Well that wasn't so bad. In fact my conversion from geared annoyance to single speed simplicity went without the usual mechanical hells you can get from removing and reinstalling components. Even my chainring bolts came undone without too much swearing! The hardest part was getting the chainline correct but I got it pretty much spot on second time lucky
Anyhoo, here is what my bike looks like now. Oh, and she now has a name (about time!). Say hello to 'Betsy'!
I've been threatening this for some time, but finally I've got around to ordering the parts to convert my Mtb to a single speed fun machine. I've got a bit sick of my gears recently, a combination of needing a new rear mech as the shifting just doesn't seem to work well no matter what I do or other mechanics try. A stiffening front mech, and now the realisation my chain and cassette are nearing the point of replacement it seems that now is a good time to give singlespeed riding a go.
So I've gone and ordered a couple of my parts from On-One which includes a 16t with spacers and chain Tensioner. I've also order a Sram chain to use (not sure how good the singlespeed ones are!). Obviously, I'll have to see how I get on with a 16t cog, I have a feeling that I may need lower gearing than that to go with my 32t front chainring. Its a bit hilly around here!
I don't think this will be last purchase for my singlespeed conversion either. I've had on my bike for the last seven years now the XT duel shifters. These have been alright in fairness but I've never liked the bulky look of them, that and at times shifting can be a bit awkward. I'm going to just by the new 2012 XT levers on their own and hope they are still compatible with my older XT callipers.
I'm sorry folks. Normally I have something beautiful to show you, something that we can all have a little oooh and ahhh at but this time.......well this time there is nothing. My Want It Wednesday this time is not about something I want to buy, or something I wish I had the money to buy but something much more simple
I simply want to get out and ride again.
Since I raced at the beginning of April, I have not touched my bike. I've sadly been put in a position where I've not had the opportunity. My wife had been unwell for the last two months with seriously bad headaches, sinus infections and tooth infection. It has meant that I've had to sort getting the kids to school and nursery which means driving the car everywhere. I hate driving as it is and my usual cycle commute has fallen by the way side. Even weekends have been difficult as my wife hasn't been really able to look after the children so I've had to be around for them much more than normal.
I've found myself watching from my car window at cyclists enjoying their bike rides doing their thing (cue violin music) wishing that I could be there feeling the cool air on my face, the feeling of being more alive with steady breathing and spinning legs. *Sigh*. I've read with much jealousy your stories of epic rides, challenging races and lovely holidays in the sun and just so wanted it to be me.
Monday and my wife braved a return to work. I rode to work for the first time in 7 weeks. It just felt sooo good to be doing something I love. It makes me feel more awake when I get to work, fitter and healthier and just have a much more fulfilled feeling within me.
Tuesday and it was time to set a time on my Strava and see where I am fitness wise. I felt fairly good on Monday. My ride to work is only 6 miles on fairly rolling roads and I rode at a comfortable tempo pace climbing in and out of the saddle. It felt good to have my legs work hard again and legs push a good pace. I wasn't really expecting a good time, I had after all spent four months training to go for the long distance and after a seven weeks off my fitness would have dropped. I averaged 19.1mph. To some of you that's not great but for me that actually is. In fact its a whole mile per hour faster than anything I've previously done before. I could have gone faster too......... So am I now fitter?
Who cares, I'm out riding again. I made an apology at the beginning of this blog which I'm going to retract. I don't think any of us should have to say sorry for wanting more than anything but to just go out and ride our bikes.
So who is taking part in Want it Wednesday and have something to show or tell?
I love this race. I first went to see it last year in Durham City centre and it has thankfully made a return again this year. The race is basically a Criterium race on a 1.4km circuit, the course is tight, bumpy with a steep cobbled decent and an even steeper cobbled climb. The corners are often tight and slippy, and riders have to use all their skills and strength to get around it in one piece.
This race is a professional race so its great to get up so close to some of the best in this country and unlike the usual road race format where you wait for ages for the riders then they zip by and its all over; with this race the riders only take a few moments and you see them again and again.
Its a gruelling course for them though and within a few laps the small group of teams split up stringing out along the course. It can get all a bit confusing after a while, when the riders start overlapping each other (even the commentators get confused!) The only thing you can be sure of is who the race leader is as he is the one following the motor bike.
I walked around the course a couple of times finding some great viewing points. Sadly I only had my camera phone with me so couldn't take any great pictures. I love the team cars as pictured here. They were all lined up at the side of the road all with their sports directors and staff. I just like to admire their lovely bikes!!
Anyway, this years winner was Kristian House of Rapha Condor who pretty much led and dominated the race from the beginning. It was a comfortable lead and he managed not to fall foul of the damp and slippery circuit unlike a lot of other racers. The overall team to win the race was Endura Racing who retained the over all Orange vests from the first round. Kristian retained overall leaders Jersey. There was some real suffering going on in this race. The repeated sharp climb was taking its toll and riders by the end struggled to maintain any reasonable pace up it. It made great viewing though, you realise that even the best suffer just like you and I. I hope to see this next year, big thanks to Durham City for bringing this event to my door step!
Without a doubt having a pit crew can make a difference for your race ahead. Having one or two helpers can make your life so much easier in what is already a challenging race. It may be called a solo event but having a team behind you can mean the difference in between quiting and placing well. Of course not everyone may be in the position to have helpers and they are the true soloists, but more about them in a bit.
When choosing or convincing people to help you out for what is a fairly tough job, consider your friendship or relationship with them. They have to have a good understanding of what they will be letting themselves in for. They may also have very little sleep which means emotions can be high during the race so you need to be able to get on well and they should be prepared for a grumpy or an emotional and tired wreck when entering the pit at some silly hour in the morning. I'm told that having a partner with you can be both a calming effect on you but also put considerable strain on the relationship! If you can have two helpers then it helps to have one who can cuddle you and one who can kick you back on the course again. Trust me when I say this, you'll go through various feelings as tiredness kicks in. Having someone push you out each lap is great and will keep you going but you'll get very low at some point and just want a more softer touch.
I watched during my race at the crew opposite look after their female rider. They pushed her on and encouraged her out. I watched at about four in the morning as she came in a near broken woman. She was sobbing uncontrollably because she was desperate to sleep and so fatigued. They cuddled her, kept encouraging her, fed her and later I saw her racing around the course still going on. Would she have given up if not for them?
Role Of The Pit Crew
So if you've found someone to help out, what is it you need them for other than emotional support. Really the most important part is to make sure they are getting you fed and watered right during the event and that they are following your race strategies. Cleaning and being ready for any mechanical eventuality.
When you come in for each lap, your crew should be ready to hand you your next bottle of fluids and any food or gels that you will be taking with you on your next lap out. They need to ensure that they get the energy drink or water right in your bottle and that when they take the old bottle off you they observe how much you are taking on per lap and whether it is enough. Although I'll cover Nutrition another time more carefully as an example of my food habits that a pit crew could have been aware of is that I had two different drinks which I labelled A and B. Drink A would be just an electrolyte drink and drink B would be an energy drink. Both drinks were accompanied by different foods and gels. Also when the night set in I had caffeine drinks and gels to keep me going.
If you are running two bikes then you can swap bikes per lap, have your crew clean it up for you and check everything like gears and brakes are sound so when you come back you can swap again. It is therefore quite important to have a crew member who has at least some basic knowledge about bike mechanics and cleaning them right. Really the role of the pit crew is there so you don't have to think, You can concentrate on your race and have everything done for you. It takes a lot of pressure off you as a racer.
Something, else I noticed about not having someone to help me out was that when it came to eating in between laps it took a great deal of time to sort my own food out. In fact I could go as far as to say I lost at least one laps worth in time. That was the difference in finishing 4 places further up the field. It is often hard to know where you are in a race and the crew can check on the timings and so inform you of what place you are in and who or where you nearest compeitiors are.
Below is a nice video of last years winner at the European Solo Champs won by Matt Page. It shows his pit crew in action.
So you couldn't get any helpers or felt that the word Solo really meant just that and you're up for the challenge? Well you are certainly going to be at a slight disadvantage. You will loose time in the pits, eating, cleaning and any other problems that may happen. So the aim here is damage limitation. Your pit area has to be extremely organised. Have your drinks if you can pre prepped and marked with what each one is (I just marked mine A or B). Obviously, the more bottles you own the better. Have food portions all pre arranged. The idea here is that as you come to your pit, you can without much thinking, grab what you need quickly and go.
I did mine in this fashion and it served me well. I had my drink and food planned for each lap even including when I would be introducing caffeine gels and drinks in as well as my eating stops and what I would have ready. I had all my tools at hand too as well as first aid. Basically, make sure everything is easy to find and quick to get to. Don't pile everything up, have it laid out in order or importance. You may feel anal doing it but when you get really tired you'll be grateful to yourself for being organised.
By all means, doing the race on your own is not impossible, it's a tougher challenge and when things go wrong you have to be mentally strong to deal with it. There will be no one there to console you and coming back to an empty pit can be a bit demoralising when its night time its dark and you have no one to talk to about how you feel. Some people get over this by using head phones and music for company. I lit up my tent a bit so when I got back it felt more welcoming. Leave notes for yourself, pictures of loved ones, anything that you think may help is all good. This race will take you through some of your worst times and some of your best. The more aware you are that this will happen and are prepared for it, the better you will cope with it.
Pit Set Up
How pits can be set up for the race can be varied but on the whole there is a similar theme amongst the more professional teams. I only had a tent that had good storage space, it worked ok but for a better set up I'd recommend the following.
Arrive at your race as early as is allowed, ideally before the day. Drive up, park and have a good look around to find a good area to pitch your equipment. Good area include good access to the race track, and good areas to any amenities such as toilets, food areas, mechanics tent etc. Make sure the ground is fairly level and not potholed or rutted so you aren't going to be tripping up.
Get yourself a Gazebo. If possible one with closed sides so that it can be kept warm. The reason mainly is for your pit crew. It gives them a sheltered area to be in that isn't the tent. Tents are ok but unless you have a really big tent you can't stand up in them which means cleaning, doing mechanicals or prepping food and kit has to be done crouched down. Have some chairs for them to sit down in. The typical folding camping chairs are ideal as they are quite comfortable. Make it homely if you can with spare blankets to keep them warm as they will be sitting around for the majority of the time you are out racing and can get cold. I've even seen some use coal burners and other various forms of heaters to keep them warm. Obviously, a tent that is equipped for sleeping, like sleeping bag and inflatable mattress will make the whole experience for them ideal but is good back up should you have to sleep for any reason. Set the gazebo as close to the track side as you can. It allows you to stop right by your equipment.
Talking of stopping, I placed a bike stand right outside my tent which was useful to keep my bike upright as I pitted so I didn't have to put it into the mud.
Get a table or two to put you gear on. Have it inside your gazebo or tent. It helps when laying out your food. The fold up tables are ideal. I didn't have one and regretted it. Mainly because when I was sorting my bottles I had to kneel on the floor and even with a mat on the floor I could feel the cold dampness chilling my tired knees. Not ideal, it also just made sorting stuff feel more sluggish.
Keep all your stuff under shelter. This is where having a gazebo with sides comes in, as it stops rain coming in wetting all you kit.
On the tables put all you food in the right order. Drink, food for racing laps and food for longer pit stops. Have your lights ready charged including back up lights and helmet lights. Tools for repairing you bike should be near a work stand (something else that is handy to own!) Make sure you've got your tool box sorted so things are easy to find. Any spares should be kept separate so you aren't spending ages to find them. Check and double check before you leave home that you have brought all your tools! Basics should include, Allen keys, chain tool, cable cutters, pedal spanner, brake bleeding kit, spoke key, tire levers, chain oil, Track pump. And anything else you may own. Don't panic if your tool kit is lacking in many things as there is often mechanical support at hand.
First Aid kit. Ok hopefully you won't need anything too drastic and there are always ambulance crews on hand for serious accidents but I made up a kit more for race discomforts. Painkillers are your friend. Ibuprofen and paracetamol can be both taken at the same time or staggered to help ease pain just remember to follow dosing instructions. I often get really bad headaches from long rides brought on by stress in my neck in my shoulders so they are a real help for events like this. Heat rubs, deep freeze spray are good for any little niggles as well as heat pads for lower and upper back pain. Anything like that is good when you are suffering. Tube grips (Joint supports) are worth packing to help with sore knees, elbows and ankles. Have all of this on your tables and within easy grasp.
Lastly have all your clothing ready. Really here, you'll probably just want to have warmer clothing at the ready everything else is just a bonus and just in case.
Here is a copied list of the list I made prior to my race. I've made some amendments to it for the things I wish I'd brought with me!
Gazebo Folding Chairs Money
Tent Two Tables Phone
Sleeping bag Heat or cooking stoves Umbrella
Inflatable Mattress Blankets Cups and bowls
MP3 player Shower Gel Tooth Brush and Paste
Lights Helmet and bike Patches
Saddlebag Multi Tool
Pump Heat Rate Monitor
CO2 Canisters and refill
Energy Bars Electrolyte Drink x one tube Water 2L x6
Cereal Bars x12 Electrolyte Drink Caffeine x one tube
Energy Gels Caffeine x6 Jelly Babies x 2 large packs
Energy Gels x6 Mixed Nuts
Bottles x6 Malt Loaf x2
Energy Drink x 6 Chocolate
These Wednesdays seem to come round way too quick! Well my last want was very much the dream, and unless I win millions on the lottery was never going to really happen. Instead I am now on a saving mission to buy a new bike.
I have been spending a great deal of my time on On-Ones website looking for a new bike frame, and forks. I really like these bikes. They are often so well rated and because they miss out on the middle man, are so much cheaper than similar models out there. I've really um'd and ah'd over what to buy though. I was tempted by their Whippet frame which I put in a previous WIW. It's carbon, and has a swappable rear hanger so I can also run it as a single speed. Only £300!
However, I really want something that is going to be and feel different to my current bike. I looked at their Lurchers which are for 29ers and I was a bit smitten. It has the same benifits as the Whippet but could allow me to own a 29er. I could then run it on a ridgid fork and singlespeed and be happy as a pig in...... Yet, the frame is even more expensive. Two hundred more. I'd have to buy the ridgid fork and buy new rims and new tyres. It's just too much money.
It was then that I stumbled upon their aluminum equivalent. The scandal. Just over 3.5lbs and only £200. Add that to their carbon fork at £150 and I'm now looking at a very real prospect! So after much waffle from me here is my want it wednesday.......an On-One Scandal!
The frame itself come in three colours. Black (which is a bit boring as I have a black frame now), Racing green (which is really tempting as I could add gold bits to it and make it very lotus racing like) and raw finish with lazer etched graphics. Actually the raw is the most tempting as I can get it sprayed in the colour I really want. I want to get one painted in a deep polished cream colour then finish it with the silver polished thomson seatpost and stem. I'd then use red annodized bits on the seat clamp and QRs etc. I've seen a bike done like this before and it is beautiful. I just like the fact its so different from the usual black finishing kit that covers every bike out there. And yes, I'd get the fork done the same colour!
I'll also add to this the forks and rims which I want to be Stans ZTR crests, with Schwalbe Rocket Rons.
So you've signed up for that race, but as a first time entrant your probably now buzzing with a million and one questions. One that entered my head, and took some planning, was what I needed on race day. If you've walked around a 24 hour race site you'll have some idea what the pit areas look like but I hope to break this all down into a list of things to remember and to pack before you get there.
I will say this though, unless you happen to be a seasoned camper or race goer, 24 hour racing is an expensive thing to take part in. The entry fee is only the start, but cost of spare bike parts, lights, food, camping gear can all add up. So if you are stuck for money (as I was) then grovel and beg to friends and family till you get everything you need. You'll be surprised how supporting people can be for something like this so hopefully you shouldn't have too much difficulty!
Yes this is obviously something you will need, but the big point here is that your bike needs to be in perfect working condition. Clean your bike like you've never cleaned it before, polish it even and ensure that all bolts are torqued tight. Get someone to check it over if you like, but make sure it is sound. Remember, you're out riding for a lot longer than any training ride. It'll be like riding 4 or five training rides back to back and if a problem does occur it could ruin your race or at least effect the outcome. Even on race day I rode my bike and discovered my gears had gone out a bit despite being checked the days before. So it pays to double check.
Some way riders get over this is to have two bikes on the day. If you're lucky enough to be in this position then take the spare, ensuring that is also in great working order.
Bike set up is important. I adjusted mine by raising the stack height of the stem meaning my back was under less strain. I made this adjustment months before. It is really important that if you must make changes to your bike in terms of saddle position or bar height that you do not do it a few weeks before, but more like months before to allow the muscles to adapt otherwise you are on a one way ticket to get an injury. And we don't want that now do we? Also, don't buy new equipment to use for the day, use what you are used to for the same reasons. New equipment could work great but has a very likely chance of not working just right first time. Saddles for instance, need bedding in, wheels can if not made right loose a bit of trueness etc
The only thing that should be considered for change is your chain and cassette if worn, and brake pads so check these out a couple of weeks before race day.
Make sure you have a good.....no sorry, great saddle. One that is totally comfortable. You should be able to ride on it for up to 5 hours without really noticing. A great saddle doesn't need to be over padded but be just the right shape and have some flex. It's such a personal thing but I swear by my Fki'zi:k Gobi as do many others and it is rated best saddle in various magazines. Worth trying is also Charge Bikes - Spoon Saddle
If you can get the chance to pre ride the course before racing then do so. On some courses you could be lucky that they are all weather and so you can choose a fast tyre. Others sadly, suffer horribly over the hours of use from hundreds of tyres especially if it rains and the course gets wet. If you can get a spare set of tyres then do so, particularly is they work well in most conditions. They are also a good back up if your tyre gets shredded, hopefully something you will never have to experience. I recommend something like Schwalbes Rocket Rons or Maxxis Ardent as great all rounders.
What to Buy
The light market is almost as daunting as buying a new bike. There are so many company's offering the 'best' lights out there. So what do you actually really need? 12 years ago when I was doing my first night racing I had two 10w lights that you just about pick out what was ahead. One was a slight flood allowing you to see the width of the trail whilst the other was a spot which picked out the detail. They were attached via a big thick cable to a big battery pack which was strapped to the frame. They worked and you just get away with it but really weren't ideal at any speed or when the trail got technical.
Lights are very expensive, expect to pay around £200 for something half decent. So first off see if you can borrow a set from a friend. Ideally you should have a back up light too just in case one should fade. It's worth checking with the race organisers if they have any lights to hire, some do and this can help with cost. However, if you've got the money as it is something worth owning. You can always use them during the winter months and of course you'll be able to use them for training prior to the race. (something which is quite important and I'll cover that in training)
So when choosing your own obviously you will want something as bright as you can, something that not only gives a fairly food flood of the area but also picks out the detail ahead. You should try and get something between 600 and 1800 lumens. This isn't actually that difficult to find but you quickly run into a major problem that caused me no end of headaches. Most lights at high brightness only last a few hours, which isn't ideal when your race could be between 6 and 10 hours of darkness. Loads of light manufactures are terrible at telling you how long a battery will last at lower outputs or what lumens of light you will then get. This will leave you with the dilemma of not knowing whether you have to buy back up batteries and how many you will need. Extra batteries just add up to the cost and are a pain to have to keep all charged and swap over when racing.
I would therefore like to highly recommend to you USE's Exposure Lights. These lights are a bit bigger than some but are a self contained units so no battery packs needed. I bought the Maxx D which give 1286lumens for three hours or 900 for 10 hours. This was perfect. It gives off a great amount of light ahead and would last all through the night without needing annoying changes. Exposure are great and up front about burn times on their lights and they are a great solid well made light. The only other light I know others recommend are Ay-Up lights which are beautiful small lights that are light but let off an amazing amount of power.
Helmet Light or Just Handlebar Light?
Most lights you buy like the one mentioned above fix onto your handle bars. But what about helmet mounted lights. I've done a lot of night riding without a helmet light and have to say that it is not totally necessary. Most of the time the trail is flood lit enough to see where you need to be going. However, there are times when in twisty single track with switch backs that you can loose sight. You may be looking ahead but your bars are pointed the wrong way. This is where a helmet light comes in. It puts down a spot light where you are looking (with a bit of fiddling and setting up right!). It eliminates those dark areas. I hired one for my race and it was a good help to me but like I said before not crucial. They are a bit cheaper than normal lights but they aren't as powerful on the whole so I wouldn't use it as my only light source but more as a secondary light. Once again, Exposure do a great little helmet light.
What to Pack
It may depend on what time of year you race or the climate that you race in but pack for two eventualities. Hot and cold. The day time may be warm but come the night the temperature will drop and so just riding in shorts may no longer be possible. Its amazing how quickly you can get cold if you have to repair an inner tube or mechanical out on the course. In last years 24 hours of Exposure the race was held in May and yet a couple of people got hypothermia during the night as the result of stopping and cooling down fast. It happens all to easily. The worst time for getting cold is just before dawn breaks, so put on an extra layer before hand.
Arm warmers, leg warmers are great and versatile bits of clothing to own, as they are easy to pull on and off and pack in your back pocket. Consider something like a sleeveless body warmer too.
Ensure you have a decent waterproof too if the weather turns nasty and wet. One that breaths well to prevent building up with moisture on the inside. I love my Gore pace-lite jacket, its almost like a windproof its so thin yet through years of use has still yet to let any water in.
Should you change shorts during the race is a personal point. Many say not to, as changing bib shorts when knackered is a challenge in itself. There is no real need I found either but if its wet then it may be of some relief. Just ensure before hand that whatever shorts you are going to wear have good padding and are pre prepped with chamois cream.
As a little tip I got from someone else, change your gloves half way through the race. Trust me, it just feels nice!
If you wear cycling glasses then make sure you take some clear lenses. Sunglasses in the dark are a bit over the top. Interchangeable lens for glasses are great to own but can be a faff to swap around. I just put my clear lenses in from the beginning but then again it was never sunny so you'll have to do what ever the weather is doing.
Socks. Yes socks, not something you may think on too much but I bought a brand new pair to put on my feet and they felt lovely. Its amazing how old socks get worn down and thin out so its a great little tip to keep your feet happy. Remember to pack any water proof ones too if it gets wet on course. Next is your shoes. Don't buy anything new for the event, use a pair of shoes that are well bedded in, or a trainer style shoe, the last thing you want is for them to rub and for you to get blisters. There maybe times during the race where you find yourself walking up hills and a tight rubbing shoe is only going to add to your misery.
Hydration packs or Water Bottle
Which to choose? Both have their pros and cons. Hydration packs can hold all your tools and water and so the bike remains light and rattle free. Water is more accessible and there is less chance of running out whilst on the lap. Yet these points can be detrimental to your race as well. You are never totally sure whether you will run out of water, having a bottle you can see whether you are drinking enough and come your pit stop its a quick change over and off you go. You can also do like I did and change the sort of drinks you take out on the lap with you. This isn't so easy with a pack. Also if you puncture you have to fiddle around getting your pack off finding your tube and pump and having to put it back on. All crucial time eating into your race. Also, although with a pack your bike might be light, you aren't. Having a pack on your back for many hours will only add strain to your back. I notice that the majority of racers used bottles and I'd highly recommend the same. Get a saddle pack for your tools and a good gripping water bottle cage for your bottles. You will perhaps need to buy a few bottles so you're not having to change water at every pit. I had four bottles but even that wasn't enough.
Whilst racing its worth having a few extras at hand in your pits. Take some spare inner tubes and patches. Brake pads for front and rear, its amazing how fast they can wear in sloppy conditions. C02 Gas canisters and replacements for fast puncture repairs. Mini tool to put in your saddle bag with a chain tool and some tyre levers. (really stuff you'd take with you on every ride)
In part two, I'll be going into this a bit more. I will cover everything you will need to have in your pit area and how to make it efficient and ensure you won't get caught out.