Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Andy Cathcart.

It is with a very heavy heart that I type these words. Andy Cathcart - well known to so many of you - was killed whilst out riding in South Africa this week. All my thoughts are with his partner Rona and his family.

I am proud to call Andy a friend. Over the years I have shared riding, racing and a good deal of sweat and bad music as he produced his excellent work in sports physiology. He has my and many others respect for his tenacious and talented skills as a rider.

The tales that will be told are many, he lived life to the maximum and will be sorely missed. I'll sign off with a comment he made whilst racing across Scotland in the multi-day trans-Scotland race a year or 2 ago:

"Line? what line..."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So with all this Mackaskill...

I thought i'd bring you some... me. Courtesy of a man i owe a lot to for taking such a lovely, flattering picture.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Next generation trials.

The inimitable mr macaskill.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I am getting close to having all the parts to build the new bike. The frame will take how long the frame takes. Having quite a few parts hanging around, it has taken relatively little effort to get the rest - particularly because it will be fixed or singlespeed and rigid.

Despite having parts i like ready to be used, things do change. When they do, it can make for an uncomfortable transition period when i reach for a different bike. Take my recent change to ESI grips. These boring looking tubes of silicon are 'offset bored'. They have more material on one side than the other. Thus they are both narrow, and offer good padding between hand and bar. In addition the silicon is very shock absorbing whilst being incredibly grippy in wet conditions. What this adds up to is less grip strength required to ride. This leads to less fatigue and less forearm burn. All good.

This may sound like a sales pitch. BUT, when i fitted my first pair i was objective as to how they would perform, and actually quite concerned if i did prefer them to what i have used previously. Why?

Well, i can show you my box full of odi lock ons, oury's and bar tape. All of which are now consigned to the useless pile.

I could show you my bikes, that will all require the grips removing and the bars cleaned with elbow grease and iso propyl alcohol to get rid of the sticky goop from old grips.

Even the time required to fit 4 sets (and counting) of ESI grips is not to be sniffed at. Despite this, a package from ESI arrived with my name on it. They are better, rendering my old grips obsolete. Riding the fixed off road for 3 hours on monday and putting most of a day on the tourer made me realise that.

Oh well.

Then of course there is that age old issue of the saddle. Back in the day, I (along with most other people in the known universe) loved the WTB sst saddle. All my bikes had them. Unfortunately some of the rail materials were not the most durable, and then they pulled the design in favour of a more techno look, or maybe because the original partnership dissolved, leaving charlie cunningham and steve potts to pursue other interests. (Incidentally, it was reintroduced this year - back by popular demand?)

After a while, you couldnt find the old sst's without paying exorbitant prices on EBay. Bam, time for a new saddle choice - across the board. I tried a few, initially the selle italia flite as it seemed the most long lived design, and the most widely available. But the flat and hard shell didn't quite work. From there, the slr which was good, but flimsy. Over to selle san marco and the aspide in both triathlon and normal versions. The magmaa came out with similar profile to the sst, which made me wonder. For a year it was very good. Cue investment in 3 of them. Then the magnesium shells started breaking and i wanted to change again. The zoncolan came out, again looking sst-ish with a full nose and hammock shape. It had plain ti rails (which i have found in general to be durable) and a lorica cover which was also long lived. I have now 4 of these saddles with the last 2 having been considerably more expensive and with what the company calls xsilite rails. I hope they are not a lower priced, less durable alternative and that this saddle doesnt get removed from the range too soon.

The longer you ride for the more important these things become. It is almost crippling to learn a new saddle, and once you are there it is nearly worth stocking up on saddles despite the credit crunching price.

Plus ca change...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I like. From fixie pixie.

All packed up.

When i started looking at bike packing as a possibility - primarily to ride for longer and see more things, but most importantly to minimise the amount of driving to riding areas - there was a dearth of information available as to what to take. As oft pointed out by folk as able as mike curiak, that is because the learning curve to allow you to travel minimally also helps you travel safely and with minimised discomfort. Not so important in the uk, because over every hill or the next is a town, but worth while dwelling on for sure.

Now there are several websites and forums dedicated to discussion of the kit list and packing essentials. Bikepacking is a good start, as is AK spokes.

I thought i'd run through what i took with me and what i will change for next time. Note: the route was well known to me and the conditions were generally stable and relatively good. I have done a few overnighters now and feel comfortable with less than i started out with.

So: first a picture of the bike is needed so i can refer to the bags and then their innards...

The racks are old man mountain cold springs front and rear. I chose them because they have a good record of surviving actual off road touring, and allow me to swap easily between racks and not racks. They have a high weight rating, which i will never get close to, and this gives me confidence. At the time i spec'ed the bike, the 'rackless systems' now so common and so beautifully made by eric at epic designs and jeff at carousel were in their infancy - a few bugs were worked out and i have a front and rear set coming from eric shortly. By using these, you drop 2 lbs from overall weight as you lose the racks. Once you have a minimal kit list they are easily small enough to not challenge good strong bars or seatposts, wont connect with your legs and arent encumbering enough to through the bike off balance.

But, for my ends so far i have used eric's trunk turtles. I think these were developed due to my requests, added to thoughts that eric had been having for some time. The idea is that there is an easily accessible pocket on top of a roll top expandable dry bag sitting on top of the rack. Stuff you need quickly and frequently, in the top. Sleeping and clothing stuff - in the bags. Stable easy and dry.

On my front rack, in the dry bag i have a sleeping matt - in this instance a thermarest light 3/4 job - folded not rolled, wrapped in a sleeping bag - macpac 400g minimal 1 season bag. In the turtle are a pen, a park mini multitool, and 2 packets of super noodles. Chicken curry and mexican chilli flavours. Try before you eat.

The rear roll top has my bivvi bag and termarest packing sac which inverts to become a fleecy pillow when stuffed with clothing. The trunk turtle has a leatherman, a superlight MSR stove, a small gas cannister (with volume of gas left written on it in sharpie) and also a padlock and cable lock. There is also a plastic spork, mini toothbrush and mini toothpaste, and a guy rope for sinching the bivvi open.

The bottles have nuun charged water in them, but the lower bottle has just water, and also holds a cheeky filter for those HMMMM is that stream going to have decomposed cow in it? moments.

Rucksack is a wingnut. There is no better way to carry weight on your back. In this instance i had a hyper 3.0 which needless to say had a 3 litre camelback bladder fitted, and held an MSR ti kettle, with MSR ti cup and coffee filter inside, with a lighter. There was my spare layer (a 200g icebreaker woolie and a pair of wool arm warmers) a buff, 2 energy bars, 2 honey goo blobs, camera, spare tube, chain link, bolts and levers and patch kit. Two packets oat so simple, ground coffee and TP. All in (separate) ziplocs. Mini Soap. Pump, notebook, keys and ipod shuffle. Oh and a hipflask with highland park in it.

I wore a windproof gilet, short sleeve thin woolie and wind proof endura 3/4. Lid, gloves blah.

Thats it.

The route i took was mixed on/off road and never really ventured far enough away from shops to justify taking so much food with me. In fact i came back with the energy bars, porridge and noodles. I did not weigh the wingnut, but it wasn't heavy. The bike had less than 10lb of kit on it including the bags (not including the racks). Pretty light really.

There you go...

Next time? depending on route: i needed another layer, i was cold overnight. Think that may be it as a starting point...


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Moulin Homage.

So Thursday i rode up to moulin near pitlochry. It was:
a) a route i roughly knew
b) a chance to pay homage to the new team (see the vc moulin blog for a full write up of the trip)
c) a stepping stone to allow me to bivvi with new (less!) gear and then ride on up to aviemore

All these things came to pass, but the ride also became a homage to Buddy. Rest easy.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bike pack(ed).

All bivvi/sleeping gear. Dinner. Stove and gas. Kettle. Coffee maker. Tools. Inc. dry bags. Waterproof. 3.9kg.

All that is left is riding clothes, water and some energy bars.

The aim for this year was sub 10lb, and i'm already there. There is plenty of scope to go lighter - use the insulation mat from shaggy, ditch the padlock and cable.

Soon, i'll get my mits on the rackless bags and see what i can do with those.

More when im back.