Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Brass Monkey Round 2 - Final race of 2010

The snow has stopped, the rain came and what did it leave us? Ice. For the week leading up to the race the course builders spent a lot of time clearing the snow from the single track. The weather on the day was light rain. So the course turned from firm with the ice to soft. As I had just recovered from a bad chest cold I didn't have the chance to test my legs before the race. I'd not been on a bike in over 10 days. I thought it best not to bother riding the course as to not waste energy. I did have a little practice on the 1st hundred or so meters of single track. I'd pretty made up my mind that I was there to make up the numbers and to give myself a good 4hrs training in race conditions.
I went through my normal warm up routine of a short ride a few sprints and a bit of a stretch. Realise that I wasn't warm enough in what I was wearing so I took off my club jersey and replaced it with my Trusty Assos 851 Jacket. A little overkill maybe but I would be toasty what ever the elements gave me. 
I placed my 4 water bottles in the feed zone with a few tools, some lube for my chain and then we gathered at the start. As I had made up my mind I wasn't going to give it full gas i didn't start right up the front. No need to go into the red early on for no reason. It didn't matter anyway as the start had two very wide tracks before the bottle neck of the 1st bit of single track. I think I must have stood there like a lemon for about 20 seconds waiting to get on the single track.
The course was really really fun. There was loads of nice single track which for the 1st three laps I did was excellent. Well done on the Course Builders behalf as they made my day. There were two big drop offs which I rode for the 1st three laps. One was very steep at the top. (I'm no fan of drop offs) The Small amounts of fire track always led to the nice single track and the fire track was always short but steep. 
Anyway How was I doing, first lap I felt great there were no surprises other than I took the wrong line at one point and stacked it into a bush. Quickly back on the bike and onwards. The 1st time over the 2nd of the big drop offs came as a shock. Nothing went wrong but I wasn't at all relaxed and could have easily stacked it. My forks felt a little soft and I was sure I didn't have enough rebound so I stopped and adjusted it. Lap finished and I started feeling great. Although I felt good on the 1st lap my legs did feel a bit rusty. 
On the second lap I felt really good. Legs relaxed and I pressed on a bit harder. I slipped on one of the smaller drops and went off the bike to the side. I held onto one of my bar ends and dragged the bike down with me running. In one fluid movement I managed to remount the bike and ride away as if nothing had happened. (Why doesn't that always happen instead of landing on the deck in a heap?)
Third lap went well to start with. I'd taken on a new bottle at the start of the lap and shoved a few gels down. One thing that was obvious though was that the mud was getting thicker and harder to ride through. Starting the 4th lap I realised that if I kept the pace I was doing up I'd end up getting to the finish line with about 10 mins spare and would have to do a sixth. With all the mud and that I eased off and took it easy. Not that it was easy. The second half of the 4th lap and the 5th were Hell. The mud was porridge like. My pace got slower and slower with my final lap almost 25mins slower than my 1st. 
Finishing was a relief. I normally don't feel that tired after doing 8hrs in the saddle but all in all I'm happy with how things went. It was an excellent days training in race conditions. I wouldn't have ridden that hard if I was out on the hills on my own. I went through a set of disk pads that had just been replaced with only an icy 30miles ride where I barely used the brakes. Good news is my drive train looks OK so it didn't cost me too much.
Today the day after I have just sat in the house watching films and servicing my bike all day wearing my Skins Compression tights. Knackered. I hear from the Twitter world that everyone else is tired too. God know how I will feel on Tuesday after riding the South Downs Way on Monday.
Results 19th in the 4hr Mens race. I wish I hadn't eased of and managed to do a 6th lap. 
Check out the links from Joolze Dymond Photography below
Pic 1 This bit of single track was great fun
Pic 2 I love this pic I might buy it off Joolz
Pic 4 The mud
Pic 5 More mud
My shoes How random

Bloody glad I took my training tyres off. The Nobby Nicks would have been murder in that mud. The Rocket Rons were perfect. Full on mud tyres would have been too slow on the rest of the course.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Getting through the nasty bugs

Weapons of choice
All I want to do is ride my bike. I've had a lot of fun out in the snow but it's been well over a week since I last did some training. Illness on and off then the Office Christmas Party and that two day hangover that goes with it. Then illness again mixed in with a bit of snow and Ice (stuck in Wales with no bike kit when perfectly healthy) then illness again. December hasn't been the best of months. Resting now so I can at least ride the 2nd round of the Brass Monkey 4hr races for training .
Hand Gel for the public transport missions I have to do. Snotty & coughed on hands touch everything you touch. Get that Vit C & Zinc in yah. I would have my nuts high in Selenium in the pic but I have eaten them all. Echinacea (does it work?) and Lemsip Max Flu for blasting that cold into submission. I'm 90% right now. Deciding to to go training this morning probably has done me a huge favour in the long run. I will train when I'm 100% right. Might start using soon if I have to go on public transport.

Then it's 2011. And that is going to start off with a bang!

All I want to do is ride my Lapierre

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Plan: Lets start the year as we mean to go on with The South Downs Way

On the Bank Holiday Monday on the 3rd of January, myself and a small group of riders are planning to ride the South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne. This route across the South Downs is a nice and round 100miles. It's very up and down. Hopefully I will be riding with some people who have ridden it before. I'm using it as a recce to find out what the route is like for a possible South Downs Double attempt in the Spring. Sunrise on the the 3rd is about 08:03 and Sunset at around 16:07 so we will be riding in the dark for a few hours regardless of our speed. Fingers crossed the ground will be hard as it will take a bit longer if it's wet and muddy. See for info on the South Downs Double.
All started in 2005 (well way before) when a chap called Ian Butler rode from Winchester to Eastbourne and back in less than 24hrs. From then the Double has been attempted quite a few times with the fastest time well below 24hrs at 18:03:12s by Ian Leitch. Who will be the 1st rider under 18hrs? It certainly wont be me on my 1st attempt if I do it in the spring.
The furthest I have done on a MTB so far is 110km of the Brecon Beast. I didn't find that too hard but far too much of that was on road. From what I understand the South Downs Way is pretty much off road the whole way. I have done 100km loads of times now
Rob Lee riding the Double in 2008 (c) Rory Hitchens 2008
It's easy enough to get the miles or hours in on the road bike. I've been doing plenty of 4hr + rides after work on a Tuesday and Thursday but I need to get some really long rides in on the MTB if I'm to prepare my body for a 24hr MTB race. Riding on the road, your arms and torso are pretty relaxed, they don't get too much of a work out. On the MTB over rough terrain pretty much everything gets a working over. I get a longish ride in on a Sunday on the MTB but can only really spare 5hrs and can really feel the difference.
I'm really looking forward to riding across the Downs. I will try and get down to Eastbourne sometime in Feb to recce it the other way. I know the is the same but he it's got the up hills where the down hills are. I need to make sure I know where all the taps are so I can fill up my water bottles.
Between now and then I have a few big rides planned. The Thursday before Christmas I plan to go exploring behind Cwmcarn. I've been up there so many times but not really explored the place. Should be good for a 6hr ride I think and Christmas Eve I plan to get out for a Nice 4hr ride over Machen Mountain finishing with a lap or two of the Twrch Trail. This will be a hill fest

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Book For Christmas - Wales Mountain Biking & 100 Great Cycling Climbs

Wales Mountain Biking by Tom Hutton
So I found this in Tescos last night but my wife informs me that this small guide to mountain biking in Wales has be bought for me by my 7 yrd daughter so I put it down quick. I will have a good look at it on Christmas day. Hope it's good. Tom Hutton has dome some of the routes found in MBR magazine so I'm confident it will be good
For the first time, here is a pocket-sized guide to the 100 greatest climbs in Britain... Written by a cyclist for cyclists.
One of my Norwood Paragon CC club mates (Simon Warren) has designed & written this book. 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs is an excellent guide to some of the best road climbs in the UK. It can purchase from all good books shops and can be found here at Cycling Weekly's online shop. I've been working on the website for Simon for a bit too long now (my fault) but we should have it live soon. This book would make an excellent Christmas present.
I'm looking forward ticking off a few more of the climbs featured in the book. I've done quite a few of the Welsh ones and a few in and around London. Those up North Look amazing. I don't know how many cycling wives are ever going to read this blog but if your hubby is a cyclist this would make the ideal small gift.
Climb 27 Swains Lane - Home of the Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Strathpuffer 24hr

Strathpuffer 24hr
Strathpuffer 24hr
I found out about this race yesterday. A 24hr race in Scotland right in the middle of winter. 17-18hrs of darkness so it really would be a test. Sadly the entry is full & it's something I really would have like to do as a pair. I've not done a 12hr or a 24hr race yet solo so I'd like to get in one more big event before 24hrs of Exposure in May. So the search goes on for an event for me to warm up with. I haven't got my Exposure Diablo & MaXx D lights yet and even more important than that I haven't got a sleeping bag that is warm enough for the camping. So this is certainly one for next year.
So anyone fancy doing it with me?

It would have been the perfect event to test out my new DHB Balaclava

A lesson in bike handling

Sunday I went out to do pretty much the same ride as I did last weekend. A few laps of the Twrch Trail at Cwmcarn and up and over the mountain behind. The thing is mid week we had a slight thaw and although much of the snow on the low ground has gone a lot of it has turned to ice. The roads are pretty clear but anything off road has now got a thick layer of ice on it.
for instance the canal tow path that joins Newport with the Ebbw Valley had sheet ice pretty much the who length. For some bizzare reason unknown to myself and my friend Simon we decided to ride the tow path.
It took twice as log as normal and was pretty sketchy.
A third of the way up the big climb
When we got to Cwmcarn I noticed it was quite different to last week. We had fluffy snow last week. Now it was a mix of black ice or a crunchy mix of snow and ice. Riding the 1st section low down was a pretty fair indication of what was do come. Tyre tracks in the snow frozen solid so there were tyre sized ruts on the trail. A bleeding nightmare as your tyre just wanted to follow the little rut.
The last of the really icy parts just before the fire track
Normally I don't have to dab my foot down anywhere on the Twrch Trail. It's all very ridable but today there were parts that were a bit too much fun. Getting over some of the normal slippery bits took a bit more care and you really had to attack some of them. Certain areas though were near impossible to pass. The section leading up to the fire track in the pic above was so slippery it was pretty hard to walk up with the bike.
<-- This a way
We didn't go on the jump section this week just on the twisty Twrch Trail at the top. It was fairly icy but was OK as you could ride off line a bit and there was no ice. Over the gate and up onto the mountain as last week. This week all the puddles with thin ice were completely frozen solid and as hardly anyone had been up there it wasn't slippery like on the Twrch Trail. So to be fair we could ride anywhere without fear of slipping about too much. As the sun was so strong and there was very little wind it was actually quite warm up there.

Stunning views up the top
We did have one large frozen puddle collapse which was quite funny as we were about a third the way across it at the time when it gave way.
On the way back down the Twrch I realised that this ice was becoming a bit tricky. Last week was fun I could ride down without having to brake much and the back wheel would skid a bit but was easy to control. This week you hit the brakes and your on your ass. I really felt like I had to keep my wits about me all the time. The ice was really hard to ride down.
The final flowing downhill section which is just about the most perfect flowing downhill I have ridden in the dry was just a nightmare. Last week it was snow this week was icier than anywhere else. My mate Simon was ahead of me and I saw him lose both wheels to the ice and I followed with caution and did exactly the same. The only thing that could make the iced up Twrch Trail totally ridable would be some studded tyres.
Schwalbe do two types. The Snow Studs like in the pic or the Ice Spike Pros which are a bit OTT. With 90% of the trail perfectly ridable with my Schwalbe Nobby Nicks I don't really think I need a full coverage of studs
I'm sure we have not seen the last of this ice so I have ordered a pair of the Snow Studs. I just wish I had ordered them in July when I noticed them in stock everywhere. One thing I took from Sunday's ride is that I really had to try hard to keep the bike rolling up the trail. The iced up trail meant I had to try and roll over obstacles without peddling too much. Something I will only get better at. I need to learn to ride more efficiently, carrying momentum forward with me so I don't waste so much energy. This will be handy in the long endurance races no doubt.

I also saw a group of riders out in Shorts and track mitts. Some people are just too tough or daft (-5C or colder).

Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro

Schwalbe Snow Stud tyre

Friday, 3 December 2010

Which Reasonably Priced 29r?




With the focus of my season in 2011 being Long endurance racing I thought it might be better to have a bike that rolls a bit faster and is generally quicker. These mid range 29r bikes sprang to mind. Now I need to start saving for one of them.
The CannondaleThe Scott & The Specialized
When I bought my Lapierre X Control in April I knew that I had to have a normal 26' Full Sus. I had just raced the Black Park XC race which was super technical for me with all it;s twists and turns. A lot of my racing this season was in the mid week Beastway Series which involved lots of tight corners and plenty of accelerating out of them. At the time the only Avaliable 29r to me was the Gary Fisher and I didn't really fancy one of those. Options are greater now. I can't make do with just a 29r I know. I just know that I would have been quite a bit quicker in races such as The Brecon Beast on a bike that rolls quicker.

Any other 29r bikes out there I should look at?

Specialized S-Works Epic FSR 29er 2011

 I don't think I could call the Specialized S-Works Epic FSR 29er a reasonably priced 29r at £6599 but I think it's probably the best one out there. Hmmn what are my Lotto numbers?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Hyde Park This Morning

Hyde Park Bridle Way alongside Park Lane
I didn't fancy riding down the cycle path this morning, the bridle way looked much more fun.
The dirty cycle path

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Head down on my flying lap
I live in Newport on the weekends not that far from the track but until last summer when my children had a swimming event in the nearby pool in the Sports Village I had never been to even look at it. 
I popped in to have a look with my kids and my eldest daughter who is pretty keen on riding her MTB commented that she thought the tyres were a bit skinny but she was keen to have a go.
I thought it looked amazing. I hadn't ridden on a track with a fixed wheel for 20 years and thought I'd have to have a go at this. I have no big ideas about racing on the track. I'm just not powerful enough for it or more like, I'm more interested in endurance cycling. Track racing is never really much more than 20km. I'd be shit at it.
I'd been toying with the idea of doing a training course for a while on the track. You can't just turn up and ride on an indoor track it's not allowed. There are a few training companies out there and my mates Dave and Lee run one called Fast Track Coaching So I was keen to go on one of their beginner weekends. 
Next thing I here as if by magic my club have hired the place for 3 hours with a coach. So I put my name down paid my money and turned up. 
I don't have a track bike so the bike you see in the pic above I'm on a rental Pinarello. We had young Welsh international Matt Rowe showing us the ropes.

The twelve of us riding as a group (me third wheel)
We first had to get used to the bikes. Like I said it had been a while didn't take long although I did stop pedalling on my second lap which almost sent me over the bars. We did a few laps around the black line at the bottom and then slowly moved up to the red. It felt a bit disconcerting on the bends as the track wants to drop you down the banking if your not going quick enough. So more speed and slowly edge up to the blue line in a group. So after we had gotten to grips with riding round the track in one big line as a group Matt asked us to do something which scared the shit out of me just thinking about it. When on the blue line if your not going quick enough the track tends to pull you down hill on the corners. What he asked us to do was for us to ride on the black line as a group then the front rider to move up to the blue line and let the group ride past and rejoin at the back. I had visions of me slipping down and taking out my team mates or them doing it to me. As it happens we were not muppets and this did not happen. We were just fine. 
Matt then set us doing all sorts of things like riding as a group and the rider on the front sometimes with the 2nd and possibly 3rd rider were to get a lap. Ride round the track at a faster pace to catch the group. For some reason I was never paired with anyone so I did many laps on my own (maybe my 118118 sweatband mad me look like i was quick or something)
Something I really enjoyed was splitting up into 3 groups and doing a 2000m team pursuit. On road form I was put in the middle group. Sadly I fear I was way quicker than my 3 team mates and on the final two laps I dropped them which is a big no no in a team pursuit I guess (well it is fact). Third man across the line get the time not the 1st. Anyway we were just under 2 seconds as a team down on the faster group. I cocked it right up. 
Flying lap was next. I messed that up as well by building up my speed half a lap before I needed to. I wasn't the fasted but not by much.
I had a bloody good time on the track and can't wait to go again. Now need to get mt accreditation for the track which is a test to show I am competent to race and ride on open group training sessions. Hopefully soon I will be doing the Cwmcarn Club training evenings.

I have a massive weakness...

But don't we all

I seriously need to stay away from Waitrose
I've been pretty good on the cake front for a few weeks. Avoiding the temptation  to have Elevens's with a nice large slab of what ever our office Costa Coffee had on offer.
This morning I managed to forget to have breakfast and by the time I'd got myself to Costa's I'd missed out on the porrage as they had run out.
Two slabs of cake it was then. One Coffee & Walnut the other a large slice of Bakewell Tart.


I better get out on the bit and off set it