Saturday, September 24, 2005

Ridgeway "Enduro"

At some point, prob'ly during a drunken haze, Lee and Shaun dreamt up the notion that riding the Ridgeway would be a grand goal for 2005. A close look at the route suggested that it would be "do-able" in a day provided that a swift pace was maintained. After all, the tracks are long established, mostly vehicle sized tracks and not nearly as knarly as those we'd earlier ridden in Wales. So it couldn't be that tough ?

The day started before dawn and Sue had kindly volunteered to shadow us in a chase vehicle throughout the day. Fortunately, the weather had been relatively dry for a few wks before hand which boded well for the first half of the ride which is mainly off road. Some forum biker's mentioned that these 40miles alone had taken 10hrs to complete the previous October ! They also indicated that to ride the entire trail in day is best done in the hieght of summer and even then it takes a mamoth effort, gulp. We hit the trail at around 8.30am and were greeted with a sky full of approx 20 hot air balloons which highlights the favourable conditions that morning. The first 10miles or so were fairly slow going as the track is deeply rutted by 4x4's which meant a full pedal stroke had to be carefully timed. We managed to pick up the pace a little for the next 25miles-ish with a mixture of short asphalt blasts and hard packed clay or gravel surfaces. We had a brief snack break at Whitehorse Hill and by our lunch stop in East Illsley at Crown & Horns both riders were defo in need of a break with Shaun's aching back (h/tail didn't soften the often lumpy trail) and Lee fighting off leg cramps.

Revived after some fab nosh both riders stomped back up the hill with revived legs to pick up the trail and thoroughly enjoyed the mostly downhill run to Goring on the Thames for a mandatory photo stop at the halfway point. Rather than taking 10hrs we'd managed to complete this in around 4hrs with the favourable trail conditions.

The next 20miles were cranked out on mainly asphalt back roads with the accumulated distance taking it's toll on Lee the MTBer, whereas Shaun the roadie was just getting into his stride. We ducked off the trail at Britwell Salome and found Sue curled up and pushing the z's which finally broke Lee's spirit, not helped by a recent off after misjudging a gate, so he ducked out after clocking 60miles.

Shaun was underterred (the hero) and after swapping his knobblies for slicks and slapping on his lights off he sped to hammer out the final 20miles or so. Without the MTBer in tow and now on road tyres Shaun managed to increase the average MPH and eventually arrived home, just past the official end to the ridgeway at Ivinghoe Beacon, an hour or so after dark.

Afterwards, hot baths and a few glugs of a suitably alcoholic beverage helped to ease the aching bones.

Trail Head
; Ridgeway start - s/w Avebury, 8am
Stats, Shaun; 88.5 miles, 5,754ft ascending, 11hrs 45mins
Lee; 59.7miles, 3,771ft ascending, 6hrs 46mins

Posse; Shaun (Giant XTC h/tail) Lee (Turner 5Spot)

Injuries; Fairly uneventful although at the end of Lee's stint, misjudging a transition he wiped out.

Mechanicals; Zip, not even a puncture. Hurrah.

Weather; Clear sky but slightly crisp all day.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hopton Woods - Shropshire

Spent a couple of days over at Hopton Woods at the weekend while David practiced and took part in a Downhill race there.

Hopton is a compact site mostly about the downhill course, but there are some waymarked trails and nice, if short, singletrack. It is worth getting a map before you go - contact Pearce Cycles in Ludlow who were involved with developing the trails here. Or here. Rule seems to be use the greens and ambers to work your way up and then down the reds.

The Downhill course is rideable on an XC bike - it was interesting to see all abilities on the course, some taking 'big air' and others taking the 'chicken' lines. There is probably not enough here to keep you busy for the day. However, you are not far from the Mortimer Forest and Bringwood areas, (Near Ludlow), which offer loads more riding, though local knowledge is helpful here. There are also bridleways running away from Hopton which could make an extended ride. Ludlow is also a fab place for the family to visit with loads of shops, cafes, the castle and so on. One of my favourite parts of the country.

This weekend arrived about 2 days after my 5 Spot frame arrived in the Uk and I was still putting the final touches to it on the saturday morning. It performed brilliantly over the two days, only problem I found was the seatpost chosen had too much layback and so the front wheel tended to lift on sharp climbs - since changed this and the stem and this tendancy has gone.

David felt he did well in the race, but was exhausted by all the practice runs - despite having the luxury of an uplift - he certainly looked impressive over the jumps!

More Pictures

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thule Bike Rack #9403

On our old coupe I had a roof mount bike rack which was fine as the car was low so I didn't have to raise the bikes too high. You could also still get into the boot but the bikes were exposed to the elements and not thoroughly secured. Since acquiring the jeep we initially used bike bags which kept the car clean and the bikes protected inside the vehicle so we felt like we could go for a bite to eat. The downsides were the repeated dis-assemby, re-assembly numerous times on a single trip and the fact that the rear seats had to flipped down. The bikes were also piled on top of one another which risked bending brake disc rotors and rear der hangers.

Now that the jeep has a towbar fitted we thought that we'd try a tow bar mounted bike rack which is low and easy to load/unload. It keeps the bikes out of the airstream and doesn't damage the mpg as much as a roof mounted rack. You can also keep a eye on your pride and joy as the bikes are visible in the rear view mirror, unlike a roof mounted rack. It's also easier to secure the bikes, keeps the inside of the car clean and we can still use the rear seats / boot.

At first I was a little sceptical how a tow bar mounted rack would work but in use the bikes are well secured and don't flop around at all. Another bonus is that fitting / removal is fast and easy with just a single bolt / lock. We've currently only mounted two bikes, nose to tail and we find that the saddles need to be slid out of the way to prevent chaffing with the bars / levers. I suspenct that mounting three bikes of a similar size would be a challenge.

As you can see from the pic, we opted for a Thule model which can carry upto three bikes and also came complete with all the electrics. Model = Ride On 9403. The two vertical supports work well to support the mainframes whilst the wheels are secured to the base. These supports are well padded and lie flat when not in use and make hanging it on the garage wall a doddle. Our model also had the ability to tilt back, in theory still providing access to the boot. Perhaps it's just our vehicle, but the angle of tilt is insufficient to lift the tailgate more than a couple of inches if you have a bike mounted on the "inside".

Overall, I'm mighty impressed with this option for transporting bikes especially as it was cheaper (approx £100) than a despoke roof rack and a couple of bikes racks for our coupe (£130).

Thursday, September 01, 2005

TF Tuning report

Dan goes Push'd
Intrepid reporter tries out a Fox Float R with TF Tuned Shox PUSH technology

After trying out Farq's Turner around Cannock Chase, I thought it was about time I tried to retro-fit some sort of pro-pedal damping to my Marin Rock Springs. The suggestion from Mr.F was to take a look at TF Tuned Shox near Bath, so I promptly ripped the Fox Float R out of the Marin, booked it in, packaged it up and sent it off.

The service from TFT involves them fitting what they call their PUSH technology into your existing shock housing. Provided it's in sound basic shape, they fully rebuild the unit with new seals and bushes and give it a thorough checking over (and fit the PUSH bits, of course, which I'm assuming are just some clever valving components).

The service is tailored to you - your riding style, your weight, your bike - all entered on a form which you post off with your shock. They turn it around in double-quick time and I was amazed to find it back in my hands mid-day Wednesday (after a Monday posting). It was back in the frame even quicker :)

First impressions were that it just felt like someone had put way too much pressure in it, and it was just very firm. Without any serious trails, I resorted to testing in the back garden. I reset the shock's cock ring and gently rode around, riding 'properly'. The bike felt firmer and more in control at the rear, but not uncomfortably so, hinting that the shock was doing it's work effectively - a check on the cock ring showed there was indeed plenty of travel, but it simply wasn't registering on my bum. So that's good then, I thought.

The "PUSH" effect (reduction of rider inputs) was harder to test and is more down to rider feedback. I tried some wally riding (standing up on the pedals and hammering away like a nutball) and naturally there was no chance of the shock ironing all that out; but it did feel better. The test, however, is rather pointless because I never ride like that anyway.

I did a gentle ride over flat ground versus a hard pedalling ride (staying in seat and riding properly) and there seemed very little difference in the travel used up on the shock, which would seem to be a rather unscientific way of proving that the PUSH damping was working. If not, the heavy effort would have shown more travel on the shock. Hey, I'm no John Whyte but that's the best I can come up with.

The PUSH upgrade itself costs £45 and most of the time the guys will only undertake the work as part of a full service (£75) - this I had done at the same time anyway, so the total bill came to £120. It seems a little steep but the PUSH-aspect itself is worth the money. If your shock is in perfect condition, the service wouldn't be necessary ofcourse.

All in all, money well spent if you have a bike with a non-PPD shock. Who needs Horst linkages (clearly Turner don't!). TFT's service is impeccable, quality of work is excellent and turn-around most impressive. Go on; push the boat out ....