Sunday, November 29, 2009

Testing Times

Salsa Fargo Wide

I'm after a tourer, and my shortlist is either a Salsa Fargo, or a Singular Peregrine. Before I splash my cash though a test ride of both is needed.

Yesterday I picked up Chipps' Fargo, and today after the rain subsided I took it for a spin. Even though it is equipped with Conti Top Contact touring tyres, it handled quite well over the rough stuff.

I've owned a Carradice SQR for ages, though without a bike it would afix to. There is just enough clearance between tyre and saddle to fit this 16 litre monster of a saddle bag to the Salsa. A prerequisite of the new bike, is that this bombproof carrier should fit.

Salsa Fargo

I need to ride it further to make up my mind for sure, but so far so good.

I'll put some knobblies on it next week, and see how it fares on the proper technical stuff with some load.

Still need to find a medium Peregrine to loan for a trial ride before I make up my mind finally.

I reckon this or the Singular will be great for the Tour Mont Blanc.

Friday, November 27, 2009

2010 Adventures Overdue.

Nearing the end of 2009, I realise that I've spent very little time on my bike. My only race was the Kielder 100, and that was a bit of a disaster, and other than a few day trips, not much in the way of adventures.

It's not been laziness. I devoted the days where I would have raced, to taking pictures at those events instead. A strategy which for my photography that is paying off. I've managed to have pictures published in a number of sports magazines. The most recent of which was a picture of Nick for the Ride Journal.

Ride Journal

Anyway for 2010 I'm hoping to combine more riding with the photography, and have some big adventures along the way.

So far on the rather small list are a few sojourns. In no particular order Amy, Kate and I are going to have a couple of days out in the Lake District completing the Lakeland Lugger. A route that I formulated over 2 years ago, reccied a coupe of sections, and have not yet completed. Date TBA, but sometime twixt May and July.

A Tour of the Cairngorms. Time to revisit the Scottish wilderness. 5 days or so camping and riding in February sometime between the 13th-21st (half term).

For the summer holidays, I've not quite decided yet, but following some of the Tour de France and completing the Tour de Mont Blanc in under 24 hrs are targets.

I've retired from 24 hour solo racing for the time being, but I will be at Strathpuffer, Mountain Mayhem, and Sleepless in the Saddle with my camera.

Any more ideas for adventures gratefully received.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kate's Birthday Ride.

My friend Kate invited me along to her Birthday ride, and kindly she'd arranged it to start about 2 minutes ride from my house, so no excuses for not making it, or being late. Even though I was the last to arrive.

Along with Kate for our little adventure were Amy, Ali, Simon and Chris, and they'd all brought along their singlespeeds. I was asked why I hadn't brought mine, to which I replied along the lines of "because I know better".

They had a route planned, however as the local I was allowed to modify our route to incorporate some bits of quality riding that our party hadn't done before. In fact it was modified that much in the end, other than the direction of travel it shared little trail with the original route. Route Hijack.

A pleasant warm up roll down the Sett Valley trail, then off we went up the first hill. Just this side of rideable for it's extent, though of course if you have a singlespeed, you'll be needing the right gear.

Onwards and Upwards

Once at the top of the hill, we headed down a nice steep descent, no offs, but a couple of refusals.

The Tricky Descent

Swoopy, droppy singletrack followed, never too tricky, but exposed.
Poor Ali discovered on the way down, that the mud and grit of which we have plenty currently, had eaten her brake pads. So we diverted slightly to point her in a homeward direction before heading off in search of more slippy twisty lines.

We all knew the first section, but then the next special diversion. I'd only done it once before. In preparation for the 3 peaks James and I had ridden it on our cross bikes. On that occasion neither of us had made it to the valley floor without kissing the grass on our way. I had thought though on that occasion, that on a mountain bike it would be possible to clean the descent.

150 metres of descent in a kilometre and all of it on a track little wider than a tyre. The first part without obstacle, but a couple of stoppers and drops meant that more speed was needed than one might have at first thought.

I was waiting for anyone down here. Solely focussing on getting down without the dreaded dab. It was going so so well. I passed the previous points of ejection without ado. The crux, a drop with some rock stoppers was barely an event. Sneaky grass covered ruts that had twice snatched my front wheel last time were glanced at and avoided. Of course just as I thought I'd made it a lack of momentum and inattention forced me to put my foot down. Pah.

I had a little wait before the next rider came into sight. Simon crested the brow smoothly, before spectacularly leaving his bike behind whilst continuing over his handlebars. Nothing broken though. Everyone down safely, and the weather was closing in. A good ride, so far. No need to be greedy, there's always another day. We retreat to the George.

Happy Birthday for tomorrow you giffer.
That was Scary 2/365

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What? The Wrong Tyres?

I can't believe I wrote that title. Having read numerous threads on mountain bike forums over the years, I'm bored to death with reading about what is supposedly the best tyre for (insert name of place). I am of the opinion for general XC, that it's not about the tyres on ones bike, it's about the rider's skill. The End.

Well not quite. Yesterday Nick suggested I head over to Todmorden with him to ride some of the trails round there with the STW crew and assorted bike industry folk. I'd ridden there before all would be good.

After hammering the coffee machine at STW HQ we assembled outside to split into three groups. Basically rides of differing length and difficulty dependant on how one felt on the day.

I elected to ride on the Todmorden Tech ride which would show some of the hardest riding the valley has to offer. Roughly half of this group was made up of 'locals', and I noticed before we left that many sported what are the bike equivalent of agricultural tractor tyres. Heavy wide, squarish profile, and deeeeep tread. How odd.

Off we went on the road along the valley, and again up the first hill on the road. Oh yes, those tyres sucked it out of them boys, and no doubt those who heard us passing without seeing us thought they could here the sound of distant thunder.

As always after the up, there comes the down, and at first I had no problem staying with the locals. Bare rock, and sandy trails, exactly what i'm used to.

Problems started to arise with my controlling the direction of travel and velocity of myself and bike, when the line to ride was underlying slithery mud covered with the autumnal fallings from the trees above. I was out of control.

As the day progressed I only took a couple of tumbles, but the near misses were many. Mid afternoon I decided I'd run my luck dry for the day, and on more than one occasion opted to avoid the "I'll end up in Hospital if I don't make this" line.

A great day of proper technical riding which caused not only me, but near everyone in our group to involuntarily get off their bike at least once.

Next time I head over that way, i'm going get me some of those there big tyres.

Some pics of the boys below. Click for bigger.

Great Rock

One Crash Of Many

Fingers Flys

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ogden Water to Hebden Bridge Revisited.

Under Big Skies Mountain Bikers enjoy the riding.

These days I am quite parochial when it comes to riding my bike. Unless there is a race, I rarely stray far from our local delights, Somtimes though it is good to travel, to revisit places, and meet up with friends.

Tony aka Ton from the singeltrack forum had proposed some weeks back a ride from Ogden Water over the hill to Hebden, a route that I first did some 20 years ago. I was tempted, I put my name down.

I arrived 5 minutes before the rendezvous time, which I thought would give loads of time for getting ready. Group rides are legendary for pre ride faffing, but on this occasion, everyone but me was ready. Amazing. Anyway 5 minutes later I too was ready and joined up with the rest of the group.

Group, it was more like the start of a small event. There were loads of people. 49 to be precise. Yikes.

Experience told me that this was going to be a steady ride, and not without mishap. True enough we were no more than a mile or so in before the first casuality, a seized freewheel. Well at least he was not far from the car park. It was a gorgeous day though so speed was not important we made our way onwards.

It was good to catch up with old friends and to put faces to names of others as we rode along. Punctures occasinally forced the group to wait whilst a tube was replaced. I manged to get two of them, being too enthusiastic whilst hurtling down some of the great rocky descents that Calderdale posseses.

We stopped at Gibson Mill to find that we had 'lost' a couple of our party. Time for coffee and cake whilst we awaited their arrival. After some time a search party was sent. They had disappeared. Our only checkpoint was named as the Cali Cafe in Hebden, so Ton went one way there, and we went another to meet hopefully having found the others somewhere along the way.

The lost were found. So onwards and upwards back from whence we came. Plenty of climbing, and great descents followed.

A great day out.

I might stray from home again someday.

Through the Tunnel

Aside the Leat

Our leader for the day.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Know your Bike.

I've Got The T Shirt

I'm a cyclist, and presuming you read the title, I guess you are too.
In all likelihood you've ridden your bike loads more than me this year. But hey it's not a competition is it? Well no, it's not, we ride our bikes for fun if and when we can. That's good.

Now lets say you race bikes, that's different. I used to race lots, I put in the miles for training and by my standards did OK. This year has been different, my work as a photographer has meant when I would have otherwise been racing, I have been taking pictures instead. Which is also fun.

On July the 1st though, I submitted an entry for what I and many others consider to be one of the toughest races one can do on a bike. The Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross. So of course I should have done lots and lots of training, but yes you guessed it, I hadn't.

So back to the title of the piece. With only a few weeks to go and few miles under the belt, I knew that going out and doing crazy miles was unlikely to yield much in the way of results on race day. So instead I opted to learn to ride my bike. I've had my Lemond Poprad for maybe three years now though as I also have two mountain bikes, and a shiny carbon road bike, it only occasionally gets used. I was going to learn it's strengths, it's foibles and I hoped that maybe this knowledge would save the day.

I rode it on my occasional morning road rides, and most importantly I took it places that cyclo-cross bikes don't usually go. I found the loose technical climbs, the boulder strewn technical descents. Oh yes, and I crashed lots. Pushing the bike until I knew precisely what Poprad and I could achieve together.

The night before the race though, I still felt that my lack of fitness would be my undoing. A few weeks earlier I'd attempted the Kielder 100 which after 35 miles, I'd pulled out of due to a combination of a niggling injury, and general knackeredness. I was tempted to not even start the race. Nick spurred me into action about eight that evening telling me how busy he had been getting everything ready for the race. After I put the phone down, I amassed my cycling kit in 10 minutes, chucked it into an Ikea bag along with a bag of jelly babies. I too was now ready.

Race day at 6:30 am I awoke. I ate a tin of rice pudding for breakfast, then chucked everything in the car. Game on. I'd borrowed my mother in laws posh Audi for the drive up. Luxury, and speed too if needed. That is until the engine decided it didn't want to work properly. There had been a fault with the turbo previously, which apparently had been 'fixed'. Well near Blackburn, it decided it wasn't fixed, it was broke. This meant the engine went into safety mode, it went, but slooooooowly. Maybe this was the excuse I had been looking for. "Sorry busted car, couldn't make it". So there were now four possibilities, involving direction of travel, and the likelihood of being stranded on the hard shoulder.

I drove on towards Helwith Bridge, and made it.

Lining up for the race I skulked towards the rear of the start line. I wasn't going to get in the way of the racers. For me it was about getting round in one piece.

Then we were off. I took it steady at first on the road, then as folk started to get away from me I reeled some in and passed them. Still I was cautious not to give it too much as the hard bits were lying in wait. Once off road I easily rode most stuff to the bottom of Simon Fell flicking the bike round and over the damp limestone rocks on the way.

I was dreading Simon Fell, memories of burning calves, were burned into my memory. My tactic was not to look up, the enormity would be demoralising. Instead I elected to take it one step at a time. Fantastic, before I knew it I was there at the top, and then back on my bike. On to Ingelborough which involved plenty of riding, and just a little push and carry.

From the top I knew that I could make time if I descended to Cold Cotes fast. I'd learned along with Poprad, that if one wishes to descend fast, one does not use the brakes. We passed many a sqwealing bike and rider on the way down that hill.

From Cold Cotes to the foot of Whernside I did a combination of caning it to jump to other groups of riders, recovering in their slipstreams, taking my turn at the front, and then pushing on again.

I treated Whernside as I had the first carry, focussing on what was just in front of me, and passing banter with some of the other competitors.

The descent from Whernside has to be one of my favourite parts of the course. Technical rock infested nadgeriness, where bikes with less than four inches of suspension ought not to be really. In the past i've ridden it all top to bottom, but my time spent with Poprad had taught me that, some bits are faster done on foot, than astride the saddle. However that did not stop me shouting "Rider" to clear the way on the bits that I knew I could assail at full speed.

More road from Ribblehead this time in a speedy team of three all taking our turn so on our arrival at the foot of our last obstacle we weren't too worn out. Well actually the other two obviously weren't as they quickly rode away from me as we rode up towards Pen Y Ghent.

It's somewhat demoralising this part of the race, as if you're of my ability, as you are heading up the hill, the fast people are on their way back down. I see a mate Neil a little way up who informs me that Nick has won. Fantastic news. He'd only said the previous day that he was looking forward to the race, but without the pressure to win as he was now a vet. Looks like that relaxed attitude had paid off.

It was all beginning to be a bit of a slog now. Ride a bit, push a bit, and the final carry to the top. On the way back down I walked more than I would have liked. My hands, especially my left hand had developed blisters on the palms of my hands which made using the brakes very painful. Occasional screams of pain may have been heard on my way back down the hill.

The last part of the race is on the road, and the guys who were with me decided we should do this as quick as is possible. As we turn right towards Helwith Bridge it becomes clear that we will be partaking in a sprint finish. I push on a little to make a gap as we crest the bridge, job done, but no, he comes back. I push again this time hard, but he's still coming. Into the finish loose stone chipping under tyre, I give it everything. Well at least I won something that day.

Poprad and I amazingly bettered our last time by some 7 minutes.

We will of course be back next time to do even better, hopefully with a race fit rider.

"It's not about the bike" said Lance, maybe, but it helps if you know the capabilities of the one you have.