Category Archives: Random thoughts

Just some random thoughts

Mayhem, again

This will be the 8th Mayhem for me this year and I think I’m finally getting to grips with it.

Only feeling slightly nervous, no need to buy more stuff, just need to give the bikes one last fettle and I’m ready.

The course is the same as last year, a first I think but a good idea. Last years course improved on the one from the first year at Gatcombe park and it rode really well. All we need now is some decent weather, which may be a bit much to ask of the UK summer.

This year we have 9 teams camping together, the most ever, with around half being newbies. There will be competition amongst the Mayhem veteran teams while the newbies just try and survive so it will be interesting to see the contrast of the riders as the event unfolds.

Personally I’m nowhere near as fit as I was last year having not been feeling well for ages and having lost my mojo for a while.  After last weeks Batchburner both fitness and mojo seem to be coming back, a bit late but it means a steady race for me this year I think.

Lets hope the post race report is a happy one.

Out with the old

In an attempt to sort out my garage (which was full of old boxes, bikes, camping gear and general tat and rubbish), I’ve got rid of some bikes. It’s taken me years to do this since I decided some needed to go and I think I’m halfway. 2 down and 2 to go.

The first to go was my Team Marin. My first decent mountain bike, bought back in the 90’s with Pace RC35AB elastomer suspension forks. The one I started racing seriously on, the one I rode my first Mayhem on, the one I’ve done most miles on. One I struggled to get rid of.

The decision came because I just wasn’t riding it. Hadn’t ridden it in over a year and I couldn’t see when I’d ride it again. A post on retrobikes and a local buyer saw it go in less than a week. I could have split it and sold it in bits to make more money but it was too much hassle (working away from home makes it harder) and just selling it was hard enough.
Next up was my first motorbike – a similar story – it’s been unused for years so it went a couple of weeks ago to a mate.

The Giant Escaper is next – I might give that away. My daughters outgrown her Dawes mountain bike so that will go the same way soon. Once the Giant has gone I’ll be able to justify a new road bike. The Boardman is over 5 years old and has done me very well but is showing signs of age and will end up being a winter training bike.

Then that will be it. All the bikes I will own will have a purpose and get used. It might have taken me a while to start but getting rid of stuff is now much easier and I’m on a roll and feeling ruthless.

… back in the room

So I’ve neglected the blog.
Life, work and a lack of mojo meant it’s not been high on my list of priorities but in an attempt to get my mojo back I’m going to try and do more updates.

Not riding much, feeling unfit (relative to what I have been) being heavier than I want to be blah blah makes riding and motivation a chicken and egg situation. I know that I need to break the habit so this blog is a part of that attempt.
No-one reads it this is a note to my future self….

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.

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.

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.

 

Illness and fitness

I’ve been ill. Not seriously just a virus that made me feel rather crap, but it was for about 2 and bit weeks.
Before I was feeling pretty fit, had list s bit if weight and was riding well and the old cycling mojo was high.

This week I managed a quick 11 miles on the road bike as the weather was ok and I was working at home. There is a part of me that wished I hadn’t as I felt like I had taken 10 steps back fitness-wise. In just a couple of weeks!

I know it’ll come back quickly but mentally it’s a bit of a blow. The weather is now cold and the mojo gone (probably to some warm weather training camp) so just getting out is proving difficult. I also feel much heavier but as I don’t really weigh myself that’s hard to quantify.

Being an optimist I’ve decided it’s not a bad thing as it means I know I have to get out more in the next month to get ready for my first event of the year. Work is now over for Easter so there are no excuses.

I just hope I can get the mojo back from Mallorca.

Cycling Alternatives

My intention when creating this blog was to record the thoughts I have about cycling as I seem to spend what a lot of non-cyclists would consider an un-reasonable anmount of time thinking about it. I’m always planning the next build, upgrade, accessory, trip, training goal, weather conditions etc.

While I always enjoy pretty much every ride I do – no matter the weather or trail conditions – there are moments when it all comes together, where I feel physically on top form, where the bike runs perfectly, where the trail is is great condition, I’m mentally tuned in and riding well. The buzz from days like this is what I strive for, train for and think about. They tend to be more likely on trips away – North Wales trail centres or the day long ride i did in Pembrokeshire with an OS map and glorious weather – but they happen on my local trails as well. if you’re a regular cyclist you’ll knwo what I’m talking about, or I hope you do.

…and onto the point of this post.

There are few other activities that I’ve done that have given me the same blinkered, encompassing nirvana of emmersion and enjoyment. Where you are commited to what you’re doing with total concentration to the point of nothing else mattering. You get lost on the moment, the excitement, the endorphin rush that keeps you buzzing for the rest of the day.

Last year I found one – Skiing.

I’ve only been skiing twice and last year got to a reasonable standard, able to ski red and some blacks with confidence. I recall standing at the top of a red run in Val Thorens on the Thursday, looking at the off-piste new snowfall having done a section already and considering if this was better than the mountain biking I’ve done. At the time I said it was, but I’ve had some time to consider this is detail since and as I’m due to head out to Val T in a few weeks it’s come back to the forefront of my mind.

Similarities
– Both give you spectacular views (on a good day)
– Both give you the adrenaline rush of speed
– They require commitment
– They can be done on the cheap but if you buy better equipment you notice the difference.

The mental skills to come down the mountain at speed are very similar – there’s a common feeling of finding your limit, keeping the right side of it, being slightly out of control at times yet having the mental clarity to not panic and to keep the technique.

So none of this is new – they both involve speed and mountains – it helps to be fit and physically strong and a lot of cyclists love skiing. At the moment I’m lucky to be in a situation where I can afford to do both – if I had to choose it would be cycling of course as it’s an all year sport but thankfully for now I don’t have to choose.