Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toons and Co at Kielder

Follow the linky thing for an update from our northern chums - including vid's :thumbu

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Coed Llandegla Chapters 2 and 3 (Sat and Mon)

Anna and I enjoyed the trails so much last time that we decided it was worth going again, in what we hoped would be dryer conditions...

Saturday: We set off pretty early but still got bogged down in the Bank Holiday crowd (whoops - forgot about that). Got to about JCT 14 of the M6, and thought, "SHIT! HAVE I SHUT THE FRONT DOOR?" No amount of racking my brains and trying to remember convinced me I had, and I started to panic, and feel pretty sick... our house is at the end of a terrace and the wall is usually infested with "chav's"... wouldn't be too long till one of them noticed an open door. What if my DH bike was stolen... Did I lock the inside door? Would they be able to get into the rest of the house and raid it/hurt our cats? It seemed like an eternity later when we managed to get to JCT 15 to pull off and turn round – everyone we called was busy or unavailable to check, and we couldn’t carry on… charged back home at 1XXmph practically all the way to find it wasn’t open, but DOUBLE LOCKED! A waste of a day and £35. At least we finished the day off with a nice Barbie!

Monday:
We decided to give it another go – we were both looking forward to it and determined to ride there again!

This time, we opted for the black run; I remember there being much more on there, but still not to the point that Anna wouldn’t be able to ride it.
It starts of in the same place in the red, and after a few descents on the red, it branches off and is effectively a large diversion that then rejoins the red at the end. The black consists of more north shore, more table tops, and steeper/tighter berms. Had a lot of “blind drops” between trees: you’d come up to them not being able to see the landing on the other side, how high or anything, but most were rollable, with just a gently sloping down ramp that would keep you on the ground if you’re not in the mood for collecting more air miles.






I had one sketchy moment; got really into a trail and started charging down at full speed, came round a corner and couldn’t quite make the next (lefthand) one, but I saw tyre marks going up onto the bank on the right… “Great, a runoff, go up here”. So I followed this random bit on the side, and then realised the trail was kinda dropping away from me while this “diversion” was remaining at the same level: not good. I could see ahead where I’d rejoin the trail and it looked like there was a run off back onto the trail…. Nope! Just as I approached I realised there was a 4ft drop, and a 3ft wide hole… CRAP. Not what I’d bargined for, and I really wasn’t up for having my first crash in SPD’s…. so I put in a pedal stroke (all I had time for) and hoofed off it hoping I’d clear it.

BANG, SQUISH!

Tyres possibly bottomed out and I certainly felt my wheels/tyres flex under the load, but it was surprisingly a smooth landing, and no doubt my feet stayed on because of the SPD’s…

After that I felt pretty much invincible and just ripped the rest up.

At this point I must congratulate my poor suffereing wife who did really, really well… she rode everything but the steepest berms and the northshore, riding over those blind drops and coping very well with the longer distance. I thought the trail was a lot easier and smoother, perhaps because when I rode the black last time, it was on the Gemini?

All in all a great day, and once again loving the place – well worth a visit if you just want good flowing trails, that will occasionally scare you when you get more air than you bargained for!

MORE PICTURES OF THE RIDE CAN BE FOUND HERE






Posse: Anna (Chameleon) Dangerous (Chameleon)
Weather: Perfect! Not too hot, dry and sunny!
Mechanicals: Anna had some issues with the front mech dropping the chain, but was quickly tweaked.
After thoughts: Anna did very, very well. I need to work on jumping and cornering in SPD’s still. A trip to the secret trails in Badby is in order, I think!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dalby Forest - Red Trail
















A necessary trip to Yorkshire to collect my boy from his holiday last week gave an excuse to fit in a ride at Dalby Forest.

Dalby has had some major funding recently and now has a great range of trails for all abilities including the 23 mile red with optional black sections. Singletraction and Pace have been involved.

Originally I had hoped to link up with Toons, but work prevented him making the trip South on Friday afternoon.

Good old STW forum provided some useful local advice and I opted to start from the main car park near the new Visitor centre, (there is also a bike shop/hire and second CafĂ© there). The ‘official’ start of Black, red and green trails is at Dixon’s Hollow a bit further North on the Forest Drive.

There is a £7 Toll to enter the Forest, bit of a shock to the system – I had been pointed to a free option outside the forest, but as it was the first visit I was slightly worried about extra time this would add to the ride.

Out of the car park there is an easy switchback climb up to join the red trail where it was straight into a series of log steps and drops before climbing back up on some tight single-track. The natural surface here is quite different to anything else I have come across with quite a bit of sand in places and within a couple of miles I had reason to give thanks my flat pedals again as my front wheel dug in after a small hump and I was thrown over the bars!

The first few miles threw up all sorts of challenges, some man-made rock causeways like Dalbeattie, some tight switchback drops. In places the white sand made the trail looked like there was a ground frost.

Before too long I reached Dixon’s Hollow and the Pace Bike Park – this is a bit of a play ground/skills area with drops and jumps, (maybe a 4x course). I took the chance to stop and watch those honing their jumping skills and adjust my tyre pressures.

If I had started at Dixon’s Hollow I would probably have been disappointed, the ‘proper’ start of the Red was fun enough and then there was a challenging drop into a narrow valley, but after that if you chose red over black it was mostly fire road, (I had made a choice to avoid Black as I was riding solo). Then the route effectively joins the Green route for a number of miles, (See map), maybe a welcome break for some and I guess necessary to join what are effectively 2 areas. I was glad to see signs for red again, but my heart dropped when I saw that this trail was closed and so back onto fire road for a while longer.

The next bit of proper red I hit was an man made narrow ridge through the trees, fun to ride fast I guess, but then it got a whole lot more interesting with some great tight single-track, sharp drop and one fast bermed downhill with a series of fast step downs which got even this ground hog airborne! The long grind on the Green was now forgotten as everything got much more interesting, faster, tighter and jumpy! The climbs are never that hard here, the granny ring was not needed.

Legs were getting tired by this stage, 23 miles is probably the longest single ride I have done on this kind of terrain and the signs to the visitor centre were welcome – great that even this exit is a challenging series of fast berms and a final set of steps to drop.

In all it took just 3 hours riding time. I would thoroughly recommend it if you can get up that way, (it took me around 3 hours driving from Long Buckby, 170 miles) – the great thing about Dalby is the variety of trails to suit all abilities and there is enough other stuff locally to entertain those who do not want to ride. Not as challenging as Wales or Scotland perhaps, but some brilliant single-track.

5-Spot performed brilliantly, got me through some very tricky stuff that my head told me was not possible. Gears worked perfectly again – had shortened the chain before the trip. Getting used to and love the new XTR shifters. Weather was also perfect for once.

Tracklog available here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wet potatoes at Coed Y Brenin

Sorry, perhaps I should say SPuDs?

Alex, my best pal and riding buddy emailed me last week out of the blue asking if I wanted to do Coed Y Brenin at the weekend... my response? "HELL YEAH!" Decided on Sunday due to me working on Saturday and the famous balloon festival in the afternoon.
I arrived at Alex's a little later than intended, but after a quick cuppa and and avoiding the mad puppy he has, we set off down the M54 and headed for (wet) Wales.

For some reason the conversation turned to SPD's, and using them for XC... I've used them a few times before and never been 100% convinced... some how he managed to convince me to try them again, and serious misgivings and a likelyhood of pain, we set of into the murk.

Riding conditions were excellent as always in Wales, the trails were damp in places but mostly dry, and had a reasonable amount of grip (apart from that cross camber root section leading to the Cafe half way round) and I quickly found myself loving the evil SPD's... My flat pedals and 5Ten shoes are quite awesome, but I always find pedalling over rough stuff hard work, you really have to work to stop your feet getting bounced off - not a problem when I don't pedal - but if you wanna go faster, you gotta spin! Now with the SPD's, I found I could charge through a section and then be pedalling out of it much sooner, and much quicker!
Corners were odd at first but I soon learnt to embrace the feeling of it.
Only thing I'm still not 100% on is wet roots in SPD's, but that will come with time.

We rode The Beast, and this was a lot of fun, having us whooping, whiping and pinging off everything we could, and having one hell of a laugh.

Unfortunatley it all went a bit wrong...
Alex's Crank Bros Mallets failed, and the pedal body decided to give a bit more "float" than he'd bargined for, about 5cm of it, to be exact. It only got worse and eventually fell off, still attached to the shoe. We pressed on up to the descent to the Cafe, but it was no good, it fell off every few seconds and despite a desperate bodge with gaffa tape (with help from the cafe) we agreed we should bail and get the spare pedals and see if we can do the last few sections... unfortunatley the route that the Cafe directed us on had more than the 1/2 mile climb they quoted, a lovely road slog for a couple of miles that finished me... my saddle hurt my ass in ways that I hope never to experience (THAT IS GETTING CHANGED), so we called it a day and glumly headed home. (Following the special bus, driven by a special driver, at 20mph for 30mins! Grr!)
We had a great time and and I enjoyed the technical madness, though they have "sanitised" parts of the trail, which is a shame because some of the old "dangerous ba*****" sections have been cut off, but the replacements are fun enough, even if they don't carry the same feeling of iminent death!

All in all a great day and some amusing moments on the trail and during the journey!
I am now converted to SPUDism, and expect to see me attached to some Shimano M647 DX pedals... however, only for XC.
Still can't persuade me that they are better for DH when Sam Hill made up 2 seconds on a 14second section, the most pedally part of the course, on flats.

Posse: Me (Dangerous on trusty Chammer), Alex on SX Trail in "Jey" mode
Mechanicals: Alex's non-drive pedal developed float and eventually fell off, cutting the ride short
Trail: Loopy as ever, with some sanitisation, still a lot of fun!
Conditions: Wet in England, mostly dry in Wales (eh?)

(Wet Potatoes? I used SPDs and it was a wet day, and my shoes got splashed a couple of times)

STOLEN - Endozer & Co !

Dozer has just informed me that his big beast "Endozer" has been stolen whilst camping near Wrexham :x :( :x

The underhand scum not only made off with his bouncer but mrsDozer's h/tail and one of their kids rigs. All secured together and to a tree at the back of their tent, the devious swine.

So keep your eye's peeled for;
  • Endozer - standard Specialized Enduro Expert, 2005, blue, either 19/21", Fox 36, 5th Element, Shimano drivetrain and XT stopper with a whoppin 205mm front rotor, booted with Bontrager ACX's.
  • Specialized Hardrock, medium?, Manitou Black, cable disc's, Specialized BG2 saddle.
  • Recently purchased Giant XTC, circa 2006, 21".
PS: The poor lad hadn't even managed to get a ride in at a Coed Llandegla - one of the reason's they took their steeds :thumbd

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Woburn Wetness

Last night three tough, intrepid (aka daft) members of the posse met up at Woburn for an evenings fun and frolic's. The rain had been fairly constant during the afternoon and even though the skies were brightening the moisture continued to fall.

Uphilla and Farqui cycled from CMK but as usual Rob still hasn't perfected his time machine and met us cowering for cover at the church atop the Bow Brickhill road climb.

Edging our way into the woods we found the trails surprisingly fast and fortunately not too damp. A typical route through the fun bits ensued and we even spotted a few other crazy bikers cranking off into the distance. It wasn't long before the sand soon made itself known amidst our now crunchin' drivetrain's and scrubbin' brakes.

Coming into the jump arena, at the end of the steep x-camber drop, Rob hesitated on the subsequent jump and dismounted on the wrong side, falling down an 8ft drop. Once he'd extracted himself from the brambles (ouch) he'd only suffered a few scrapes and bruises.

As Uphilla wrestled with a reluctant drivetrain we managed to get separated up the "singing wheel" but soon re-grouped after a call on the mobely. By now the light was fading and the over grown and soggy undergrowth made some sections un-rideable without loosing an eye.

Uphilla and I managed a fairly well formation descent of "lights out" (Danesborough hill) as only one of us had sufficient candle power. Whilst waiting at the road we began to wonder if Rob had made it down in one piece but soon popped out of the woods bemoaning his stoppers or acute lack thereof. Leaving Rob to winch his way up to Dennis we headed back towards the trailhead.

Thankfully the rain wasn't too heavy but after 3hrs we were starting to go wrinkly and the dry ride back dried us out a little. A hot shower was very welcome and even better was the steaming beef stew dinner Chipmunk had on the boil, well done luv.

Sorry, no pic's and the tracklog is one we're all familiar with.

Posse; Farqui (5Spot), Rob (Flux), Uphilla(FSR)
Weather; Wetter than is sensible for a ride :p
Mechanicals; Rob's lack of brake material somehow seemed to slow him down !

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Tracklogs V3.12.02


Don't be fooled, it's not the same as the 3.12 beta version and the update checker in beta 3.12 will not spot that it's 3.12.02.


Get it from




Which looks like above, use the msi file, I think it's quicker especially if you have several installations.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Millbrook

Yesterday evening a few of the posse hooked up and knobbled an XC route that straddled the UK's #1 autobahn. The weather was darn near perfect for our chosen summers evening blat and our knobblies were soon searching for dirt.

Dozer's guided tour of the Greensands Ridge has us negotiate the hard packed boundary's of many a freshly ploughed field. XC was the name of this eve's game and the mix of bridleways, roads, fields, damp river bottoms and woodland didn't disappoint.

Arriving at Millbrook opened up the DH possibilities which soon had the flies wedged between my teeth and eye's watering (I forgot my shades). Steep descents and heavy braking into tight turns had the grin widen, contributing to the protein intake.

With the sun receding our early(ish) start was justified as we rolled back to Dozer's at dusk.

Thanx to all for a great ride.

During the ride all pondered Uphilla's new purchase, a Gravity Dropper and I was slightly sad it wasn't used and that the rider didn't demonstrate he awesome riding trickx ;)

Posse; Dozer (Endozer), Farq's (5Spot), Les (Spesh h/tail), Uphilla (5Spot)
Mechanicals; Les - puncture

Monday, August 06, 2007

Specialized Sport Mtn '02 vs '07

A few years after getting into cycling I made the jump to SPD's and my first pair of compatible cycling shoes were the 2002 Specialized Sport Mountain's - pictured below. At the time they were categorised as a summer shoe (more on this later) and and have proved to be very durable. Since their purchase, they've been used almost daily (for both commuting & recreational rides), although my acquisition of winter boots has undoubtedly extended their lifespan. As you can see, only the left heal shows any significant sign of wear - which has otta be down to my poor tensioning of the adjusters than anything else. The patented body geometry insoles felt odd at first but I definitely notice a difference when first donning my Shimano winter booties as the cold days start to close in. Overall, I've been very impressed and although they're close to a full on race shoe I can still walk (ok, hobble) round in 'em fairly well.

2005 model

As my '05's were looking sorry for themselves Chipmunk recently treated me to a brand spankin' new pair of the latest Sport Mtn's. As you can see, they now come with an additional tensioning strap which makes for a more secure and comfortable fit. Gone is the swede (effect) outer, replaced with a more hard wearing finish. But the most significant change is the increased ventilation, now my tootsies are nicely cooled. Back to back tests, confirm that the older shoe is no where near as efficient in this regard. Other than a few reflective strips little else has been changed which hopefully means that I'll get plenty of comfortable miles out of these too.

2007 model

Now with x3 pairs of cycling shoes they're getting close to out numbering my *ahem* normal shoes, confirming my true "bike bore" status :p

PS: Whilst at 7Stanes, I noticed that Chekov had a comparable pair that he also seemed pleased with.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Dr Jekyll and Mr Ride

At the beginning of 2006 I stripped out my Jekyll of all it's bling and built a Turner Flux. I have since collected together the bits required to rebuild it as a free rider. I was looking for a relaxed downhiller to complement rather than replace my light and quick XC bike that really doesn't like the rough tough downhilling of Afan.

The two significant changes to the frame were to rebuild the rear pivot point and remove the archaic headshock (reused in a Cannondale hardtail). I used an Ison adapter to enable fitting a Rockshox Revelation.

Other bits include;
  • XTR Mechs and Cassette
  • XT Shifters and H2 Crankset modified with Enduro Fork Seals bb bearings
  • Sram 991 chain
  • Hope XC/ Mavic 317 wheelset
  • Hope M4 180/180
  • Bonty AC-X Gumbi
The result....the "phoenix" Jekyll has an adjustable rear shock position, in standard trim that allows the head angle to be wound back to 69deg but has the unfortunate consequence of reducing ground clearance. The Revelation fork is 130mm and raises the ground clearance again and further pushing the head angle back. This is how I've set it up.

Single Pivot versus 4point Horst Link....well, this is about as good as single pivot gets, drive is very direct resulting in the bike feeling very quick, it does lift off the ground more and it does feel like the bike bends in the middle but it's well controlled so long as the rear shock is set up right. It's very light, the bare frame significantly lighter than an already anorexic Turner Flux.

The Jekyll climbs ok although feeling somewhat cumbersome it's a little difficult to keep on the narrow at low speed but the front wheel stays on the ground even on the steep stuff in bottom gear, it does not have that ability to put the wheels inch perfect on the track as the Flux does but all that sacrifice is rewarded when the terrain turns back down. It inspires confidence feeling strong and capable, the fork works brilliantly laid back like this, always maintaining grip and able to soak up bumps and holes that would have seen me going headfirst on the old headshock.

So it's turned out to be a fine bike in it's own right, rudely quick, relaxed and capable, not quite a proper freerider but at about 27lbs who can complain. It's a perfect complement to my newly rebuilt (or at least will be when Hope finally deliver the bits) Turner Flux, but that's another blog.

Lilley

A glorious summer Sunday ride today, tracks rock hard or knee deep in mud.

Riders;
Dozer Endozer
Grrrm Squeaking Hardrock
Rob#1 Jekyll

Dave and Grrm rode over to Lilley, then three of us headed up the baulk and around Little Offley. Met some rather unintelligent horse riders who were unwilling to let us pass causing their horses to become very stressed. Fortunately the horses managed to hold it together despite their dumb riders and all was well once we got ahead. Horses of course, love to follow bikes as many of them are first hacked out behind a bike when they're young.

I managed to resist the urge to hack off Dave's leg and beat him to death with it, his bike creaking and cracking loudly. A quick look revealed a loose crank although the BB is clearly not well. Later on Grrrms fork joined in with the chorus, he quickly shut it up with some oil, presumably in case I hacked Dave's leg off and beat him to death with it!!

Climbing out of Barton springs saw Dave's chain let go, clumsily I made rather a pig's ear of repairing it.

I headed back off to Lilley after a superb run down the "straight down" Dave and Grrrrm heading back off to Westoning. My rather laid back Jekyll felt very capable down the straight, tracking a strong line and inspiring confidence not unlike the Dozer.

Mechanicals;
Endozer, Loose crank, grumbling BB and broken chain
Grrrm, Squeaking fork

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