A Productive Weekend

Two of my goals for 2021 are to “get on top of cleaning the cars” and “tidy my garage”. This weekend I decided to start as I mean to go on. So I shuffled the cars around to get the MR2 on to the drive to give it a quick clean – its first since 2019! The main motivation behind this was that my parents had bought me a car cover (Amazon affiliate link) for it for my birthday and I did not want to fit it on to a dirty car. It was also a good chance to use my Worx Hydroshot (Amazon affiliate link) – previously washing cars on the drive meant running a hosepipe from the back garden through the house, leaving both front and back doors open. Which is not ideal in winter, or with a small inquisitive child who like to get outside at any chance. I used a 40 litre flexible bucket to feed the pressure washer, and that was more than enough for a quick wash on the MR2.

Whilst the MR2 was on the drive, I took the opportunity to sweep out the garage and load all of the waste cardboard in to Jen’s Toyota Yaris to take it to the tip. The reason for taking the Yaris is that vans, like mine, are not allowed at the tip. Owen came with me, because he likes watching the heavy machinery there, and with the back seats folded down it was a chance to ride up front with me. It was nice to be out just the two of us in the Yaris, after running our errands we took the long way home, past the Midland Air Museum and Lunt Roman Fort, as Owen’s current interests are Spitfires (none at the museum unfortunately) and Romans.

Along with writing this short blog post, I make that three of my 2021 goals that I have made progress on, before starting back at work for what is going to be a very busy few months…

2021

Happy New Year!

I am going into 2021 with low expectations – hopefully it means I will not be disappointed. We have got a few trips tentatively planned, a rescheduled return to Bluestone in Wales and a visit to our friend’s holiday cottage in Staithes, North Yorkshire. Partho and I also need to plan our return to Coed Y Brenin in Wales. I would like to ride there with Owen too. Closer to home, my parents bought us a family membership to Twycross Zoo, we had one when Owen was Henry’s age and we all loved it, so I am looking forward to returning.

Work is going to be interesting for me, as the project I am working on will finally launch. Our office in Coventry is closing, so I’ll either be working from home or commuting to Milton Keynes – hopefully the former. Fortunately I also have a few projects outside of work to keep me occupied: bike builds, and web apps – which I hope to convert to iOS apps once I have bought at new Mac. I am waiting for Apple to release the workstation class version of their M1 processor, to replace the ten year old iMac I use for editing and software development – so leap in performance will be something to look forward to!

We saw in 2021 the same way we’ve seen in the last few years – quietly at home. Not that we had a choice in the matter. Some of our neighbours decided to let off fireworks in the street – to be fair it was a pretty good display and as the boys sleep at the back of the house they did not get woken up (unlike last year). Given the combination of tier 4 lockdown and rubbish weather, we seized a window of blue sky in the morning to get out for a short family bike ride. I had fitted the Mac Ride to my Clockwork Evo, as Henry is now big enough to graduate from his baby seat. I was unsure of how he would cope on the Mac Ride, so we stuck to a short loop, but he did really well, and seemed more involved in the ride than on his old seat.

As in previous years, I have set myself some goals for the year ahead:

Catch up on blogging

I have loads of posts, either half-finished drafts, or ideas on the kanban board I use to track ideas for this blog, that I need to get published. Following on from last year, I also need to set up the Organize Series plugin, and apply it to my old posts, so I can finally have the structure to series of posts that I have wanted for a number of years.

Publish more of my software work

A lot of the projects that I am working on just reside on virtual machines on my Mac for my own use. I need to set them free! Either getting them on a live server, sharing them on my Github or even just blogging about them. Not only will it push me to give projects that final polish, hopefully it will act as a bit of a portfolio for my software development work.

Take a good wildlife photo

Looking back through my Lightroom catalogue, most of my photos from 2020 were of Owen and Henry. As cute/wild as they are, in 2021 I would like to take a good wildlife photo. Ideally I would like this to be in my local woods, as I regularly see wildlife there, but am usually on my bike, or accompanied by two small children, so the animals do not hang about for long!

Ride 1,000 miles

I usually measure cycling distance in kilometres (it is the rules), but the 1,552km that I rode last year was just short of 1,000 miles, so I will put in the effort to hit the 1,000 mile goal. I have made a start, only about 997 miles to go…

Of course, my annual challenge to ride further than my best friend Partho still stands. He does not appear to have ridden today, so I am already pulling out a slight lead…

Ride somewhere new with Owen

I would like to take Owen for some slightly bigger days on the bike, possibly in Wales. I think he would manage the blue trail at Llandegla or Coed Y Brenin. I have also heard good things about Nant Y Arian’s new blue trail.

Get on top of cleaning the cars

I used to really enjoy cleaning cars, but with three cars and two small children it has become increasingly difficult. Multiple cars need to be moved to get one on the drive, and running a hose to the drive means leaving both front and back doors open which is not ideal with Henry in particular, who likes to escape. I have recently bought myself a Worx Hydroshot (Amazon affiliate link) cordless pressure washer, which will run from a water butt and should mean that I am able to clean cars with the house doors shut.

First on my list is the MR2, it has not had a wash since May 2019, and I have a car cover to put on it, but do not want to do that until it is clean. I plan to get this done by the end of January – after all, there is not much else to do!

Declutter/sell stuff

I have got stacks of stuff that I have been meaning to sell for ages, 2021 needs to be the year that it goes! I also feel like it is going to be an expensive year – I need to buy a new Mac, which will also likely mean buying more back up drives etc, so any extra funds will help!

Tidy my garage

This is a carry over from 2020. The garage has got to a point where it is full of bikes, bike parts and bike boxes – I need to have a sort out! I have got a tip slot booked (in the Yaris, because vans are not allowed) on Sunday, so that should at least allow me to get rid of the bike boxes. Then after I have finished rebuilding Owen’s next bike, I will sort out the workbench and storage areas. I am going to force myself to do this before starting any major jobs on bikes. This year started hanging bikes on the wall, I need to rejig how I have got them arranged, to make it easier to get the bikes in and out.

Get my weight down to 85kg

Another carry over from 2020 (and 2019), but this year I am hoping that I can keep up the momentum from the last 5 months. Jen is on board, and is not going to bake any cakes, as we ate too much cake last year. I also have added motivation as my Dad lost a lot of weight last year and at this rate he will get down to 85kg before I do.

As always, I am sure that more goals will crop up as the year goes on. Hopefully Henry will start to ride his balance bike and to speak more than the odd word. I hope this is not a case of needing to be careful with what I am wishing for. I would like Owen to gain the confidence on his bike to ride up and down kerbs, however he has set his sights slightly higher – he wants to learn to do jumps (and whips) on his bike!

A look back at 2020

What. A . Year.

2020 started out well for me – I took January and February off work to look after Henry, as Jen went back to work after her maternity leave. It was a bit different to the parental leave I took in 2017 with Owen, as I also had a cheeky three year old to entertain. Fortunately he was at preschool three days a week, so I was able to get some one on one time with Henry. We cruised around in my MR2 Roadster, went to the park, met friends for lunch(!) and even collected my van together. Taking nine weeks off work was always going to be the highlight of the year, but it really does feel like a lifetime ago.

Little did I know that I would only be back in the office for four days, before being sent to work from home, which has since become permanent, with the announcement that the office I work(ed) from will close. However Jen and I have been lucky that we have both been able to continue working from home, if anything we have both been busier than ever at work. We found this particularly difficult during the first lockdown without any childcare, but things improved as childcare options reopened, and we got used to this new way of working. Being able to form a childcare bubble with my parents has been great, especially for the boys, as they love seeing their grandparents.

However, there has been enough negativity, so this post is going to focus on the positive things that have happened this year. The main one being all the extra time we were able to spend together as a family. Buying a van contributed to this, it was bought as we needed a bigger family car for holidays and bike trips, but even with holidays cancelled, it has been a game changer. We have done a lot of family days out this year, often with the bikes, and the van just makes it so much easier. To the boys, every trip out in it is an adventure, and Henry especially loves it – whenever we go out of the front door he stands expectantly next to the van. His absolute favourite thing to do is clamber into the driving seat to hold the steering wheel and play with all of the switches. He just about stays the right side of the line between cute and annoying because he is obviously enjoying himself so much.

In my look back at 2019, I mentioned that “Henry has learned to crawl/climb, his cheeky side is coming out – he is always up to something!” and over the year he has got cheekier and more mischievous! He learned to walk pretty soon after his first birthday and is always trying to escape, he is such a little explorer. Although he was walking at an earlier age that Owen, he is still not speaking properly yet. He has got the odd word – “Mama” (meaning Grandma), “va” (Van), “fire”, “ha” (hat, ofter accompanied by patting his head), “ba” (bye) and “Bapa” (Grandpa) – it is slightly annoying that he has names for my parents, but not Jen and I. Despite his limited vocabulary he is an expert in non-verbal communication – he is always clear about what he wants, or does not want. It is incredibly cute when he waves goodbye to anyone, if he particularly likes you he will even blow kisses. He loves dressing up, especially trying on everyone’s shoes. Henry has not quite got the hang of his balance bike, but he is starting to show an interest in mountain biking – as long as the bike has pedals. He will try to climb on to adult bikes and I have never seen him happier than when I pushed him around the pump track on Owen’s bike.

The main thing for Owen in 2020 is that he started school! He has settled in well, made some friends, learned lots and even landed the role of Joseph in the nativity play. He has also done a lot of bike riding – at the start of the year Owen had just about got the hang of riding his pedal bike, through the first lockdown we went out on the bikes most days and his riding really progressed. This has continued throughout the year. One of my highlights of the year was following him through the jumps at the bottom of “Cheese Roller” trail at 417 Bike Park, but we have also ridden blue graded trails and pump tracks together, done some night rides and ridden to school/nursery many times.

I have had also had a pretty good year on the bike – despite mainly riding locally, I feel that both my technique and fitness have improved. Building up my Clockwork Evo was a great move, it has been perfect for the sort of riding I have been doing this year. It has also been good to get out with other people: local rides with Owen, or Henry (on the front of my bike), family rides but especially getting out with my friends Partho and Ali, who now both have mountain bikes. In the workshop, learning to build wheels is one of my achievements of the year – I built the rear wheel for my new hardtail and almost 600km later is is still running well.

Off the bike, I rekindled my interest in radio controlled cars, renovating my Tamiya MX-5 and also buying/building a Tamiya Lunchbox, which I have painted to look like my van (I still need to blog about this). I also passed the exam to become an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and made good progress on some web projects I am working on – aided by discovering the Laravel framework, which I am now using for web applications.

Our planned trip back to Bluestone in Wales was cancelled, as was a return to Coed Y Brenin with Partho. However, we were able to go on our planned trip to Dorset with my family, albeit staying at a different place. Even though the weather was not the best, we had a fun time, the boys loved visiting the beach and spending a lot of time with their grandparents. Probably my favourite memory of the year was the first part of our family bike ride at Moors Valley – for me it does not get any better than riding dusty singletrack with Jen and my boys.

At the start of the year I set myself some goals, I posted a halftime update in June, but here are the final results:

Get my weight down to 85kg

Fail – I have lost some weight, but not as much as I would have liked – this morning I weighed 88.75kg. I had a good start to the year, but the daily afternoon tea and cake whilst working from home was probably the cause of putting on a load of weight. The trend line has been moving in the right direction, so hopefully I can keep that going in to 2021.

Reinstate my mid week cardio session

Narrow pass – Other than the last month, I have managed to get out on the bike at least once a week during the week. With working from home, I particularly enjoyed getting out for an end of the week “commute” – a half hour loop on local trails, after shutting down my work laptop for the weekend.

Do a strength workout at least once a week

Massive fail – I have only done eight strength workouts this year. My (weak) excuse is that I have done a lot more riding, and yoga, than previous years.

New blog server and theme

Partial pass – I ticked off setting up a new blog server early in the year, I also set up a script to restart the server if I got an email report that the blog was offline – which I still need to document. I am still however using the same old theme I have been using for a number of years.

WordPress custom stories project

Fail – I finally found the Organize Series plugin that does most of what I wanted to do. I just need to set it up and go back and apply to all the posts.

Become an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

PassI passed the exam in April.

Build an iOS app

On hold – I completed an iOS development course, and modified some code from Github, but have not yet built my own app. I put this on hold as my iMac does not support the latest version of Xcode and if I am making the effort, I would like to learn/use the latest technology. A new Mac has been on the cards for a while, but I am waiting for the workstation grade Apple silicon Macs to be released.

Tidy my desk

Pass – I think I tidied it a couple of times, but since working from home is the “new normal” and my desk has become my main workspace this has become more important. Over the summer, Henry moved in to Owen’s bedroom, which the boys both love, meaning I have reclaimed my old office. We took the opportunity to repaint and add more storage. Since moving back in, I have made a conscious effort to keep the desk clear. I still need to do a bit more sorting out, to regain some floor space.

Tidy my garage

Massive fail – It feels like 2020 has been a constant stream of bike projects, in fact I still feel like I am chasing my tail. When I have finished Owen’s next bike build I am going have to take a step back and have a good sort out in the garage. The one change that I have made is to start hanging bikes on the wall, making it easier to get to any individual bike, and also cleared some floorspace.

Ride more with Partho

Pass – Although we did not get our planned trip to Wales in April, we probably rode together more than any previous years. Our trip to the Forest of Dean in January was a highlight, getting lost Sutton Park, then having to do a full gas sprint back to Partho’s house less so. We even got a ride out for my birthday with our friend Ali.

In our annual Strava competition, I thought I was going to lose when Partho bought a smart trainer at the start of the year. However, my “little and often” technique has prevailed and I ended up riding over 500km further than Partho.

Do some night photography

Fail – Knowing that we would be going to Dorset on holiday – a known “dark sky” location, I put all of my eggs in that basket. I even bought a new tripod for the occasion. We did not have clear sky at night the whole time we were there. I really should have gone out one evening from home, but the last few months have been so busy that I have not had a chance.

Fix up my radio controlled MX-5

Scraped a passI got the radio controlled MX-5 running again in January. Owen and I took it for a shakedown, then lockdown hit and I bought a Tamiya Lunchbox (#lockdownlunchbox), which I could drive in the garden. I did repair the original body shell of the MX-5, but am yet to blog about it, I have also cut out and painted the new body shell, I just need to do the decals, which I have been dreading. I also managed to find a 1:10 scale MR2 Roadster body shell, although I am yet to do anything with that.

Whilst 2020 has been a difficult year, I appreciate that I am one of the lucky ones. We’ve all stayed healthy, Jen and I have been able to work from home and riding bikes in the woods was one of the few leisure activities still allowed. I realise that there are many people who have had a much worse year. If at the start of the year I have been told that we would all be healthy and that I would have my perfect car pairing (VW Transporter and MR2 Roadster) and bike pairing (Orange Four and Orange Clockwork Evo), I probably would have been happy with that.

New Ride: Orange Clockwork Evo

This was meant to be a post introducing my new bike, however – I have already ridden over 500km on it… Life has been busy and unfortunately blogging has taken a back seat this year. Regular readers of this blog may have already noticed the Clockwork Evo popping up in some other posts throughout the summer, as I have taken it on a few adventures already…

Rewind two years, I blogged about the upgrades to my Vitus Nucleus hardtail, and the how the next upgrades would need a frame swap. I had an idea of what I wanted – a “modern geometry” frame with 130mm travel, boost axle spacing and dropper post routing. This would allow me to replicate the set up on my Four, with most parts being interchangeable. I had narrowed it down to two options, the Marin San Quentin 2, which a few of my riding buddies have or the Orange Clockwork Evo. During the first lockdown of 2020 I noticed that the Marin had sold out in the UK, and also that there was only one 2019 Orange Clockwork Evo frame left in stock. Luckily it was in my size, so I had to buy it! Fifteen year old Lewis would have been impressed that I have one Orange bike, his mind would have been blown by having two!

The build took longer than I would have liked, mainly as I had stripped down my Orange Four for a full service, and I needed to strip my Vitus Nucleus hardtail for the parts to build up the new frame. The main new parts that I needed to source were headset and rear wheel, as these could not be transferred. Fortunately my local bike shop, Albany Cycles, had the headset in stock and were able to fit it for me. I took the opportunity of needing a new rear wheel, and not having much else to do in lockdown, to learn how to build bike wheels. The advantage of this was that I could pick the hub/rim/spokes I wanted, even if it was tricky to find parts. The wheel build went smoothly, I found the process quite satisfying, but could lose hours at the truing stand in my garage making the wheel perfectly straight and round.

After the Four was serviced and the Vitus Nucleus stripped of parts the build could commence. I enjoyed the build process, the only hitch was almost at the final stage when I needed to fit a seat post to measure which dropper post I would need. I realised that the seat tube diameter was smaller than any of the seat posts I had – except for the dropper post on my Four. Keen to order the last part needed to complete the bike, I removed the seat post from the Four and broke it in the process – leaving me without a ridable bike. Disaster! At least I was able to measure up for a dropper post for the new bike and my boss came to the rescue, lending me a post so I could ride Four. It also confirmed my feeling that I would rather ride a hardtail with a dropper post, than a full suspension bike with a fixed seat post. I had wanted to buy a One Up dropper post, but they were out of stock everywhere by the time I was ready to buy, so ended up with a BrandX post. Once again, Albany Cycles came to the rescue with the parts to get the Four back on the trail.

With the bike built up, I was able to give it a few local shakedown rides before Owen and I had a day planned at 417 Bike Park. The Clockwork Evo was great on the pump track, I only got to try it on the downhill trails at Owen’s pace, so could not really get a good idea. Unfortunately I managed to put a huge scratch in the top tube – Owen had a pretty big crash, so making sure he was OK was my priority. It probably took me longer to patch up the scratch on the bike than it too the doctor to patch up Owen’s chin in A&E!

After a few commutes and local trail rides, the next big trip was our summer holiday to Dorset, I did one ride on my own, then a couple of family rides on blue trails, with Henry on the front of my bike (in a Thule Yepp Mini seat), including at Moors Valley. The Clockwork Evo proved itself to be a flexible allrounder, perfect for taking on holiday – exactly what I wanted from it!

After our holiday the Clockwork Evo was pressed back into “do it all hardtail” usage, commutes, school runs, pump track sessions, family rides and even a Strava KOM! The only problem was with the crankset – which originally came fitted to my Vitus Nucleus when I bought it in 2014, and after almost 7,000km, was ready for replacement with lighter/stronger part. Trail rides were shared with the Four, until a particularly tough ride for the Four at Cannock Chase meant that the Four needed a strip down. And thus the hardtail was my only bike for a few months. Whilst the Four was stripped down, I had the idea of seeing what the Clockwork Evo would be like with the wider handlebars and shorter stem from the Four. Swapping the parts was not as easy as I had expected, but it was worth it – the riding position felt right straight away. The only downside was having to buy a new handlebar and stem for the Four. It also meant that there were no parts from the original Vitus build left on the hardtail. There is only one thing I can think of that I would like to change, which is the gearing – it is on a 1×10 system, which is perfect for my local trails, but not the best for climbing, switching to 1×11 would help there, but it can wait until the current cassette wears out.

The Clockwork Evo has exceeded my expectations, I would have been happy with a direct replacement for the Vitus Nucleus, but the Clockwork Evo is more than that – it is such a capable bike and is the perfect stablemate to the Four. There is a lot of overlap between them, but I have set the Clockwork Evo up with faster rolling tyres (Continental X Kings), for pump track and commuting. However, I still feel I could do a family ride with Henry on the front of the bike on a Saturday, hit the bike park on a Sunday, then ride it to work on the Monday. I met my friends, Partho and Ali, for a ride at Hicks Lodge, to celebrate my birthday (fortunately riding bikes is one of the few things you are allowed to do with friends at the moment) and despite the Four being freshly serviced (with new handlebars fitted), it was the Clockwork Evo that I chose to ride, knowing that on those trails, it would like be faster, more fun and easier to clean afterwards that the Four.

Big Sur – Throwback Thursday

Today is Big Sursday – at least to Apple geeks, like me, excited about the launch of the new Big Sur operating system for Mac computers. I though it was a good enough reason to do a #throwbackthursday post from when Jen and I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur, on our honeymoon.

Driving from Monterey to Santa Barbara was a big day on the road, but the scenery was amazing – the hype about this road does not even do it justice! A particular highlight was pulling in to a lay-by, looking out to sea and seeing a whale jumping out of the water.

Rather than writing about the whole day again, I will throwback to the blog post I wrote at the time.

When Did You Last Check Your Passwords?

I like to think of myself as web savvy and security conscious, but I had a bit of a shock this morning! The new iOS 14 passwords feature was mentioned in the group chat I have with my friends from school, and I when I checked my iPhone, I discovered that I had 373 “Security risks” identified with my passwords! Certainly not a time to be proud of getting a higher “score” than my friends… As if that was not bad enough, clicking through showed that these were not just obscure sites – it was my email/bank account/Facebook/Twitter etc. Fortunately all of these have Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) configured, so not a major issue, but still concerning.

Before you carry on reading this post, if you have not already enabled MFA on your Apple/Google/Email/social media/banking accounts, please do it now – that way your data will be significantly more secure if your password is leaked.

If you have a device running iOS 14, you can check your passwords by going to Settings > Passwords > Security Recommendations. If you do not have an iOS device, you can use the Have I Been Pwned service and enter your email address(es) to check if you are affected by any leaks. However this only checks email addresses, rather than login details and passwords together, like iOS does.

Running my email addresses through Have I Been Pwned, four out of five of them have got leak passwords associated with them. A couple were from older well known leaks – MySpace/Adobe/Dropbox/LinkedIn etc, but also newer leaks collated from username/password combinations on hacker sites. These credential lists are likely to be used by hackers to access accounts hoping that you use the same username and password.

Apple collates the “high priority” issues at the top of the list, so this evening I have been working through these, changing the passwords on the key sites, using the complex and unique passwords suggested by the Apple Keychain feature. For me, the bulk of the “compromised” passwords are old accounts where I have reused the same password, so will attack these a couple at a time changing them with Apple Keychain, or simply closing the accounts if possible.

Interestingly at least one password that has been compromised is unique, from a site which does not seem to have been hacked. However, they did not use HTTPS until fairly recently – I can only assume that my password was sniffed on a public network. This is a good reminder to look out for the padlock when you log in anywhere online, or to use a VPN service – I use Windscribe if I am connecting my phone or laptop to an unfamiliar network.

Hopefully this post has prompted you to have a think about your online security and take the time to audit your passwords. It may be boring, but better to do it proactively than have to deal with a scammer accessing your accounts.

CotEditor Is the Mac Equivalent of Notepad++ That I Have Been Searching For

I have been a Mac guy for years, since I bought a second hand iBook G3 as a student. However there has been one application that I missed from my time using Windows – Notepad++, a simple text editor with code highlighting. The fact that I use it almost daily on my work PC just rubs salt into the wound.

Searching for “a Mac equivalent to Notepadd++” usually ends up pointing to more fully featured text editors, such as Atom. Atom is great, especially when working on a project with multiple files and using git. Atom is where I do most of my coding, but it is slow to load, especially on my ageing iMac. Often I just want to quickly edit a config file, or grab a snippet of code, so I would either wait for Atom to load, or simply use “TextEdit” or even “Nano” in the terminal. However these do not have basic developer features like code highlighting. Which is why I find often found myself looking for that perfect lightweight code editor for Mac.

Then after reading the same lists of fully featured editors, I saw a mention of CotEditor on Reddit and it seemed to meet all of my requirements – it is a native Mac app, designed for speed and was also free! It seems to still be under development, with a repository on Github, and is distributed through the Mac App Store – giving peace of mind that Apple have checked it over.

I have now been using CotEditor for a few weeks and I even prefer it to Notepad++ on my work PC. The design feels more user friendly, despite being simpler and it always seems to open quickly when needed. It just does the job it is meant to do really well, without any unnecessary bells and whistles. I am really surprised that it is not more widely used, so hopefully this post will be found by anyone looking for a lightweight, fast code editor for the Mac, that works like Notepad++ on the PC, and more people will learn about this great app.

Owen’s First Day at School

For Jen and I, it is hard to believe that our little boy is starting school today! It does not seem that long ago that he was a tiny baby in an incubator at the neonatal unit – now he’s a smart little dude heading off to school in his uniform!

I have no doubt that Owen will enjoy school, he is very inquisitive and enjoys learning about numbers – he can already write his name and count to one hundred! He has met his teachers a few times, and had a settling in session earlier this week, where he definitely appeared to be truly settled in – exploring the classroom and adding his own commentary to the teacher’s story at story time. He just about managed to stay on the ride side of the line between being expressive and disruptive, although he has probably identified himself to the teachers as “one to watch”.

Along with the mandatory photo in school uniform for social media, I thought that I would ask him some questions and record the answers see how his answers change each year:

  • Height: 108cm
  • Shoe size: 10.5
  • Bike: Frog 43
  • Favourite colour: Red
  • Favourite food: Yorkshire Pudding
  • Favourite book: Super Worm (Amazon affiliate link)
  • Favourite thing to watch on TV: Blippi
  • Best thing we did over the summer holiday: Trip to Dorset (blog post coming soon!)
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? A postman

Farewell to the Vitus Nucleus

After 6,256km it was finally time to retire my trusty Vitus Nucleus hardtail mountain bike. I think it is fair to say that buying it, in 2014, changed my life! For the previous fifteen years snowboarding had been my sport of choice, but it did not take long for the mountain biking bug to bite – I got the same buzz from riding my bike as I did from snowboarding, but I could ride from home, whenever I wanted! Mountain biking is now a big part of my life, and I am pleased to say that my boys are also getting in to mountain biking – this all started with my Vitus Nucleus.

In 2015, I set myself the challenge to ride 2,015km – which I completed, mostly on the Vitus. it was also the year I realised that I needed to buy a more sensible car – the BMW 120i, which has now been replaced with a van, again a decision driven by mountain biking. In 2017 I bought my Orange Four, which I expected to completely replace the Vitus Nucleus, but it ended up highlighting how versatile the Vitus was. I used it for commuting, local rides and taking Owen out for adventures, we even got a “Super nice” on the GMBN Dirt Shed Show! I found that I was riding the hardtail as much as the new Orange, so I treated the Vitus to some upgrades!

However, even at the time of the upgrades, I knew that the Vitus was not the perfect hardtail for me – the frame standover was too high, the reach was too short and the Orange Four had introduced me to the benefits of dropper seat posts and bolt thru axles. The upgrades were all chosen with a view to moving them over to a new frame, and I had researched suitable frames. As bikes started to fly off the shelves during lockdown I noticed that there was only one of my preferred frame left available – so I bought it, signalling the end of the road for the Vitus Nucleus.

However it did get a stay of execution – I needed to finish servicing my Four before starting the new build, so had over a month of the Vitus being my only bike. It’s last ride was a session at the pump track with Owen. Having been stripped of parts, the frame now hangs on the wall in my garage, to remind me of all of the good times!

Moors Valley

Whilst on holiday in Dorset, we wanted to have a family bike ride – the two most suitable places seemed to be Wareham Forest and Moors Valley. We chose Moors Valley, even though it was a longer drive, as there appeared to be more there, so we could make a day of it. Even as we arrived we could tell it was different to the Forestry England sites we are used to visiting – with a number plate recognition system to pay the more expensive than usual parking fees…

The area around the visitor centre was busy, but after we had ridden past the Gruffalo (and the Gruffalo’s child) and got on to the blue graded “Through the Forest” trail it felt like we had the place to ourselves! Owen was leading the way, followed by Jen, and Henry was on the front of my bike, mostly drinking from my Camelbak. For me, life does not get any better than riding single track through the trees with Jen and the boys. The trail was perfect for riding with Owen – flat and twisty. Some parts were through mature trees, others were smaller tress with purple heather and there were a few boardwalk sections over the boggy bits. It felt like a proper mountain bike trail, but without the gradient. Owen (and Jen) loved it! At one point we let some faster riders past, Owen commented about how fast they were, then followed them and he kept up well.

I had identified a decision point, where we could stop for a snack and decide if we would complete the trail, or head back to the van. This was a good opportunity to let Henry out of his seat, as at the moment he is just a passenger, and as much as he enjoys being on the bike, he really wants to be free to explore in the woods! After some jelly babies we decided to complete the rest of the trail, as Owen was riding so well. In hindsight this may have been the wrong decision as the boys started to struggle towards the end of the trail – but nothing that could not be remedied with an ice cream!

The ride was 7.8km, most of which was on the single track, another new record for Owen! I do not think it will be too much longer until he is able to do the full blue trail at Hick’s Lodge, which is our “local” family MTB trail, which is a bit longer and more technical.

After the ride we also visited the “Play Trail”, which surprisingly Owen still had energy left for. It made for a great afternoon, however I am sure that we could have spent all day there. I could tell where the extra parking fees went, the play trail in particular was very impressive – I liked how it got families away from the car park and in to the forest. I also noticed that despite a “no bins” policy, there was next to no litter in the car park nor on the trails. I would thoroughly recommend it as somewhere to visit for a family bike ride with younger children.