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, 26 September 2012

Want It Wednesday #27 - The Question of Wheels.

My bike build is proving to be something of a headache.  While it should be fun and exciting creating an original rather than off the peg bike it is proving…well complicated.  The problem is that it is marked by restraints of money and my sometimes stupid obsession with weight.  The two in the bike world hold hands in gay harmony. Simply put if you want light you gotta pay big bucks.  Which to allow this line to rhyme, sucks.

I have so far struck lucky with my On-One frame and now for that matter their new carbon fork which I wanted last fortnight.  Both of them are light and haven’t cost me a wad of money, but now my attention has turned to wheels.  More specifically rims and tyres (tires for my American friends!)
I really really(!) want to get some Stans ZTR crest rims.  They are light, strong and are the best option out there for converting to tubeless.  These are all important to me but they are going to cost me £130. Boo hoo.  I could just get the DT Swiss X470 rims which are good rims.  I’ve had 26er equivalent for years and rate them and they go well with my DT Swiss 240s hubs. They would cost half the price! But, and I really think I should have put that in capitals to exasperate my turmoil; BUT they weigh over 100grams more or 200 if you add them together which is half pound in weight….on wheels.  I could be cheap and have a good 1700gram wheel set or spend more and wait longer to get the other bits I need and have a 1500gram set.  (notable this is the same weight as my current 26er wheels).


Being tubeless would make them lighter still……


Look at them, aren’t they lovely and so many people say good things about them but I just don’t know how much longer I can wait to have my bike lying in bits purring sweet nothings about me about fast rolling rides and a new and fun beginning in the 29er world.


I won’t even go into the turmoil that is the rubber question of tyres.  Schwalbe spring to mind but I can’t justify their price when they wear out so fast so maybe Maxxis Ignitors but aren’t they hard to get onto rims!  Bontrager 29-2?  Don’t they only work well with their own rims tubeless?  Everything else seems to either weigh a tonne or just be over the top or to minimalist for what I need.  Hey you may gather me to be fussy.  I just want it to be right.  I want a sub 20lbs Single Speed bike and I’m going to have to cough up and be patient.

Or maybe not…….

 Who else is taking part in WIW this week?

Merry*Death on a Bike

To take part please go to the top page marked Want It Wednesday and follow the instructions.

Friday, 21 September 2012

North East Single Speed (UK) Team Kit

First Design of the kit.  What do you think?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

North East Single Speed (uk) Is Born

I've been a bit busy recently. 

I did my last MTB race of the season on my single speed finishing a reasonable 25th out of 37 competitors, done on a course that was tough on a SS. I was joined by my friend who also competed in his first race on a single speed and finished just ahead of me in 21st.  Despite being bitten to death by a swarm of vampire like midges we had both enjoyed ourselves, not least because of the light factor.  Being September the race ended up finishing in near dark conditions which was I suppose dangerous for some of the racers.  My friend and I came equipped as did a small few others with lights.  I love night riding so it was good to be racing on fast flowing single track with only the beam of light in front of me to guide the way.  It's the first time I've ridden so fast in semi darkness so it got quite scary at times, I can only imagine how the poor racers without must have felt!

The reason I mention this race here in this post is that I did something different on sign on.  After my name I got to fill out the little empty box which had TEAM written above it.  My friend and I both wrote North East Single Speed. That felt weird and a bit pretentious as we aren't sponsored but then I suppose nor are many cycle clubs.  And that is what North East Single Speed (NESS) is.  A club for SS.

I have recently created  this group on facebook to try and catch those who ride their single speeds in this area of England.  The aim is to try and get like minded riders out for group rides as well as form something of a race team.  I've already mentioned that I was trying to push local race organisers to be the first and have a specific recognised single speed category.  Not their own race, but just recognition that they took part.  I've had some luck so far and talks are under way for next year.  So for this I've been concentrating on creating a more professional look of this SS group.  Mention was made of getting a Jersey made and so after a bit of searching designing began.

After some hours of fiddling and playing with designs and lettering I've managed to create something with what looks about right.  I'd love to show you the Jersey product but I can't right now as the company doesn't have a feature to save design to a hard drive.  However, I can show you the logos I did for it.

The Jersey is white and black with bands of dark red in it.  The upper chest and upper back are in white and that is where the logo go.  On the front it looks like this:

and on the back it looks like this:
The logo is based on a lone chainring for obvious reasons.  The flower is the Yorkshire white rose (think Wars of the Roses) petals are beer bottles a symbol of socialising!

a little motto is written on the back near the bottom which reads 'Derailleurs are for Failures'

No doubt when I get proper pictures I will show you.

So for me this is all exciting.  Some may curse me for trying to make it more main stream.  That's not really my aim.  SS is said to be on the decline and I'm gripping it and trying to bring friends together for fun rides and doing something the Americans have. A category all of there own.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Want It Wednesday #26 - On-One Carbon Monocoque Tapered Fork

Well a few weeks ago I delared my WIW to be for a very beautiful eXotic carbon fork.  I had full plans for actually buying this fork as it was in my price area.

But it makes way for this little lust.

On-One Monocoque Tapered Carbon Fork

This is On-One's new Monocoque tapered carbon fork.  It weighs 700grams.  700grams!  Better still it's only £150.  The reason I like this fork is that it was designed to go with the Lurcher carbon frame.  Well the Lurcher shares exactly the same geometry as my Scandal so it will ride well with it.  Also my frame has a tapered headtube so having a tapered fork will work and look better than my previous WIW.  It does have the look of a road or cross fork but I think it'll look great.  What do you think?

So I'm going to get this next week.  Happy days :)

So what are you wonderful people Wanting for this Wednesday?

Join in if you want by going to my Want It Wednesday page and following the instructions.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Lance Armstrong - A Hero

Lance Armstrong, World Champion, 7 time Tour de France Winner and Cancer survivor.  To many he is iconic not just to the sport of cycling but to those who have ever suffered or been effected by cancer.

His book 'It's not about the bike' is a detailed true story of his fight and survival against a cancer that brought him close to death and his return to the forefront of cycling's premium race the Tour de France from 1999 onwards.  His seven wins from 1999 to 2005  were often magnificent his domination of a the tour a splendour to watch and to many of his fans he is a hero.  But with great success also comes equal suspicion, his victories tainted with accusation of illegal doping and blood transfusions.  It seems that no one is allowed to be this good without being suspected of being a cheat.

But to this day and despite over 500 urine and blood tests taken during, before, after and at anytime out of competition, Armstrong has never been caught.  He is by all accounts clean despite the rumours.  He has fought many court battles against those that would try to taint his name.  He has quite rightly defended all that he has strived to obtain.  Some would say that he is aggressive and quick to put people in line but this is his right in stopping rumours and lies formed by jealous or spiteful ex employees.

To many his success in cycling is only a small part of his fan base.  He is the founder of Livestrong a charity which to date has raised over 500 million dollars to help with research, awareness and helping those deal with cancer.  As an unlikely survivor he has often given hope to those who face the fight, a hero in the fight against the evil of cancer.

Yet here we are in 2012 witness to the proclaimed stripping of all he stood for.  His tour titles stricken from the record books.  The American Anti doping organisation (USADA) have attempted  to take Armstrong to court to investigate his use of doping within the sport and his involvement of trafficking and being part of an organised doping ring.  The case led by Travis Tygart has by many people been seen as nothing short of a witch hunt.  Despite all his previous tests and no evidence found of doping from races 13 years ago USADA have continued to try and bring Armstrong to justice.  A few days ago Armstrong finally conceded that he would no longer fight the case.  This isn't an admission of defeat as so many would claim but more a dispirited response after years of trying to fight to clear his name.

American Armstrong said in a statement that he is "finished with this nonsense" and insisted he is innocent but did not want to spend any further effort clearing his name.
He said: "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough'. For me, that time is now.
"I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999."

So what if his titles are stripped, what then?  In a sport that has been rife with doping and blood transfusion passing the jersey onto the likes of Jan Ulrich who failed drugs tests and later confessed guilt.  The whole thing smites as pointless.  Stripping him of his titles is a at best not going to achieve anything. Even if he did dope he would have been racing against others who were also doing the same and so levelling an even playing field.

 He will always be seen by millions as the winner of those tours and taking those from him will fail to clear up doping within cycling.  This has brought a lot of questions on USDA as to this charade.  It is felt that they are doing this to justify their own existence, trying to land a big fish and not following up on already outstanding cases or other sports that suffer the same doping problems.  It would also seem that they no longer want to loose face in this very public debacle.

 Armstrong claims the USADA investigation "has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs".

"Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's unconstitutional witch hunt," he said.

He accused USADA of having "broken the law" and "played the role of a bully" and insisted he always "played by the rules" put in place by anti-doping agencies and cycling's world governing body the UCI.

He added in a statement on his personal website: "The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-team-mate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves.

"It's an unfair approach, applied selectively, in opposition to all the rules. It's just not right."

The supposed evidence that they have brought forward includes up to ten of his team mates but their motives are under question.  Some believe that they may have been bribed with money or pardons for there own misgivings in drug usage.

But drugs aside and even if he is found to be guilty in someway the Armstrong fan base remains strong and this is perhaps most evident in the extra donations that have been made to Livestrong.  People don't often care much about cycling and his success but more what he has brought to those affected by cancer.  Before he is condemned he should be remembered for his charity work which he intends to continue supporting.

Lance Armstrong is a Hero in cycling with or without his titles, drugged or no he beat the best in the sport who were doping.  His work for cancer has been inspirational and an example to many.

Please Also See - Lance Armstrong A Bully And A Cheat

Lance Armstrong - A Bully and a Cheat.

Lance Armstrong, World Champion, 7 time Tour de France Winner and Cancer survivor. To many he is iconic not just to the sport of cycling but to those who have ever suffered or been effected by cancer.

His book 'It's not about the bike' is a detailed true story of his fight and survival against a cancer that brought him close to death and his return to the forefront of cycling's premium race the Tour de France from 1999 onwards. His seven wins from 1999 to 2005 were often magnificent his domination of a the tour a splendour to watch and to many of his fans he is a hero. But with great success also comes equal suspicion, his victories tainted with accusation of illegal doping and blood transfusions. It seems that no one is allowed to be this good without being suspected of being a cheat.

Recently the American Anti doping Committee (USADA) led by Travis Trygart have submitted evidence against Lance that he prohibited substances, had trafficked drugs including EPO and testosterone, and had administered such drugs to others.  USADA also have evidence that Armstrong assisted, encouraged, aided, abetted and covered up those anti doping violations.  This evidence also includes Johann Bruyneel the director sportif, RadioShacks team doctor Pedro Celaya  and Pepi Marti the team trainer for the last decade.

All to often forum sites and Lance Armstrong's fan base have failed to understand the above.  All to often he is excused because he passed over 500 drugs tests from urine and blood taken at any time in and out of competition, and that USADA can't strip him of his titles as he has not officially been caught.

Lets look at this as a defence for him.  Firstly this isn't just about doping to win in races but also how he has been involved with doping in the sport.  There are ten of his team mates who are willing to testify that he was involved.  Now to Lance he feels that these people have been bribed with money or pardons to cover for their own usages of drugs within the sport.  Some this could well be the case but if people like George Hincapie who has continued to ride 17 tours and has been one of Lances right hand men or even described as a 'brother', is willing to speak out then eyebrows should be raised.  Others over the years have also proved not only their own evidence his involvement but his attitude towards doping:

Lance has often been quick to legally bring down anyone who would blacken his name, these include Emma O'Reilly, US Postals Team Massuese who testified against Lance.  O'Reilly said she heard team officials worrying about Armstrong's positive test for steroids during the Tour. She said: "They were in a panic, saying: 'What are we going to do? What are we going to do?' "
Their solution was to get one of their compliant doctors to issue a pre-dated prescription for a steroid-based ointment to combat saddle sores. O'Reilly said she would have known if Armstrong had saddle sores as she would have administered any treatment for it.
O'Reilly said that Armstrong told her: "Now, Emma, you know enough to bring me down." O'Reilly said on other occasions she was asked to dispose of used syringes for Armstrong and pick up strange parcels for the team.  Lance Armstrong hounded her for two year suing her for a million euros for what she had said in this interview with David Walsh.

An example of his attitude towards doping is also made clear by cyclist Christophe Bassons who was one of the cyclists caught up in the Festina Affair in 1998 whereby the whole team were arrested and searched finding evidence of drugs within the team.  Bassons was later cleared by his own members of the team saying he was a clean rider. From obscurity, Bassons emerged as one of the few cyclists who would criticise drug-taking in the sport. He spoke for many when he complained that the sport had "two speeds", one for the drug-takers and one for people like who him who did not cheat.

During the 1999 Tour de France Bassons was asked to write a column for the newspaper, Le Parisen. The Tour featured the return of Lance Armstrong after his battle with cancer. Basson wrote that the riders were shocked by the speed of Armstrong. Armstrong later cycled up to Bassons to remonstrate with him and encouraged him to leave the Tour. Later on French TV, Armstrong admitted the conversation. "His accusations aren't good for cycling, for his team, for me, for anybody. If he thinks cycling works like that, he's wrong and he would be better off going home," he said.
Other riders threatened him and most ignored him. Bassons could not take the pressure and left the Tour.

Filippo Simeoni a former Italian champion has testified in court that he had used EPO under team doctor Michele Ferrari.  This was the same doctor that Armstrong used and in an interview with a french newspaper Armstrong had called Simeoni a "liar". On the 18th stage of the 2004 edition of the Tour de France, Simeoni gapped up to a breakaway of six riders that posed no threat to Armstrong's leading position. Nevertheless, Armstrong followed Simeoni, which prompted Armstrong's rival T-Mobile Team to try to catch the breakaway. This would not only catch Armstrong but also eliminate the stage winning chances of the six riders in the original breakaway. The six riders implored Armstrong to drop back to the peloton, but Armstrong would not go unless Simeoni went with him and the two riders dropped back to the peloton. When Simeoni dropped back, he was abused by other riders, including Andrea Peron, Filippo Pozzato and Giuseppe Guerini. In a later interview, he told of how Daniele Nardello also abused him, calling him "a disgrace". Afterwards, Armstrong made a "zip-the-lips" gesture but later said that Simeoni "did not deserve" to win a stage. Two days later was the final stage, which is usually a slow stage in which the Tour winner (in 2004 it was Armstrong) already celebrates his victory. But in this stage Simeoni continuously attacked, to take revenge for what Armstrong did three days before, but was reeled in every time by Armstrong's team. Simeoni was again insulted and spat at by other riders after this.

So what of these tests he's passed.  by Lances claim the most tested athlete.  Firstly, lets look at USADA point of view. They are following the World Anti Doping Agnecy WADA code of conduct. In articles 2.2 it describes how the 'Use of Prohibited Substance' can be established by any reliable means, including witness statements.  Basically a riders guilt can be found not just by drugs tests but also by witness evidence.

Now we also have to look at those tests.  According to Michael Ashenden, an anti doping scientist working in detecting banned substances within in sports states, that during 1999 there was still no test available for effectively finding EPO.  He could have used it during races or prep and still would not have been found guilty.  Even with advances in Labs at finding EPO in the blood system during Armstrongs era there was still no test available for transfusing there own blood 'autologous transfusion'.  Armstrong could have bloated himself ever day of the week and been tested 300 times per day and he would never have been found guilty.

Ashenden also further goes on to say that there is evidence Armstrong did in fact dope, given in an interview with Andy Shen at nyvelocity (click here for full link).  In brief it states, tests were done on numbered samples of tour riders from 1999 which was Lances first Tour winning year. Of the 87 usable samples tested 13 proved to be positive.  it wasn't until later that 6 of these samples were found out to be Lance Armstrongs.  This does have a tendancy to over rule any facts of not failing tests.  The evidence was thrown out of court as it was felt that they could have been tampered with but Ashenden feels that the odds of this are slim.  What is interesting about the use of EPO in this period of sport is that it was always assumed that other riders were doping heavily so Lance  was levelling the playing field.  What the results showed is that only about 8% of the field were using EPO the favoured drug of that period.  Does that explain his dominance in the Tour?

Yes other riders have admitted to doping during races but it is more complicated than that.  Not all riders are doping at the same time.  Not as some assume at the same time.  Riders that use EPO don't always use it all the time.  The body can build up a tolerance to it so more has to be used over long periods of use.  The best way to counter it is to use it at peak times during competition such as before a mountain stage or time trial.  This also therefore limits the time a athlete can be caught taking the drug.

Lastly, riders up to 2004 were not escorted to doping control after the race straight away like they are now.  This would give plenty of times to use masking agents to make EPO less traceable.  Evidence also suggests that Armstrong was given notice 20 minutes before being expected to take a test.  This all points at failing in a system that was not strict enough or well equipped to catch athletes.  He may be the most tested athlete, but it would have been very hard to find traces in Armstrong.

So is this really a witch hunt by USADA as Lance and his fellow supports mimic?  It would seem that the American anti doping committee is justly motivated.  People who think this is just about Lance have showed there anger as he is now retired and therefore doing this is pointless.  But let us not forget the others who are being accused are still within the sport and so therefore still influencing riders to dope.  If a cleaner sport of cycling is needed then people need to be found out and stopped before newer younger riders take up the old ways.

Finally a note on Lance and Cancer research.  It can not be taken away what he has done for others with his charity Livestrong.  It has has helped so many people through dealing and living with cancer as well as raising awareness and in small part research.  However, people to often play the god card with Lance and lay claim to him having saved thousands of lives.  That's quite a claim.  A claim that has often helped him hide behind what has been described as his "cancer shield" when talking about his doping in sport.  The charity is more based on helping rather than saving peoples lives.  It is the people like nurses, doctors and carers that do this, it is the money that come from the donating public that pay for it all.  Armstrong is a great figure head for the charity, but he is no saver of lives.

Please Also See - Lance Armstrong A Hero