Monthly Archives: February 2014

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.


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.


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.