Mountain Mayhem 2014

Image: Alastair Johnstone

Image: Alastair Johnstone

Why do we test ourselves? Why must we do things we don’t need to do, push ourselves towards intangible limits for no gain or glory? It’s different for professional athletes, of course – for them, pushing yourself physically is their stock in trade, but for the mere mortals that make up the bulk of the population, it’s more ephemeral, George Mallory’s response to the question, “why do you want to climb Everest?” It’s hard to argue a need to do endurance events, because there’s little glory in it beyond your own band of brothers (and sisters). You’re not going to make the news, the bank balance isn’t going to swell, and, outside of your fellow competitors, no-one’s really going to care. So. Why do you get a four-man team together for the Wiggle Mountain Mayhem 24 hour endurance mountain bike race? Because it’s there. Mallory would approve.

Team NTG are newcomers to the whole Mayhem thing, which goes way back to 1998 as the oldest 24 hour mountain bike race in the country. We picked up the gauntlet for the first time last year, as the event moved from the legendary Eastnor Park to new premises at Gatcombe Park, and although Mayhem has a reputation for being unlucky with the weather, it was dispiriting last year to have to spend a whole day collectively slithering through mud and along the ground. Still, where there’s no sense, there’s no feeling right? Right – the entry for the 2014 event was being planned long before the clag had been washed off the bikes.

This time the weather was outstanding, bright sun and blue skies all day long. The rules for a 24 hour mountain bike race are pretty simple – at twelve midday on Saturday, there’s a mass running start to the bikes. You can then commence lapping the 7.3 mile course right up until midday on Sunday, and any complete lap started within that timespan will count. Accordingly, as the team member who so far hadn’t yet started a race, I found myself amongst the masses lined up as the clock ticked towards midday.

There was a great, carnival atmosphere on the line, and it was hard to resist the temptation to run like the wind when the klaxon, especially with a horde of lean athletic types bounding past me like gazelle. I’m not an athlete – no, really, I’m not – but running is way down my list of sports I’m less bad at, and the outstanding first few yards that saw me in the top fifty at turn one had dwindled to a position as Tail-End Charlie, barely ahead of the solo riders (yes, solo racers at a 24 hour race – it’s not right, it really isn’t) who, less bothered by a rapid start, were walking the kilometre to their bikes.

Mayhem’s course designers have learnt a thing or two about building a track, and the opening miles were fast and open, which meant very little in the way of tailbacks, even with many hundreds of cyclists setting off at roughly the same time, plenty of room for passing if you were quicker than the rider in front. Gatcombe Park is Princess Anne’s garden, and it is glorious, rolling wooded hills and meadows – under the summer solstice sun, what had been slick, rutted tracks last year now became great, fast-moving trails. Downhills were the order of the day for the first half, culminating in the fantastic Red Bull timed section, but the payoff was a climbing-dominated second half. Ah well – you’ve got to have the bad to appreciate the good.

After the fast and technical Kenda descent, clearing the last climb out of the valley was a challenge for overheated riders, a natural sun trap in the bright glare of midday, but that led you to the final mile of the circuit, which led through the campsite itself, addressing a criticism of the event from last year and giving riders a great atmosphere as they panted their way to the line. I peeled off after one lap and handed over to Steve after a hard sixty five minutes in the saddle. Still just under twenty three hours to go…

Steve was on it and was back for changeover after less than forty five minutes – team captain Jon was next up and even quicker, clocking a sub 43 before Luke dropped in a solid anchor leg, putting me back on the bike little more than two and a half hours after I’d last stepped off it. If ever you have any doubts as to the elasticity of time, endurance racing like this is a great experiment – time on the bike can seem very quick, on the good downhills, or very slow, on the tough climbs. And between stints, when you’re trying to rest and recover as best you can, it flies like an eagle.

Having been tonked by my team mates on lap one (and, err, being lapped by the leaders, into the bargain), I pulled the pin on my second lap and gave it my maximum sustainable pace – the end result was that I was still miles off the pace, but quite a bit more fatigued, having no problems throwing water down my neck but struggling to eat, going big on malt loaf and flapjack. By half eight I was back out again, the heat having gone out of the day and a simply amazing dusky light settling across the estate, racers flying through dappled patches in the woods. After handing over to Steve, I hit the caterers for a pasta bolognaise and a brew – a curious sensation, I felt desperately hungry, but had absolutely no desire to eat, even though it was very nice. I forced it down anyway, and was very glad I did.

As darkness fell the woods became a moving cosmos, bright lights flitting between the trees, and NTG played what’s as close to a tactical ace card as we had – two lap stints overnight were planned in order to allow everyone to get as much rest as they could through the night. Having given ourselves a rough guideline of an hour a lap, we were way ahead of schedule, starting my night shift almost an hour and a half early, around half ten. Riding through the night is a different experience, each rider isolated in a little cone of bright white light, with little to be seen outside your own personal bubble. Modern night lights are astonishing, way too bright to be safely deployed on the road, but even they can do little to dispel the encompassing darkness of the woods at night, owls hooting and unseen creatures crashing through the undergrowth as you passed.

With the heat of the day gone, it was a really pleasant environment to be cycling in, but the fatigue load was making it very hard going – physically tired, hydrated but hungry, and desperate for some sleep. It was the thought of sleep that kept me going, trying to work out how much time I had, even planning strategies on my return to minimise the time taken to secure my kit before I could hit the sack. It’s at times like this that my respect for the solo riders is at it’s utmost – even now, just two days later, I know I can only get a sense of how bone-tired I was at that time, and how utterly incomprehensible to me it was that people had been riding non-stop since the race had started. The atmosphere and camaraderie on the course was fantastic throughout, riders chatting and encouraging each other all the way through, but to have a solo rider cheerfully tell me “ keep going, you’re doing well”, at nigh-on one o’clock in the morning as I slogged dispiritedly up a slope while he bounced past… I wish I knew who that person was, because in its own insignificant way, in that tiny moment, I caught a glimpse of what people are physically, mentally and spiritually capable of, and I knew how vast the gap was between those limits and my own. Even in the darkest depths of my own personal midnight, it was mightily inspiring.

It was just gone one’o’clock when I finally stumbled back to the changeover area, Steve handing me the transition jacket (© NTG VC), pedaling blindly back to the tent and jumping still fully clothed into bed, the alarm set for half five. But it was earlier than that when I awoke, still fatigued and wishing I could stay in bed for, ooo, another week or so. As I listened to the world slowly waking up in the earliest of the dawn light, I could hear Jon treading very carefully around, and gave him a quiet shout, see if he knew when Luke had set off so I could judge how long I had left in bed. But as we were chatting, disaster unfolded – Luke, unable to eat since before the race began, had been subsisting entirely on gels and energy bars, and the acidy fuel was playing havoc, giving ferocious acid reflux on top of the physical and mental fatigue. By six in the morning, he was through.

So it was an urgent jump out of bed, grab the bike, fill a bottle and time to head straight out on the circuit. Things were starting to hurt, but the air was lovely and cool and crisp, the campsite still asleep as the eedjits on bikes kept whizzing through. With the sun rising, the little damp that had developed overnight started to dry out and the return of visibility made the course fun again. But my concerns were purely selfish – I knew I had one more lap left to do before the end of the race, and I was becoming increasingly worried there might be two on offer. I knew from speaking to Jon that Steve had suffered cramps during his night stint, and there was an outside possibility we might end up down to two riders. I didn’t think I could face any more laps…

I was thus even more happy than normal to see Steve waiting for me in the transition area, and celebrated with a bacon and egg roll and a cup of tea before returning to camp – again, it was that curious sensation of feeling starving, but really feeling unable to eat. It was a struggle, but the food was delicious and I felt ten times better for having eaten something solid. Rejuvenated, I returned to camp and prepped myself for the endgame – which largely consisted of a change to dry clothes, some water, and a refill of my water bottle. Then all there was to do was wait.

As nine o’clock approached, the sun was well up and it was time to get back on the bike. I won’t lie, it hurt, but I knew that the backside pain would ease a few miles in – the leg pain, however, was going to be here to stay. Jon was in to hand over all too soon for my liking, and it was time to go.

It was a weird lap. I knew that, if nothing went wrong, I should be in time to hand over to Steve, then Jon, and they were still lapping plenty quick enough to finish before twelve, which left the possibility of another lap. Like a lot of blokes, I take a stubborn pride in never giving up in the face of adversity (see common perceptions of men reading instruction manuals, for example), but the realization was dawning that I didn’t want to do this anymore – could I still ride the bike? Physically, yes, I guess I could turn the pedals and still push up the hills, but… I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Mentally, I’d thrown in the towel and it was a hard realization to take.

But with that realization came release, and it was both a sad and enjoyable last half of a lap, knowing that I wouldn’t be riding this course again, at least for this year. One last attack down the Kenda descent (and how much more fun was that in the dry, compared to the slithery slide it was last year!), then out into the field for the last climb up the valley. Already crowds had started gathering as the final hours of the race drew nearer, and I was absolutely determined to ride that last climb out. I won’t lie, it felt a bit emotional riding the final mile through the campsite one last time, throwing a (very basic) shape over the plastic Jump Of Doom ramp before handing the baton to Steve. And I don’t mind admitting I had a little tear in my eye as I returned to camp for the last time.

We did ok, by our standards – 25 laps in 24 hours, 55th in Open Men out of 80. The post race celebrations were satisfied but pretty muted, and as I write this, two days later, I’m tired and it still hurts to walk up the stairs. Genuine consideration was given to not returning again next year, on the basis that it’s never going to get any better than that – that’s how good it was. But whether we do it or not (and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion we will…), there’s no doubt there’ll be thousands ready to take up the challenge for 2015. Why ride Mountain Mayhem? Because it’s there.

 

 

 

Ripping up the (January) Blues

January. Month of the blues. That typically means blue fingers and toes. The misery of missing out on our evening sunset rides, the (blue) icy weekend club rides and avoiding the usual club run route thanks to blue stuff (or brown!) running at pace down the street having spilled it’s banks.

But for me, this January has been 2 different kinds of blue. Cyan and the Blue Run.

Clean bike? Clearly not yet started!

Clean bike? Clearly not yet started!

This time last year I started my hunt for a CX bike. I didn’t want to spend a huge amount and would be more than happy with a 2nd hand bike. That’s fine for most, but do a search for new CX bikes at my height (that’s 158cm for those of you that haven’t met me) and it’s a struggle, let alone approaching the second hand market. 12 months on and with the help of a friend in Holland, I finally became owner to another Bianchi frame in some very traditional Bianchi colours.

The Bike Build
With the BB fitted by the local bike store, I was determined to build the rest of the bike myself. OK, I say myself, I had some help! But even then, it was easier said than done. Firstly, it’s the little things you don’t think about, resulting in a couple of trips to and forth from the bike shop to pick up ferrules and cable guides that I hadn’t considered when making my list of components (does such a list exist?).

Fitting the rear derailleur I realise I’m missing a bolt. Being Campag it’s not so easy to replace and so onto eBay to buy an old mech for parts. In the meantime, we fit the brakes, some snazzy Planet-X Frog Bolloxs which should be simple but, what I later learn is called the yoke, snaps as we tighten it. Bugger! Bike build on hold again until I can find a replacement.

Finally with the rear mech fixed and fitted, we attempt the gear routing. Campag specific wire goes through hole A and and comes out hole B….. at least, that’s what the instructions told us to do… did it work? NO! So, a couple of emails to a Campag mechanic friend and some handy tips and tricks shared, the gears are finally working. Rear mech fitted, bike is now working as a fixed gear at least. Just the front mech to complete…. and this is where we hit the wall. The wire is holding perfectly in the shifter, but can we get it to hold at the front mech? Can we heck. Getting a little impatient and really wanting to hit the trails, we give in and I drop the bike into the shop for them to complete the job and check over our work.

So finally, after 4 – 5 weeks of bike building (and a little over budget), I excitedly picked it up yesterday.  Bike number 6 took pride of place in the living room for the evening. But there was something significantly wrong – it was looking too new!

Hitting the Trails
Waking up to icy roads this morning, I jacked in the club ride, packed the car and headed over to Swinley Forrest in Bracknell.  My little brother spent much of his teens riding his fixed jump bike here, but this was the first time I’d ventured over there. I quickly realise what I’ve been missing out on.

The car park is packed with mtb-ers and walkers. I quickly ask a passer-by what state the trails are in – Good luck on a CX! They’re pretty unridable this morning’. Great. Well, I’m here now, so may as well give it a go. After all, my main intention is to get MUDDY!

Stopping to catch my breath at top of the sngle track on Blue Run

Stopping to catch my breath at top of the sngle track on Blue Run

I set off following the signs for ‘Mountain Bike Trails’ and soon come across a comprehensive hub detailing the different routes by distance and technical ability. Not much different to ski runs, the trails are set up from Green Run – 1.2km long with gentle dips on a wide track suitable for complete beginners and families, through to Red Run – 13km of extremely technical terrain of single twisty tracks with boardwalk climbs and lumpy descents, all of which are clearly marked in sections throughout.

New to the trails, CX and my bike, I start off on the Green Run and do a couple of warm up laps. It was great to see a 5 year old girl testing out her new bike skills with some expert advice from her MTB Dad, Helen Wyman’s going to have some competition!

Satisfied with the response of my brakes and gears, and slowly getting used to a different kind of cleats, I move onto the Blue Run.

Moderately graded, the complete route is 10.1km long and designed for novice to intermediate Mountain Bikers. It starts out on a pretty wide (although muddy) path, quickly descending into a single track through the pine forest. With some sections of the trail called “Full Nine Yards“, “Devils Highway” and “Stickler“, it’s not hard to imagine why this isn’t suited to the beginner. I also can’t imagine too many new to CX would be so comfortable either, but sticking to my rule of ‘always commit’ and wearing my ‘Fearless’ nick-name on my sleeve, I managed to weave, descend, jump and climb my way down the run.

I very quickly felt comfortable on my bike – trying to keep my pedal stroke smooth, I powered through thick mud; surprisingly managed to climb up over some steep sections stepped with tree roots, put my BMX lessons to use in the pump sections and only once came off track, luckily getting on the brakes to come to a clean stop before heading awol into some trees.

Other riders were extremely friendly, stopping for a quick chat and happy to sit behind until safe to pass or pull up to let you through. I managed 3/4 of the route before I started to get numb hands, even though I was wearing MTB gloves. Each section intersected by the fire-roads, it’s easy to drop off once you’ve had enough (although funnily enough, I found these harder to ride than the trails as they were so deep in mud!).

It may have been 2 degrees when I set out, but I was anything but cold. The blue run was a success and as I came to the end, part of me wanted to go at it all day. But car parking ticket due to expire, I followed the signs back to The Look Out.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did and at least expected a fall here or there (who knows what the MTBer was on about when he said it was un-ridable!). With a CX sportive coming up in 2 weeks time, I can’t wait to get back on the bike.

Bianchi & Giro

What I rode:
Bianchi D2 Cross with Campag Veloce 10sp
FSA Omega Compact Road Bar with Deda Elementi Zero1 Stem
Ambrosio WS 23 Wheels with Schwalbe CX Comp Cyclocross Tyres and Planet X Frogs Bollox Cantilever Brakeset
Shimano Deore XT M780 SPD XC Race Pedals

What I wore:
Not much different to my every day cycling kit – bibs, leg warmers, Helly Hanson long sleeve base layer, Bianchi Winter Jersey, Skoda wind & rain proof jacket and a neck buff.

Giro Reva Womens MTB Shoe – these were surprisingly comfy for a first ride!
Specialized BG Gel WireTap Glove (A little big for me, these started to rub where padding meets handlebar)

 

 

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Lovely Day – One Take Film

 

EPIC URBAN SPORTS ONE-TAKE | Something Creative, Ep. 1

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EPIC URBAN SPORTS ONE-TAKE | Something Creative, Ep. 1

This video was shot in ONE take on three levels of an abandoned office building to the tune of “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. Sooooo good. A VERY creative urban sports video featuring skateboarding, flatland BMX and parkour/freerunning in an abandoned building over THREE floors — simply freakin’ amazing.

 

 

This video was shot in ONE take on three levels of an abandoned office building to the tune of “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. Sooooo good.

It features skateboarding, flatland BMX and parkour/freerunning in an abandoned building over THREE floors — simply freakin’ amazing. Keep in mind, if one person messed up, we had to go and start again – you don’t wanna know how long this took to film! Featuring myself, Nathan Morris and Josh Holdsworth.

 

Keelan

 

 

MUSIC CREDITS: “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers

EPIC URBAN SPORTS ONE-TAKE | Something Creative

My first Audax – the Hoarwithy 100

Hoarwithy Toll House

Hoarwithy Toll House

Simple pleasures. Maybe it’s because I’m getting on a bit now, but some of the things I most enjoy about cycling are the simple pleasures – sunshine on your face, birds in the air, rolling green vistas, chatting on the wheel with your cycling buddies. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy, say, a thundering downhill headlong charge, setting a PB on my steepest Strava segment (KoM is just never going to happen, unless I create one that goes through our house) or getting that tricky rock garden just right on the mountain bike – I do, I love them and all the myriad experiences a cyclist goes through on a good day just as much as I ever have. It’s just that, over time, I’ve gained an appreciation of the less-adrenalin-filled aspects of the sport. Maybe it’s not about getting old, as such – more a matter of growing up.

Whatever it is, I think I may have found the perfect outlet, if Sunday’s adventure in the Hoarwithy 100 was anything to go by. As part of our continuing exploration of the world of cycling, three members of the nondescript, half-baked, semi-imaginary cycling outfit that is NTG RCC dipped a first, timid toe into the welcoming  waters of the Audax over the bank holiday weekend, with Jon, Luke and I assembling at a very reasonable 9:00am to get signed in. A small event, we never saw more than about twenty or so riders even for the depart (although there were more doing the 200km event), so signing on was simplicity itself, just a matter of finding the village hall and getting our brevet cards. After a pleasingly brief briefing, the keener types rolled merrily on their way, whilst NTG collectively thought they’d better ask if they needed to get their cards stamped at the start (a pointless question, in hindsight – we had arrived and collected the cards, why would they need to be stamped?). Thus, by the time we saddled up, everyone else was long gone.

Which meant that we only went about three hundred yards before the first navigational mishap, Jon and Luke’s Garmins unable to indicate “left a bit” when the road split. Somewhat worse, as we made our way over the Severn vie picturesque Hawbridge was the awareness that three had become two just a couple of miles in – Jon had gone missing, and as we got to him, the back wheel was coming out of his Genesis. A flat – that same tyre had been flat and a new tube fitted when they’d arrived barely half an hour before. This was not good.

Although the tube had gone in the same place as the one he’d changed earlier, there was absolutely no sign of the cause of the puncture – fortunately, there was a spare tyre back in the car, so I took a gentle spin back with the dead one over my shoulder, and within a couple of minutes of my return, we were on our way. It might not have been the brightest start, but we were thankfully untroubled by the puncture pixies for the remainder of the day.

And what a day. The sun was out, but there was just a smidge of cloud and the merest hint of a breeze to take the temperature out of the air, really perfect cycling conditions. As if that wasn’t enough, the route rolled us through the loveliest Gloucestershire countryside, all quiet lanes and green fields and coppices and villages – there was the occasional transit section on busier roads between lanes, but they were brief, rare and far between.

All, however, was not well. As Jon and I span merrily along, Luke was not feeling well – acid indigestion was bad, but worse he couldn’t eat and this was going to be a long day for us. Long before we hit Littledean, we were looking for shops as a source of Gaviscon but we’d clocked 26 miles before we found anywhere. After a brief respite to neck some tablets, we were all set for the off – however, if I’d known what was awaiting, I might have rested a little longer…

Right from the off, there was a stiff climb out of the village, and it sneakily went on further than you thought, straight runs to corners that hint at a flattened section for some respite, that then raise themselves to another long, straight drag with an evil laugh. What goes up, however…. The descent the other side down St White’s Road was adequate recompense, and served as a kind of gateway to the Forest of Dean. It had been all about the green and pleasant fields – now it was all about the trees.

But we needed more drama before we really got stuck into the woods. An ambulance had already come blaring past shortly before we reached Speech House, and as we crested the climb our hearts sank – a police car had evidently just pulled up, and diversion signs were in evidence. Trying not to think about what might have happened, and hoping it hadn’t happened to another cyclist, Captain Jon took out his map, but the omens weren’t good – already behind schedule, none of the obvious diversions were anything short of lengthy, but when Jon sought advice from the police officer deploying signs, she very kindly advised us to go through the section that had been closed; there was debris on the roads, so we were to take care, but we would be able to get through. It was very good of her – it would have been just as easy (easier, maybe) to tell us we had to go around, but she didn’t. Thank you ma’am!

Rolling steadily down the deserted road, you did wonder what we were going to find – a sharp, downhill right-hand bend, was the immediate answer, with the verge torn up on the outside, and a small hatchback upside down on the other side of the road. Fortunately, judging by the lack of urgency in the movements of the emergency services in attendance, and the slightly-shocked looking group of people who we presumed were giving statements, it didn’t seem likely that any serious injury had occurred, but it must have been a very lively few moments while it was all in progress.

It wasn’t long after that before we reached Symond’s Yat and the halfway mark checkpoint, signing in with minutes to spare before we ran out of time. Taking a break in the sun and getting some proper food down our necks (Luke still couldn’t eat, so I did my best to make up for him), our options were fairly limited – Luke felt ok to carry on, although understandably lacking zip, but the shortest way back was pretty much on the course, there were no train stations to hand so the only other bailout plan was to get someone to drive down and pick him up. Pluckily, Luke decided to just crack on, so after a very nice chat with the gentleman on the checkpoint, we re-kitted and headed on. Let me tell you, the vertiginous descent from Yat Rock down through Riddings Wood is quite the perfect post-lunch warm up, raising your heart rate without stressing your legs.

Once north of the A40, we were back into rolling fields territory, where even the most testing inclines ran out of steam before too long, the sun beaming down as the afternoon drew on, bouncing diamonds of light off the surface of the Wye. The second and final checkpoint was at Much Marcle, where we paused for a final brew and a chocolate biscuit at a control in front of an immaculate, curved-roof garage straight out of the Fifites and wonderfully still showing signs of everyday use – recent trophies sparkled in the front windows, whilst on the walls hung prints of Graham Hill and Jack Brabham, and the maestro, Fangio, four-wheel-drifting his Maserati through Rouen’s high-speed curves.

With Luke still unable to eat, we made our way steadily over the last fifteen miles or so into a sneaky little headwind that started off gently then began to build – taking turns on the front, by the time we drew close to Apperly the novelty of the breeze had started to wear off, so it was with an element of glee that we turned off into the village itself, another drag up a hill but sheltered, and all the better for knowing there wasn’t far to go. Rolling up to the final checkpoint invoked the sense of accomplishment that makes it all worthwhile, and we got to have a nice chat with both organisers and fellow participants. You don’t always get that at a sportive.

It had been a really good day, although I was glad I wasn’t Luke – I can’t imagine how tired he must have been feeling. The pace had necessarily been gentle given how under the weather he had been feeling, so we must have been pretty much the last back, but the whole ethos of the Audax seemed entirely non-competitive – if ever there was an event that stressed that the spirit of competition is with yourself, rather than externally, with any other person, this seemed to be it. Everyone we met had been very friendly, open and chatty, and probably the biggest surprise to me was how small the attendance was – there are just 27 finishers listed for the 100km, and 40 for the 200km. On the one hand, I’m staggered that such a well-organised, well-routed event should attract such little interest. On the other, I suspect that’s part of why they’re so great…

 

For more information on the Hoarwithy 100 and other Audax events visit: www.aukweb.net

Hardtail MTB or CX?

Hardtail MTB or CX?Can you ever have too many bikes?

Well I suppose it depends who you ask the question of! In our household I would naturally answer No of course you can never have too many, however my wife might just answer rather differently posing a question of her own. How many bikes can you ride at any one time!

Seriously though you do need a bike for each discipline you ride, don’t you. Who in their right mind would use a track bike to ride a BMX course and like wise who would ride downhill on a CX (cyclocross) bike! OK so I have chosen some extremes but I still recon that you need more then one bike.

Unlike some I am not totally mad with the number bikes I have and I have a sensible mix, a road bike (actually two if I am honest), an full suspension XC MTB, a track bike and a BMX.

Over the years the type of riding I have been doing has changed a little and the Full Suspension XC seems a bit of an over kill for riding things like Preston’s Guild Wheel and some of the disused railway lines locally, however a full carbon road bike does not quite fit the bill either! Leaving me with a bit of a conundrum, what to get to fill the gap? A hard tail MTB to replace the Full Sus or a CX bike?

Hmm tricky coz I really do not want to get rid of the Full Sus because it is really useful for those days out in the hills and trail centres. I know I could do these on a hardtail but then just maybe this would be over kill for the local trails.

Yes you guessed it I plumped for a CX bike, as I said you can never have too many bikes!! But I set myself a challenge I had to do this on a budget no more then £300 could be spent. I had a donor bike for most of the drive train and bars etc, so all I needed would be a frame, brakes, wheels and tyres.

My natural port of call for these parts was going to be ebay or discount online stores. First things first find out what is needed for a CX bike and which parts are the most robust for a bit of a hack bike and how much parts typically are. This is key to avoid over spending on eBay. It always amazes me that many buyers on ebay get carried away. The worst I have seen is a set of wheels go for £30 more then the buy now option for the same set from the same seller who had one set on open bid and another set available as buy now!

The donor bike was a Specialized Allez Sport with Shimano Tiagra triple chainset. I pondered long and hard over the triple chainset as my gut instinct was to go for a double CX specific or a double compact until I read this article http://bikehugger.com/post/view/the-rise-of-the-compact-crank which clearly defined the pit falls of a compact and the benefits of the triple. The decision to stick with the triple also meant I had less to buy with my budget, meaning more to spend on the frame.

Kinesis Crosslight Evo4 Cyclocross Frame 2010

Kinesis Crosslight Evo4 Cyclocross Frame 2010spend on the frame.spend on the frame.

 

Step 1 Frameset.

 

Having trawled eBay and the internet it seemed that the choices boiled down to a selection from:

 

  1. Graham Weigh frame and forks £199.99
  2. Forme Hiver (Paul Milnes) £274.99
  3. Paul Mines CT Wing £295
  4. Dolan Multicross  £249.99

 

From these the best value for money seemed to be the Dolan as it included a seat post, headset and front cable hanger. However this did not leave me with much in the budget for wheels. So back to the drawing board and review the second hand options via eBay. Patience and timing had to be the watch word now. As I write there are very few frames on open bid. I missed out on a couple by a few pounds but I had set my target and was sticking to it.

Finally I hit the jackpot with a rather good Kenesis Crosslight EVO4 and BikeRadar’s review seemed to rate the frame

(http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/category/bikes/cyclo-cross/product/review-kinesis-crosslight-evo-4-11-45404)

Brakesso in for a penny in for a few quid!

 

Step 2 Brakes

 

The frameset was set up for cantilevers only but which set to get? Shimano CX50’s, Avid ShortyTektro V brakes, Empella Froglegs or Tektro CR 520?

Cash had to be king here and simplicity had to rule so a big thanks to Paul Milnes eBay store Tektro Colorado’s at £21.99 a full set it was

 

Step 3 Wheelset.

 

I struck gold here as a friend who had switched from a CX bike to a 29er still had a set of Shimano wheels that came off his Cannondale CX bike so £40 landed me 5 tyres and tubes and a set of Shimano WH-RS10’s. Not the most amazing Cablesetwheelset in the world but functional.

 

Step 4 cable set.

 

Having used a mix of manufacturers in the past decided to try a new manufacturer for me and bought a set of low friction PTFE-coated stainless steel Goodridge cables from Chainreaction (user reviews 4.1/5).

 

CX ForksThe Build.

 

The first thing to do was to strip down the donor bike a Specialized Allez Sport running a triple Shimano Tigra groupset. I would be using everything from this bike except the caliper brakes and saddle, or at least that was the plan.

As soon as the frame arrived from its original Coleford Gloucestershie home it was time for close inspection. The frame was pretty much as described on eBay except for a very small dent on the downtube and a small gouge hidden under a sticker on the headtube. If I am being really picky the packing of the frameset could have been better and I was rather disappointed that the seller had not used fork and rear end frame spacers to avoid crushing during shipping as I had requested. The good news was the frame was in full alignment and ready to build.

A quick clean down and removal of old cable protectors and it was time to apply helicopter tape to areas which might suffer from scuffing, cable wear or chain slap.

This done it was in with the bottom bracket, crankset and front mech, quickly followed by rear mech, handlebar stem, seat post, handlebars and finally cantilever brakes and wheels. Time to check the fit. First hop on and it was immediately obvious that the handlebar stem was going to be a tad too short. So out with the tape measure and size up the fit vs my road bike. It was very obvious that the 100mm stem going to be too short. 110 mm might just work but even this might leave me a little hunched up, so it would need to be 115 or 120mm. I plumped for the longer of the two a quick trawl on the internet and a 120mm Deda Zero 1 was acquired and fitted. Perfect sizing and hey presto one bike ready for setting up with cables.

First Impressions CX

The Goodridge cables where new to me and I was itching to find out how good they really where. Unlike normal brake cables which have flat spiral wound metal the Goodridge set are the same set up as a gear cable outer, with steel strands in the sheath orientated in the same direction as the cable (along the length of the outer).  For gear cables this reduces compression of the outer and improves reliability of indexing.

Kinesis Pure CX Cyclocross Fork

Kinesis Pure CX Cyclocross Fork

I will be interested to see the effect on braking. I suspect that it will improve modulation and feel reducing any sponginess caused by the outer compressing during braking. The brake cables certainly proved to be very stiff and somewhat tricky to cut.

With careful measuring and cutting (measure twice cut once) all was well with both gear cables and brake cables. A really nice touch with the Goodridge set is the long leadin tails on the cable ferrules allowing for improved

water and grit protection. With careful fitting of the blue plastic outer it is possible to run the cables fully water and grit proof.

All finished time to ride.

 

First Impressions.
Bars CXWOW this is a quick bike. From the first turn of the pedals it is clear that this is a race bike with a real eagerness to move forwards quickly. To quote What Mountain Bike’s review

“The Kinesis Crosslight Evo is a highly evolved racer that proves even hardcore cyclo-crossers can be a fun and versatile trail/tarmac crossover option on non-race days.” 

Very true and great fun was had on the first few rides proving that it was a very good choice to go CX and not Hardtail. However as time went on a couple of limitations started to show through and once again these confirmed the finding of Guy Kesteven

‘A major – but surprisingly common – technical terrain limitation soon becomes clear though. While the Tektro cantilever brakes on the Kinesis are usefully powerful – at least in the dry – the brake judder caused by fork flex on rough terrain makes the front wheel skip alarmingly.’

fork crown cable stopfront wheel skip was the least of the problems the fact was that the amount of front brake judder, especially during descents, made the front brake totally redundant. Solution simples, fit a fork crown cable stop to replace the headset one. Cost £8.99 from Paul Milnes. Fitted cable recut and off we go again. Amazing the front brake is a different beast no judder at all even under the most powerful braking, bringing a high level of confidence to tackle technical descents with ease. Does make you think as to why Kenesis do not fit this simple device to the OEM bike in the first place. £8.99 is not a major cost to transform the ride.

 

Conclusion

 

MTB or CX well this being my first CX ride ever I am totally sold. This has to be the perfect tool for riding the local disused railway lines and simpler off road tracks, where to be honest even a hard tail MTB would be overkill.

What is even better is that I have managed to build a CX  worth over £1000 for £300, result! Will I get rid of my Full Sus MTB? No it is horses for courses and to attack trails like Gisburn, Winlatter, Grizedale etc this will still be the machine to use but for a qucik blast along many of the SUSTRANS off road routes the CX EVO 4 will be perfect.

If you have never tried a CX bike and want to venture offroad but do not want to wreck your best road bike then find a frame on eBay and switch all your winter hardware onto a CX frame.

 

Scottish Cycling powering Youth and Junior racing in Scotland

This season Scottish Cycling, the national governing body for cycling in Scotland, together with the West of Scotland Cycling Association (WoSCA) will deliver a new grass roots, regional road race series.

The 10 regional races in the 2013 season will provide racing opportunities for Junior riders, Female riders as well as 3rd and 4th Category riders, while creating a pathway for Youth to Junior racing. The series will also provide more racing opportunities for the increasing numbers of riders we have in Scotland!

Craig Burn, Scottish Cycling’s Chief Executive said:
“Over the last 10 years, cycling in this country has grown from a minority pastime to become one of the UK’s fastest growing sports. Right across the UK we have seen a sustainable increase in the number of people taking part in cycling and as a result Scottish Cycling’s membership has grown by 77% in the last three years!
Scottish Cycling has been working hard to develop youth cycling and last week we launched the ScottishPower National Youth Series. As these riders mature we must ensure we can provide the right quality and quantity of races in order to continue their development and allow them to progress in the sport.”

Scottish Cycling’s official partnership with ScottishPower will see significant new investment targeted to create the ScottishPower National Youth Series. The Series will cover the disciplines of Road, Track, MTB XC, MTB DH and Cyclo cross and in year one Scottish Cycling will support the delivery of a total of 17 events throughout Scotland.
As well as Youth and Junior development both race series’ will provide; an entry point into competition cycling, more opportunities for riders to race, a focused yearlong goal and a network of race organisers that will work together to create more quality events.

For more information on the Scottish Power National Youth Series or WoSCA road race series please visit the Scottish Cycling Website: www.scottishcycling.org.uk

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