Category Archives: Reviews

Here He Is! Focus Fat Boy 2010

My new bike was delivered this morning.  I was in a meeting, talking about Terms & Conditions at the time.  I came downstairs to be greeted by the curious smiles of my colleagues and a huge cardboard box with “wiggle” written on it.

I’m going to have to refer to this bike as a “he”, because he’s called Fat Boy.  So, here he is:

My shiny new Fat Boy

My Shiny New Fat Boy

The wow factor for me was noticing that I have a remote lock-out on the forks, which I can activate from the handlebars.  That little extra has made me a very happy man!  I’m so easily excited 🙂

Unfortunately, I’m taking a load of seminar gear to a Golf Club this afternoon, for a seminar we’re delivering tomorrow morning.  This means that I have to rush my new friend home in the car, get back and start packing our stuff.

Tonight’s job will be to stick the handlebars & pedals on and get out there in the rain to test him out.  I’ll let you know how we do.

What do you think of him so far?

Sad Loss, Happy Beginnings? New Bike Bought

A Sad Loss…

I’ve been agonising for a while about my lovely old Haro.  She’s been complaining and displaying all the signs of her old age.  A couple of months ago I took her wheels in to be trued and they couldn’t do it.  At that point I began to accept that her days were drawing to a close.

So, it is with a heavy heart and a much lighter wallet that I have to tell you I’ve ordered a new companion.  This weekend’s ride will be my last on my trusty Haro.

Haro Escape 7.0, My companion for the last 10 years.

RIP My Faithful Haro Friend, Out To Pasture After 10 Years

The frame’s still bombproof, but the wheels, brakes and bottom bracket are knackered.  I’ll pass it on to some deserving soul or put it on Freecycle, unless anyone has any better ideas…?

…A Happy Beginning?

I’m a bit scared.

I’m a bit scared of how easy it was to spend my money with Wiggle.   I simply used the affiliate link from Fight Bad Driving and was logged into my Wiggle account automatically.  The bike I’ve chosen was already on my wish list so, what seemed like 4 nanoseconds later, I was looking at the “Thank You From Wiggle” screen and experiencing early-onset-post-purchase-dissonance.

Here’s the beast:

My new pearly-white steed.

Focus Fat Boy 2010, My New Steed

Why A Mountain Bike?

I thought long and hard about getting a road bike, but I need a family-friendly ride.  We live alongside a canal so we ride as a family along the towpath, regularly.  Everyone else has an offroad-style bike: even the young girls have fat tyres.

The roadie option was to buy a decent road bike, then get my Haro updated with some inexpensive new wheels and a new bottom bracket for the family rides.  This would’ve cost the wrong side of £100 on top of a new roadie for sure.  Shed room would also have been an issue.

So, the MTB won the day this time.

Why The Focus?

I’ve read reviews on Focus’ road bikes and MTBs, from last year and this year.  Focus bikes are German, and those Germans are pretty good at engineering, whatever you say about their sense of humour.  Wiggle are selling a lot of their bikes (which must be a good sign, surely) and the more recent reviews have been very good.  On the 2009 models, it seemed that they were trying to cut costs by providing lower-priced components.  OK, this year’s Fat Boy is £100 more than last year’s, but the components are good.

Oh, and I loved the paint job.  How cool is it? Really? I mean, How Cool is THAT?  I’m a sucker for a nice white frame, me. 🙂

Let me know what you think … and if you know any good cause that’d benefit from a Haro Escape 7.0 which squeaks a bit, let me know.

Cycling GPS Test

As you might know, I got my shiny new HTC HD2 last week, and promptly installed some of my favourite applications on it.

Possibly my favourite app is the GPS Cycle computer. I downloaded a new version (for free!) and installed it easily.

On Saturday, I spent the afternoon tinkering with the family’s bikes:

  • Bottle holders for the girls
  • A kickstand for one of the girls, since the other already had one pre-installed
  • New, lighter & shorter bar ends for my boy and myself
  • Towbars removed from Other Half’s & my bikes

This took me a little while.  Just long enough for it to start raining. Pah!  Nevertheless, I was already wearing my eco-ninja cycling gear, so I decided to set off regardless.  I switched on the tracker, zipped it into my pocket and off I went.

It was only a swift pootle along the canalside in the fading light, following some of the route taken by Rooley earlier that same day with his daughter.  With hindsight, it’s a shame I didn’t bump into them, that’d have been a nice surprise.  For me anyway, maybe not them 🙂

I’ve just got round to uploading the kml track that the computer recorded and I’m most impressed.  The accuracy is far superior to what I had got used to with my old Vodafone V1615 (Kaiser; TyTnii, whatever they call it) and I’ve had to do hardly any editing of spurious tracking points.

So far, I’m very happy with the new phone and this is just one of the reasons.  On the other hand, my Trusty Steed, she’s struggling.

I love ths bike, butshe's 10 this year and knackered.

My Faithful Haro, 10 this year.

She’s spending most of her last days languishing in the shed, but I don’t want to draw out her farewell, so in the interests of palliative care, I’m looking at replacing her with a newer model.  Watch this space…

Here’s the map as recorded by the phone’s tracking software on Saturday:

View Smithy Bridge First new GPS Track in a larger map

HTC HD2 First Impressions

Yesterday I took delivery of a brand new HTC HD2 at work. Everybody else in Utility Masters is having an iPhone, but as a proud nonconformist I’m plumping with the Windows Mobile option.

Why Did I Choose The HD2?

  1. I am afraid of “The Cult Of Apple“.  I don’t want to be forced to use iTunes.  I don’t want to become one of those bores who plays with his iClone all night when I go out.  I don’t want to join the self-righteous “aren’t we all creative and interesting because we follow Apple” brigade.  I love what Apple have done for design – they’re a bunch of genii (is that the plural of genius?) – I just don’t subscribe to the notion that using their products makes me, by association, a genius too.
  2. I have some Windows Mobile apps I wanted to keep.  I might blog about them some other time, but I use an interval trainer application, a GPS tracker for my bike rides, and the wonderful TomTom for windows Mobile.  I didn’t want to have to start again on a new phone platform.

First Impressions

I’ve had this phone less than 12 hours so far.  I told Dave that I loved him when he brought it downstairs to me.  I realise now that I don’t actually love Dave: that was just foolish infatuation.  I actually love my new phone.

It’s incredibly shiny and black, which I am a big fan of.  That’s why the people at Samsung have enjoyed so much of my home entertainment budget.

  • The front screen is very simple to use, and wonderfully customisable.
  • Setting up Wi-Fi and my Exchange Server details was a doddle, as was…
  • Adding a few bookmarks and…
  • Selecting my favourite people for the phone’s dedicate “People” screen.
  • Installing my apps was easier than I expected and they all work beautifully.  The GPS tracker is actually better, with extra functionality to take advantage of the phone’s better touchscreen capabilities.
  • Web browsing is is fantastic, thanks to the “pinch scroll”, nicked directly from Apple.  You see, I love Apple’s ideas, so Im glad that people outside the Cult can steal them 🙂

So far I have two gripes that have spoiled my experience a little:

  1. You only get one compatible USB cable, of the new, more fiddly type.  This is supposed to help you at work, at home, and plugged into the nifty little mains charger?  i think not.  Give me at least one more please.
  2. The phone automatically leaves everything running until you find the Task Manager and end the programs.  This will doubtless result in everything running incredibly slowly once the phone gets a few miles under its belt.  To rectify this, at the moment, you have do a soft reset by taking the back off, finding a toothpick and prodding where it doesn’t hurt.  Install a shortcut from the phone’s menu to close everything down easily, please.


I adore the phone.  I suggest you buy one, although SIM free they’re the wrong side of £500, so find a good contract provider.  Mine is on Vodafone and the prices are pretty competitive although it’s part of a group order for Utility Masters.

Tell ’em Phill sent you!

Bikes For Girlies – A Review

Before Christmas I posted an article about Bikes For Girlies, in which I highlighted the two machines that I’d asked Santa to sort out for our ladies. Well, here’s the verdict:

Happy Christmas Customers!

Happy Christmas Customers!


Both bikes arrived flat-packed, which is sometimes a cause for consternation. No need to worry though: both were very easy to put together.  The Bumper Sparkle is the most complicated of the pair, with extra girly attachments like a storage box over the back wheel; bag on the handlebars; mudguards and so on.  Even so, it was road-ready in about 45 minutes.

The Falcon Cherry as an altogether simpler proposition.  Stripped down and designed to look fast & mean, this one was all sorted in  easily less than half an hour.

Don’t think that you get the tools you need though: you don’t.  You’ll need a couple of screwdrivers; pliers and an adjustable spanner; allen key and a little bit of grunt to assemble these bikes and to make final adjustments to the brakes etc.  If you already have a bike and some tools, you won’t need anything new.


One reader expressed a concern over the weight of these steelies.  But I’m glad to say that the absence of suspension (unneccessary on bikes so small?) makes them both very manageable.  I dont expect any issues loading them both onto our Witter cycle carrier – along with our other 3 steeds – when the weather improves.


Both of these 18″ wheeled bikes are strong, well-built units, which I expect to see the girls through the 2 years or so that they’ll fit them.  Then, as I usually do, I’ll wash them and donate them to some other child to spread the joy – it’s like my own personal FreeCycle scheme and I love to see the face of a local bikeless kid light up, moments before their first serious crash sends them crying and running for home! 🙂


At less than £200 for the pair, delivered from in Pemberton, I’m very happy with my choice.  The girls are too.  I used these people after a colleague recommended them, and I’d happily add to his praise.

Tell ’em Phill sent you.

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