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.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Book Review - My Time by Bradley Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins latest book concentrates on his successful 2012 season. The book is co written with Guardian sports writer William Fotheringham, and takes you through a brief background of his past but mainly concentrates on his successful races at the Tour of Romandie, Paris-Nice, the Tour de France and Olympics.

Bradley Wiggins is now by far the most famous and successful British cyclist of our time moving out of Mark Cavendish's shadow and become a icon in his right.  This book is real thoughts to pages stuff.  He lays down exactly what he thinks giving you very detailed accounts of his emotions, his relationships with staff and team members.

From this book, you learn what it takes to make a great champion and he takes you back a few years from his earlier days on the track to his rise in road racing, where even in his own submission he lacked the right attitude as a team leader.  The death of his grandfather and his only male role model, and the tough love from the team senior management bring forward a change in Wiggins that allowed him to reach his true potential.  Certainly his relationships with members of the team are interesting and how he views them particularly with David Brailsford and Mark Cavendish, but its what you learn about the teams approach to training and why team Sky has become so dominant that interested me the most.

The book isn't overly scientific or even aimed at just cyclists which should help with a broad range of readers wanting to know a little more about the recent Sports Personality of the Year.  It covers all areas too from doping and Wiggins and the teams stance on it as well as the relationship between himself and Chris Froome during the tough stages in the mountains of the Tour de France.  The book also gives a glimpse into what he plans for his future in the sport, and the reasons for not contesting for another Tour title.

Sometimes the book lacks solid structure flipping backwards and forwards at time.  It reads like Wiggins speaking his mind whilst the writer takes notes, but doesn't really edit it.  This is the only criticism I could find from the book in what is overall a good read and a worthy buy. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Strava and Races to Come

I could very easily get addicted to Strava.  I particularly like it when I get my KOM stats and find I'm at the top!  Strava has allowed me to show off my KOM but sadly not my ride which despite the cold and the mud was enjoyable.  Now I find myself analysing all of my efforts along the route, which I'm not sure if it's encouraging to my ride or in the long run detrimental.  Will I ever just casually go up a hill again?  Still, whilst my motivation in training has been lacking maybe this is what I need to keep me going and a little part of me is already finding other hills I can try and win a crown.....even if its only a minor victory that I can share with myself.

Talking of training, I have had a crisis meeting with myself and have come to the conclusion that this year could be asking too much for me to do a 100 mile MTB race.  I know I've still got months to go but I'm not sure a) I could do that distance on a rigid fork for and b) do that kind of distance averaging 8mph or more.

At the moment I'm going to concentrate on short xc racing.  The North East XC series is back this year and starts earlier with eight full round.  I finished 8th overall last year and would like to better improve on this, so I've now set an ambitious target of placing on the podium for the series.  Basically I need to finish top three.  A tall order for someone racing on one gear and in no fit condition.  I've got until the 20th April before my first round.  I need to loose 7lbs by then and be able to maintain race pace for an hour.  Sounds doable, and if it's not well hopefully someone will cheer me on as I puff and pant my way slowly around the course.  I'll still at least be the one smiling the most. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Book Review - Riis Stages of Light and Dark by Bjarne Riis

The rider Bjarne Riis was a rider who featured in my early interest in road cycling and the Tour de France.  He wasn't a rider that I ever learned much about at the time, he was infamous for his private nature and like many riders from his era questioned about how clean a rider he was.
Riis is perhaps famed as much for his win of the 1996 Tour de France as his eventual and more recent admission to EPO usage during his career.  The book which is ghost written by journalist Lars Steen Pedersen, is a look back over those years in an attempt to reveal his dark secrets and bring light to on his questionable past.
The book takes you back to his past and to the the cycling world he grew up in, talking about how as a shy youth he found cycling an outlet where he could express himself.  Actually his early years is somewhat skipped over in my opinion but forms some of the most interesting aspects of the book or at least the most honest.  He talks with some fondness of riding and learning from Laurent Fignon, which makes for interesting reading and you learn of his desire to make his break with the bigger teams, trying to get himself more noticed to earn the bigger pay check. The book follows an almost similar pattern to many other cycling books of a young clean rider, naive to the real world of cycling and doping, and his eventual demise to user followed by guilt.  However, if you are seeking an open account and insight into the dirty world of the peleton then you will be left disappointed.
His admission to taking EPO is mentioned but Riis blows over the subject as though he is doing what every other rider his doing. It certainly central to the narrative. There is no name dropping and you can't but help that he holds back detail.  In his admission to using EPO there is no mention in how he got it, how he used it just emotional reaction to having to use it.  This has probably got a lot to with him still working within cycling and 'spitting in the soup' is something he is not still willing to do.  This is you feel quite a theme in the book.  It's not what he telling you but what he is missing out.  His accounts of the Festina affair in 1998 from his point of view labours on the side of hypocritical as he complains of them 'riding like animals'  and the press lumping them all together with the same label as dopers.  It just strikes that he is still unhappy that he was out doped rather than real remorse for the damage being done in the sport.
What is apparent in his admission is the lack of actual belief that doping had anything to do with his success of the tour and he attributes much more of it to his scientific approach to cycling compared to other riders who still just churned out the miles.  He talks in length about some of the stages of the tour in which he wins and his rise as a team leader and getting the riders to respect him.  His overcoming of his natural shyness to champion is an interesting tale but it is more in the latter parts of the book I found more interesting and that is his time as team owner and directeur sportif for the CSC team.  It does give good insight into the personalities of the riders he has worked with including Tyler Hamilton, Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador.
The book doesn't make him out to be the most likable of people and this probably his why he struggled with riders on his team as both rider and team leader, and his inevitable admission to doping feels like it comes not from real guilt but pressure from the press after members of his previous Telekom team speak out.  It has rings of the same scenario we now see with Lance Armstrong.
Overall,  the book has some good aspects to it but it also feels self serving, a confession of some sorts while deeper details have been left out, and think it is this that makes it hard for the reader to have any really empathy for him  Maybe when he fully retires will a broader picture be painted.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Want It Wednesday - The Beautiful Ride Notebooks

I was recently explaining my lack of love for training diaries.  I'm never good at keeping them up to date and even my best laid out plans fall apart leaving an unwanted book that serves little purpose for the future.  I'm no longer transfixed with recording every given hour on the bike, recording it down and making some anal chart that proves just how little I'm really doing

What works better for me is to keep a more loose style journal of my rides and races.  More importantly I like to write down goals, Time targets, mile targets, weights, average heart rates.  Everything but how long I've done on a bike or how many hours I've spent spinning my legs on a turbo.  Information like that is no use.  To know you're improving its much better to have something instantly measurable and something you can then go back year after year to see changes.

This leads me onto my 'Want'.   I recently wanted a notebook to enter my data for this year, the trouble is nothing really stands out to me as a cyclist.  I love fancy stationary stuff, and am a sucker for nice address books and diaries, birthday books etc.  Sadly, in a rush I lumped for a rather plain notebook that just isn't.....well....me.  It had to do as I wasn't near a decent shop at the time.

However, I came across this company Beautifulride

These are just the thing I am looking for

 These were brought to my attention by Tim at his blog Life in the Saddle where he has written a review on them so it worth checking it out by clicking on the link.  Another review to look at as is by The Discerning Cyclist.

The price is only its slight draw back for me but I'd be buying into something that I would more than likely keep for years and can imagine it to evolve to be full of notes doodles tatty folded up bits of paper etc.  They are British, look and sound lovely only now I have to decide which one I'd have!

If you'd like to write a Want it Wednesday and have it in a place for all to see then please go to my Want It Wednesday page and follow the instructions.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Getting To Grips With Nymeria (On-One Scandal 29er)

Nymeria for those aren't up to date with my blog is my new beloved bike.  My On-One Scandal 29er.  If you are wondering on the name then it is from George Martins books the Game Of Thrones one of my favourite authors.  Nymeria itself is a pet dire wolf, and wolves are some the most interesting of beasts and to all intense and purpose so is my new bike.

This isn't a full review as I feel I'm yet to bond fully with Nymeria, like an animal it needs some taming before I think I can truly appreciate what she is really capable of.  There are three things totally different about this bike I'm having to take into account when riding compared to previous bikes.  Carbon rigid forks, 29er Wheels and Tubeless.

I've read so much about how much better 29 inch wheels are that when you start riding you expect some kind of revelation, and I didn't get that. At least not right away. In fact jumping on it felt very natural and not overly different from my kinesis, this maybe because I'd got the cockpit measurements similar.  There seemed no noticeable extra effort to get the wheels rolling as many have lead me to believe.  This maybe because overall the wheels are lighter than my previous set which weren't heavy but by buying Stans rims and running them tubeless I've managed to drop about 100 grams in weight including tyres.

So then comes the idea of them giving more stability.  I wasn't sure how this could be proved, I mean I don't ever remember stability being an issue with 26ers.  That was until I took my hands off the bars.  Riding no handed has never been a skill I've managed greatly.  Yes I could ride 100 yards and not fall off but I'd have to make loads of micro adjustments.  I'd always found my road bike easier in this case.  The 29er proved its stability to me by being so easy to ride no handed.  I barely had to try to keep it straight, it just did it and I can only imagine that this extra stability helps in singletrack and technical sections

I'm not going to comment to much on grip.  This is supposed to be a big bonus due the extra contact patch of the tyre to the ground.  The reason I'm holding back is that conditions have been very muddy and so the bike hasn't been pushed to its limits in corners. Yet. The grip is there but I'm still finding my limits.  For this reason I'm still to really see the benefit in tubeless except in weight.  More and that to come in the next few months as I find better pressures to use and learn to really rail it properly.

Every time I pushed to go fast the bike responded quickly.  The overall low weight meant this bike was like a missile.  A 21.8lbs missile.  It goes without saying that this bike climbed well and the geometry didn't seem to unsettle the front end to much.  The actual frame felt quite soft for an aluminium frame.  Some frame using this metal can be horrible and harsh. Ideal for your local races but every day long rides something that can tire you out quicker.  This felt compliant and when chucking it rough singletrack it never felt like it had longer chain stays, just wanted you to try that bit harder.  The geometry is sound not going to the extreme of being an out and out racer but a proper all day riding bike that leaves you smiling.

What I'm struggling to get to grips with is the fork.  It would be very easy for me to say its harsh but in comparison to steel forks my memory doesn't go back that far.  Through bumpy corners the front bounces up hard and does hurt your wrists.  On many occasions my hand struggled to use the brakes and stay on the grips.  This I can see is going to take the most getting used.  Perhaps even a bit of strengthening of my arms!  It does, however, in smoother parts track well and the steering is very direct so much more so than bikes with suspension forks.  It never felt nervous just a case of point and shoot.

Overall, I'm beginning to love this bike.  Its rides as well as it looks and once I'm more used to it I have no doubt about its extra capabilities.  This bike will be like lightening in the right hands.  I just need to get my fitness back and tame that fork.