Friday, 10 January 2014

A new challenge for 2014

2013 was a pretty good year for mountain biking, the weather (until recently) was pretty decent and i’ve managed to explore a little more in The Lakes where I spend most of my rides. In between this I have squeezed in two trips abroad and taken part in two races (one good, one not so good). But what about the challenge I set myself at the start of the year.

At the start of 2013 I challenged myself to get in 100 rides. I successfully completed this back in October and what I actually managed was a total of 131 rides, and a total of 1631.87 miles all done on my mountain bike. The longest ride I did (some walking was included) was 31 miles.

This year I will try and ride a total of 2014 miles (2014 miles in 2014, geddit?). Based upon my ride total of last year this would mean i'll need to ride an average of 15.4 miles per ride. Achievable I think but not as easy as just riding 100 times in a year. I've already made a decent start but it's still early days.

My steed for the year, if I don't change it again

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Goodbye Summer

I think we can safely say cheerio to the Summer and welcome our new friend Autumn to the group. For the past few months the nights have been drawing in, rides after work now require the head torches, most folk reach for a base layer and possibly even a jacket as the temperature, while never that high up here, drops below double figures and I've even heard people talk about fitting some winter mud tyres.

I've been trying to get in as much riding as possible before the days and nights get even colder and people start finding other things to do that don't involve cold wet trails. Most of my riding this time of year is trail centre based, especially if it's a night ride but it's good to still mix it up and ride the Lakes Fells when possible.

Myself and two chums took a trip to Eskdale to try out a new route that looked ok on paper. It ended up being pretty wet and boggy and quite easy to lose your way on the less than obvious trails round Eskdale Moor and Burnmoor Tarn. The final descent into Boot was pretty good but it was a long slog to get to this point and i'd avoid the boggy area around the tarn next time.

A damp misty view over Burnmoor Tarn

Even though Autumn is obviously here I had a cracking ride at Drumlanrigg on Sunday. Drumlanrigg has a great natural feeling red loop (with good black extras) that is worth a visit. The new purpose built swoopy pump track style section is at odds with the rest of the trail but pretty fun. The trails were dry, the fallen leaves made a satisfying crunch as you rode through them, the sun even came out and it was warm enough to ride sans jacket.

Natural autumn goodness at Drumlanrigg

The best thing about this time of year is everywhere gets quieter so sometimes you have the trails to yourselves, this is great if you fancy exploring some of the cheeky areas that are usually too busy with walkers and it also means the queue for cake in the cafe is much shorter.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Escape to Gisburn

At the weekend two friends (Coley and Chris) and myself took part in the enduro at Gisburn Forest. It was a one day event with 3 timed stages, mainly using parts of the existing trail network at Gisburn. You had to cycle the distance inbetween each stage but you weren't timed on these linking stages, so it was all fairly relaxed.

We arrived on the Saturday to pre-ride the full course and check out all the stages before the race day on Sunday. The race circuit was about 9 miles in total so it wasn't overly long, and after pre-riding all the stages I felt pretty good about them all, stage 2 was much better than the video had made out (must remember videos always flatten out trails), it was still quite pedally but good fun and the wee uphill near the end was going to catch quite a few people out.

Enjoying the sun before the race

We arrived reasonably early for the race day on Sunday after stopping in a nearby pub. The morning had been set aside for practice so we rode stage 1 and 3 again before having an early lunch and waiting for our category of racers to start. The race was a pretty relaxed affair, since we had no seeding runs everyone just lined up in a very british queue and we were let out in 30 second gaps in groups of ten or so to stop the start of stages getting too cramped.

Timing on each stage was done via a timing chip on your wrist and a wee beepy box at the start and end of each section. The idea being you swiped your chip at the start and end of your run, not as swish as some of the other timing solutions out there but it actually worked out pretty well.

The timing chip thing, highly fashionable no?

The first stage was part of the red route called home-baked, a fairly tight twisty trail through the trees. It was hard to get many pedal strokes in so keeping smooth was probably the best way to get a good time. I never felt like I really found my flow, it was difficult to get into a good rhythm through the tight trees and I didn't feel particulary smooth but then again I didn't come to a dead stop anywhere so it wasn't too bad overall.

Stage 2 was the longest of the stages and possibly the most varied and pedally. This is the stage where you could easily lose or gain quite a bit of time so I knew I had to really go for it in order to get a faster time than the other two. The top section of the stage was created for the event and cut down a grassy trail near a wall then into a wooded section that wasn't too boggy thanks to the dry weather, it then popped out onto another section of the red route, it was still pretty flat here but it flowed well enough to let you sit and pedal like crazy to keep the speed up. Up next was a short rooty downhill segment that led you to the cheeky climb. My legs and lungs were already feeling ragged but I pushed on through and got a "well done mate" from the rider in front who had stopped to let me passed as he pushed up the hill (cheers fella). That left just one last little bit of tight wooded trails followed by some nice sweepy turns and a last ditch effort by my legs to put some power down to reach the stage end. I was happy with the run and felt like I had give it a good go but was it enough to beat Coley and Chris?

The final stage was another red route section called Swoopy and surprise surprise this was going to be another pedaller. Starting on a fireroad meant you were going a fair click when you hit the singletrack, a couple of mellow flat corners later and the trail started to swoop up, down left and right and you could keep the speed by pumping through sections and saving your legs for little sprints to keep the speed up. This was the first time I really noticed the marshals whistle as I went by, then not long after I would hear another and wondered how long was the gap, was that Chris catching up or was that Coley in front of me going passed the next marshal? Stage 2 had kind of taken it out of me but I pushed as hard I felt I could until the end of stage was in sight, one final push saw me through the line as I struggled for breath and to swipe my chip on the beep box. The race was done.

I am not a number... I am a free man...

Once back at the van anyone who had finished already was free to go their results, the chip and beepy box had done a great job of recording times along the way so there was no waiting for your actually times, just your overall place as not everyone was done racing yet. Times were close on stage 1 with Coley coming in quickest, followed by Chris then myself being the slowest of the three. Stage 2 was the important one, Chris managed to get a 6 second lead on Coley and thankfully I managed a 29 second lead on Chris, maybe the longer pedally stages are more my thing after all. Coley and Chris were within 1 second of each other on stage 3 but again somehow I managed to push myself ahead with a 9 second lead. Overall in our class (Master Men) I came 47th out of 101, Chris was 2nd in our little group at 66th with Coley just 2 places behind at 68th (there was only a 1 second difference between Coley and Chris's overall times).

Any excuse not to pedal

Pretty happy with my result and riding over the weekend, I'm sure I could of done a little better but then we all say that don't we. We couldn't have asked for better weather either, the sun shone all weekend keeping the trails nice and dry while a cool breeze helped it stopping getting too sweaty. A big thanks to all who organised it, it was a great event that seemed to run really well and was enjoyed by many, if it runs again next year I shall be entering.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Feed the addiction - a new bike for work

Work has decided that it will join the cyclescheme this week so this has got me thinking (not that I need much excuse to think about bikes) about what, if anything I could possibly get. I will say now that I already have a bike I use as a commuter bike, it's a recently purchased Cotic Soul frame built up with various spare bits I have lying around. It's a perfectly good bike and probably doesn't need replaced but I like bikes and the chance to get a new one is always a temptation.

What I currently use for commuting

A small part of me wants to throw common sense out of the window and get a new playful hardtail frame (or build) that can be used for commuting purposes but also for short loops in the woods, or a play down the pump track. It's not ideal for commuting and the reality is I probably wouldn't use it all that much outside of commuting as I have a great full susser that I use quite a lot. It's just that I really like the look of them Stanton Slackline frames.

They just look good fun

There is also one other option i've been looking at and that is a 29er. The larger wheels have much more in common with your standard road or commuter bike (they usually have 29 or 700c wheels), but I just can't cross the line to proper commuter or roadie so a 29er would be my compromise. It could run with skinnier tyres for the commuting purposes and I could possibly have a second pair of more trail friendly tyres in case I fancied taking it to some trails. I quite like the look of the Genesis High Latitude and people seem to get along well with them.

Quite nice for a 29er I think

Hmmmm choices...

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Boredale Hause and Ullswater Singletrack

I'm now up to ride number 78 so well into my 100 rides of 2013, and this one can probably also count toward my unique rides target (50 rides need to be unique). Some of this route is a little cheeky and one old couple did comment we were "naughty" for riding a section of footpath but most of it does follow bridleways and we're always polite to the people we meet.

We parked the van at the church in Martindale and headed along the road that turns into a bridleway up to Boredale Hause. Most of this is rideable if you have good legs but there is one section near the top where you're forced to do a quick hike a bike for 5 minutes or so. You then just need to follow the trail down and along to Hartsop. It's a pretty wide section of trail so easy to pick up a bit of speed and it isn't overly technical, just be on the look out for anyone walking (or riding) up.

Hayeswater Reservoir, token bike shot

You are now faced with another climb to Hayeswater Reservoir. Again this can be pedalled if you're fit enough and you get a nice place to rest and grab a bite to eat once you reach Hayeswater. The bridleway then gets steeper and you'll most likely be facing a push or carry for the rest of the way up. We stopped around halfway up this last section where a footpath crossed the bridleway.

Angle Tarn and some pointing action

This is where the trail turns a little cheeky we followed the footpath that leads between Prison Crag and Satura Crag and round the back of Angle Tarn, it's really quite a nice section of trail, quite technical in places and easy to get caught on the high grass verges that border the trail in places. We did meet a few walkers along this route so we thanked those that let us pass and happily chatted to a few to keep relations between the groups friendly, (we were riding a footpath after all) we continued along the trail until we reached Boredale Hause again.

You then have a choice (of sorts) to which trail to take down, one is a footpath the other is a bridleway, they run parallel to each other and both are fun, technical in places but pretty fast. We had started to descend the bridleway but it was pretty busy with walkers coming up so we switched to the footpath below that was clear. In this case I think riding a footpath is perfectly fine, the walkers don't feel intimidated by bikers coming towards them and we get a clear ride down. No conflicts, no drama, everyone is happy.

Cracking section of trail

The last section of the ride was along the infamous Ullswater Singletrack, a very technical ride along a busy section of trail. We took a slightly higher line initially to check out a very technical section of trail that runs a little above the main bridleway. Once back on the main track we met quite a few walkers and runners, the improved weather had obviously brought the tourists out of their hiding so it was quite an interrupted ride back to Martindale, due to both other trail users and the technicality of the trail. Once you reach Martindale it is just a short road spin back to the Church where we had left the van.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Transition Bandit

Some shots of my new Transition Bandit build, so far it feels rather nice, it has a very playful nature which makes you smile.

Monday, 17 June 2013

New bikes are faster. Right?

After a successful demo of a Transition Bandit last weekend, I made the rather impulsive decision to buy one, well the frame at least. I've been hankering after one of these for a while, and I always wish I had demo'd one much earlier. So on friday afternoon I popped back to Edinburgh and back to to pick up my rather bright yellow Bandit frame, and a few extra bits to help with the new build.

This weekend I took it for it's first two rides. On Saturday I did a simple lap of Whinlatter blue to check shock set up and overall build quality (it was a rushed build job friday night, quickly finished saturday morning). Then on Sunday we did our own version of the Borrowdale Bash, a classic Lakes route.

Chilling at Whinlatter

Initial impressions of the bike are good, with the three positions of the Fox CTD shock, it climbs well, has a nice inbetween state for just general trail ambling then a rather soft setting when in it's descend mode (I only used this on the rough castle crag descent as the Trail setting is pretty good). Sizing felt good also, I went for the medium frame (18") and a shortish 60mm stem, combine this with 750mm bars and I felt comfortable with the overall size.

A detour to Black Moss pot, bit cold for swimming today mind

So far I'm pretty happy with the build and how it rides, it has quite a playful nature about it and feels more manoeuvrable than the Nukeproof Mega frame that this will be replacing. I wasn't 100% sure on the yellow of the frame in the shop but once built up I actually think it looks pretty cool. Looking forward to more rides out on it.

The not so surprising view at Surprise View.