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.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Racing against the Big Ring - Rd 2 North East MTB XC League - Ferryhill

Racing on your home ground is always exciting.  This race was a literal two minute ride to the start line and with the course unaltered from last year was promising to be just as fast and furious as last year.  I remember that hard chases from last year and had kept it in my pocket.  I knew about the sharp off camber bend the long fireroad straight and short but steep climb.  In fact I'd practised it for most of the winter.

This was not a course that suited my Single speed.  Fast courses never are, as you have to spin so hard to keep up and when your following a wheel and they shift up into the big ring there is little you can do to answer such speed. But, it was dry and not really technical which meant I wasn't going to loose time there.

Photo with thanks to Paul @ Clarkson Photography Grass Root Sports UK

46 of us started on the start line and we would be soon channelled into a narrowing track before hitting the single track.  It was bound to get messy as people jostled for position trying to make the holeshot, and I found myself blocked in by two riders not holding a very straight line.  Come an early banked corner and some riders were nearly crashing into each other causing me to have to dismount, loosing a couple of places in the process.  After that the lap was a fairly slow procession with little changing in places as the narrow singletrack kept us in position.  It proved to be the slowest lap.  As soon as we got to the fire road to the finish I pushed hard and took some places and tried to bridge the gap which had formed.

The race as it turns was fun but a hard one for me.  I kept a good pace but found it hard to pick and hold onto peoples wheels.  I'd go through the single track no problem even kept pace with the fast guys on the climb, but come the fireroad and the gaps would form.  A small group of us stayed in contact for a couple of laps until two crashed out just as they'd formed a gap on me.  One guy had got a good minute into me at one point and by the end it was down to ten seconds despite my mad effort to go all out in the last lap.  Still it also appeared I was being chased down but had managed to hold the guy off.  Not that I knew much about that at the time.

In the end I finished 25th, which wasn't quite as good as my last race but I figured that's the way it would be.  I was first place Single speed but then there were only two of us!

Photo with thanks to Paul @ Clarkson Photography Grass Root Sports UK

Overall in the series I'm now in 12th place with the aim of making it into the top ten and 4th in the seniors with the aim of making it in the top five.  Oh and I'm first place in the single speed category.

This video was shot of the junior and senior race from the done and gives a little idea of the action from the day. http://vimeo.com/66053010

Special thanks goes to Paul who was there photographing on the day and for letting me freely use the photos he took of me.  You can see more on is own web page by clicking on the link Clarkson Photogrphy

Sunday, 12 May 2013

North East Single Speeds First Group Ride - Swaledale

Standing on the top of a hill surrounded by some beautiful countryside shrouded in mists a small group of cyclists stand huddled behind a wall to shelter from the howling wind and driving cold wind.  The climb had been steep and boggy and faces show sign of tiredness.  Yet as food and drink are consumed spirits remain high and there are still smiles.  Someone then pipes up "I thought you said it was going to be hot and sunny?"
L to R.  Mark, Dan, Matt and Mike taking shelter from the inhospitable weather
Hot and Sunny.  That is what the weather forecast was predicting for the long awaited first group ride for those members of the single speed group almost a week before hand.  People were getting excited about the prospect of finaly having some decent weather after what had seemed like an endless winter.  The Swaledale hills in Yorkshire near Reeth boasts some of the most beautiful natural trails in this country and a week before had been covered in feet of snow.

Three On-Ones lining up ready to go.  The first one has to many gears!
Weather forecasters it would appear are not very good at predicting weather a week in advance and as the days got closer suddenly it looked like strong winds were going to b the order of the day. Still some braved it out of there houses and we met up at the infamous Dales Bike Centre , a cracking little place with a small bike shop, cafe and accomadation run by a very friendly family.  There were only three of us on single speeds.  Matt, Mike and myself.  Dan (who incidentially got me into single speeds) was still making excuses as to not to change back from his gears, and Mark wasn't feeling up to the challenge of riding one gear up some of the demanding climbs.  I'm not sure I blamed them!

We set off on the lower valley riding by the dry stone walls that are found in abundance in this area, breaking up the farms land to form a patch work of rugged squares across the moorlands.  Of course this means lots of gates to negotiate.  The ground was still very wet and there was a good amount of pasty mud mixed in with the rocky ground.  We were heading into the wind but it was fairly flat with only the occasional hill to wake the legs up.  More to the point it wasn't raining. 

Its funny thing with cyclists.  Most of the guys out today didn't know each other and yet put together they share their love of cycling and chatter never ran short.  We rolled on until our u turn point and where crossing the valley the real climbing was about to begin.  The rain of course had begun.

We were faced with a brute of climb which on a good day would have been hard but with the mud we were finding it hard to get any traction.  All but one of us were forced to walk much of that climb.  Matt, the younger of us, is like a whippet and very strong even on one gear.  He ploughed up the climb with what seemed like little bother putting most of us to shame!  Once near the top we were truly exposed to the elements and felt the rain and wind drive hard at us.

Pushing up but there are still smiles....or grimaces

Yes I was the one who had promised a hot sunny day.

Still at least we were heading back and that involved some downhill with a good wind on our backs.  Mike got blown off as we set off from the top, which shows how strong the wind was.  I was fighting to hold my lines down the damp moor land track.  As we went down the weather had improved and the skies had cleared, but it didn't stop us getting lost and having to negotiating a steep hill side on foot.  The final decent down was a narrow rocky one between the hedges which was doing its best impression of a stream as the water overflowed from the snow capped fells.  There was still the occasional couple foot of snow across the path too!

A puncture is always a good excuse to rest and chat

Getting back to the Dales bike centre we were able to shower the muck off ourselves and bikes before warming ourselves in the cafe with a nice cuppa and some very tasty cake. The worst of the rain then began so in someways we were lucky! It was a good ride out with some awesome people and hopefully the start of more ride outs together and good friendships.