All 30 entries tagged Pedals

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March 19, 2006

Tres cheap Trek

Writing about web page

£1200 off an '05 Session 77 – wow. AND available on 0% – :-)

January 24, 2006

Big Hit bike conundrum

It serves me right I s'pose, but after trying a Giant Faith2 recently, my focus on a Specialized Big Hit has become a bit blurry. This thing rocks, despite a relatively boring set of bits. '05 Coilers and Stinkys are down to £1500 though…

July 14, 2005

Afan weekend report

"Awesome". That's how several of us summed up a great weekend of mountain-biking in the hills of Afan Forest Park, near Port Talbot in Wales.

The riders (and bikes):
Chris (Kona Coiler Dee-Lux)
James (Marin Mount Vision)
Steve (Marin East Peak)
Greg (Cannondale SV900)
Jon (Marin Rock Springs)
Rich (Cannondale Gemini 2000)

Day 1 - White's Level

  • Distance: 15km
  • Climb: 525m
  • Level: Difficult
  • Casualties: Broken XT shifter (Steve), tight freehub (James)

We left Coventry on a glorious sunny Friday afternoon and arrived at the excellent Glyncorrwg Ponds facility after a 3 hour drive. After putting the tents up and unpacking the bikes, the six of us headed off for the first ride of the weekend: an evening jaunt across White's Level. The trail starts with a 6km climb that takes you up a few hundred metres, but the effort is eased by travelling backwards and forwards across the hillside along a technical trail that keeps the focus on the terrain and not the climb. After about 40 minutes of climbing we hit the top, to be greeted by the sunshine and views across the bay and out to sea. Jon was feeling tired on the way up due to a lack of food (and having travelled from London to Afan via Coventry), but we all made it in the end. My rear shifter started to play up, refusing to engage any gears at all unless I pushed it all the way forwards, but this meant I could keep going.

Then came the descent: a great combination of tight rolling singletrack, combined with plenty of opportunity to get airborne (often inadvertently). The middle section was more overgrown than our last visit; the brambles and ferns making what is usually a fast and level run with views across the valley abit slower than normal. The last downhill section was great – the rocky step-downs and drop-offs providing a lot of fun. The trail ended almost exactly where it had started; back at the campsite, and we arrived back at 9pm. It was obvious from this ride that we would be split into two groups, defined by fitness, confidence and skill; Chris, James and Rich were way ahead of me, Jon and Greg (from here on in known as The Back Three). The trail spat us out 5 mins ride from the campsite. A quick shower and change of clothes and then we got the barbecue on.

Day 2 - Skyline, Penhydd

  • Distance: 46km (~35km ridden)
  • Climb: 2000m
  • Level: Difficult
  • Casualties: Cut elbow, cut knee, boiled Hope Mono Mini (Greg) loose headset (James and Rich), hand blisters (Greg, Chris, James)

Penhydd (Chris and James)

  • Distance: 22km
  • Climb: 450m
  • Level: Technically difficult
  • Casualties: Bruised knee (Chris)

Skyline is the longest of the trails at Afan, a whopping 46km epic should you choose to do the whole thing. There are however several 'bail-out' options if the legs (or injuries) are starting to hurt too much. We set out early on Saturday morning keen to do the lot, but the sun was already making things uncomfortable. It started with exactly the same climb we did the previous evening, although this time everyone paced themselves far better, knowing what to expect. Chris, James and Rich surged ahead, while The Back Three laboured upwards. Things were going well until I heard a clatter behind me and looked back to see Greg and his bike on the floor. A nasty and slippery set of rocks over a stream had caught him out, the result being a cut elbow and knee. Greg felt able to carry on, so on we went. I never saw it, but shortly after James also managed to throw himself spectacularly on the floor along a rutted section of track.

A short ride along some very dusty fire-road got us to the first trail, a short, tight and winding section of singletrack; lots of fun, then another short hop to a great piece of trail, where some of us were attacked by brambles. The came another big climb, up an extremely dusty quarry access road. As a lorry came past we were almost enveloped in dust. The temperature now was reaching the high 20s. The climb continued, requiring The Back Three to stop and have a rest in the shade, and prompting Chris to come back down the hill to see where we'd got to. But once at the top (1900 feet ASL according to James' cool wrist-mounted GPS) the view was simply stunning. We could see all the way across to the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, and far below us was the Afan Valley. It made the hard work all the more worthwhile. The heat was starting to take its toll on the less fit among us though, and Camelbaks were starting to run dry. I was carrying the helmetcam and a camcorder in my pack, so the amount of space available for water was reduced by around a third – I ran out way before anyone else and I was lucky that Greg had a spare water bottle. Some more singletrack saw us pop out of the trees into another fantastic view, where we stopped for a group photo. Next was an amazing hillside trail on which I managed to topple sideways when my back wheel pinged off a rock, but fortunately I escaped unscathed/unseen. A great 5-abreast photo-op blast down some more fire roads saw us through to the next section. It was around this time that Chris realised we'd missed some sections of the route, reducing the total ride to around 35km, but it still felt to us all like we'd ridden a real 'epic'.

The next few trails were a blast, especially the one with two or three sections of loose scree that took speed, effort and skill to get through without putting a foot down. After another rocky but fast section we came out into blazing sunshine and heat. By now we'd been riding for around 3 hours and fatigue was beginning to set in with The Back Three. The following climb nearly saw us bail out, and the forward pack had to wait for well over 15 mins for us to finally appear (we'd stopped for a drink, food and some welcome shade). But that was it; all the climbing we would have to do was done, and we could start the long descent back down to base. The return journey was amazing – some of the fastest, edge-of-your-pants riding I've ever experienced – I nearly flew off the hillside at least three times, threw my bike over some big drops and found myself grinning the whole time. In fact, after ten minutes or so I suddenly realised that I'd lost contact with Jon and Greg, so I pulled up to wait. When Jon appeared we waited for Greg..and waited…and waited..and then we got worried. Just as I was about to start back up the trail wondering if I'd find him wrapped round a tree, he rounded the corner, shouting that he'd lost rear braking completely. Although the lever would move the pads a little, it went all the back to the bars with no effort, and there was no sign of a leak from the hydraulics – verdict was he'd cooked 'em. The only thing to do was swap bikes, and coax the SV900 down the rest of the hill on its front brake. That made the rest of my descent 'interesting', but kudos to Greg for managing to get down as far as he did on one brake.

Finally, at around 3pm, some 5 hours after starting out, we were back at the campsite, and most of us were exhausted and dehydrated. After a short rest Chris was raring to go for another ride(!), and James felt just about up to the challenge. The rest of us took a raincheck. Greg was heading home this evening so after we saw him off, they went off to ride Penhydd while Rich and I headed for Port Talbot for barbecue supplies in the Landrover, while Jon rested up (and drank lager). Chris and James returned later, and Penhydd had claimed another injury – Chris' knee was bruised after a rare excursion. Despite wearing padded shorts I was definitely noticing my 5 hours in the saddle too. The helmetcam footage from the day looked excellent, and nother barbecue/lager/bike magazine session ensued, much was consumed and we all headed for bed relatively early.

Day 3 - The Wall

  • Distance: 23km
  • Climb: 450m
  • Level: Technically difficult
  • Casualities: None(!)

So, the final day; so far we'd ridden an amazing variety of trails, and pedalled up a fair few climbs, all of which were taking a toll on legs, lungs and bums. We planned to take on a route called The Wall in the morning, then return to the campsite for lunch and to pack up, then travel to Cwm Carn on the way home for another 2 hour epic. We down to 5 riders now, which reduced The Back Three to a Back Two, and a tired Back Two at that. Unfortunately the first part of The Wall was closed, and we had to travel a few miles on open fire-roads to get to the next section. Everyone managed a respectable pace along here, but as soon as we took a left turn onto the first real climb Jon and I found that our legs couldn't manage much more than a granny ring crawl, and the heat was already stifling.

The first few sections of singletrack took us on a gentle climb or level run along the hillside, and Jon and I pretty much dawdled along, with little or no push left in our legs. We were glad that we'd saved our energy though when we finally hit what has to be the best ever set of descents we've ever ridden. Really fast, technical and hard work, yet exhilarating and exciting at the same time. I found myself lost in total concentration and working the bike better and harder than I've ever managed before. In order to get some more helmetcam footage, I rode first behind Jon for a while (who managed to fall off for the camera) and then I followed Rich for another couple of runs. Finally, we hit the final trail – and without doubt it was (for me anyway) the best of the weekend. Maybe my confidence and technique were just improving after riding around 60km of some of the best singletrack in the UK, or the fact that I'd realised that I wasn't going to be able manage Cwm Carn that afternoon, but I pushed hard on that last section as it switched quickly from left to right, over rollers and rock steps and spat the bike from dark, wet and tight rocky sections to open, sunny and dusty areas with the most wonderful views across Wales. When we finally hit the end, it was with a sense of relief and regret; not just because the trail-riding was over, but also because my riding and confidence had improved significantly over the last descent.

When we arrived back at the campsite, we began to pack up the tents and our belongings, including the bikes, which had all performed amazingly. If anyone has any doubts that a bike costing over £1500 is worth the money, they should try subjecting one to the kinds of punishment this weekend dished out – apart from the broken shifter all my bike needed was a good scrub – no tightening up, no adjustments. Amazingly, no-one got a puncture either – most of us are riding Panaracer tyres of one type or another, and they seem to be virtually indestructable.

Even James was feeling pretty tired now, and we reluctantly decided that Cwm Carn would be beyond us this time around, but at least we could go there another time feeling fresh. Once we'd got the bikes loaded up, we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the Drop-Off cafe at the centre, then set off for home. I don't know what it was like for Chris and James, but things were pretty quiet in the Landrover – Jon fell asleep almost straight away, and I tried to keep my eyes open.

It was indeed an awesome weekend; special mentions go to Greg for taking on what was a real test of fitness, skill and nerve on his first go at mountain biking (and boiling the brake fluid on Rich's spare Cannondale), Chris, Greg and Rich for doing all the driving and providing essential camping gear, and to Steve Banks (Jon and Rich's brother) for letting us borrow his Landrover for the weekend – we wouldn't have been able to so easily get so 6 people and their bikes down there without it. The facilities at Afan are fantastic, and thanks must go to whoever is responsible for designing and maintaining the trails. The weather should also get a mention – the sun shone all weekend.

Cheers guys. I'm looking forwards to next year. :-)
Pictures are being uploaded as I get them to the Trip Gallery and Chris has uploaded his photos here

July 01, 2005

Greg's first ride

Rich and I took Greg to Cannock last night so he could try a bit of MTB'ing for the first time; apart from feeling a bit tired (due to the lack of a decent meal before we left), and some problems with gear selection, he was taking on all the drop-offs, berms and climbs like a (slow-motion) pro.

The trails have been washed clean of mud and dirt, meaning that many sections now consist of loose pebbles and stone, making climbing more technical than usual, and the surface was just on the wrong side of slippery to allow a full-on blast. Good fun though, and we are all looking forward to the Wales weekend trip next week. We decided that one more outing would be a good idea before we tackle Afan, so we'll try and fit another ride in next week.

June 28, 2005

Bike Candy Wish List; Part 1: Crank Bros Cobalt

Writing about web page

These aren't just bike cranks people; like all of its products, the Cobalt crankset from Crank Bros is a design classic, and I want them now. The danger with Crank Bros kit is that it's almost too pretty to put on a bike, especially a bike that is liable to take a few knocks. My Mallet C pedals are looking quite tatty now that they've been dinged off rocks (and my shins), and unlike powder-coated stuff which somehow just looks 'harder' when it's scratched, they no longer look half as cool as they did when they arrived in their lovingly-designed box.

It's not just the design that's cool here either – the tech is pretty clever too, with aluminium arms bonded to stainless caps. I can't wait to see the packaging, but at the price these things cost it's liable to only ever be through the shop window. Oh well, I'd only whack 'em on a big rock and scratch the stainless…


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