Monday, 24 April 2017

A Brimham Triptych


The grit season that never was keeps on giving. Fresh WNW-erlies and plenty of cloud cover were providing conditions far better than still sunshine would in half the temperature, so Tris and I hit Lancashire and Yorkshire. Various potterings were done, the highlight of which by far was the following combination of contrasts from the bewildering yet sometimes brilliant Brimham:

MMS. The full name is bollox so that will do. I backed off this on New Year's Eve with Spraggs a few years back. The slopers over this bulge are particularly gritty and confusing, I was just more determined this time. It turns out this crux is fairly naff as the holds lead you almost into Desperation Crack before rocking back out. However the rest of the slab is quite a voyage and makes the route worthwhile - never that hard but committing with some pretty fiddly gear (shallow keylock wires, folded hexes, etc).


Rotifer. I backed off this once on the same NYE as it started drizzling, and again last spring with Hobby as the breeze dropped and there was a shower of insects instead of rain and equally bad conditions. I've remembered that gritstone is 70% conditions, 20% reach, and 10% willingness to break limbs. This time the conditions were great, the willingness to break limbs was alleviated by good micro cams in the seam (not even the smallest old alien / camalot size, so this has been a feasible option for 20 years, I suppose you could highball it if you were weird and overendowed with pads, but I preferred the lead), and the reach.....was just enough - fingertips on the top after the 3rd 5c crux. A very cool wee proper grit route.


Beatnik. In a change from tradition, I've never backed off this. It was only vaguely on my radar as a potential option being at least protectable. It turns out the protectable bit is probably the crux, placing the gear at my feet and baws in the photo being pretty brutal, whilst the climbing was good honest grating fun. Bonus star for the perfect Friend 6 on the skyline.

So there we go. An OCD-sating 3x3 of 3 wholesomely varied styles. I nearly made it 4x3 with a long overdue solo of Acme Wall but the 20% reach 10% limb-breaking were far too prominent so that will have to wait. Unfortunately I managed to put myself out of action in a much tamer but much stupider way than groundfalling - in the hostel after this day I sliced my finger pad peeling back a half-open food tin, after looking directly at it and thinking "This is stupid, I should wrap a towel around it" and then somehow doing it with my fingers anyway. COMPLETE FUCKING BELLEND. Still, it should heal within the week and I was training back 3 and core etc at TCA yesterday.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Hardcore Will Never Die?


Maybe The Daily Mash had it right all along (they usually do, I rarely trust anything unless it's been certified by Prof. Brubraker). It's now 27 years since the release of the first acclaimed hardcore track:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL5xh-wt3Vc

Part of the retrospectively well-named Visions Of 2017 single. It's now 2017 and as far as I can tell hardcore is still around. About 22-24 years since old skool hardcore split into jungle and happy hardcore, and gabber (now called just "hardcore" - I'll use that term although I am very happy with gabber, and obviously the Daily Mash mean happier hardcore but I'm sure the extensive research at the Institute Of Studies takes into account all sub-genres) rose in parallel in Holland (and America, and the UK). 23 years ago since I first got into hardcore via the quite astonishingly good Technohead 3 compilation:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/0UbPz5v8LVE

...and a similar amount of time since I first went raving to Rotterdam Termination Source at the Doncaster Warehouse. Raves and clubs around the country followed from Dance Planet in Cornwall to Rezerection in Edinburgh. I was always into the harder, darker, faster gabber so was strictly Room2 at Dreamscape / Helter Skelter, and had fun times at Bristol's legendary Death Row Techno and Rhyl's Steam (including a solo mission from Nottingham uni to see Australia's Nasenbluten and Xylocaine along with the UK's HMS and Loftgroover in a night billed as "music to make your eyes bleed :D). Those vibes were perfectly recaptured this last weekend with a French (yup, hardcore is international as well as persistent) invasion of Newcastle:


Excellent dark hardcore from Laurent Ho (who after banging out some industrial beats, hung around the dancefloor wearing a micro-skirt, tight black leggings and 6" heels), and merciless noisecore from the Michelson sisters. Great fun. The tiny club and sparse crowd pales in comparison to the massive Hardshock / Dominator / MOH festivals in Holland but still plenty of fun for the dedicated.

This brings the number of hardcore DJs I've raved to to quite a lot:
3Dom, Angel, Angerfist, Bass Generator, Brisk, Charly Lownoise & Mental Theo, Clarkee, Destroyer, Destructive Tendencies, Detest, Dione/SRB, Dolphin, Easygroove, Evil Activities, Fracture4, Hellfish, HMS, Jay Prescott, Laurent Ho, Lenny Dee, Loftgroover, Mad Tech, Madness, Manu Le Malin, Marc Smith, Mark EG, Mark Newlands, Mastervibe, Mikey B, The Music Maker, Nasenbluten, Neophyte, No Name & Mouse, The Outside Agency, Paul Elstak, Dr Peacock, Partyraiser, The DJ Producer, Rob Gee, Rotterdam Termination Source, Sei2ure, Scorpio, Scott Brown, Smurf, The Suicide Squad, Technotrance, Tieum, Unexist, Warlock, Wargroover, Xylocaine...

I still need to catch Dolphin (his recent output is excellent) N-Vitral (king of the kickdrums, and another near-miss at Twisted's Darkside), TOA again (just too good), and ideally m1dy (absolutely mental and cheerful Japanese speedcore). Unfortunately I'm not sure if Nordcore GMBH are still around as being creators of the consistently best atmospheric darkcore before the millenium, I've missed out if I never rave to this truly fantastic (in any genre, not just hardcore) track being played out:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/r39atbJkhPw

Anyway after a 4:30am bedtime in a cheap motel in Newcastle, partly deaf and with chronic pizza mouth, I headed on a long recce trip around Yorkshire (fantastic breezy and sunny Saturday with no-one around to climb with, grrrr). Dovestones is still very inspiring although Coin For A Beggar is stupidly reachy so that got sacked off. Baildon is also as welcoming as usual, and Wombling Wall looks very reasonable (comments on UKC indicate it might be wrongly graded?). And Hetchell has lots of leading potential rather than just soloing, but the evening was just too good so I had to do something:

 Livia. Recently cleaned by some bloke on UKC so cheers for that. Decent small cams protect the crux rocking into the groove and possibly the top-out too. 

Augustus. Easy technically, bold adjectivally. No real gear on this one. I backed off it a decade or so ago and I can understand why!

After that solo mission, I had a choice of two climbing partners lined up for Yorkshire grit on the next days, so of course Sunday it wanked it down and Monday looked showery so I sacked it off via Eden Rock which is still a great fun venue and I did slightly better than last time. Weather still looks pretty cool and fresh so I'm still dead keen for approx 5,000 different venues around Yorks, Lancs and Cheshire....not sure what the next hardcore rave is though, although there is a Prspct Records night in Bristol at the start of May....


Friday, 31 March 2017

The Grit Season That Never Was....


....or at least, it started at 5pm on Saturday and finished at 6:30pm. During which time although the rock was too warm and the breeze was obstructively mis-aligned, at least the coolness of the hazy sunset made climbing enjoyable rather than debilitating (especially Dirty Stop Out which is only 8m but has 3 5b cruxes in which is nice). And afterwards it looked like this, which is also nice:


Prior to that it looked a lot like a fat weak punter with a chest infection lolling aimlessly on the ground, waking only sporadically to cough up some septic gunk or move vaguely out of the way of someone trying to lead routes above him. I did one warm-up route in the morning, backed off some slopey thing in the sun at lunchtime, and then just basked until dusk. Warm enough to fully sunbathe is not the grit conditions I was looking for. But dry weather and dry rock was something at least, and while bimbling at Bamford surrounded by the Rockfax-clutching hordes was pretty far away from the climbing experience I was after, it served a purpose for easy pottering whilst I recovered (from the Bangface weekends, two 5-7am nights and a big wall session and my immune system obviously fucked off elsewhere).

So yeah this was it, down on the grit at last (I have no special affinity with the grit, being physically unsuited to it and utterly rubbish at it despite thousands of routes, BUT it is the prime winter trad rock so still has much appeal, more so being extra distant from it and anything else that qualifies as prime winter trad with more than a handful of routes left to do). End of March AGAIN, dismal. But I guess not as dismal as not doing it and despite everything I climbed okay. I felt strong and energised the previous Saturday, this one I felt weak as fuck. A week without training - two now I've gone through anti-biotics. I really miss pulling hard. Soon to be 3 weeks of weak  - next week is my brother's wedding on Iona, after that it's back to some serious fucking climbing focus.

Natural grit was "out", exactly a day before I was prone beneath Neb Buttress, idly thinking "the lime really should be called already", the lime had been called. Great minds etc, and I hate Pennine lime. Of course calling of the lime also means calling of the non-grit, be it quartzite or pillow lava or whatever. Or indeed quarried grit, which bridges the gap. So after giving up the 2 hour grit season on Saturday, it was straight into training for proper rock in the Lancs quarries where the usual positive holds gave a bit more positivity in approach. Summit Quarry provided steady mileage, Warland quarry provided seepage and a return fixture, and Egerton provided both a failure (Phantom Zone LH - quite easy but I was simply drained (two nights trying to keep my lungs down)) and a scary success (Satin Sapphire - a classic headgame arete with a reasonably protected crux to a knife-edge rest that provides ample opportunity to panic before an off balance reach to safety. I made good use of that before doing it, it felt a bit early in the season for that sort of malarkey. Unfortunately I missed getting a photo of the situation as it was quite characterful, especially as the one photo on UKC shows some non-ascent of a headpoint failure with side-runners. Hard to believe that someone could waste a cool route in that way but climbers are fucking weird. Now you know, go and do it, there's a lot of great choice on Egerton Sunny Side now).


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Banging.


Festivals make me smile wryly. I see people posting excitedly on FB about them, then I go to look at the line-up and amongst all the mainstream, indie, student electronica and Radio 1 so-called dance music, there's one act/DJ I'd pay a tenner to see in a local club and two more I'd pop in to see if they were on for free in a pub round the corner and that's it.

Bangface is a bit different. In fact it's a bit different to everything: Not only the antithesis of standard festival mundanity, it's also the antithesis of chinstroking purist dance genre dweebery (too much of a party vibe for that), the antithesis of smart upmarket Londonised clubbing (far too ravey including pretty much a dress anti-code), it's even the antithesis of mid-late 90s raves with separate genre segregation. Look at the timetables below...



You get ALL of the harder dance genres mashed together along with various off beat and experimental stuff and a crowd that is about 30% die hard raver / crusty, 30% normal people dressed up flamboyantly and ridiculously like the die hard crusty ravers, 30% normal people who forgot their neon and horns and feathers, and a token 10% neds chavs posers etc - a proper dance festival by anyone's standards.

I went to the 2012 weekender which was a bit of a mission since it was 10 hours slog to Newquay and I didn't have enough petrol to get to rave and back on the first night so missed the Outside Agency etc etc, although after it was over I did get some great climbing on the North Cornwall coast. This time was a bit different because it was 3 hour drive and I got a cheap hotel at the Charnock Richard services (really quite disappointing to be coming off at junction  27½ legally but needs must), OTOH the weather was fucking dire so no essential grit hit before during or after. Instead I went to the Manchester Depot, met Julie Andy the Lincoln and the Bennetts which was nice and social, despite a late night (7am) I did really well, the sauna heat shortcutted my warm-up whilst the anti-hydral allowed me to cope with the manky holds (somewhat at odds with the splendor of the wall itself). The best and least injury-hampered session I've had this year.

So back to the banging. Lots of clashes on the flyer but I caught:

Randomer - really good proper techno, helped by a fucking mint soundsystem in room 2, apparently he's more of a *step DJ.

a bit of Ceephax Acid Crew - slow and mundane, I walked through pretty quick.

Om Unit - gripping deep and dark halfstep dnb into some jungle at the end. Not my usual dnb style but I skipped the ever-reliable Dave Clarke cos this sounded so good.

Evol Intent - good neuro / techstep although a bit stop start in places, also there was too much Evol as Dj Hype didn't turn up - a pity as a more jump up jungle set would have broken things up perfectly.

a bit of Radium - bouncy frenchore, seemed to be going down well.

a bit of some Japanese dude - fast happy hardcore gabber, seemed to be quite fun.

Panacea - great set of neuro, techstep, crossbreed insanity. This has been a lonnnng time coming, 20 years in fact when a mate and I were in a record shop overhearing a punter saying "Nah I don't really like that heavy metal drum'n'bass", referring to his Low Profile Darkness album. Many albums, collaborations and a fantastic John Peel birthday set later, his style is a bit more squelchy neuro than super dark dnb, but he still does a great job.

a bit of Detest - good but a bit stop start i.e. a lot of drops into kickdrums but I dunno not as much flow as I hoped.

The Liberators - the opposite, pleasingly relentless banging acid techno, just how you'd expect. Another John Peel favourite and you can see why. They had some issues with decks skipping but the music was on point.

The DJ Producer - another highlight, I didn't think I'd last this long but the man like Producer promised "Facemelt Friday" and he didn't disappoint with a classic set of turntablised gabber, hardcore techno and crossbreed. One of my favourite DJs in the late 90s and he still has it.

Ratpack - a good set of the full spectrum of old skool from rave, funky house, breakbeat, early jungle etc. Not my sort of thing at all but they seemed to do a great job of it. A mellow breakbeat mash-up of the Born Slippy intro melody was a real nice chillout moment.

Ed Solo & Deekline - partly made up for the Hype no show with a proper dancefloor DnB set from modern jump-up back to jungle classics. Good stuff.



Angel - another highlight - I'd recently got some big Angel hype after finding out the Can You See Me track was her, and this was a great set of relentless ebbing and flowing industrial techno and crunchy analogue. Much better than some of the stop start stuff, the dancefloor went from empty to barely-able-to-move (even a grumpy security guard was nodding along) and yes there was much flying limbs at 2:03 above.

Atari Teenage Riot - did exactly what you'd expect. Decent aggressive gabber / breakcore with shouted vocals. I can see why people like them but separate tracks after some of the more crafted DJ sets didn't really inspire me.

a bit of Reso - finished on some great neuro jump up, apparently he's a dubstep DJ and I really wished I'd caught all of his set instead of ATR as a mix blending hard dubstep into DnB would have gone down a treat.

a bit of TQD - bassline house / grime / stuff. Not my personal bag but sounded pretty cool, good to have variety.

Skull Vomit - cheery speed gabber and breakcore, more of my personal bag, fast, silly, and fun.

the end of Bogdan Rathingy - pretty dire, bland and bleepy electronica.

Dieselboy - more proper hard neuro dnb, a good set with some nice slices of more abstract stuff mixed in. The modern hard neuro (astutely coined on Drum And Bass Arena as "Eastern European Sausage Tech") does get a bit samey but Dieselboy and Panacea mixed it up enough.

half of Bong-Ra - I wish he'd been on sooner as I was all out of energy and my feet were too sore to bounce away to his mentalist blend of breakcore, jungle and gabber. I still don't really get 180-200bpm breakcore but I need to give it chance when I'm fresher.

And that was it. First night I stayed until 6am, second night until 4:30am, not bad for someone with no drugs no booze and no mates! Now I have the man-flu so I don't feel like capitalising on the reassuring Depot training session any time soon but hopefully will get out in the decent forecast weather this weekend??



Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Train Train.


A bit like the send train, but far more realistic for this wankshit winter.

My friend Jade posted this link recently: https://www.mountainproject.com/blog/4194/training-ultimate-training-day Interesting stuff, apart from it not being that interesting. A bit like this post no doubt but hey I'm writing it for me so stop reading it, okay? The author lives in Boulder Colorado, it is one of my ultimate aims in life to live in Boulder or SLC or Las Vegas. Fuck American politics, fuck miserable Brits slagging off crass and shallow Yanks, I want to live and climb in the desert (or near it, pedants). Anyway, from the article:

"Show me someone who said they had the time of their life doing weighted deadhangs all day in the gym, and I’ll show you someone I’d like to slap in the face." 
Show me someone who said they had the time of their life trying to rally some support for a grit trip, driving a 9 hour round trip to shower dodge and do fuck all apart from waste money and get weaker for when the good weather does finally arrive, and I'll show you someone who doesn't live in the fucking desert.

"The last sunset I watched through the windows of the gym was kind of lackluster if you know what I’m saying."
The last sunset I watched through the windows of the gym was kind of pretty and could have convinced me to try going out climbing if it wasn't for the sodden roads and buildings from the previous showers.

To be fair the weather hasn't been that terrible and it's probably fine if you live next to inspiring rock. To be fair I probably have a similar attitude to the author in that I love exploring diverse and interesting areas to do inspiring rock climbing and training is only ever a means to an end and a necessary evil. But I might as well enjoy and make use of that evil. Last winter sucked arse because I did fuck all rock climbing, but come spring I did fine on the trad and didn't get too strong to pull off too many holds on The Complete Works nor too reliant on bright plastic to miss the smears on The Baldest.

So after a low period I've got back to the gym to give my tweaked wrist a rest, and the weightlifting has fired my body enough that I've felt better at the wall and my wrist is now not as sore as my chronic golfer's elbow so I guess that's progress??

After less than 10 gym sessions and about 4 weightlifting sessions (for the first time in 8+ months?) I managed to get back to all my previous benchmarks (160kg deadlift, 80kg benchpress, 100kg squat, 20kg/arm military press, +25kg pullup) surprisingly quickly. I guess my body has adapted a bit over the years. Actually I've progressed a bit, 165kg DL and 160 more comfortable without straps, deeper squats, 22kg/arm MP (just!). My body feels good after that and I'm sticking to the maxim:

Increasing your 1rm (or at least, working your 3 rep max at 3 sets, say) will give you the best strength increase, for the least hypertrophy. Aka, the best of both worlds.
Anything else will be making you heavy!
As usual I'm mixing in these small sets of large weights with core work, antagonist work, CV, and climbing-relevant work (pulls etc).

Why so much gym stuff?? Firstly I'm too tweaked to train at the wall all the time, if I did more wall sessions I'd be held together by tape and scar tissue and my skin would be fucked. Secondly I'd get a bit bored wall training all the time. Thirdly there are some issues I can train more effectively at the gym (core, legs, CV) which will feed into my climbing one way or another. In short if I didn't go the gym I'd either be less fit or more injured or both.

Of course I go to the wall more and focus on that more, albeit pleasure and fun has a role too! But having some good benchmarks for weights got me curious about aiming for more climbing-strength-specific benchmarks. This is not some miserable abarro81 style PHD-level training plan, it's just having some goals to aim for so I can try a bit harder and maybe get a bit stronger. So I did some tests:

Weighted bar pullups: 1 x +30kg, 2 x +25kg, 3 x +20kg
(Aim: 1 x 40kg )

Weighted BM smallest edges hangs: 3.5s x +20kg, 5s x +15kg, 7s x +10kg
(Aim: Not sure, the weighted ones felt pleasingly hard so I'm keen to try more)

BM smallest edges hangs: 13s
(Aim: Not sure)

BM 30' sloper hangs: 30s
(No aim, too conditions-dependent)

BM 45' sloper hangs: 1.5s
(No aim, too conditions-dependent)

BM smallest edges pull-ups: 4
(Aim: 5 full pull-ups)

Campusing medium rungs: 1:3:4
(Aim: 1:3:5)
(N.B. Pre-dvt / weight gain: Campusing small rungs: 1:3:5)

TCA 45' campus ladder feet on single rungs: 1 full set + 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
(Aim: 2 full sets (2 seconds chalking after drop-off)

TCA 45' campus ladder feet on alternate rungs: 1 full set + 1-3-5-7
(Aim: 2 full sets (2 seconds chalking after drop-off)

TCA 45' campus ladder feet on alternate rungs without twisting body: 1-3-5
(Aim: 1 full set)

Of course most of these are highly dependent on skin, conditions, fingertip soft-tissue pain due to heaviness, etc. So not as pure as lifting a load of metal off the ground ;).

The goal of course....get on Billy Sprag and have good crimp strength to keep pulling on edges, and good thigh strength for any fierce rockovers, Get on Pass The Pigs and have good enough body tension to keep in the layback and have allowed my wrist to heal to hold the roundedness. Get on Woodland Ecology and have enough burl to commit confidently to the moves for the slopey ramp.

Etc etc etc.


Friday, 3 March 2017

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The RC Car hobby.


I like radio controlled cars. I liked the idea of them as a 10 year old, and a long time later I like them in the metal and plastic. It's quite nice getting involved with a new hobby and new culture (with people like the madly cackling RCSparks providing regular inspiration), cruising them, breaking them, upgrading them, posting on forums and going from being a complete noob to someone who gets gratitude for helping other people online.

So I thought I'd write a beginner's post about it, in the context of the completely separate climbing community which is of course where my heart and life's purpose still lies.

Should you get involved in the RC Hobby?? Hell yeah. It's not that expensive if you choose right, it doesn't take up that much time to go out and cruise with an RC car, choose the right car and you can do it when the weather is shit, choose the right driving style and you shouldn't need to do much repairing or maintenance, and there's a wide choice of approach from a £40 micro you mess around with inside to an £800 1/5 scale monster that's infinitely upgradeable and can mince all over the roughest terrain. Pick what suits YOU.

(In terms of the climbing lifestyle it has no benefits as an additional hobby apart from possibly night time / wet weather driving with the right set-up. And major repair work is a good warm-up for the fingers pre-training. OTOH go to an empty crag with an off road RC shoved into your sack and it might be fun while resting between attempts on your SICK PROJ RIG, who knows ;)).

Start by considering the size you want and the style of driving that appeals because there's a lot of choice. I wanted to do some bashing and jumping and happened to choose the HPI Savage XS, it's not cheap at all but is an absolute beast, very fast, jumps well, cruises over all terrain. Then I wanted something smaller to try in the flat and maybe out at local carparks (the Savage is waaaay too powerful) so I got a Carisma GT24TR which is really nice for speed cruising and small jumps, and a WLToys P929 which is cheap, tiny but solid and fast, although things do break easy at smaller scales. It's a different choice for everyone. But there's one essential pre-purchase step: Check the model you're choosing has spares readily available. Trust me on this.

Have some information:

Types of RC car usage:

Racing: Proper RC for people who can actually control them well ;). Needs a proper track (on-road for race cars, off-road for buggies) but not necessarily hugely competitive.

Speed runs: Tinkering and testing to go as stupidly, pointlessly fast as possible in a straight line. Usually needs a GPS logger like SkyRC and a dweebish attitude towards endless upgrading (so one for road cyclists then).

Drifting: Pimped up cars, low bodies, slick wheels, smooth surfaces, and all your Fast And Furious fantasies. Quite niche but good for small areas and indoor fun.

Cruising: General generic driving, on or off-road, just getting out and having fun.

Bashing: "Drive it like you stole it", "If you didn't break it you ain't doing it right". Jumps, bumps, humps, drops, skate parks, and a lot of time ordering spares online. Great fun.

Trail driving: Taking your car out for a walk. Generally on rougher terrain with a slower car than you'd have for cruising, one for the explorers.

Crawling: Extreme trail driving with extremely slow but agile cars, basically climbing over rocks, chasms, stream beds, the more awkward the better.

Scales:

Large scale: 1/8 - 1/6 - 1/5 , often nitro/petrol powered rather than electric, very expensive and big.

Normal scale: 1/10 - 1/12-ish , nitro/petrol or electric, expensive-ish but lots of choice.

Mini scale: 1/14 - 1/16 - 1/18, mostly electric, still lots of hobby-grade choice.

Micro scale: 1/24 - 1/36 and below, electric, still a good choice but not so many high end models.

Grades:

Toy grade - cheap, can be fast and agile, but not upgradeable, not repairable, and might not have a good transmitter. Skip an evening in the pub and get hobby grade.

Hobby grade - "proper" RC, from budget to luxury. Cheaper ones are not necessarily much fancier than toy grade but will likely be better materials and components, and likely to be upgradeable and repairable - the former aspect is fun, the latter aspect is very useful.

Ready To Run (RTR) - most RC cars come like this these days. Just add batteries. You can often still dismantle them to the base components though!

Kit form - much rarer than it used to be, although Tamiya still do plenty. You get less choice but if you really want to build something, go for it.

UK Shops:

Steve Webb - my cousin's shop so I have to give him a shout out. The website is a bit hopeless but they have loads of other stock in store and a lot of expertise. If you live near Chester pop in to the shop in Frodsham in person.
Modelsport
Wheelspin
RCGeeks
There are many more but I've used those regularly.

Forums:

RC Groups
Ultimate RC
RC Universe
R/C Tech

These are invariably American so it can be a bit frustrating when you see a really cool looking car with a big thread discussing all the options, then find out 98% of the stock goes to China and America and it's only available in the UK from one Hong Kong exporter who charges £45 postage and it will take 8 weeks to get here by which time the manufacturer has discontinued it and you can't get any spares.

Good makes:

It really depends what you're after but some good names are: Kyosho, Tamiya, HPI (& Maverick), Traxxas (& La Trax), Dromida, Associated, Losi, Carisma, WLToys and FTX.

If any of this is slightly useful, then in the words in RCSparks "get out there any enjoy the RC hobby" :)