All 49 entries tagged Cycling

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June 28, 2006

I fought the log…

… the log won. It turns out that trying to ride the log bridge at Cannock in the damp, on a rigid bike with semi–slick tyres at 55psi, is not a good idea. It was going OK until the little drop in the middle; the front wheel bounced onto the edge of the log and from that point there was no chance of a recovery.

I have an excellent selection of bruises and grazes including, but not limited to, L wrist/forearm, R elbow, chin, chest, and L. thigh. Ow Ow Ow.

Stupid bloody singlespeed.

April 02, 2006

Nant yr Arian trip report

Spring is finally upon is, so Steve and I decided to start the mountain-biking season with a trip to somewhere new.

Nant yr Arian is another one of the Welsh MTB centres, about 10 miles inshore from Aberystwyth. It shares its start point with a Red Kite feeding centre, so whilst I faffed around trying to re-assemble my bike, we watched a pair of kites circling only a few metres overhead.

We chose (or rather, I chose, and didn't tell Steve :-) ) to do the longer of the three available trails; the 35 KM Syfydrin trail. It started with the traditional fireroad climb, followed by a twisty singletrack section on loose slate – interesting on the corners. After another short fire-road, though, the route changed from the usual hand-built singletrack, and instead started following landrover tracks over the surrounding mountains. The views were spectacular, which made a pleasant change from the usual fayre at Afan or Coedy, where generally all you get to see is trees. Here we had wide sweeping expanses of moorland, dotted with lakes, with Kite and Buzzards overhead, and not a building as far as the eye could see.

After about an hour and a half we stopped for lunch, then attacked a technically rocky descent, on which I managed to pinch-flat. I swapped the tube, then imediately managed to rip the valve seal whilst inflating the new one. Tube number 2 went in OK, and we pedalled off, only to skid to a halt 100 yards further on when the outer tube came unseated from the rim. Fortunately it didn't puncture again, and I was able to sort it out – although in the process I realised I'd left both dust-caps and lockrings behind when I fixed the last puncture. Sigh…

Finally I got everything working again, and we set off once more. A long rocky descent bought us down from the mountains, and we rode through a couple of little villages before a long, long climb, on tarmac, then double-track, then fire-road back up and over the hills towards the start point. The scenery here was equally fantastic, as we climbed gently up the sides of an incredibly steep U-shaped valley straight out of a geography textbook. Steve was starting to tire at this point, but we kept pushing on. Finally, we topped out, and were rewarded with a fun section of singletrack which featured dozens of little hip jumps, each with a well-thought-out landing and runout (except a couple of 'surprises'). The Coiler's suspension got a good workout here as I dared myself to get more air with each kicker.

Now we reached a decision point. With 25K done, we could either take a 5K route directly back to the carpark, or a 10K one that would allow us to pick up some more singletrack descent. Of course, the 10K route was the one to choose… A short climb bought us to the start of the descent; first a fast rocky doubletrack, then a long, winding singletrack through the trees, festooned with hairpins, rollers, and cheeky little off-camber sections. As we decended, the squeak which Steve's back brake had been giving out earlier in the day developed itself into a much more significant-sounding metal-on-metal scrape. On finally reaching the bottom, inspection revealed that one of his pads was worn down to the metal – oops. He also had what appeared to be an air bubble in the front brake's hydraulics, resulting in slightly random stopability.

After the fun of that descent, of course, there was a price to be paid. 2KM of relentless fire-road climbing. Steve, it's fair to say, had had enough by now – or at least his legs had, and he was reduced to pushing for some of the climb. As we climbed I watched a pair of buzzards being mobbed by a few crows. They eventually got rid of them, and resumed circling above us, presumably so that they'd be first in line when the hill finally finished us off :-)

Eventually it came to an end, and we found ourselves at the top of the final singletrack section. The weather, which had held off until now, dumped a brief hailstorm on us, and I was forced to break out the emergency jelly babies. Thus fortified, we set off; me caning it as fast as I could, Steve following at a more circumspect pace since he now had little or no braking power. We finally made it into the car park 4.5 hours after setting off, scraped off the worst of the mud that had covered us, and set off for the long drive home.

February 18, 2006

A short ride around warwickshire

It's just too muddy to face mountain biking right now; an hour round Cannock would mean another hour cleaning crap out of the drivetrain and another hour cleaning car, clothes, and anything else that had been within 50 yards of the bike. So something else has to do.

However, bouyed up by beating the car in the "go green week" bike vs. car leamington-campus race earlier this week, I thought it might be fun to take the road bike out for a spin. And indeed it was. The roads were (mostly) dry, the weather was warm enough that I didn't need 8 million layers (note to self: still need thick socks though), and the views were pleasing. East of leamington there's a great network of little villages joined up by quiet roads, and this route takes advantage of many of them. The GPS said 34.5 miles, in about 1hr 50, which I thought wasn't too bad considering the large number of hills between Napton and Burton Dasset.

Bike route east of leamington

November 27, 2005

Another new toy

It must be at least 6 months since I last bought myself a new bike , so surely it's time for another. Planet-X have been doing a 105 build of their Kaffenback frame for silly money, so it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. And here it is at last :-)

(click for full-size image)

This really is the bike I should have bought 2 years ago, when I got my Trek 1200. It's probably not as quick out of the blocks as the Trek (which has an amazingly stiff frame), but it has the advantage of dropped bars (more comfortable for long rides, and more aerodynamic for battling into headwinds, and massive wheel clearance, meaning I can run full-length mudguards and big tyres (although having tried the 30mm monsters it came with, I've gone back to my 23mm skinny slicks for the time being). The steel frame is nice and zingy; much less harsh over bumps than the trek's aluminium back-end, and over-engineered enough that it can take on gentle off-roading if required. Plus, it has a certain coolness about it, coming as it does not from some huge megacorp, but from 5 guys in Doncaster (one of whom happens to be a genius frame-designer).

So far, my personalisation of it has extended as far as putting mudguards on it, and fixing a large number of lights. I had intended to put a rack on too, but unfortunately the mudguards came without bolts so I've used up my entire stock of M5s on them.

The Trek is now destined for a good clean-up, then to be abandoned to the tender mercies of ebay (unless someone makes me an offer in the region of £150 in the meantime…). If it fails to sell then I'll singlespeed it for the summer…

September 09, 2005

End of the summer?

Went back to Church Stretton with Patrick for another ride round the Long Mynd last night; it's definitely starting to feel like summer's over and done with.

We set off in persistent drizzle, which persisted (surprise!) pretty much all the way round. This time we went up Minton Batch - which is almost as good a climb as it is a descent, though the rocks were very splippery in the wet, - over the back to Medlicott, then back up to Pole bank and down to Plush Hill and The Batch. The descent over the moors from Pole Bank to the top of the batch was distinctly 'atmospheric', with the cloud right down, and the darkness rapidly approaching. The ground was soaking, and I discovered that the Coiler's fat tyres kick up a lot of spray. Unfortunately I couldn't stop my cheapo glasses from fogging up, so alternated between riding more-or-less blind due to the glasses, or more-or-less blind due to eyes-full of grit. All good fun, plus when I got out of the car 2 hours later I had comedy black tear-stains where my eyes had watered all the mud back out again during the drive home :-)

By the time we got to the batch (about 8pm) it was pretty much dark, which made the descent rather exciting, but we got back to the car without major incident. However, I'm building up a winter shopping list now:

  • HID lights – any more post-work riding is going to need illumination. Given that they start at about £250 it's going to sting a bit, though.
  • Mudguard to fit my 66's – I don't think a crud-catcher will do much good, because the tyres are very fat and a long way from the frame. But Marzocchi make a guard that fits into the bottom of the fork steerer tube which should do the trick
  • Some descent glasses – though I'll immediately lose or sit on them :-(

August 30, 2005

A mini adventure

Writing about web page

It being the school holidays, I'm taking a couple of days off to look after the boys. Today, James and I took advantage of Laurence being in nursery to go on 'an adventure'. No cars, just one-and-a-half bikes, sunshine, and some of the nicer bits east of leamington.

August 08, 2005

Coed–y–Brenin in a day

Writing about web page

I had the rare treat of an entire day to go biking, so Patrick and I headed for deepest, darkest, Welshest Wales – specifically, to ride the trails at Coed-y-Brenin, north of Dolgellau.

It was a bit of a trek to get there – including a half-hour detour to pick Patrick up, about 4 hours driving. We arrived a whisker after 11, and set off on the Karrimor – at 38K, the longest trail there.

CyB is one of the oldest of the Welsh MTB centers, and the trails have a somewhat different feel to newer ones like Afan. They're generally more technical, especially where the descents have started to erode so that you've got ruts as well as rocks to contend with. They also tend to stick with fire-roads for most of the climbs, and singletrack descents, whereas Afan has at least some singletrack climbs.

High points on the Karrimor were the three descents known as 'snap, crackle, and pop' – fast and very rocky lines, the 'Adams family' descents (Gomez, Morticia, Fester and It) – starting off as series of steep-and-loose drops, before morphing into a fast flowing line that dropped gradually to a beautiful wooded valley, and the never-ending climbs onto Maol Hafodwen (sp?), to be finally rewarded by a fantastic view, then three pinch-punctures in quick sucession (gah!)

After a 40-minute lunch stop, we set off once more, this time on the 22K MBR trail. Another grinding climb bought us onto the superb 'cain and abel' descent, prompting the suggestion that in fact MBR might be nothing to do with 'Mountain Bike Rider' magazine, but in fact stand for 'Mind the Big Rocks'. A viscious climb up past Cwm-heisian-uchaf (one of the few 'techincal' climbs – 'cleaned' by Patrick following a supreme effort to get up the rock step at the top, which took me a couple of goes to get right), some flowing downhill singletrack, another short climb, and then the brilliant 'Pink Heifer' – steep, loose, with big rock steps and 'don't-brake-here' sections of ball-bearing sized dust and grit, usually in quick succession.

Back to the car, and we recovered for a few minutes before hauling our (by now very tired) legs back over the bikes for the 'Red Bull' – an 11K trail to finish the day off. The start was a repeat of the Karrimor over Snap, Crackle and Pop, then a long drag up including a very loose singletrack section whose only purpose seemed to be to set you up for a 10-foot step/roll down. I briefly considered hucking this from the top, but when I realised that my legs were too tired to lift the front wheel I thought better of it.

A short fire-road section then led to the beginning of the end – firstly 'rocky horror show' – despite the name, this was a long fast flowing singletrack section with some nice jumps, especially the one off the edge of a bridge – then a short climb and the final descents – steep and techincal through the woods with big rocks and drop-offs, finally spitting you out on a BMX-style slalom course complete with tabletops [launched :-)] and doubles [ bottled :( ]

At last, the end of the day. 70+K of riding, lord only knows how many feet of ascent, much fun all round.

May 18, 2005

Bike Maintenance 101

Took the big bike out for a ride round the Goyt Valley yesterday. It was all going really well, and I was enjoying blasting down the steep stuff, until I hit a square edge of rock at speed and pinch-punctured the front tyre.

Shouldn't really be a problem – on the XC bike it'd be a 2-minute job to whip the wheel out, swap the tube, and pop it back in. Except that the big bike doesn't have a quick-release front wheel. Instead, it has one of these:

– a 20mm thru-axle, held in place by 4 pinch-bolts and 2 6mm hex plugs. Fortunately, I'd checked the manual and packed sufficent tools ( 2 * 6mm alan keys and a 4mm), unfortunately I'd never actually tried removing it. The manual said 'loosen the pinch bolts, undo one side (couldn't quite remember which) and slide the axle out). So I loosened them off, turned the cap bolts, and… one came off. The axle remained firmly in place. Hmm…

So, I tried pushing it out, sliding it out, tightening the pinch bolts back up, tightening one side, loosening the other; nothing worked. Of course, I didn't have the manual to hand, so I couldn't actually see what I ought to do. Gah.

After about 20 mins of fiddling, I gave up and rang home, to ask Amanda to go out to the shed and look for 'the manual with a big M on the front'. Of course, 20 seconds after I put the phone down I worked it out – screw the cap that fell off back on, then turn the 6mm bolts whilst holding the cap in place, thus forcing the axle out the other side. 10-mile push back averted, inner-tube replaced, ride continues. Easy when you know how :-)

Moral of the story: Try new stuff out at home! Now I need to go back and see if there are any other new bits and bobs I ought to learn to maintain before I go out again.

April 28, 2005

Coiler: First Mud

Follow-up to New Toy from Secret Plans and Clever Tricks

So, I finally got the chance to test out my new toy yesterday. Patrick and I drove down to Cwm Carn for a post-work spin.

The trail itself is a cracker. The first half takes you along a series of wooded singletrack climbs, with some fairly technical rooty sections. After 40 minutes or so of climbing, you emerge on the top of the hill, with fanstic views out past Cardiff and into the Bristol Channel. The second half of the trail is then almost all downhill, with a series of twisty singletrack descents through the trees, then a final jumpy bermed trail down to the carpark. It took us just over an hour to get round, though we were slowed down slightly by lashing rain on the second half of the course.

The bike was pretty amazing. The first thing I noticed was how effective it was at climbing steep rough stuff. The sag in the rear suspension makes it possible to keep traction on much rougher surfaces than is possible on my hardtail, and the plush forks mean that you can just blast through roots, rocks and so on without fear of being flicked off – on the hardtail I'd have to steer round them, which is pretty hard when you're struggling to keep the pedals turning at all! The high front-end does mean that you have to adopt a bit of a nose-to-stem posture to stop the front wheel wandering on very steep stuff, though.
On the flat, the propedal shock makes it pretty easy to keep the thing spinning along – there's hardly any noticeable bob from the back end. The slack head angle and SSV-damped foks also mean that you can put in a reasonable amount of power without the front end bobbing too much either.
It really comes into it's own, though, on the downhills – this thing is an absolute hooligan. No matter how rough, rocky, or rooty the trail, you can just point it where you want to go and blast down. Rock gardens that would have had me off the hardtail were sailed though without a twitch from the front end, and when I went nose-first off a drop on the final descent, the forks just ate up the impact without even slowing me down. The big tyres grip pretty much everything, and the massive front disk makes for effortless braking. It's definitely true to say that long-travel bikes are skill-compensators :-)

Of course, all this coolness isn't entirely free; On the uphills it's easy to spin up in a low gear, but try and race it and you really start to feel the bike's weight. Acceleration is noticeably slower than the hardtail, and it's harder to 'pop' the bike off the lip of little jumps and drops – partly because of the heavier weight, and partly because lifting it by a couple of inches just takes the sag out of the suspension, whereas on the hardtail it would get me airborne. There's also a bit of a 'sanitising' effect – on some of the gentler sections of the trail I found myself thinking 'this would be a good challenge on the hardtail, but it's just a smooth path on this thing'. Nevertheless, for big rocky trails like Afan, Glentress/Innerleithen, and even stuff like Jacob's Ladder in the peaks, I can tell this bike is going to be a blast :-)

April 26, 2005

If you only watch one extreme–sports film, watch this one

Writing about web page

Most MTB DVDs (of which there are many) follow a pretty much identical format:
1) Thrash-metal soundtrack
2) clip of rider hucking off a 50-foot drop
(repeat for 60 mins)
To be honest, if you've watched one you've pretty much watched them all, and unless you're a keen rider even that one is probably overkill.

'The collective' is different, though. For starters, it's beautifully shot. The opener in Utah (see below), the section in Hawaii, and the misty north-shore at the end are fantastic bits of scenery, shot in a kind of Amelie -style oversaturated way. I could quite happily watch those bits even without the bikes. There's a fantastic section somewhere in the middle where, having been tracking riders hooning through a forest trail, the camera suddenly pans up away from the action and focuses on a view through the treetops to a luminous-green hillside some way off – just like those moments you get out riding when you have to stop and take in the scenery for a moment.

Second, the soundtrack is varied and cool, with only a trace of metal interrupting the laid-back likes of Slackstring, Quantic, and John Butler Trio.

Third, the kind of riding that's captured is totally different to the traditional DH-racing-and-huge-drops format that's quite hard to relate to.

Watching really smooth riders riding singletrack at warp factor 8 gives you a real feeling of being there, and a sense of 'I could do that – maybe not as fast, but I could do it'. It's hard not watch the helmet-cam sections and not find yourself leaning into the corners on the sofa.

Of course, there are the few obligatory jaw-droppers, like Ryan Leach riding along a metal chain suspended between two posts, Matt Hunter nailing a massive road gap, or Steve Romaiuk pulling a rolling nose-wheelie for about 100 yards down a rubble-filled chute. But really they're just incidental to the main theme of the film, which is just about how, at whatever level you're riding, what matters is not how fast you're going, or how far you're jumping, but how wide you're grinning at the end.

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