Another fascination: Breaking the fourth wall.

I have no idea why I have such a fascination for this, or where it stems from. In fact I think the first time I was aware of it was in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but other than thinking he’s talking to us I don’t think I thought too much of it. But now, there are moments that I think it’s clever, funny, quite recently sad, and sometimes so great it makes me cry… even on repeat viewings.

It isn’t always good, some people just appear to get it wrong, and others overuse it. Bizarrely though Deadpool doesn’t. Not least because I wouldn’t tell him if he was, but the context in which it’s used, and the fact that he breaks the fourth wall in a forth wall break, he just makes it work. I think it’s because it helps to show unhinged he is and that he appears to flit between talking to himself, and talking to us, and then the people around him, and you can’t always be sure whom it is that he’s addressing. Miranda however, who ironically uses it far less then Deadpool, did overuse it, and it used to wind me up a little. It maybe that it’s because it was being used to emphasise something funny that had just happened, that I didn’t like it. However, Fleabag got it just right, and the last episode had an example of fourth wall breakage the likes of which I have never seen. Something happened that she was ashamed about, and she couldn’t look at us. She glances up for a moment, but then has to look down. It was a superb piece of writing, an amazing performance, and just downright clever. Why should the interaction only be there when the character wants it to be. That break was silent, it was only a glance, and I think it is when a break is just a look that it is at it best;

The Bandit smiling directly into camera before wheel spinning away after hiding from a passing patrol car. Billy Ray Valentines glance whilst being told that the bacon in a BLT sandwich comes from pork belly. Ed Rooney- Actually, Ed Rooney wins at breaking the fourth wall in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In a film that is famed for the lead character talking straight to camera, and with two often quoted pieces of dialogue, the best break comes from someone who has set himself up as Ferris’ nemesis. He shows no sign at all that he knows he’s in a film (the only person at all that has acknowledged he audience is Ferris), he’s not been able to catch Ferris skiving, and been pretty much forced to accept a lift on the school bus whilst the credits roll. All the students are staring at him, this is the last place he wants to be, and then he looks down at one of the students books to see ‘Save Ferris,’ scrawled across the cover. What follows next is a look up to the camera that speaks volumes, whilst Ed says nothing at all. Before anything else can happen it cuts to black.

However. My all time favourite fourth wall break comes from a character who never speaks at all. This is the one that is so great, so funny, it makes me cry with laughter. And I think it’s because not only is the character not even human, but made of plasticine, that it makes it even better. It doesn’t make any sense, his eyes aren’t real, he can’t even see the camera. Also, he’s a dog. At the end of The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, Gromit is battling with Phillip (the bad guys bulldog), in an aeroplane that was stolen from a fairground, whilst trying to get to Wallace. The aeroplane splutters to a halt, and we see the ‘Insert Coins’ light flashing red. Gromit checks his pockets, but doesn’t have the correct change, and then Phillip passes him the shovel he had previously being to trying to attack him with and pulls out an old lady purse. Holding it with both hands close to his chest, he open it and proceeds to look through it for the right coins. It’s at this point that Gromit then looks to the camera and raises his eyebrows. Phillip then finds the coin, inserts it into the slot, and the two continue their fight. I’m sure I shouldn’t find this as funny as I do, but then I do find I’m fascinated by some pretty odd things.

To be continued…

Not so random.

This blog hasn’t been that random of late, and has predominantly been cycling based, but I am going to try to do something about this. The cycle heavy subject matter has been down to that essentially being the only thing thats in my head. When I started posting again at the beginning of March, the reason was to help me unwind at the weekend and to try not think so much about work… the work that I do with bikes, which is all I have been writing about. It did used to be a bit more varied, and I’m going to try drop in a few different subject over the next few weeks.

One thing that I’m keen to write about again is my fascination with time-travel. I have previously written about time-travel films, television, and books. But more importantly those that meant something to me. So with that in mind the one I’m going to start with is going to take me way back to 1991 to when both I and the protagonists of the film were still at school.

Before then however I’m going to write about another something else I’m fascinated by…

Marginal gains.

In my last post I wrote about the fact that the tyres I’m currently using offer increased grip when accelerating and cornering at speed, and that I wasn’t noticing this because of how I’m currently riding. However, that’s not to say that I am not benefiting from what they are doing. They are undoubtedly harder wearing than the two sets of tyres I’d previously used, but just because I haven’t noticed that they offer more grips than the last tyres I used and that I am not using them to their full potential doesn’t meant that I am not seeing a benefit. Would I want to use a tyre that offers less grip? Of course I wouldn’t.

Ceramic bearings is something that I have played with the idea of, and I’ve actually come really close to ordering some jockey wheels. There are loads of stats for ceramic bearings, the majority of which may sound completely beyond how I ride. For example; if I were to change my jockey wheels together with my hub and bottom bracket bearings I could save 9 watts which would equate to a saving of 2 minutes riding at 20 miles an hour over 25 miles… or thereabouts. Replacing just the jockey wheels on their own would save between .5 and 2 watts alone. Depending on what they are replacing, and whose stats you read. Is’s likely that more emphasis is put on jockey wheels as they are the blingy but that everyone can see. However it only seems to makes sense to replace them if you’re also then replacing the BB and hub bearings. I don’t race though, or take part in Time-Trials, so would I really notice a 2 minute saving? Probably not. If that 2 minutes really mattered that much to me I could save that time by not talking to John whilst I ride, but then the ride wouldn’t have been as enjoyable.

However, that reduction in resistance could mean a slight reduction in effort meaning that I can ride for longer or will feel less tired at the end of it. Also with the bearings being 30% harder than their steel equivalents, and that they have a claimed 3-5 times longer life it will mean that the will require replacing less often. Although, I will still have spent more and they require no less maintenance than steel bearings. So in summary; with how I ride in all likelihood I may not notice an increase in speed, and a decrease in times. They may offer a saving in effort on my part, so I should the be able to ride at the same pace for longer. But they will last longer.

In real life you may well not be able to measure any of this, but the one thing that hasn’t been taken into account is something that you will be able to see on any bike nerds face. Their smile when they spin the cranks, jockey wheel, or wheel and see that it just keeps on spinning.

The wonder material?

I’ve written a few times about tires, and my love for one tire in particular… but I’ve strayed.1F2A98FF-6994-46EF-9B7C-06FB587D6AE9When I first got the De Rosa, it came fitted with a pair of Vittoria Rubinos. They had a white stripe on them that fitted well with the bike, they were brand new, so it seemed a waste to change them for my tyre of choice. When however it was then time to change them I went for another pair of Vittoria tyres, the Open Corsa SR. I hadn’t quite known grip like it. They were superb, and really gave me the confidence to throw the bike around and lay it down in the corners. This did come at a price though. Not only financial, but they didn’t seem to last that long.

By the time it came to swap the rear for the second time it was now fitted to the Ritchey. Vittoria had just released the Corsa G+ in anthracite, and these looked like they’d be great fit. Not only that but the G stands for Graphene, the new wonder material which amongst other things is meant to be much tougher and offer greater resistance against punctures. Except, that’s not what I’ve found at all, they certainly appear no more resistance to punctures than the Corsa SRs. I’m sure it’s not that I’ve just been particularly unlucky as I’ve gotten punctures in my house, and I’m talking about the result of an earlier puncture but air rushing out and going flat within seconds. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I will say however that my boss has exactly the same tyres, on two bikes, and hasn’t had the same issues so maybe I have just had a run of bad luck. It would be great to hear your views on these tyres.

Another benefit of the graphene when it’s used in a tyre is that the properties of the tyre compound alter dependant on how it it is being loaded. So when the tyre is rolling in a straight line it is hard wearing, but when it’s loaded from the side; through acceleration, or cornering, it softens to offer more grip. – Now I know what you’re thinking; How does it know? It’s like a Thermos flask, how does it know weather to keep the coffee hot, or the choc-ice cold? – Now I cannot say that this is something that I have noticed, but then my riding has slowed down considerably since the roundabout so I don’t think I’m pushing the tyres enough to witness a marked difference. Although, they are much more hard wearing than any othe Vittoria tyre I have used. If I’m brutally honest with myself on these tyres, and I know it will sound very shallow, I think I chose them on how they look…

Punctures.

IMG_4127After mentioning my dad in the last post, I remembered what my dad did the very first time I had a puncture.

It was on my first bike, and there’s a slim chance that it may have still had its stabilisers on. He took me into the garage and showed me where what we needed were in his beat-up blue tool box. The pressed-steel Raleigh spanner, that had come with the bike, the puncture repair kit and the pump. It was at this point that he then told me to “pay attention, because this is the only time I will ever do this for you.” And do you know what? It was*.

The next time I had a puncture there was something I couldn’t quite do and I did I ask him for help, and whilst he did tell me what to do he didn’t come through to the garage. From here on in I was on my own and repaired my bike myself. Not only that but my sisters too. It didn’t always go to plan, but I worked at it and learned mainly through trial and error what to do.

From having to do it from such a young age, I was pretty adept at changing bike tires, so I kind of assumed that everybody could do it. So when I started work in Halfords I was totally blown away by the amount of people that couldn’t. What got me the most though was the amount of people who would bring in just a wheel and tire and ask for a new tube to be fitted. In my eyes if they were bringng in a rear wheel, so had the chain and gears to contend with, they’d got the trickiest bit. Why couldn’t they do this bit? So, even though there was a booking in procedure and usually a few days lead time on repairs, I’d always do these particular tube swaps on the spot. Not though because it cut down on booking them in, but because I childishly wanted to show how easy it was to do. At this point I’d done so many that I could see from the off what wheel and tire combinations wouldn’t need tire levers to remove the tire, so could be done whilst still talking to the customer about how much it would cost and trying to sell the something else. So I’d just do it there in front of them and then hand it back. The set labour charge cost more than a pump and tire levers. I did have a nasty habit of showboating if it was a father and son, and would do it as quickly as I could in front of them both to really show how simple it was. Some of the mountain bikes we sold had combinations of tyres and wheels that were so easy to change once the tube was in you could pretty much flip the wheel round and by the time the bottom hit the floor you’d been able to get the top in and seated. In hindsight, or maybe it’s because of the age I am now, it would have been better to show the children how easy to do, as opposed to how quickly I could do it.

It’s now 20 or so years on from then, and I still find myself marvelling at how some people I ride and work with can’t change a tube or fit a tire. The photo above is from one such instance of this, where I ended up taking over. Although, and this person it’s happened with more than once, I’m pretty sure they’re pretending to be inept so that I then step in at do it for them.

*Bringing it back to my dad, for years I was certain his approach had been to make me self-reliant. However, over the intervening years I’ve become aware that my dad doesn’t appear to be technically or mechanically minded it all. In fact, there’s a little bit of me that is surprised that he was able to fix that first puncture for me  in the first place. He actually reminded me that for the first year of me having a bike he had fitted the forks on facing backwards, and it was only when we moved and one of our new neighbours pointed it out to him did they get turned around. But for whatever reason that he did what he did, I am grateful that he did it.

Socks.

I don’t think it’s that far off being warm enough to ride in shorts, and this can only mean one thing. Socks.IMG_4093Now I’m not 100% certain where my obsession with loud socks has come from, but I am pretty sure that it has something to do with my dad. If he was wearing new socks, more specifically socks that he’d received for Christmas, then you would know about. No matter when it was that he saw you, or where. He would regularly come in to where I was working, stand in the middle of the room, hitch up one if his trouser legs, and the point at his now exposed sock, and proudly declare; “Christmas socks.” He would then carry on like he hadn’t done anything in any way shape or form odd. It would not matter how many people were there, or whom; customers, my boss, my staff. However, this ‘should be embarrassing’ behaviour I always found hilarious. So now I’ve taken to buying loud socks for presents for him, just in case he happens to swing by where I now work.

Now, where were we? Warm weather, meaning shorts and loud socks. To be fair I tend to go for stripes more than anything else, but the louder and brighter the better. My shorts an helmet are black. My gloves and shoes are either white or black depending on the weather, and my jerseys are usually pretty sedate, so ridiculous socks are usually my only show of colour. But as you can see from the photo above, sometimes it’s all the colours.

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Despite missing my riding target for the past few years, I’ve still taken the decision to put it up again. This will be now be harder still to achieve as I’ve not really had a good start to the year. Colds and a bad back have seen me miss weeks of riding, so we’ve gotten well over half the way through March and I’ve so far only ridden 162 miles.

What I haven’t done yet this year, is do something that I did a few times last autumn, which really helped with mileage, because I keep finding myself asking; “Is riding with a club for me?”

In September I rode with a club for the first time and found myself really enjoying it, until we got about two thirds of the way round. As it was at this point that I crashed. It suddenly occurred to me that we had been riding around at an average of 2-3 miles than I usually rode, and at no point had we stopped to eat and refuel. So I now found myself at least 20 miles out, with no idea where I was, no energy, and riding with a group of riders who were showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down. They did, but only because of me, but it wasn’t so much slowing down as having to wait for me to catch up. One of the riders was great and hung back with me, making sure I was okay, and encouraging me. And this was great, but I felt bad that I was holding everyone else up. One of the others had ridden with me a little earlier, but there advice had appeared to be to ride quicker. This may not have been what they said, but it was how I’d taken it and there was simply nothing that I could do about it. I was exhausted. When we finished, the guy that had helped me get back told me in front of everyone else that he didn’t know how I’d done it. This made me feel better, but not right then and there as all I was interested in doing was trying to find a chair to sit on and some food to eat.

When I’d recovered I took a look at the ride on Strava and it had been ridiculously quick, for me, even with the slowing down towards the end. I couldn’t believe that I’d done it, which felt great, which is why then I went out with them a few more times. These were a little easier, mainly as I knew what to expect, but I wouldn’t really describe them as fun. Now I know this might not have been the point of the rides, but it has always been why I’ve ridden. Keeping fit and in shape has always just then been a happy accident, that keeps me from joining a gym. But going on these rides where we didn’t ever just stop and look around to see where we were, or for a chat and to refuel, were not what I was looking from on a ride.

Now maybe it was just this group of riders, and that this particular club just isn’t for me. But I don’t then know how to find a club that I do feel that I fit into, and does embrace why I ride?

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It took me a day to decide what I was going to do with the bike, which I’m going to blame my colleague Steve for. Upon arriving at work and seeing me both walking funny, and sporting some pretty good roadrash, he asked me what had happened. But before I could get to the end, he’d got up on his screen a bike that he’d loaded onto the site whilst I’d been off. “You want one of these.” I hadn’t. In fact I’d walked past the same bike several times at Eurobike two weeks earlier. However, the reason I walked past it because I wanted a good look at Tom Ritcheys own hand built road bike. Oh, and that was beautiful. However the bike Steve now had on his screen was a Ritchey, a Ritchey Road Logic. And, it was on the site we both work on each and every day. “We do these?” He looked at me like I’d said something stupid. Which he then backed up with insults. But, he’d done what he’d set out to do, he’d planted a seed…

On the train home that night I searched through my phone looking at the photos I’d taken at Eurobike. I hadn’t taken a photo of it, or Tom Ritcheys own bike. I did remember it though, and I do remember how nice it was and I had seen a lot of nice bikes there. I needed to see a photo now though. The photos on the Ritchey site, were functional at best, and didn’t seem to show the bike off in any way. Scrolling through Google, I couldn’t find either a good photo, or a build I liked. However, that was probably just it, they were all other peoples builds, they were not what I would do. And then, I saw one. I’m pretty sure that it was on the Team Dream Bicycling Team instagram feed, but I saw one basking in the LA sunshine and I was sold.

I had to somehow make it happen. The easiest thing to do was to rescue everything I could from the De Rosa, and then make sure that everything else matched what I had and suited the build. I chose to lose the ridiculously expensive and light carbon skewers I had, as the scared me. But I had a friend who wanted some, so was able to strike up a deal. I had an idea on what saddle I wanted, and it would totally suit the build, but it was a little on the heavy side and would upset some of my friends. It could only be though a Brooks Cambium saddle. I’d used one on Pashley so knew how it felt, and this build was really going to be about comfort. I’d had carbon framed race machine, that was light, and stiff, and would go wherever I pointed it, but that’s not what this build was going to be about. From October to January I gathered together the parts I needed for the build, and then one Friday evening in February after work I bribed Josh at work with beer and Pizza and we put it all together.

Because I’m an utter ponce though, it wasn’t until the first weekend in April until I deemed the weather nice enough to ride it in. It was well worth the wait, and whilst it hadn’t necessarily been love at first sight it was on the first ride. Steel is real. It was so smooth. In all likelihood I’m not going to ever be able to ride is quick on it as I did on the De Rosa, but because it’s more comfortable and the fact that I’m feeling less beaten up by the bike and the road I think I’ll not only be able to ride it for longer but quicker over longer distances. Even though I only started riding it in April, I rode 1391 of the 2286 miles in did in total over the course of the year on the Ritchey, and I’m so looking forward to the weather to brighten up so I can get out on it this year. Is it the best bike I’ve ever ridden? Of course it’s not, but it’s got the best ride of any bike I’ve ever owned or built… and I don’t think it’s finished yet. It doesn’t quite look the same now than it does in the photo at the top of this post, and I think there will be a few subtle changes coming up.

This bike puts such a big smile on my otherwise grumpy face. Oh and if you were to ask me, and I highly recommend that you do, “where can I buy a Ritchey Road Logic?” I can definitely point you in the right direction.

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Is leaving it 18 months before picking right up from where I left off, without offering any explanation, excusable…? I hope so. I will just carry on anyway however.

The very next time I went out riding, I dropped my bike going 30ish miles an hour round a roundabout. I stuffed the rear mech into the rear wheel, bent brake levers, bent the front brake calliper, broke my helmet, scratched my glasses, lost some skin, and melted my shorts and jersey to my leg and arm. I jumped straight up, made sure no one had seen, and then rode the remaining 2 miles home very carefully. My saddle was on the wonk and, to be fair, so was I. My hip was sore, but more importantly I was really shaken up. And the feeling didn’t go away, in fact, I still don’t think it has.

I couldn’t really bring myself to look at the bike, but I did make myself go out for a ride the following weekend. It was a pretty sedate affair, and relatively short, but I did make a point of riding the same stretch of road that I’d come off on. Now, I’ve ridden down that road a lot. It’s one of two quiet routes in and out of the countryside on my side of town. On the way back in, it comes shortly after a Strava Segment that I’d previously had a KOM on. The roundabout however was well after you’ve slowed down, and up until the point, I’d never given it a second thought. But, maybe that was reason why it’s happened. In the crash itself, I’d taken the bike to the left and then as soon as I leaned it to the right I knew that I was coming to come off… and then sure enough I was sliding down the road. So now riding round it a week later I was super cautious. Wary of every stone, every change in texture of the surface of the road, and with what I was doing with the bike. This stretch of road was now not fun, and I wasn’t able to relax (In fact, I’ve struggled to do so whilst riding over the year an a half since). But I was able to ride, and went out again the very next day.

When I got home I put the bike I was riding (the winter bike) back into the spare room. In front of it was my pride and joy, the De Rosa, which I still couldn’t bear to look at. Bits of it we’re facing the wrong way, other bits were bent, others scratched. The frame now creaked, and it didn’t feel right.

What was I going to do…

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