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, 27 June 2012

Want It Wednesday #22 - Thomson Elite Seat Post Union Flag

For the benefit of my newer followers and anyone else new to this, Want It Wednesday is a Linky Part (very popular with craft blogs)  Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday a few of us write about something we want, have bought, something useful, or places you want to go to, just as long as it's all cycle orientated.  To take part you need to sign up on my Want It Wednesday (WIW) page.  Don't worry it's not life commiting just when you feel like it really.

Anyway, whenever I do a post I will add names of those who have also taken part on the day (I do try to do this as fast as I can) to my own blog post.  I link this back to your blog.  The aim is that people will then click your name and see what you've written about.  Those who do this right will often look at your blogs, follow and leave comment if they like you.  Quite a few people have gained followers this way.  Plus if you add the product name in the title you'll be surprised at how much traffic it'll pick up.  You've got nothing to loose really and it gives you something else to write about :)

So to my WIW and for this I was going to show you something else until I stumbled across this.

A Thomson Elite seat post with a Union Flag on it.  The BEST seatposts in the world with a British flag on it.  Do I really need to say anymore?

Oh and for my American friends (who are probably not that impressed with the above) I found this:

So who else is taking part this Wednesday?  I'll put your name below if you are. Looking forward to seeing what other gems are out there :)

Thursday, 21 June 2012

UK Cycling Blogs

UK Cycle Blogs

The following is a list of UK cycle blogs that I have so far found.  They are in alphabetical order but all blogs marked with a (*) are ones I'd recommmend because they are followers and I know to be friendly and or regualr commenters to mine and other peoples blogs.

If I have not found you then let me know and I shall add you to my list to make it more complete and help bloggers out there find each other.  The only criteria I make is that they have been updated within the last 6 months.

  1. 60 Miles To Nod - Muffintop
  2. Adventures of Trio - Trio
  3. A girls re-discovery of bicycle Riding! - KatieCake *
  4. AnneDickins24 - Anne Dickins
  5. bigrobracing.co.uk - Rob Dean *
  6. Bolt On Bicycles - Chris *
  7. Cycletherapy - Cycletherapy 
  8. Cycling Info - Tejvan Pettinger *
  9. Cyclist Life - Racing Bike Mikey
  10. cycleofaddiction - David Adams *
  11. Greg's Cycle Blog - Greg
  12. i b i k e l o n d o n - ibikelondon
  13. I Will Be Back Soon - Nick Gilling *
  14. Keep Pushing Those Pedals - Jme *
  15. Life In The Saddle - Tim Wiggins *
  16. Pete Cycles On - Pete Bradbury
  17. Purple Traveller - Trevor *
  18. race-pace.net - Phil Jones
  19. Richard Sterry: South Downs Triple - Richard Sterry *
  20. Rye Wheelers Mountain Bike Team UK - Wheeler
  21. Team Cycle Aid - Ian Read, Shergie, Mark G, Dean *
  22. The Cycling Lawyer - Martin Porter
  23. The Fat Cycle Rider - Toby Field *
  24. The Invisible Visible Man - Invisible Man *
  25. Tom Adams [A Cyclists Blog] - Tom Adams *
  26. UK Bike Skills - UK Bike Skills
  27. VeloCake - Various Authors
  28. Velo Club Moulin - chrisD
  29. Welshside - Emyr Grittiths *
  30. yeahyeahyeahyeahyeah - ian ian

    Mumblings, Grumblings, and Days Ahead

    Like most people in the UK right now we are having a good grumble at the weather.  I went out riding with my mate Dan the other day, and it was wet.  Real wet.  Not so much from the rain but the soaked trails.  Sorry I use the word soaked loosely, what I mean are rivers and lakes.  Seriously, some of the singletrack was just hub deep in water and very muddy.  Actually the ride was quite fun in a strange kind of way but I wouldn't want to do it every day.  It was also the first time I'd ridden with someone who was using gears and I was on my singlespeed.  I managed very well, I climbed all but one of them which was near the end and never lost much speed on the downs. (road runner legs help!)

    But these weeks of rain have just started to depress me.  I'm getting a bit sick of getting soaked on my way to work (somewhat making my work place a laundrette for drying my clothes off)  We've just had three lovely sunny days but oh look......it's raining again and set for the rest of the week.  Why was I not born in Italy or somewhere like that?

    My motivation for riding my bike is not only dampened by the rain (see what I did there) but also I've got no goals to aim for.  My own fault really for not thinking through the season but putting all my focus onto a 24hour race.  Trouble is when I'd done it I didn't manage to get back on my bike for over a month for one reason or another.  I couldn't really find any other race in this area I wanted to do except for the local XC series.  Trouble is I'd trained to go long and through my own fault not put much speed work into my training.  I'm certainly in no fit state to race like that, not this year anyway.

    So I'm looking ahead so as to not make that mistake again and find some races to target for next year.  Next year is going to be all about racing singlespeed.  My first target will be the European 12hour Solo champs in April; The Mountain Mayhem 24 in June; Coast to Coast in one day and then the Kielder 100 in September.  Hopefully, I shall find some smaller events in between.

    On the plus side for this month the Tour De France is on very soon which is usually the highlight of my July in Television terms.  Not sure who is going to win this year, but with Contador and Andy Schlek out of the race it could interesting.  Cadel Evans will no doubt want to claim it again but I think Bradley Wiggins could just do it this year.  Could we see a Brit in Yellow and Green this year? 

    Talking of Events we've got the Olympics coming soon and this country is getting all excited and unusually patriotic.  Nothing like a big sports event to get the country united and feeling good about themselves!!  I love the Olympics, I guess I just love sports anyway so I shall be watching what I can but obviously I shall have most of my attentions on the MTB race, Road and Time Trial race and Track racing.  I'm hoping the above picture isn't what we should expect from our typical lousey weather!

    Anyway, that's me.  Hopefully I will bring you something more constructive soon.  Still need to finish my 24 hour how to series, got Want It Wednesday coming up and I've got a piece on being a lab rat I want to share with you.  I'm 35 next month and Following the Chain line will also be celebrating it First Birthday! Yay.


    Wednesday, 13 June 2012

    Want It Wednesday #21 Hope CNC DH/Singlespeed Chainring

    Well officially I have moved to the more shady sides of the sport.  Yep, I am now a singlespeed fool.  I've had a few good rides out now to see how I would cope with climbing with a 32t - 16t set up.  And cope I did.  I went out with a friend of mine on (a previous singlespeed user) and I kept up with him no problem.  In fact I'd go as far to say I only really struggled when the climbs went beyond 20% in gradient and were loose. I certainly lost no speed on the downhills even if I did have to have road runner legs to keep the speed up.  My friend reassures me that my legs will get stronger and that the climbs will get easier.  Handy, as I now have hopes of doing either a 12 or 24 hour race next year on a singlespeed.

    Anyway as you can imagine my WIW reflects want I'm into at the moment.  Once I'd stripped down my Chainset I was left with a rather tatty and worn 32t shimano chainring.  As it no longer could hide behind it bigger brother it just looked a bit messy for my liking. 

    Step forward Hope and their beautiful new chainrings.  These are new for this year...

    There is still very little write up on this little beauty but on the whole Hope stuff is usual top notch stuff.  This is CNC machined, 7050-T6 Aluminium Hard Anodised 104BCD chainring which is available in three colour.  Black, Silver and Gold.  Black is my obvious choice.  As yet I don't know its weight officially.  It is claimed as a DH/Singlespeed chainring so it is made to be strong and generally in my hand it felt very light.  There is no mark up on its width either but it looks to be a standard 3mm

    Anyway.  I liked it so much I ordered one and it arrived yesterday!!!

    I've put it on the bike now and I'm sure I'll get pictures up here soon enough.  I will also be running a review on it once I've got some miles into it.

    So who else is taking part in Want It Wednesday?

    Merry*Death On A Bike
    I Love My Brooks Saddle

    If you want to take part then follow the instructions on my Want It Wednesday page. :)

    Tuesday, 12 June 2012

    Ramblings from the saddle - Cycle Fashion

    It's often on a bike ride I get ideas for my blog. My thoughts flit and change throughout a ride and I'd be hard pressed to tell you exactly what I think of all the time. But this is one I'm sure many of you can relate to. Fashion.
    I'm not talking just about how bikes have changed but more how we dress for the occasion. Take me for instance. I'll commute to work on my road bike. I'll dress in my sky team lycra black helmet blue shoes. But unbeknown to the general populous I am making a fashion faux pas. My shoes are mtb shoes, full treaded with studs included. My helmet also betrays my origins as it has a peak. This is just not the done thing in the world of roadies but it begs the answer,


    I'd agree it doesn't give as good a range of vision as you have to crane your neck to look further up the road but it seems its been outcast for much more deeper reasons than this.  Roadies v Mtbers, or stiffbacks v dossers depending on which camp you are from. Id consider myself both so care very little what others may think, but come on its got to be better than wearing a cycle cap under your helmet. Who the hell made that seem an acceptable alternative?

    I should have better things to comment on but the trend for longer and longer socks seems to be to the point of just looking silly, they stretch well beyond 5 inches. I guess to me its like someone wearing socks with sandals, it doesn't look right. Don't even get me started on compression socks. You know the ones that go up to your knees. Think wearing tights but showing your knees. Practical yes, stupid looking.........(?)

     Lycra is another strange thing. To the majority of non cycle folk we look plain stupid its practical implications not considered and they mock us when our backs are turned. Yet we think we look fairly cool in matching regalia, our team or club colours.  There is a trend now that has rebelled over the tight figure hugging clothes.  So here's me again out in the forest dressed in the same kit as before but this time on my mtb.  I'm muddy after a few hours ride and pull into the parking area to have a break.  There is a usual mix of guys there with there bikes making ready to ride.  Baggy shorts, knee and elbow armour, casual jerseys and loaded hydration packs are the order of the day.  These guys aren't riding downhill but are out for the same kind of ride I've just done.  This is these days the more typical kit of the average UK mountain biker.

    I feel a little out of place..........

    In fairness I will also ride with baggies  when in the company of others but find for most riding that its just not as practical.  But for that one moment I felt like a roadie in the woods and not supposed to be there.  It is very apparent that fashion amongst cyclists is more and more pushed to the corners of which ever style of bike you ride.  Dare you care and just turn up in what you want?  And what if your riding is cyclocross.  Which camp do you ride for? 

    I'm tempted to show up on a road club run in my baggies and peaked helmet with Camelbak and see their reaction...........

    Talking of which, why is riding with a hydration pack for 60miles acceptable in mtbing and not in road cycling.  Has the branch of off road cyclists evolved so much leaving the unaccepting and slow changing roadies behind.  Or have mountain bikers evolved into a more laxed form of riding, moving away from the heat rate monitors and interval sessions, and their fashion just reflects this?

    People do tend to stare if you turn up in a bar in lycra...........

    At the end of the day I may baulk at weird fashion (you long socked wearers are marked!) but I shall continue to ride and wear what I want, a hybrid of both worlds.  If you want to mock then do so but just remember I'll still ride fast no matter what.

    Saturday, 2 June 2012

    Betsy's First Ride Out As A Single Lady

    Hahahahahahaha,  Heheheheheheh, Hahahahahahahahah.............That ladies and gentleman is the sound of my inner child.  And that is how my little ride has left me feeling.

    Going out on Betsy and my first ride on a single speed was something I'd been looking forward to all day.  The day weather wise has been nothing short of miserable.  The temperature had dropped and there was a constant murky drizzle in the air. It was late evening when I set off, so I already had in mind that it was going to be short ride.  An hour test ride was all I needed really just to get to grips and make sure there were no problems with the drive train.

    Dropping down the short sharp hill onto the first bit of flat road that leads to my woods was a bit strange.  My legs spun and my brain said shift gear.  Ah no gears.  I realised that perhaps on the road the gearing was to easy and I'd have to just learn to cruise.  Turning into the woods I put the hammer down so to speak and spun Betsy up to speed. 

    The bike felt lighter at the back end without all the extra gearing. She seemed to skip at the back more readily but this just made her feel more lively, hopping over ruts gliding through the mud.  There was plenty of mud, but I didn't really care and no matter how much the bike got coated in wet mud the chain kept running smoothly.  I was still finding it hard to adjust to not having that extra gear to push me on but I found myself trying to find the extra speed by using my upper body to keep traction more and allow the bike to flow beneath me. 

    As the trail headed upwards I was expecting to find myself struggling but was pleased to find that my legs had the strength to push on.  I never found it too hard, I just got out the saddle more than I normally would and so pulled on the pedal stroke as well as pushed more efficiently.  I guess you could say I was just finding another way of riding.

    None of this took away the pleasure of my ride.  It actually, just enhanced it and I can't understand why.  I found my inner child and found him a to be a little hooligan at times but the smiles it brought me can't be ignored.  At times I was so out of breath from blasting around those woods I felt dizzy. Was it even still raining?  I hadn't noticed.

    My ride home meant only one thing though, and that was a hard road climb back up to my house.  Its not long as such but fairly steep.  Your average Jo blogs is often seen walking up it with their bikes and I tend to tackle it on a geared bike in a 32T by 22T.  Yet up it I went........and up I went with no bother.  I'm not sure if its because a 16T is easier without having to pass all those extra jockey wheels or not but it in my mind for now means the gearing is just about right.  Any lower and I would just twiddle to much on the flat.

    So I'm happy.  The drivetrain worked without fault (small clap for me). I never was out of love with mountain biking, but I've just gained an even deeper desire to go out and ride till I drop into a pile of exhausted happiness.

    Friday, 1 June 2012

    How To Convert A Bike To Single Speed - Vertical Drop Out Frame

    The following is a fairly comprehensive guide in how to remove the gears on your bike and change them to a single speed.  This guide will talk about removal of the cassette.  Adding your single gear, chain tensioner and chain as well as removal of the chainset and adding a single chainring.  As a difficulty rating I would give this a 4 out of 5.  The rating is high more because there is lots of things to cover here but each individual step isn't that difficult to do.

    You will need Specialist bike tools for this job and there may be variations depending on your drivetrain.  To start you will need to buy the conversion kit. I've used a 32t front here on a 16t rear, having a 2:1 ratio which is good place to start.

    Parts include:
    16t Cog with various spacers
    Chain tensioner
    Singlespeed Chain
    32t 104bcd Chainring (optional)
    Chainring bolts (short)

    Tools Required:
    Allen key Multi Tool
    Cassette Removal Tool
    Chain Whip
    Chain Splitter
    Crankset removal Tool For either Hollow tech or splined cranks
    Workstand (Optional but it helps!)

    Get your bike set up in your workstand or somewhere that supports your bike in a solid position.

    Rear Wheel

    Remove the rear wheel from the frame. The tools you'll need for this job are the Cassette Tool, An Adjustable Spanner if you don't have an all in one cassette tool, and Chain Whip.

    Using picture above as guide put you cassette tool into the lock ring.  I reattach the quick release over the tool to stop it slipping off when twisting. Using the chain whip to hold the cassette in place turn the tool anti-clockwise to remove.  the Cassette should just slide off from the wheel leaving the bare cassette body. Sometimes the cassette may not slide off easily in which case use a small rubber mallet to tap it loose.

    Clean the cassette body removing any grime or grease. Next, it's time to get your spacers cog and lock ring.  These slide easily onto the cassette body but now comes the hardest part of the exercise, knowing what spacers to place in which order.  It is a bit of case of trial and error.  Your aim will be to have a nice straight chain line from your back wheel to the chainset meaning less rub on the gears and a smoother ride.  More likely the cog will need to be closer to the outside of the cassette body.

    With all the parts put on, screw back on the lockring holding the parts in place.  Use just the cassette tool to tighten it up (no need for chain whip).

    Your finished wheel should look like the picture above.  Remember you may have to repeat this process a few times to get the chain line right in later stages.

    Rear Derailleur

    Using your Allen keys undo the bolt to remove the cable to the rear derailleur as shown by the left hand arrow.  The right hand arrow shows the bolt that will be need un-screwing to remove the rear derailleur from the frame.

    At this point the chain will need removing.  If you have a Sram chain the you can unlink the chain by pushing the chain together where the gold power link is.  If not then you will require a chain tool.  Push the pin nearly all the way out (leaving a little in case you want to reattach) with the tool to split it.  Remove the chain from the derailleur and Chainset.

    Once the derailleur and the chain have been removed it's time to attach the Chain Tensioner.  This is put in the same place as where the rear derailleur was bolted in.  Lightly grease the threads before attaching

    When attaching the Tensioner pay attention to the small pin at the back.  In the picture above (taken from behind the frame hanger) you can see the pin sits up against the frame hanger.  If it is put on the wrong side, the tensioner will slip and not work.

    With the Tensioner attached to the frame the wheel can be put back into the frame.  So far so good!  At this point it is a good time to remove all the gear cables from the bike including the inner and outer cables from the front and rear derailleur.


    Starting with the Front Derailleur. Unscrewing the Allen key bolt will allow the derailleur to be easily removed from the frame.  You are now ready to remove the chainset.

    Using an Allen key loosen off the bolts to the Non Drive side Crank arm and remove the plastic cap with the specialist tool as shown.  There are some variations to this so it may be worth checking out what is required to remove your chainset.  This particular removal method is for Shimano components.

    Once the Non driveside crank is removed the rest of the Chainset can be removed from the frame.  It should pull out easily but if not a gentle tap from a rubber mallet should move it.  Clean out the bottom bracket from any grime ensuring that inside is clean and dry.

    Using an Allen key to remove the outer chainring and inner chainring.  The bolts can be tight so a long Allen key may be required.  Once removed, reattach the middle chainring (or new singlespeed chain ring) using shorter Allen key bolts grease each bolt before tightening.  Ensure that the chainring sits where the outer chainring used to be, on the outside of the cranks spider arm.

    With the chain ring in place, replace the cranks onto the frame.  When attaching the plastic cap only screw it hand tight to nip up the crank arms and then tighten the Allen key bolts.  Hopefully you will end up with something that looks like the picture above.

    Putting It All Together

    Next you will need to put on your new single speed chain.  Before you start it's advisable to force the tensioner toward the chain stay by holding it in place with a cable tie or cord.  This will just make it easy to put the chain together as you won't be fighting against the tension on the chain.

    Feed the chain over the cog through the bottom loop on the chain tensioner and around the chainset.  Bring the chain together.  At this point you will notice that you have an excessive amount of chain left.  Use the chain tool to break it down to length.  The chain can then be attached using the connecting plates supplied with the chain.  Remove the cable tie on the Tensioner and you are finished!  Or are you?  Now you need to check that the chain is tight.  There shouldn't be much play in the chain or it'll fall off on your next bumpy decent.  If its loose, try taking some more links out of the chain.

    Rotate the cranks to ensure that the chain runs smoothly with out coming off or rubbing.  You may need to adjust the jockey wheel on the tensioner so it sits in line with cog above it. 

    No its time to check that chain line.  Is it straight?  Does it follow a parallel line with bike?  As you can see from the two pictures above some adjustment had to be made with the spacers.  The top picture; the chainline may look straight but the chain line from the wheel moves away from the frame to the chainset.  This is corrected in the next picture giving a much better and smoother chainline.

    With the chainline corrected then its time for a little test ride.  Hopefully everything will run fine and now you can go off and enjoy another great way to ride your bike.