Thursday, April 28, 2011

Damo and the Bicentennial Trail.

You might remember that my friend Damo was riding the Bicentennial Trail in Australia recently. He'd mentioned he had written it up on, but i was clearly being a dufus and couldn't find it...however, i've got it now!, follow this link, and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Iced Coffee.

So, its been a little warmer out. Occasionally i like an iced coffee.

Here's a good recipe...

Iced coffee.

I found this amazing image on dspaulding09 flickr. I could stare at it for hours....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Weather systems were favourable. Time and light were on my side. I slipped through the speed barrier to Blair Atholl and started climbing. The aim was 3 munros arranged conveniently in a ridge. There was a slight drop between each one, and then off the last on to the shoulder of a smaller hill, before a rapid descent to a glen i know very well.

The climb up Carn Liath was like one of those Escher prints...i kept moving, but slipped down seemingly as far as i climbed. Eventually i made the top, and enjoyed the breathtaking view over to the Cairngorm.

As i snaked down the ridge, i saw Braigh Coire Chruinn-Bhalgain rear up in front. The trail looked wicked as it dropped to the bealach, then ascended the ridge onto the top.

It seemed to take mere minutes to summit and hit cloud level, but soon enough i dropped below the cloud again and was afforded excellent views.

Body and bike were working well together, and with the steep drop off the Braigh behind me, i grappled with Carn Ban Gabhar. If you look at the next photo closely. you'll see the trail drop steeply by my left shoulder in the back ground.

Energy restocked, the summit again came quickly, but with a pang of anxiety this time. I had no real knowledge of the route down i intended to take. No matter, soak up the majesty. Breathe. Witness Mother Nature in all her splendour.

The way ahead seemed clear. A slight parting in the heather. But the gradient was intimidating. Perhaps the steepest i have ever ridden for a sustained time. Oddly, as i levelled out a little a gyrocopter thrummed overhead.

Too soon, i was poised above Glen Tilt. The ground fell so steeply that leaves of soil, rock and heather were literally peeling off, At times, these fissures were being used to route the trail.

Steep switchbacks and some heart-in-the-mouth rear wheel hop turns, brought me back down to ground level. To be back on flat ground so soon after tasting the sky was harsh, but the exhilaration will be with me long after i'm back in the city.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Just when you thought you'd seen it all...

Kush sprockets....

For moto, but coming to an mtb near you soon?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My own private road ride.

The last couple weeks has seen me tied in knots. Sleep has been hard to find. A virus that finally exploded at 2am on sunday morning has left me weak and pouring snot. My brain has been going overtime, trying desperately to make amends for the body's lack of strength and stamina. Under rocks and behind the tool chest. In the deepest recesses of my imagination, i have been looking for something that will safeguard against a possible future.

I dearly love being competitive. My self loathing and pessimism - the things that whisper negative comments when i am down or hurting - get the better of me when i know i am not up to the task. At the moment, there are very few tasks i *am* up to.

As dawn broke on monday, 3 or so hours after i had awoken, and started sweating out a fever i could see me wasting an allotted window for riding. I sat on the couch with Daisy and watched her play with her toes and sing. I love the snatched time i get with her in the mornings before work, so on a day where the only things on the agenda are what i choose to do, it would be easy to stay rooted to the spot.

But the demon's were all around me. Hissing. With Daisy off to Tiny Talk, i knew that an offroad ride - which is really what i ought to be doing in such glorious sunshine and likely dry trails - wasnt going to happen. I decided to drag the skeletor out and hit the tarmac. Filled bottles, took paracetamol, a couple slices toast with cream cheese and smoked ham - but really my appetite had evaporated.

Pedaling out of the road, avoiding the crush of modern society. Avoiding cars, just. Until i hit the coast road, shy of Helensburgh. Then past Rhu the houses began to fade away and it was just me, the road and the sea. Onwards and upwards, aiming back to Tarbet and inland. But i spotted a half remembered road, signed to Glen Douglas and decided on a whim to follow it.

i climbed up picture perfect swithcbacks. The Cobbler clear in the distance. I dont know the gradient, but i reckon it was 1:8 - my second serious climb of the day and unbelievably, despite the exhaustion, the weariness, the virus coursing n my veins, i felt alive.

Over the crux and dropping into the glen proper. Whizzing down slightly battered road, parallel to some M.O.D land and popping out at Inverbeg on Loch Lomond side. There is a good cycle path along the loch side, and i took this to Balloch then headed back to Milngavie via the quiet roads north west of Croftamie. Then diving back into the traffic, the grind, the dust and the pressure of people once again. 4.10 of worthwhile escapism. I'm suffering now - pushing hard with a bug on board is only going to lead to horrors, but i'm still smiling about the private roads i span along in the sun, so effortlessly, peacefully and the ejuvination of the mind that it brought.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

e thirteen.

I've been pretty happy with the xc style chainguides i have been using. The e13 a little more than the mrp. i love the adjustability and construction of the Paul, but havent needed it - yet.

However, recently on BA i've been noticing that the guide is rotating occasionally, i presume as it gets knocked. When the frame was being made i asked sean to add an ISCG mount at the last minute...and i'm glad i did. I fitted an e13 LG1+ today. It took all of 5 minutes. It lined up incredibly easily, and is considerably stiffer in the 'yank it in the bike stand' test.

Initially i am going to run just the top section, though i might well add the taco and roller at a later date...we'll see.

Sea Otter is on, and theres some sweet looking stuff appearing. I see on Bikerumor that they are releasing a 1x10 sort of inbetween-ish guide aimed at rougher/1x10 riding - the LG 1 trail. Cool.

Now all i need to get out into the woods and RIDE.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Lots of compromises recently. Time, place and person. So it goes – life may well be *about* compromise, eh?

There are definitely some bike compromises coming up. On may the 7th ill be racing for 12 hours at the 12/24 of Exposure race at Newcastleton. Plenty of climbing per (11 mile) lap and hopefully a weather resistant - if not dry - trail. So: plenty of laps expected.

What with one thing and another, my fitness is pretty poor. Normally I would want to feel I could knock out 6-10 hours of strenuous riding with no major issues prior to a race like this. I do try to do well afterall, rather than just finish. But at present I feel it will be touch and go to ride for the full 12 hours. Bike choice is therefore more important. I don't have the strength to just 'run what i brung'.

A wee while ago, I got to thinking about whether I should race on a singlespeed, or push BA into service. Here is where the compromising starts. Rigid singlespeeds are generally ok for endurance racing, but you can get pretty beaten up if the course is rough. If there is a lot of climbing, you need to have good legs and a strong core to cope. Hmmm.

In addition, my singlespeed of choice – the Jones – is a bit of a conundrum to race. It is a *fantastic* riding bike. It is lively, pinpoint accurate and super good fun. It handles technical situations that would cause a lesser bike to baulk. However, that truss fork doesn’t budge an inch, or even a mm. The short wheel base and fast handling become a handful when you are delirious at 8 hours in, with an empty tank. In short, as good a bike as it is, it isn’t a race bike.

I am lucky enough to have some other bikes I could ride. First, there is BA. The Vertigo is an ‘all mountain’ hardtail that is designed to thrive in back country type riding. The sort of riding where I go out into difficult terrain, hit some big climbing and some big descending. Get back the same day. Hopefully. It wasn’t designed for pedalling around and around trail centres at speed. It can do it, but it would be a slight compromise. There are a few things I could easily do to make it more ‘race bike’ish: a lower and maybe longer stem. Move the saddle forward a cm or so. Run lighter tyres and/or tubes. I’d need to ride with a back pack, as it was designed to have one bottle cage only. But it might be the best option.

Another option is the pink bike. This bike has been seldom used but when it has been needed it has dealt with abuse without complaint. A robust, steal IF designed for light/loaded bike packing. Originally it was fitted with old man mountain racks. But since the advent of soft seat post and bar packs, these are not used. The tubing is beefy, and the bike ain’t light, but it is good fun to ride once you get used to the long wheel base and slack angles with huge offset fork. All the things that make it an ideal off-road touring bike take away from its racing ability. But again, I could minimise the compromise. The fork is less rigid (read more comfortable at hour 8) than the Jones fork. I could even swap on the old pace carbon fibre fork (with the intricacies of mechanical trail this would slightly speed up the handling and drop about 300g from the front of the bike).

Since it was fitted with hydraulic brakes, arm pump is less of an issue and the longer stays and front centre would make for relaxed and forgiving handling as the race wears on. It has 3 bottle cage mounts – ideal to take all the weight of a pack and fluid from my back. But I wont be able to squeeze a big tyre in the back. It was designed around narrower/slicker tyres. Recently it was fitted with a higher rise/shorter stem but it retains a good reach to prevent me getting to crunched up in a long race.

The funny thing is, all this to-ing and fro-ing makes me realise that the plan for a xc racing bike isn’t the ramblings of a bike-bling addicted, tech-obsessed freak. Well - much.

If I intend to keep competing at endurance races, I will benefit from having the right tool for the job. The new Vertigo will have excellent handling I have no doubt, but it will be more forgiving over many laps. It will run gears or singlespeed and I will be able to choose rigid or suspension. I won’t have to compromise on the bike ever again.

The body? The mind? The fitness? Those are different questions!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Desert rock in glasgow.

Kyuss lives! have risen from the ashes of Kyuss. They are touring at the moment and this is clearly causing an awful lot of exitement in those-who-are-prone-to-flashing-the-devil's-horns. So it was that on a monday evening i jumped on my trusty bike-that-kills-hipsters. Ok technically, it doesnt, but i feel the need to justify owning a brooklyn machine works. Ok i dont, as its a bomber commuter. Anyway, back to the point of this rambling. The gig venue was the ABC on Sauchiehall street. Now if you have ever been to glasgow, you may well have spent some time avoiding trouble on Sauchiehall street. Even on a monday. Sauchiehall street is the sort of place that if you leave a bike locked up, some neanderthal is likely to just kick it to a broken pile just 'cos its there. So. I had to make a plan.

Fortunately there is an art house cinema at the top of Sauchiehall street. I figured there was at least a 75% chance there would be hipster-types watching an art house film there. They would be coming and going at about the time pubs receive and discharge the clientele. A fierce horde of art house-hipster-types are likely to protect my bike that for one evening wont try to kill any hipsters. Right? Right.

So it went.

Kyuss lives! lived up to the dream. It was a pretty wild night and i am guessing that there were a lot of folk who missed work, the majority of the morning and/or needed a heavy dose of painkillers on tuesday. I'm old now, and sad to say i wore earplugs and avoided the mosh pit. Ok, less of a mosh pit, more of a mosh room. I've made the mistake of getting involved before and the following few days are always a nightmare of neck spasm and ear ringing.

I might have been sad - but i *did* spot one fellow wearing glow in the dark ear plugs. Ha! dweeeb!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Goatee of Filth.

Less numbers. More riding. 50 odd miles of commute with a 60 mile sweet-as ride in the middle with great company. Thanks Marty.

Goatee of Filth from martin steele on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


It is a little known fact that Mart 'naegears' Savalas, one of my team mates on VC Moulin, is half Phlegmish.

As such he has organised a cobbled, gritty, Kingdom of Fife ride, The Goatee of Filth, which will take place tomorrow giving us time to catch the end of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

I will be channelling my inner Ian Stannard...

Super dry.

So: super dry and boring gear ratio and development has been sort of on my mind recently. Particularly because everyone shy of adam craig and mark weir (who seem to run in the region of 40 tooth rings and 11-34 blocks) seem to be running way smaller gears than I am.

I’ve been riding singlespeeds for a long time now, and I’ve ridden a lot of different terrain. Depending on my strength and weight and, admittedly, course profile - I have found anywhere between 34:18 on a 29er to 34:20 being appropriate. But let’s face it, it is a compromise. At present I have settled pretty much on 33:18 which gives me a development of 167”.

When I went to a 6 speed, albeit on a slightly heavier bike, I ended up using a 40 tooth chainring with a cut down 17-34 cassette. The ratios left were 40:17/20/23/26/30/34 giving a development of 214.4”/182.2”/158.4”/140.2”/121.5”/107.2” which is a pretty good spread. Ideally you want to spend most of the time in the middle 3 or so cogs right? So the chainline is straight and therefore efficient and you get the quickest changes with the least aggravation.

You will notice that on that spread, I was going to be riding high in the block and the ratio’s weren’t ideal given what I was used to spinning (well, ok, pushing in squares). Most of the time, I felt I was in a slightly ‘wrong’ gear.

So what? …change the chainring or the block… well, not as easy as all that. To get the cogs on an alloy carrier to fit on a singlespeed freehub body (as was on the DT hub I was using on BA) I was limited to a pretty small possible selection of cassettes. In addition, to make having gears on the bike worthwhile, I needed to try and keep the range useful. As it was, I was often using the highest gear, and occasionally needing the lowest, so I didn’t want to decrease the range from the 40x17-34. Along with the fact that 9/10 speed DT 150mm rear hubs are dishless, and I wanted a stiffer stronger rim (reducing the need for super wide flange spacng at the hub), I knew I could move to a 1x9 or 1x10 and retain the range, or even improve it, but give myself better gears around the sweet spot.

Initially I did some calculations and worked out that a 35 tooth ring and an 11-34 spread would give me an ample and good enough range.

Development with the 35 tooth ring and 11-34 cassette: 289.9”/245.3”/212.8”/187.6”/159.4”/138.6”/122.6”/106.3”/93.8”

Oddly, it didn’t feel right straight from the off….again I was never in the right gear as much as I wanted to be. You’ll notice the middle ratios dance around the 167” I am most used to pedalling…but not close enough to feel comfortable? Seems far fetched, but so it was.

However, no matter. In this situation it was easy to pop on a 36 tooth ring which, with the 11-34 cassette, gives.


Still an excellent spread and the middle ratio is 164” – really close to my ‘ideal’.

But – I hear you cry – (you are still paying attention, yes?) why not use a smaller chainring with the 11-34, as its quite a lot of high end and the chainline defers to the smaller rear cogs anyway due to the 83mm bb shell right? Or even add a 11-32 block with the smaller chainring?

34 ring with 11-34 cassette gives:

35 ring and 11-32 cassette gives:

34 ring with an 11-32 cassette gives:

33 ring with 11-32 cassette gives:

Hmmm! The only one that comes close to the magic mid-point gear is the 33x 11-32…but the gears on either side are 187.9” and 143.2” compared to the 192.9” and 142.6” with the 36x11-34, and the latter set up gives more low-end and more high end in a pinch.

So, that probably goes some way to explaining why my 1x9 ratios seem way bigger than what most folk seem to be running. I think, anyway!

This also helps me plan the gearing on the new, xc orientated beast. Clearance here is likely to be tighter, as it's going to have a 73mm shell, but i think i can get a 36 on there, especially as it will be mounted to the outer position of the XTR M980 crank. I'll probably stick with 9 speeds, as it will allow me to use a saint rear derailleur, or perhaps an xtr/saint splice a la fabien barel? (as pictured above). We'll see.

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