Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A break in the clouds.

Two days of sunshine gave me a window. Saturday saw the nth running of the 'Skull and Crossbikes' series. We met in edinburgh and pushed onto a secret location where bags of beer were dumped and a course hastily routed.

With minimal fuss, we "go!"ed and after 30 mins + a lap of a torturous & technical cross course i managed to pick off the leader with just 20 meters to go -sorry, John! it was hell bent for leather over the last lap and it took 2 Guinness to get the heart below 180.

With a sunny cross race and ride with good friends on saturday, sunday gave me the opportunity to punch it up the A9 and head for Aviemore. The aim was to complete the loop i started a few months ago, but foreshortened due to hail.

This time the sun beat down and gave a marked contrast to the wind-blown snow on the saddle before Ben Macdui (Beinn Mac Duibh - the second highest mountain in the UK). No grey man of macdui spotted, but a couple gnarly old hill walkers were amazed at the presence of an mtb up high.

The snow filled in gaps between the rocks and made for a few nail biters until i ggot a few hundred feet lower.

The descent from Macdui to Loch Etchachan, past Derry Cairngorm, was perhaps the best trail i have ridden in the UK. It wasnt gargantuan tech, but the constant rocks and steep corners, with gasp-worthy views and the effortless traction on the narrow gauge trail all added up to a spectacular experience.

From here i dropped down to Loch Avon. I dont know if it is fully rideable, but i certainly had to walk sections and swallowed my heart after a particular near-O.T.B occurance with a long drop as consequence.

My hopes were high that the trail you can just see below, cutting west to east up the face of Stob Coire an t-Sneachda, on the north side of Loch Avon would be rideable, and take me to the eastern end and thus allow me to take the Lairg an Laoigh, a pass from Glen Derry to the Ryvoan Bothy and back to Aviemore.

Unfortuantley, the trail was just a mess of boulders and loose peat 'roofs' that would give way, and drop my ankle deep between the rocks. With the bike on the shoulder the whole time, progress was mind-bendingly slow and i was pretty lucky to escape battered and bruised but without a broken ankle. Needless to say, i decided to climb to Strath Nethy and follow that down to the Ryvoan Bothy. I knew the trail was supposed to be boggy, but i felt i couldnt keep risking it on the side of Loch Avon. Initially, my fears were unfounded - and the view was incredible.

Shoulda coulda etc etc. It took 2 hours 45 minutes of cursing, shouting, dragging my bike, disappearing into bogs up to mid thigh, wading through water logged heather and just general not-fun-ness to get to trail i could ride - not a moment too soon as the gloaming was all around.

8 hours. A huge mix of incredible and brutal - probably a microcosm for back country biking in scotland right there.

Next time, south side of Loch Avon? Push on to Braemar and make it an overnighter? who knows....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Unexpected impact coming from leftfield.

Im trying to stay away from re-posting stuff you can easily dredge up on the internoot yo'self. But its interbike, and i do get all excited at interbike time....

This is Adam Craig's race bike as photo'd by Competitive Cyclist at interbike...

So, lets get this straight - (click it and bigger-ise it). That fox fork has a ti one piece tapered steerer/crown?

Shit! that IS rad...

Photos lifted from Competitive Cyclist's stream on flickr...well worth a good look.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Its been an odd week. Early on i heard about ex prime minister Tony Blair being awarded the Liberty Medal for his part in the Northern Ireland peace process, specifically the Good Friday agreement. Hmm. This is the same Tony who could so easily be branded as a war mongerer for little more than personal gain. Clinton, as he awarded the medal, said Blair "continues to demonstrate the same leadership, dedication and creativity in promoting economic opportunity in the Middle East and the resolution of conflicts rooted in religion around the world". Maybe that is why Nelson Mandela, who knows a thing or two about freedom and cultural/religious conflict was "breathing fire" down the phone to the prime ministers office when Blair decided to partake in the invasion of Iraq.

Then we had the Pope's visit. Glasgow was pretty much shut down on Thursday. Who knows what efforts have been made in London, now, as protestors must be seen as a real risk. Not surprising, given the accusations directed at Ratzinger with regards the sexual abuse perpetrated by priests of the Catholic church and his handling of the church's reaction.

I struggle with the notion of organised religion. There are far too many issues with power, financial gain and sectarianism for me to see it as a pure force for good. Where it becomes intertwined with political machinations i become particularly negative.

The aid for the Pakistan flood victims is another area where humans are suffering due to these messy conflicts. It would be naive to think that the support for the Taliban within Pakistan is not having an effect on the West's somewhat sluggish and inadequate provision of relief. Even where support is being provided, the sound bites and political posturing continue. Who is trying to buy who's support and for what ends?

Who knows.

None of this has helped me feel any less old and worn out this week. Taking part in endurance based activities, there is always a battle to remain healthy due to the hit your immune system takes in the time after a prolonged, hard effort. After kielder i almost immediately have fallen foul of a bug that has had me on the throne for an almost mesmerising proportion of this week. Working in health care is a bummer sometimes. The exposure to bugs is high and it doesnt take much to knock you down. I also managed to trash my back. Cycling is an activity that puts the back in a pretty shoddy position, yet requires it to work very hard indeed. For a long time now i have been doing core strengthening and stretching exercises to minimise back problems. Unfortunately, this has led to a relative weakness in my Infraspinatous, Rhomboid major and Trapezius. Having tried to address this over the last couple of weeks i threw said muscles into a massive spasm on Monday then compounded the problem by going back to exercising too soon.

To top it off, P Phone has fleas. We've tried treating her for them, but getting a cat to do anything they dont like is, well, like herding cats....

One thing that has amused me this week was picking up a bunch of ti and aluminium bolts and drilled washers. Sean at Vertigo cycles will be building another bike for me. Over the last few weeks i've become interested in the weight weenie-esque passion of tuning bike parts and for this bike i'm going to indulge a little. Hey! why not?

Non essential and non shear loaded bolts will be replaced with Aluminium. In other areas, i'll use ti. Components will be picked for function and durability. The aim of the bike will be racing. Pure and simple. It will spend most of its time as a 9 speed, but will have the option to be a singlespeed. It will also have the choice of either a suspension fork (current front runner is a Reba xx with lock out) and a niner tapered steerer carbon rigid. Weight isnt the primary concern but im going to try and run a tight ship.

Should be a lot of fun.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I need to cover this fully sometime...

Remembering a trip a couple of years back to the spanish pico's...

Some snow on the high ground...

Plenty of sunshine too, for an evening ride up to a refugeo...

Then dropping down into the gorge...

Head for heights needed...

But you get some good riding in...

Meet a few locals...

Enjoy more trail...

And, well, more trail!

Not a bad place for a ride...

Metal for breakfast.

My music tastes are pretty varied. One thing i admit to is a love of heavy metal. Simple, powerful, visceral.

Warp Riders, by The Sword hits the nail on the head. I think the thing that attracted it to me at first was the likening of the vocal style to Clutch's Neil Fallon. Not sure about that, but its excellent stuff. Even gets away with being a concept album....really! dont let that put you off!...

Go here or here to read reviews and to listen to some.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Gah. Put my back out early in the week. Managed an hour of kettle bells yesterday, but paid for it today. Because its cross season soon, i took that pain and ran with it. An hour on the road bike, fast, into the wind.

I dont know how many cross races i'll do this year. With the baby on the way and with the (short) trip to New Zealand, i'm going to miss a lot of the tight season.

If you are interested in checking it out, see scottish cyclocross for details.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Um. Dugast with Mountain king tread anyone?

Tubular tyres with my favourite tread to edge/enve tubular rims?

I'm kind of twitching with want at the moment...

Mini me.

Mini tools, eh? Usually total cheese. Bent-wire-formed allen bits that dont have good tolerances. Often bulky, or fragile, or awkward they need to work on the odd occasion they are required and if they dont you will often have a long walk out.

So: i did a lot of looking, digging for info and scouring the internet and picked up two minitools that - after first inspection - i am happy to try for awhile.

The key points here are they are small, solidly made, have good tolerances on the tool bits, have most of what you need and nothing you dont. Mainly though, the bits have a square cross section where they interface, allowing much less independent flex and movement, increasing accuracy, feel and torque. Its possible the Soma Lo Pro 8 may not be able to generate enough torque for some uses, but we'll see. I do have a 8mm adaptor that fits on a 6mm allen head that will fill in the obvious gap (that the new Genuine Innovations flat stack II will have i believe)

More as time goes by...


Last night we went to the Glasgow gala premier of Find, a new film by Mark Huskisson on Reset films. It was really very good. To tell the truth, i'm not really into bike related films. They are fine, but often lack insight into the personalities (unless of course the subjects dont *have* personalities!). Find is insightful. It helps that a lot of the scenery is stunning - from the Basque Country to the Scottish Highlands and the people filmed are some of the more interesting and colourful in the industry: Hans Rey, Danny Mac, Peaty, Rowan Sorrel and Rob Lee. My wife (who isnt a bike nut) and myself (i am) both found ourselves laughing out loud and enjoying the stunning imagery.

Find is a step up from Home, Reset's first proper mtb film, which was itself very good. The scope, scenery, sound, editing and overall feel are all superb. I would really recommend getting hold of a copy.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Here it comes again...

Back from Kielder 100. Mixed bag. Reportage will be on VC moulin. Will put a linky up when i've thought about it all.

Using the recovery (read: lazy) few days left before going back to work to build some furniture, do some clearing out and attend to the DT hub i've been trying to service.

The problem is that the aluminium spacer that stops the 2 cartridge bearings in the freehub 'rotor' body getting side loaded died when i punched the bearings out. I have a newer DT singlespeed hub and basically the spacer washer *should* be able to be moved around (when the hub isnt being compressed in the drop outs) to allow access to punch the beairngs out. But it didnt want to move when i tried. It had become slightly lipped, due to pressure from the rws rear thru axle i suspect and it was sort of fixed in position relative to the bearings. So: what to do? DT dont make it easy to service the rotor itself. The rest of the hub is REALLY easy to service, but the rotor is a send back or replace item. Hmmm!...

The parts box showed up nothing of great use. Some washers, but either too thick or too thin. Hope hubs use a similar system, but not similar enough. Their spacer is 2mm thick or 14 or 16mm thick although it has the same inside diameter. Also the 2mm one is steel so less easy to work with.

My options here are to:
a) cut down then hand file the 14mm thick spacer you can see in the pic.
b) find a local machining firm that will do this for me.
c) try contacting DT swiss again.
d) try and get a whole new rotor body.

None of these really seem that ideal...for various reasons. Filing is unlikely to get accurate enough parallel surfaces for bearing longevity. A local machine shop that will do maybe four or five (for future use) 15mm i.d. 1.7mm thick aluminium spacers? seems unlikely. DT havent proven easy to contact on this matter and new rotor bodies are expensive and it would be pretty wasteful.

So. Here it comes again. I need access to good metal working tools and the skills to use them.

Well, i suppose it *is* winter soon - plenty of long evenings....