Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Thetford - Bomb Holes & Singletrack!!

I was glad when Dozer suggested a ride at Thetford as I had heard some good reports.

It was by coincidence that I had contact with a local guy, Nick (Tubbs on STW), who initially gave some useful updates on the local conditions and then agreed to guide us.

One big bonus of his guidance that would please the Yorkshire men amongst us was that he suggested parking at Brandon Country Park rather than the forest centre and promptly saved us a fiver per car! Another local and STW gal, Caroline (Caro) from Ipswich, also joined us.

The journey over from Northampton was quicker than expected at around 1½ hours. Brandon was heaving with cyclists when I arrived – apparently it was some sort of training day for the Thetford Winter series – even so, I have never seen so many MTB’s in one place before.

The morning ride took as around the area of the way-marked trails, but on sections that were dry and not affected by fallen trees and debris from the high winds of the previous week. (Nick had kindly done a recce during the week). We also took in a couple of the bomb holes that Thetford is famous for, nothing too extreme, but fun. On the first Dozer came to grief when he hit a muddy patch in the bottom and grabbed a tree. Caro promised us she would be slow and she did not disappoint, which was handy giving the rest of us time to get our breath back. It was a mixture of fire roads and singletrack, nothing very steep, but constant peddling needed.

After about 8 miles we headed for the Forest centre CafĂ© for a lunch stop – once again heaving with MTBs – some that would be more at home on downhill courses. Caro left us at this point and Nick headed us for the ‘private’ area used for Dusk ‘til Dawn and past signs warning of shooting taking place. Quite a bit of fire road cranking, but then some long twisty sections of single-track with berms, (apparently built by our motorised cousins). I really enjoyed these sections, though it was not natural territory for Dozer and Sicknote did a spectacular dismount coming out of one section when his rear wheel hit a slippy root. The only downside was riding across the seemingly endless furrows, I couldn't quite work out how to tackle these. Nick’s local knowledge gave him a big edge here and he was soon out of sight – I had fun chasing him at one point and could just about stay with him. We found another bomb hole – this time with a small lip built into the exit to give some air – Les managed this well the first time then lost it on attempt number two, ending in a heap on the ground.

Total run was around 20 miles and toward the end the legs were very tired. As Dozer said – there was no coasting here, you were always cranking away. If you know the area this is a good winter outing as there was very little mud on the trails we rode. The mystery of the day was the fact that Nick and his bike were as clean and shiny at the end of the ride as at the start, obviously he knows the right lines to take, nice bloke too!

There was some talk of getting teams together for the Dusk ‘til dawn race later this year :o ...time to start training??

Posse: Dozer - Specialized Enduro; Sicknote - Specialized HT; Les - Specialized HT; Nick - Cove Handjob; Caroline - Specialized HT; Uphilla - Turner 5Spot.

Weather: Cool and dry :thumbu

Crashes: Dozer skidded on a mud patch at the bottom of a a bomb hole; Sicknote "dismounted" after hitting a tree root; Les - wiped-out after tackling jump out of Bomb Hole; Caroline - too many to mention ;-)

Mechanicals; None

Tracklog; Here

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Magura Louise BAT's

Although I love the bling offered by my Hope's Mono M4's, they've consistently proved to be a royal pain in the butt cheeks. I've been hammerin' these puppy's for almost two years now and a second winter has finally driven me to look for alternatives. From the start they've needed accurate alignment to overcome squeal and every few months there after, more tlc to overcome drag (lazy pistons). The worst of it has been the lack of bite when it turns damp, particularly out back. It's not all been bad though 'cos when they're on form they give a lovely lever feel with oodles of modulation.

But where should I look for a replacement ?
  • Help was on hand sooner than expected as the Magura Louise stoppers on Chipmunk's recent test ride supplied some mighty stopping power for minimal effort which confirmed my thoughts that I ought to look for some replacements. Plenty of good reviews have been written about these long evolved units and fellow Turner riders even praise 'em in the near constant gloop of Alaska.
  • Being a fan of SRAM and Rockshox I initially thought that the svelt Avid Juicy's would be suitable but some research suggested that they were noisy in the wet :( They are however fitted to lots of bikes, get good review, look the business and are light so I wasn't ruling them out.
  • Hope have recently revamped their entire range from levers right through to calliper's , which tells me something. Although they're British and still "look" trick I'm very reluctant to drop any hard earned their way.
  • Shimano haulers often get praised amongst the posse. They come in numerous flavours providing plenty of choice but...they're not SRAM ;-)
  • Hayes get reliable reviews and although I've only tried 'em once they were more than adequate. A little heavy perhaps, but at this stage I'd take a few extra g's over hours of fiddlin.
A couple of emails to our pals in Montana, who like Mag's, convinced me that the German stoppers would be a good choice. Oh and their brilliant prices helped clinch a deal ;-) A couple of weeks later and Chipmunk collected Chad's package on the last leg of it's long journey.

I've spent the evening swapping Hope's for Magura's and;
  • the two piston callipers are a sinch to align, with no more fussin' around freeing up different sized pistons, bliss.
  • the VentiRotors are meaty beasts in comparison to their Hope counterparts (checkout the 3d centers) which has gotta bode well for keeping 'em straight and true - which they are (unlike others I could mention).

  • the teeny domed Torx rotor bolts aren't "cheese-like".
  • the master cylinders still look quirky but I don't care if they work.
  • although the adaptors aren't the most aesthetically appealing, their post mounts make tweaking quick and easy. Manitou has used this system for years and I'm glad to say that setting up the rear is now as easy as the front.
  • both hoses were the same length (read "loooong") which means the front has loads-a-surplus until I get around to choppin' it down. However, it does mean that I can ride without having to shorten/lengthen 'em. Not to mention testing 'em "unmolested" - as per factory set-up.
  • as I lifted 'em out of their box I suddenly remembered that our Yankie pals ride with their levers opposite to ours :O Fortunately, the long hoses mean that I can fit 'em UK style without needing to swap ends.
  • the levers don't employ a split clamp mount which means wrestling off the grips again :X
  • the calliper banjo's probably need switching at some point to get better cable runs. This shouldn't be a major headache as both hoses need "processing" - front shortening and the rear still needs running through the 5Spot "taco" (minus calliper).
  • oh yeah, the carbon bits look trick :-D

I'll report back after a couple of rides, bedding 'em in and the like before I bleet about their performance. In the meantime I suggest you browse the Magura website 'cos they even list stopping distances, something I've not seen any other manufacturer do.

So here's hoping that that BAT's don't follow in the wheel tracks of my M4's and squeal their way up any Welsh hillsides causing fellow riders to yell obscenities from several hundred feet above ;)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Inbred in Westoning

Following an uncharacteristic dip into the wallet, Darren recently succumbed to a sale over at the on-line manufacturer come retailer On One. The bargain-tastic rig was a snip and has many a hardcore "steel is real" following.

...posted on behalf of Darren...My bike arrived today, despite warnings of delays due to staff shortages the peeps got is dispatched promptly.

I threw all the instructions away as us men are meant to do, and fetched me hammer. Before very long, two cups of tea, the bike was out of the box and I was already swearing at the fact that there are no instructions without bean stains on them.

Tell me why on the picture the in-bred man is facing forward on the official pictures yet is backwards on my bike?

To set the sag, I've taken the precaution of not weighing myself but simply guessed my weight in the 150-175lbs category and whilst it's a bit bouncy I feel good at having fitted into a weight category that I haven't seen since the second year juniors !

I have only one complaint which I will be taking up with Planet X and that is the plastic bag in which they supplied a broken bottle of touch up paint which had a small rip in it. So when William (small ankle biter) sat in the box to test drive his new space ship he came out blue'r than he went in :-O

I've put the bike through it's paces and ridden hard around the close and I would have done more but my slipper fell off, a car came and ran over it ;-)

I'm looking forward to going out and giving it a proper go, roll on Sheffield !

The picture is testimony that I knew which wheel was which and that the one with the silver spikes goes at the back.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Thetford Sunday 28th Jan ?

So who’s up for Thetford on Sunday 28th Jan?

Get there/start time 10-10:30
There are a couple of short loops with some fun sections, even though it is flat! Thought we could do the red (not sure if the red is the same as the dusk til dawn) and black;

Dusk 'Til Dawn route ? 9.2 miles


Black 10.8 miles

Directions on how to get there on the same page;

There is a small charge for parking, but they provide you with a couple of local maps and the trails are way marked.

So far looks like some of the FNC boys + Uphilla (and nephew).

PS Farqui is not allowed to do Thetford if he is doing 7 Stanes! J (I’ll look forward to the abuse Monday for that comment)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

7Stanes Wkend

Why ? In their annual awards, the IMBA has once again acknowledged the Scottish trails. This time as "Global Superstars", awarding 'em A+. The Scot's also beat Wales in last years awards and as we all love Afan, etc it seems logical that we ought to experiment with some north of the border action.

Where ? Scottish borders, north west of Carlisle. There are 5 juicy trail centres, with their own mix of trails, that are less than 60 miles apart (Newton Stewart -> Thornhill). Compared to 155 miles between Afan in south Wales and Betws-y-Coed in the north. Details of the 7 "stones" trail centres can be found at the Scottish Forestry Commission website.

When ? Weekend of May 11th thru 14th, although you may attend on any day ;-) I figure that another long wkend (Friday through Monday) is best for most considering the "slightly" long travel times/distance - for some of us at least. Chipmunk & I intend to be in the area for a week, now Friday to Friday (not Weds-Weds as initially plan'd due to accom restrictions). As for the travel, it ain't as bad as some might think as it's mostly autobahn- here's some comparison mileages for's ya;
  • Dalbeattie; is 316 miles from Westoning, or 202 miles, Westoning -> Afan
  • Dalbeattie; is 227 miles from Mansfield , or 204 miles, Mansfield -> Afan
Who ? If you'd like to ride such legends as "The Slab", "Spooky Wood", "Jabberwocky" or "Britney Spears" :-O then feel free to join us. Clicky here for a list of who's game for some quality northern exposure (accommodation and provisional ride list to follow).

Waymarks ? At the moment we're truly spoilt for a choice of routes as each centre has numerous listed. I'm not proposing to take in every trail at every centre (that'd be madness) probably choosing from the 5 most eastern venues. Unlike Wales, these routes all appear to have decent grading system akin to skiing (pic), so it should be fairly easy to decide what to ride. Whilst I dig up more trail info, have a butchers at some fab vids, checkout Categories, Scotland (in the sidebar) and hear what "Toons" (our local rep) has recently commented; I’ve ridden the following 7 Stanes;
  • Glentress Black - first one I ever did and was blown away, very good
  • AE Red - I loved AE, big berms, table tops, has long sections of fire road but the end is quality
  • Mabie Red - its ok, short and not that much fun
  • Dalbeattie Red - it’s getting better all the time and it’s got some fun sections
  • Kirroughtree Red\Black - this has to be the best man made trail in the UK with loads and loads of single track that just keeps on going. bloody brilliant
  • Newcastleton Red - not very long and probs only worth it, if you’re in the area\passing
Toons also has details and rides of these northern trails listed over at his blog.

SheCycles has just published a list of additions/amendments to all the 7 Stanes trails and also provides an insight to each. It looks like they've been busy oop north. You'll find the official FC trail work list here.

Who's game ? At the moment we have; Baggy, Darren, DDave, Farq's, Rob, Roger, Toons and Uphilla. Chipmunk will also be around and we'll most likely ride a few of the tamer trails before/after the main bulk of the posse pass thru...I don't want to scare my honey with all your pant'in & grunt'in !

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hey Jack

As one year rolls out another rolls in and we've been turning the knobblies to celebrate. Oh and we're also trying to undo the Xmas excess acquired all too easily with great friends over good food and copious drinks.

Chipmunk has been keen to crank out a few more miles on her new rig and her confidence is building puddle after puddle. So much so that she very nearly ran over me as I pulled over to wait for her to negotiate a particularly dodgy looking pool. Only to look back and find her head down, ploughing on through before yelling "don't stop now"!

On New Years day I ventured out solo and figured I'd explore the of north MK as I'd not been up there for a while. As I cleared the metropolis I had a good view from the grand union over the flood plains below to see that the river was brimming. Swooping back from Castlethorpe has you running parallel with the railway and my track had turned into a sluggish silvery river rather than a fast gravel descent.

Hacking back under one of Isambard Brunel's bridges I was confronted with a *ahem* slightly flooded underpass that I figured "didn't look too deep" *big mistake*. Into the murky waters I cranked, getting slower and slower as the level rose higher and higher until... I STALLED ! Fortunately I didn't choose this moment to lie down but the water was easily over my now oh so chilly knees. My tootsies were soon so cold and gawd damn wet that I had to remove my booties and wring out my footwear once clear of the torrent.

Other than the high water, the weather was fine and it was good to see plenty of peeps out and about either walking their pooches or grumbling at their ankle biters who were trying to enjoy a new rig recently delivered by the guy in the red jacket.

The final memory from the first ride of the year was the sight of a frisky Jack Russell humping a mooring line. What a guy...