Tag Archives: Yeti

An Epic ride

It started with a beer, maybe several beers, and the conversation ended up with a discussion about how we (Pete, my riding mate) needed to do something more than ride our local trails. We ride them most weeks and they aren’t much fun. Fields and bridle paths with bits of road to join them up. We have Cannock chase an hour away and we head to a Welsh trail centre or two twice  a year with a bunch of mates.

All good in their own way but nothing EPIC and when you’ve had a few beers doing something epic seems like a good idea.

This was about 18 months ago I think and I’d recently found out that the Grand Union canal that passes very close to my house goes all  the way to London. I’ve ridden the canal occasionally, head towards Birmingham and there is the Hatton Locks cafe and Waterman pub, a bit further Shrewley tunnel and you can do some circular routes. A couple of mates ride the canal regularly but it’s all a bit, well, boring.

But London. That’s a long way, a bit silly to think about riding there. So think about it we did and the plan was hatched.

Let’s ride to London for a beer! On the tow path. On our new rigid singlespeed bikes. The canal is largely flat anyway so how hard can it be ?

The idea brewed for a while and on talking to fellow cyclists we were met with comments about it being very difficult, so in June 2014 we did a test. On the SS’s heading towards London, 90 mins out then turn round and come back. A nice 3 hr ride to see how hard it really was.

The reality ended up being it’s quite hard. We felt broken, arms, hands, legs, back, neck. It all hurt. The canal may be flat but it’s not all maintained and a rigid bike batters your body or makes you work really hard to be out of the saddle a lot.

We did some research. We’d estimated it at 100 miles so I mapped it out in detail on Strava. It came in at 120 miles. 20% more than we’d expected. We found a few people who’d ridden the route over 2 days with a B&B break overnight. Reports talked of long unmaintained sections that were very hard work with it getting easier nearer London. This was the sensible option. So we stuck with our original plan and decided to train for it.

A year passed and we’d done no training. Not singlespeed on canal training. Bugger.

A decision had to be made. “Postpone and train”, “forget it and have a beer locally” or “have a go anyway – how hard can it be?”.

“Have a go anyway – how hard can it be?” won.

Thursday night saw a phonecall to discuss the details of out departure the next Saturday. We sensibly decided to not attempt it on the rigid SS’s but to use full suspension. It’s a long way and we would not doubt have more chance of success if we were less beat up. A departure time of 5.30 was agreed, lights would be needed and the last train home was 10.08 pm.

Departure

My alarm went off at 4am. I went back to sleep. My second alarm went off at 4.30 and I crawled out of bed. Said hello to our new puppy and sorted him out, sorted breakfast and headed out in my riding kit to the garage to to the last minute fettling that seems obligatory before any sort of ride. I’d decided to take my largest Camelbak as it had the largest bladder – 3l and it was full. A waterproof and a few tools plus a dozen or more gels, some Clif bars and a bag of peanuts were inside yet it felt really heavy.

Pete arrived at 5.30 on the dot just as I’d finished my fettling. Nervous words and laughter followed then we headed off to the canal.

The first few miles were on ‘maintained’ tow path and although we’d agreed to aim for a 10mph average we were going along at 16mph or so. We were both having the same thoughts of making good progress while we were fresh and all the dog walkers were in bed. It didn’t take long before we hit countryside where it’s grassy, bumpy and hard going. We thought the recent rain might soften it up but it was fine. We also thought the grass may be long and hard work but it wasn’t.Lovely day

We reached Braunston at around 20 miles and I was starting to feel saddle sore. Not a good feeling with 5 times that still to cover. I wondered if I was going to make it. Pete was also feeling it and I wondered if he would make it.

Proper food just after midday

Proper food just after midday

We stopped every hour for a quick 5 mins to eat, take stock and have a bit of respite from the saddle and around 12 midday and 50ish miles (I think) we decided to stop at the first pub that was open for some food. The sun was out, got an outside table, food came quickly and we were soon back on our way.

From this point on things we started ticking the miles off in 10’s. Getting to 60 was good as every mile meant we were nearer to London than home and were therefore pretty much committed to making it. Hitting 70 sounds like you’re a lot nearer with only 50 ! miles to go. 80 is two thirds of the way there and 90 is almost 100.Taking a short break

Just before 100miles and around 4.30 we decided it was second big stop time for coffee and cake. First option was The Bear on the Barge pub which didn’t have either but given we’d stopped we settled for a pint of Pepsi and a chat. Which raises an interesting point of talking during the ride was quite difficult as you’re usually single file.

By this point it was the longest we’d both ridden and we knew we would make it. Resuming however was very painful and it took a good 5 minutes for the pain to subside and the rhythm to return. The next milestone was 100 miles then the Paddington branch turn. These seemed to take forever and felt like the longest miles we rode all day. When the turn came the end  was 13.5 miles away and we encountered more people, increasingly so as we got nearer the end. All to be expected and actually a welcome relief as people mean getting out of the saddle for yet more relief.

We did it

We did it

The last stop was 5 miles from the end for a quick gel and a bit of pain relief for Pete’s knee. Then a trundle into the Paddington basin and slight disbelief that we’d reached the end and in a time that we hadn’t thought possible. Total elapsed time as just over 12hrs with around 10hrs of ride time and a 12mph average speed.

Photo’s were taken, Facebook updated and we headed to Marylebone. The sports bar and grill is next door with outside tables so we settled ourselves down, ordered some food and drank that well earned beer that was the goal of the ride. We got a train around 7.30 and I was home by 9. I don’t think we stopped smiling on the train.

These were  well earned

These were well earned

So that’s it. We weren’t that confident we could make it as it was quite a bit further than either of us had ridden but in the end it felt easier than I expected. We agreed that if we had to we could have done another 2 or 3 hours (so 30-40 miles) if we had to.

For me the biggest point I take from this trip is that we are all capable of things we’re not sure we can do, able to ride distances we don’t think we can and that giving yourself no bail out option means you put up with things you’d normally stop for. Now we need to work out the next epic challenge.

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.

Upgrade Update

The Yeti is back, serviced and rejuvenated.

Al at PHC did the work and the bike looks like new. It had the bearings replaced and a general strip down, clean and rebuild. A few minor upgrades were done and the weight is down a bit to 25llbs. Not very light but that’s never been the intention – quality, reliable bits without spending an absolute fortune was the plan and that’s what I have.

The bike was nearing 5 years old and ever since I bought the cheapest build kit I’ve had this re-fresh in mind. The chainset was upgraded to 3×10 XT, with XTR shifters. The SLX brakes were proving to be a pain requiring a lot of bleeding and squealing after a few rides so were udpated to Hope tech X2 and the Mavic wheels were replaced with Hope Pro2 Evo hubs on crest rims and shod with tubeless Nobby Nic tyres.

A quick spin up the Long Mynd was a real joy – shifting with the new XTR shifters is so light and precise, the

The Yeti on the Long Mynd

The Yeti on the Long Mynd

feel is a mile away from the old SLX but then it’ should be as it has far better internals compared to the work plastic ones in the old ones. The brakes have the race leves with less power than the trail ones but more than enough for me and the bike ran smoothly on the new wheels.

It was like riding a new bike that just felt so familiar, but then that’s what I was riding – a lot of the parts you interact with were new and more recent iterations – the shifters are top of the range Shimano  yet the frame and forks are the same I’ve been loving riding for the past 4 years.

This will be it on upgrades for the Yeti – it’s as good as I’ll ever want it and will be the choice for all day rides (and more of course)

… now what do I do with the old wheels…

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.