Monday, 26 November 2012

Brass Monkey's Rd.1- 2012

So.... back to racing, luckily after last years Brass Monkey's 4hour endurance series I know what to expect, fast, close racing on great courses!

The weather had been atrocious in the run up to the first round, but knowing the venue, and how the event organisers are careful with course selection I took a gamble on running summer tyres.

After saying a quick hello to my racing buddies I went off to get ready, and to warm up. The start had been moved from last year so I arrived a little late, I managed to get close to the front but my start was terrible! stuck behind a line of slow riders I had to bide my time until the fire road section.

I cleared the slower riders and chased after the fast boys, the rest of the lap was great fun, I recognised most of the course and the mud was minimal, with only two major hills, luckily the new bike is as fast up hills as my single speed!

On to the second lap I caught and past a Wiggle Bike Shop rider and I could see endurance supremo Ant White and speedy Simon Lingard in the distance, I felt I could catch them,until a tree jumped out on me. Bugger! get back up, checked bike, looks ok, check me, sore Knee, get back on the bike and ride on, ouch, still have a sore knee. Limped round the rest of the lap.

I was feeling better by the end of the lap, and carried on. I had dropped to 20th so had my work cut out. Over the next few laps, I clawed back 10 places despite having to clear what seemed like a thousand 2hour racer's, I sometimes find passing lots of riders difficult, it can be best to be patient and wait for the wider sections, but this takes time, I found short bursts of speed along the edges of the course helped pass in the narrower sections but I can only do this for a short time! I will know for the next round to be back around the lap before 12 o'clock!

I was happy with 10th, the course had slowed towards the end but it was still good fun, the new bike was great and I seemed to have the legs to race with the fast boys, I need to refresh my off-road skills before the next round in 3 weeks!

Chinese 29er review- Carbonal Gaea 29er

I’m obsessed with bikes, but i’m quite tight with money. As much as i’d love a Scott Scale or a Santa Cruz Highball the high frame costs are out of my reach

I’d seen a forum thread on MTBR which featured chinese carbon 29er frames, it was almost 100 pages long and mainly positive views, a few horror stories, but as with many things to do with cycling I take these with a pinch of salt. Still undecided on which frame to pick I emailed a few contacts who I knew had a chinese frame, they both came back saying that the Carbonal Gaea was a safe bet, it also had the best suited geometry to my needs, as I had noticed many had incredibly short top tube lengths compared to the seat tube, the head and seat tube angle were also similar to my Niner frame.

A few promptly replied to emails from the seller at Carbonal and I had ordered a 19” UD matt finish frame, with integrated headset and shipping, for the some of £320. 1 week later it arrived, packaged well, but with 
very little documentation.

The build was simple enough, I’ve built a few bikes so i’m quite confident doing it myself. The internal gear cable routing caused a few headaches but my choice of Alligator I-link cables was to blame for that. Setting the rear mech was also tricky, the original mech hanger was not of the best quality, so it promptly snapped after a small amount of fettling, using the correct tool I hasten to add! replaced with a UK sourced alternative the gears work spot on, I used a 1 x 9 setup as I am used to one gear, so nine is a luxury. I imagine a 2 x 10, 3 x 10 or 1 x 11 would work just as well with the correct front mech.

I was not familiar with the tapered headset type, but the two bearings fit into a race, which is a structural part of the frame, I used an FSA 1.5” to 1 ⅛” adapter so i could run my existing 1 ⅛” RockShox Sid XX fork, no problems encountered.

The remainder of the build was simple: the brake routing is neat and simple: i’m using a mixture of Hope and Superstat hubs on Notubes Stans Crest rims, I particularly wanted a hub with 10mm quick release skewer compatibility to improve rear end stiffness and as Hope’s are too heavy and DT Swiss too expensive I went for Superstar, I know sealing isn’t great but the bearings look easy to replace.

Overall the quality seems good,I have noticed due to the incredibly short headtube is that the brake levers and gear shifter clash with the top tube, this can be remedied by having a stem which points up instead of down and more spacer, but as I prefer a low front end I will gamble on protecting the top tube and having low torque on parts which clash, incase they need to move. Initially I have had trouble with the seatpost slipping, i’ve heard this can be a problem, i’m working on a few remedies, carbon paste and well placed zip ties have helped, but it still slipped 2mm in 4 hours so it requires more thought.

So in conclusion initial thoughts are good, with a tough but simple built the complete bike with pedals etc is 21.8lbs. Its first proper outing was at the first round of the Brass Monkeys 4hour race series, I had a silly crash which saw me chase back to 10th overall but the bike felt good, fast on the hills and handled well in the slippy conditions. I plan to get the matching rigid fork to save my suspension forks over the winter, and matching carbon wheels to increase stiffness still further and reduce weight.

I decided to buy the matching rigid fork, initially put off buy the longer a-c height than my Niner rigid fork. First ride seems good, it is less refined than i'm used to, very stiff, with no "give" compared to the other forks i've tried, but for a winter fork for local riding I am happy so far.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Season Review

My season started back in April with a big aim to win the single speed category at the 12-hour UK and European Endurance Championships. I really enjoyed the race, the location was amazing and the atmosphere felt great due to the lack team categories. For me the race went exactly to plan; I lead the single speed category from the first hill and felt comfortable for the majority of the race. My only regret was losing 4th and 5th place in the last two lap; the huge amount of climbing really hurt me! 6th overall at the National Championships was a good start to the season.

The rest of the season was a mixture of highs and lows. My next race, Gorrick 100, lasted two minutes. I rode down a hole and face planted the floor. I've still got the scars to prove my mistake! I was lucky not to do more damage, but I'm annoyed it happened. Next up was Erlestoke 12. Not feeling my best after my crash, it felt a struggle. It was a hot day but I dealt with it well. I won the single speed category with 1.5hrs to spare and came 5th overall.

Next up, after a rest and a trip to the Physio, was Bontrager Twentyfour12. I had an unexpected result in 2011 where I was third overall! Unfortunately it wasn't to be this year; the terrible weather destroyed the course and made single speed racing very arduous. I quit after 6 hours. Maybe I could have struggled through another 6 hours but my head wasn't in it and it would have left me broken for weeks after.

I'm not used to having races not go to plan! I was beginning to loose interest so, in an attempt to change my luck, I fitted gears to my race bike and headed to Brighton. The Big Dog is a great race and therefore the big boys have started to show up en mass! I wasn't expecting to do as well as last year, but rode a solid race and was surprised and happy with 6th overall.

My last big race came with Dusk 'til Dawn, a classic endurance race which has been plagued with bad weather for the last two years. Luckily for me it was dry, if slightly cold. I rode sensibly from the start, letting other soloist ride off in front, knowing they were pushing too hard too early. This plan worked for me as they quickly faded and I was in second. I suffered from the cold towards the end and never caught first, but I was happy and it was a good  way to end my main season.

My plan for next year is based around doing shorter xc and marathon races, with only one 12-hour race. I hope it'll leave me more enthusiastic to race more. It means unfortunately that my steel single speed bikes will no longer be first choice; despite their comfort benefits they are too heavy when built up with gears to compete against the carbon whippets.

I'd like to thank my supporters for this year, The Bicycle Academy, TF Tuned and Mulebar, they have been very useful & generous.