Thursday, 26 May 2011

Smooth please.

Local ride last night, local trails for local people. Legs still slightly wooden from the weekend. Slackened Pace feeling heavy, slow and unfamiliar - missed the Ragley for its lightness, precision and bright-eyed speed everywhere.

Anyway, brain wondering around the periphery of the landscape. Hip-hopping along distant ridges and hidden cloughs. Half-wishing I was riding on my own. Remembering why I grate with certain types of group rides, the alpha male stuff.

Thinking. Just how messy and ungainly people look when they're trying too hard to go fast. Thrashing and desperate and frenzied. And I'm not claiming immunity there, I've done it too, I think we all have.

But right now I'm trying to ride smooth and loose and neat. Speed but relaxed, economic speed. Sustainable speed. It just feels nicer. Like running your hand over sanded wood rather than a splintery plank.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Did the Lakes Epic thing at the weekend with my mate Davey and it turned out to be mildly epic in a mellow sort of way. Took Rags the psychotic Ragley Ti to save some weight and add some interest and never once regretted it, well, maybe when I was pushing a 2.5 Minion DHF into a headwind, uphill, on tarmac, for ages, on day two, but off road and particularly on the technical stuff, it properly rocked...

Anyway, a sort of loop around the bottom of Skiddaw then down, via Threlkeld to Thirlmere and over Sticks Pass. Not ridden that before. Mostly the climb was a steep carry come push come short bits of granny ring spinning, but worth it for the descent into Glenridding, which was lovey and thought provoking at the same time.

And it got us down to Ullswater for a stormingly, lovely, traverse of the amazing lakeside singletrack - properly ace. Rode loads of stuff clean that I often faff up thanks to the Ragley's poise, whoomph and bright-eyed, big-grin, psychotic ti-grained soul. Got to the end of it and looked round for the folk who'd been with us at the start and they'd just gone.

Sticks Pass from the Thirlmere side - push or carry, your choice...
I'd been kind of worried that the Ragley wouldn't be able to keep with suspension bikes on the more teccy stuff, but the reality was that it handled everything brilliantly, even the fast bits. It really is something else, just over 25lb with a 2.5 Minion DHF on the front and a 150mm Revelation. The front end just feels incredibly planted, the bike oozes va-va-voom and despite the lightness, it never feels remotely fragile or vague or out of its depth.

Hike-a-bike two in the background, track on RH side aiming for that obvious notch.
 There was an amusing post on the STW forum that compared it to a shag-happy nubile, but for me it's more like one of those lightly-muscled folk who look perfectly normal till the shirt comes off and you realise they're all stripped-down, 100% functional, honed power and poise. Good enough to show a clean pair of heels to a Specialized Pitch on nadgery rockery, light enough to climb hard tec and way better than me. Anyway, I love the thing to bits and Brant for designing it in the first place.

All that and it'll handle 60-mile days in the Peak or Lakes too.

Anyway... one more hike-a-bike and some lovely flowing stuff down to the overnight camp at Pooley Bridge, we came in 12th and 13th, so that was okay, but to be honest, it was just great spending a day with a mate, chatting with a bunch of nice folk, riding some lovely trails and being grateful that the rain held off until we'd finished.

Oooops, pitched side on to a serious freak gust - bang, snap, drama...
 Tent pole snapped overnight in the wind. We decamped to a spare Macpac Minaret, slept, ate, and eased into a pretty wet and windy day two. Lots of road, lots of headwinds and a truncated route, but still good to be out.
One slightly bedraggled Davey at the finish of day two - hard on the
Keswick Mountain Festival which looked equally soggy...
 I've run out of words now, but a cracking weekend

Can we go now?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Cross purposes.

Things I've learned recently. I'm glad I don't test bikes for a living - I have BikeMagic's test Cotic >X< for a couple of weeks and I don't have the breadth of experience of riding cross bikes to put it in any sort of real perspective. And besides, I enjoy riding bikes, not deconstructing them.

I quite like the thing, it's basically a shorter, springier, drop-barred Road Rat with a carbon fork that's taken the horrible solid clang out of the front end. I didn't like the steering, the tyres, the gearing or the bars - yes, I know, a long list - so I changed them all. And then of course it wasn't a standard bike any more.

So you get into the thing about whether you should alter things so they work better or just ride as is. Tell you what though, seven flats in three rides or something, those bloody tyres had to go or my sanity was outta the window at speed...

Anyway, in its lightly improved state - or 'ruined' one, depending on how you feel about these things - the >X< suits me pretty well. With an 11-32 mountain bike cassette out back it climbs properly off road without giving you a hernia on every slight rise, steers acceptably and is surprisingly capable on rougher things up to and including limited rubble fields and small bedrock steps. And it has a 29er-style rollability to it that means it'll run through things if you will.

Not so lovely...
What's really nice about it is being able to mix everything up. Like Sunday, when I took it out on the road, over Holme Moss and on to Marsden via a mix of bridleways and back lanes for cake and coffee with Rich and Shona at the excellent Crumbals, then high-tailed it back home on the Pennine Bridleway. Try doing that on a mountain bike. Or a road bike.

You fair hurtle along the flatter, harder-surfaced stuff. And then there's the more technical off road bits where I sort of picked my way down. And then there was the Longdendale Trail when the front tyre decided to peel off the rim releasing the inner tube to wrap itself balloon dog style around the fork. And the hub. Hmmm... And it didn't even flat. And I didn't fall off. Slightly bizarre. Limped home with slash in the sidewall patched in traditional fashion with a gel wrapper.

I call this art.

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Blimey, I actually appear to have learned something from last year's 24/12-SITS debacle, like I will not recover properly from a 12-hour solo in the space of ten days, so if I want to do the ace-looking, two-day Lakes thing in two weeks time, then I'd better not ride around in poxy circles for 12 hours this weekend...

And besides, the weather forecast looks crap. And I'm about to intervalise myself senseless for 24/12. And I can't be arsed with driving for three hours. And I'm getting dead good at rationalisation. And possibly riding my legs off over the long Bank Holiday weekend wasn't ideal.

Ah well.

We're both resting...

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bank holidaying.

Hollins Cross, half way or so?
A really mellow long Blank Holiday weekend starting with a Royal Wedding special circuit of Stoopid Loop with added Whinstone Lee Tor excursion - over Middle Moor and the Roych, along Rushup, Hollin Cross and its cousin, Hope. Ladybower via the deconstructed roller coaster, WLT then Cut Gate and a mellow roll back home.

Blurry hot at the top of WLT.
 Third time on Cut Gate in seven days, which is probably excessive, but it was in prime nick bar the head wind all the way across to Langsett. Pay back was a hurricane-force tailwind all the way back home for big ring smiles.

Cut Gate - the second crossing, out and back from the front door on Wednesday night.
And then things went secret singletrack, Cracken Edge twice, once alone, once with mates. Proper bonkers fun on shoulder-hugging singletrack with the odd steep drop to the left and a cracking, brain-out final flourish over series of, well, humps. A sort of dromedary, camel's back thing. Sigh.

Cracken Edge, secret squirrel singletrack with ace views and the odd drop and a camel-back finish.
 And with the cross ride thrown in the middle - BM's test Cotic >X< no less - I make that around 120 off-road miles in a mix of sun and wind and mellow. The reward? Fish finger sarnies in the making and a date with UK12 or whatever it's called, on Rags and with added picnic content, because I'm not fit or fast enough to race.

Hmmm... pause for thought.
And some bonus lambs...

The angriest bike in the world.

Is this one. A small, shiny bundle of bright-eyed attitude. Light without feeling in the least fragile. Frantic without feeling frenetic. Fierce but still friendly. Ace.

And in the interests of balance, here are some lambs...