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.

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


Friday, 9 September 2011

Bike Make Over Time

Been looking at my road bike recently.  Its looking a bit tired and worn out and a bit bland.  Its never been a real looker but its a good bike and at only 17.5lbs its light and nibble to ride.  In fairness its having a hard life, its been dragged through winter and the terrible salted roads and daily hammered hard along my route to work.  If it could talk it would probably look at me with pitiful eyes and tell me help it.

So that's the plan. Like some make over program my bike is getting a budget change.  A good start will be to clean it. Yeah I know, guilty of even the basics but often after work it gets wheeled into the shed and forgotten about.  I'm tired I want to do other things..........its a valid excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Anyway as you can see I've purchased a pair of very yellow Michelin Pro3 tires which look great and will add a splash of colour.  It'll match the decals on the frame, which are yellow and white.  The tires were something of a bargain as they were £15 cheaper per tire than normal.  So a good saving.  To finish the beautification I have matching yellow Easton bar tape and also some white Goodridge brake cables.  Lovely.......not really looking forward to taping my bars though.  Total faff. 

Next month (or the one after) I shall be getting a new chain (mine is seriously over stretched) and new cassette as well.  All I shall get after will be some white gear cables then that it done.  I'll then be more proud to take a picture and show you all!!!

Other things this week was the Hamsterley 1-2-1 which is basically a two day event.  The first day is a cross country race and on the next day you have to do a downhill race with your times on the day added together.  Fastest person wins.  Only one bike for the two days is allowed so there was a good range of bikes on show for the event.  I didn't take part although I was tempted.  Looking at the downhill course and how well people were riding it, I was probably wise to avoid it.  I may have held my own in the xc race but would have more likely wrapped my body around a tree and remained there till an air ambulance rescued.
Here's a glimpse of the days event.

looks fun doesn't it?  Maybe next year.........yes that's right next year.......I'll ask if they need help with marshalls!

Well I've also been occupied with watching snippets of the Vuelta.  Its been hotly contested at the front between Cobo and Froome.  Bradley Wiggins since my last post has lost his red jersey to Cobo and has fallen over a minute and a half behind.  Which sucks.  However Chris Froome (pretenda brit) is only 13 seconds down so he could still snatch it.  He tried so hard the other day winning a great stage with an awesome gutsy ride but it was still not enough to shake his rival.  Its probably not possible now but hey ho that's racing for you.  Next time guys when you race up a big steep git of a hill take a leaf out of Cobos book and use easier gearing on your bike rather than labouring over your bike like a three legged dog!

oh and yes Mark Cavendish will be racing in the Tour of Britain.......and no I still won't be able to go see him race.

Well Its the weekend now and so hopefully I'm going to get some riding done.  About bloomin time too.

Happy Riding


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Mountain Bike World Championship - Champery 2011

Well another Championship has been and gone, with some great riders showing us why they are the best in the world.  The weather wasn't very kind and muddy racing ensured that everything was technical.  The best result had to come from British Rider Danny Hart who at the the young age of 19 left the others for dust (or should that be gloopy slimey mud?), beating the next rider by a huge 11 seconds.

Mens Cross Country
1. Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic)
2. Nino Shurter (Switzerland)
3. Julien Absalon (France)

Womens Cross Country
1. Catherine Pendrel (Canada)
2. Maja Wloszczowska (Poland)
3.Eva Lechner (Italy)

Mens Downhill
1. Danny Hart (Great Britain)
2. Damien Spagnolo (France)
3. Samuel Blenkisop (New Zealand)

Womens Downhill
1.Emmeline Raggot (France)
2. Rachel Atherton (Great Britain)
3. Claire Buchar (Canada)

I thought I'd leave this blog post with a quick video of Danny Hart showing everyone just how to do it best!

Enough said!!!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Killer Lorries

Well its bad news on the commuting front in this country I'm afraid. It seems that the government in its infamous wisdom has decided to allow larger lorries to be driven on our roads. For the last 20 years lorry lengths have been steady around the 16 metre mark but gradually getting heavier from 38t to 44t. The new proposed length is 18.75 metres. This can only be bad news for the humble cyclist.

Statistically lorries only make up only five percent of vehicle mileage in the UK but account for 19 per cent of deaths. In London they are responsible for half the deaths of cyclists, and 12 per cent.

Lengthening them will create more blindspots and so more danger. The idea behind this change makes sense in term of cost efficiencies and so is naturally being backed by the Freight Transport Association. This idea is about to be trialled using the new rules. But by far the most alarming aspect of all this is that due to vehicle regulations, the road traffic act of 1988, changes to vehicle limits may be made by the secretary of state without passing through the parliament process. A slight loss on the element of democracy I think.

The CTC are trying to stand up for our rights so if you don't want to be made into a lorry sandwich then please contact Mike Pending, transport safety minister in writing urging the prevention of these new rules. This can be done by means of a prepared letter at www.ctc.org.uk/nolongerlorries.

Also worth looking at is this site http://tinyurl.com/3pfugdt which came about after the death of Eilidh Jake Cairns on February 9th 2009.  The family launched the campaign 'See Me Save Me' and have gained substantial support from EU politicians.  In the UK a bill into parliment is also in place proposing the "fitting of equipment to HGVs to eliminate blindspots."

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Back from My Holiday!

Well I'm back!  Yes sorry for my absence, but I've been on a much needed holiday and have had a very cycle free week.

Bradley Wiggins, Vuelta a Espana 2011, stage 13
Bradley Wiggins http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/
Anyway, I thought I'd start back this week by looking at what is happening in the cycle world.  I suppose racing is a good place to start and the Vuelta a Epana.  I've not been able to watch any whilst on holiday so haven't been kept up to speed.  I was sad to see Mark Cavendish out of the race, but maybe another grand tour wasn't the best thing for him.  He had slug his guts out trying to get around the Tour de France, and only just making it over the mountains.  How the hell was he expected to survive a challenging hilly Vuelta course?!  Still, being British (and I apologise to my American followers for bleating) its not all bad.  Bradley Wiggins is top of the pile and looking dashing in red with Christopher Froome in second.  I'm not used to seeing one rider at the top list of a grand tour let alone two!!!  I had to double take when I read the news.  Go team Sky.......erm also British.......OK I'll stop gushing now, but I'll just keep the smile to myself and of course fingers crossed.  Well Tomorrow will be an interesting stage as the riders have to ascend the Angliru.  A nasty climb of about 8% average before ramping up near the end.  The stage is shorter at 144km to limit the damage a stage like this could make but all the same it could make or break some riders.  If last years winner Vincenzo Nibali wants to retain his crown then he needs to seriously kick butt, or at least shift off his own arse, currently lying in seventh place isn't going to win him 'that' Jersey.

Well here the other talk is of the Tour of Britain.  Well the local magazine is.  I'm just gutted that once again it fails to go past my area.  I loved watching it when it did.  Mingling with the Pros before they set off was great and I got all snap happy.  It was strange that I could sit in a cafe and be joined by members of Garmin and Rapha Condor.  I regret not going around asking for every signature, hair, breath that I could but then again the wife may have had something to say so I restrained.  Got some nice pictures that I'll dig out some time and show you all.  Word is that Cavendish will race but that's pending a ruling of him quiting the Vuelta.  Apparently if you leave a major race then you can't race in anything else whilst it continues.  Sometimes you can if you appeal.  Obviously with the World Champs coming that would be ideal.  Yet I'm going to strop like a teenager because I won't get to see him in action.  Just not fair!!  (storms off shutting door behind him loudly, playing music at high volume)