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.

Monday, 30 April 2012

How To Do A 24 Hour Solo Mountain Bike Race

It was the year 2000 when I took part in my first 24 hour Mtb event, the infamous Red Bull Mountain Mayhem 24.  I did it with three of my friends, only myself and another friend were regular riders the other two had only ridden a few times so expectations were not high and we were doing it as a fun challenge.  It was an amazing, tiring, soul crushing, euphoric experience.  The emotions falling in pretty much that order.

I remember vowing never to do it again, but two years later there we were again plodding around the course with what by today's standards were low powered lights, or waiting cold and shivering at 3am for your partner to return from their stint.  This was the at the rise of 24 hour racing and teams were now more competitive and organised, but even at this time there was small group of racers that earned a reverent type status.  The solo riders.

As I came to the last lap and finish line I was passed by a solo racer.  I was so tired and I just couldn't imagine how these guys could do it.  In fact I thought that this was something I couldn't possible ever do and I held this belief for many years later.

The year 2012 I took part in my first 24 hour solo event and completed it.  I did something I'd built up in my head the years before to be impossible.  I have no real memory of what made me look into doing a solo attempt but I do remember looking into it.  I researched well and I was enticed by the 24 hours of Exposure a race geared up for new comers to the event and uniquely the only 24 hour solo race in Europe.  What I came to the conclusion whilst trying to find information on it, is that information is quite scarce.  There certainly is information out there but nothing that is concise, free, and all in one place.  So this is what I'd like to rectify.

Now I certainly don't profess to be an expert, or experienced in 24 hour racing but I hope to steer new comers in the right direction and avoid mistakes that I made and use others knowledge and experience to help make your own 24 hour solo race a success or even faster than your last one.

So if your mouse cursor has been hovering over the enter button for one such race, you are of sound health and mind but you are doubting your ability, and overall fitness then heed these words of wisdom.


If in doubt just read through these future posts to get extra advice. What I shall do is go through some main elements in my next few blog posts, these will include:

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Want It Wednesday #18 - Giant Anthem X Advanced 29er

I wonder how many of you dream about winning the lottery?  Winning Millions would be lovely wouldn't it?  I've discussed this conversation with countless people who dream of winning and living the rich persons dream.  Most will tell me of houses they would like to buy, high powered sports cars they would drive, the shopping sprees they would go on etc.  Is it sad that all I care about it buying my dream bike?  The other stuff would come second, I'm not really bothered by cars, to be honest my car would be more like a van that I could transport my bike gear and stuff in for races!

But then, what actually is my dream bike.  I would probably buy a dream road bike, time trial bike, cross bike and mountain bike.  No doubt if I was rich enough I could buy multitudes of each type but really, is there any need for that?  I suppose you could argue the need for winter bikes but beyond that do I need multiple road bikes?  The hardest problem is could I actually choose just one?

There is so much choice.  I love bikes from Pinarello, Colnago, Cannondale.  I often thought wouldn't it be cool to have a selection of the best bikes from the same company and all the racing gear, but actually that can make choosing even harder. Pinarello for instance don't make mountain bikes. The closest brand to have everything I would want is Cannondale.  A brand I've always loved since owning my own 'Dale'.

But there is one bike that I keep coming back to time and time again. And that is Giants' Anthem range.  I've been wanting one for years, but have never had the money.  When you look at them they are nothing ultra flash, not like Colnago or Niner bikes, but these bikes have a pedigree of oustanding quality.  They have been out for a few years now, not changed much either, and continue to slap other bikes into the dirt.  They have always won best on test because of both their lightness and fantastic suspension action that defies belief that they only have 100mm and will take on those with 140mm.

So I'm now even more in love with their new bike they have just released.  The Anthem X Advanced 29er.  An all new Carbon frame for their 29er bikes.  I WANT ONE!

 At 22lbs this is one light full sus bike, and just looks very 'sexy'. 9 grand though, so like I was saying before, one for me to buy if I win the lottery.

On an off subject note, my Forum is now up and running properly so if you get chance take a look!

So who am I joined by this Wednesday?  If you want to join in with a group of great bike bloggers than all you have to do is go to my Want It Wednesday page and follow the instructions to join in. You can see those who have taken part below.  Click on their links to visit their great blogs and see what they want!

  1. racerwannabe
  2. Merry*Death on a Bike
  3. I'll be back soon
  4. I Love My Brooks Saddle

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Birthday Bike

No not for me, this wee bike is for my daughter who is going to be three on Monday.  It's her first bike :)  When my son was the same age I had bought this really cool (seriously)12inch wheeled Specialised balance bike so he could learn to keep his balance before getting to grips with pedalling.  It worked quite well and by the age of four he was whizzing around on a bigger bike with pedals and no stabilisers.

I thought we'd take the same route with my daughter.  I thought she could just sit on her brothers balance bike and use that instead for a bit.  On sitting her on it a problem was en counted.  She stood there flat footed on the ground the saddle was at its highest.  Oh.  It was the first time I'd realised she is in fact tall for her age.  So off to the shops we popped to size her up and after trying a few out we realised that a 12inch wheel was just too small and that she would need a 14inch.  Marked up as being suitable for a 4 year old.

I wasn't happy with any of the choices in the shop or other shops so it was a bit of time on the Internet to find the right bike.  Now girls bikes are a swine to buy for.  She was determined to have a pink bike.  Easy enough.  But they all came with bloomin white tyres, a wholly impractical colour and they just look so scruffy after a few moments riding on them. Also doll carriers may look cute but they just make getting on the bike harder, the only way is to step through the frame but she was already hoicking here leg over the back saddle (good girl).

Anyway, finally we got this one.  It was a joy to build everything working and fitting well.  It even has the added bonus of having V brakes rather than those useless U brakes that so many bikes have.  All for a reasonable and comparable price.  Hope she likes it!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Cycling Forum Fun

Just a quick post to let you know I have been playing nice with my blog again.  In a never ending quest to make my blog different and more unique I have added a new page.  I have added a little discussion Forum!  Ooooo get me!

It's not totally complete, I have a few design issues that I want to clear up first and it needs a change to the colour scheme to make it more in line with my blog.  However, all sub discussions are set in place and is ready for people to start there discussions so feel free to use it.

I'm not over sure how well it will go, or even if it will see much action but I'm quite pleased to have got one on my blog and am now ready to flop into bed from brain drain.  It wasn't a quick job!  I'll probably be busy sorting out a few other things on my blog just neatening things so I may not post much this week. 

I have added a page called tech advice but I wouldn't bother clicking on it yet as it contains....nothing!  I will at some point be compiling a photographic workshop taking people through the basic, and intermediate mechanics on the bike.  Some of the more advanced mechanics of you may not find it useful but there are plenty of novice mechanics who would.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

24 Hours Of Exposure - My Results

Here I am rocking it at the 24hrs of Exposure.  Steely gaze hides the discomfort I was already feeling.

My lap times were as follows:

1. 1:34:53          5. 2:04:10
2. 1:30:35          6. 7:15:21
3. 1:35:58          7. 2:36:24
4. 1:47:13          8. 2:15:41
                          9. 1:40:10

Total Time:22:20:30

The question I'm left asking myself is that I had 1hr and 39 minutes and 30seconds left to go before the 24 hours was up.  Could I have squeezed out one more lap in that time?  It would have been tight!!!

Anyhow, I'm feeling much more human today, and am actually looking forward to getting back out on the bike to do some fun riding with friends.  May throw in the occasional race along the way!

Want It Wednesday #17 - Exposure Joystick Mk6

During my24hr race I decided to hire a helmet mounted light to go alongside my bar mounted one.  I currently have an Exposure Maxx D light which is just totally fantastic.  It belts out 1296 lumen's for 3 hours and is a totally sealed unit meaning no faffy cables.  Even when used at a third of the power (about 800 lumen's) it is still bright and will last for 10 hours.

But bar mounted lights have their limitations. No matter how bright they might be.  If you are on a twisty trail with switch backs you just can't see around the corners, you just end up looking into a vague dark area.  This doesn't make for the fastest riding.  A helmet mounted light is the solution. Step up the lovely Exposure Joystick.


It retails in the UK for £165, having the same wire free design and long burn times that is common with all its lights making them a very good light option.  You can see more at Exposure Lights

This light really was fantastic to use and being light I never noticed it on my helmet.  The mount is quite simple.  It sit in between the vents and once tightened can still be adjusted to point just where you are looking.  Its bright at 325lumens giving a perfect little spot light.  It's not a light to be used on its own in my opinion as it doesn't light up enough of the trail.  You need a flood light for that.  Hence my other Exposure light!

So who else is taking part in Want It Wednesday.  Well we've got Paul who's got a fantastic beer pulling bike to show, love it! And Neil is showing a Surly Tag Nut.  I so want one! Cervelo Girl is showing off something beatiful from Colnago and Lindsay is finding the ultimate in comfort.

Cheers for your contributions Guys and Gals. Great stuff!

Do you want to take part?  Just go to my page marked Want it Wednesday and follow the instructions.

Monday, 9 April 2012

24 Hours Of Exposure

24 hours is a long time. Think of all those things you can achieve in that time.  In that time most of us will achieve very little but work, eat, watch TV and sleep. For Easter Weekend, I raced in the UK and European 24hr Solo MTB Championships. This is my story.

I was cold, in pain.  Curled up in a ball in my tent, huddled in my duvet the race going on all around me.  The shouts from the pits as riders pulled up to get their food echoed around me.  My eyes heavy from tiredness, I lay their on my own, lonely and in turmoil.  My race all but over.  It was only midnight

The start of the 12 and 24 hour race takes place in the small Scottish village of Newcastleton. Up to 170 riders massed in the square to sign on and line up ready to race.  I choose to be at the back, to avoid the race rush of the 12 hour racers but stick with my plan of just taking it easy and ride consistently around the course. I was not going to be in contention of winning, I just wanted to finish mid table and above all not finish last. I was cold, I'd been cold since the day before.  The night in a tent hadn't been the best experience as I shivered through the night fighting off the cold and damp.  We all totted out of the the town led at the front by a lone bagpiper cheered on by many of the locals who came to send us off.  As the bagpiper reeled off the pace increased and we were away!  We followed the road up to the forest to start the race properly an obvious gap already forming between the Elite riders.

The course itself was a tough one.  12 miles in length and 550 metres (1800ft) of climbing per lap.  The first third of the lap was perhaps the worst.  The climbs here were steep and even the single track sections seemed testing and without flow, as they rolled down and climbed steeply up again.  The rest of the course contained some great single track descents that were fast but not technical, swooping berms, drops, bridges and loose stone.  Two very long climbs split this part of the course climbs that twisted up into the trees seemingly without end but remained consistent and allowed for a steady rhythm.  The last part was an energy sapping grassy, sticky incline followed by a bumpy decent before finally heading into the pit area.

My first two laps went well, I seemed to chat with quite a few riders who were also out there to just complete the race.  It was all very friendly and more like just going out for a ride with your mates than going for a race.  As the race went on and the riders spread out along the course this became less common and started to become more a personal battle with yourself.

First lap done and into my pit area.  My pit only included my tent which I'd left open so I could get easy access to me pre set drinks bottles, food and gels.  Where as most pit areas had helpers mine was empty, this was going to be a pure solo effort. It had taken 1h 35 minutes.  Five minutes outside my desired lap time

Second lap nearly 20 miles in and the first of my pains started to show.  My lower back was feeling the strain from the climbs, this wasn't a great feeling with the prospect of another 21 or so hours to go.  My pace wasn't dropping though and I came over the line hitting 1h 30 minutes.

The next two laps and my pace dropped of a little but my body was starting to feel battered by the course.  My back pain had eased but my arms, particularly my triceps hurt on the bumpy and twisty singletrack descents and my knees felt like they would explode on some of the climbs.  These pains would come and go through out the race, never all at once but enough to remind me that I was giving my body a hard time.  More painful was my right wrist which would twinge with shooting pain as I tried to use my brakes.  Not handy, and made the single track sections that should have been fun a grim affair.

Although, the course was full of friendly racers and there were people and marshals cheering you on as you went round, returning to an empty pit was a sad affair.  I had no one to tell of my discomforts or share my experiences with.  Completing my fifth lap I was feeling tired having only done 60miles.  I took a little time out to prep my drinks and food for the next two laps and stretch my legs and take on some food.  As I crossed over the timing gate to start my sixth lap the commentator announced my position as being 39th.  I remember feeling a tinge of disappointment at this stage, I was a long way off my goal of being in the middle of the pack, but I was still not last.  Still it was now properly dark and I was now on my first true night lap.  This I hoped would make the racing feel different and raise my spirits as night racing is quite fun.  It worked in part, my bright lights worked well in picking out the lines ahead. I wasn't quick and my lap times had seriously slowed.

By the time I got to the top of the second long climb I stopped to drink (I'd done this a few times as getting my bottle out of its cage send a twinge of pain through my right elbow.)  As I stood there I was hit by an overwhelming sense of tiredness.  I started to feel dizzy, I couldn't focus and felt unwell.  I stood there for what felt like an age, coldness taking a hold of me.  I had to get moving again to keep warm but as I rode I struggled to keep my line, nearly crashing out a few times, unable to brake properly was not helping in me picking good lines.

As I got to the off the bike in the pits, I could barely stand or walk in a straight line.  I wondered around delirious unsure of what to do.  I ate some more food but just couldn't stomach much, I got changed into some fresh warmer clothes, but it was no good.  I was done for, and as I lay there in my tent my race was over.  I lay there fighting with the sense of wanting to race on knowing I had so many supporters at home but loosing my self with despair, pain and the urge to just sleep.

I woke up after three hours sleep.  It was now 3:00am.  I lay there warm and snug, it was quieter outside now with only the 24 hour races going around still.  It took every ounce of strength and will to get out of my bed, all my mental strength to force myself out of my tent and back onto my bike.  But I did. I'd come here to race and I'd be damned if I was going to spend it lying in a tent feeling sorry for myself. Even if it meant walking up all the climbs.  I promised myself one more lap, I'd dropped only one place and now lay in 40th position.  The lap was slow but as my legs eased up the climbing became easier, I'd learned that if i braked with my index finger only I got no pains in my hand and so once again started to enjoy the night riding in all its weirdness.

I went out another two times after that.  Each lap getting faster, pains still coming and going but I was now smiling, occasionally singing to myself, I laughed at myself for what I was doing.  I was still there hanging on.  My last lap was my ninth and I was going great, climbing and racing at speed equal to the start of the race.  I felt I was getting stronger with every mile and pushed deep on the climbs and blitzed the descents, as I got to the finish line there was another 1hour and half to go, but I knew I couldn't do another lap in that time.  (any laps over 24 hours aren't counted).  I confess to crying once I got over the line.  Tears steamed down my face, and I buried my face in my hands slumped over the bike.  I was so proud of what I'd done.  I'd over come my daemons and despite myself had fought on where at one point I'd all but given up.  That was hard, really hard when I had no no one to push me on.  But there I was at the finish, tearfully happy.

I came 37th out of 49.  I had ridden 108 miles and climbed 4950m (16,200ft).

Looking back, if I'd had spent a half hour less in the pits then I could have gone out one last lap which would have put me in 31st.  But what I achieved for a first time purely on my own was something I won't ever forget, and something I can feel proud to have done.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bike Butterfly

So why is this not available at my local bike shop?

Gotta love the expression on both the rider and the pedestrian! :)

Six days till my race............and winter is returning.  Ah boooooooo! :(