Monthly Archives: June 2012

Mountain Mayhem 2012

Ah Mountain Mayhem, it’s the first event on the calendar and has come to dominate my riding the past few years. It’s become the motivation for riding on wet cold Sunday mornings as I try and get fitter so I can ride better at Mayhem. I found out about it via a call for volunteers at work 5.5 years ago, and having raced a bit when I was younger I jumped at the chance.

5 years on and I’ve had a year that was a disaster (toys out of pram, went home early), 2 years of improvement and a miserable year in 2011. This year we had 3 teams riding and mentally I felt that I was a lot stronger, both physically and mentally, and more than ready for whatever the event could throw at us.

Then we arrived to wet, sodden muddy fields. Wonderful.

Run
I did the run last year and went out way too fast leaving me shattered by the time I got back to the arena and onto the bike. I decided that this year it woudl be someone else’s turn bit as no no-one else on the team wanted to take on the run, it was left to me again.

This year I took the, correct, view that the race isn’t won on the run so I just jogged around. I set off with the 2 other Cap runners (Kevin from Well Oiled and Morgan from Gently Greased) and while they sped off we all arrived back within a few seconds of each other. It was a good decision and I felt fine as as rode out into the unknown course conditions.

Lap 1 – 2hr 12 with a 10.15 run
I can never remember the exact flow of a lap, so all I can do is provide edited highlights.
The Kenda climb was  packed as I expected so ended up walking the top quarter. The single track sections after it were slippy and had a lot of queuing as many people couldn’t ride them. The long plasticine woods was pretty much unridable, the mud was so sticky the wheels clogged up so it was a long stretch of push, unclog, push, repeat.

At one point I was admiring the rider infront when I realised I’d not but my transponsder on so at the bottom of the grassy descent I left my bike with a young lad while I legged it up to the campsite. The look on the rest of the teams faces was interesting and much looking of watches was done.

The long grind up to the top was uneventful, ridable but hard. Some of the descents were great fun, steep, rocky and slippy but if you let the bike run, feathering the rear at times it was easy to pick of lots of inexperienced riders.

The final descent was similar and then the last slog around the field to make it to the handover point. This last bit ruins the course in my opinion, no matter how hard the lap is, if you finish with a downhill so you can sprint into the arena at speed you feel great.

Lap 2 – 1hr 59.
Second lap started at 8.15. I was waiting with Joe from Cognoscenti, who were were camping with and he set off around 15 mins before me. I thought I might have a chance of catching him before the end of the lap but decided to just ride my lap as I would normally. The Kenda climb was being timed and tempted as I was to sprint up, I just rode within myself. I ended up 108/239 with 1min 55.

Most of the first part was ridable and I came across Joe who’d snapped a chain and we ended up riding near each other for the rest of the lap. He would gain a bit on the climbs and I’d overtake him on the descents or technical sections. I really noticed how my technical riding has improved over the first year I rode MM. Conditions were worse than that first year but I was able to ride more and at speed with confidence than back then.

The rain started on the second part of the lap and it was properly chucking it down by the time I got back to handover to Pete. Over food and a coffee I saw I’d sneaked in under 2 hrs, which in worsening conditions seemed a good time.

Lap 3 – about 2hrs 20

At 3am I spoke to Jason who’d decided 2 laps was enough. Pete had struggled with cramp and Mark was due back in from his lap at 5. It looked like there might only be me who was up for more punishment so we waited for Mark back at camp to decide on how many more laps to do. No-one seemed keen (myself included) but at 9.45 I decided we needed a hero lap so off I set. The Yeti hadn’t been cleaned from lap 2 and the CamelBak hadn’t been filled so I was in danger of struggling.
However the sun came out and although parts of the course were worsening as the thin mud from the night was starting to thicken, I really enjoyed the lap. There was a lot of pushing but I wasn’t racing. I crossed the line at 10 past 12, shook Pats hand and got out medals.

Thoughts

It was without doubt the worse conditions I’ve ever ridden in, and pushed in. It was also, for me, the Mayhem I’ve enjoyed the most. A race like this isn’t just physical, it’s mental as well and I knew coming into the event that I was well prepared. I’d decided to do one more lap if no-one else wanted to and I did. Seeing others stop riding as it was no fun just made me feel stronger and better. I could have done another lap but to do much better we all need to be able to ride  a lot faster, something that’s not going to happen given the time we all have for training.

Result
We ended up 56/180 in Sports Men and 44.123 in Vets, a result we are very pleased with and the best in the 5 years we’ve done Mayhem as a team. Bring on 2013.

David Ramsbottom 1 02:12:17
Pete Franklin 2 01:51:50
Jason Crellin 3 02:14:36
Mark Deighton 4 01:55:09
David Ramsbottom 5 01:59:40
Pete Franklin 6 02:21:29
Jason Crellin 7 02:29:20
Mark Deighton 8 02:05:12
David Ramsbottom 9 07:00:27

Yeti ASR-AL 09 Review – Part 2 The Ride

This post was written about 3 years ago when I’d owned the Yeti for a few months. I’ve left it as-is for now as I’ll write an update after a bit more riding on a lot more varied terrain…

I’ve been riding a hardtail (almost rigid) bike with rim canti brakes for as long as I can remember so moving to a “modern” bike was always going to be a revelation.
My expectations on riding a full sus bike after donkeys years on a Team Marin were that it would bob under pedalling and the flex wouldn’t allow it to climb as well, and this was re-enforced by a spin on a friends Marin Mount Vision. Then I test rode the Yeti and how wrong I was. The ASR uses a Fox RP32 rear shock with propedal which addresses the bobbing and over steep technical climbs, the suspension has allowed me to ride sections I was never able to clear on the Team Marin. (I’ve since cleaned those sections on a HT so it may have been a mental barrier)
My views on disc brakes were that they were overly complex, heavier and I didn’t need the additional stopping power as a decent set of rim brakes and years of experience meant I could go just as fast. Wrong again.

The Ride
Part of the reason that I haven’t upgraded my bike before was that the Team Marin felt like an extension of myself when riding. Getting this feel of doing rather than having to think, hasn’t been easy with the ASR and I’m still a fair way off the same feeling after 5 months of riding (I wrote this review a while ago and things have changed – future post material)

I’ve had to adjust my riding style in a number of areas. I used to have to be out of the saddle a lot, using my arms and legs to reduce the pain. Now though, unless the shocks are locked out you need to sit down, and keep sat down. Thankfully the position of the rear shock means it’s easy to drop my arm down to flick propedal on and off as it’s just below the top tube. Other full-sus designs have the shock in a vertical position nearer the BB so you have to lean down which makes you less stable, and subsequently less willing to use it.
It’s much harder to fly down decents on the Marin as there are times when the shaking means you just can’t see, so I’ve gradually got used to the fact that I can let the bike go. This is a mindset change as I don’t get as much practise on fast and rocky descents living in Warwick and I’ve become much more of a wimp as I’ve gotten older.
Having decent brakes mean I push things a lot more as I have the added confidence of knowing I can stop at the last moment if I need to.

The geometry is quite different to what I’ve been used to as the retro Marin has the old-school stretched out racing position but it hasn’t taken long to adjust to a more ‘modern’ riding position. I now have the dilemma of getting a shorter stem for the Marin to bring them to a similar position.

I notice the suspension on a number of places during a regular ride. One section goes across a field where the ripples are such that I can’t maintain a decent pace on the Marin, yet the Yeti lessens the serious nature of it so I can keep the speed up. As mentioned earlier technical climbs are easier with the rear wheel gripping rather than skipping. Other than that I think I feel less tired due to being able to sit for more of the ride but without a recent direct comparison it’s hard to say for sure.

So I’m now at the stage of having done around 400miles or so on it and here’s where my thoughts are :

General Plus points
I can ride stuff I couldn’t before – one steep section with a large root now causes no issues – same with some steps on a bridge.
I have much more confidence descending and know I can gain a lot more with practice.
I’ve got my biking mojo back big time. No matter what the weather I love riding and even the cleaning.
It’s not ruined climbing, indeed it’s enhanced it with no rear wheel skipping on rocks and roots.
Did I mention it was turquoise ?

General Negative points
I haven’t properly ridden the Team Marin since.
It’s going to need servicing that I can’t do myself – the shock and forks will need to go away every so often.

Ongoing things
I’ve still not really sorted out or played with the suspension. I’ve read how to do it but the only thing I’ve looked at is the propedal setting. It was all so new to me that no changes really made a noticable difference but after adding more air recently the ride felt bouncy so I’m probably at the stage where I need to sort it. I’d like to try running locked out all the time with a low threshold as this could be good for my ingrained way of riding.
The bars are really wide and on twisty singletrack I tend to run wide. I’m tempted to narrow them and add bar ends but I’ll give it the winter to try and see if I can adjust.

The biggest single positive thing about this bike is that I ride more and with a huge grin as well. Getting out and riding is what it’s all about no matter what the bike or how much/little travel it has.

Yeti ASR-AL 09 Review – Part 1 The Build

It would be wrong if I didn’t open up my reviews with the bike that fuelled my latest cycling obsession – a Yeti ASR-AL 09 with Enduro build.Yet Bare Frame

In over 20 years of riding mountain bikes this was surprisingly only my third bike. The first was a Giant Escaper on which I started racing, then in 1993 I bought a Team Marin and fitted some state of the art Pace RC35 AB forks (more on the Team Marin in a future post) and that’s been that for nearly 20 years. I’ve never felt the need to upgrade to anything newer until I did Mayhem for the first time in 2008 when I suffered like a dog and didn’t ride for 3 months afterwards.

I decided I deserved a new full-sus bike and the obvious choice was a Marin Alchemist. They never appeared and after a long chat and a coffee, my LBS got Stu King, the Yeti importer, to stop by with his test bike one sunny Friday morning and there was never going to be anything else joining the stable.

The test bike had been built in a ‘race’ build with mainly XT bits but a Chris king rear hub and headset but I decided on the classic turquoise frame and the Yeti supplied Enduro build to keep costs down a bit. The token gesture to bling (apart from the frame) are a pair of XTR pedals and the the gesture to fashion are white crud guards.

My LBS (John Atkins Cycles) did the assembly (15th May) and I wanted to be there to see every stage and record it. I went armed with biscuits and my camera and spent a most enjoyable morning in the workshop.

There are a few striking things about the frame that need mentioning. It’s rather light and can be built to around 21lbs helped in part by the rear carbon triangle. This is a work of art, with the seat stays being sculpted on the sides with a thinned section on the seat stay designed to flex and avoid the weight and maintenance of a traditional pivot. The chain stays are asymmetric for additional rigidity and bonded into a cast aluminium dropout.

The top tube is angled with a machined section to reduce weight, from which a machined dogbone hangs to determine the path of the rear travel. Rear shock is a FOX RP23 with pro pedal, while the downtube has a figure of 8 style profile.

The small details are what you get from a niche boutique builder I guess (well they were niche but have since become more mainstream with recent models) and I’ve not seen many others around. This in part is due to the current fashion of long travel bikes and Evolution (the importers) have said they sell far more 575’s. I really don’t see how you need that much travel on the vast majority of UK trails but I’ll save that for another post.

ASR-AL '09The bike with pedals weighs in at 25lb 13oz which gives plenty of room for upgrades later.

It’s all I wanted, nothing too bling that I’d worry about the cost of replacing broken bits, not too light that I’d worry about throwing it off jumps. Just need to keep quiet about the cost shhhhh.

Mountain Mayhem 2012

MM12

As a mountain biker, Mountain Mayhem has become the first date in my calendar every year. It’s been the reason to ride when the weather is bleak and has seemed to dominate my cycling the past 4/5 years or so.

This year will be my 5th, riding in a team of 4, and with it being just over a week away the  nerves are starting to kick in. The Yeti (subject of a future post) is in for a service, the Ti hardtail (another future post) is all fettled, tent all ready and lists of kit/food all reviewed and tweaked.

It’s the original and largest 24hr race in the world and has a carnival atmosphere with around 2500 racers plus friends/family/ support crew making it a massive event.

This year sees Wiggle taking over from Original Source as the headline sponsor so it’ll interesting to see what freebies we get this year. The wet weather means we are likely to have a muddy race.

I’ll post a review when we’re done so fingers crossed for a decent race.

Hello world!

Welcome to Ramblings.

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a while, mainly to record things for myself, thoughts, trips, events, stuff in general so I have a record. So here we are. I bit the bullet, got a domain and uploaded wordpress to an account I have with a hosting provider.

I’ll be blogging about all things except work, things that interest and excite me. At present this will include bikes (anything on 2 wheels), baking, gadgets, trips and my general thoughts on anything I  fancy.

Currently it’s for myself and let’s see how we get on…