Sunday, April 30, 2006

Shropshire : Family Wkend

...posted on behalf of Rob...Well, where do I start! The Plume of Feathers hotel in Harley was a nice quaint pub affair, but I didn’t know that the main road was a motorcycle race track!

On the Saturday we rode over to Ironbridge on a mix of small lanes and bridleways, I thought it would be better to go for the easier stuff with kids. There wasn't too much moaning on the hills as the sun shone beautifully for us.

In Ironbridge we spotted a perfect spot by the river in the sunshine for lunch, Jayne wanted to stop, all were hungry but some confusion caused us all to follow Dozer rather than head in so we ended up in a towny bar/ restaurant which was OK. A couple of beers in the sunshine went down very nicely.

After lunch we followed the old railway along the riverside for a while then turned back up west towards the hotel. A nasty climb followed but it was on the road so not too bad. Later Sam had a very bad crash, on a steep winding hill on the road he got in the gravel at the side and he was off. I was horrified, poor lad was very knocked about and you can imagine my guilt was colossal as it was the only time all day that I’d left his side. Luckily his injuries are only superficial, his helmet protected his head, mitts worked well, his Camelbak was badly scuffed so had protected his back. Only his arms were unprotected and in future he will always wear long sleeves. Sam was an absolute hero as usual, shocked and scared at first he was straight on his feet and soon got himself together.

I was horrified to learn that Stephen had been raiding my first aid kit without telling me, I only had a couple of bits left and was lucky to get away with it so now I’m decided that I will invest in a complete new 1st aid kit and he will be banned from touching it!!

On Sunday I decided on a different approach, damn roads however quiet are just too dangerous so I planned out a route from Bridgnorth station to Bewdley following the river and railway line downriver with a return on the steam train. It was virtually all off road and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Anne-Marie had one slip and took a knock to the thigh which looked quite sore. Sam quickly relaxed off road and was soon riding really well despite his nasty injuries, I was able to relax knowing he was safer and could let him do his own thing although I still stayed close all the time.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this many stiles before, as I was riding up front and Dozer shotgun so you can imagine I was aching on Monday from all the lifting. I had to push pretty hard to get everyone over these smartly because our progress was reducing to walking pace.

The Severn Valley Railway must be the best steam train in the world, trains passed every 20-30minutes, all steam hauled, many with 8 coaches and all totally stunning. Riding alongside was thrilling apart from more insane motorbikes howling up and down local roads attempting to break the light barrier, presumably for their pleasure as it certainly brings none to anyone else. The sights and sounds of the steam trains in beautiful countryside served to impress all with the tranquillity and beauty of Shropshire. I can only assume that this place has been classified as secret and Birmingham has been designed to hide it away from prying eyes as it’s a real gem. The sounds of the countryside here are rarely broken and for those interested in industrial archaeology and history the area is rich beyond your wildest dreams!

Tracklogs of both rides can be found within the Routes section.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Chaybo road trip

It would seem that our swanky yanky pal, Chaybo, is enjoying some southern sun at the moment. The lucky blighter.

He's taking in a Utah fest of knobbly fun, with such delights as the Hurricane Rum, Goosseberry Mesa, Little Creek Mesa, etc.

Check it out over at his blog; Stone Cold Lampin, 26th April.

Friday, April 21, 2006

ICE - In Case of Emergency

Apparently eight out of ten people aren’t carrying information that would help if they were involved in an accident. Storing next-of-kin details in your mobile phone can assist the emergency services if you’re unable to tell them who to contact.

How does it work? Simply use your mobile’s contact list/phone book to store the name and number(s) of someone who should be contacted if you have an emergency – but add the letters ICE in front of their name. Emergency services should then be able to look for your ICE contact if you’re involved in an accident and have your mobile phone with you. This straight forward idea was developed by the East Anglian Ambulance Trust and is endorsed by Falklands war veteran Simon Weston plus senior police officers, ambulance services, fire chiefs and hospitals across the world.

Make sure you choose a number that’s easy to get in touch with – a home number could be useless in an emergency if the person works full time. It's recommended that you enter daytime and evening numbers where this is possible. Make sure the person whose name and number you are giving has agreed to be your ‘ICE partner’. You should also make sure your ICE partner has a list of people to contact on your behalf, such as your place of work. In addition, they’ll need to know about any medical conditions that could affect your emergency treatment, including allergies or medication. If you’re under 18, your ICE partner should be your mother, your father or an immediate member of your family authorised to make decisions on your behalf. Friends and other relatives won’t be able to make decisions for you if you’re admitted to hospital.

Storing an ICE number makes it easier for everyone if you’re involved in an accident. It only takes a few seconds, so do it today.

Taking this concept a step further ICE (founders?) are offering to log your details into their 24/7 database/call center and make the important calls for you. Alternatively, IdTagIt.Co.Uk are offering to create you a laminated ICE card that you'd slip into your wallet or rucksak.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Help, I'm Loosing It !

Peeps, help me keep my sanity (tho some might argue it's too late) 'cos I haven't been on a bike for well over a week now and I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms.

Why? - Well last week was hectic and a broken pannier rack meant that even commuting was curtailed. Then came Friday (a bank holiday) for which I had great plans of a ride over to Woburn.

However, within just half a mile I felt a slight twinge in my lower back and whilst pumping up a soft rear tyre a real nasty shot of pain surged through my body. I managed just a 2 mile loop back to the house, at which point my spine was really complaining. Rest it lad, that's all it needs - and I did...

...until Saturday when I felt much better. So much so, that I easily managed to help the Brumster decorate his living room with only a mild and dull ache felt later that evening. As I recall, I even managed a loop around the Brummy's garden on his Liquid and a few minutes chasing his pooch.

However, Sunday and Monday saw me pay for all that activity and had me hobbling around like a geriatric - with any amount of sitting generating severe spasms, ouch. Lie flat mister, lie flat - and I did.

Yesterday, I seem to be on the mend and I very nearly made a full day at the office and although the spasms are less, sitting seems to strain my lower back muscles after a few hours. Today is slightly more promising with far less of the 'rrible spasms but I'm now taking anti-inflammatory's in an effort to speed recovery. Mighty hot baths help.

So peeps, help keep me sane and please recount any bike antic's you lucky blighters have been up to...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dozers Ridge Ride

On behalf of Dozer...How'd y'all fancy a ride around the Westoning crew's local patch, just east of Woburn ? Taking in the delights of Sharpenhoe Clappers, Jeremiah's Tree, Fairy Hole, Butts Hill and sections of the John Bunyan and Icknield Way trails - basically traversing a local ridge.

Dozer's route has been planned for a few wks and since his knee (excuse #76) survived Cannock he now feels that he's able to focus on arranging a local blat :huh As you can see, I've uploaded a screenshot (3rd revision) of the route but if you have Tracklogs GPS software then you can find a copy of the proposed route, here.

Don't panic too much about the route length or the amount of climbing 'cos there will be plenty of options to bail out and few of us are convinced that we'll be able to tackle it all and still being coherent at the end :P Some of the sections can get extremely boggy and leg sapping but they should be drying out nicely at this time year.

When ? Sunday 7th May, quite early...

Posse: Brumster, DangerousDave, Darren, Dozer, Farqui, Graeham (roadie), Les, Rob, Sicknote, Uphilla

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

DDave at local woods - testing the DHX

After having put the lovely TI adorned bouncy thing on the back of my gemini, I was keen to get out and see how it performed... The ride convinced me that the DHX coil is the daddy of all "platform" rear shocks. It felt much more lively and generally more capable of dealing with what ever I threw at it. Found a new run I hadn't seen before which has got a mint table, then a long double and really sharp left hander that I got some big drift on before snapping back into line for the right hander, bang, bang, bang over the roots, hop the stump and throw the back wheel into the other stump to rebound off it to get loads of speed for the corner.... have it! I excelled myself in my dangerous ways by overshooting a table top by a good 6feet and landing on the upslope, and managing to keep enough speed to launch the gap into the bombhole....

Posse: DDave and DDave's missus.

Mechanicals: I pumped my tubeless tyre at the front to 80psi the night before to seat it properly, I forgot about this on my first run, so when I got to the top, I let some out, which promptly dumped 70 psi out of it... which made jumps, corners and getting speed up in a straight line, VERY interesting.

Also made the 5mile ride home on it HELL!

Monday, April 10, 2006

5ten Low Impact (flat pedal) shoes

The "Impact" range is under their freeride banner and are cycling specific. Those who have been out on a ride with the one and only god, Dangerous Dave (props to Brumster for that one;)), you will have noticed something making me the odd one out other than being air when I should be on rubberside down... I ride with flat pedals. (like father, like son?)

I have ridden with SPD's on occasion, and up until riding with these shoes, fully appreciated the benefits of them, but there is no way I am going to be riding Downhill clipped in!
I ride with Shimano DX pedals which in my experience of numerous flat pedals offer the best grip of any flat pedal, but I was still finding my feet bouncing about on rocky descents, and a couple of times I've come into the finishing field of a DH race doing an involuntary no-footer! 10points for style, but 10points for a brown pants moment too!
These have been hotly discussed and recommended by a lot of other riders about and I got these as a birthday present from my grandpa.
I can safely say that they've killed any chance of me ever riding in clips again... They grip like the proverbial to a blanket, and I've not slipped a pedal once that wasn't my fault.

They feature 5tens proprietary "Stealth Rubber" on the sole, which is very tacky, to say the least. Often I find myself having to peel my feet off my pedal! The sole has a spotty pattern, which kinda looks like octopus suckers, and really do a great job of fitting in around the pins on any pedal. It's also just the right amount of stiffness to pedal well, and give good support to your foot.

Other great features like the tongue being attached to the side of the shoe to aid stability and the carbon support for the back of your foot finish it off.
All stitching and stuff is top notch, as you'd expect from a market leader in making durable shoes for the demanding world of climbing....

Cons: No cleat fixing.... sorry is that a disadvantage or ruining the point of this shoe?:) An investment worth making if you don't really like riding clipped in but don't like the insecure feeling of slipping off flat pedals.

Fox DHX 5.0 Coil

FOX DHX 5.0 Coil verses Manipoo 6way Coil

A few years ago, rear shock choice wouldn't have been much of a big deal, you'd just be happy with whatever the frame came with, and assume that was probably the best and not really worry about it. And it was probably a FOX too. At the moment, just about every frame manufacturer offers you a choice of rear shock, and it all can get a bit baffling, as it's easy to spend a lot of time and effort looking at shiney forks with spangly knobs on, but's all to easy to forget that little air can or spring that's hidden under a mass of cnc'ing and linkages..... So I thought I'd post a review about my new rear shock for my rock munchin' Gemini DH frame....

Even though the Manitou had more adjustments, I prefer the method of adjustments on the Fox, as they were all done easily by turning big dials (all clearly colour coded :- blue for compression/preload adjustments red for rebound) and a 4mm allen key for that big bottom out adjuster around the air valve.

RIDING THE NEW DHX: After having a brief bounce on it to get preload just about right, and set rebound to what I think felt ok, I was off down badby (my local woods which has a few short DH runs) to get a feel for it and set it up how I like.

I fiddled with pro pedal and added a bit of bottom out just cos I will prob need it for bigger courses. I wound the propedal off for Badby but it's pretty sweet I can just dial it up for more pedally courses if I really want, rather than having to get out the shock pump and stick a load of air in.

It's also nice to be able to make the bottom out adjustment with just a 4mm allen key not having to hope someone has a 16mm socket. (By the way, anybody with a Manitou Fork/Shock with SPV who has the air valve, then a red hex shaped bit, then another one that is the top cap, the red bit is your bottom out adjuster, worth playing with if you intend on getting any kind of air).

Further testing here.

VERDICT: The DHX is a massive improvement on the Manitou 6way, and from all reports is a reliable unit. Gets the thumbs up from me. It's
also available in an air platform too, for those who watch the grams, but with a TI spring, the coil is very, very light at only 1.1lbs, compared to the 2.4lbs of the Manitou with a steel spring.

The 6way is a highly adjustable shock but let down by poor reliability and fiddly adjustments.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cannock Revealed

Yesterday some of the Knobblies posse met up at Cannock Chase where a few new faces could be matched to Blogger id's :p The initial plan was to hit Follow the Dog and then use DangerousDave's fair knowledge of the area for an explore. However, at the eleventh hour Mick (a local) stepped in and offered to show us noobies around and what a fine job he did. Thanx to Rob and Les for a slightly later than planned start some of us managed to scoff down an early bacon and egg sarny B)

Mick started us off on the FtD trail and then turned us north over to a huge sandpit for a few minutes fun speeding down the drops and some of us xc boys even managed to get some air, albeit unplanned ! We then meandered north towards the cafe in Moulton for a breather and some top nosh, before cranking our way back to finish of the last few sections of FtD. With Mick's help we managed to continue the fun outside the waymarked areas and link in some lovely new sections (to us) of singletrack to the north which definitely help to make this a much more interesting venue. The roaming deer we occassionally glimpsed helped entertain the more eagle eyed amongst us. Even the weather didn't manage to dampen our sprits although towards the end some of the posse were feeling the climbs more than others. All in all, a top ride with some top banter - cheers fella's. Pics here.

Posse: Brumster, DangerousDave, Darren, Dozer, Farqui, Les, Mick, Rob

Weather: started off sunny and not too cold considering the sprinkling of snow on the ground. However, at the cafe stop the heavens opened and doused us all. We manged to miss most of the first down downpour tucking into fry ups and lemon pies but we got pelted with hail stones on the last leg back to the Birches car park.

Mechanicals: Farqui's new Mono M4 pads wailed almost continually for the first half of the ride but the rain and grit helped to wear down the pads to provide some much needed peace and quiet, sorry guys :blush Les manged to perfectly time his 1st puncture to the cafe stop but we thought he'd gotten lost on the very last section when he'd actually managed to acquire another.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

DDave does Rugby Skate park and learns how to drop and air a half pipe...

I've been dabbling in the black art that is riding on non muddy things a few times now and I'm getting hooked, certainly seems to improve my DH riding.....

Tonight I ventured off to Rugby to play on the concrete with my BMX :o mates and learnt how to "drop in" to the ramp, and how to get out of it too.... was really cool.... just thought you'd like an update on my dangerous antics....

So thats,
Vert ramp
Wall riding (yes, actually riding at a wall and jumping up it and riding across and jumping off it!)
Now I can actually ride off the top of the ramp into it, and back out again (with style baby) rather than just roll inside it......


Have to say I prefer the wooden ramps at Epc skate park, less scary! But was a great night anyway.

Bring on Cannock......

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

GARMIN EDGE 305 - Bike Specific GPS

It is thanks to Farqui and Rob that earlier this year I started to think that a GPS device might well be useful. Initially I picked up a basic Etrex, which seemed fine, though it was clearly designed to be hand held rather than mounted on a bike and is perhaps showing its age.

In using the Extrex I realised that, although it did much of what I wanted, the newly released 'Edge' offered more for the kind of cycling I do and would certainly get more use. So UGI set in very early, in fact almost instantaneously!

The 'Edge' is a brand new GPS device designed specifically for Cycling, it is primarily a training device and, apart from its price, this may steer some away from it. I chose the 305 version with Heart monitor as I thought this might bring some sense to my solo midweek riding which is aimed at keeping my fitness up.

The main thing that strikes you about the 'Edge' is its size, it looks tiny next to the Etrex. In the package you get two bike mounts that will adapt to fit out of the way on the stem, a big plus in my book - less likely to get damaged in a crash. You also get a USB cable, Charger and Garmin Training Centre Software. The device also uses a new chipset for picking up satellite signals that is certainly more effective in difficult areas such as under tree cover.

Expensive Bike Computer?? Well yes, I suppose, but it has made my solo cycling so much more interesting. It works like this: when I set off for a ride I press 'Start' and it records my journey precisely in terms of speed, distance, altitude, (The 305 has a barometric altimeter), Heart rate etc. When you get back and plug it into the PC it automatically transfers this data, (history), to the Garmin Software and you can then convert the route into a 'Course' and save it back onto the 'Edge'. The USB link also charges the internal battery while you do this. Next time you ride the route you can use the saved 'course' and compare with your previous trip. This is obviously a simplistic explanation, for the serious athlete there is much, much more that can be done in terms of workouts, zones, alarms, (useful if a bit worrying at C-y-B that an alarm told me I was exceeding my maximum recommended heart rate on some of the climbs!!) and so on - it all gets very complex and at this point I start to glaze over. Overall I have found the 'Interface' easy navigate, even on the move, also easy to read.

The above may seem a bit OTT for a GPS device, but of course it is also possible to save your 'courses' into Tracklogs mapping software and similarly upload routes to the 'Edge' and follow them as with other GPS devices. You can also mark points on your route for later use and to help you find your way back. The thing it will not do is to tell you your location in terms of grid reference or longitude/latitude, but it will tell you distance and bearing from a marked location, which may be as useful.

Drawbacks?? The Internal Battery will not give the life of rechargeables and there is always a concern about the life decreasing with age. I have found it fine for a day's riding, which is as much as I need. Price, you can pick them up online for around £190 (srp £245 ish), but this is expensive and it may well be too much for some. However, if you are not worried about the HRM you can go for the almost identical 205 which you can pick up for £135 ish, and when you take into account the included bike mounts, cable and charger it starts to look like very good value I suspect that the 'Edge' is an early stage in the development of multi-purpose GPS devices and it will not be long before we see more and cheaper units suited to cyclist.

Now that I have got the hang of it I am really excited about the possibilities. I am already planning to visit some areas where I have never really found my way and think that I will be able to make real headway in building up some useable routes.

Amazing bit of kit in my IMHO!

More info here, buy here ?

P.S. I ought to mention that I did have some problems with the software on the original unit I bought, but Garmin have offered pretty good service and replaced it with a new unit. There has been one software update so far and I suspect there will be others

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

DDave does Cannock XC with the Fiancee

It'd been a while since I'd taken my Fiancee out for a proper ride, so it was good to get out and stretch her legs....

I'd done a route with the local DH team, (raveracing) and it was soo good I was eager to get around and do it again, especially with FtD becoming an 7-8mile bog.

I'd tried to retrace my steps a month or so before and got hopelessly lost, after starting at Marquis drive, we managed to end up in Stafford - near enough! Just one missed turn and we were done for! However, this time my dad (uphilla) very kindly donated his Edge 305 (which is an excellent piece of kit, by the way, I know what the fuss about GPS on a bike is about now) so we were safe from straying too far from the path!

Fortunately, I managed to remember the turning this time, no wonder i missed it last time, it was across a grassy patch to the left of the fireroad!

The riding was awesome, with only a few patches that were boggy as hell, and even a few little jumps! :-p The route is about 9m long, and covers a broad spectrum of technical singletrack, flowing singletrack, and some silly loose peebly chutes and can be done as part of FtD if you want to start at Birches Valley....or easily done from the Marquis drive visitors centre (plenty of parking). Definitely a route worth checking out.

Cheers peeps ;) (pictures can be found here)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Raw no more ?

Over the wkend the internet rumour mill reported that Raw Experience have ceased trading which'd be a tremendous blow anyone with has bits from Manitou, CrankBros, Berghauss, etc.

More info at; BikeBiz, Singletrack and BikeMagic.