Monthly Archives: January 2013

First Sportive

I’ve been riding a road bike for a few years now – I bought the Team Boardman on a works cycle to work scheme (when it was worth doing) and used it for sprint triathlons and quick evening rides in decent weather. I stopped the sprint Tri’s about 18 months ago when they became just too expensive to justify the cost – £50 is a lot for 1hr 20 of event time at most. Any longer events and I’d convince myself I need a TT bike so the Boardman has been used for training.

I’ve been seduced by road riding these past few years – I love the speed, response and handling of the bike plus it’s been a useful change from hacking around the local trails. I went out with a local club on a few rides which were fun, but given that they ride on a Sunday morning which is my only guaranteed ride time at the moment, I’ve not been able to join them as often as I’d like but I do want to get out on the road more this year.

I addressed this ‘road ride when sunny’ approach I’ve had by signing up for the Lupus 50 sportive late last year. You can chose 50km or 50m and, given that one of my usual solo rides is 30 miles, I had in mind to do the 50 miler.

Last weekend I managed to persuade two mates to join me and we all headed over to Rugely after a night of rain and high winds. Pete had a large hangover on top of 4hrs sleep and Chris had never ridden more than 21 miles before. A chat about which distance to do resulted in the unanimous decision that anything less than the 50 miles was wimping out.

The course had been altered due to lots of floods and there were a fair few riders ready and waiting for the 10 am off. The forecast was for sun and a bit of wind, but no rain until we’d finished and the first 5 miles were done at an average of 25mph or so. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that the wind was at our back and we’d pay for it later, The ‘halfway’ feeding stop seemed to be reached very quickly and we all felt rather good – which to be fair we should do as it’s well within what we are all capable off given that our usual rides are 20 miles off road.

The next 30 odd miles (as it turned out) were a lot harder. more standing water meant wet feet, cross headwinds meant little shelter and we all felt it in our legs. At 49 miles I decided not to wait for the other at the top of a rather long hill as I was feeling the cold and we only had a short way to go, so I set off on my own. As it turned out the course was around 55 miles so I had a longer than expected run to the finish. I tried to chase down riders I could see and only passed 2 – the other 3 I saw stayed around the same speed as my legs didn’t have the power.

Pete and Chris made it back shortly after I did, coffee and cake were had, the last few miles were discussed and we were all agreed that we need to do more longer rides like this. We averaged bang on 15mph and climbed 2500ft in 3hrs 37min. Not too shabby for our first 50 mile ride.

It’s 3 days since the ride and I have been surprised at how little my legs have been sore  – I’ll be looking for more local-ish events like this and planning a 50 mile route and maybe more from home.

 

Upgrading – Nightmare Hell or Pleasure and Joy?

There comes a time in every bikes life where bits need replacing.

Chains are the most common and if you leave it too long you quickly find out the cost of cassettes and chainrings.  When you need to replace an item due to wear you may ponder the upgrade question. Should I replace like for like or get the next group up?
Finances often dictate the final decision and while I have on occasion bought the cheapest replacement, these days I tend to replace with the same level of equipment. I’d class this as upgrade hell, you don’t want to replace anything, you were happy with how the bike was and this is just a big hassle. Like for like gets you back riding with the minimum of decisions to be made – after all it’s ll about the riding isn’t it ?

Bigger upgrades or replacements come often as a result of a breakage, with I suspect rear mechs high  on the list. Another upgrade hell, it didn’t need replacing and it’s a cost you could have avoided.

A recent tax rebate, had just landed me in the third category of upgrade. Upgrade Joy ! or is it?

When I bought my Yeti ASR, finances dictated that I couldn’t justfiy specifying anything other than the basic Yeti Enduro build pack. It was decent value and most of the components were quality light items. The cost savings came in the specification of an SLX groupset with XT rear mech upgrade. Which was fine. SLX back in ’09 was a decent groupset (I think it’s got better since) and it looked and performed well.
The medium term plan was always to upgrade the components when they were worn or broken with upgraded parts and 5 years later I’ve replaced the cassette and rings a couple of times but the rest just keeps on working.

However, the Mavic Crossride wheels apparently I’m riding have a limited life, and a recent bike shop service highlighed that I might need to think about replacements at some point. The SLX brakes seem to need bleeding every few weeks and the shfters are stiff. I decided to

Wheels

Having done a custom build of a Ti hardtail I have already spent ages researching, thinking, deciding and talking about options for wheels. Why, having done all this research then, would i choose anything other than what I did for the van Nic. Hope pro2 Evo hubs and Stans Crest rims it is then. I’de decided on going tubeless with Nobby Nic tyres as I have Ralphs on the hardtail.

Brakes

Ditto the wheels – lots of research and a year of riding with Hope Tech X2 brakes but I’m trying the race levers an the limited edition all black stealth option. I just love these brakes on the hardtail, adjustable, powerful, plently of ‘feel’ and have been trouble free for all the time I’ve ridden them.

Chainset

This has proved to be the biggest decision. I currently run 3×9 and chose 3×10 on the hardtail. Many people are running 2×10 these days losing a few ratios at either end. I could have gone 1×10 or 1×11.

What helped make the decision was thinking about the riding I currently do and what I plan to do the next few years. I mainly ride the flat trails of Warwickshire but love my trips to Wales and the Peak District for all day rides at trail centres or the hills. Locally I can and do take all my bikes at some point, but for the long all day rides I always take the Yeti and come 5 o’clock after 7 hrs riding and one last hill to climb, I just know I’ll appreciate a get me home gear. 3×10 it is then.

i still can’t bring myself to spend all that money on XTR but I decided to add a touch of bling by gettng XTR shifters. They should add to the shifting experience and from what i’ve read do make a noticable difference, where, for example, the cranks don’t.

I’m well capable of fitting all this kit, but have, like with the Tuareg build, decided to source all the bits via Kate and Allen at Plush Hill cycles. It’s a good excuse to head to Church Stretton and ride the Long Mynd and Al will do the upgrade build for free while I head out for a ride. Even better is that Al and Kate stopped by to pick up the Yeti so it’ll be ready when I head over Shropshire in a couple of weeks time.

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.

Winter Riding Update

So we’re past the winter solstice, Christmas has been and gone and we’re into a New Year.

I managed a reasonable amount of miles over the festive period and I appear to have shaken off some sort of low level illness that seemed to sap my energy and power that was making rides much harder and less enjoyable.

I managed 6 rides over the break from work, with 3 in the new Year where I felt more like my old self.

The local 20 mile loop, which tends to  be the most ridable, is proving to be a real slog of a ride after all the rain we’ve had. Sodden ground has moved to thick sticky mud meaning drivechain issues and a lot of energy to get around. No such thing as free-wheeling downhill – it requires pushing as hard as you can while trying to stay upright.

I did try a spin out on the canal tow path a couple of times, one was wet and fun the other on Boxing Day provided every man and his Nan out walking and 3 punctures.

I took a day to head to Cannock on the 2nd where I did a lap of Follow the Dog followed by the Monkey Trail. I really enjoy riding them and it’s the first time in ages I’ve visited to ride them solo. Times were on the slow side given the slippy conditions but it was great to get out with hardly anyone else around.

Follow the Dog and Monkey Trail Strava records.

All rides have been on the Yeti as new upgrade parts have arrived and are waiting to be fitted. I’m going to trash the current SLX \ XT bits in the winter mud before I head to Plush Hill Cycles for Al to rebuild it for me. There’s a post in draft about the upgrade which I’ll finish this week.

 

Wiggle Mountain Mayhem 2013

It’s been announced today that Mayhem is moving to a new location.

I can’t say it’s a big surprise after last year, and it will be good to have somewhere new to ride. The press release says it’s somewhere never used for cycling before and with well made forest tracks that drain well. Clearly a statement made to try and win back some riders who no doubt said never again after the mud-bath of 2012.

It’s less than 40 miles from Eastnor, which is a large area but my money is somewhere westwards towards Wales, maybe the Wye valley.

Dates are 15/16th June and wherever we end up going I’m sure Pat and the team will put on another outstanding event. Can’t wait for more details…