Tag Archives: upgrade

How many is enough?

The past weekend I had the unusual situation of being on my own from Friday night until 6pm Sunday as my girls went away on a girlie weekend. This had been planned for a while so I had the weekend mapped out in quite a lot of detail –  Sort out Riding kit, head over to Plush Hill Cycles to pick up the Yeti, pootle up the Mynd and a plan to do a long ride at Cannock.

Spending most of the weekend on my own lead to a lot of thinkingand one thing kept recurring which was what size group do I prefer to ride in ?

I reckon I do a moderate amoung of cycling – i don’t commute anymore, I always try and get out on a Sunday for a longish ride (family stuff permitting) and when the weather is nice I get out midweek. Actually when i write it down – once a week isn’t a lot, but it tends to be hard riding with quality to make up for the lack of quantity. A couple of times a year I manage to get away with a larger group for the weekend and on the ride up the Long Mynd on Saturday 1pm ish I started to distract myself from the pain by thinking about which I prefer.

To jump to the end , the real answer is aIl love them all, it’s all riding and riding is always good no matter what bike, loationor how many people, but there are things I really like and dislike about them all.

Solo

There is a lot to be said about riding on your own, you set of when you’re ready, ride the distance that you want at the pace you want, stopping if and when you want. I tend to take an iPod with me and listen to music or podcasts giving me either motivation to ride faster (music) or a nice distraction (podcasts) but I really enjoy my own company, being in my own thoughts and making no compromises. Everyone should have some time on their own as it makes you think, pushes back the demons and makes you appreciate the people in your life that mean a lot to you. I can only think of one downside to solo riding and it’s one that I really miss when I am on my own. The moment after an amazing descent, where you rode like a god, picking the perfect line under perfect weather giving you the biggest grin – it’s really nice to share that moment with a like mind. Someone you’ve just followed or led down the trail – you’re buzzing and it just gets better when you can share that moment.

Pair

Most of my riding the past few years has been with Pete – just the two of us. We have similar levels of fitness and skill, so we ride the same sorts of distances at the same sorts of pace and we like the same sorts of riding. Most of the riding is on the local trails which is not that exciting but there are odd times we get to Wales or Cannock together. In lots of ways this can be like solo riding as you are often on your own with time to think but there is also, time to chat and someone to share those ride memories with.

Pair riding can also be good training  as the competitive spirit forces you to either try and drop the other person or hang onto them. We’ve found over the past year or 2 that we’ve rarely ridden together when we’re both feeling on top form – one of us always seems to be struggling with a virus or cold and the laws of riding with a mate means the other must take full advantage and punish the other one on the climbs – it’s the law !

Small Group

I think small groups counts as more than 2 and less than a lot. This is often the number when we head away for a day or 2 somewhere more exciting  than Warwickshire. It’s very hard to get 4 people of similar fitness and skill level to have little waiting but when you’ve got all day it’s not really a lot of hassle and what makes up for it is the additional banter yoiu get in small groups. it’s hard to beat a small group in a pub after a great days riding – reliving the days riding through someone elses excited description of their near (or not so near) misses.

Large Group

More than a small group is your large group – 8 or more people usually foe the weekend and an exaggeration of the small group. There’s always lot’s more fettling at the start so you never get off on time. Mechanicals and punctures are much more common and the banter in the evening is much greater. In winter I prefer anything else as waiting in the wet and cold is not pleasant but in summer when it’s nice and warm I’m quite happy chilling and chatting while we wait for the stragglers to crawl up the climb.

So there we have it – I pretty much like them all and I would never not do any of them. Does that make this a pointless post ? I think not as it got me up the Long Mynd, brought back memories of some great trips away and has fuelled the mojo and got me planning the next trip away and thinking about riding is part of the fun.

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.

Coaching, the best upgrade you can buy.

I’ve been riding bikes since I was a kid and mountain bikes for 25 years. I’ve raced, ridden trail centres and headed out for a days with a map and hours to enjoy.

I’ve learnt all the techniques from riding and experience (maybe falling off as well) as well as reading magazines and watching and talking to people far better than I am.

So having gone all this time with no coaching, I’ve had 2 cracking sessions in the past year. The session a few weeks ago has given me a whole new focus on riding so I thought it was worth writing up a few thoughts. Good coaches are hard to find and reputation and word of mouth is by far the best way to find someone

Earlier this year I used a voucher my lovely wife bought me for Christmas with Peaks Outdoor coaching. I opted for a whole day 1-on-1 session up in the peaks to help with my mental block of riding my full suss Yeti ASR down rocky descents at a speed faster than a snail (maybe a slight exaggeration…).

I had a specific goal in mind and once we found a few sections that I wasn’t confident on to tweak my approach. The result was exactly what I was after as  my confidence was vastly improved, I picked up a few tips and was much faster as a result.

Earlier this year a mate booked us a group session with Tony at UK Bike Skills. We were a mixture of ability and experience from decades of MTBing to a couple of years yet we all progressed, learnt new skills and mentally came away changed men.

What makes a good coach?

Tony is a good coach.

He is often called ‘Jedi’ which is entirely appropriate as his approach is very much a mental one. He understands people, what makes them tick, how they learn, what they are scared off and how they are progressing.  A good coach doesn’t just run through the manual of how to ride, they tailor the techniques to each person.

There is no time limit to the session, it ends when we can’t ride any longer be it mental/physical tiredness or a lack of light and the training doesn’t stop on the day as he is open to you getting in touch afterwards.

I can’t go into his techniques but they work. At the start of the day we were doing small drop offs next to a 6ft table top that we all agreed we would never ride. Come the end of the day we had all cleared it plus the gap jump.

All coaching is good if it works for the person being coached. Tony makes sure that the way you learn is built into how he approaches the session. Many people find it mentally tiring as there is a lot to take in and think about but it’s probably the single biggest leap forward in my riding that I’ve made ever. Local trails are now being ridden with a different perspective, bikes have been set-up differently and my biking mojo has been given an always welcome boost.

The write up of our session has more details and I can’t recommend a session with Tony. It’s the best upgrade you can possibly make to your riding.

Read the coaching Blog.