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!


grant said...

Newcastleton was hard work on the SS last year, so I'd recommend gears or running a ratio like 32:22.

Sounds soft, but that's what most of the other singlespeeders I spoke to were running. I was on 32:19 in the end and suffered....

I'm running gears this year.

dRjON said...

dunno, ive never run lower than 34:20... i find it too frustrating if you cant make any forward progress....

krs said...

Oi! Quit yer whinin'

You get to start a 24hr race and then stop when the satisfaction and boredom curves bisect. Ride something fun that has a little comfort, and bring some meat for the bbq.

; )

Nick said...

The Kelly.

Bit of a contradiction btween your opinion on the Jones - too sharp and short, but the IF is too long and slack. One bike will always be great at hour one and one bike great at hour eight. A twelve hour race is just too long for one bike to be ideal for them all. Unless you can just get used to short and sharp handling for the duration.

I always said barge like sluggish 29ers had their place in 24 hour races for when the rider got similarly barge like and sluggish.

martysavalas said...

short travel full sus, even one with freak wheels.

stop handicapping yourself. ;)