Friday 29 October 2010

Weight geekery pays off

Just won a guess the weight of the sweets competition. Too much time weighing stuff for OMM pays off! I was only 7 grams out with my guess of 1325g. Now to carbo load!

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Wednesday 22 September 2010

Bespoked Bristol

This looks interesting. I've only just heard about this and it is going to be very close to my house.

Lots of questions spring to mind.
Do we have enough builders to give a good show?
Will they knock up artisan show bikes to compete with the yanks or are they too old fashioned?

Whatever, it's going to be interesting.

Monday 6 September 2010

Another enthralling episode of “Stuff that I did on holiday”.

After the eventful trip up the West Highland Way pulling the plug left me muddy and cold stranded in Fort William. Mel was on her way up from Dr Jon’s house in Glasgow but knowing I had a few hours to kill I headed for Off-Beat Bikes where the mechanics kindly let me stash my bike while I went in search of coffee and fried food. Several large espressos later I opted to lean my bike up in the corner of a car park and have a sleep up against it. Despite hard ground, no sleeping bag or bivy and the rushing wind I slept like a log for a hour, until I got too cold. Just as well I wasn’t up a hill... Shortly afterwards Mel found me riding round the car park warming up. We headed for the closest campsite and, after a quick shower, I spent the next 24hrs alternating sleeping and eating.

At this point I should explain that we had borrowed my dad’s new camper van. The plan was to have 2 weeks touring Scotland. See a few sights, climb a few hills, eat some good food. That went pretty well for the first week. From Fort William we visited Pitlochry, Arbroath and The Trossachs before heading back to see Jon and Trina. Even a week later my knees weren’t quite right, so we cut the touring short and headed home to get some rest. A couple of days urgent DIY that I have been putting off for 2 years, I settled down to some bike maintenance. First up was the 69er singlespeed that I was planning on using for SSUK the coming weekend. The Hive bb was dead, and it was going to be a push to get it sorted in time. What to do? Then I looked at the Top Fuel, my current ‘Bike du jour’. Chain, cassette and cables are dead so need to come off. My mind ticked over... Top Fuel single speed here we come! A couple of hours later I suddenly had a badass looking race ready single speed. Just over 20lb with sensible tyres and a bottle cage. Nice. The first spin was to be as expected: It rides pretty much the same as it does with gears. In other words, quick! This is when the issue of my knees hit home. They still weren’t right. I cut the ride short and went home to grab some Ibuprofen and ice. I crossed my fingers and rested my legs.

SSUK this year was being hosted by SSEC and national 24hr champ Matt Page and my old friend, and former 69er rider, Andy “Gooner” Gowan. So as soon as they announced it I knew I couldn’t miss it. Friday saw the campsite fill with faces old and new. Unfortunately the dates clashed with the Brighton Big Dog, organised by Morvelo and the other members of the Brighton crew so there were a few notable absences, which was a shame. Friday night was a good laugh, as we’d become accustomed. Saturday was race day and after a short ride out to the trails at Cwm Rhaeadr the race got under way with the traditional Le Mans start. Straight away I knew I was in trouble. Before I was even on my bike I knew I was in trouble, my knee was sore already. I rode the first section in the front group of three but at the first really steep climb I knew I had to back off. My body felt fine, with the exception of my knees which were extremely painful- to the extent it felt like I couldn’t transfer any substantial power through them. From that stage I took it easy and tried to enjoy the ride, but thats easier said than done if you were looking forward to a race. Thankfully the course was excellent and I loved the long fast descent, especially where the luxury of rear wheel suspension had me nipping past riders. On the second lap I attempting a hot line, through the inside of a rocky switchback, to pass some slower riders. Although the move briefly worked it put a gash in my rear tyre. As I attempted to fix it Dave Optional-Chops saved the day with a loan of his pimpy Superfly. I ended up riding the last two laps on it, which was a really nice illustration of how the two opposing bikes preformed differently and yet the same...
SSUK10 60
picture by David Hill.

Eventual winners were Johnny Pugh, who seemed to be in a bad mood all day, and Mel Spratt, who seemed to really enjoy herself. Un-surprisingly Mel got loudest cheer and won a sweet custom Exposure light. I finished about 10th but scooped a wicked I-Spy Bikes book for having the Pimpyest bike.

Saturday night saw inappropriate recovery drinks, epic partying, great tunes, lots of dancing, a hilarious tug-of-war competition and the dangerous Mini-bike racing. After that it’s a bit of a blur... Another great year, roll on SSUK 2011!

Roll on next year!

Thursday 26 August 2010

The itch you can't scratch

Really annoyed at the moment. Tendinitis in my knees is stopping me ride with any real intensity. I'm hoping that the rest and exercises I'm doing get me fit in time for The Three Peaks cyclocross, but it's going to be close. And even then I won't be on top form.

In an attempt to stay sane, I've been playing about with my bikes, changing set-ups and general tinkering. This year I've been loving the Top Fuel 9.8 but also riding the Fuel 69er a lot. The 69er in particular is a bit of a departure for me. Big bars, short stem, dropping post, big tyres. It's confidence inspiring and seems to be helping me ride better. It's got me thinking about bigger bikes. I'd love a Rumblefish!

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Friday 20 August 2010

Just back from holiday.

Drowning in emails, but nice and relaxed. My plan for this summer had, originally, been to head out to the ‘States for the Colorado Trail race. Unfortunately, things stacked up against me and I made the hard decision to stay at home. Sounds like I missed a tough year. My next plan was to ride the Bearded Man Black Mountain 3 Day. Then the event got cancelled...

So what have I been up to? First up was 24/12. As I was planning to be flying to Colorado the following day I hadn’t sorted out a team as the plan was simply to go down for a spin and to hang out. After talking to Griff at Trek I ended up in a pair, filling in for the broken Travis Brown. Spot on. However on turning up at the race site, as seems to be a pattern this summer that, had also fallen through. Thankfully after a chat with KB I found a space on the Bontrager and friends team. As the only “proper racer” I was nominated to ride the first lap. Unlike most 24 hour races 24/12 doesn’t have a Le Mans start, personally I really like starting on the bike as it seems less stressful for me. I was amazed just how quickly some people started, it was immediately clear that they had no idea about pacing themselves as and I re-passed 90% of them in the first mile. I settled in to a nice rhythm and soon found myself riding with solo racers Rich Rothwell and Big Rob Dean. I had a great lap chatting with them and playing on the course. Back at the camp the Trek pit was super sorted and the atmosphere was great chilling out by the BBQ. After a chat with Rory from Exposure I blagged a prototype Six Pack, their new one thousand eight hundred lumen light, for my night lap. Super bright lights are funny- they aren’t really necessary. When I started racing solo I was fine with 5 Watt halogens. The thing is for night racing there is an arms race going on. If the guy behind you has a better light it makes it tough for you to stay in front. Setting of in to the night I was soon reminded of this, riders would literally stop a hundred meters in front of me to let me pass. Needless to say, despite the pouring rain, my night lap was brill
iant fun. I finished totally buzzing and needed a few glasses of Cointreau and lime (classy Jez...) before I was ready for bed. Sometimes I miss racing but this 24/12 was the best ever for me. Great course, great people, great food.

Next on the list was a rather impromptu silly ride. I had a bash at riding the West Highland Way double. Idle hands had me scratching around for something to do, after a very helpful chat with Rob Lee I set a date, 10 days later, to have a bash. There’s been a lot of chat about this challenge but it remains un-ridden. My legs were feeling good and now seemed as good a time as any. I had a bit of a mad panic getting my bike sorted and collecting kit but everything came together. The plan was to leave Milngavie early evening so I would get the harder direction out of the way first, but also the most technical sections I would be ridden in the light. I set of just after 6pm travelling very light. I made very quick progress through the early miles. Even, the notoriously tough, climb over Conic hill was out of the way quickly and I loved the descent- the Top Fuel got me out of trouble just as quickly as it got in to it!
By the time I got to Ptarmigan lodge I had to fire up the Six Pack but I was still feeling strong. By now it was drizzling pretty heavily, so I stopped briefly to put on some waterproof trousers and my ace new Gore Alp-X jacket. The feared portage section along Loch Lomond side was better that I had feared but by the time I reached Rob Roys cave the weather was decidedly bad. The trail was very slimy under foot (or tyre?) and it was really slowing my progress. And that’s not to mention the stiff headwind. At this stage I had a rare thought about my safety. I was carrying some extra warm clothing and a survival bag but to keep it light I didn’t have a sleeping bag or bivy. As I rode past a candle lit bothy I almost stopped rather than risk the exposure on the desolate later sections. I reassured myself that I was still feeling fresh so opted to push on. Push being the operative word. Frustratingly the surface was really limiting the amount I could ride. The trail undulates quite a lot and I’m sure in better weather I’m sure I could have made much better progress. As it stood, it just seemed to be ruining my legs. At about 3 am I passed some guys drunk at a camp fire we looked at each other with confusion but I carried on, resisting the temptation to stop for a beer.

On the descent towards Kingshouse (I think, it’s a bit of a blur...) things took a turn for the worse. Visibility had been low for quite a while but as the trail pointed down cloud seemed to lift. As I railed a fast left hander a sheep threw itself in front of my bike. I couldn’t quite believe it was happening, for some time I had been shouting or singing to scatter sheep, but this one actually turned around and ran in to my path. I glanced of its hind legs and cart wheeled over the bars throwing my bike of the trail. My bike and I landed in the predictable piles of pointy rocks, the sheep hardly broke step. By the time I had picked myself up I was already engulfed in a swarm of midges. The bike was in a pretty bad way; ripped sidewall, bent rotor, front mech spun around the seat tube, stem at a rakish angle and a smashed end to my carbon bars... I straightened out as much as I could and popped an anchovy in the front tyre all the time not to inhale the midges. The whole thing seemed ridiculous. Thankfully it didn’t take me too long to get going again and by now the sun was coming up, which is always a nice psychological boost. Another puncture slowed me down a little but I was really enjoying my own company and having fun on the trail. The Devils Staircase was slow going but the following downhill was very entertaining, gusts of wind came from nowhere as I tried to make it down fast and in one piece.

Unfortunately, by now the weather was really closing in again and this time my legs were really starting to suffer. As I climbed out of Kinlochleven I got the sinking feeling that I wouldn't be getting back here today. The ride in to Fort William was really fun despite it all but I spent the whole time soul searching. Was I giving in too easily? I came to the conclusion that it was going to be dangerous to drag myself back out in to the hills in this condition, in this weather. Packing early is always a hard decision, but as I sit here typing, nearly 3 weeks later, my knees are being iced as I try to get them back in to working order. I know it was the right decision.

A lot of forum chat has been really negative about this route but I enjoyed it. While I'm sure it isn't the best point to point (to point) route Scotland has to offer, it is a great yard stick. I'd like to have another crack at the double at some point. Watch this space.

Little hand says it's time to rock and roll.

Monday 2 August 2010

Monday 19 July 2010

Another Monday. But somehow different.

I had a great ride in this morning. I bought this frame a couple of years ago but built it up as a single speed. It's had a lot of use, including two Three Peaks rides. I'm surprised it still looks so tidy. After last years event I got a new XO2 so this one has been somewhat neglected. However, this years 3 Peaks entries spurred me in to tidying it up. The new bike will be my primary ride with this one as a spare.

There's something special about riding a favourite bike that's been ignored for a while. Everything is in the right place. No fumbling for the pedals. The saddle fits in a way a new one never will. Everything just works. Today was nicer still, a full compliment of gears has made the bike feel like even more of a ripper. I sprint the first hundred meters up the road, before ducking through to the valley behind my house. The speed on the road gives me confidence as the trail points down. Perhaps a little too much confidence. I tear through the first right hander then nearly high-side myself in the following left. I reign it in, but just a little... The ups are out of the way quicker than usual and the 50.00cm bars are forgotten about on the downs. By the time I make it to work I'm a sweaty mess. I need a long shower, a coffee and a second breakfast. However I'm starting Monday happy, although i still might not get much work done- today I will be mainly thinking about one Sunday in September.

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Sunday 4 July 2010

The weekender was great!

Shame I crashed out on the DH but the format was awesome, and great to see everyone!

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Tuesday 1 June 2010

Summer 'Cross at last!

I'd been really looking forward to the Western Summer 'Cross League. 'Cross season is never long enough and the idea of racing after work really appeals. I couldn't make it to the first round, last week, so was raring to go. My knee is still not quite right and I've got a cold so I wasn't quite sure how I'd go so I headed out for a practice lap. The course was fast but with a couple of really tricky sections and a lot of hurdles. Looked fun and my legs gave me some confidence.

The start went well, I got in to 4th from the first corner but then over ran the second, losing a few places. I managed to get back in to 4th over the first set of hurdles and the first technical section. I rode on Rob Lee's wheel for the first lap but then overtook him on a long slight climb. Then there I stayed, 1st and 2nd slowly pulled away from me but I put a couple of minutes in to everyone else. Unusually I was pulling away in the straights and not keeping enough speed in the corners. Not enough time on the 'cross bike I guess! Anyway very happy with 3rd place and some obvious room for improvement. Roll on next week!

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Sunday 25 April 2010

2011 entry list

I just spotted the entry list is up here.

Some interesting stuff:
Jeff is racer #1 (didn't Pete win?!)
11 brits.
2 skiers, 12 runners and 36 bikers.
10 people heading to Nome, 8 on bikes. Although I belive Roger is going to do the short race on skis instead.
Carl, southern route record holder is back.
The legend that is John Stamstad is there running the 350 mile race.
Greg from Speedway is putting his money where his mouth is.
Bristol locals Fi and Andy are running, last time I saw them they were talking about riding it...
Top runners Tim and Tom are conspicuous in their absence (especially as Tim's wife is there).

Really looking foward to it! Unfortunatly twisted my knee yesterday so off the bike (and, feet...) for a while :-(

Monday 22 March 2010

My bike

I picked up a third hand Surly Pugsley from the STW classifieds. It’s a size smaller than I would have bought new, but it was a bargain and I like the colour. Thanks Jez, and Grant. Here’s how it was built up:
Frame: Surly Pugsley, with a set of bottle bosses added under the down tube so I could put my fuel bottle under there.
Fork: Surly 135mm offset
Wheels: Hope Pro II single speed hubs with low temperature grease. 65mm Surly Large Marge offset, Pugsley specific, rims (with 29mm hand drilled lightening holes). DT Comp spokes and brass Proloc nipples. The front and rear wheels are interchangeable in case a free-hub froze up.
Tyres: Surly Endomorphs
Sprockets: “rear” wheel 25t Endless cycles and 20t On-one. “Front” wheel 22 and 20t On-one. I used the 30:25 for the entire course other than The ‘Burn where I used 30:20. Thanks Brant.
Cranks: Surly Mr Whirly with 30t chainring
Chain: SRAM 8spd with Pedros Extra Dry lube
Pedals: Bontrager King Earl with upgraded bearings and low temperature grease- the stock bearings froze solid at around –20 Celsius, so wouldn’t have been much use. Extra long PowerGrips.
Headset: Chris King re-greased with low temperature grease and with a motivational “What would Stamstad do?” top cap.
Stem: Bontrager Race X Lite 110mm 7degrees rise.
Bar: Bontrager Earl With Bontrager bar ends wrapped in bar tape, Ergon grips, which I’m still not sure if I like. Epic Designs Pogies (which are awesome).
Brake levers: Very old XTRs wrapped in tape so they weren’t so cold to the touch.
Brake cables: Gore extra long
Brakes: Avid BB7
Seat Post: Bontrager Earl 400mm
Saddle: Bontrager Race Lite
Front rack: Scrap from Psyclewerx in Bristol.

2009 Kit list

At long last heres the list of what I carried in the event.

sleeping bag: Alpkit Devkit prototype. This is getting a few tweaks and will be available as, I believe, the AlpineDream system at some point in the future.
Bivy bag: Alpkit Epic prototype
sleeping mat: Thermarest Ridgerest
Stove: MSR Whiperlite International
Stove base: MSR Trillium
fuel bottle: 650ml MSR
Fuel: White gas
Pot: Alpkit MytiPot
Spork: Alpkit Tifoon
Drinks bottle: Nalgene with insulated cover

Maps: Downloaded from the internet, never used!
map case: Ortlieb
Compass: Sliva Ranger
GPS: Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx

Main light: Exposure headtorch prototype, with triple cell piggy back battery.
Back-up: Petzl Myo XP, with Lithium batteries

Outer layers
Down jacket: Alpkit Devkit proto
Trousers: Rab Latok Alpine
Softshell Jacket:Mountain Equipment G2 Alpine
Waterproof: North Face Hydrogen

Mid layers
Thin: Patagonia R1 flash
Thick: Patagonia R2 jacket

Base clothing
long sleeve base layers: Endura BaaBaa long sleeve merino x2
Shorts: Endura FS260 shorts non bib x2
windproof tights: Endura Stealth lite tights non bib- Saved my ass (literally) when the hose on my Wingnut broke!
Tights: Endura Thermolight Tights x2

Thick socks: Smartwool- Mountaineer x3 pr
thin socks: Smartwool- liner socks x 4 pr
Boots: Scarpa Mirage GTX w/ Superfeet insoles
Ice grips: Yak Trax Pro, I didn’t need these in the end but Jill’s account of the glacier convinced me they were worth carrying. Next time I think I’d tap screws in to my boots.
Gators: Neo Navigator (Awesome stuff, even if I did break the snow flaps on one of them)

fleece gloves: Mountain Equipment x 3 pr
windproof mitts: Mountain Equipment
Warm hat: Outdoor Designs- Toptur Infurno
Balaclava: Mountain Hardware Windstopper
Neck warmers: Singletrack Buff and a fleece Combi Buff

Tools: Fat Spanner multi tool, long 6mm allen key (for my hubs), 8mm allen key shim, Leatherman Skeletool CX
Tyre levers: Michelin
Pump: Topeak Mountain Morph
Poggies: Epic Designs
Frame bag: Alpkit custom
Bivy roll: Adapted from an Alpkit Drydock
Saddle bag: Epic Designs Super Twinkie
CO2: 2x Genuine Innovations Big Air cartridges
Co2 nozzle: Genuine Innovations
Spares: 2 inner tubes, 2 spokes, 2 links of chain, Tip-top and Park patches, some Duck tape (wrapped around the seat post) and several zip ties .
Sunglasses: Gyro Havik with 2 lenses
Goggles: Oakley O-frame persimmon
Hydration pack: Wingnut
hose insulation: Camelbac- Thermal control kit
2 digital cameras
6 handwarmers, 6 toe warmers
First aid kit
4 spare lithium AA batteries

Tuesday 5 January 2010

So a lot has happened...

The build up to the 2010 event event is now well under way. I’m envious of those who will be there, but best of luck to you all. Especially good luck to Roger Leavesley who will be riding my Pug. He’s got some cool new ideas about kit which I’ll certainly be interested to see.

My mate Paul it off to the Arrowhead 135. He’s rolling on a set of good olSnowcats that I had sitting about waiting to be built up as a “Mini-Fatty” for my wife. You can see more about his bike here. Good luck Paul!

As you’d expect, now I've lent out these bits it’s been snowing solidly here. Typical. I've made do with my winterised Trek Soho. OK, it’s just got Poggies on so not quite the same...

Also there seems to be somewhat of an arms-race going on in snowbike design. New Ali frames are available from Speedway and 9Zero7 and both have tweaked their Titanium frames. Speedway also have new lighter rims and some 100mm versions of the 15G cranks. I’ve been using the standard single speed versions of these cranks for a few months now, and they are going strong despite being around half a pound lighter than the Mr Whirlys. Tyres were historically one of the hardest part of a Fat bike to track down. Now the trusty Endomorph has been upped to 120tpi and the sidewalls have been toughened up. However there is also now competition in the form of its brother, the Larry (don’t you love Surly?!), and the, bargain priced Innova Spyder. All good stuff for progressing the fringes of the sport.

Eric, from the one-man, one dog sweatshop, Epic Designs is being forced to change his company name. As, apparently, his handmade bags may somehow be confused with a range of full-suspension bikes from a big company. He’s running a competition to rename the company on his website at the moment. I hope it all works out as Eric’s kit is top notch and he’s a great guy to boot.