Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Hills and Bridges

One event I failed to mention form the weekend was the Red Bull Hill Chasers, which took place in Edinburgh.

The event was won by Michal Prokop on a BMX, with Shanaze Reade, also on a BMX smashing to the women's win.

Also playing in the urban environment was a guy taking on London bridge on a Boris Bike. There's quite a lot of trials skill here from someone described as a freerunner in the press.

and there's more here.

I haven't yet mentioned Dave Millar's project to auction a unique set of fizik shoes after many of his races in the last season of his career. Check out the story here. The shoes look ace and the idea behind them is also cool in my opinion.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Testing Times

I may have mentioned that I'm looking for a new bike, and the search really hotted up last weekend. It would be a tale of contrasts in style from bike shops and bikes.

The first bike I had lined up to ride was through the excellent AW Cycles in Reading, who have been putting in the time and effort to give me recommendations and to get in a demo bike for me to ride properly over a day. I turned up at the shop shortly after it opened to pick up the Kona Process 134 DL and headed out first of all onto the local trails.

This was my first time riding a 650b wheeled bike and my first time for a while on a 140mm travel full suspension rig and it was interesting. Straight away I could feel the bigger wheels, making me fairly sure I wouldn't want to go even bigger to 29”, and the reach felt shorter than I was used to. Quickly I pointed it downhill and the grins started as the bike firmly and precisely let me take the direct line and go faster with more fun than my usual hardtail. This would continue for the ride and as I adjusted to climbing and keeping the front wheel down it was hard to see much that I didn't like about the ride. I cleared climbs that I deliberately tested myself on and, while the bike felt perhaps a little heavier than my hardtail, the extra rear wheel grip made a difference, and it never seemed to struggle.

It was time for some trail centre action to test the other side of my usual riding and I loaded the car back up and headed to Swinley.

Here the bike was a bit of overkill for the conditions but absolutely loads of fun. The suspension left me less battered and then more able to keep going longer, even if the time on the bike was tiring by the end. The bigger wheels, longer forks and short stem made the steering less precise than I'm used to in the tight singletrack, but not so much as to cause a problem and the minute the trail went down and over jumps it opened up new lines and faster choices. I'm no jumper but the bike couldn't wait to leave the ground and I found doubles dropping below me rather than being pumped. The bike flattered my ability hugely as I found lines I would never ride on a hardtail, or would slow down for, just disappearing past my wheels. It did nothing to lessen my feeling that people who have only ever ridden full suspension are missing some big skills.

Even as I got tired I found myself getting surprisingly lairy and loose into berms and jumps and just having a whole load of fun.

Sunday was time for another test ride. This time far less extensive and less of an opportunity to work out the details of the bike over real riding, as it came in the form of half an hour's local riding on a Norco Sight Carbon 7 1.5 from Evans Cycles. Straight out of the shop this bike was lighter and longer than the Kona which initially felt more natural, as it climbed well. The carbon frame clearly made the weight difference. The Norco felt like a big day bike, more stable and perhaps less fun. With a longer reach and more weight over the front it also managed to feel a bit less nimble and chuckable. There were also little annoyances like the dropper-post cable snagging the back wheel when the seat was dropped out of the way. There is some thinking to do and another bike to test next weekend before the decisions are made.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Serious Weekend Racing

After some light posts last week there is plenty to wrap up from the weekend.

Let's start with the racing. The big events were the first round of the Mountain Bike World Cup in South Africa and the big cobbled classic for the road boys, Paris-Roubaix. The Cross Country races were much as expected, with Julian Absalon taking the men's race after a badly timed puncture for Nino Shurter put him out of contention and back in seventh. The women's race was won by U23 World Champion Jolande Neff in the heat. British interest was there in the shape of Tracey Moseley who has previously won the downhill in Pietermaritzberg.

The weekend was opened with the Downhill which gave more to talk about as all but one team rocked up on 650b wheels (with The Santa Cruz Syndicate the only major team with 26” wheels on their V10s) and with defending champion Steve Smith out with injury.

The women's race was shaken up by Rachel Atherton having been suffering with a bacterial infection all week. It's a testament to the strength of these athletes that she raced hard and finished second behind fellow Brit, Manon Carpenter.

The men's event was less impressive for British riders, with Gee Atherton unusually out of the top ten and the fight at the top being decided between early leader Mick Hannah with local boy Greg Minnaar the firm favourite. Minnaar could only manage third and after a storming Josh Bryceland had transmission issues that put him out of contention Hannah was holding on. The last rider down the mountain was Aaron Gwin, trying to put a terrible 2013 season behind him. His run was a reminder of the 2011 and 2012 seasons where he was totally dominant, and he smashed Hannah off the top spot to take the win and, obviously the series lead. Check it out for yourself in some highlights.

Then there was the road. Paris-Roubaix is seen by many people as one of the best races of the year, and Britain was strongly represented for the cobbles as Wiggins, Thomas and Rowe turned out for Sky. The coverage was only on Eurosport, but based on the live text updates it looked like a thrilling day out as Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins worked hard to be in the elite peloton that would contest the win. A strong attack from Omega-Pharma Quickstep rider Terpstra gave him the win in the end with Thomas and Wiggins in 7th and 9th.

My weekend was heavily bike-related as well, but perhaps that's a story for another day.


Friday, 11 April 2014


Consider this the calm before the storm of a big biking weekend and some light news stories to take you through to the end of the week.

If anyone doubted the effort required to get that new tyre on the other day, this is the shape of a metal tyre lever now:

Less personal was a preview of the new Glyncorrwg trail that is getting me quite excited to make that extra long trip into Wales.

And finally everyone woke up to news that Dave Brailsford will most likely be quitting as Performance Director of British Cycling to focus more clearly on his role at Sky Procycling.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Feeling Inadequate

My week has now become dominated by tight tyre issues again, as a puncture and then an attempt to buy an easy-to-fit tyre has massively failed and I'm stuck with it half on and the unappealing prospect of a trip to a shop to get it sorted.

An early morning trip to the shop was made slightly better by the mechanic also breaking tyre levers getting the tyre on (to add to my two bent metal ones), and thus makingm e feel less stupid, and by accidentally booking another test ride on a mountain bike.

Let's try and distract ourselves with the sort of video that makes you feel inadequate:

In other news the boys at Future have been looking at exactly the bikes I am considering, but aren't yet revealing their thoughts: