved that the opposite and opposing forces of mountain biking and Texmex may some day find a happy balancing point.

Single track heaven ...

... and some more mechanical hell. Typically - just as the downpour begins.

Mud, glorious mud.

Water splash 1

Water splash 2

Rain stops play - and Ken has rather a nice toy!

Sandra and I enjoy drying off a little

While I am left with the distinct memory that Austin is wet and rainy!

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wake Boarding Taiwan

Wave rider

Nick had the genius to book a day of wake boarding in west Taipei, near Wugu. After incessant requests from my sister to go while in the UK, I finally had the opportunity to bite the bullet, and 'shred the rad', as we wake boarders say. It took a few attempts to get up on my feet, but after that it was fun in the sun. A perfect activity for an oppressively humid day in Taipei, and one that I would like to repeat in the near future. Add to that this morning's mountain bike ride, and I had a real 'action' weekend ... and my body aches to prove it.

The price of old rope

Sneak pics

Taipei Yacht Club

Beautiful clear water - just don't touch the bottom.

Rear view mirror

Views to the mountains / motor ways. It was nice to see Taipei from a different angle ...

... which I did. Several times.

Rocket man.

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