Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Brass Monkeys Rd.2 (2014 Series)

Round 2 of one of my favourite race series, after a fun xc race the weekend before at the Off Camber series, where I came a strong 3rd behind national level expert and master xc racers, I felt to have some form and speed.
With the usual fast faces on the start line it was never going to be easy! Ceasers camp is renowned for being a hilly course, but that usually suits me. I got a good start, but I knew better than to try and keep up with the front 5! I settled into a group with James Braid from Wiggle and a few others, I held the pace up the hills and sat back during the single track, trying not to make any silly mistakes! this went on for the first 2 laps.

Eventually we split up, the pace was too high for me to sustain, so I hoped to catch them later on. The rain began after an hour or so, light to start but it got heavier so I changed into my Castelli Gabba jersey, such a brilliant piece of kit, it kept me warm and dry without me overheating!

The course was great fun once it got muddy, slippery in places but there was still lots of grip, my lap times dropped slightly, but I stayed 8th, feeling strong. I started my last lap 10minutes before the cut off, the course was much quieter by now, but in the last few miles I caught 7th place, I knew I had to put a gap between us so I upped my pace, then in the last hundred metres I spotted 6th place, I tried to sprint for the line, but I had left it too late! happy with 7th, glad to be in the top 10, few niggles to resolve but happy with my form. We have a short break of two weeks until the next round, where I hope to be riding my new team bike!!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Brass Monkeys Rd.1 (2014 series)

Having changed jobs and moved house November had been a busy month, but I had tried to keep up training from my new location of Poole, it had gone ok and I was getting to know my new surroundings.

I was really looking forward to the first round of the 4 hour Brass Monkeys series, I always enjoy them and it helps to shake the winter blues. The first round was at Minley Manor, which had been the venue for Torq 12:12, my last competitive race. The venue had been logged heavily but the Gorrick crew had still put together a great course, with a mix of singletrack and fire road, with a few sections of bombholes.

I was expecting it to be freezing so I had brought my training rollers to get thoroughly warm before the race. I got off to a good start, although I didn't feel like I had much zip. The first lap went ok, I dropped off the lead group after quarter of a lap but I tried to settle into my own rhythm, but I had the nagging feeling my tyres were too hard, which was knocking my confidence and reigning in my singletrack pace.

At the start of the second lap I caught a tree root at a poor angle and lost the front wheel, which happened to smash into a tree! I went down, but I wasn't hurt, my bars had twisted, I righted them quickly and got rolling but my front wheel was buckled badly, I limped round the rest of the lap. I swapped to my spare wheel and it immediatly felt grippier. I got to work making up the 5+ minutes i'd lost!

The rest of the race went without issue, I felt strong, I made it back up to 12th place, not good enough, but not bad considering. Lesson learnt: soft tyres!!!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

New Road Bike: Hong Fu FM066 SL

I've only had a road bike for 18months, and ever since I had a bike fit I've enjoyed riding it, enjoying the connivence of being able to go for a quick ride or an epic with having to think too much!

My first road bike came from Planet X, bought through cycle to work, it was a simple Aluminium road bike with horrible wheels but full SRAM Red groupset, minus the crank, so it was lightweight and climbing well once i'd swapped out the wheels.

Having got on well with my Chinese carbon 29er frames I knew a road frame was worth a try. I'd read good things about the FM066 SL frame, it had geometry which suited my long legs, short torso and long arms, matching the Cannondale Supersix geo. I sourced the frame+fork+bottle cages through a vendor in china, reducing the cost slightly. It arrived within 7 days, packaged well, total cost around £450.

The frame weighed 900grams with mech hanger included, the forks were 340grams. The build was relatively simple; the internal gear cable routing required patience, due to the lack of internal guides: the lack of barrel adjusts made setting the front mech up more complicated: rear mech hanger wasn't completely straight.

The ride feels great, road buzz is reduced over my alu frame and it climbs very well, I had been concerned over the bottom bracket/seat stay stiffness, but my chain catcher which is set very close to the small ring never contacts the chain, even under heavy load. So far i've done around 600miles since getting it 5 weeks ago.

Build specification:

Frame and fork: 56cm Hong Fu FM066 SL
Wheels: H Plus Son Archetype 32H on Hope Pro 3 hubs, Hope Skewers (training wheels)
Tyres: Continental GP 4000s 23c
Drivetrain: Full SRAM Red 10speed, 53/39 crankset
Brake: Planet X CNC Superlight
Seatpost: Thomson Elite 27.2 x 410 (should cut it down but increases stiffness)
Stem: Thomson Elite X2 120mm x -10 deg
Bars: 3T Ergnova Pro 42cm
Pedals: Cheap Shimano SPD SL's
Saddle: Specialized Toupe Expert
Extras: K Edge Garmin Mount, Exposure Light Mount, Unbranded Carbon Bottlecages

Weight: 16pounds 13ounces (15pounds 6ounces with Strada Carbon Tubular wheels)
FM 066 SL

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Torq In Your Sleep 12:12 &The Endurance Series final round

It feels like its been a relatively long season, but it seems to come from all my races being in blocks of 2 weeks, Bontrager 24:12 then 2 weeks later Brighton Big Dog, then 2 weeks later Torq in Your Sleep. I had originally planned to race the 6 hour option, but after my result at Brighton Big Dog( I was 7th overall in the Endurance Series) I thought I had a good shot at a podium finish, so I switched to the 12hour option. Unfortunatley my chief pitman (my dad) was away, luckily I managed to find some kind biking friends who stepped up to throw bottles and encouragement at me! thanks Team Cycleworks.

After arriving the mornning of the race I did a full practice lap, the course was ok, but I felt it got rougher as time went on. I started near the front but didn't get an especially good start, getting caught up with riders through the vast amounts of singletrack, but as laps ticked along I got into a good rythm and felt ok. towards the 5 hour point I felt a little weary, thinking previous races were catching up with me, but I knew I was in 4th place and I couldn't drop out knowing I would score enough points to finish on the Endurance Series Podium, so I had two cans of coke and a caffeine gel and ploughed on!

The last few hours went well, but I was suffering from the bumpy course and knew another lap near 12 o'clock was a possibility, I conciously began to slow up, knowing I had a big enough buffer to 4th and wouldn't catch 3rd. Crossing the finish line at 11:59:50pm I wouldn't need anoter lap, and i'd secured 4th place, but I was only 7minutes down on 3rd, BUGGER!!

A great result overall in the end! The Endurance Series had not been a season aim, but it was a great bonus and its only my first season racing with gears.

My main season is over now, I have a few races lined up but i'm reducing my training hours to try and fit in being sociable…..
Thanks Vermont Images
Thanks again to my sponsors for the support this year and Francesca Bennett for her coaching expertise.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Summer Racing updates

A few other summer races i've missed

Southern XC Rd.3 Expert - Wasing

First time racing in the expert category, the course was good, technical and fast with little climbing. For once I got a good start and kept in touch with a few fast guys, but this only last so long as a few fast masters caught me on the second lap. The next 3 laps felt pretty good and I finished strongly in a sprint finish, 13/21, not a bad effort but room for improvement.

Are You Tough Enough 6 hour Solo- Surrey July 7th

Super steamy hot 30 degrees, most singletrack on a course I have ever ridden, which lead me to chase hard for the win, but ultimately loose out, 2nd was great, and the training was useful, recommended event.

Well done Rich Penning

Brighton Big Dog - 6hour Solo

I used to live in Brighton so I love returning for Brighton Big Dog every year, this is the 3rd visit to the trails of Stamner, I've done well here, 5th the first year, 6th last year, but checking the entry list before the race shows that Big Dog is going Big time, most of the top marathon and endurance racers in the country were racing solo!

A practice lap on friday was slippery due to the early morning rain, but the course was familiar and the extra hills suited me, it also caused my guide to dislocate his finger in a crash!
Strada Wheels Race team, with some extra's
Race day was bright and sunny, the course had dried out really well and I was now keen to race. I got a good start, cleared the steep climb and early singletrack to avoid all the first lap carnage.

I settled into a maintainable pace, slower than the front runners but I always try to keep my lap times consistent for the whole race, instead of blowing up mid race.

The laps were great, hilly but enjoyable with fun, twisty single track, passing slower riders took patience but I try to be polite.

Laps were ticking up and I moved from 11th up to 8/9th, near the end of the race I lost a bottle on some single track, lucky the laps were short and it didn't effect me too badly.

I started what I thought was my penultimate lap, feeling good I rode safe, heading back into the arena I managed to pass a solo rider, moving me up to 8th, checking the time I wouldn't manage another lap, which was a shame but I was happy to finish 8th in such a strong field.

Thanks for the help from the Strada Wheels and Brighton MTB crew, always nice to get cheers along the way. I'm now 5th overall in the Endurance Series, with one more round I've changed from 6 to 12hours at Torq 12:12, a good race might see me grab a podium in the series!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Bontrager Twentyfour12, 12hour solo

Newnham Park is an ace venue for an endurance race, the campsite is in the middle of the course, so you get two visits to civilisation each lap, which is nice, but last year it was horrendous, 12 hours of solid rain ruined my chance of enjoyment. This year it was back and luckily, so was the crowds.

For 2013 and after my disappointing ride at Exposure 12, Twentyfour12 was my next big races of the year, and after a surprise 3rd place 12hour solo male in 2011 I knew the course would suit me, long climbs and nice flowing single track. I was racing 12hour solo again, but the competition was tougher this year with reigning 12hour UK and European champion Tim Dunford and Elite XC racer Stephen Hodge a good result was going to take a battle!

Come race morning I felt refreshed, but nervous and I wanted to get riding! after my overly fast pacing at Exposure 12 back fired I knew that I needed to reign my pace in, despite a few fast riders in the 12hour I had to pace my own race and let them go and ride my own race pace.
Almost front row, queuing starts early
I rode a few medium fast laps and felt comfortable, pacing was consistent and I was having fun. I was up into 4th, but it was early days!

After 5hours I had to swap onto my spare bike due to suspension troubles, no matter, the lack of steep hills suited 1 x 10, pacing stayed consistent. Next lap back through the pits Dad tells me i'm in 3rd after Steve Hodge of Mondraker had a mechanical, it wasn't long before he caught me again, but we still had  over 4 hours to go. Over the next few laps we had a fun battle, trading places a few times, Steve riding away, but I could catch him ok without changing my pacing too much. After I saw him dive into the pits for lights I needed to make the most of the gap.

As I started what I thought was my last lap I made the most of the fun course, until I rolled round to the finish line at 23:45pm, bugger! Back out again then, luckily the first half of the lap was the toughest, that out the way I put the hammer down still feeling strong.

I finished well and secured 3rd! I'm really pleased my hard work had paid off, Dad was a great pitman as ever, i'm sure he enjoys the races more than me sometimes! Chapeau to Tim Dunford who won by 2 laps over me and Ajay from Torq who was 1 lap clear, it wasn't till after the race I found out he was the XC champion of Nepal and twice Yak Attack Marathon champion! I was just glad the weather stayed nice and it showed how great endurance racing can be!
Mixed or Solo? 
Thanks to Darren and Jonathan from Strada Wheels, the Mulebar guys, I really can stomach their gels for a whole race, Finely Tuned Ride for ongoing tweaking and Francesca Bennett for her coaching expertise.

Next up Brighton Big Dog, more a social than a race.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Italy Cycling Trip

At the beginning of June I was lucky enough to go on a cycling holiday to Bormio, Northern Italy. We took both xc and road bikes, which was a luxury! I took my trusty, although budget road bike, borrowing a set of super speedy carbon tubular wheels from Strada, having never ridden tubs before I didn't know what to expect, they seemed to roll faster and feel much nicer than clinchers, but the roads in Italy aren't riddled with pot holes!!

First XC ride, Bormio 2000 Trails

The week had many highlights, one was riding the Stelvio pass. Bormio is at the foot of the pass, so the gradient ramps up very quickly! The climb last 13miles and gains 5,000feet in altitude, I rode it twice whilst we were there, with a best effort of 1.5hrs, which was almost quick enough to get me on first page on Strava, 27 out of 630, only and indication, but a good ride.
Stelvio, Bornio side
Summit descent

The only way is 
The cross country riding was also good, technical, but I could ride within my limits, I had borrowed a dropper post and I was amazed how much difference it made when riding technical descents, being able to get over the back wheel with no obstructions gave me much more confidence.

Since returning I have improved on my 10mile TT personal best, hopefully I can carry this form onto the next round of the Southern XC at the end of June.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Erlestoke Twelve - 6 Hour

I have great memories of Erlestoke 12, it was my first win a few years back when I surprised myself by winning the 12hour single speed race, a few years on and I had intended to race the 12hour solo again, but on my geared bike, but after Exposure 12 my head was feeling fragile and I couldn't face another 12hour so soon, so I decided on the 6 hour singlespeed race, then a few days before the race I discovered my frame had a crack in the frame, checking the 6 hour entries I wasn't sure I'd fair that well in the geared race so I considered mixed pairs, I finally settled on 6 hours solo geared and decided to see what happened.

The weather gods had been kind again, 98% dry and dusty wiltshire single track, which all seems familiar and fun. The start was casual, the only way SPAM know, starting at 11:53am, I didn't mind, I was ready and on the front row. I knew the start would be fast, but I need to get used to that. George Budd and Single Speed Singular Al shot of the front, never to be seen again! I kept in contact with James Braid from Team Wiggle, I caught him on the hills then got dropped on the single track, this went on for a few laps, quick changes of bottles wasted no time, but the gap to James grew.
Thanks Duncan @ www.mbkphotos.co.uk
for the photos
Three hours came and went, I still felt pretty good, legs felt strong but the fast starts do jade me after  racing single speed for so long. I was unsure on my race position, but that was ok, approaching the end of my 7th lap I lost the front wheel on a loose corner, I was fine but I had twisted the bars slightly, quick swap onto my spare bike and I was away.

The 8th lap felt good and I knew I could only manage 1 more in the time left, I was starting to feel good again after a lull and could have carried on if needed, just as I thought this, George lapped me!

I finished 3rd overall in open male, happy and surprised! I know I need to work on my speed but i'm slowly getting there! I have a break from long races in June, I best try and get faster!!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Exposure 12- 12 Hour National Championships

After a good result at Gorrick 100 I felt in good shape for Exposure 12, held this year for the first time at the Wasing Estate in Berkshire.

Dad and I arrived friday afternoon, good job I have a van now as the amount of stuff I take seems to grow every race! I went for a practice lap friday afternoon and felt a little disappointed by the course, the laps felt too short and the some of the trails were very fresh, but I knew like most endurance races the course improves as it gets ridden in. The rest of the evening was spent catching up with fellow racers.

Race kit, race bike & silly grin
Race morning arrived and I felt pretty calm, I went through my usual race routine, and headed over to the start line. I was “seeded” second this year which meant I was officially called up to sign on, it also meant I could start at the front, which meant the 3rd row by the time i’d rescued my bike!
Race sign-on
The start was fast, I didn’t want to lose touch with the front group, but I didn’t want to go into the red so early! I settled quickly and found a good rhythm, first lap was over very quickly, no need to stop I carried on, the first few laps carried on this way.

I felt ok but was concerned I may have been stretching my gel stops out too long as my lap times increased slightly, I quickly seemed to lose my head, I usually go through a rough patch but it happened much earlier than I was used to. I took on more food on my next stop, but still felt bad, I hate it when I can only “plod” round, but a plod was all I could manage! I wasn't used to this happening! I was still in 5th but couldn’t see this lasting!

At around 6pm there was a torrential downpour which had been threatening all day, luckily on the previous lap I had put on a gillet which prevented me getting too cold, but on the next lap I added more layers, strangely the cold rain woke me up!

Soon enough it was dark, the course was quite muddy by then, but I still had plenty of grip in most parts but it was quicker to walk a few sections.

The last few laps went quickly and I finished 6th open male at 11.30pm, slightly disappointed that i’d not given it my all, but happy enough with the result, I guess it's taught me racing a 6hr race six days before a 12hour race is still too much for me.

Big thanks to Strada Wheels for the race jersey and spare wheels, Rob from Finely Tuned Ride for running the pits and keeping my bikes in great order and Dad for pushing me on through my poor patch

Next Stop Erlestoke 12 or 6?,single speed or geared? I'll decide the week before.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Gorrick 100 - A lesson in getting on with it

After last years disaster where my Gorrick 100 lasted 3 minutes I was keen to have a better race! Despite the race being 1 week before Exposure 12 I went for the 7 lap category, as it is part of the Endurance series, the Endurance series has been setup to recognise the riders who specialise in longer races which in the UK, which aren't noticed by British Cycling.....

After a long training week the previous week I cut my riding by and concentrated dialling-in my new race bike in the run up to the race, despite this come saturday I was still feeling tired.

After a very early start we arrived at Porrigepot Hill, a venue I know well having raced there plenty of times before. Lining up at the start the usual fast faces were in attendance, no matter the longer races are meant to suit me. The start was fast and I had very little in response, dropping away from the front group, along fireroad sections I knew well I had no real speed and couldn't make my way through the pack.

Over the next few laps I plugged on, making it up into 12th place, but not making any time up on the guys in front, but I wasn't losing time or places either, despite a few minor off's on the loose loamy trails and enjoyed the course, with the majority of the lap made up of singletrack it was physically demanding course, with little time to eat or drink. Gradually my legs switched on and I passed a few 7 lapper's, but I still didn't feel great but I made myself drink one full bottle & one Mulebar kick gel per lap.

The last 2 laps felt better, and by the final lap I was on the chase of the riders in front, making up a few places. In the end I finished 8th out of 77, happy with the result considering it wasn't my best day, but I glad I made the distance without having to dig too deep, but I know I could have done better.

Next race is Exposure 12, Saturday 11th, so less than 1 weeks recovery, but i'm comfortable with that

Sunday, 28 April 2013

New Race Bike- Hongfu FM056

I have been impressed by my first chinese carbon 29er, it has been light and dependable, not the stiffest but it has survived several xc races and around 1000 training miles. So when I was looking for a race bike for this year I knew I could trust another chinese frame.

Frame: After further research I settled on the Hongfu FM056, it looked good and the geometry mirrored the  Scott Scale 29er so it should make a good race bike. Its light, but not the lightest at 1355grams, build quality is good, internal brake and gear cables are neat and tidy, and the headtube is a better length than my first frame.

Fork: I've always liked the design of Cannondale Lefty forks, stiffness is superior to standard forks and its a similar weight, but all packed into one prong. I opted for the XLR carbon version with remote lockout with a Project 321 tapered steerer adapter. Initial opinions are good, it tracks well, the lock out is great and it looks Badass!

Wheels: These have been a while in the making, Strada pulled through and built me some awesome 29er wheels, DT Swiss 240 rear and Cannondale Lefty front hubs  built on Strada carbon 29er rims with CX ray spokes, they are light, around 1450grams, which helps them spin with minimal effort. The best thing about them is the lateral stiffness compared to my regular aluminium rims, which is a disadvantage of the big wheels, but with these, there is no lateral flex, awesome! A great addition to any xc bike.
Drivetrain: I had originally wanted to go Sram xx-1 but parts were impossible to source and the huge cost of consumables (£300 for a rear cassette!) put me off. Since i've started using gears again Sram seem to have been reliable and easy to set up, X.0 throughtout, with 20 speeds, including a new Type 2 clutch rear mech, this gives me the option in the future to run a spiderless xx-1 style chainring for shorter races where 20 speed range isn't required.

Hope Race X2 brakes, well priced, light and relatively reliable, plus I have so many break pads from the other bikes it made sense.

Finishing Kit: Trusty Selle Italia SLR saddle. MT Zoom 700mm carbon bars, good quality, 0deg rise. Ergon GS-1 grips, round grips don't make sense to me, these are much comfier. Specialized S-works -12deg stem, in an effort to get the front end lower, looks great and lighter than Thomson. Trailbright Seatpost, Glynn contacted me asking whether i'd like to trial one after I broke my KCNC post, first impressions are good, its very light, the mechanism works well and the build quality is good. Matching Trailbright headset with ceramic bearings, nice quality and works well with the Lefty.

Thanks: Have to say thanks again to Strada for the wheels and fork and Finely Tuned Ride for putting the pro touches to the build, I know my limitation as a mechanic and my bikes always ride better after Rob's fettling.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Southern XC- Round 1

With Gorrick 100 and UK12 only a few weeks away I would be wise to try my legs on an XC race. The run up to the race wasn’t ideal, I broke my spare set of wheels and rode most of the week either road riding or on my Singlespeed, luckily Jonathan from Strada Wheels pulled through and I picked up my new bling set of Carbon 29er wheels. 29er wheels have a notorious habit for being flexible, luckily with carbon rims these wheels are super stiff, and get up to speed super quickly.

Arriving in plenty of time to Matterley Basin near Winchester I signed on and rode a quick practice lap to check conditions and learn the course, the course suited my strengths, it was not very technical and it had several long climbs. Conditions were good considering the heavy rain the previous day, summer tyres worked well, even on the slippery rooty sections, I was relieved and looked forward to racing.

Having not raced xc properly in 2 years, I opted for the sport category, lining up for the start I was happy with my choice. I had a good start and was easily inside the top ten by the end of the first climb, reaching the first singletrack we had caught the master cat back markers but the course suited overtaking.

At race pace the laps felt even shorter, first lap done, pushing on I was in second place, comfortable with the pace the second lap went well, onto the final lap I needed to make up over a minute to catch first place, this didn’t happen. I finished second which I was happy and surprised with, my lap times were all within 10seconds of each other and I had plenty left in the tank, which makes me think I should have stepped up to the expert cat, but as I confidence checker I was happy. Next race Gorrick 100.

More to follow on my new race bike!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Off Camber XC race

I rarely race xc, in fact the last time I raced xc was April 2011! I know its not a strength of mine but when the last round of the Off Chamber XC was on a free weekend I thought I'd give it a try! The weather forecast was suitably wintery so I decided my Niner SingleSpeed was the best option, I packed the van along with my road bike so I could ride home afterwards.

Sunday brought an unexpected coating of snow, undeterred we made the short drive to the race. The race had a low key vibe which I liked, the rolling start soon had things underway, I stayed with the front group and lead up the first hill, this didn't last long as a fast start on tired, cold legs soon had them burning!

The course was fun but incredibly muddy! `few nice sections of single track and easy climbs, finished the first lap in 5th. Second lap, lots more mud, lost a few places as lost traction on the once easy climbs.

Last lap, freezing cold, the course was more trashed, I didn't loose anymore places, finished 7th out of 45ish, a reasonable effort on a singlespeed, more importantly, I wasn't disillusioned on my XC form.

I didn't manage the ride home, I was a shivering wreck!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Gran Canaria winter training

Back before the winter really got a grip and ruined the trails, I had booked a weeks warm weather training in Gran Canaria. I've never been abroad specifically to ride my bike, but having seen lots of blog and strava reports of people's cycling trips there I knew Gran Canaria was a good choice, so flights and accomodation were booked, and I survived the winter the best I could.

The main aims of the trip were to get in some quality warm weather miles and to increase my winter-mile induced low lactic threshold, i've always remained motivated during the winter, but I do struggle in the cold.

February rolled around, I packed up my bike back in the freezing cold knowing the next day it would be at least 20degrees and sunny. The flight was  fine once I'd realised that the carpark I had pre booked was actually nowhere near the airport, mild panic over we checked-in and were in the air quickly. Collected from the airport we were taken shopping, then I built my bike and ate some food and went to sleep, eagerly anticipating the next day.

After a few false starts we collected Ryan's hire bike and set of on the first ride, a mellow 55miles with 5600ft of climbing.The first thing that struck me was how good the roads were! no casm-like potholes or disintegrating tarmac, nice smooth roads with little traffic, I loved it already!

So for the first three days we stuck at around 4-5hour rides, anticipating a tough week I didn't want to tire myself too quickly, but everyday I felt strong and recovered, having nothing to do in the evenings, recovery shakes, ten hours sleep and swimming pools really helped recovery.

Wednesday, mid way through the holiday, I took a semi-rest day which still involved riding up a 3mile, 1500ft mountain as fast I could, still only scraping the second page on the Strava segment. Fully rested I planned the next day's epic......

We headed along the coast via a small 2000ft climb and down to San Nicholas, which was quite an odd place, reminding me of a spanish "Royston Vasey", after a quick snack we headed out along a seemingly un-used road, then the climbing began! 
What I hadn't realised from my clicking on bikehike was that I had chosen a climb that I now know is refered to as "Valley of Tears" with an initial 1.5km climb which gained 800ft the climb grinds on for 12miles up to almost 5000ft, which left me cursing but relishing the challenge. Unfortunately the descent was very misty and freezing cold,  but with 80miles and 10,000ft combined of climbing it was a good day.
Valley of Tears
The remaining rides were more of the same, which was what I needed, in hindsight I would have benefitted from more fast paced mountain climbing, but pacing was essential for longer rides. Since i've returned I have noticed the difference in my riding, with stronger feeling legs, and the ability to maintain a higher heart rate on longer rides. 

I've got to thank Jonathan from Strada Wheels for lending me the H Plus Son Archetype wheelset, the wheels performed brilliantly, the difference in weight and stiffness over my Mavic wheelset was very noticeable, they climbed brilliant and the hubs sounded ace! I've never thought about how much difference the rim width makes, the Archetype's are wider than my mavic rims so the tyre has a much rounder shape, this allows the tyre pressure to be kept lower, allowing a more supple tyre. I felt more in control on the faster descents which gave me more confidence to ride faster, that and the roads aren't littered with potholes and gravel! I plan to get a my current wheels rebuilt onto the same rims in the future.

Thanks to the guys from Mulebar for helping me out with tasty gels and energy bars, makes getting enough calories much more enjoyable! 

And a big thanks to my coach Francesca Bennett who puts up with me avoiding my core and interval sessions!

In total I managed 410miles in six days, with roughly 40,000ft of climbing. Now I know the simplicity of getting out to the sunshine I will consider it again for next year.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

January Update: Snow Rides and Bike Fits

January has flown by! after the disappointment of Brass Monkeys I tried not let it distract me from the more important races.

Luckily it snowed which was a welcome change to my usual trails, single speeds are good fun in the snow. Check some of my rides here

Next up I went for a bike fit at Fit2Ride near Wareham in Dorset. I've wanted a pro bike fit for a while, so when I got proper road shoes for xmas I decided that it was good time to go. I thought I had it my road bike set up quite well, turns out my saddle was too low, and I was far to far behind the crank spindle. With my fit dialled I was making 10-12watts  more power with a lower heart rate for a given cadence. Luckily my pedal stroke was already very smooth, and my handlebar drop was described as pro level, I guess having no excess baggage make it easier to have low bars. The same aspects where applied to my 29er, which now feels much faster. 

I really recommend a fitting, people think they can "feel" their bike setup, but something so important should be left to the pro's.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Magicshine MJ872 1600 lumen: A Review

I've been a big fan of night rides for the last few year, there are lots of good reasons to ride at night; it improves your technical skills, keeps you fit during the winter, makes riding all year and all conditions possible, helps with those summer 24hr team races when the sun goes down and it's FUN! A good set of lights gives you access to all this fun!

When I bought my first light almost 6 years ago it was £60 and it wasn't really bright enough for riding off road at any pace, the battery life was poor, it was heavy and gave no indication of remaining battery life. Fast forward to present day and there is a huge choice. I’ve owned several Exposure lights, they have very good build quality and nice features, but these come at a premium, the cost. An Exposure light suitable as a main light starts at £200 which is a lot of money for a casual rider who wants to dabble in night riding.

Enter Magicshine, originally they could be bought direct from China, but now its much easier to get hold of them, with several UK distributors selling at the same prices.

I tested the £90 Magicshine MJ872, with a claimed maximum output of 1600 lumen it's almost as bright as my £450 Exposure Six Pack.
Magicshine MJ872

I'd never seen the light before testing it, but I had it installed on my bike within 5minutes, the light head mounted on my bars with the simple, but secure O-ring mount, making angle adjustment simple and tool-free, the battery pack tucked away under my top tube. It was a nice change to have the low profile light head on the bars instead of my large Six Pack.

The light was very simple to use, the brightness button was easy to operate even with thick winter gloves, and once I understood the button had a brightness up & down function as part of the same button it was easy to adjust the brightness. It had 4 brightness settings, the button indicates the remaining charge by changing colour, the same as an Exposure light.

I used it in conjunction with a Helmet light as I like to look around whilst riding and it helps illuminate twisty single track, and I understand this light can be helmet mounted with the correct mounts and leads, which can be purchased cheaply. The beam pattern was a large flood of light, which is what I am used to, so it felt familiar.

In conclusion the light was brilliant for the money its costs and for the rider experimenting with night riding and the casual night rider it is perfectly suited and a great investment, for me personally I still think my Exposure lights have the edge, due to their slightly lighter weight and longer battery life which is essential for races like Dusk 'til Dawn where it was dark for 9 hours, even with my Exposure lights it was hard to race all night, but they lasted 8 hours and helped me to second overall.
Brighton MTB night ride

Monday, 14 January 2013

Gorrick Brass Monkey's Rd.3: Lessons must be learnt

I had been looking forward to the last round of the Brass Monkey’s series,I was 7th overall and felt I was in good shape after a good xmas training week, and I liked the venue.

My biggest concern before the race was the weather, I feel the cold quite easily, so made sure I dressed in warm, but not too warm clothing. I went through my typical race prep, and lined up for the start, we held a minutes silence over the tragic death of Burry Stander, South African Marathon racer, and a personal hero of mine.

For once I got a relatively good start, made good progress passing through the faster starters once the terrain ramped up. Working through the singletrack I caught and passed a rider I thought would be a front runner, this gave me confidence and i settled into my pace, but then disaster struck!

I landed on the back of my saddle, and the saddle clamp gave way. Game over, i got back to the pits and tried to tighten it but it was shot, I finished the lap, disappointed but that is racing sometimes, and mistakes are made. I spent the rest of the race cheering on my competitors, whilst trying to keep warm!

From the experience I will take that I can’t assume things that perform well during training will perform as well during racing, speeds are higher, forces are different. Racing goes on, I have no major targets until the National Marathon Championships in April, from now until then I will concentrate on quality training, with one week of warm weather training in Gran Canaria at the end of february, which is something i’ve never done before.