Author Archives: Dave

About Dave

Just a normal middle aged, bike riding, beer drinking, father of one.

Planning an Adventure

Life is short. Too short. This is why I try and plan something exciting every month, usually cycling related, sometimes with the family. It gives me a week or so to bask in the memories and a week or 2 to prepare and think for the next one. Most of these are trips to ride trails that we don’t get in Warwickshire, Cannock, Shropshire or Wales. Some are trail centres, some more more natural riding.

A few years ago Mayhem became a big adventure, even more so after the first year when I realised how hard it was. A lot of mental and physical energy went into preparing and 5 or 6 years on, while it’s still a regular on the calendar, it’s not the same challenge as it was.

Buying a singlespeed has recently lent itself to another adventure opportunity. Some sort of long distance ride, simple, less to go wrong, take your time, just get there sort of thing. Bring this together with the fact I live very near the Grand Union canal and the adventure writes itself.

Ride the Singlespeed to London from home, in a day, have a beer and hop on the train home. On doing a bit of research, many people have done it but usually over a couple or 3 days, stopping overnight en-route somewhere. Most people do it on geared bikes with suspension and not rigid singlespeeds. Most people seem to over-estimate how hard it is.

But if we (the ‘we’ being Pete and I) did it in 2 days, where is the challenge ? So it has to be 1 day, on rigid singlespeeds and in time to grab a beer at the station before  train home.

On first look it seems doable.

  • At just over 100 miles it’s not that far really.
  • We can knock out 30 or more miles at a fast pace on a Sunday without feeling totally shattered.
  • It’s on the canal tow path so can’t have that much climbing
  • We should be able to ride at 10mph average as we would do 14mph or so on the fields and usual trails we ride
  • In summer it gets light at 5am and last train is 10pm is so we have 17 hrs to play with
  • We are fitter than the average rider
  • We know pain and mental strength from doing Mayhem

On second thought, and discussion with other people the picture changes slightly.

  • 100 miles on a road bike is a long way
  • Fat tyres make a lot of difference to rolling resistance
  • Tow paths are not roads
  • I’ve not ridden 100 miles in a single go, yet. Pete’s done 90 odd on the road though
  • The first 50 miles will be fine, but doing another 50 is a different matter
  • Rigid bikes are harder on the body
  • A rider who rides long distances thinks doing it in a day would be an achievement … gulp
  • He smiled and said ” that would be a challenge”

So, here we are. Mentally committed. We have decided it can’t be as hard as other people make it sound. Pick a nice day, set off early and we are committed, we have to make it. Take no spare clothes or overnight stuff and we have to get there in a day.

Next steps are to do a 50 mile ride towards London in a week or 2 to see how we get on and how we feel – out for 25 miles at the pace we want to do the whole ride in, then turn around and come home.

Updates to come later…

Riding after illness

The title says it all – I’ve been ill and am just starting to ride again.

I thought I had a spot of flu but it went on for about a month. A phone call to the docs highlighted glandular fever as a possibility but either way I’m starting to get over it.

First ride back was on the singlespeed and I thought I would die. No stamina, high HR, lack of energy and sore legs made it a bit of a miserable ride. Most unusual as I usually enjoy every ride no matter how bad I feel.

Roll on another week and while I didn’t feel right I was a lot better and this was backed up by how well I rode. I didn’t get off to walk on the hills, I didn’t get dropped and while it hurt (it always hurts) I recovered well enough in between efforts to enjoy myself.

Most importantly I want to ride again and now the clocks have gone forward I can get a sneaky ride it after work.

Another Year, another Mayhem

Mid February is an odd time of the year for me. My Birthday is early Feb, so that’s done and dusted, I’ve got over the New Year blues we all get and am usually back into the swing of work and I’m starting to think of some new challenges for the year.

Then we have the end of Feb deadline. Mayhem entries.

This will be my 6th year riding as a part of a 4 man team with no pretensions of winning, indeed a top half finish is our aim as well as beating the other 3 or 4 or so teams we camp with. As a bunch of middle aged men who get to ride once a week, twice at best we do pretty well and the past few years have beaten the other teams of much lower  average age than us.

I’m looking forward to this year, the second at Gatcombe park should be a good one. Lessons will have been learned, there will be trackside camping and we seem to have recruited a new team of graduates to ride with us.

Having a team of new people is good for the soul, my soul that is. On the surface a 7 or 8 mile loop with a few hours rest doesn’t sound particularly hard. Riding at night sounds, and is, fun. Being a part of a massive event is brilliant so how hard can it all be, right ?

Those of us who have done it know how hard it can be. Physically it’s hard but mentally it’s harder so I look forward to the banter with the graduates, watching some crumble and some relish the challenge. Our second longest team, on their 2nd or 3rd Mayhem struggled with the mental resolve to get out in the rain and cold to do another lap last year. It’s knowing that however hard I’m finding it, there are others who are finding it much harder that makes it good for the soul. If you give them all banter and wind them up, you can’t roll over in your sleeping bag and go back to sleep.

So with less than 2 weeks until entries are due, the anticipation and excitement starts to build.

 

 

My New Favourite Thing

Cycling has a lot of niches. Road bikes, cyclocross, hard tail full suss, hybrid, downhill, 4x and more recently fat bikes.  The list goes on and the cycling aficionados will have noticed that I missed out one obvious group. That will be because it’s my new favourite thing.

Singlespeeds.

to be more specific a fully rigid singlespeed  mountain bike.

I suspect my journey to owning a singlespeed isn’t unique. On first mention they are madness, there is no reason for them, relics of the past when you had no money, when you were a kid. Why would you choose to only have one gear, a gear that will almost always be wrong. So I dismissed them as not for me, I didn’t have the right beard to ride one, nor the legs or the need. I needed my gears to ride faster and riding as fast as I can was fun, Strava segments were there to be chased. I was KOM on several local segments !!

I recall a moment at Mountain Mayhem last year, 2013, the first one at Gatcombe Park. I was riding well, on my third lap I think when I was riding with a whippet on a rigid singlespeed 29er and on the climbs he rode away from me. I caught him on the singletrack but away he went on the next climb. I distinctly remember thinking that I would be faster if i could climb like that but then he would have been 20 years younger than me so I thought nothing more.

Then the Yeti needed a refresh. Almost 5 years of constant abuse and it needed some TLC so I got Al at Plush Hill to fit new wheels, brakes and drivechain. During a conversation I found myself saying that the spares would probably be built onto a cheap winter bike – probably a singlespeed.

So the die was cast. 3 months later and an email arrived, from Al, asking about my interest in a great deal on a frame and a few other bits. A deal too good to turn down.

Genesis iOD

 

So the photo above was what I bought – all for £99. Bargain. A good deal on some Salsa rigid forks and a RaceFace crank and I had all I needed. The old wheels and brakes plus a chain and SS kit thrown in by Al and I had a new bike for £250.

iOD

Singlespeed fun

 

So my thoughts on singlespeeds have clearly changed. My thoughts on riding to meet up for a Sunday morning ride are the same: they are mad, stupid and I should be on a bike with gears.

But this changes as I ride.

Bear with me here but they stretch out the cycling experience. The easy bits are much easier, the ok bits are the same and the hard bit are much harder. What I mean is the road sections of our usual rides are easier, you spin out so you can’t go any faster and you recover, take it easy, safe in the knowledge that you can’t go any faster. I run a 32 x 16 ratio so a lot of the flat single track is fine and it’s the same as on a full suss bike. Hills or more technical sections are much harder, you soon realise that momentum is king and so you give it all you have and keep the cadence and momentum up.

I didn’t think it was possible to ride all the local loop on it, without getting off at some point, some steep or long hills – maybe the bridge with steps we ride but I’ve done it all, and only 5  or so minutes slower than I might have done (on a 1hr 40 ride)

When I’m done I ache, my legs, shoulders, arms, hands all over…

… but satisfaction and the grin are much bigger.

As I said at the start, it’s my new favourite thing.

Riding the Headlands

Summer holidays in our household are usually a last minute decision thing with busy work lives meaning we tend to put off the sometimes drawn out process of the three of us working out where we would like to go. The past few years we have visited friends in the south of France. Having moved out there 6 or so years ago to an old farmhouse, we rarely get to see them and it’s a holiday that has something for everyone. My wife gets sun sun, culture and peace to read, my daughter gets to see her friends and engage with the animals and I get to ride my bike in the sun as often as I like (pretty much).

This year, however, we decided on our holidays back in April and I’m not quite sure how we ended up deciding on San Francisco. Ellie is now 13, so long haul is not going to be a nightmare and there is a lot of culture out there to keep my better half happy. As for myself, the headlands in Marin County, just over the Golden Gate bridge is the birth place of mountain biking.

I had hoped that I might be able to hook up with some locals, to guide me around some of the trails but a few posts later on Singletrack and a US forum shows that this seems to be a very frequent request and I got one offer from an MTB legend – repack rider or Charlie Kelly. It turned out that I didn’t get to meet him as subsequent posts and emails went unanswered.

So the plan was decided. I would sneak off for a day, hire a decent bike when I was out there and bobcat signride on my own. I’ve talked about solo riding before here, so I decided to take my Sidi shoes, some XTR SPD pedals and my RLSCC riding kit and work it out when I got there.

Bike hire was easy as there was a local Blazing Saddles right near our hotel. All you need is a credit card deposit, fill in a form and off you go. I took a town bike to the Columbus Ave branch where they kept all the decent mountain bikes and as I rode the local branch phoned ahead so they were expecting me. They had the choice of Marin bikes – very appropriate – and I decide on the 26in quad link full sus Mount Vision – about £40 for the day. Pedals were fitted, bike was checked and after a discussion on what map to take I was off.

A typical SF misty day

A typical SF misty day

The day before I had been in bed ill, so I decided to take it easy, soak in the sights and see how I felt. I’d hoped to ride up Mt Tamalpais but that was going to be pushing it after feeling like I might not feel up to any sort of riding. I bought some water and a couple of Clif bars from a local shop before I hit the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once into Marin County I was glad I bought a better map from the shop. I rode on the road up  to the start of the Coastal trail and chatted to a local roadie on the way up the hill. After a brief stop to admire the

Just before the real fun starts

Just before the real fun starts

view and sneak a photo, I was off down the singletrack, grinning ear to ear. I had told myself to take it easy as I was riding solo and hadn’t seen any other off road riders but to be honest the bike felt so good, the weather was warm and I was feeling the best I’d been in 48hrs.

 

 

I’d planned to ride the Bobcat trail but it took me ages to find the start of the trail. I took 2 or 3 wrong turns before finally getting onto it. I knew a lot of the trails were fire roads and so I wasn’t surprised to find myself slogging away for 20 mins up the trail. Just as I was starting to get hot I

The Bobcat trail

The Bobcat trail

rode into the typical San Francisco mist and was cooled down. Normally I would have pushed myself up the climb but not today so I took my time and admired the view.

 

 

Once I got towards the top of the climb I had a decision to make. Do I push on to a longer loop or ride back down the Bobcat ? I couldn’t quite work out some of the intersections and I pondered for quite a while as my heart wanted to ride on but my head said to not push things. In the end I decided to head back down the Bobcat and reverse the route I’d taken as it was approaching 3pm. We had planned to eat out and I didn’t want to get back very late.

I’d seen video clips of the original repack riders flying down the fireroads and flying off on the loose gravel on corners. I’d put this down to the bikes and over ambitious attitudes but I soon found out that coming down the trail at 25 mph into a loose fast corner that it’s not as easy as it looks. I tried to use the cornering techniques I learned with Jedi but the front kept washing out and my 2 wheel drifts made things exciting.

Looking back across the bay to San Fran, the weather had brightened up, I paused to take in the

Riding the Bobcat trail

Riding the Bobcat trail

sights before heading back across the bridge. I had a gentle pootle back along the beach, stopping for a coffee at a nice little cafe before tackling the hill on Mason street back to the hotel.

While I sipped my coffee I reflected on the days riding. I had mixed feelings.

Positives

  • I’d felt like death 24hrs earlier so I was relieved to have clocked up 30 or so miles and 300ft of climbing
  • I’d ridden in Marin county on the trails I’d read about 20 years ago.
  • The exercise was welcome after a week on holiday.
  • The views had been amazing

Negatives

  • I’d really wanted to ride further
  • I was irritated that I wasted time trying to work out where I was some of the time
  • Most of the riding was fire-roads and not as challenging as I’d have liked (but I knew it was mainly fire roads so not sure why I’m disappointed)

Overall
I had a cracking day out and it would have been nice to have spent a much longer day riding. San Francisco is such a great place that we will be going back at some point and I will be making an effort to ride a lot more when we do.

An itch, scratched

 

These days there are so many mountain bike niches that it’s hard to keep up. In fact now that I really think about it these niches themselves are now sub divided with wheel size choice.

Rather than working out whether you need your all mountain 4″ travel or the full on downhill bike for that trip to Wales , life is easier when you have fewer bikes.

I have had just 2 decent mountain bikes, a full sus and a hardtail. Each running different tubeless tyres so choosing the right bike isn’t that difficult. But I’ve just complicated the whole equation and added a niche bike that I’ve been after for ages but never been able to justify.

For many people the complexity of a mountain bike is a part of the pleasure, triple, double or single chain rings, how much travel, shock pressures, head angles – it goes on and on. I don’t really like this. I like to ride, any bike, any terrain, just ride what you have and adjust. So this new bike is right up my street. There is nothing to think about, apart from riding.

Worked it out yet? It’s either a stupid bike or a real bike. Why would you ride a fully rigid bike these days? Or a mountain bike with just one gear. So a rigid singlespeed makes either no sense or perfect sense.

It’s a bike I’ve wanted to try for ages now. The people who ride them love them, some do Mayhem solo on them – and do very well. So when the Yeti was upgraded and I had a spare pair of old wheels the cunning plan was to use them on a singlespeed. I could never justify buying a frame, forks cranks and SS kit when I don’t need another bike but when I got an email from Al at Plush hill cycles asking if I was interested in a Genesis iO ID frame with a few bits thrown in, for a stupidly low amount of money I couldn’t say no. The deal was frame, seatpost, collar, saddle, stem, spacers, bars grips and headset for way less than just the cost of the frame. I took 10 seconds to reply.

To keep costs down I bought some rigid forks and decided on a SS crank, re using the wheels and old SLX brakes from the Yeti.
Last weekend all the bits came together and I had a few enjoyable few hours fettling and building it in the garage. It all seemed to work (although the brakes have a squeal I just can’t get rid of) so 2 nights ago I took it for its first proper ride.

It was a shakedown ride so only 9 miles, and it took half that to stop myself trying to click the gear shifters. I also put flat pedals on and I’m still not convinced with that choice – although it might be that I need better shoes.

So the verdict.

Let’s get the niggles out of the way. The brakes need sorting, no power and squealing despite cleaning the rotors and having new pads. The chain isn’t quite lined up so I need to fettle the spacers by a mm. I think I’ll put on some clipless pedals but these are minor really.

The Looks
I love the simplicity. It’s a lovely deep red colour and even Ali likes it. Indeed both my girls seem to think it’s now their bike. I’m glad I went with black forks and a SS specific set of cranks. the chunky BMX chain gives it a robust look, like it will take all the power you can throw at it.

The Ride
Size-wise the medium is about right. The stem could be longer for me but Ali and Ellie can also ride it so it’s perfect. Gearing is always a compromise and I think a 32-16 is right. On the flat my usual cadence means I ride at 16-17mph which is fine and there are so few hills near home that I’ll be fine I think. It took me a while to get used to coasting when I’m at this speed and I’d normally shift up and keep the power down. It makes for a more relaxing ride in many ways as I just can’t go any faster so you relax. I’ve become stronger in the past few months and I found the hills fine – in or out of the saddle the bike responds well and it was lovely to ride.

The tyres give the only suspension and to be honest it’s enough for the ride I did. Nothing too extreme although I did get bounced off the pedals. I’m used to riding out of the saddle so it feels quite natural but I imagine someone new to mountain biking and with only FS experience would find it hard.

Read all the reviews of a SS and the key point is simplicity – you just ride, There is a focus on maintaining momentum which I got slightly but not changing gears is quite pleasant. You ride at the speed you ride at and it evens things out. My average speed was a bit slower than I’d have ridden on my other bikes but not by a lot and it’s not all about going as fast as you can. I’m going to ride a full loop on it soon so I can get a better comparison.

I’ve been thinking about when I’ll ride it and it’s likely that it’ll be mainly when I ride by myself. I’d be compromised on the road sections and we often push each other when we ride in a group. It’ll be perfect for long rides on the canal and as it has loads of clearance I can see it being the ride of choice in the winter. As it’s got slots for an Alfine hub I may well get a spare rear wheel built with an Alfine 8 at some point. It’ll be easy to attach as the cable guides use zip ties but it’ll cost about £400 to do this so it can wait.

Final thoughts.

N+1. What’s not to like about a good looking, simple, cheap new bike. Especially when it’s going to open up new ways to be a little bit mad.

Wiggle Mountain Mayhem 2013 Report

It’s done for another year and on the forums it seems like the jury is out on whether it was a success or not.

Here is my memories, thoughts and experience of this years event – my 6th.

Lead up and Preparation

I usually travel to Mayhem with a team mate but this year he couldn’t leave until lunchtime so I planned to arrive first to reserve some space for the 5 teams that were going to camp together. I decided to pack most of the car the night before so I could get off early. Typically I’d been feeling really good until midweek when I picked up a cold so I wasn’t feeling in top form.

Gatcombe Park

It’s easy to get to and find, well signposted and I marked out a suitable area  before putting up my

Home for nearly 48hrs

Home for nearly 48hrs

own tent and sending messages to the rest of the team members on where we were. This year be brought 2 Coleman Event Shelters with us for the communal area I managed to get one up before others arrived to make the rest a bit easier. We also bought some poles to have a proper bike rack for a change so they could be inside the shelters, secure and easy to get to.

Decent Bike rack

Decent Bike rack

Friday night is one of my favourite parts of Mayhem. Excitement levels are high, the banter is flowing and everyone arrives to warm greetings.

This year we decided a sighting lap was essential t get a feel for the course so at 5 ish a group of 6 of us set of for a pootle around. Initial thoughts were that it was pretty good, quite short, fun descents and a lot of hard climbs – Would have been nice to have some more technical singletrack but it was my sort of course.

Food and beer were consumed before we retired.

Race Day

We persuaded Pete, a veteran of 10 previous Mayhems, to do the run for the first time and despite his protestations he lined up just before midday in reasonable weather.

We usually have an informal little inter-camping group competition  as to which team will do the best and this year Morgan brought some young IBM chaps in the form of ‘Team Spongecake’ to challenge the 3 Capgemini teams of ‘Lightly Lubed’, ‘Well Oiled’, and ‘Crude Oil’ and a group of ex-NHS colleagues ‘Cognoscenti’.

Pete was the last back from the run and he set off for our first lap.

I was due to ride second and while waiting for his return the heavens opened. Hard rain and a strong wind saw waiting riders pushed back into the tent at transition so avoid the freezing onslaught. I wasn’t looking much to my lap yet when Pete entered the arena, you feel a surge of adrenalin and after a quick handover I was off.

The course

Mayhem 2013 course

Mayhem 2013 course

From the arena you head out through the solo camping area into a small wooded section that leads to the Kenda Koffin descent. It’s not really that steep for anyone with a reasonable amount of experience and on the sighting lap this was fun. However, after a downpour it was very slippy and many people were not used to this sort of challenge. There was no grip to be had and it was a ‘fun’ descent with 2 or 3 sections that were steeper and needed commitment.

Next was some wooden trail, fast in the dry and hard in the rain as it turned to mud.

If I remember correctly the Wipperman climb was fine for the first part but then wasn’t ridable due to the steepness and lack of traction.

From here it was average normal double width trail with a few fast fire road descents leading to the lakeside trail. This was singletrack with a few passing places and was dry and fast all race.

Onto the Clifbar climb – a long grassy, steepish climb that was ridable when dry and if you had the strength and skills it was a place to make up a lot of time.

The FT2 dip was a tricky fast descent due to the camber which rose into a climb that was ridable if you attacked it but most people walked.

The Redbull timed section was a fun, fast section with several turns and a short steep drop with hard and easy options. Great fun to blast and no doubt saw many people over-cook the corners and come off.

The Unior climb was a long slog that I cleared once but turned to slippy cobbles after the loam was worn away. Mentally though as this was the last proper climb it wasn’t that hard as you knew you were near the end of the lap.

The Singletrack singletrack was rather short but good fun at speed followed by a fast run in to the arena.

My first lap was horrible with the mud sticking and clogging up the wheels, the lack of traction meant

Yeti after my first lap (teams second)

Yeti after my first lap (teams second)

a lot of pushing which stops the mud being flung off. Tyre choice became a headache as mud tyres might have been OK for a few sections but would have been horrible for the rest. I was glad to enter the arena to hand over to Jason.

After your first lap of Mayhem you get into a routine, well I do anyway. Get a drink, and a recovery shake then sort out the bike. The latter took quite a while and I made it ridable rather than clean.

Then it’s time for food and a rest, a bit of chat about the lap and the course and, waiting on riders to come back to see how the course is evolving. It’s common to feel very tired and that you can’t ride any more laps. Not sure why this should be as it’s not very far, nor very difficult riding but I’ve learned over the past 5 years that mentally you need to put the physical feelings behind you and commit to another lap.

Talk about muddy

Talk about muddy

Over the next couple of hours things were looking good as riders came back cleaner and cleaner in faster times so I was feeling optimistic when I went to wait for Pete. He managed a sub-hour lap and looked in decent shape as he hammered around the arena to hand over.

I set off on my second lap feeling strong and as soon as I hot the Kenda descent and saw a dry line down it I gave the lap everything I had. For the 5 years Pete has always had the fastest lap, no matter how our training had gone and I struggled to find form in the race to backup my improving fitness. This year I was determined to have a real go for the fastest lap (amongst our teams) so rode all bar one hill and kept pushing all the way.

I made it back to transition ahead of time and Jason had only just arrived. My Garmin showed I’d have done a 51 min lap which lifted my spirits and set the tone for the rest of my race.

I did a dusk lap with lights and a dark lap in the middle of the night – both of which felt great. An early morning light was a bit harder as the mud became stickier and my legs more tired.

As we hit 20 laps and worked out we might have 2 or 3 more laps to do and I set out on lap 22 with 75 mins left. I had been lapping in under an hour and no-one fancied a last lap so I had some fun. I blasted the fun sections and rode very slowly on the rest to avoid too long a wait at the end.

I managed to cross the line 15 secs after midday in milf drizzle so I was happy to not be in the

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

middle of back to back laps in the rain.

Results-wise we aim to come in the top half. We all get to train once a week usually and are never going to challenge for a top spot. We beat the IBM guys by about 30 mins to retain our record of the fastest campsite team.

We came 39th out of the 122 teams in Sport Men. A result we are thrilled with. In Vets we came 35th out of 151 – similarly chuffed.

My second lap was the fastest in our campsite and I feel that I rode pretty well – unusual for me at Mayhem where I usually feel disappointed at how I rode. Roll on 2014.
My lap times were :
1: 1:04:11
2: 0:51:34
3: 0:56:55
4: 1:00:16
5: 1:02:00
6: 1:12:30

 The Event

A new venue is always going to have teething problems but Pat and his crew had very few in my view. The venue was supposed to cope with wet weather better than Eastnor and to be honest while the campsite might have done the course didn’t. It’s difficult to think of anywhere that’s not a purpose mail trail centre that would cope well with rain and thousands of wheels without being un-ridable in places. To be fair it dried up very quickly and laps quickly got faster. Next year might be better as there will be less soil/loam on the surface to start with

We were asked not to wash our own bikes to keep oil and products off the land – fair enough. But only 6 wash bays was nowhere near enough so people did resort to doing it themselves. Most oils and cleaners these days are biodegradable so there shouldn’t be any issues but this will need addressing if the weather looks bad next year.

The atmosphere wasn’t as good as the course didn’t go through the campsite but the layout means there’s not a lot to be changed here. The campsite ended up large enough and it was better for being a lot closer to the arena.

HRH turned up to do the presentations and had I known I would have gone along but it seems it was a last minute decision on her part.

Overall I think it was a bit of a success. Highlight was the course which I think was well designed. It’s hard to get something that is enough of a challenge for decent riders and ridable for novices. It was short enough to allow lesser teams to do more laps and fast enough to challenge the speed demons

Well done Pat and his team. Fingers crossed he can get the support to keep this amazing event going strong.

Weather Obsessions

The last few days before Mayhem always see an increased number of emails and forum posts about a number of specific subjects

Weather seems to be the top of the list and this year is no different with rain being forecast at some point over the weekend. Fingers crossed it’ll be still and dry Friday morning to get the tents and communal shelters up. After that it can do what it likes.

With weather talk comes tyre talk and the dreaded mud tyres. I’ve got a pair (Medussa’s) and have used them on my local trails a couple of times and soon took them off. To make them worth while you need a lot of deep mud for a lot of your ride. Any tarmac, like on my local loops, and you feel like they are so sticky and energy sapping that it’s hard work. On hard packed ground they feel nervous as the tread moves around but in mud they are immense. Last year I rode them at Mayhem as it was perfect conditions for them (and as a friend said – the right conditions for mud tyres are when you shouldn’t really be riding)
This year I’ll choose the tyres based on whether I want to ride the Tuareg or Yeti. Racing Ralphs and Nobby Nics will be fine so my choice is full sus or HT.

The new venue brings with it new unknowns – One new aspect is that there appears to be less camping space with warnings on reserving too much space. We will have 5 teams so 21 people and probably 20 cars and tents plus the communal stuff – fingers crossed we can get enough space.

With 2 nights to go I’m almost ready – Bikes have been cleaned and fettled, clothing assembled and lights charged – just got to make some pasta and round all the other bits and pieces then 8am Friday it’s Gatcombe Park here we come,

The run up to Mayhem 2013

With less than 11 days to go until the 2013 Mayhem it’s the time I start to get nervous and excited.

This year it’s so long Eastnor and hello to a new venue at Gatcombe Park. After last year Pat really did have to move the venue after the course just couldn’t cope – mind you not many places that are fun to ride would have coped. Staying at Eastnor would have seen a large drop in numbers, especially given the crap weather in the run up to entries being opened. It also means a lot more unknowns as the course was always very similar. The video preview looks good and despite the usual moaning on singletrackworld it looks like a decent venue. Shame about no trackside camping  as the banter and cheering was one of the highlights.

I’ve already done a fair bit of preparation as we’ve sorted new communal area kit this year. Borrowing a tent or marquee large enough for the 5 or 6 teams that we will be housing isn’t easy, so we’ve bought 2 15ft Coleman Event shelters and are attaching them together. We have groundsheets, walls and doors and a plan to sit/cook in one of them and put a new bike rack in the other. The communal area makes such a difference to the atmopshere and fingers crossed the shelters will stand up to the weather.

Camping-wise the tent has had an outing and I’ve got to replace a mantle and get more fuel.

Training-wise I’m feeling faster and stronger than I have in the previous 5 years and recent personal bests seems to reinforce that, so if I can work out why I always seem to feel crap during the race I might do some decent lap times.

Bike-wise I’ve trained on both the Yeti and Tuareg so I’ll be taking both. I reckon the Tuareg is faster on a single lap but I take more punishment so I’ll switch to the Yeti after a couple of laps. I run Ralphs on the Tuareg which are fine on anythign up to moderate mud and Nics on the Yeti but with limited mud clearance. Both are tubeless so  I hope I don’t have to swap either.

I’ll be heading to Gatcombe early Friday to get all the tents set up and have time to do a sighting lap.

Bring it on.

 

Singletrack Enduro 6

For a while now I’ve wanted to ride an endurance event solo, but having ridden Mayhem in a 4 for the past 5 years and the Enduro 6 in pairs the past 2 I’ve always told myself that it hurts in a team so to ride solo is just plain stupid.

I’m not quite sure how I ended up entering solo this year. I think I got brave, alcohol may have been involved and I might have been encouraged by a fellow Mayhem competitor entering as well. It’s an itch I’ve been wanting to scratch for quite a while and it’s now all over.

The build up

I’m often nervous before events, making sure the bike(s) are in ridable shape, getting clothing and other kit sorted but not for this one. I only needed one bike, and a bit of food and enough water. Easy.

It was a noon start so I got up at normal time and arrived in plenty of time. It all seemed too easy.

The Race

I’ve learned my lesson with LeMan starts. I start the run slowly at a gentle jog and make sure I don’t go too fast. I’ve no pretensions of doing well so no point in killing myself on a run with so much riding to do.

The plan was to ride hardish for a couple of laps and see how I felt. I’ve been feeling strong and fit the past month so decided to hold back and try and ride consistent laps rather than set out too fast and die later. In previous years as a pair we did 2 laps before switching as it’s a shortish course so I promised myself a short break after every 2 or 4 laps depending on how I felt.

The weather was perfect, the trails were dry and it was a cracking course. I felt fine after the first 2 laps, had ridden well within myself and set of to do another pair of laps. At this point(ish) my mate Nigel had caught up with me and it was a slight surprise. We did a lap and a bit together and I wondered if he planned on making a break to drop me as he’d clearly done a lap or so faster to catch up. He seemed to be working harder than me but the climbs felt a bit harder and I dropped him on them when I rode at my normal pace. At the end of lap 4 we were still together so I decided I couldn’t stop as I’d be a few minutes behind him and having to chase, so I decided to ride until I ran out of water,

At some point during lap 5 I noticed he wasn’t with me and halfway on lap 6 I was out of water. I stopped for a refill and grabbed a banana. As I was setting off for lap 7 Nigel entered the pits so I pushed a bit to try and make a gap. I soon stopped and decided to pick a pace I felt I could finish the race at. I figured I was lapping at just over 40mins  a lap and would have to do 3 more so I was 2/3 of the way there already.

On lap 8 I rode for a while with the (eventual) womens solo third place finisher, Jo Holden. I passed her on climbs and she passed me on the fireroads. It was great to have a chat and I picked up my pace in the singletrack to keep up with her. She dropped me before the end of the lap and  I settled into a pace to get me to the end. As I went out onto the last lap I noticed another solo rider stop ahead of me for water and as we’d both been very close the past few laps I decided to ride the same pace to try and beat him back. It was good motivation to keep the same pace and not to slow down with the end in sight.

Result

The last lap was a bit of a blur as I tried to remember where I was on the course and to try and work out how far I had left. My garmin battery ran out and for the life of me I couldn’t work out which parts  of the lap I’d ridden ans which were to come. I just rode each section in front of me and enjoyed the experience knowing I would complete it.

I rode 9 laps and finished 35th out of 72 male solo riders. A top half finish in my first solo is the best I could have hoped for. I beat Nigel by 11 mins but the thing I most pleased with is that I rode for all of the 6 hours apart from the brief 5 mins I took to re-fill with water.

I had an aim to try and ride consistent laps and looking at the results I did pretty well. My lap times were :

00:41:32 00:38:20 00:38:05 00:37:58 00:39:50 00:42:23 00:47:33 00:42:07 00:42:12

The first 4 laps were all around 38 mins (lap 1 faster but had the run), I must have felt the pace at lap 5 as I was 2 mins slower and then I seemed to settle into 42 min laps (lap 7 includes the 5 min water stop)

All in all it was an amazing day, the bike worked well, I felt pretty good, rode the longest I’ve ever done without a break, probably the furthest on a mountain bike. The course was fantastic and the weather perfect. It’s days like this that make the dark, cold, wet rides worth it. Now it’s 40 days until Mayhem and I can’t wait.