Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Review

As another year passes and New Year resolutions are sketched out, I'm always drawn to ponder the up and downs of the past 12 months...
  • tweaked a little
  • fab wkends in Wales (CyB, Afan) - with great company !
  • learnt there's more to Cannock than just "FtD"
  • exposed to the Peaks - thanx John
  • tried new boots
  • UGI struck... more than once !
  • I finally won something
  • biggest stack - no cuts this time ;)
  • broke stuff
  • "boutique" arrival - phaw
  • blogs 1st birthday - excess of 1k hits pcm, thanx mom !
  • 44wks commuting
  • met new pals (eek, aah, eh, with not a poser in sight)
  • rode with plenty a'good mates
Although my riding has improved (a bit) it's easy to overstep my *ahem* "talents". As there's still room for improvement, '07 will see a few new targets set...hopefully I'll achieve 'em this time !

Here's wishing you all the very best for the year ahead and may all your knobblies roll with good fortune :D

Monday, December 25, 2006

Chicksands Sat 23/12/06

So I've been riding here quite a bit recently, the 4x track is simply awesome, and the dual course, the northshore, the drops, and the odd rooty run make it a real fun day out for your resident nut-bar.

We spent most of our day on the 4x track, and I'm happy to say after a brief time of loosing confidence, I've definatley got it back, winning 3 of the races!

Had an interesting time on the rooty bits too with my Larson 2.00 XC tyres...

Hit a good few drops too and got Lewis' fear of drops conquered.... Roll on the Knobblies fellas...

Merry Christmas Everyone and A Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Blog Migration

A few minutes ago I migrated the blog over to the latest version of the hosting software that Blogger have been developing since the summer, still called Blogger Beta (it's no longer beta btw).

The good news is that;
  • the blog looks the same :huh
  • most of the blog "functions" still work (I'll fix hide/reveal Comments, emoticons asap)
  • our Posts & Comments are intact
  • creating Posts/Comments is the same
  • it's faster :D
The slight downside is that you'll have a little messing around to do the next time you Post or Comment :( Your current Blogger login is no longer valid for the migrated Knobblies and you'll need a Gmail.com login and a re-issued invite t'blog. Let me have your Gmail addy's and I'll send ya's another blog invite. If you don't already have a Google mail account, let me know and I'll send you a Gmail link.

The new s/ware allows us to use our old layout (phew) but at some point in the future I might transfer the template over to the new widget style. But this'll need some deeper investigation before I'm convinced to "take the plunge".

Monday, December 04, 2006

An Inch Xtra = A Good Ride

After Farqui showed me how to built up my new rig, I was eager to see if it performed as well it looked. So after work, last Friday, I thought I'd quickly whiz around the block to check it out. After a few turns I was pleased to feel that my MotoLite rode as good if not better than the demo which convinced me this Titus was the bike for me. Before I knew, it the "block" had gotten much bigger :p Farqui called as I was halfway around the local lake and he was very surprised to hear that the gears were working beautifully - I think he's finally mastered my low-normal, "flippy" shifters, bless ;) Transferring familiar components over from my last bike helped to reduce some of the learning curve but I've still to get to know her.

We had a free morning on Saturday which we decided to spend over at Rowney Warren aka Chicksand's. I'd only ridden there once but quite like the gentle trails so thought it'd be a good venue for our first ride off road. After a new hundred metres Farqui soon set to tweaking the shox's; the front was obviously too hard and the back apparently too soft. With the shock pump holstered, the ride and balance now felt much better over the damp, slippery roots.

I didn't appreciate the mud :o and found some of the slippery sections a bit unnerving. I don't know if this was due to the lighter wheels/tyres from my Trek compared to the larger demo Conti's or simply due to the moisture.

Overall, I'm mighty impressed with my new ride and found that;
  • It's still quite sprightly compared to my ol'FuelEX - which was a major concern
  • The ride is lovely and plush
  • It feels right - an extra inch or two extra stretch really has made the world of difference
  • The Race Lite wheels / Bontrager ACX tyres combo are definitely lighter and easier to get up to speed than the heavy hoops / boots on the demo
What's next ?
  • The bars are too high - the steerer is long and the Bonty stem has a high rise
  • Shock settings need refining - we're still conservative on the rebound and compression
  • Pro Pedal on the RP23 is new to me and will needs some familiarisation
  • I want to try my new light!

Where to Ride in 2007 ?

Posse, I'm starting to pull together an '07 ride calendar and would appreciate your input on where / when to ride.

In casual conversation, peeps have thus far mentioned;
  • 7Stanes - spring
  • Betws-y-Coed / Penmachno
  • Afan / Brechfa / CwmCarn
  • Cannock
  • Chilterns
  • Peak District
  • Thetford - spring
  • Ridgeway - May-ish
Does anywhere else spring to mind ?

The thought of ravenous Scottish midges isn't appealing so I suggest that we try and hit the borders in the spring, we'll just have to wrap up :p

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Titus MotoLite build

After a week closely monitoring the online tracking, we finally received Chipmunk's package from the Red Barn. As much as I wanted to rip open the box myself, I let the dear lady explore the contents and her :D was a picture.

The teeny small ML frame is gorgeous, well engineered with some neat, practical touches such as a forward facing seat clamp slot. The mega bling, pink Chris King headset looks awesome set into the grey anodised frame. We'd already planned to transfer the majority of the components from her Trek but the fork would be too short and the seat post the wrong size for the new rig, so a few tasty xtra's were included in the shipment.

Having stripped down her Trek the day before, we quickly set about building up her new ride. All the typical initial steps went well, seat post in, clamp to work stand, test fit fork/stem/spacers, chop down steerer, mount fork/stem/bars, route brakes, fit saddle, etc.

Unfortunately, assembling the drive train brought the build to an abrupt halt as we couldn't mount the rear mech! It seems that the boozy boys in MT had neglected to include a hanger :rolleyes Half an hour of phone calls to various dealers within the UK came up with none in stock and just one shop willing to part with a hanger from one of their display models. Unfortunately this was located on the south coast, some 2.5hrs away which is time we couldn't spare being part way through renovating a bathroom :-( A suitable chastised Chad is embarrassed :blush and sending a hanger over. Meanwhile we've ordered one from Fat Tread Bikes which should arrive in a couple of days. Then the build can continue...

You'll find more pic's here and we'll upload a few more once it's daylight, the rain stops and we can get outside.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Light & Motion Arc Lion Review

After a great summer and hours of ‘Chiltern’ Mtbing my fellow Mtb riding chums decided that we should inspire ourselves to 4/5 months winter riding by exploring the thrills of night riding. To be honest, the concept was entirely new to me but I figured that it must involve a decent gadget or two so I quickly indicated my enthusiasm and started my advanced research phase.

I quickly established that I was faced with three possible solutions;

  • Halogen with ‘yellow light’ and generally heavy batteries, probably entry level product and not for a Mtb gadget/technology research freak like me.
  • Luxeon LED (Love the technology) Reliable, durable, generally light weight but questionable light output. Nevertheless very tempted!
  • HID ‘big boys light’, high performance white light, lightweight, high end product. Just the sort of thing I’d like to impress my mates with but unfortunately, over budget!
That’s when Rob and Farqui came to the rescue. A work related meeting with Rob quickly degenerated into a technology debate on all things Mtb and subsequently an offer from Farqui to help source L&M ‘big boys lights’ direct from the US. I’ll be forever grateful for the final import price of £270.00 inclusive, which was just about in budget (well close enough ish..). This equated to a saving of over £100.00 on UK retail.

I didn’t have to wait too long before the excitement levels rose and I was the proud (and extensively well researched) owner of a new set of L&M ‘big boys lights’. It was like Xmas but early and I quickly rushed home to tinker and prepare for a trial ride.

My first impression of the light assembly was how could something so small allegedly provide so much light? I tinkered some more…

The HID lamp assembly unit is approximately 50mm X 70mm in size. It’s constructed from a quality plastic moulding which houses the lamp, ballast lamp control assembly and an integral on/off function switch and LED status indicator. The power cable is moulded in and the whole unit is factory sealed. The ‘Solarc’ lamp is specified as factory replacement only. The lamp assembly is very lightweight and is provided with a universal bar mount or helmet mount. I chose to mount my lamp assembly on the handlebars as close to the stem as it would go. The assembly bracket is well designed and clamped in place within seconds.
The Lion battery pack is also functionally well designed and lighter then I expected. Just like the light assembly it utilises a quality plastic moulding (with a moulded in top tube profile) with integral lamp cable socket and alignment markings and Velcro top tube strap. Again, installation to my bike top tube was very easy.
By now all that remained in the box was the battery charger. Thanks to Farqui, the battery was already fully charged and ready to go. However, the L&M battery charger is designed to charge all L&M battery technology products and consequently will seamlessly handle both L&M Lion and NmHi battery technology. I like this concept and somehow it makes me feel like I should buy another product just to take advantage of it?! Anyway, its plug….wait 2hours…and play!

Enough said. It’s a very well designed and manufactured product but does it justify the price tag and is it as bright as folk would have you believe?

Answer: Yes, WOW, Yes!

This really is a ‘big boys light’. It has two power settings: 13W (attract UFO spotters) 3.5 hours burn time and 10W (irrelevant – I like the 13W setting!) 4.0hours burn time. My first ‘virgin’ night ride was solo for around 1.5 hours. I covered a mixture of open countryside single track and dense woodland track. I was able to maintain around 70% normal riding speed (except on downhill- scary) and thanks to this great product I loved every minute of it. Quick Summary:

Pros:
  • Great price (thanks Rob/Farqui)
  • Lightweight
  • Very bright ‘wide and spot’ light dispersal
  • Excellent functional design
  • Good battery performance and re-charge time
  • Breakaway bracket (hope I don’t need it!)
  • Versatile bar and head mounting brackets.
Cons:
  • Lamp to battery cable management. I wanted something to keep my bike looking tidy. Wrapped cable around top tube but still didn’t look quite right.
Other then that I haven’t found any other cons yet. All I’d say is that in my opinion this light is a minimum requirement for ‘dark dense woodland’ night riding. Anything less would slow you down too much. To get closer to 100% daytime speed I’m sure an additional helmet mounted light would make a big difference. I missed the loss of peripheral vision. This is most prevalent when you steer the bike around an obstacle only to completely loose sight of the trail ahead.
Think I need a new gadget! I fancy a Luxeon LED helmet mounted system to complement my L&M ARC. Maybe a Cateye twin or a Hope twin system.

Farqui, any options from the US??

Rob#2

"Extreme freeriding" at Cannock Chase 18/11/06


Just thought I'd drop a little note to say what I'd been up to this weekend....

What was only supposed to be a 4 person rider ended up being a 10 rider event!

Spent a little time on the official runs before heading off to THAT drop (the one you can see on the left as you walk up the fireroad to the top).

I'm happy to say I finally got over my fear and did it! Once death training it in with my deathtrain accomplice, Alex!

Spend most time on the unofficial stuff which is a hell of a lot better than the official stuff, before topping off the day with a UBER deathtrain with all 10 of us heading off down the Red Run at once! Possiblity for absolute carnage was extremely high!

Posse: (See Pic)
Mechanicals: None
Crashes: Matt, guy on the far left of the pic, managed to crash on THAT drop by landing with the bars turning in the wrong direction, and sliding 12feet on his head! His silence and twitching foot had us all fearing the worst!


Good days riding with lots of cake eaten.

DDave... signing off.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ML ordered

The guys over at the Red Barn confirm that Chipmunk's new ride is on route. Here's a traditional "tease" pic from MT, ain't that some schweet bling.

We'll be tracking the rig for the next few days, with the anxiety sure to build towards the end of the wk...

Some may ask "but what is it ?" - tsk, do keep up ;)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Autumn Ride, Chilterns 12th November

Well, where were you all??? A fantastic ride probably less than an hour away and, if it had not been for a few new faces, it would have been just Farqui and myself!

The ‘Killer Loop’ series in MBR magazine have always been appealing, but until, now they have generally been too far away for a casual visit. When I saw the Chilterns route I got very excited, as it was a new area for me and not that far away. A posting on STW Forum caused quite a bit of reaction, clearly this is a popular biking area with a lot of potential.

The route starts at Watlington and heads onto the Ridgeway, (Farqui tells me this is England’s oldest road and one he attempted to ride a while back.) A good gentle warm up, because very soon we were faced with a steep and long climbs, fortunately on quite a good surface. Good to get this out of the way early and everyone managed to clear this. The reward for this height gain was soon to come after a short road section we headed off onto a woodland bridleway for a long fast downhill section which could mostly be done flat out, (keeping an eye open for walkers). Although there was more mud about than when I did my ‘recce’, the trail condition was generally very good.

The next climb, although shorter, was more ‘technical’ and saw one or two of the posse pushing before the top. A little more on the road and we reached Christmas Common and into the wood for another long blast – think I had the advantage here having done it before. This one just seemed to go on and on before ducking out into open countryside. A short road climb led to a short but fast downhill, but sadly this was over too quickly and we were faced with the most challenging climb of the day – according to the magazine no one has cleared this. Maybe because of the log across the trail half way up, but for us there was the added challenge of slippy leaves. My attempt ended quickly with wheel spin. Farqui was determined to get up and did well, but was still defeated before the log (think he will be back in drier weather to try again!)

There was nothing too demanding after this, but we were treated to another fast downhill on a field side trail before heading back onto the Ridgeway.

I must say I just love this route, it's not technically challenging, apart from some of the climbs perhaps, but the surface is good and the scenery is fab. The long downhill sections are such fun and no doubt get better with familiarity. If it was a choice between Cannock and the Chilterns, both around the same journey time, it would be a tough one.

It was great to see some new faces, my nephew Jeff kept us entertained with his ‘tricks’ – a long time cyclist probably more at home at the jumps at Woburn; His partner Heidi is new to Mountain Biking, so did very well, she regularly competes in triathlon events, so has the fitness, but found off road very different. Nice also to meet Paul from Northampton who found us through Dozer.

Posse: Farqui (5 Spot); Jeff (Trek HT); Heidi (Specialized Hardrock); Paul (Carrera HT); Uphilla (5-Spot).
Route: Tracklog
Weather: Bright, but cool
Mechanicals: None
More Photos

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's that time of year again

...when the evenings are black and the trails are even more fun. It's also the time that a (now) annual order gets placed stateside for some lights (and/or bling) that'll help get us through this SAD time of year.

This year Chipmunk has expressed more of an interest in venturing out occassionally and rather than lug our ol'hefty and dim DIY SLA about the Yorkshire lass decided to splash out (a bit!). As my L&M ARC's have been so impressive we thought we'd give their halogen commuter-eqsue Solo Logic mv a try.

As you can see, the "mv" lamp is teeny compared to an "ARC" and we're pleased to report that it packs one hell of a glow. For a halogen, it's a fairly white light and the custom reflector gives a good spread of spot and flood. This lickle lamp also has a couple of snazzy features;
  • the "side lights" that should help to bring the cockpit out of the gloom
  • the bar mount shifts the lamp centrally over the stem
  • dim-able from 13w, to 10w to 6w giving 2 - 4hrs burn time
  • along with L&M's trusty "break away" bracket
The "mv" system comes with a trickle charger as standard but it appears that my smart ARC charger copes admirably with both a 7.2v Nimh and my 11.1v Lion. So we can top up both system's in around 2hrs a piece.

Thanks to Larry for supplying such a cute, diddy system for Chipmunk and another mighty ARC (to Rob's pal Rob) at such favourable prices. Oh and gawd bless the strength of the GBP !

Ride report to follow...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Chipmunk Demo's a Moto Lite

This morning Chipmunk and I whiz'd down to Leith Hill (nr Dorking) and snag'd a Titus Moto Lite demo from Nirvana Cycles in Westcott. On paper this small rig has a lower stand over and couple of extra inches in the top tube, when compared to her too compact FuelEX. So in theory it should help address her toe/wheel overlap (Chippy doesn't use spd's and the arch of her foot sits on the pedal) and help tame the Fuel's racey handling.

After a quick pressure check we set out off onto the heath and initially the ride felt a little too "bobby" but a quick flick of the RP3 tightened the ride up nicely for the asphalt climb. Venturing off road I was surprised to find the lass wafting effortlessly over a loose rocky, leaf littered trail that she'd have found a bit of a handful on her Trek. Quickly adapting to the comfortable and compliant ride, Chippy obviously began to enjoy the trail with her confidence visibly improving turn after turn.

After a brief explore at the Leith Hill tower we began our journey back on a mostly DH trail of roots, rocks, sand and mud. Much to our combined surprise she easily cleared a good 12" rooty drop without any hesitation.

The demo rig was well spec'd with some demon Magura anchors, my beloved SRAM shifters which Chippy kinda adapted to along with a Fox RLC 130 which appeared to be very plush. No pins and needles or sore buttocks were reported after the ride - which apparently came all too soon as evident by her numerous loops around the car park and having to pick her up on route back to the shop.

So at long last we appear to be have located a rig that'll suit my gal, lets see if our pal Chaybo can supply us with another import bargain ;)

Nirvana Cycles passed on a map with what looks like an interesting couple of loops in the area and if our little explore is typical of the trails, then I feel that a return visit won't be long in the wait...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dangerous Does Dusk Till Dawn and eats cake

Whilst packing and modding* uphillas mighty XC race machine, I began to think to myself; "Why the bloody hell am I entering a XC race? I race Downhill and I even hate that!".

But I'd already payed my money and Alex was coming to mine to pick me up so no chance to back out...


Saturday Morning:

Two portions of Porridge, cup of tea, pancakes and a ubersized "jug" of coffee later, and I sat around in my garage doing a final check on kit and bike to make sure everything was ready....

Alex turns up late, having me thinking, "maybe he's forgotten me and I can go back to bed?"

No such luck, he turns up at 10:45 and after meeting with the rest of the posse, we head off towards the flattest place on earth**

The journey took 1hr, 30mins, and was largely due to the Americans causing havoc on our back roads (Two big RAF air bases near by and all the yanks import their own tanks cars.)

We arrived, found a suitable lumpy patch of ground, and set up camp. I passed over the XC717 on Pro II to Alex I'd built, went for a test pedal, and my tubeless tyre blew clean off the rim! Much to the amusement of the infidels that don't believe in tubeless!!

After a fairly lengthy, faffy getting ready period, we all set off for a practice lap so we could check out the course, and gauge how long we'd have before each team member would have back at base before we'd have to meet their team member at the swap point.

It took us roughly an hour with several stops and talk of cake eating.

The Course:

Very nice, smooth flowy single track, but the up and down whoops can be a killer on your back, you can be going at these things for 10mins solid! No real downhill sections but the tight twisty singletrack made up for it. A few 90 degree corners which were great for drifting around Sam hill Style past the bemused XC boys....

Saturday Night:

The Race: We casually made our way down to the start line only to find it wasn't the start line... you had to go down the fireroad for 2mins before you got to the start line.... approaching it was like something out of some si-fi movie, all you could see was a hundred odd lights in the blackness.... really eerie!

Arriving at the start line it was good to see we weren't the only ones not taking it seriously at all, people next to us were wearing masks, somebody was wearing full body armour and some were on light DH bikes!

I can only describe the start as a slow version of a MX start, everybody all trying to get into the bottleneck of the fireroad to get the lead on everyone else before you got into the singletrack!!! Even got someone caught on my bars who tried to shove me off the course.... you picked the wrong kid to mess with brother, I was racing 4x a few weekends ago and you're small time!!!

The first section of singletrack was absolute chaos! Think the M25 is bad? Not compared to this it wasn't!

Eventually the mob started to spread out and chances opened for me to take people out and gradually I started making my way through.... didn't do to badly from starting at the back!

After the first lap I was knackered and my back had gone on protest, so I got back to the pit area and passed the baton onto my team mate and left him to go off and do his lap!

The organised take over point descended into chaos for us, no one could be arsed to wait on their own, so we waited back at the site burning stuff and consuming as much cake as we could get our hands on.

I put in 3 laps in total, my third being the quickest, knowing if I didn't get around quick, my lights would die on the last pieces of singletrack, which would have been.... painful... sure enough they cut out dead just before the finish line!!!! Thank god for my back up commuter lights and the Hope LED lamp on the helmet! Angry beats from Trivium also helped!

MY light setup:

HOPE Vision H.I.D Lamp mounted on the bars for floodlighting everything in my path

Hope Vision LED double mounted on the helmet so I can see where I'm looking

2x Cateye commuter LED's for backup.

Worked very well, and I found myself pushing just as hard as I did in the day... night riding rocks!!!!!

The Aftermath:

Boy, I have never been so tired, ever! I'm still tired today (Tuesday) it was a mission!!

Very good fun and most people are quite friendly apart from the elites, and they don't seem to mind people not entering it seriously.....

I'm going to do it again next year with a little more training though.....

I'm not sure how they measure lap times, but the average time for us all was about an hour, I think they assume that you have one person on course all the time, meh I don't know but we did take a fairly lazy approach to the whole thing!

Some Pics: Me

Groupshot in the morning

*MODS included: Formula Oro Brakes, some Easton EA50 lowrise bars, my 819 wheeset, XT HTII cranks, and X.O group

**probably


Posse:

Asshat Team (Serious): Alex (SX trail with jey wheels) Stu (Giant XTC weighing 23lbs) Chris (old Specialized Enduro)

B-tarted Team (semi serious): Phil (old ground control FSR weighing in at a colossal 23.5lbs!) Simon B (Singlespeed Jumpbike) Son of Stu on random XC hardtail.

C-atstrophe Team: Me (dad's uber xc race beast) Avi (Kona Steel hardtail).


Mechanicals: Alex forgot his skewer, Phil had a skewer that self destructed, I had a blow out riding around the camp on the front tyre but didn't happen again, Chris had an indexed headset, replaced in the field, and both me and chris had creaking links on our FSR's.

Dads forks also needed a service which I have done;). The genny blew up a light charger, 2 floodlight bulbs before it was tamed.

Friday, October 20, 2006

British Heart Foundation - Robin Hood rides

Rob recently spotted a charity ride that's close to our Notts reps and wondered if it'd interest the posse ? (We'll overlook the fact that he sent me details of the '05 ride :p)

When ? Sunday, 5th November 2006

Two rides on one day.

Robin Hood Challenge Bike Ride - A spectacular 36 mile off road challenge through the beautiful and spectacular ancient woodlands around Sherwood Forest. The route starts and finishes at Sherwood Pines Forest Park and also takes in Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park.

Robin Hood Scramble Bike Ride - Ideal for families, novices or occasional cyclists. A fun 6 mile off road scramble on a circular route that can be followed to do 6, 12, 18, 24 or 30 miles. Riders of all ages and abilities can take the opportunity to enjoy picturesque woodland.

For further information on either of these events and entry forms please call 0800 085 2280, email north@bhf.org.uk or Register For This Event Online!

Original link; British Heart Foundation - Event Finder

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Chicksands 4x day 14th October

Chicksands is a great place to hone your skills, no matter what ever type of MTB'er you consider you to be there is something to do!

There is a red graded XC route, which I've not ridden so I can't comment on it's quality.
  • Nationals 4x Course (Graded as "Severe"!)
  • Dual course that is a little old and rutted from the n00bs from dragging your brakes down it.
  • Proper Dirt Jumpers Saw teeth sets, that, unlike Woburn, there are small ones and maahooosive ones to suit all levels of Dirtjumper.
  • Freeride Area with a large network of Northshore skinnys, berms, wallrides, see saws and drops. Also a few short DH runs to hone your highspeed skills.
Riding at the weekend at peak times costs £5 if your old, £3 if your a ankle biter. Which when you consider the amount of building and maintenance goes on there, it's worth it. (you don't get charged during the week, or doing the XC course, as far as I'm aware)

The Dual Course is a lot of fun, and all the jumps are easily rollable, so it's a good introduction to racing your mates, it's really easy to build the speed up though and I certainly find myself going skywards off the jumps at the end. Not so much fun with all the Braking bumps when riding a Hardtail, but you can't beat the jumping ability that mine has on it so it's worth it.

The 4X course is always something thats eluded me the two previous times I've visted The Rowney Warren, the first time was with my long time riding buddy, Alex from Cannock, and we were both in a bit over our heads! The second time was with a bunch of near pros, so I felt useless but managed to get over my fear of being on that start ramp and looking at the face of the landing of the first double.

Me and Alex are at about the same standard, so it's always good to ride with each other because we end up pushing each other to go faster, and there over the course of the day, I was starting to match his speed on the 4x course (he had been there another four times so was pretty experienced on it) to the point where I was beating him to the bottom:D

As much as I love DH and XC, they don't quite have the potential to have the rush of riding, literally 2cm away from someone else, literally landing on top of each other, all whilst you are pedalling like buggery to win the race!

One time I remember being in the air and feeling this thing touch my elbow pad, I glanced to the left (I had my full facer on so peripheral vision was limited) and there was Alex, on my arm!!! We stayed like it until we landed with me shouting "Get on yer own bars!!!"

We got to the bottom in fits of giggles, just thinking how utterly mad it was! "That was incredible", Alex said. So we walked to the top, and did it all again!!!

I am chuffed to have managed to double up the Triple on the 4x, something I refused to do before Saturday...it's a big jump near the bottom of the track and there are several options of how to ride it: From easy to mentalist(and order of slow to fast method):

Simply braking like mad and Rolling them
Trying to "pump" them to keep your speed up but not taking off
Manualling them (hard and slow)
Doubling up from the take off to the middle hump and manualling the last one
Jumping from one side of the world to the other the whole lot (needs warp factor 7 to clear).

We saw two people clear the whole thing, but they were proper 4x racers with higher gears than me :(

A few times while I was doubling it up, I was aware that if I had just gone that bit faster I could stand a chance of clearing it, but it's just tooo scary for the moment and I'm happy enough to have gotten over the fear of doubling it up. I have this habit of going at stuff really fast when I don't have the confidence for it, so I can't not do it, and overshooting and going into the face of the last lump would have been near fatal (it'd claimed broken collar bones only the week before!), but following Alex into it soon had me flying off it!

Altogether a mint days riding, gotta say I love that Chameleon to pieces, yeah the back end is harsh, but it just rewards you for punishment like no other frame I've ridden. It also gave me a chance to check out the tuning I'd done on the forks, and it worked sooo well :D

Posse: DDave (Chameleon), Alex ('06 Specialized SX Trail II - [a 7" travel endozer])
Technicals: none

Check out the local club's website for piccys of the schweeet trails!

(PICS LATER)

Darkness

What a blast last nights ride was - my first pukka night ride since the spring. Damn it was good, all the more so as it was my 1st decent off road blat for ages.

Sneaking over to Woburn I found that I needed my lights on even before entering the woods, at something like 6pm. Bring it on...

It took a few miles to get accustomed to the blackness and those eerie shadows cast by branches / trees. I'd also forgotten just how big roots appear in the shadows and how some rises then disappear into complete darkness as you rise'n'fall / sneak left'n'right. Great fun ! I soon started to enjoy the solitude cast by a single lamp, focusing the attention.

I've never ridden one particular section in total darkness so I was quite cautious not to slither off and wreck my healin' arm. However, it was so good that I rode it twice :)

The woods felt excellent, being so quiet and calm...even the mud was a good consistency ! A few loud rustlings (by deer / squirrels / birds) soon got the pulse racing, hairs on the back of my neck standing proud, buttocks tighten and my legs spinning a little quicker :p

I can't wait for next time...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

MBR Chilterns Killer Loop

I noticed this route in MBR, (October 2006), recently and as it is not too far away I thought it might be worth giving it a try - though after recent rain I suspect it may well be quite muddy!

What do you think, currently I can do most weekends in November apart from the last one.

Also thinking of testing it out in advance one weekday if anyone else has flexibility.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

STW free download

Spotted over at the STW forums, those cheeky peeps are are offering an issue of their mag for free download, yes posse "free". Here's the extract from within an MBR related thread;

I've just set issue 29 FREE in our online shop for downloads.

That's to let anyone who has never read a copy of Singletrack have a look and also to allow anyone who has never tried a download version to have a go :-)

It will stay free for a couple of days.. Enjoy; free order

Peaks This Sunday

Words from Chris...for the weekend I’m thinking of 25 ish miles starting in Hope then taking in Shatton Moor, Pindale, Mam Tor, Jaggers Clough up to Hope brink then the Beast then round the back end of Derwent water back to Hope.

No maps required as I have done this a few times there are some ripping downs and some mother ups but all worth it with great views.

Does anyone fancy joining in ? - unfortunately Farqui and Dozer are still sidelined, but will be with ya in spirit...

PS: I'm also checking out 2 areas in Wales at the end of October one in Denbighshire and one in North Wales, blog's to follow...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Afan'd Rim

On Friday doctor Rob took delivery of my busted rear wheel from Afan and set about replacing the rim which took a substatial strike. The poor rim (DT 4.1d didn't really stand a chance while I was learning that tubeless tyres need more pressure - a soft boot on rocky terrain equal...


Unfortunately, the UST strip didn't survive my clumsy attempt at stripping off the old tyre, etc so I'm back to using tubes again :X My tame wheel builder then took a moment to study the lacing pattern before promptly choppin' out the old spokes. Gulp. After some odd four handed re-spokin' (I think I was a help rather than a hindrance :p) the bits were starting to look wheel like again. Phew. MrDexterous then set about tensioning the spokes and truing the hoop which I thought went really well.

I'm sorry Rob, but the art of lacing is still something of a mystery to me (the "rapid fire" words didn't mean much :blush) but at least his rapid spoke tightening tallied with my crude understanding of wheel truing.

Update: I managed to crank this new hoop for a few gentle miles yesterday (my 1st outing since Afan'g myself :rolleyes) and the hoop seems to be so darn well built that I didn't get hardly any of the usual musical chimes as it groans under my girth. I'll need to mend a little more before I start chucking it around in anger and really testing it - but at least my rig is now repaired.

I'd like to thank Robberty for his speedy master class and for re-assembling what appears to now be a very stout rear hoop. The beer is in the post...

Friday, October 06, 2006

AFAN AFTERTHOUGHTS

Thanks to Farqui for arranging a great weekend for us, weather, trails and company were all good.

Hope you don’t mind if I share some thoughts and observations from the weekend.

“Sicknote” said to me a couple of times, ‘I don’t know how you do it (at your age)!’ well I am not sure I have an answer, it amazed me that I was able to do that climb at ‘the Ponds’ twice in one day. After our trip to Coed y Brenin earlier this year and two days of demanding climbs my hip joint went into spasm and I could hardly walk in the days following, a visit to the doctor brought no comfort and I was told that I might have to reduce or give up the cycling :-(. I had been taking Glucosomine to help keep joints in shape, but decided to review this based a thread I spotted on STW Forum, seems like a combination of supplements work better. So I changed to these and these and although there were twinges this time there were no after-effects. I know people half my age who take similar supplements, so it is obviously not necessarily an age related problem. I have no background in sport and came to mountain biking proper in my fifties, I am fortunate to have time to go out ‘training’ around 3 times a week locally, but this is mostly road riding and relatively flat. My Garmin edge has been a useful aid in trying to improve fitness.

My personal awards for the weekend go to my 5-Spot & Fox suspension, which despite gear problems inspired confidence and felt solid. Also to my new set of tyres (Daahnhilla thought I was mad riding them brand new), these were Kenda combination recommended last year by Singletrack mag in their massive tyre test – Nevegal front, Blue groove on the back, both 2.1 in the dual tread compound version – they just gripped everything well. Also very grippy were my Shimano DX shoes on DX flat pedals – it really was like being clipped in! I know that flats are in the minority here, but both Daahnhilla and myself have tried SPD’s and gone back to flats, one less thing to worry about in my view and no discernable loss in pedal power. Also very pleased with the performance of the XT 4-pot brakes, now 4 years old and still working well on 160 rotors! The gears are another matter and defied most attempts to get them sorted, but in the end they did not stop the fun at least they worked in the bottom range for climbing.

One thought I always get after these weekends is ‘I must do this more often’, a couple of trips a year is not enough to keep my confidence and skills up. Not sure if this will happen, but if I could fit in the occasional one-day trip it might help, whole weekends away are not easy to fit in. It could be done by driving Friday evening, maybe camping B&B overnight, a couple of trails on Saturday and then home Saturday evening?? Penmachno and Marin Trail might be one trip, perhaps a bit ambitious. Also back to Afan for that July trail! Some training might help, (mentioned as a possibility at the end of our trip), and I had even thought of building a small ramp to get those jumps sorted. What do you think??

Thursday, October 05, 2006

RedBarn Jersey

It's been quiet since Afan so I guess you're all still exhausted ;) Me ? I've not turned a knobbly in some 10 days, so I'm going a teeny bit crazy. I hope some of ya have managed to get in the dirt on my behalf.

My arm is well on the mend and the strong ache that kept me awake earlier this week, has subsided. I'm hopefull that I'll be able to get astride my Afan'd rig this weekend and take a steady crank along the Grand Union. If all goes well then I should be able to start commuting from Monday.

We've now got all the bits to rebuild my rear wheel and doctor Rob will help me spanner it into shape shortly. The sooner I can get back to a tubeless boot the better - since fitting an inner tube at the start of the July trail the ride has felt 'orrible and dull. Much like fitting a solid rubber ring rather than the supple and great feel of tubeless.

Chad and Toons have done their best to keep my spirits up with the arrival of a custom summer jersey (gawd bless 'em)...
..it's just a shame that summer has passed us by :rolleyes

For all of ya that whimped out on supporting our pal in Montana, the large fits a treat :)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Post Afan Awards

Personally I had an absolute blast throughout last wkend and the smiles amongst the posse seemed to reflect my feelings.

Now I thought it'd be fun to sum up some of our antics and have some virtual awards - I'll start the knobblies rollin' with...

Posse
  • Biggest Grin; Mark - for consistent chesire cat like gurnin'
  • Darren - after the final Skyline descent
  • Biggest Air; DDave - 'nuff said
  • Most Serious Injury; Dozer - busted shoulder
  • Biggest :( ; Dozer - missing rides
  • Most Improved; Roger - gawd knows where his fitness and speed have suddenly come from
  • Most Whippet Like; Chris
  • Biggest Chuckle; Mark - trying to restart 3/4's of the way up Cwmcarn's initial ascent, too funny
  • Loudest Snoring; Mark - an outright winner
  • Dirtiest Dishes; Rob - who thought he was lord muck !
  • Most Speeding Tickets; pending
Bikes
  • Most annoying; Farqui's M4's - howlin' up Penhydd's fireroad, sorry peeps :blush
  • Most bling; Rob's Flux - 4Ti pedals and new SRAM-esque shifters :p
  • Most mechanicals; Farqui's 5Spot - which took a serious batterin', needing a rebuilt rear wheel / Uphilla's 5Spot - shifting woes
  • Most Reliable; Jenni's Cotic
  • Newest; Mark's Giant XTC
Trails
  • Best Trail; July - short loop of the Skyline with fab techy climbs and great descents
  • Best Section; Penhydd's Hidden Valley - switchbacks-r-us
  • Best Climb; Skyline/Whites initial climb - just techy and steep enough to a great climb
  • Best DH; Cwmcarn's final descent - fast and mighty furious
  • Worst Climb; July's Fireroad slog after Joyrider
  • Worst DH; Any fireroad !
Lets hear your nominations...

For any stasticians amongst us, checkout this spreadsheet which lists everyone's mileage and altitude cranked throughout the course of the wkend.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Cwm Carn Monday morning

Trail; Cwmcarn XC course

Roger had ridden the XC route the year before with Ben and as DDave had brought along his mighty DH rig we were keen to try the "freeride" routes. The normal uplift service doesn't run on Monday/Tuesday and they're now stopping Joe public uplifting themselves! Apparently some dodgy characters have been abusing the system e.g. using tow ropes to uplift their buddies. Poor DDave was seriously bum'd as reverted to plan B and a loop of the XC orientated trail.

The initial climb is a serious affair with lots of steep and very technical bits where line a good line choice is essential. We reckon that the lower section would be near on impossible to clear if it were damp as the roots and moss covered rocks were a handful in the dry. It's much more difficult than climb at the start of the Whites Level and we were all relieved to ride some fireroad over the last couple of k's!

The first couple of DH sections contained a number of jumps and table tops that kept DDave amused. Three wooden ramps allowed the only jumper amongst us to get some air and when Farqui gave the smallest a try with the smallest of air and then lost it on the following roller :rolleyes the rest of the posse sensibly sneaked around the drops.

The remainder of the route typically consisted of very fast and narrow DH's with lots of cheeky roots with the odd lower branch to keep you even more focused. The trail has lots of fabulous berms to help you rail the turns and maintain your momentum. Roger in particular was grinning from ear to ear as he began using less brake and more berm.

The end of each of these fabulous techy DH's was often followed by a gentle singletrack climb to regain a few feet but nothing too leg sapping or technical, unlike the first few km's.

Towards the end our XC route crossed the full monty DH course and the size of the berms and drops just has to be seen to be believed. We were all happy to continue down our tamer route ;)

This happened to be the last section down to the car park and has some of the fastest and most awesome berms and chutes that I've ever ridden. The trail was zipping by so fast that I was now looking 3-4 turns ahead, my rig was heaving in the compression of the berms and when I could I gently stroked the brakes a little to reign back the pace. Turn after turn, s bend after s, rock after rock all flew by. Then all hell let loose. . .it seemed that once you released the brakes you were immediately back at warp speed and I couldn't find any traction to prevent us hurtling down the mountain. The trail sneaked right and then left but my brakes had me pulling a right hand tack. No probs, there's a run off with three rocks (upright!) spaced out and if I clear them then I'll rejoin the trail. Initially I thought made the gap but in hind sight I think I glanced one with my front wheel. Which then ripped the bike out from under me and although it appeared that I'd cleared 'em. . .I was now without bike ! The next thing I recall was slamming into the dirt, HARD :O The side of the trail grabbed my left arm and shoulder, a mighty pain ripped across my chest as the rest of my body continued down the mtn. I stood up and tried to lift myself and bike out of the way but my left arm was limp and dangling at my side. "Is that my arm :huh" The posse rolled around the bend (at a more sensible speed), checked me over and figured nothing was broken. Although I was dazed I thought I'd be able to ride to the car park which was within sight but my left arm couldn't grip the bar so I wobbled clumsily down the rest of the trail whilst coming to grips with my tumble. Loading up the bikes saw some mobility return but my injured arm couldn't lift anything or press inwards (using your chest muscles) without lots of pain but I still had plenty of outward strength (using your back muscles). The drive home was a struggle with 5th gear taking some serious gurn'in to acquire. Later that evening my left bicep had become swollen, very bruised and dis-coloured.

Over the course of this fabulous wkend I've been lovin' the trails and have been hammerin down 'em on my rig so it's no surprise that my luck ran out. At least now I know my limits :D

This is a mighty trail and one that I'd love to ride again, albeit with a little more in reserve ;)

Posse; DDave (Cameleon), Farqui (5Spot), Roger (FSR), Mark (XTC)
Route; Tracklog
Weather; Overcast but sunny, warm and humid
Mechanicals; Farqui snapped his chain shortly after starting
Inuries; Roger mis-timed a series of jumps and jarred his wrist a little. Farqui had a spill after the wooden jumps - minor cuts and grazes. On the final mighty fast downhill section within yards of the car park, Farqui failed to reign back his momentum and stacked big time - slamming his shoulder and arm into the ground. Fortunately nothing was broken and movement gradually returned after coasting down. Inward strength with his left arm is now minimal and the 200mile drive home was mighty painful when selecting 5th/6th gears.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Afan Sunday afternoon

Trail; Afan Forest Park, The Wall

The man possessed aka Roger was keen to get yet another ride under his knobblies so after completing the morning ride and returning to the cabins a dedicated few decided to give The Wall a try. The Graveyard section of which finishes just around the corner from our chalet.

A lbs had indicated that much of the trail was under diversions with mucho deforestation underway and some nasty steep climbs as temporary work arounds.

Perhaps DDave or Roger can shed some light on the route and I'll update this post accordingly?

Posse; DDave (Cameleon), Roger (FSR)
Weather; Dark and overcast yet dry
Mechanicals; Farqui had planned to join in but a mighty wobbly rear wheel and a stubborn Chris King rear hub put pay to any fun as he dashed off the lbs.
Inuries; None

Afan Sunday morning

Trail; Afan Forest Park, Penhydd

Dozer, Farqui and Rob had covered this trail on Friday afternoon but didn't have any qualms repeating the ride. Most of the posse were looking for a final blat before heading back home so this relatively short and easy trail seemed to fit the bill. I'd have liked Rob to experience the July trail which he missed on his ambulance duties but we'll get him up there before too long.
The overnight rain had now made its way through the canopy and was starting to turn the trails into a mouse but no parts were too much trouble. The damp didn't seem to affect the grip on offer either although the exposed roots needed a little more care and attention.

Uphilla was looking forward to the Hidden Valley and it didn't disappoint with plenty of smiles and stories exchanged at the base of the next fireroad. Chris grumbled a little about the moisture but perhaps his rapid Michelin's weren't quite "all mountain" enough in these conditions ? He was still smiling tho ;)

The final sections were dispatched without letup and finished off a great wkends riding for most of the posse. Although a few die hards weren't done yet...

Posse; Brumster (Liquid), Chris (Inbred), Darren (Cannondale), DDave (Cameleon), Farqui (5Spot), Jenni (Cotic Soul), Les (Hardrock), Rob (Flux), Roger (FSR), Sicknote (Hardrock), Mark (XTC), Uphilla (5Spot)
Route; Tracklog
Weather; Fairly overcast but remained dry and pleasantly warm
Mechanicals; Farqui's M4's squealed from the off and although a strip and clean silenced them for a few sections they wailed their way up the fireroad - much to the annoyance of riders further up the hill ! A couple of handfuls of Welsh mud and grit thrown satisfying over the rotor kept them quiet for the rest of the wkend. Brumster collected a puncture which fortunately didn't show itself until he unloaded back at home, phew.
Inuries; None.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Afan Saturday afternoon

Trail; Glyncorrwyg Ponds, July Trail (the shortest section of the Skyline)

This trail shares the same initial 6km slog up the side of the valley as the Whites Level so we all knew what was coming. Some even found it too much and sneaked off back down to watch a local rugby match ! For me, the most excellent chilli and jacket spud were making themselves felt whilst leaning over on this climb and I was almost relieved when I had to stop and fix a puncture :p

Once the slog was dispatched the majority didn't fancy the Black section again, a wise decision as it had already sent one of us to A&E, so we continued on with the Skyline. Whilst mullin' over the trail options, the hills gave way to the sea and the twirling wind farm made a suitably picturesque backdrop.

The fireroad takes you around to a couple of sections of entertainment and after Granada it was time to take the 1st of two shortcuts that make the monster Skyline trail more manageable. The shortcut itself is quite steep and obviously has a high volume of water flowing down there when wet 'cos it's well cut up and very rocky, which Chris really enjoyed.

Now the trail gets to be really fun with Joyrider flinging you along the top, the side of the hillside, into and out of the woods. A sizeable fireroad slog follows which starts to wipe the smile off your face before tucking left into the woods for the grand finale and some of the best DH that Afan has to offer. Deadwood has some rocky drops that seem to have been sanitised since last year but they still caught Farqui out who pogo'd his way down with just one foot clipped in :rolleyes The whimpers from his quads cramping and nads flailing over the back wheel appeared to amuse the posse tho :p

The next couple of sections continue with some fabulous flowing sections which repays the brave with plenty of high velocity action, blurred vision, aching thighs, wrist and forearms. All managed to race down the switchbacks whoopin' and a hollerin'. Although we all had a blast down to the finish, Darren seemed particularly takin with these final sections and his companions driving back to the cabin with him prob'ly needed ear plugs :D

A great days riding was then enjoyed in good company around a fab communal BBQ back at the excellent accommodation.
Posse; Chris (Inbred), Darren (Cannondale), DDave (Cameleon), Farqui (5Spot), Jenni (Cotic Soul), Les (Hardrock), Roger (FSR), Sicknote (Hardrock), Mark (XTC), Uphilla (5Spot) - although Roger and Mark stalled on the initial climb and decided to sink a cool one at the bar ! Both DDave and Sicknote were extremely tired and missed the last 2-3 sections, taking the fireroad down instead.
Route; Tracklog
Weather; Overcast, bright spells, humid
Mechanicals; Farqui had his tubeless rear burp terminally on the initial climb, requiring a tube. During the ride, Darren spotted a slight wobble in my rear wheel which revealed a heavily dink'd rim so it was little surprise that the tubeless setup wouldn't re-seal.

Inuries; None

Afan Saturday morning

Trail; Glyncorrwg Ponds, White's Level

This was the first ride of the wkend where we were present and a mighty train of knobblies we made too. For those that hadn't joined us on Friday, the initial 6km slog up the side of the valley was an hell of an introduction. The singletrack climb is steady and has plenty of rocky interest to keep you mind off your aching legs and pumping lungs. Once the posse had eased a little roadie-esque air from their boots traction was restored and everyone steadily winched their way topside.

At the top, a new Black section has been added which starts with a handful of high banked berms which were fun. You then race down some double track before darting off over a good length of pleasantly wide northshore woodwork. This had plenty of bends and drops to keep you focused.
Then the trail turned rocky with a series of ups and downs one of which has almost every rider stop before deciding to ride or walk down. For the brave few the speed was welcomed into another batch of high berms and it was on the last tight and high sucker that Dozer questioned his line choice a little too late and toppled over on the tighter line. He bravely rode on and seemed to be able to ride all but the larger drops with his sore shoulder. After another section we then noticed the tops of his shoulders weren't equal and would have gotten him off the mountain had we not been at the furthest part from anywhere :rolleyes He soldered on and Rob whiz'd him to A&E where the x-ray showed that he'd separated his shoulder :O Effectively his shoulder had dropped leaving a single bone up high, yikes. His riding was over for the wkend :( but I'm relieved that he didn't appear to be suffering too much pain whilst his arm was in a sling.

The rest of the ride was pretty much all downhill over the typical Afan terrain that everyone was now getting used to.

Posse; Brumster (Liquid), Chris (Inbred), Darren (Cannondale), DDave (Cameleon), Dozer (Endozer), Drude (XTC), Farqui (5Spot), Jenni (Cotic Soul), Les (Hardrock), Rob (Flux), Roger (FSR), Sicknote (Hardrock), Mark (XTC), Uphilla (5Spot)
Route; Tracklog
Weather; Warm, sunny spells
Mechanicals; Chris' non-driveside crank bolt came out which Les somehow spotted on the trail. Unfortunetely, Chris reassembled his ISIS cranks out of alignment and couldn't get 'em apart again, doh. He was forced to retreat down the initial climb and use an extrator before whiz'g around after us. Uphilla suffered mis-shifts throughout the ride. A few punctures ?
Inuries; Dozer separated his shoulder and although he bravely rode to the end of this trail, his riding for the wkend was over, boo.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Afan Friday afternoon

Trail; Afan Forest Park, Penhydd

A few of the posse managed to take a day off work with which to travel to south Wales and hopefully arrive early enough in the day to fit in a sneaky ride before the bulk of the posse arrive. I often find that these trails take me a while to adjust my riding style and I was also keen to get Dozer out there as he hasn't experienced them before.

The drive down was unerving as we all passed through some heavy downpours that I feared might set a trend for the wkend. As it happens we were extremely lucky during our 4 days riding with the rain only appearing overnight and our riding was under cloudy yet sunny skies :thumbu. Although we'd passed through some heavy showers this trail didn't show any sign of damp so we were able to crank around without too many problems.

The Penhydd trail starts at Afan Forest park and has been badged as an ideal trail for the less experienced rider, although I think that's a little cheeky.

After a few forest sections that twist through the trees you crank your way steadily up a fireroad before darting off into the woods. This is a common theme on this route although you often get a series of juicy DH sections back to before regaining altitude again.

The Hidden Valley, is a particularly sweet section with lots of twisty technical sections and the trail often runs right up to the edge of the slope with a long drop for anyone who over runs the turn. As it was dry the turns were easily railed at a substantial pace which helped gain a little air over any following rises.

Dozer experimented with a slightly lower fork pressure and although it felt nicer on the rough stuff he now had some re-learning to do.

Sidewinder and Sheep Dip Gulley are fun to blat along and both Rob and I smoked these bits on each others heals. After which we agreed that travelling too close at such silly speeds wasn't such a great idea and was inviting disaster...even though it was great fun :p

Dozer seemed pleased after popping his Welsh cherry and we were all keen to cover plenty more miles of singletrack throughout the course of the wkend.

Posse; Dozer (Endozer), Farqui (5Spot), Rob (Flux)
Route; Tracklog
Weather; Warm, overcast
Mechanicals; none
Inuries; none

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