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 http://www.pedals-edinburgh.com/ 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.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Ride 50: Glentress

So it's nearing the middle of the year and i'm at the half way point of making my 100 rides in 2013 goal. The 50th ride was my first time round the black loop at Glentress testing out a couple of Transition bikes; the Bandit and the Covert.

We started the day out early as the bikes had to be picked up from http://www.pedals-edinburgh.com/ in Edinburgh first. The shop was possibly the smallest bike shop i've ever been in but the two chaps working in there were super friendly and charges for demo bikes are very reasonable too.

The Bandit: Climbs well, descends better, looks lovely.

Once sorted we headed out to Glentress, the sun was shining, the air-con was on in the car and I was very much looking forward to riding the black loop on a bike i've wanted to ride for quite a while (the Bandit). As expected on a sunny Saturday, Glentress was fairly busy but once out on the trail we actually saw very few people. The first climb is shared with the blue and red trail but once you reach the second car park the black goes it's own way and the hussle and bussle of busy car parks and other people are soon forgotten.

As I mentioned above the two bikes being demo'd were the Transition Bandit and Transition Covert. The Bandit is a 130mm trail bike while the Covert is a 160mm all mountain style affair. I spent most of the day riding the Bandit as that's the one I was mainly interested in but I couldn't resist the allure of the burlier Covert too.

The Covert: A very capable bike, just needs bigger terrain to challenge it.

The black route at Glentress is a nice mix of long switchback climbs leading to some equally long downhill sections. The route isn't overly technical for a black, but provided a good variety of sections to test the bikes. Both bikes were stable climbers, neither suffered from excess pedal bob though the Covert could well benefit from a travel adjust fork as the front end did wander on some of the steeper ascents.

Once pointed downwards both bikes were a barrel of fun. The Covert was happy to hold it's line and let it's longer travel, big tyres and weight get it through, while the lighter Bandit was happy to be hopped and popped and let it skip across the rougher stuff.

One of my favourite sections of Glentress is the last section of the black trail that leads back down to the main car par. I ran this section a few times with both bikes to see the differences, and to see which bike I preferred. Overall I came away liking the Bandit just that little bit more, it felt a little more playful and a bit more responsive than it's burly big brother, though I would have preferred a slightly more aggressive front tyre than the narrow nobby nic fitted.

If you do get the chance to ride at Glentress I can recommend the black loop. It's not overly technical for a black so don't expect a big challenge but the descents are really quite good and offers a little more variety than the red loop does.

Monday, 20 May 2013

A week with Basque MTB

Last week a small group of us took a trip to the Basque Coast for a wee biking holiday with http://www.basquemtb.com/ we were all looking forward to a week of sun, dusty trails and great riding, and we nearly got it all too.

The first little hiccup was during check-in one member of the group (I will mention no names) discovered that he had brought his other half's passport, so he wasn't able to fly with us and would join us later in the week. Fortunately for the remaining four, the rest of the journey went well, Doug met us at the airport and dropped us off at our weeks lodgings and arranged to pick us up for day one at 9:30am the following morning.

Waiting at Bilbao Airport for our ride

On the morning of our first day a quick brake fix was needed for my bike as during transit the front brake had leaked leaving me with no braking at all. Thankfully Doug has a van full of stuff for such occasions and we were able to do a quick top up without it needing a full bleed.

Day one wasn't quite the easy introduction day I had imagined, we ended up riding a variety of coastal trails and covered around 22 miles in total, this day wasn't without issue either, first up was Stu's rear mech being damaged near the dropout, while not unusable it did need to be fixed, cue a few phone calls to our late arriving friend to bring out a spare rear mech. Later on that day another rear mech issue hit us, this time it was mine, somehow I managed to bend the section in the middle of the mech, luckily we were near the end of the day so I was able to freewheel back into San Sebastian, before heading to a bike shop to purchase a new rear mech. Thankfully we were able to salvage some parts of my broken mech to fix Stu's so the day's damage could of been worse.

Looking down on San Sebastian

Day two dawned and it was a cracker, bright blue sky, big ol' yellow sun, this is why we had come here. It would be another long ride with some superb views, sublime sections of single track and our first meeting with the prickly Gauze Bush who would turn up every now and again to scratch arms, legs and eyes. We ate lunch on the hill and spent the afternoon chasing a group of noisy spanish students before ascending a ridge then finishing with even more single track. Our late arrival (Coley) was waiting for us back at the b&b after a few days spent feeling rather stupid after his passport faux pas.

It's all about the sweet sections of long singletrack

Day three can be summed up in three words, technical, wet and muddy. The technical trails in the morning certainly woke most if us up, and even though I couldn't quite ride everything thrown my way it was good fun as we slipped and slid down steep muddy trails festooned with tight technical switchbacks. After a bargain 10€ three course lunch we donned less muddy gear and headed out for more, the trails weren't quite as techy in the afternoon and had a little more flow about them and thankfully the rain held off for the rest of the day.

Not all the trails are dry and dusty

Our day off was spent doing very little, we had plans for going into San Sebastian and sampling some food but most people settled on breakfast followed by sleep. The furthest we got was the beach / harbour area in Hondaribbia, before chilling out in the garden. It was good to have a rest day though as most were feeling a little tired after three days riding and it gave us the chance to clean the muddy clothes of the previous day.

Just chillin'

The weather report for the remaining two days did not look promising and we all expected more rain on our fourth riding day but we got lucky and stayed reasonably dry for most of the day. It was another fairly technical morning ride with some tricky off camber rocky sections and some tyre slashing descents, followed by one big slog back to the van. Then a little more flow in the afternoon after a heavy rain shower in a cafe at the top of a hill on the spanish / french border.

Unluckily for us the last day was a very wet one, it had managed to rain all night and didn't stop all day. Grave decided (probably wisely) to miss the day due to weather and back problems and Stu only decided to join us at the last minute. We didn't ride much this day but the trails were brilliant. A lovely flowy trail through the trees called Celtic Flow that was made a little more difficult by the wet roots and muddy corners that very much reminded me of some of the trails back home. The only other one we rode was aptly titled Heavy Rain and this was another real nice flowy trail that I would have loved to ride in nicer conditions also. We were pretty much done after that as I was soaked to the bone and Coley was too tired to climb any more hills.

I just want to say a huge thanks to Doug for guiding us during the week and showing us a selection of some amazing trails he has helped seek out and sculpt during his years there. Also thanks to our b&b hosts for the breakfasts. Would I recommend http://www.basquemtb.com/ to others; yes very much so, great holiday and I would happily go back.

Our guide Doug, Always happy to be riding.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Ride 38: Even when it's super sunny my feet still get soaked

After spending a fairly warm weekend in the south of this fair country I was quite surprised and happy to see us northerners get a small share on the sun pie. Deciding that anything Keswick based would be inundated with old people wearing beige shorts and more red socks than you can shake a stick at, we opted for the quieter area of Haweswater.

Blue Sky over Haweswater

We started by riding (then pushing) our bikes up Gatesgarth Pass, this is usually a descent for me but I wanted to try something a little different. We met a few people coming down as we ascended and it turns out they would be the only people we would see (except for one grizzled old farmer). Once at the top it was a quick blast down to a stream and then a series of boggy climbs, wet descents and calculated guesses as to where the bridleway had vanished too. Luckily we guessed correctly and found ourselves at Swindale Head and met the aforementioned grizzled farmer.

Not lost exactly just unsure of direction

To get back over to Haweswater again you take the Old Corpse Road, I had heard this was a good descent so that's why I was here. The first section of the climb was steep, once it finally flattened out it was back to more guessing where the bridleway may go amongst more boggyness. We definitely strayed from the bridleway once or twice but finally after what seemed to be a never ending series of fake summits we spied Haweswater and our way down.

Fast, steep and stunning views

The run down was pretty good, quite steep in places but all rideable and fun, the view over Haweswater as you drop back down the valley again was stunning, then just as you begin to get a feel for the track you reach the road at the bottom. Apart from the boggyness it was a good ride out, t-shirt and shorts were all you needed, the sun was warm and the remoteness of the area made it feel like you were really exploring.

The view was so good it was a distraction

Friday, 29 March 2013

Borrowdale Bash

When I say Borrowdale Bash I actually mean a variant of as I usually start and finish near Grange as you don't get much extra fun time if you ride to and from Keswick. Much less snow here than the previous day at Haweswater and the descent from Watendlath was reasonably dry too, the sun even came out for a bit. The little bit of singletrack leading across the top to Castlecrag did have a few snowdrifts but nothing major and the descent back down toward Grange was mint as usual.

Should have brought a sledge

Tried to do a short loop near Haweswater, that takes you up Gatesgarth Pass, drop down to Swindale Head then up and down the Old Corpse Road, we didn't make it. Most of the climb up Gatesgarth was covered in snow, up to knee deep at some points. It was very difficult to see the actual bridleway that went up so we just followed various footprints and a vague idea of the path. Once at the top we decided not to continue the route in these conditions and made our way back down. It was more rideable than I thought and at least if you fell or slid out the snow was pretty soft. Not the fastest of descents but still a good laugh.

One heck of a slog up

A drifty and slidey descent

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Drumlanrig (Ride 20)

I realise I have missed a few rides out here but honestly I have ridden a bit since the last post. A few have been repeat rides like Grisedale Pike, Whinlatter and Mabie, but I did manage to do two newer rides at Hamsterely Forest and Laggan Wolftrax, both places are fun and worth a visit.

This Sunday a trio set out to ride at Drumlanrig, it lies about 20 miles away from Dumfries so as such isn't that far away from the riding at Mabie and Ae Forest but definitely has it's own character. For the most part the trails at Drumlanrig have a very natural feel about them, you won't find much rock and pre-layed bedrock trail, instead you'll find natural flowing woodland trail littered with rooty sections.

The conditions on this day couldn't really have been any better, we got a tiny bit of hail/snow but for the most part the sun shone and the trail was in great condition, a little damp as your tyres sunk into the dirt but lovely and grippy, the roots were also missing their usual slippy wetness so the techy root sections were just that and not lethal. We did the red/black route and it tracked at just over 10 mile which is a nice distance, on a longer sunnier day you could probably do it twice or just relax by the river afterwards and take in the pleasant surroundings.

A little snow in the air as we stopped for a quick snack

Monday, 18 February 2013

Grisedale Pike Adventure

Sunday was a cracking day, the sun was out, the skies were clear and the air was fresh, so a few of us did a loop that started and ended in Braithwaite. First thing was to climb all the way up the road to Whinlatter, before joining the south side ascent of the trail centre. Once there you can join the path that ascends Grisedale Pike, it's a bit of a hike a bike but certainly worth it when the views are this clear. We then stayed up high, took in the views on Hopegill Head and Sail before dropping back down into Newlands Valley. This was also ride number 18 of this year.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Going 10 speed

I've decided to convert from my old (slightly battered) 9 speed set up to a fancy new 10 speed set up complete with clutch mech. It finally all arrived at the weekend just gone so last night I set it all up, all went smoothly and setting up the gears was pretty easy, there's a nice click to changing up and down and it feels pretty smooth too. I'll give it a proper test over the weekend and hopefully it's robust enough to last a while.

New XT clutch mech

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Grisedale Pike

What do you do on a sunny friday afternoon? Well if you're not at work you take the bike up a big hill and come back down it again.

A few of us decided to pop to the top of Grisedale Pike just because we could. The weather was nice, there was a little more snow than expected on the ground but it was a fun little jaunt out. Here a few pics from the ride.

Monday, 4 February 2013

11. Askham & Beda Fell

Headed out to Ullswater on rather nice sunny Saturday and did a longer variation of the Askham loop. Taking in some bigger climbs around Beda Fell and a pretty fun descent back into Martindale, 17 miles or so in total.

Starting out on the trail overlooking Ullswater

Starting out easy for those that can pedal

But carrying is unavoidable

A splendid singletrack descent in Martindale