Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Recovery Drink

As most of you are aware, I commute approximately 50miles a week and also like to experience some more entertaining mileage off road :p My regular, twice daily hack has been a great help acquiring a base level of fitness but the downside is that by the end of the week my legs really struggle to crank. I usually start to feel heavy, tired legs around Thursday and some Fridays can take a real effort to haul my lardy commuter back home :x I initially thought that my body would adapt to the mileage but after several years without a car, it appears not :(

Diet; I've tried to ensure that I was chowing plenty of fish (protein) and pasta/spuds (carbs) but these "regular" foods just don't seem to provide any benefit. I still had plenty of energy so figured that my diet was ok, but my thighs still ached. Having a regular (mundane) and repetitive routine means that I can try altering something and see what happens over the subsequent weeks. I've even backed off charging into/back from work which helped a little.

Recovery? During a dull moment, I decided to "Google" and after digesting (no pun intended) a number of sport journals they seemed to suggest that perhaps I wasn't giving myself sufficient opportunity to recover. I typically sleep 7-8hrs a night and perhaps I should try to get a a little more but you know what it's like when you get into a good book, magazine, movie, etc. I figured that "recovery" might be the key 'cos if I'm out of the saddle for a wkend, I often feel fully recharged for that dreaded Monday morning blat into the office. Anyhow, I checked out the High5 Protein recovery drink that a few MTB'ers appeared to rate over on the STW forum. - which appeared to offer a more level headed approach rather than biased marketing blurb.

Hijacked from the High5 website; "Exercise initially weakens the body, depleting energy stores and damaging muscle & connective tissue. Recovery is a re-building process, where your body is re-fuelled and damage to muscle & connective tissue is repaired, making it stronger in the process (adaptation). Improvements in fitness are not made during exercise, but during recovery. Maximising Recovery is crucial to reaching and maintaining the highest level of fitness."

I've been sceptical about energy drinks since my gut doesn't seem to be able to process them and any taken during excercise typically give me cramps :( However, this recovery mix is taken after excercise and at the end of a particularly heavy legged wk I was encouraged to place an order.

Tasty? The mixture doesn't look very appealing but the "berry" mix tastes pretty good, even when stirred into water. I was also relieved to discover that there's also no bitter after taste or nasty sweetness. Their other flavours appear to require a milk base but I figured water based meant that I could better control the dreaded calorie intake.

Does it work? After a few wks dutifully glug'g the mix after my MTB rides, I think it's safe to say that I'm now experiencing hardly any thigh ache :) Sure I know that I rode hard or far the night before but nothing like before. I even managed a ballastic evening training ride last wk, tearing minutes off my previous best and tens of minutes off my last, lack lustre ride over the same course - without any aches or pains. After the mega climbing experience of the recent Peaks, my legs weren't at all wobbly on Monday mornings commute :thumbu

I suppose it's possible that my current "feel good" factor could be purely down to something else but I'll keep ya posted over the coming wks...

Forest of Dean Enduro

STW have just flagged another charity ride, this time in the Forest of Dean.

This annual event is taking place on Sunday 10th September and raising funds for the Bristol Cancer help centre.

Two routes are available; 15 miles for novices over mainly disused railway tracks, or a circular route around some of the best terrain available within the forest - approx 35 miles.

Checkout the official website and for further details and registration.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Photo Contest Prize - Piximate

A few wks ago, I uploaded a few arty riding pic's to and surprise, surprise we won a prize :o

The parcel arrived yesterday, all the way from Colorado, and it's Argentinian tea...4 different packs of the stuff :huh

Since loosing my appetite for milk, I've not been a great tea drinker but this Piximate stuff is that "healthy, detox" malarkey that doesn't require any white. So last night we gave it a try and it didn't take long for Chipmunk to turn up her snout. I've never rated "flavoured" beverages but much to my surprise, I didn't think it was that bad. We've two more different flavours to try tonight. I'll bring some along to Afan and the posse can decide if the "zip without the zap" or "wallop of wellness" works for them.

I'd like to offer a big thanx to YourMTB and Piximate for yesterdays surprise arrival and we'll see if their products catch on over this side of the pond.

PS: I never thought that Daahnhilla was so photogenic ! :p

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ride the Roman Challenge Route, 8th Oct

I've just clocked this thread over at STW - in summary it's a charity ride based just south of Northampton at Hackleton with a focus on raising funds for a local village.

Two rides are available, an 8mile novice route (around Salcey forest?) and a more demanding 30mile off road hack around the local area.

Further details and registration information can be sought at the home page, Ride the Roman Challenge.

Ok you'll have to stump up a few bob but they are throwing in a buffet (ploughmans) cakes and a some form of "finishers pack".

I suspect that the longer route will be a similar ride to Uphilla's enjoyable local trails, amongst gently rolling countryside. Salcey forest has recenty been refurbished and would make a great afternoon out for any non-cycling peeps with it's "suspended" forest walk - above the tree tops at it's highest point!

This should be an ideal opportunity to gain some local knowledge and hook up with some like minded *ahem* "enthusiasts".

Woburn Permit Renewal

Yup, it's the time of year when the Greensands Trust are wanting renewals for the Aspley Wood cycle permits. Permits are valid from Sept thru Sept.

For the first time in 5yrs they've increased the annual subscription by £1 to £11 per person (£22 family). This increase now covers a £5m public liability insurance and would you believe it "litter collection", particularly at the jump area - please don't litter.

As some of you may know, the Jump area was recently under threat of closure by the land owners (Woburn estate) who were disturbed by the number of new holes being dug for jumps and the removal of warning signs around the perimiter. The threat of closure appears to have halted any further vandalism and long may it continue.

Anyone who only occassionally rides here, can still acquire a day pass for £2-3.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Tubeless ACX's

A few wks ago I decided to try converting my hoops to tubeless (clicky here) not least because I was curious to see what all the hype was about. Reportedly tubeless boots offer;

  • Lower pressure = better grip
  • Zero pinch punctures - not that I've ever had one mounted on a fully
  • Lighter = easier pedalling
  • Puncture resistance - not that I get as many as the Westoning posse
But I also;
  • Wanted more robust tyres for Afan
  • Had a couple of rim conversion kits lying - DT's own (Eclipse system)
  • Already have tubeless compatible tyres
Being the cautious type I initially set about converting just the front wheel, which in hind sight was a good choice given the number of problems I initially experienced...

The first step required the removal of the current boot (Racing Ralph), the tube and rim tape followed by a quick wipe to clean up the rim.

Now carefully and evenly apply a length of double sided sticky tape (supplied) onto the rim and firm into position. Slice out a hole for the valve and securing the natty tubeless valve betwix the new tubeless rim strip and the rim - starting off bout#1 of the wrestling match. It's quite a challenge to get the slightly elasticated rim strip installed inside the rim, not least because it's tight, the double sided tape conspires to irritate and the blasted strip always wants to twist :x Holding a section off the rim and inserting a small bar/shank of a screwdriver allowed me to correctly align the strip, un-twist and acquire an even pressure all around.

There's no need for a tube ;) so it was straight on with the tubeless tyre, a Bontrager ACX. I already knew that these boots were a tight fit on my DT4.1d rims and my fingers were soon aching with the strain. A few more minutes with the tyre levers...and it snaps! into position, phew.

A couple squirts with the trackpump had the tyre pop into a decent position on the rim but air seemed to be gushing out somewhere. It appeared that my old tyre had taken a number of punctures...but I figured that the tubeless sealant would take care of them, right? So I popped out the valve innerd's, added 40ml of the Bontrager specific Super Juice sealant, replaced the valve and whack'd 50psi back in. Before franctically spinning the wheel and hearing the leaks stop, a little...

Over the next few days I gradually managed to get the tyre to hold at least some air overnight by shaking violently and leaving the wheel on it each side(s) to help the juice find all the tiny holes in the semi porous sidewalls (perculiar to Bonty's tyres and part of the reason why they're so light). A couple of short test rides seemed to be ok but for the relatively low pressures (approx 15psi = dodgy steering!) and having the tyre sealant ocassionally pi$$ all over you before it seals up again, was an...interesting experience.

At this point it became obvious that the old tyre needed patching (yes, just like typically tube) but the number of damp patches on the very thin sidewalls prompted me to acquire a new set of boots. At certain points you could almost see the tyre carcass which was surely a bad thing.

When a new pair of boots arrived I was intreagued to find that the same supplier of the same initial order had this time sent boots that were quite different.

They didn't have the Gumbi dual compound logo (but seem as soft), were heavier by approx 150g ea (around the same as a lightweight tube) but more importantly they had much thicker sidewalls. Not only that but I was relieved to find that these are sooo much easier to install and can be easily "fingered" into place :p

I was so impressed with the replacement and how effortlessly it kept air that I decided to convert the rear wheel at the same time. This was slightly risky as I'd tried installing this second tubeless rim stip on the front, when it had snapped!!! However, my trusty two part, glue absolutely anything adhesive seemed to be holding up well after thoroughly curing for a while. I managed to wrestle the strip into position, un-twist and even out the pressure without the repaired join parting company. The rear installation was so speedy and trouble free compared to the first, but then isn't that always the case once you've learned a few tricks.

Before a visit to the Peaks I figured I'd best test the new installation and iron out any wrinkles. Not wanting to upset the seal rim I decided to leave both hoops at 50psi - which is waaay more than my usual 30/40psi fr/re. At first it felt odd to be back on treaded boots again (the RRalphs are very nearly slicks) and even though they were hard, they rode ok - on hard pack. However, once I got off road I bounced off every root around Woburn :x "I hate hard tyres". I resisted the temptation and completed the ride, checked 'em the next morning and they were still rock solid :thumbu

In the Peaks, I was glad that I'd eased the pressure down to more manageable levels when we started riding the incredibly gnarly, rocky terrain. If I'd have left them hard then they'd certainly have ping'd me off every rock and I'd probably have a bunch of bruises to show for it.

As I was previously riding with mighty rapid Racing Ralphs, I can't say that they're lighter or spin up to speed any quicker. However had I already been using these ACX's with tubes and then converted them I'm sure that I'd be able to feel then accelerate quicker.

The conversion is relatively painless provided you ensure that your tyres are in good shape. Sealing time can be greatly improved by not just spinning the wheel but shaking it side to side, all the way around and leaving them on their sides seems to help too.

In use, I've found that these tubeless boots feel kinda odd and quite different to using tubes, - almost although you're running too little pressure. But a quick look at a weighted tyre doesn't show them to be soggy. I wonder if this "floated" feeling is due to the lack of support and additional rubber that using an inner tube offers? Don't get me wrong, they're not bad and steering is still ok. They just feel different. Perhaps I can run these tubeless boots a bit harder than I'm used to with tubes?

They handle rocky terrain extremely well, you can almost feel the tyre deform and mould to those odd shaped rocks that are resolutely trying to dump you on your butt :p

Monday, August 21, 2006

Jacobs Ladder (DH)

Yesterday a number of the Knobblies crew headed over to the Peak District for an assault on the knarly, rocky terrain that symbolises the region. Three locals had graciously offered to show us their "patch" and once prep'd our "pet" guides started crankin' out from Edale on a gentle road section towards a misty Chapel Gate...

From the valley floor, none of the ridges/peaks were visible so we had little idea how long the climbs would last. Nor were we prepared for just how technical, riding up "baby head" rock strewn trails would be and how much strength they sapped.

Consequently the 1.5mile Chapel Gate grind was a long, arduous assent with mucho portage of the machines that were designed to carry us! Although the locals rode with gusto and cleared many a tough section, even they succumbed to a foot slog which improved the morale of this wobbly legged visitor.

Our tough opener was rewarded with an initially cautious, jarring and rocky 2.5mile descent. The unfamiliar visitors initally seeked out the smoothest "lines" but soon relented as our guides effortlessly skimmed over the loose rocks'n'boulders off into the mist. I took their lead and ducked into the rock strewn gully, gave my 11 inch fully it's head and clung on after 'em ;) It had my eyes balls working overtime and my poor ol'5Spot was getting a right pounding.

This continued around the back of mount Famine, both up and downhill with plenty of lapses in concentration causing numerous near misses. Fortunately mrNixon was ably taking the full brunt of this onslaught. After a particularly long section of full bounce, the RP3 on my 5Spot was pogo'g which I initially put down to low psi. A quick check indicated the psi was fine but a few more pounds per were added to prevent any bottoming. After a brief smoothish section the boing, boing stopped so I assume that the oil had overheated - loosing the rebound control (x1 click from max!). Credit the locals tho, who were mostly on hard tails and rode like demons :o

The next three miles were a relatively steady and slightly less technical slog up the back side of Jacobs Ladder, gulp. I say "relatively" as I think I actually managed to clear one ! As the altitude was re-gained, the mist grew thicker and at the summit (marked with the ancient Edale Cross) the wind increased to a fairly unpleasant degree. So with saddles lowered and warnings of big drops issued we plunged into the gloop to began our descent back towards Edale.

With hindsight I ought to have been a little more cautious at the top, but speed is your friend right? Anyhow, I kinda baulked halfway though a serious of drops that mysteriously had me pogo out of my spd's and stop dead with my saddle thrusting up into my belly. Fortunately, no harm was done and everyone slithered down as best they could.

The remaining sections of the descent (there's plenty of 'em) needed 100% focus, sufficient speed (but not too much) and an ability to hang on whilst the bike bucks around underneath you. Trust was high on the list but I'd already disconnected my brain at the summit so I just piled on regardless :p

The boulders and stones just don't stop coming and it seems relentless over it's mile. The drainage channels were often "protected" with vertical, jagged edged, wet rocks that sloped diagonally across your path. So little hops and re-positioning kept making demands on bulging forearms and aching legs.

At the bottom you can clearly see that the walkers are taken up the Ladder on a winding staircase which gave us free reign of the rocky route down the same slope. As the riders re-grouped there were plenty of smiles and some finger flexing to get the blooding flowing again. The last few miles were cranked partially on the Penine Way and then onto asphalt back down towards a beer keenly glug'g back in Edale, at the Rambler

Before setting out we'd decided to tackle Jacobs Ladder as a DH, to which I am eternally grateful as it's one of the best, technical and most rewarding I've ever done :)

Although the mileage isn't huge, this ride should not be underestimated and I'd love to try it again - preferrably when the weather is more pleasant ! Then the only question left is "should we ride it the otherway around?"...

I'd like to offer many thanx to our "tame" Peakonians for putting aside a few hours to show complete stangers their sweet trails, especially considering the less than favourable weather. They more than welcome to join us on a compartively flat blat around my Woburn, although I suspect a more fitting ride would be around Cannock or Afan.

A Tracklogs file of the route can be found here.

Posse; John (FSR M4), Dave/Doug (D.Hinde h/tails), Rob (Flux), Roger (FSR XC), Farqui (5Spot)

Trailhead; Edale train station/overflow car park (£3-£5 per day)

Weather; Mild at approx 15C, light to moderate breeze with drizzle throughout 75% of the ride broken up with the occassional down pour and odd patch of broken cloud. But the sun shone brightly once we'd finished!

Mechanicals;John suffered a bent mech hanger and shortly thereafter a busted chain. Roger somehow managed to scrabble down Jacobs Ladder with just a front brake - the Peak sand taking its toll on a relatively new set of pads.

Offs; Most had a shimmy, a slither, and the odd "dab". Roger encountered around half a dozen "horizontal moments" - most down to using his new spd's. Rob fancied creating an alternative route to the bottom of Jacobs Ladder and dramatically busted an ancient stone wall in the process. Whilst trying to clip-in uphill, Farqui's tired legs acquired a dose of cba and failed to prevent a subsequent sideways "splat" on a slippery downslope. Farq's also failed to crank up a miserably small slope, stalled, neglected to brake and "reversed" into a perplexed Rob who appeared to be chompin' on mrF's mudguard! I think our locals escaped unscathed but the low cloud/mist/rain coupled with their tip-top fitness mostly hid them from view!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

External Bearing BB's Dissected

If anyone is running either a Shimano Hollowtech or RaceFace X-Type bottom bracket then an article, which has just been brought to my attention, is well worth a read.

It compares the construction of the two systems, talks a great deal of sense and is a fine follow up to an earlier post re: alternative replacement outboard bearings.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Drivetrain Overhaul

With around 6wks left to our big Afan wkend, I figured it was time to get down to some serious spannerin' and fettle/overhaul my ride. As the chain was also getting past it's best, now seemed like a logical time to replace my entire drivetrain. Changing the gear now should also mean that I'll have some time to iron out any glitches and bed-in all the new bits.

So my ride time last wkend wasn't spent steamin' out on the trails :( but skimmin' flesh off me'knuckles within the cool garage.

Drivetrain replacement's; were 100% like for like, but not thru the lack of trying ;)
  • Chainrings (XT) - to overcome my dreaded Cannock induced, wet weather, granny ring climb chain suck. Although it's only a matter of time before it occur elsehwere and in all weathers.
  • Cassette (XT) - I did try and order a SRAM X0 (PG_990) cassette which unfortuntely wasn't in stock and I didn't like the number of loose rings on the X9 (PG-980) I received. With their tendancy to chew up alloy freehub carriers.
  • Chain (PG-971) - cleaned and then lubed with Chad's recommendation; T9 Boeshield. Hopefully it's better than Finish Line XC which washes off far too easily for my liking.
  • Rear Mech (X9) - after checking that the hanger was straight.
  • Shifters (X9) - I'd hoped that Chad might have some early 2007 units available, but alas no :rolleyes
  • Cables - Jagwire sealed jobbies replaced with a dose Teflon lube added for good measure.
Service items;
  • RP3 - I typically clean and regrease the air can every 6 months and this was the first time that I've ever had a grubby'un.
  • Freewheel (Chris King) - now using lighter/approved Teflon lube (Tri-Flow), which'll hopefully prevent drag experienced whilst back pedalling with subsequent cassette/chain de-railment.
A test ride had the drive train quieten down after a few miles with the shifters feeling slightly faster and defo lighter with new Teflon lined cables. I'm defo getting the hang of setting up this SRAM gear too, 'cos the cable tension didn't even need a tweak. A quick post ride check highlighted that the rear hub needed a little more pre-load, which was easily nipped up.

Tyres; Pleased with the results thus far, I was spurred on to change my summer-esque Racing Ralphs boots for my all mountain Bonty ACX's. But with a twist..:huh...this time I was going to ditch the tubes and go tubeless for the 1st time. So I set about;
  • removing the RRalphs - easy, 'cos they're not tubeless
  • stripping off the old rim tape
Cracking open a DT conversion kit then required the fitting of;
  • double sided tape - fiddly and time consuming
  • rim strip - a right wrestin' match with the elastic and rim parting company many times !
  • Bonty ACX - down right painful ! - these are absolute buggers to get onto my DT 4.1 rims and not a job I'd been looking forward to.
Seating the bead and pumping up the tyre with a track pump revealed a flaw in my approach...I should have used a new tyre ! This used boot appeared to have it's fair share of cuts and holes that now needed patching. So off the blighter came so that I could apply some tubeless patches. However, once into the Hutchinson repair kit it became clear that only 1-4mm holes needed patches and that some adhesive would suffice on my "bleeders" ! :x So, wrestle the tyre back on I did...eventually and with aching knuckles !

Adding 60ml of Bonty Super Juice was a simple task thru the clever removeable presta valve - which has gotta be easier than leaving a section of the tyre unhooked, as per many DIY kits. Adding 40psi revealed that the adhesive had silenced many of the leaks (phew) and the juice seemed to be taking care of the rest. A few slow turns of the wheel, at different angles, meant checking it again in the morning...where it had lost lots of air ! According to the instructions, this isn't unusual and I'll report back with an update shortly.

Oh gawd, I've still got the rear wheel to convert ! :o I'm not sure that my pinky's can take much more and my tyre levers are also looking "tired" ;-)

Friday, August 04, 2006

PSA: Gallery To Go

From the 7th August the our gallery host will be no more so be aware that some of the post pic's, smiley's, sidebar links, etc will be broken :o

Why ? Our pal Brumster is looking to change his "host'r" but between us we'll see if we can't dream up a suitable alternative.

In the meantime, I'll try and review/amend the more recent posts but don't expect me to trawl back through all 170-ish ! Yes, we really have posted that much since Dec'05 :thumbu