XC Mountainbiking

XC Mountainbiking

Spring Time On The Home Trail

Birdsong, Sun breaking through the trees, and the leaves growing again. Spring. My favourtie time of year.

Singlespeed racing

Breathing hard. My face hides how much I love racing even on one gear!

Downhill Mountainbiking

Downhill Mountainbiking

Tour de France

Sunflowers on the Tour

XC Racing

World Cup Racing where the best fight it out over some of the most demanding terrain


Taking the sport to extremes

No matter what or how you ride, enjoy the trails out there.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Year Comes To An End

Well I've just witnessed Mark Cavendish winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.  A big deal really for him but an even bigger one for cycling as it is often over shadowed by the bigger media sports.  It perhaps shows how much his success as well as others has brought cycling more into the fore front.

I think it'll make for a good Christmas Present for him.  Talking of which Christmas looms which has meant much wrapping of presents and the usual mad plannings that go with family Christmas time.  The kids present pile seems to get bigger every year.  I'll have a few days off from training with some long rides put in while I can during the holiday period but I will not be writing my blog till the new year.

So with that, I'd like to wish all my faithful readers a very merry Christmas and a great 2012 in whatever you do.  Hope Santa brings some nice bike bits for you all!!

PS.  Want It Wednesday will return on January 11th so have a break from it till then if you like :)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Want It Wednesday #3 - DT Swiss XCR 1150

Product Image

I like light things. I like light bike things.  I love these!!  Dear very rich santa please could you get me some....pleasey cheese......no.....aw well it'll just have to remain a dream item.  This Wheelset is a DT Swiss XCR 1150.  The number denotes its weight.  Thats a ridiulous weight for a mtb wheel.  Seriously light.  Probably not one to keep as an all day pair more a race thing.  I'd break down and weep if I broke one of these!!
Loved to tell you the price but I can't even find them online at the moment.  The rims alone are about £300 pounds so I'm gussing not cheap.  Over a grand I'd guess!

If you'd like to see other blogs want it wednesdays that go to my 'Want It Wednesday'  pages to view Pauls and Charlies.  If you want to join in too (and its all fun) then please just fill in the magic linky box!
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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Want It Wednesday #10 - Assos Chamois Cream

Hello bloggers.  Sorry I seem to have been neglecting my blog of late but I've got my head in the clouds and with Christmas coming I've just been very busy.  I've got quite a few topics in my head that I want to cover too but just haven't had the time or truthfully the will to do so.
As an update to my training for the UK24 race, things have been going well.  The windy weather has been making things tough going on the road but so far no snow has fallen so I can't complain.  I'm currently doing my training in blocks, with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday a mix of hour long training sessions and trail running.  Friday is recovery day on the bike then on Saturday I've been doing a high intensity trail run then on the Sunday a long ride out.

Its only Mondays that I get a proper rest, and apart from feeling more tired in the evening and having more tired legs than I've grown used, I'm feeling good in myself.

My weight loss isn't so good as I've gained weight but I have a feeling that will come from muscle gain and hopefully that will mean fat will soon burn off quickly.

Anyway my Want It Wednesday this week is I'm afraid to say not very exciting but still something I want......or rather need Chamois Cream!!  Stop sniggering in the back there!!!  I've never really had need for the stuff so I'm still exploring my options.  But if I'm to stay in my saddle for 24 hours I'd be mad to ride without it!  Also with longer rides ahead of me there will be plenty of time for experimentation.  This cream by Assos is supposed to be good stuff from what reviews have said but I'd be interested to hear from you as this isn't an area I'm knowledgeable on.

So there you go.  Not my usual bike lusting object but my want it list is versatile if nothing else.  So what are you wanting?  Something that you hope Santa might bring you for your biking needs?  Something for future bike events or rides?  If so tell people about them and join in my Want It Wednesday linky party so others know you are taking part and can join in too.  The more the better it works.  For more information see my Want It Wednesday page (see tabs)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

It's Training Time!!!!!

Well that's it.  I went ahead and have entered my first 24 hour solo mtb race.  My finger twitched on the button to apply long enough but now I've made the commitment and in exactly 4 months time I will be readying myself for the challenge of my life.

I'm feeling really excited about this mixed with the feeling of nervousness and a tad sick!!  It's hard to get my head around what I'm expecting my body to do.  I have in mind to do around 170 miles which is a hard target.  Not a winning standard but my aim isn't to win.  My victory will come in completing it.  I'd still not want to come last so I'm going to have to train well and consistently.

So training is now underway, and already I notice how much I've let my body slip over the year.  Random long ride outs just isn't enough to transform or hold my fitness so that is the first part to sort when dealing with my training.  Like a lot of people, training time is restricted due to work and family so I will be looking at training most days during the week for probably only an hour or so to begin with.  Weather isn't helping right now to getting out in the evenings so I'm hoping consistency will push my fitness rather than a couple of long rides in the week.  My Saturdays will be the day for interval training followed by the Sunday which will be my long ride.

My long term goals is obviously to compete in the 24 hour race and also loose 20lbs in weight.  This will be the first time I've had to loose weight to compete so that'll be interesting, my targets will be around 5lbs a month in weight loss although realistically with Christmas the first month my not go to plan and so more will have to be lost the months after.  I'm a weak man when it comes to chocolate!!

I've now started writing down things that I will need to take with me to the race most of it centring around what to eat and drink.  I think I will be using bottles so I can monitor my drinking better and do one lap with carbs in it and the next with water and electrolytes in it.  I've worked out that with each lap I'd be burning off about 800 calories.  This I have to try and sustain per lap or at least eat on my quick breaks between my two lap stops (this plan could all fall apart!)  I've worked out that if I raced the whole thing I'd burn over 8000 calories, or 3 days worth of food!  Still not sure what foods are going to get those calories but I have a feeling that they will centre around nuts and pasta.........not together though!!

Anyway, I'm off for a trail run tonight and going to do some core work giving me a night off from my turbo trainer.  I'll need lots of encouragement in the next few months to get me through this winter!!!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Planning, Planning, Planning........24 hours Solo!

I have 24 hour race fever.  I am sick.  I can't think about anything else right now.  Am I ill or just mad?  I had planned on doing the Nutcracker race series this year and although I've not written this off, I have now decided to complete my ambition of riding a 24 hour race solo.  The most I've ever ridden is six hours so the prospect of being in my saddle for the majority of a full day and night is somewhat daunting.

I'm not sure whats come over me but now my ever waking thought and day dream is about doing a race solo.  So I've started researching.  The first thing was looking for a race venue.  I wanted something near by so the drive wouldn't be too long (I'm hoping my wife will drop me off and pick me up!)  This left the Nutctacker 24 in July which would give me plenty of time to train most of the hard work being put in the long light hours of June.  Perfect.  But no, not perfect because I just realised the event is not going to happen.  That only leaves the 24 hours of Exposure which is the country's only Solo race.  It looks amazing, and held in the area of Newcastleton which is a great riding area.  They have great support there aiming at those who don't have the support already, lights to hire, energy drinks, and even a jersey competition for rookie entries.  Perfect. No again.  It on April 7th.  Bugger. 

I am now going to have to get some serious training underway and that means the prospect of riding through the winter which is hard at the best of times.  Is it enough time? 4 months?!?  Who knows, and this is the main reason I'm still not 100% committed.  The training is more a concern than the race itself.

Do I, Don't I?????  I had thought that if I did it I may even raise money for charity to not only feel I've done something for myself but others and give me the extra boost on those cold winter mornings.

This just leaves so many questions.  I think I've an idea on the training side, but its things like what do I eat during the race, how many calories should I be consuming.  What drinks, what energy products.  Will my arse cope with my current saddle and what do you do with chamois cream anyway?  Is my hardtail bike going to cripple me and will I ever be the same again?  Do I just go at a plodding pace and play the turtle and catch the hares later? Am I just mad?

You know there really isn't that much information out there for this kind of event unless anyone can point me in the right direction, it would save my brain going into over load.  Should I just go for it?


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Want It Wednesday #9 - Hope R4 Lights

This week I have been doing a bit of research into what decent off road lights there are on the market.  My first reaction is that there are some awesomely powerful, over 2000 lumen's, light sets that you could get.  My second reaction is to the prices of them.  Seriously, I've seen them escalate to up to £850.  Granted they give you stadium light brightness but then I begin to wonder whether they are defeating the point of fun off road riding.  Why make night into day with mad lights?

Now most people buy their lights to extend their rides or to be able to go out on a winter.  However, I have started to look at them for a different reason. In a phrase, '24 hour racing'.  I've competed in 24 hour races in the past with team mates and have enjoyed, suffered, hated and loved the experience.  Whatever my emotions the one thing is it is something I probably won't forget and experiences like that in life are always worth doing.

The difference this time is that I want to for fill an ambition.  I want to do one SOLO.  Yep, this is usually reserved for the insane but its popularity is growing.  Even if I only get to do one, then at least then I can say I've done it, or given it my best shot.  So plans are in place and I'll talk more about that in future posts.

For now my Want It Wednesday has been between two lights.  The Hope R4 and Exposer Toro Mk3.  The Exposure is a great light and I love the fact there is no battery pack for it and with 975 lumens is a powerful enough light.  However I have picked out the Hope R4 instead.

The Hope R4 belts out 1000 lumens set on max and will last up to 2 hours 45 minutes, but there are options to run this lower so preserving the battery life for a few hours more.  The endurance set that I've looked at also comes with two batteries so one can be used when the other runs out and put on charge.  I also like the versatility of this light in that it comes with a decent handlebar clamp, helmet clamp and also a head harness (which would be useful for my trail running). The two Li-ion batteries endurance pack comes in at £295 although I've seen it cheaper.

What are your wants for this week?

To join in then please go to my tab page marked Want It Wednesday and follow the instructions to join in, and also be able to see who else is taking part in the party!

Those that have written their wants this week and you can read are Paul

Monday, 14 November 2011

Do You Actually Have A Driving Licence?!?!?!

On my blog I write a great deal on my mountain bike rides, equipment and professional road racing.  Yet what I spend most of my actual riding time doing is commuting on my road bike. 
I have commuted for many years in various places, including the busy city of Birmingham, congested roads of County Surrey and my home town area of Durham.  My routes have often varied between four to ten miles one way, so are never over taxing on the legs, but I have never in all my time been allowed to forget the danger that I put myself in.

A few years ago my luck finally ran out and I was involved in my first proper collision.  It was an early October morning it was a clear day and the light conditions were good.  I was on my usual run out of my town, a route I had taken many times before, and I suppose ride automatically without much thought.  I was on a straight road when I noticed a blue little Nissan Micra pull upto the T-junction that led onto the road I was on.  His intention was to turn left, and so by head in the same direction as I was (we drive on the left hand side of the road remember my foreign readers!).  The junction was open and clear and I'd spotted him early on.  In most circumstances I will eyeball a driver in this situation to ensure I have an idea of whether they have seen me or are really looking out properly.  I know this time I didn't, I stupidly trusted that the driver will have seen me easily.

As I came to pass this junction he pulled out.  I got a big image of blue car on my left hand side and was doing my best to move aside to the right hand side to avoid hitting him.  The car struck me from the side sending me crashing from my bike and onto the other side of the road.  I was lucky that the road was restricted to 30mph so the cars heading toward my prone body were able to react and slow accordingly.  Although I'd hit the ground hard I wasn't badly hurt, I got up fast acutely aware of being in a dangerous position.  As I did so the car that had knocked me over was reving its engine but not going anywhere fast because my bike was wedged under its front wheel.  He finally stopped the car so I could retrieve my bike, and limp to the safety of the side of the road.

He checked whether I was alright, apologising saying he was in a rush to pick up his daughter. (he never once left his car).  He said he'd pay for any damage, and when I told him where I worked and to see me there (where I was going) he drove off.  Obviously this was stupid.  I should have done many things, like call the police to the scene.  Asked for insurance details etc.  I was just totally shaken up and not thinking clearly.  The only saving grace was a he drove off I took his number plate details and instantly put them in my phone.

Apart from a sore hand and grazes to my hips and elbow I was in one piece and nothing broken but my bike was a mess.  The bars were twisted and the wheel crushed and twisted beyond repair.  I wasn't riding to work that day!  I limped home, got in and (being totally emotional) cried. 

That incident was resolved in court and my bike was replaced but mentally it scarred me.  It was another six months before I even touched my bikes.  I was even ready to sell them, and convinced I was ready to give up cycling for good.  Even when I got back on my bike every time a car pulled up to a junction I'd get flash backs.  I was a nervous wreck on the roads.

As you may have guessed, I continue to ride my bike and didn't give up.  Even though my confidence is back I still come across totall idiots on the road.  Only the other day on the return from work I was subject to stupid driving.  Coming up to a roundabout I was at the junction ready and waiting to go straight ahead.  A car came on my right with indicators on to turn left.  Did she wait?  Nope she pulled away at the same time as me and was in full intent to still turn left and go across me.  Realising her intent to do this dangerous manouver I backed off, waiting until she had gone past.  I was furious.  How senseless do you have to be to pull a stunt like that?

As a rider I have always been defensive.  I ride a good metre from the curb, hold position in the road when over taking cars and approaching right hand turns.  I always, always assume that drivers are idiots and can't see me, and so never try to dominate the road and ride recklessly.  At the end of the day in a collision I know who will loose.

Talking of safety for bikers, it was good to see that the Tour Du Danger went well in London.  This was a ride across London visiting ten of the most dangerous junctions (black spots).  Word had spread and hundreds of cyclists turned up to support the ride.  Over 15 cyclists in London have been killed  this year so far, and with a large amount of cyclist using the road there and terrible road layouts which still favour the motor vehicles this will continue to rise.  I hope this sort of action will lead to some forward development not just in London but the country over.  You can see the report here.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Want It Wednesday #8 - Niner Jet RDO

Want It Wednesday Party Time!!!

Firstly, although this maybe a 29 inch bike it doesn't mean I'm sold on the concept of 29ers just yet.  But when I was looking through the Niner website, I have to admit falling in love with this beautiful bike. A Niner Jet RDO. Well I say beautiful, its looks to have thrown some mixed opinions with some saying its ugly.  Not sure how they think that as its not a million miles away from many other full suspension designs

Niner Jet 9 Carbon Tango

Orange Jet 9 Carbon CVA LinkageNiner Jet 9 Carbon HeadtubeVana White Jet 9 Carbon CVA LinkageNiner Jet 9 Carbon RockerNiner Jet 9 Carbon SeatstayOrange Jet 9 Carbon Frame Detail

what makes this bike stand out for me is not the fact its carbon or the fact its (fairly) lightweight but more the attention to detail thats gone into the bike.  Its things like the titanium chain guards that rest on the chain stay and bottom bracket area to protect the frame if the chain falls off.  The internal cable routing, meaning there is no need for ugly lugs.  The suspension rocker is stamped with the Niner badge, and the red anodized pivot points  Its small stuff, buts attention to detail you don't get with big brand bikes that are churned out by the cart load.

I've often liked the smaller brand names over large companies such as Trek and Giant.  You're guaranteed not to see many on the trails, and rare bikes often attract conversation amongst fellow trail users. I'm not in anyway saying I want people to be jealous of what I'm riding, the bike I ride now you won't see many of yet cost more than most.  Its just more unique and people notice these things.  Its often a case of 'what's that?'

I've got to say the Niner range in general look really good, from hard tails and single speeds, and judging from reviews they ride well too.  Granted the Jet at over a couple of thousand dollars or pounds for the frame alone means its out of my price range, yet I could easily be turned by such lovely bikes and be eventually seen on a 29er yet!!

If you want to see the range then just click here to link to their website

You can also see other Want It Wednesdays from Paul here
and new to the party Syl here

You too could join in, the more that take part the better it becomes.  To do so just go to the tab with 'Want It Wednesdy' and follow the instructions.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Fox Racing Shox - Smart Pump Concept

The qr code on a fox f32 series fork:
Image from www.bikeradar.com

I like new technology when it comes to bikes.  Granted I've grumbled at certain things (my latest being 29 inch wheels). I truthfully never really liked full suspension when it first came out, but then it was totally pants at the time and as designs became better I liked it more.  I'll probably like 29ers soon too.......

Some of you who read around may already be aware of this new tech but I thought I'd share it on my blog. This is a concept idea from Fox Racing Shox, which they were showing off at the 2011 Interbike. The Smart Pump.  Rather than trying to explain it all in detail, and probably making a hash of it I thought I'd show you a video demonstration of it instead.

This is obviously not a released product yet but if this is the future it would be great.  Ok granted it may not be useful for the average rider, that is yet to be seen.  But this could be used in bike shops to help get riders set on their bikes before leaving the shop.  Having worked for many years in a bike shop, this idea seems sound to me.  Nothing looks more professional when selling an expensive bike than having it set up right and helping a customer get the right fit and suspension set up.  It could be used for mechanics for race teams setting up bikes for particular riders for particular courses.  If it were to be affordable for the general biking public then we can rejoice too as most of the guess work will be taken out of ensuring our shocks are set up if we race or ride.  I can see this being particularly handy for downhillers or even cross country racers.

Fox's concept IRD Smart Pump
Image from www.bikeradar.com
Perhaps this is too much tech for some, but at the end of the day its not crucial.  You won't be left feeling that you ought to have to buy it because everyone else is.  I thinks its a great technical solution using new mobile phone tech.  Reassuringly its not just for IPhone users but works for Android too and so a great majority of smart phones.

The only problem is this may never get released.  Or if it does it'll probably still be some time.

See.  I'm not that much of a technophobe!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Look Forward To Racing

I enjoy racing.  I'm regrettably rubbish at it, but still find myself enjoying it.  Its always the same on the start line, butterflies in my stomach, the knowledge that I won't do well, the hope that I will.

My biggest problem when it comes to racing has often been limited by many factors.  It used to be that I didn't drive, then it was more there just weren't any local races nearby.  Then I have a family and my time is even more limited.  As my children grow older the opportunity to race has increased.  There is now a great local little race series were I could compete in four or five races through the spring and summer.  One a month is not a great many to big racer types but when substituted with some road racing its enough for me.

I did couple last year when the North East series started (after a ten year absence).  It was great fun, sadly I just wasn't prepared enough for off road racing again.  It had been many years since my last and I'd spent lots of my riding time on my road bike.  Worse still I was supposed to ride Masters Cat, which is a whole mixture of racers who used to ride Elite, Expert and Sport which meant a very varied field.  I managed to wangle my way into Sport Cat but even then I got hammered!  I ended up about 3/4 of the way up the field.  Still at least I wasn't last.  My climbing was competitive, its a shame the same couldn't be said for my technical skills!

This year I really want to race again.  After a year on I'm itching to start training and race again.

I was looking with interest at the race videos that I posted in a recent blog for turbo training boredom.  It features some local US races.  I was quite struck by how low key it was but also how bad the courses were to race on.  Don't get me wrong, the singletrack looked great fun to ride on but apart from maybe one climb it was ALL singletrack meaning that there was just no overtaking areas.  That would just annoy me.  You'd just have to hope someone would let you pass.....or they fell off.  Also, wheres the spectators?  How lonely can a race get out there? 

So I thought I'd show some video footage of the last MTB race I did last year.  This took place at Dalby Forest which also hosted a World Cup round and is fairly typical of races in the UK

As a last note this is being ridden by pros who make this look fast.  In the 3rd video the climb at the beginning is seriously steep.  I very rarely engage my granny ring (small ring) even in the steep hills of Scotland but I'd have not managed without.  It was a very testing course for that reason!!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Want It Wednesday #7 - Look 920iCR

Well this caught my eye and I feel for it instantly.  Its probably not every ones cup of tea, but I have no doubts that it will turn heads.

This is french company Looks', new mountain bike. The 920i CR.  It forms part of a small range of their bikes including both hardtail and full suspension bikes.  It is without a doubt a real marmite set up with the top tube having a hump back profile that allows it to seamlessly go into the stem.

Its probably a contrast to my argument about the need for 29ers in mtbing, it certainly brings about no extra function but I think it looks gorgeous.  It looks so stream lined and just very different.  The bike itself is a 120mm suspension bike with a high modulus carbon frame featuring 12/15mm rear/front axle format, taper steerer and a pivotless rocker activated rear suspension.  The stem also comes in a variety of lengths and angles.
Could this be the future of design?  Maybe not.  However, while 29er geometry is trying to still settle itself, consider this frame design with 29 inch wheels.  The taller frame set up would address the front issue that comes with putting on bigger wheels.  It would allow bigger travel forks and not upset the way the bike handles.  Have Look missed a trick here?
Still the bikes range from £3499 to £2999.  I'll be waiting with interest on any reviews about this bike but for the time being.....I WANT ONE! :)

For other Want it Wednesdays you can also see Pauls blog here.

You too could join in, the more that take part the better it becomes.  To do so just go to the tab with 'Want It Wednesdy' and follow the instructions.

Monday, 24 October 2011

29 Inch Wheels a MTB Necessity?

I'm going to be blunt here and put my opinion out there.  I don't like odd new trends. And the influx of 29 inch wheel mountain bikes is just that, an odd trend.  I notice with interest many of the blogs I follow (particularly) in the US that 29ers are on the rise.  In fact it was quoted recently in What Mountain Bike that 29 inch tyres are now outstripping 26 inch tyre sales.  This is quite a staggering statement when you think about it.  Baring in mind that the majority of mountain bikes are still 26 inches and cover a greater range of bikes in most manufacturers range.

But why the sudden influx of sales?  Is this a passing thing?   It would seem not, as 2012 would seem to be the real push with the 29er range with most bike manufacturers having one or more models that you can buy.  Wheels, tyres and spares are becoming more varied and accessible.  It looks like 29ers are at the front of serious bikers minds when they are considering their next purchase.

What I don't get is why.  Is it just natural curiosity or do people believe that this is the future.  Sadly, I think its a case of something new to buy syndrome, why bother getting a 26er again?  I wonder how many of those people actually stop and think whether there is a real need for them.  Arguments have been raging over its pros and cons; they role better when at speed, are more stable, verses their lack of agility and weight.  There appears no overall advantage to either, its just an alternative.  Its not like full suspension where there are obvious advantages.  Weight always went against Full sus but these days its becoming a very weak argument as they are so light these days.

There is nothing about them, that would even tempt me to buy one.  Not yet anyway.  For now they just look ridiculous, ungainly and ugly and I can't see any need for them in my twisty trails.  Manufacturers are still trying to get over the whole problems of geometry too, so its not even a very sorted concept if you ask me.  In some cases suspension is less to cope with the altered angles a bigger wheel has on the frame.

I've come to the conclusion that some people still think that 'bigger is better'.  After the years of working in shops with bikes you would not believe the amount of people who are only small trying to fit themselves on the biggest frame they can, as if they got something smaller they would be looked down on.  You can see this with people who buy cars or houses.  Its a child like thing that they 'must' be better, showing off their new big toys.  The only way I often made these people see sense was to a like it to buying new clothes and ask the question 'would you buy your clothes in xxxl when you where only a medium?'  No was always the answer.  Are big wheels a 'bigger is better' influence?

Would you buy a 29er when 26 do the job as well?  I guess that is up to you.  You may have gone and tested one and been impressed and inspired to buy one.  But take heed, take a new 26 wheel bike out, test a few in fact and tell me then whether its really worth the jump up in size.  Its all too easy to get giddy over something new and novel over what you already have and not be objective enough.

I suppose what ever happens I shall be seeing more on the trails in the next few years (not seen any out yet!) and if its still getting people out and making them grin then I will still count them as part of the biking family.  Just don't expect to see me following the crowd.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Want It Wednesday #6 - Coffee Cake


Yep this week I've gone none tech and moved onto the desires of most bikers.  Well amongst my friends anyway, who all seem to live for the stuff.  Yep the good ol' cake.  I love it.  I know you all have your likes and dislikes with cakes and I'd love to hear your favourites.  I was tempted to make a new page on cakes alone.......but then I could be taking this whole thing just that little bit too far!!!

So for this Wednesday I choose my favourite cake.  Coffee and Walnut cake.  Yummy, odd probably as I don't like coffee, but there is something about this cake I really like. To date my mum still makes the best out there but I don't get to see her very often so have to make do with what I can get. So here's a picture for you to drool over.......

If you too would like to be part of this bit of fun then now is your chance.  All you have to do is go to my 'Want It Wednesday' tab and fill in your link blog and name.  That way people can visit your site to see what you've been blogging about.  The idea is that firstly its a bit of fun and gives you something else to write about but also the more people that take part the more traffic you'll have to your blog and hopefully gain more followers which can't be a bad thing! See my original post and idea here

You can see Pauls Want it Wednesday and his blog here. Nice bit of kit there!!!  Looking at my front mech and wondering if it needs changing too!
No Charlie this week???

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Mark Cavendish Finally Signs For New Team!!!!

So after far too long speculating I can give you an up date on the final decision.  A few hours ago Mark put on his Twitter Page 'It's............Team Sky!' So there you go.  What most people thought and probably only made complicated by journalists over speculating.  Good move, I shall wear my Team Sky kit with more pride now!!!

That'll be all!!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Bit of catch up and Danny Macaskill

Pat Mcquaid - image http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Sorry folks its going to be a short one from me tonight.  Not got much done in the way of riding as I've been busy with the family.
Just a few round ups to some previous posts.  Firstly, my fear of the UCI governing itself and doing its own drugs tests in a way to prove the sport is clean.  It appears that little drugs testing was done in this years Tour of California.  Although a set up of the American governing body USADA was set to do the tests and use the UCI labs for the tests, things fell through at the last minute.  There seems to be ever ongoing battles that some say the UCI shouldn't be left to govern the sport and that outside governing bodies (the country's the races are held in) should be allowed to dope test.  This would ensure fair testing although the UCI claims it wouldn't.  This whole cock up left a race with little dope controlling, with only urine samples taken instead of blood.

The UCI continue to make me angry and Pat Mcquiad , They seem to fail on many aspects of doping and if allegations are proved, that they are also easy to bribe and corrupt.  Put Paul Kimmage in charge, that's what I say.  Sorry if that upsets the Lance Armstrong fans out there!!

It made me think though.  I know many Lance Fans out there.  Many standing by him as the continued allegations of his doping case continue.  The evidence is strong and yet people still stand by him.  particularly those from America.  If my favourite rider Mark Cavendish got accused, I'd not want to believe it either.  You'd hope your hero's or nationals are beyond such things.  Should we be so naive?

Other news on Cavendishes move to Quick Step have been quashed by its co owner who said talks were made but no commitment has been made, so no move will go ahead.  So where the hell are you going Cav?

Anyhow that's me for tonight.  I thought I'd leave you with a couple of videos which I saw on Television recently of the amazing Danny Macaskill.  It defies belief what some people can do on a bike.  Watch and cry next time you try hop on your back wheel..........

Oh and Want It Wednesdays this Wednesday if you want to take part!!!  Please see my tab at top of page :)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Overcoming Turbo Training Boredom?


I once read that a rider, in order to train for a 24 hour solo race, sat on his turbo trainer for five hours looking at a blank wall. Which can only have been mind numbingly dull to say the least.  But it got me thinking (can you tell I've got training on my mind?!). How do you go about making a training session on your turbo trainer more entertaining.
 I've already mentioned in my previous post that I find it hard mentally to go beyond an hour.  Rubbish I know.  I also suffer burnout really easily if I have to use it for many months at a time.  Normally I just sit looking at a blank wall listening to my IPod and some funky motivating tunes. Its tolerable.  But only just.  I've tried watching TV but found it way to distracting, my focus wained and I found myself giving a lack luster performance.

But it was last night that I hit upon a possible solution and one I quite liked.  YouTube.  There are loads of Videos with images of pro downhillers showing us really why they are the best in the world.  I often find myself slack jawed at how fast they ride stuff.  I often wonder how much I'd be dabbing a foot while they blitz over the ground without what looks like little regard for themselves, but which is apparently also titled as 'skill'  So here's a video to get you pumped up from RAW.  This is followed by a big however..........

HOWEVER. Training to this kind of stuff can be at times a bit distracting, and I've found myself tensing up watching them ride which I don't think made for a great training session.  But I came across these two videos instead which I'm yet to try but I really like the idea.  It reminds me of those turbo trainers which you can attach to your computer.  Its basically footage from an xc race, taken from the start to the finish and is shot in first person perspective.  Both videos are about an hour 15 mins which make for a good length whilst training.  They also have no music so you can listen to your own or listen the laboured breathing and the tyres on rough track.  What do you think? 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Micro Intervals

I often wonder how many people out there suffer lack-of-time-to-train issues? I know I do.  I have a family, a job, like many of you out there.  Fitting in the hours to get me fit is almost as hard as the work out sessions themselves!!  I could on average do about 6 hours a week maybe 8 max.  Its not enough to make me the most competitive person but enough to make sure I'm not last!!.

However, even these hours can be challenged by the terrible weather that we can suffer here during the winter. Gales are common with bad winds for weeks at a time and the snows over the last few years have lasted a good two months with road conditions too dangerous for even vehicles let alone bikes.

So really that means its time for that so loved weapon........the turbo trainer.  No matter how enthusiastic I can be about getting fitter after 20 minutes I'm clock watching wondering when that hour will finish.  As a rule I don't tend to do more than hour, primarily as I find it a chore, its not fun and if I have to be on it a few times a week then I find myself burning out all too quickly.

My real problem comes when I'm supposed to be out on a long endurance ride of 3-4 hours, and the weather is stopping me. An hours turbo training session just isn't going to cut it.  I'm not sure what others do.  Can people really tolerate indoor training for three hours?

Anyway, recently I've come across a solution to this.  It always said that with little time to train you have to make every ride count.  Micro Intervals may just be my answer and yours too if you suffer the same problems.  Simply they are short intense efforts of up to 60 seconds or less repeated with varying lengths of active recovery.  It recently been discovered that micro intervals help train the physiological processes that support much longer efforts.  They boost the level of VO2max an individual can access, having a positive effect on fitness.  The advantages of doing short intervals like these compared to long ones is that you maintain pedal efficiency more,  making each interval more effective.  This training is no secret, Pro riders have been using it more and more over the last few years.  Many no longer have to ride the 6 hours needed a week but have been riding for four but included micro intervals into their training at the beginning, middle and end.  Good evidence of micro-intervals comes from the British team whom many come from track racing where micro intervals are drilled into them.

Some example workouts as used by pros: 
40 seconds hard then 20 seconds easy repeat a set of ten for time:  This can be done on the turbo trainer or on a long ride.  Good for road riding.

30 seconds flatout efforts then one minutes easy in between:  Good for speed and endurance

10 seconds hard followed by 20 seconds easy. Two matches of 15 minutes with five minutes in-between: Effective for Power.

Well this is all just a guide line but hopefully with a session like this added into a limited ride or workout you'll reap in greater fitness than you would normally.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Mark Cavendish, Will He Won't He?



So appears that Mark Cavendishes move to Sky isn't as clear cut as we might have suspected.  It was pretty much assumed that this would be his new home but since becoming world champion no confirmation of his signing has been confirmed.  It would now seem another complication has come about.  His bike and desire to stay using Specialised Bikes.  If he went to Sky he'd have to use Pinarellos which despite being lovely bikes means he'll lose backing from specialised who are keen to keep him as part of the advertising.  Sky can't change their bikes as they have a contract. 

So rumours are rife that Belgium team Omega Pharma-Quick Step could be on the cards as they will be riding Specialised Bikes for next year.  Obviously the team has denied this but team sky are no long confident of keeping Cav either.  It would be a good move.  A great deal of his HTC team mates have moved to this team as well as the current World Time Trial Champion Tony Martin.

Wish he'd hurry up and make up his mind.  But I suppose its a big deal for him.  A good team will lead him to victories.  A week team could see him loose out.  Which should he go for? 

Lacking Motivation


Ah its no good.  My body appears to be shutting down ready for hibernation already.  Winter is coming.  I'm not a seasonal rider by any means but I do ride less when the bad weather comes.  The cold is bearable but the last few years we've had heavy snowfall in November and December so riding just comes down to nothing.
I'm feeling a bit sheepish as I should be on a trail run this morning, but I'm here blogging instead.  Trouble is at this time year I have no motivators.  I've said to myself that I want to pick up again and start racing some MTB events in the Summer, maybe a 24hour race, Endurance and the local Race series as well as some local road crits.  My 'plan' is that I'll start training from the beginning of January.  In the past I've started in November or December but because of the snow have ended up a lot on the Turbo Trainer and by June have just found myself burnt out.  Unable to put in good miles in the winter has meant my race endurance suffered.  So I'm thinking that a later start some smarter training and I'll be in a good a shape if not better but be ready to race for a whole summer! 

In the mean time I'm just going to have to keep active and not become a bum.  I may not be out running but I'm still riding to work and I'll do my weekly run at the weekend instead.  See all good.

What I'd really like to be able to do is cyclo cross.  So many of the blogs I read on here a pictures of people at cyclo cross races.  Slightly muddy affairs on grassy fields, gets my races juices flowing.  But then I think to myself that cx races at this time of year probably aren't so bad but come mid winter its probably just grim.  I've toyed with the idea of getting a cx bike but wonder if I'd be wasting my money.  Maybe I should have a go on my mountain bike and see if it would be a good investment.  Wonder if then I'd have better winter time motivation to train?

I weighed my self at the weekend and was not surprised to find that I was at 63.8kgs or 140.7lbs.  Thought my trousers felt tighter.  I seem to be up two percent in fat as well.  Looks like a bit of fat sitting on my middle.....love handles!  For years I've weighed 57kg or 126lbs, a great weight for a climber but since I've hit my mid thirties my weight has fluctuated so much more.  My aim therefore in training will be to at least drop close to that weight. 

So that's the plan.  Just need to pull myself away from this computer now!

Happy riding folks.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Want It Wednesday #5 - Poshbikes Titanium Cassette

Holy Cow is it two weeks already?!  Blimey.  Well this time I have been actually looking for something more practical than the usual dribbly and desirable bits of kit.  This week I want a..........chain.  Yes the humble old chain and I suppose for that matter a new cassette too as ever good practice to replace them both.  I know some riders who replace their chains regularly so they don't have to change the cassette as well but I'm rubbish and after two years I don't need a chain checker to tell me that the chain is stretched to a point of comedy. (a large gap has appeared where the chain sits on the bottom of the chainring.....it doesn't fit!)

So this is what I want :)

So here we have it.  One beautiful shiny Titanium Nitride £320 road cassette from http://www.poshbikes.com/, and on it this £220 Titanium Wipperman Chain.

Not sure how practical titanium is?  However, as I'm an average bloke with an income that no where near matches such a lavish lifestyle, I will instead be buying a SRAM Chain PC1031 which I've seen for £18.99.  Somewhat more reasonable!!

You Can see Pauls Want It Wednesday here.  Good find!!!!

If you too would like to be part of this bit of fun then now is your chance.  All you have to do is go to my 'Want It Wednesday' tab and fill in your link blog and name.  That way people can visit your site to see what you've been blogging about.  The idea is that firstly its a bit of fun and gives you something else to write about but also the more people that take part the more traffic you'll have to your blog and hopefully gain more followers which can't be a bad thing!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Cavendish World Road Race Champion

Caaaaaaaaaaaaavvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv!!!!!!!!  What a weekend for road racing.......well if you are British anyway!  By now you probably all know that Mark Cavendish (my favourite rider) won the very prized Rainbow Jersey, and is now the new World Road Race Champion.  Its a good time to be British.  We've had to wait a while for this mind, 46 years by my counting, the last champion being the awesome Tom Simpson. 

Cavendish in Rainbow Jeresy.  Photo: Telegraph.

We topped the Medal table with some good results all round, and a notable fantastic Time Trial ride by Bradley Wiggins who came second.  The Brit,s riding with strength of eight riders, rode a magnificent race supporting and protecting Cavendish.  But its got to be said that Mark, ever humbly crediting his own team, produced a blinder of a sprint.  He looked out of it as he was sitting near tenth and boxed in with 300 metres to go.  Yet he found the smallest of gaps down the side of the barrier and with 200 to go, launched with that trade mark turn of speed that I think many of the Peleton have little answer for.  Anyway enough of my totally bias boasting heres the last frantic minutes of the road race that you can see here.  

One question:  Whats with his helmet?  It looks horrible.  I can see its a specialised one, but it seems to have a cover on it, which not only makes it look odd but surely can't be cooling his head down very much.
So all over it has been a good year for cycling for this country.  Noticeable other achievement being Danny Harts World Downhill victory, Cavendishes Green Jersey in the Tour de France and second and third places in the Vuelta.  I'm hoping this is just the start of a victory haul.  You know what?  It good to be able to celebrate my favourite sport for once. Its good to be British today........but if I was Australian, I'd be pretty happy too.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Why Take Drugs?

I can make no apologies for writing on the topic of drugs within our sport of cycling but it is ever present, poking, looming gloomily like a dark rain cloud, hiding like an unwanted child.  My stand on drugs in the sport is no doubt felt by many others.  My voice isn't the only one, all too often we are left disappointed by our hero's, the great battles of the tours, knowing that drugs is often or not going to come in there somewhere.

Let me start with an argument from a different angle, and perhaps one I still slightly hold onto.  Lets ask the question, "why do they dope?".  It's often said that money is the route to all evil.  The carrot on the stick.  I'd agree more or less.  But another factor is a love for a sport and the job of actually cycling.  Think I'm going on all hippy on you?  Bare with me.  If YOU got the chance to race and live the life of a pro cyclist how hard would you cling onto the contract that kept you racing, doing the job you love.  For some, particularly in poor countries cycling is a route into a paid job.  Like many athletes who go into professional sport, they do so because they are good at it and want to remain good at it for as long as they can.  It seems at whatever the cost.  A few cyclists have said they doped because they wanted to be competitive and, a very important point, to level the playing field to make the fair fight. 

Cycling is a cruel world and to be at the top you really have to be at your best because if you're not there are plenty of people who will take your place.  The peleton of old and today are absolutely littered with has-beens, those who after a few races or seasons are kicked of the team or are just not resigned as they weren't able to do the job.  Domistiques are the most disposable of cyclists.  They are often poorer paid and struggle to remain part of the team or in the peleton.  How hard would you fight if this was your dream, a professional cycle contract, a wage to support you and your family, to race in countries and be adored by fans the world over.  How hard?  Faced with the
option of drugs to stay strong in a three week race or go home, another name lost in history. Another unknown.

Sadly it seems that those in the lower order often get caught the most often taking the drugs yet its really only the big names that take the lime light.  Are they caught more often because they abuse the system regularly? Or are they caught because the cost of drugs and the agents used to mask them is often just to much?

There is, I have no doubt, a big culture of drug taking throughout the pelton in any race.  Cyclists look out for each other.  Team mates, often share the same doping doctors, and knowledge of how to use them effectively just comes with the territory.  I don't think its a case of turning a blind eye, but more excepting what is seen as the norm.  But cyclist do get caught, not often enough I fear. But more worrying is the reaction from fellow cyclists to these people.  If they fight for their innocence they are often backed, but 'spitting in the soup' and admitting to doping is often met with great hostility.

Paul Kimmage writes a brilliant book on his take on being ousted from former close friends within cycling for talking out on doping.  He never really names people but talks more about the culture of drugs in the sport.  But this goes completely against the 'omarta' of the peleton.  Why is it when a cyclist talks out against drugs in cycling are they claimed liars and segregated, abused, their words filth.  Regrettably the only people that talk out are often those that 'have' been caught.  So for that reason their words are meaningless.  Words of desperate people who want to bring the world down with them.  Maybe to justify why they took it was so because many others did.  I think that we should be listening to them.  How can so many whistle blowers be wrong.  Its time this culture was crushed and I applaud any who will talk out.

I think a prime example of this are the allegations from Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis that they doped and saw Lance Armstrong taking drugs.  Their words are often being dishonoured as they are labeled with just being like angry spoiled children taking everyone down with them.  When someone like George Hincapie speaks up though, a cyclist unknown to abuse and is very respected rider within the peleton and good friend to Lance, people sit up and listen.  We need more people like this.  We need more people to help clean this sport up, because I know for one thing this isn't going to come from the UCI.

I mentioned earlier that I feared people weren't being caught enough.  If you were head of the UCI and you wanted to toughen up on drugs in sport what would you do?  Come down hard and drug test everyone?  Yes that's what they did.  The problem is that just exposed cycing to the public as a sport in a mess.  How often do people flippantly say to you "oh cyclists are all just drug takers"?  That's the result of catching so many people.  Now we have a cleaner pelton.  But can we really believe this? After such an onslaught, the UCI will be desperate to prove that their tough line on drugs taking has cleaned up the sport for good.  Yet to prove this, all they have to do is catch less people.  And whats the easiest why to catch less people? Obvious.  Not test as many, or god forbid hide results(?)  It bears thinking about.

I'm going to leave this ever on going debate on something that just plain worried me about the mentality about taking drugs.  A nurse friend of mine who is a cyclist was contacted by a cyclist he knew.  The guy was asking my friend whether he'd be able to get anything that would help him with an upcoming race.  EPO to be more exact.  My friend was obviously shocked and rightly refused, not just because of his job but knowing the life threatening implications of taking such substances.  The sad thing.  This wasn't for some Pro race.  This wasn't even for British points ranking.  It was for a local weekly bike Crit.  A meaningless race, no real glory but his own.  He was willing to put his life on the line for what?

I continue to live in hope for a better sport.

If you'd like to read into some views on this all better than my own then these two books should be on your must read list.

Paul Kimmage - Rough Ride
Jeremy Whittle - Bad Blood

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Race Against The light

"Lazy Jez" I told myself this morning.  "Go out and run".  "Noooooo" my legs and I said, "let me lie on the sofa and play on the PlayStation and eat junk food "  Its been nearly a month now since I got out and did a good trail run, too long to go without and I knew I'd suffer for it.  And when I my exercise 'Gremlin' finally booted me out of the door, I realised that yes I was right.  I suffered.  It wasn't a long run but the three mile course is hilly and technical some of the climbs being sheer banks.  My average pace was down on my usual longer run and I never got into a comfortable rhythm. My lazy gremlin was adamant that I should just stop and walk (much easier........look theres a nice bench..........you should have stayed at home).  Damn you gremlins.

Still if that wasn't enough I then had a six mile commute to work on the bike......stupid me ending up setting off too late to work.  I had to make sure I set a good pace but behold, if the gremlins aren't out to get me then by some cruel twit of fate the wind gods were blowing against me.  Curses.  Surprisingly though my legs felt fairly sprightly, warmed up even and I maintained a good speed and rhythm  I felt good......I........felt good?  Blimey that makes a change I usually suffer like hell in the wind.  I got to work in plenty of time, although I had to admit to noting some fatigue in the last mile.

Home time.  Holy cow.  Wheres the #'$%ing light going.  Oh.  7:00pm and the sun was already going down.  An issue if you haven't got lights on your bike.  Which I hadn't. I got changed with speed.  Seriously if I didn't I was going to face a dangerous ride in the dark.  Outside cars had their headlights on.  My fluorescent windproof was going to be my only saving grace here.  My legs felt tired from standing all day but I had no choice.  I was going to have to ride, and ride fast.  The wind was at least in my favour. 

I buried myself.  I rode as hard as my skinny legs would take me, legs burning as I turned over the cranks, powering out on the climbs.  I'm sorry to the riders I blitzed past, not even having the breath for a cheery hello.  I'm sorry to the speedwalkers I nearly run over, the dogs the vehicles I blocked getting past me but in the end I got back.  The sun had all but nearly set.  I was safe.  The ride home was one of my quickest yet.

Tonight I'm tired. Tonight I've earned my beer and chocolate.  Sorry legs.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Want It Wednesday #4 - Glentress

Its Want It Wednesday Time!!!!  Yes I was perhaps a little premature in posting my want last week as I think my original plan was to do one on the second and fourth week of the month.  Never mind.  So after last weekends mud splattered ride I already find myself wishing back to those dry dusty trails and wishing that I'd been able to go to my favourite place for riding, Glentress.  It seems rather apt then that this week, rather than wanting something for my bike I want to place that I can ride it instead.  So here we have it.  This is the start of the red trail single track named Spooky Woods, a beautiful bit of flowing trail that descends gradually.  It links on to more similar singletrack for a wonderful feel good bike experience.  Whether you are a beginner or experienced this trail never fails to leave smiles on peoples faces.  I love it.

Heres a little well shot video to give you an idea of what its like. Enjoy.

So thats my 'want' for this wednesday.  So now if you also fancy showing others your favourite bit of trail, or some bike thing you really would love then why not join in this bit of fun. Please also take time to look Pauls and Charlies blogs too and their wants!

All you have to do is go to my page titled 'Want It Wednesday' and fill in the linky party wizard.  From then on people will be able to link to your blog, increasing your traffic and you never know you may gain new followers too!  The only important thing is to ensure you link your post back to my blog and encourage others to join in with the party too.  The more people that join the better!!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

No Aslan Or Fairies

Well it has to be said that the weekend just gone was a good one. Family, shopping, friends and bike all rolled into my two days off.  If most weekends were like this then I'd always be a happy man.

My ride out was a mixed bag of fun and frustration as well as a bit of fungi interest but more on that in a bit.  I went out to hamsterely with the intention of having a good blast round my favourite trails.  As it happens I wasn't doing much blasting, the only thing that was, was the strong winds that built up during the day.  My first climb up and things weren't right.  Someone had swapped my legs during the night without telling me and giving me some duff ones.  My god it felt hard.  Maybe it was more to do with two months with me not being off road but I felt sluggish all the same.  Getting out of the saddle seemed to help even less.  Still later in the ride this issue soon wore off and the legs regained some composure, and I was finding the long climbs less hard.  Shame my gears are still playing up.  Seriously starting to annoy me now.  I've realigned them countless times, twice on this days ride but each time the cable either stretches or beds in.  Since its first instalment the cable has had to be pulled through at the rear mech by over an inch!  My legs not working is one thing but my bike is not on.  I've worked as mechanic over the rears and know how to set up gears of many different types but never has this set of new cables caused me so many issues.  If you are wondering they are Clarkes Cables.  Never again!!

Still, the ride was on the whole good.  I was pleased to not have lost any of my flow and felt like a deer through the trees, fast and graceful.  Shame that certain technical aspects continue to let me down.  I need to get more confident on two aspects.  Firstly getting my bike airborne and not being scared to do so. I'm not talking wanting to do big jumps just short drops and rock lips that I can launch off rather than braking like an idiot and rolling off.  Doesn't help with my speed.  Falling off my bike and breaking and dislocating both my elbows at the same time as I have done in the past really knocked my confidence.  Secondly rocks and roots in the wet.  Never was good at this but I know that comes with practice.  So this winter I'm just going to have to face my daemons and take them like a man.  Particularly if I want to do better in races.

As you can see I've been taking a couple of pictures on my ride around.  The first one is at the start of Transmission descent.  The stone table reminds me of the one in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Its very Narnia esc and the views across the horizon or as beautiful as ever.  Still there was no sign of Aslan or for the matter a white Witch, however, there was this suspect gnome sitting at the base of the table which you may just be able to see.

Also going along with the fantasy theme was this large amount of toadstools or Fly Agaric to be precise.  True fairyland toadstools.  I've never seen so many of this type of toadstool in one area in my life.  This photo only cover a part of the many that surrounded me on the skills section in the woods.  No fairies though......

Back home in my kitchen progress has been made with my road bike.  The new tyres are on and I've done the handle bar tape (bloody pain in the bum to do as ever) aslo the brake cables have been done with some lovely Goodridge sealed cables.  All that remains to be done now are the gear cables, cassette and chain.  That'll have to wait till next month though.

Till then, happy riding folks