Sunday, 22 February 2009


" Live the dream, live the dream, live the dream
Like the 80s never happened.
People are afraid, are afraid
To merge on the freeway.

Disappear here" *

Les trois garcons. Semi disdain.

Family of sasquatch. Complete disdain.

Remember to look bored.

Live the dream.

Doublegood ride today. A ride of two halves. No need to go on about the Rize. Amazing as usual. Set it up a bit 'softer ' this week. First dalliance with danger didnt dissappoint. Riding a double set of steps up around Anglezarke,thwupping down em like they werent there. My masochistic alter ego likes them to be there ,but it was fun nonetheless.
We're still warming up . It's damp and breezy.After spying a family of deer up in the trees,we figureofeight around the resi' paths ,slippery bridge etc,and then up past the Anglezarke rock face.Instead of the regular tarmac climb up to the moors we do half of it off road. A tough climb up to the viewing spot on a slippy singletrack,and then round the corner now on the road up to Jepsons Farm we turn onto the moors ,past the war memorial and drop down into Leadmines Clough.
After a little play on a 'alternative' drop we head across the open moorland. It's even more damp and cold ,but the stiff breeze isnt entirely face-on ,so it's not all bad news. Not easy though. 5 mins or so later and its fairly drizzle-ing. On the drizzle scale ,about a 7. I notice I havent fitted my mudguards. It's not the mud that bothers me ,it's ingesting the more ,er ,organic material deposited hereabouts.Ah well. Try not to think about it.
We drop down to the very basic stone slab bridge , and head on , up. A tough climb up to the road is made harder with the path disappearing and turning to mud ,and with us turning more into the wind. The Rize just digs in ,although top marks goes to Gaz on his Kona coiler ,clearing the last bit with aplomb ,whilst I got my feet wet. What can I say ? I went for the impossible line.
We turn left and up on the road and soon reach the end of the bridleway around Catter Nab. The drizzle No7 has eased off, as we head round to the Pidgeon Tower for a flapjack ,just as the whistle blows on the first half. My gloves are soaked at this point and after just a few minutes my hands are frozen. We have a few minutes and then crack on. Andy is heading back, so at the top of the gardens he heads back down ,and we head on . We've done around about as much as we'd normally do on a cold wet windy Sunday morning.Time for the second half then.
For no particular reason we give the Pike a miss and head along Georges Ln to the now popular climb/slog up Wilders Moor.I'm feeling a twinge of hunger as I lift the Rize over the gate. It's as wet as it's been in recent weeks.Tyres squirming ,but biting . Just about enough. There's this bit of clay ,see. Just south of Humphreys Ditch. It's had me the last couple of times. Flailing around in the Spuds.Most ungentlemanly conduct. Its claggy ruttedness is not going to have me this week though. And it doesnt.
Gaz attacks the ditch first. More clay . Slippy super counterproductive. It's like being on the 'travelator' on Gladiators. The coiler ,expertly piloted ,forks wound in, digs in and pops out the other side .
Game on . I've not cleared this either the last few times,and whilst the Rize hasnt really let me down up to now ,I'm feeling more than a little unsure as I drop into the ditch.
And then I'm riding out the other side. Yay. I must point out though in past weeks it has been a bit edgier on the exit,but hey ,you take it as it comes. I'm ticking the box.
More climbing up to the road. More slippy slippy slidy. The Rize just romps up. Gaz took it to the Peak District a few weeks back. He said that it's hard to justify the £3k cost over a 'regular' bike,but then he said at the top of all the climbs you're way in front of the gang,so you kinda think again. A bit anti-social I suppose ,but that sums it up quite well. It raises your game . And it doesnt exactly hang about dropping down either.
Normally we'd hit the road and turn 'up ' towards the mast. As this is shaping up to be a local epic though, I direct the dynamic duo down the road towards the cattle grid ,where we turn and head above the quarries. Some fairly well packed ,(but wet),bits are punctuated with boggy bog bits. Tasty . Clouds are rolling in and away by the minute. It's damp and still fairly breezy ,but not actually raining ,so that's OK .
The path ends at a gate halfway down the Scorpioni ,but in yet more epic-ery ,we head up not down.
I am now more hungry.
We hit the bridleway around Walker Fold and then head up to the hidden valley. Another tough little climb ticked off . A boggy transition stage across the moors brings us out on the main mast rd again and out of the relative calm of the valley into the wind again.
In yet more epic-ery we head straight up to the Two Lads. Straight up. No poncy-ing around the back . Right up the bloody north face. Luckily there's a setting for this too on the Rize. I'm on cafe imminent mode now. I need a brew. And cake . Running on next to empty I dig in up the climb . It's hard work ,but ,well ,you can guess the rest . It's a bobby dazzler of a bike.
It's proper windy on top . Not breezy . Gareth hasnt ever done the downhill off here ,so it makes sense for him to go first. It's not like he can get lost though . It drops steeply at first ,and into a nice little twisty bit ,before flattening a touch for the final drop to the dog kennels. Slippy ruts are made even trickier with the fierce crosswind. Womp rats . Beggars Canyon . T-16. Brill.
Hunger+adrenaline ensues.
We regroup at the bottom . Without any further ado , we head back past the Pike,which with a rumblytumbly seemed to take forever. Jeff's been carrying his dodgy elbow all day ,so rather than push it on the Ice Cream Run ,we head down through the gardens. Just going through the motions on the A-ICR,avoiding walkers in the midday sun.
Yea . Midday sun. Hmm.Where did that come from?
The last bit of tarmac couldnt have come a moment too soon,and within minutes we were stuffing our faces with a variety of sweets and savouries. I ordered the foie gras ,but ate it with complete disdain.
The Rize . Dont mention it.

This weeks ride can be viewed HERE in detail on mapmyride dot com. You can see the elevation profile and mileage and everything . It's ace. Change the 'street map' view to 'satellite ' or 'hybrid' for a better idea.(Although I did slightly cock up the plotting at the beginning,it's a fantastic tool )

* Bloc Party . Song for Clay. (Disappear here).

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Spot the Difference

Took the kissing cousins (Rize n Rush) out for an excursion to Whinlatter Altura Trail today. Just me and Toby; the other 1/2 of the team stayed back for Pool and Table Tennis. Was going to go to Grizedale but as Whin was nearer to where we were staying thought we'd give that a bash. Some low cloud that cleared later. Plumped for the Red Loop which was a bad idea 1/ I was still on the the Cross Country 1.5's from last week and 2/ Toby was still ill. We did part of the route, v.technical singletrack, rooty/rocky/climby, then did the blue route. Nontheless another great facility worth a trip for sure, just slap on some Verticals or Mountain Kings and you'll be sorted. Bikes were spot on as we now know, Lefty™ prompted lots of questions as usual.

Whinlatter Altura Trail

Monday, 16 February 2009

Alan's HtN report

Do, do, do do, do dooo, do doo.
Oh yes I love the north.
Especially those fantastic arcades.
Have you seem them, you put some money in a slot and you can win a million quid or more!
Do, do, do do, do dooo, do doo.
Hit the North.
And hit Little Frank.

What a cracker. Despite coming from a racing background we never really pursued the MTB race thing, opting to go down the Sunday Social route instead (well, Tim anyway), so I'm not really sure what prompted us to do this one, maybe it just looked more fun, less serious and it was local.

Anyhoo, 1st lap I thought we should get up front and put in a good lap. Oops. It was HARD, legs felt OK but probably the cold didnt help just couldn't breathe, felt like stopping 1/2 way round first lap. Second lap much better almost enjoyed it. Challanging in every way, physically and technical too, not a causal or beginner course. I just wanted to survive... couldn't care less who came past, had a my chain problem after overshifting on lap 3 and lost 10 minutes (thanks to the rider with chain tool who helped), happy with my lap times at around 30 minutes. Stopped to try to clean off the mud completely forgetting I had a spare bike stood right there d'oh... I blame the cold! Bike (Rush Carbon Lefty) was awesome, can't imagine how a Scalpel would be any better for the job.

Video done, up soon, check back.

Thanks to Cannondale for the bikes.

Enduro 6 anyone?

* Frank Sidebottom.

Sunday, 15 February 2009


"I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air" *
Barn rd .0830
Met Andy R,usual up to the pike. Taking it easy. Bumped into Andy plumb at the bottom of A-ICR. Misty and mild climbing ,but cold and damp with a fairly strong wind on top. Riding the new Cannondale Rush Ali lefty. First impressions are good . Hotpoint white. Apart from a bit of twiddling with the gears early on ,( it must've been the PDI kids day off ),straight away I'm loving the shimano. Apart from my old Fisher of the other week this is the first time I've ridden the big 'S' in ages. I just prefer it to Sram. It's not as bonkers light as the carbon one from a few weeks back ( hang on ,that was also Shimano),but with the lefty locked and the back Pro-pedalled it's as efficient as a VAT inspector. If the climbing's a bit bumpy ,fully turn it on and it still goes up very well. Benchmark tricky corner ticked off. A fairly prominent feature of the Carbon model that this does not have is the oversize BB30 bottom bracket. I couldnt put my finger on how big a deal that is ,but the carbon one does track amazingly well. It'd be interesting to try them out back to back to see if it's worth the extra dosh just for that.
Had a mo on top and then set off down the back of the Pike. Big rocky bit is becoming a non-event.

Hit the lower section probably just pushing it a little.Fell off riding a rut.Threw me right off the side. I know. I couldnt believe it either.

Rode with Andy 'til he set off down through Wilders Wood. We headed up Wilders Moor. Fell off again ,climbing up . Hmm.
I'd like to blame it on the tyres ,but seeing as how theyre Conti's (2.2 Mtn King ),I cant. It was mega slippy slidey though. Had a crack ish at the ditch . It just werent gonna happen . Claggy clay . The tyres I'd again like to blame were clearing well . Very open design. I'm not 100% sold on them just yet . I cant see that theyre an improvement over the older verticals. They feel a bit 'squirmy',but ,that said , it was very wet and it's debateable if any tyre would grip. Anyway.

Climbing into the cloud towards the mast rd , turn up on the tarmac and then hang a left for the dog kennels. Instead of heading straight down though we first go up to the Two Lads. The other week it was frozen rock hard and bone dry ,flying up . This week is a different story. More mud. A nice slick coating smeared over the moorland like a giant dollop of peanut butter on a giant slice of toast with a giant knife,by a giant.

No view at all from the top of the 'lads. Good little downhill though. Again a bit on the slippy side. Worth doing as an addition to the regular dog kennels run. Opened up the Rush a bit.It's a size 'L' and feels stretched out . 'L' for long. Lefty still feels a bit sticty. O/S bars feel stiff. Overly so. It's an efficiency thing again. Avid brakes are now working.Unlike earlier. It changes direction like the Commencal bluebottle.
"Handles like a fish",someone once said ,blahblahblah.
Like riding a theramin.
I think I've said this before . Being a tad closer to the XC end of the scale ,although not a full on lightweight,it is a bit more planted at the front end . Similar to the Commencal Super4. Whereas the slacker bigger bikes loft the front wheel easily ,this requires a bit more oomph to get it up and over things. As long as you know about it beforehand it's OK. It's a more 'old school' feel ,but with 4" of suspension to pull you out of trouble.I reckon with a shorter stem and some proper big tyres on , it'd be super capable. A big ish hitter. I ran the carbon one ragged down the Ice Cream Run the other week .Conversely some of those silly skinny 1.5s from last week and it'd be a whole other kettle of fish. A bike for all seasons.
Heading back now we go down through the gardens. The steps are coated with damp slime.Deadly ,but after some uncertainty from the 40 yr old we ride em anyhow.

Slightly different way out of the trees ,right near the top barn. We skirt round the back and on to toast and cake nirvana.

* ( very ) Good Vibrations. The Beach boys.

Saturday, 7 February 2009


" slip slidin away ...."


Not the usual Sunday ride up Rivi ' this week. Alan and I ( with Jez on support crew ) did the HTN Cyclo-X/MTB 'winter sprinter ' thing.
We've both got 'works ' Cannondales.I'm on the Rize carbon.A 5"er. Alan's on the Rush carbon , a 4"er with a lefty. I've prepped mine with some skinny 1.5 tyres ,lowered the stem and tipped the saddle a notch ,oh , and wound down the forks.Head down ,arse up. Alan has the same tyres ,but apart from that it's pretty stock. He's fitted some new brake pads .They seemed a bit off when I rode it the other week.

Unlike every other bike event we've ever done we arrived with plenty of time to spare . It's the way forward. We set up the E-Z up and drinks dispenser ,a couple of chairs and a bike stand. Full factory all the way. At this point it is VERY cold.
After a bit off faffing and pondering over headwear we recce the course. Well , a small corner of it. More just to get a feel for the tyres . The course is rock hard frozen mud. Hmm. Skinny 1.5s . The bit we ride just round the corner has a tasty downhill ,nicely rutted with a fencepost in the middle ,leading to an adjacent drop culminating in a frozen puddle 'splash through'. A bit like our local Haigh Hall trails ,but,unfortunately ,not actually our local Haigh Hall trails.
Still very cold we make our way to the start. There seems about a 100 riders on a variety of bikes. We get talking to a guy on a vintage Kona.Fully rigid and 'canti-ied' up. At the other end of the spectrum are some tasty looking belgian cross bikes.I spot a few other 'dales. A Scalpel and another lefty Rize , worryingly gaffer taped up . Apparently it was a prototype. That's OK then.

After a 'behave yourselves' pep talk the start is upon us. The brass band played ( tiddly omp pomp pomp ),and we were off . A melee of a half lap to split up the field before the singletrack.
I got an OK start and even though I had approached it as a fun event I still want to do reasonably well, so I put in a hard effort . It is still very cold.
In the woods ,riding like a rag doll ,it nearly all goes wrong. Very wrong. I'm only about 50 yards into the trees on narrow singletrack with a huuuge drop to my right. I ping my front wheel on some obstacle or other and I nearly deck it. Heading for the drop. Luckily I dont actually deck it. I am now paying more attention.

The first lap was hard work ,but I soon settled into a pace I was happy with. I overtook a couple of riders , and was overtaken myself a few times. Once I settled down and the pain of cold legs had subsided I began to really enjoy it. I had a few minor 'incidents ' and 'dabs'. Nothing major .
As the laps continued the sun came out. The track came alive. The combination of a bit of warmth and a load of knobbly tyres turned some of the rock hard bits to proper sticky gloop. There was one particular bit that was on the wetter side of mud 6-8" deep . Approaching it every time I thought " here we go ". I'm sure a regular MTB tyre would have floated and slipped ,but the conti' 1.5s cut right in and were surprisingly good . Brilliant even. I was running them on the medium soft side and had no trouble blunt edging the many bridge crossings.
In the woods there was a few sets of steps requiring a 'portage'. This is where a £3000 full on full carbon full susser is hard work. All the bouncy bits get in the way. I wasnt envying the CX lot though ,especially when at about the 1hr mark my back started to kill me. I was in a firm pro-pedal setting at the back with the forks turned down . I simply turned 'on ' the rear shock and wound out the forks an inch ,or so. Better than 2 ibuprofens.
Around the back of the course it opened up to skoot around a few ponds. Reclaimed wasteland-y type stuff. It was alot faster here than the slog through the woods but ,even up to the last lap there was ice all about the place. It was probably the coldest part of the course .Very exposed and about the farthest point away from the hospitality tent. Little wonder then that the organisers saw fit to place Mr Brant of on-one noteriety on marshalling duty here. It was a good job that I only found this out after the finish ,or I would still be there now discussing the relative merits of vintage XT seat QR levers.
So I keep spinning around . In the groove .Really enjoying it at this point. It's approaching the 2hr mark on one of the laps as hit the cold back side. Mr Brant ,as we now know him says " It's 12 O'clock ". I take this to mean when I get to the finish ( about 5 mins ) I'll be done . Well imagine my horror at the finish as I shout out "83 . Is that it ? " ,and the timekeeper says " No . You've one more lap in you " . I was ready to argue the point ,but carried on anyway. I've just beaten the bell by a few minutes.
I'm now tired . I'm getting the rag doll heavy head thing from the first lap,but for different reasons. It takes a gargantuan effort going down . Hard to focus . On the edge. I nearly make a right hash of that first drop.
There's a point on the course where a dismount was mandatory. A half dozen steps with a drop of death beyond . The type of thing you'd cane down on a thursday night ,but in a race situation probably wise to get off. As it's the last lap I'm saying thankyou to a few of the marshalls without whom there is no event. Standing in the cold for 2 hrs watching people cycling . I wouldnt do it. Big shout out to the lady near the carved squirrel. Very cold down there. Anyway ,back to the steps . So I get off near the steps ,thank the marshall , touch the first step and my left leg ( my bad one i dont like to talk about ) slips right down to the bottom and folds up under me.With my right leg still on the top step,in the splits, I look like Rudolph Nureyev doing swan lake but with a lime green MTB.Ace. I instantly cramp up. Not good .
Survival time . I've made another last lap so I'm not quitting now . If I take it easy it'll be OK ,but there's one point where I think " If it gets any worse I'll have to stop ". I kinda spin it out and it doesnt fully go away,but it's bearable . I drink the last of my Camelbak and soldier on. Still perversely enjoying it.
I'm chillin' now on the home straight . The sun's come out ,so even more mud ,but it's beautiful. I stop at the bottom of one of the downhills ,say hi to the marshall ,top job , and take a few pics.Earlier I was passed "ON YOUR RIGHT ! " by a guy on a yellow Orange.( how confusing is that ?) He then spent the next 10 mins right in front of me ,just kinda slugging round . Anyway ,I was quicker than him so I overtook him and was away . That's him below. He re-overtook me as I kindly took his photo . Incidentally he finished one place ahead. Hmm. Well ,I'm here to have fun ,what the hell.
So that was that . Dead good. I did 5 laps ,2hrs 20 some mins and finished overall about halfway up the field ,Alan did 4 laps and finished a bit behind me . But we both finished which was the best result we could have hoped for.

Big thankyou to the organisers and all the marshalls. Top day . Well done.Big shout to Jez for the support and the post ride massage.Oh and all the paticipants with an extra special "ey up " to the two guys in pisspot lids who kept going and didnt quit despite clearly suffering somewhat. That's what MTBing ,or cycling in general ,is all about,not being told to hurry up by some cyclocrosser when you're clearly just enjoying yourself.

Lots more info and pix and stuff up here


Sunday, 1 February 2009


"Girlies on standby ,waving just to say hi ...." *

Brilliant ride today. For the first time in a long time I’m riding my old ‘Fisher . Shakedown for next weeks silliness. Tyre test . I like tyres ,me.
Intended to ride up to Rivi ,but in the end Jeff and I were against the clock meeting Chris up there ,so at the last minute we threw the bikes in the car and drove up .
Met Chris at 9 o’clock on the barn rd. It was bitterly cold as we got out of the car . It’s gonna be cold on top.
It didn’t disappoint as usual. All the usual spots featured with a few variations on the ’usual’ theme. Up through the gardens ,as usual , but took a different ’middle’ route. It’s a climb I used to do all the time ,but hadn’t done in ,probably, years. I’d kinda forgotten how tough it was ,spitting us out near the swimming pool . A good warm up . Not warm enough to slip out of my jacket though.
Up the front of the Pike .Killer today . Apart from silly skinny tyres on that tricky corner pinging me all over the place it was also blowing a gale .Fierce and freezing cold. The last bit up to the top was a real battle of will. A strong headwind ,turning to a crosswind ,finally turning into a tailwind. Very very cold and fresh on top.
Off the back .Not sure . Very windy. Silly skinny tyres performed beyond what can be reasonably expected.
Patchy sheets of ice on the bridleway past ’ Dog Kennel Cottage’. Up Wilders Moor .Transformed from last weeks slimy bogfest into a rock hard baked Alaska.
Skinny tyres sublimely brilliant. Do you know how when you were a kid with new trainers running dead fast . Like that. Still didn’t nail Humphreys Ditch though.
Mast Rd. Bitterly cold .V.Strong crosswind. Feeling totally alive.
Across the slabs to Smithills Moor. Into the wind. Hard as hell. Rutted singletrack baked rock hard . Chris found the only boggy bit.
Skinny tyres don’t seem too silly at all riding the steps .Maybe if you were to analyse that ,scientifically ,it might be.
Off the moors past the big fancy farmhouse . Skinny tyres feel like a road bike on the tarmac. Wind at my back easily touching 80 or 90 mph. Humming. G flat.
Variation on a theme again. Up Alex’s steps, walking ,obviously. Turning right ,avoiding last weeks scorpioni ,heading back around to the mast rd I take a sneaky right off the main bridleway. I’ve an idea where it goes ,but honestly I have never ever ridden it. Turned out to be a right ding dong of a climb. In a channel with melting ice. Dancing up . More skinny tyre action. Ace . Tricky . The top reveals a beautiful little clough ,steps either side in and out. Had a crack down the side going in ,no chance pedalling out . Lovely little spot though. Just as the sun came out .Still windy ,still kinda at our backs ,bit techy ,rutty singletrack ,on to the mast rd ,just where I figured.
Up the mast rd . Again.
Bitter. Again .
Variation on a theme .Again.
We’re doing the run to the kennels . Fairly British standard run these days ,so perversely I suggest climbing up to the Two Lads first and heading off from there . We’ve spun around and the wind’s at our back .Flying up . The tyres feel ace . View . Nice . With a bit of shelter and some sunshine it’s like a different day.
The drop off the side of the Two Lads to join the kennel run is good ,with a mad corkscrew ,G-out of a corner over a stream. Jeff goes on ahead to get some shots.
I’m not sure about this bit . Skinny tyres have been better than is believable up to now ,but coming up are a couple of tasty drops . I’m thinking snakebite sized drops. The Fisher feels great though ,I’d forgotten just how much I like this bike . Again I’m probably going just a smidge quicker than is sensible on a 26x1.5 . It certainly makes you think about your ‘line’ . Gotta switch on . It’s a completely ( more complete ?) experience than blatting down on a full suspension bike. OK ,you’re not going quite as fast ,but it feels like you are . The drops come up quick . No snakebite(s). Result.
Time for a brew. From the dog kennel (Pike)cottage there are a few options. Chris wants Ice Cream. Hmm.
Past the bottom of the Pike I’m really feeling the rocks under the tyres . This is like a billiard table compared to the Ice Cream Run. Ah well. I can take my time . Well , maybe .
Really not sure about this . I convince myself with memories of rigid muddy fox couriers .
I wont say I go full pelt ,and I do avoid the slab ,that’s a deffo snakebite just there ,but skipping through the dinner plate rocks it doesn’t feel like I’m going any slower than when I’m running 2.5s. I’m thinking “ Any minute now” .Up onto the raised bit .Then I’m at the bottom.
Chris got his ice cream .With some strawberry sauce . To the forearm .
One final diversion . Instead of the usual blast down the road to the café we turn through the gate ,head down to the back of the Hall Barn and pick up some sneaky singletrack heading for the smell of bacon.
Same cake as usual ,but with a cherry on top . A perfect reflection of the ride.
Those tyres . Continental Cross Country 1.5s. Get some .

Full route on 'mapmyride' Clickenzi here. Click on 'satellite view' and 'show elevation'

* Do do do do do do do ,Vanilla Ice Ice Baby.