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, 28 July 2011

Hamsterley Forest- My Way

I love Hamsterley Forest.  I love it as its my home in terms of riding.  Its really changed over the last few years and some excellent trails have been made there including the new Tansmission and Section 13 Routes.  Like all good forests there are the usual graded routes, from Blue, to Red and Black.  Black being the most technical but at the same time the most rewarding.  There's lots of climbing around here so if your only used to flat riding this may come of a bit of a shock!  Still you shouldn't let that ever put you off.  You will always get a good reward with rolling singletrack, berms and sometimes challenging sections.  All the things bikers love!

There are lots of ways of riding around this forest but recently I've found my favourite way is to head out straight to Transmission first. It's a swine of a climb to get up to it but as they say what goes up must come down as this video above shows!

After this I tend to hook up to the red trail which leads back up to the top of the downhill course but aslo Section 13.  This is really fun too, lots of swoopy berms much like Transmission.  Then it onto the black route and the singletrack route back to the car park.  Its not really as quick as I've described this bit alone will have taken about an hour or so to do.
After this I climb back up and away along the black route before hitting this nice decent which you view on the right.  This bit of trail has been around for years and often been used in mountain bike races of older.  More recently its had a face lift making it more of an all year around trail and still gives plenty of smiles.After this its time to follow a quick fire road section to Beehives which is a twisty nadgery and sometimes slippery route and a good tester of handling skills.  I'm bad at this.  Technical stuff is not my strong point so usually I'll have a crash or something to amuse the guys......I nearly once mucked up the stream crossing at the end and fell in!
This probably the last of the descents before hitting the valley road and riding back.  Its all very good stuff.  There are much better places than Hamsterely for sure but this has some real gems in it, and those willing to look there are some great hidden trails too as well as a great downhill track, play area and Jumps.  No doubt people have better ways of getting around and I'd love to hear them as I always like to vary what I do to keep me interested.  This is just a way I like at the moment!  Hope you get the chance to try it out one day!!

Plans are Afoot!

Well its been a few days.  I've been a bit preoccupied with looking after my children as its the summer holidays.  The sun is shining today for once and right now I'd love to be out on my bike.  In fact I've been rather dreamy of late.  I'm getting an appetite for racing again.

Scott X Tri Series
Last year I just couldn't find the motivation to train.  I did a months worth.  The weather turned bad and I found myself sitting on my turbo trainer more times than I really cared for.  I just didn't have the desire for it.  I was more happy just to go out for a ride with my mates and enjoy that.  However, I've noticed that without my usual goals I have lost so much fitness.

Fitness is for those that have it an addictive thing.  There is no worse feeling than riding your bike up a hill and struggling when before you would have managed it with ease.  Riding becomes very hard and then suddenly not as enjoyable.  This is often a point I see people giving up on their bikes often never to return.  It just becomes to hard to bother with.  Those who ride every so often who aren't fit anyway probably don't even notice this fall from grace.

Yet, I now find myself with THE desire again.  Its not that I see myself winning.  I know that is just a silly dream.  I do see myself however, competing hard to my best ability.  So my plans for next year are to race some of the Nutcracker mountain bike series. http://nutcrackermtb.co.uk/ .  That'll be my summer ambitions anyway.  Then in Autumn there are two Off road Duathlons that have struck my fancy. http://www.tri247.com/   .Hopefully by next year my running will be a bit more efficient than it is now.  Its taken me a week to recover from my last running session!!

Now I'm not going to go mad with my training.  I'm realistic.  I have a family and a job and little free time.  I think I can squeeze 6 hour a week in so I'm going to have to train clever with those hours!  I'm hoping that I've still got the motivation to train come winter!  Hopefully see some of you out there and no doubt I'll be telling you of my pains and adventures as I prepare for the season.  In the meantime its running again tonight and a big ride on the weekend :)

Monday, 25 July 2011

Its All Over

Le Tour de France 2011 - Stage Twenty One
Wow.  That was THE best Tour de France ever.  Mark Cavendish in Green and his third win in Paris.  First British rider to win the green and the our first jersey since Robert Miller won the polka dot jersey in the 1980s.  Cadel Evans at the age of 34 (my age!) wins his first French tour after many years of trying and coming so close.  First Australian to win it too.

Its been a year of great sprinting, mountain climbing, big attacks, terrible crashes, highs, lows.  The close rivalry between the GC contenders has made it a very interesting race for once.  So far its also had the bonus of not being over shadowed by drug tests and positive results, particularly when its the actual winner that is under question.

So that's it for me and tour commentary (which you may be glad to know!)  I've a few things planned in the pipeline for this blog site instead though.  Obviously my regular ramblings on what I get up to and like will be on here.  I'm planning on getting fit again and perhaps start training again with the intention of doing either a few races or the very least a 24hour race!

I'm got some plans underway for doing bits on good places to go riding, with my first one on Hamsterley including videos under way.  I'm going to continue with the occasional reviews as well, my next one being on my new crank bros eggbeater pedals.

I'm hoping to start a Linkie party as well for Wednesdays called 'Dream Bike Wednesday'.  The idea being that you join and every Wednesday post up a picture of either your own dream bike, pieces of bike kit or something bike wise that you'd loved to own if you had the money!

Hope you've all had a good weekend, whatever it is you've done!


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Bloggers Bikes

Hi People. I'm running a new page which you should be able to see at the top underneath my page title, called Bloggers Bikes.

Basically, if you have a bike you love for whatever reason and would like others to see it then send me a JPEG to my e-mail address. jezandu@hotmail.co.uk If you want to include why its special to you then also include this in the email.

I've put mine on to start off. Look forward to seeing yours!!

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Final Tour Stages, Cadel Evans Deserved Champion

Well its nearly all over, the 2011 Tour de France has I think many will agree, been the best for years and certainly the best I've ever seen.  So did you see it?  I've been watching it, reading about it and just am in awe of the guys that were battling out.  I'm not going to bore you with details of the last three days of racing, I'm sure you can do that by looking at the race reports on various websites.

What I will say is this.  Cadel Evans is a very deserving Champion.  He rode like I've never seen him before.  In previous years hes always lacked that spirit of attacking.  He always seemed to just follow the wheel of other riders.  This year he wheeled in the attacks around him, almost riding single handily to close the gap on Andy Schleck.  His weak BMC did little to help him the mountains, the schleck brothers really had the upper hand and yet they could not put the time in on Evans that would be needed coming into todays Time Trial.

And what a Time Trial.  I've never seen Evans ride one so well he only just missed out on not winning the stage.  He was rock steady on the bike when seated and aggressive out of the saddle.  He reminded me a bit of how Lance Armstrong used to ride his time trials.  The Schlecks were both rocking there shoulders from side to side and never looked as comfortable.

A true tour champion these days has to be a good climber and time trial ride and for Andy Schleck to be in Yellow at the end he needs to work on his time Trial.  He have no doubt he will win one day, and I for one will be happy to see that as he made the race so exciting to watch.

Cadel Evans may not have won any stages but he is a deserving Champion and watching him on the podium after todays race, nearly holding back the tears it was obvious what this has meant to him.  A big, big dream finally realised.  Well done Cadel!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Trail Running

Ok, I know, not a bike subject but stick with me before fleeing in total fear at the thought of using your feet.

Trail Running is not a new thing but it is becoming more popular. Why should you care? Well for those of you who need that extra bit of fitness exercise, want to avoid the dull gyms, and are limited on time, then this is something you should consider. Seriously. Trail running will make you a better rider, and like comparing road riding to mountain biking its so much more exciting.

Well So I've been told.

Basically, just get some good trail shoes (you can use normal shoes but you'll not have the grip) and run on the cool bits of track you'd ride your bike on. I've just started this sport for some good cross training as I was told it is good exercise for my legs and core muscles.  I've just come back from my first run!
It's certainly different from plodding out the miles on the road. You don't for one thing get chance to get into much of a rhythm and as you descend down steep banks swinging off trees for support you can't help feel like a convict on the run from the FBI. I watch too many films. But hey it spurred me on! 

I've got myself a nice pair of yellow Salomon Speed Cross 2 shoes which are great, although I can't make comparisons as they are the first pair I own. Trail Running magazine rated them their best shoe this month so I think I've made a good purchase.

What I've found so far with Trail Running is that it doesn't put so much pressure on my joints. Normally I hurt in all kinds of places from the impact on the pavement so if this is also you then try going off road and seeing what you think. Oh and it must be good for you core muscles because my stomach muscles hurt as much my legs, so I know they are getting a good workout!

On a personal note, I don't think I'll be awarded anything for my speed or distance today, but I had a big smile, and if you couldn't see my bright yellow shoes then the wheezing and rasping that came from me would certainly have failed to hide me.  I'm already looking forward to doing it again, although I may need a stretcher to get me to bed.  My legs hurts bad!
Anyway thanks for reading this, I'll be back to bikes on my next blog I promise!
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Last Days of the Tour

Well I'm excited.  Yep this years tour has got me interested. Finally!  I've got to confess I'm not a huge fan of watching the tour hour after hour.  I know some of you could quite happily sit and watch five hours of the stage from the comfort of your sofa, but I can think of better things to do with those hours.  I'm more than happy to watch the last hour of the race when all the action happens.  Does that make me a cycling heathen?  I tend to watch more of the stage as it hits the mountains, where the climbs really make a difference to the race leaders, and the descents test bike handling skills to the max.

However, things look set to be a real battle over the last two stages of the Alpes.  Today's finish is the highest of the tour.  Its a summit finish but there are two big climbs before this so the guys legs are going to be really tested.  I'm hoping for a good race, so I'm tuning in early to catch all the action.  Think the summit of the last climb is covered in deep snow so its going to be a very interesting scene!

So who do you want to win?  I really want to see Thomas Voeckler win but even he is not confident of his climbing up these big hills and with only a minute over the GC contenders its not going to be enough.  I've gone off the Schlecks after they have winged endlessly about the dangerous descents.  Nobody likes a moaning champion and they seem to have lost credibility.  I don't want Contador to win, purely because if he is found guilty from last years fiasco then really he shouldn't be in this race at all, and a win of this tour would just be messy.  Ivan Basso is a dark horse in this race and capable of winning.  I used to be a fan, but after being caught taking drugs I'm probably I can trust him.  I don't maybe I feel he let me down. So that leaves Cadel Evans.  I know hes not many people favourite racer.  Hes not often aggressive in tour races so is a bit boring to watch but I've followed his career from when he was demolishing the field on the mountain bike world cup courses.  I think an ex-mountain biker winning the tour would be excellent.  So that's it.  Cadel Evans for me.  What about you?

So if you get the opportunity to watch todays and tomorrows stages all I have to say is.....enjoy!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

About Me! - My Life With Bikes

Well I've introduced you to my bike so really Id better introduce you to......myself!  I've probably done that the wrong way round!  Anyway my name is Jez and I'm a bike-aholic.  I've been serious about my cycling for about 17years now, and have made it part of my life every step of the way. 
I first got into mountain biking when I lived in the south of England at the age of 17.  I was really lucky to live in a house that literally allowed me out of my garden and onto national forestry commission land.  It was the ideal play ground for a beginner with lots of single track that had been grooved out of the hills from the race series that were often held there.  My bike was a bulking heavy beast of a bike costing little more than two hundred pounds.  I loved it all the same as it gave me so much freedom from home life.  I even started upgrading parts like brakes and the saddle to improve it.  I started using clipless pedals for the first time within a year of owning it, (some lovely red Ritchey logics) and I've never looked back from clipless pedals since.  Also about this time I took part in my first race.  It was a disaster, I abandoned after getting my arse truly kicked in the first lap.  It was a hard moment and I was deep down gutted, but I wanted to do it again, and again.  It's an obsession I've always had, I want to race, to do well, I dreamt of winning so many times but have never got there and I know I never will.  I still love taking part in races, but my outcomes are realistic.  Near the back will do just fine!

Anyway, I digress a bit.  During my gap year I finally bought my first real mountain bike.  A team edition Marin.  Since then I've owned quite a few different bikes and have ridden in many parts of this country.  My main hunting ground is now Hamsterley forest and I've become a good climber from all the hills I ride.  Shame I can't say the same for my descending skills.

One of the things I love about bikes is the people I meet.  The
world is full of so many like minded individuals, and I've had the privilege of riding with many of them.  I have made some really good friends through this sport.  I've also made friends working with them.  For eight years I worked for a company selling and repairing bikes, and gained so much mechanical experience. For me my social ground isn't the pub.  It's out there on the trails.  Although a few drinks doesn't go a miss!

I have now got a wife and two lovely children which take up much of my time, but I can still sneak in my rides.  I've commuted on my bike for years so it keeps my legs ticking over. I've even taken up Trail Running, to along with my art hobbies and other things besides.

Who knows, next year I may have a go at 24hour racing again..........I never seem to be able to let go!!

Jez Andrews

Monday, 18 July 2011

Camelbak Octane 18x - Review

I have recently received the Camelbak Octane 18x for my birthday and so thought I'd share my views on it with you.

I have for 14 years been an avid fan of Camelbaks and have owned several for different reasons.  I've currently got a Rogue and a Hawg.  The latter has been with me for years and been excellent for both my longer off road adventures and my daily commute to work.

I got mine in this black with yellow trim colour, although you can get it in red and grey and luminous yellow.  Despite it having a similar three litre bladder and 18 litre capacity to my Hawg, the Octane is a totally different backpack.  The reason for this could be down to its original purpose for hiking, walking, and trail running.  However, bike riders have started to show that this is a great pack for riding and has been given rave reviews in recent bike magazines.

The pack it self is built to the usual high quality standards I'd expect from Camelbak (I'm yet to destroy one).  It is a much lighter pack than the similar sized Hawg and also much more floppy.  Yes Floppy.  I know that might sound odd but when you put the pack on, it just seems to contour to your back so much better.  This also means that when riding it

doesn't move on your back, it stays where it is not hitting your helmet but moves and twists with you, which is great.  One negative point to this is air doesn't pass down your back easily so can feel quite hot on warm rides.  The straps themselves are no longer straight but are curved inwards, which make for a comfortable fit.  The usual chest straps and waist straps are there and work well and don't seem to slip from place.

The pack itself has fewer compartments than say my Hawg or the Mule, yet I've still found good enough homes for my pump and tools.  However the Octane does have a few tricks up its sleeve I really like.  The pack has a zip down the middle that when undone gives a huge amount of space to put shoes and clothes and stuff like that for commuting, or food, water proofs etc for long rides, hiking, marathon running.  When zipped up the the excesses it holder means the pack remain flatter so isn't so bulky on your back.  I also like the zips on the waist.  It means easy access to a mobile phone, ipod, energy gels or whatever else you'd like of that size without the need to take the pack of your back.  A handy feature.

Lastly, the Water bladder itself.  This still retains many of the features that make Camelbaks great.  It has a large hole for filling the bladder up which also allows easy access in to clean the inside.  Locking bite valves stop water leaking in transit, and there is the ability to take the tubes of easily for cleaning.  Its all well engineered stuff that has gained a few tweaks but retained its excellence.

I think this pack totally justifies its reviews and is becoming an ever essential part to my bike rides.  It is hands down better than my Hawg.  I shall update this review after further long time testing to see if I'm still as happy with it, but for the time being I'd recommend this to anyone.


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Mark Cavendish - Stage 15 Tour de France 2011

Mark Cavendish wins in Montpellier after another great sprint

Mark Cavendish with Tour de France stage win number 19
Photo by Robert Bellini http://www.cyclingnews.com/
 Another great victory from the 'fastest man on this planet' at stage 15.  The manxman once again showed not only how great a sprinter he is but also what a fantastic team he has in HTC-Highroad.  The 187km stage from Limoux to Montpellier
was always going to be a tough one, especially with the strong winds that were blowing across the roads.  It was thought that this could be won by the sprinters but it was also a great chance for a good break away. 

On the day, the breaks that were made were all in vein, HTC-Highroad dominated the front powering on despite the winds and obvious tired legs from the days in the Pyrenees.  The last 20km from the end were as tense as ever with the teams fighting for position but ultimately it wa
s Marks team and his own ability to sprint well that led to his win.  I love watching Cavendish sprint.  Its like nothing else, he has such an explosive sprint even from 200metres out he accelerates with such speed.  This is now his 19th sprint win as a professional, proving that he is currently the best out there right now......and best of all he is British!  It is so good to see that we finally, after years of watching the tour, have are own national riders out there that we can cheers for, who are capable of winning. 

On the day Mark was probably not the fastest sprinter, Farrar nearly caught him on the line, but the fact he is holding onto the green Jersey this year with over 30 points ahead of his nearest rival is just fantastic.  He is often humble when winning always crediting his team for victories and often feeling disappointed when he lets them down.  His twitter page simply congratulated the team but I always like the way straight after the race he goes finds his team mates and thanks them.

Mark Cavendish (Pic: Getty Images)
Picture by http://www.mirror.co.uk/
I dearly hope that he gets to hold onto the green Jersey and even better wins the last stage in Paris.  He really does in my opinion deserve it.  I'd like to think that this kind of victory would make him more known in the media but somehow doubt it.  The Tour de France maybe the second biggest sporting event in the world (second only to the football world cup) but people in this country just don't get it.  Still don't think many people know who Lance Armstrong is!!!  Which is a shame.  But notably cycling popularity is on the rise in this country, perhaps after some sterling efforts from the British Track cycling team.  I think Mark in green won't turn many heads but to those that love cycling he will be a hero.  He to me already is.  All we need now is for someone British to win the Yellow Jersey, surely its our turn now!  All eyes are on you Bradley Wiggins........next year maybe......next year.  

Sunday, 17 July 2011

About My Blog

Originally when I set up this blog what I wanted to do was bring you updates in the racing world in both road racing and mountain bikes. I wanted to put on here latest test reviews on bikes and components, latest discussions and just general chat.

It seems however, that I could end up with copyright issues if I just go ahead copy and pasting interesting articles to my blogspot. Which is a shame as I'm going to find it hard to telling you about products if I've had no experience with them. The racing scene to will be harder to report on without me actually being there!

But no matter I still have the ability to natter, probably tirelessly so on bikes, life the universe and everything. So what I've decided is to write my blog on events, my rides, races (possibley!), stuff in the news, and opinions on stuff I've ridden. This will no doubt cover some races, but don't expect in depth knowledge, I can't spell the majority of pro racers out there anyway!

So to those looking at my blog, a big hello and I hope you'll pop by again soon. Better still, follow my updates, leave comments, I look forward to any of your own views and opinions. If you have a blog site you'd like me to look at then let me know, I'm here to make friends, not just ramble like a fool at brick wall!

Happy Blogging

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Reflecting on the Tour

Thomas Voeckler can't believe he is getting another maillot jaune.Well after two weeks in the Tour de France we still have a French man in yellow.  Normally I'd be disappointed by this lead, not seeing my favourites like Andy or Frank Schleck in yellow, or a the faint hope that Cadel Evans after years of trying final wins it.  However, with Thomas Voeckler I find myself cheering the plucky French man on.  It would be good for the tour if he won, its about time the French won it again. I remember a few years again watching him in the yellow suffering like hell on the climbs just to hold onto that jersey.  He was embraced by his country after that for showing such character and pure bloody will.  It's good to see he still fights the same way, but with better form in the mountains he may be a hard man to beat.

After much cussing and two crashes, Jens Voigt gets going again.But the tour is full of great and hard men. On stage 14 Jens Voigt, led his team at an amazing pace up the climb of the Tormelet, one of the toughest climbs of the tour. He pushed pain barriers seen to have said 'shut up legs' as he powered on up. Isn't he nearly 40? There is hope for us all!

Thor Hushovd was clocked at doing 112kph on one of the descents. On a bike. In Lycra. Hard as nails!
Here is a picture of Laurens ten Dam who crashed at high speed on Saturdays stage Plateau de Beille. He was described by his Rabobank team as being as 'hard as rock' 
Whatever, people may say about the tour, (drugs being its curse), it still amazes me the character, skill and fitness that is required to ride this race.

Long live the Tour.
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Saturday, 16 July 2011

My Bike - Kinesis Maxlight

Well I can't claim to be a cycle enthusiast and not at least introduce you to my bike! So here it is my six year old Kinesis Maxlight.  Its nothing ultra flash, but it rides well and now Ive just stripped and resealed my forks is working as well as the first day I put it together.  It was a project bike, I put it together myself even building my own wheels.  I wanted something light but still be strong.  At a smidgen under 23lbs I think I achieved that as it is a joy to ride uphill and tough enough on the descents.

A quick overview of its spec:  Pace RC36 stealth forks
                                              Shimano XT throughout (except Sram 90 cassette and Sram Chain)
                                              Thomson seat post and Fi'zik saddle
                                              Hope Stem and Salsa Promoto carbon bars
                                              DT 240s hubs and DT swiss rims and spokes, Swalbe Nobby Nic Tyres

Most people seem to change their bikes yearly, but why?  not much has changed with the bikes and with some good tlc you can keep bikes going for years.  My road bike isn't quite so pretty, its my work horse and takes the brunt of my commutes to work.  I'll show a picture later......maybe when I've cleaned her again!