Jun 292012
 

If there’s one place I’ve wanted to ride since first getting on a  mountain bike, it’s the Highlands of Scotland.  I’ve always thought of riding there as something that should be “epic”, exploring the closest thing we have to wilderness (or so I am led to believe), braving the weather & taking in majestic views.

With that in mind, and with the help of some experienced local knowledge, I’ve planned a new Highland Coast 2 Coast off-road route that should be as stunning as it is challenging.  There were a number of changes I wanted to make to the existing & generally accepted off-road C2C route from Fort William to Montrose, and in the end I have virtually an entirely new route from start (Inverie) to finish (Stonehaven).  The start at Inverie is only accessible via the ferry from Malaig (or a very long walk/ride along the mainland), which should make for a memorable start to the route.

When I return, I’ll publish the route here so others can try it out, either as an ITT following the self supported rules, or at a more leisurely touring pace.  Depending on time and how I’m feeling, I’d really like to do the route in both directions, though if I’m honest my fitness isn’t quite where I’d like it to be right now so I’ll have to see how I go on the first leg.

Following the C2C ride, I’m hoping to have time to ride the Cairngorms Loop ITT, a new route designed by Steve Wilkinson that takes a double loop around the mountains to make a tough 300km.  In a similar style to the Tour Divide, the Cairngorms Loop had an inaugural group start in May this year, with the fastest time being set by Aidan Harding at 22 hrs 30 mins.  There was a definite split in the racers, with a few completing the route in one go, and the rest taking some sleep in the middle.  Steve encourages ITTs (Individual Time Trials) on the route, and mine will I think be the first.

The Cairngorms Loop will be a really interesting ride for me.  It’s pushing me beyond my comfort zone & into riding with proper sleep deprivation.  Frankly, I have no idea how my body & mind will deal with it….which is exactly why I want to try it!  Plan A will be to ride the route in one go, for as fast a finish as I can.  Depending on conditions, and how I cope, plan B may appear which will involve a rest somewhere en route.  Weather conditions will dictate how much kit I take.  I’d like to just take my lightweight bivy bag, which can shut out the midges & keep me out of the rain.  I’ll make a judgement on the day whether to take more…sleeping bag perhaps, down vest etc for some extra warmth if required.  As for my asthma…I’m trying not to let that hold me back or change my plans.  I’ll have two inhalers with me and will just have to see what transpires.

The weather forecast for the first few days is not looking pretty, but I suppose that’s why God invented Gore-Tex.

As usual, my progress, or lack of, can be followed live on my Satellite Tracking page.

 

Jun 112012
 

There was never any doubt that I had to ride Bristol Bikefest again this year.  Last year’s BBF was my first “proper” competitive race and 2nd place in the solo ss category took me by surprise, whilst giving me the feedback that all this extra riding I was doing was at least having some positive effect!  Besides, Bikefest is the unofficial main event of Dreaming Tyres, the marvellous group of Oxford-based riders with whom I ride a lot.

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A lot can happen in a year, and I approached Bikefest 2012 with confidence in my ability to ride for 12 hours straight (unlike last year when that particular fact was untested). I’ve also learned a lot about nutrition for long rides, what works and what doesn’t for me, and in fact I think this year I probably took on board about a third of the food that I did at last years event! The resulting lack of stomach ache and requirement for a swift trip to the loo after the race was quite an improvement this time around :-).

I can’t say I was disappointed to see that last year’s winner of the solo ss class, Dan Treby was racing in the team category for his new sponsor this year. Dan is an incredibly strong rider and even at my best I really wouldn’t fancy my chances against him. Nevertheless, Dan’s previous team Singular Cycles, who seem to have a bottomless pit of strong endurance riders, came up with the goods again in the form of Aidan Harding. I’m sure most people reading this will be familiar with Aidan & his incredible rides in races such as the Tour Divide & Iditarod Invitational, but needless to say I have huge respect for Aidan as a rider and for the work he is doing in bringing a new long distance self supported event to the UK in the form of the EWE. As I develop my riding fitness & “headspace”, I find myself drawn to a similar style of riding, attracted to the challenge of riding and racing “big” routes, “epics” I suppose some would describe them. I’ve only just begun, but my route wish-list is already growing fast! So, despite knowing that it’d be a huge stretch for me to compete closely with him, I was really pleased to have the chance to race against Aidan.

The race itself this year felt a lot more simple logistically than last. I was confident in my fuelling and the fact that I could make the distance. I’d pre-mixed all my drinks & had a good selection of gels & snacks to grab depending on how I was feeling. The new start, designed to avoid the short-cut taken by some in previous years, was a bit of a farce yet again. In the scheme of things though, especially in the context of a 12 hour solo race, it’s of no great consequence.

After perhaps three laps or so, I was surprised to hear a cheery hello from Aidan coming up behind me. I assumed he would be up ahead somewhere already but turns out some idiot moved his bike at the start so he wasted valuable time finding it & then no doubt fighting his way through the traffic. I hung onto Aidan’s rear wheel for most of a good fast lap, with a bit of chit-chat thrown in when pacing permitted. Inevitably, I soon dropped back a bit on one of the climbs into a stiff headwind. Aidan’s pace at that point was just a bit too much for me to sustain long term and I knew I had to be mindful of my own pacing, so I didn’t risk blowing up by chasing him too hard at this point in the race. The next time I was to see Aidan was on the podium!

Chasing Aidan…
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From then on, I mostly rode my own race. From occasional snippets of feedback from my Dreaming Tyres chums, I knew Graham Phillips wasn’t too far behind so there was certainly no chance to ease up & relax. Graham is an experienced endurance racer, demonstrated by his consistent lap times, and as my mid-race lap times started to slip, his remained strong. I seem to recall a 6 – 8 hour tough bit last year too. Perhaps there’s something going on physically there, I don’t know, but at least this time I knew I could push through it. If I’m honest, I’d had enough mentally after about 7 hours. Riding round in circles like this is an odd thing to do when there are so many great trails out there just waiting to be attempted. Perhaps I was spoilt by the last 12 hour ride I did along the Trans Cambrian Way but I’m still developing as a rider & finding what I enjoy & what motivates me, so riding these very different types of events & trails is a good thing for me right now. Anyway, to be honest Bikefest is about much more than the racing…it’s also the atmosphere, being around other riders and making & meeting friends.

Back to the race, I started to count down the remaining laps, 4, 3, 2…and then the elephant in my room appeared again…asthma. I’ve been troubled with exercise induced asthma since my TCW ride a couple of months ago. If I’m honest it affected me for months before that, but I didn’t know what it was & it only became a major problem at the end of that ride. This time around, I could feel a shortness of breath even just a few laps into the race. It got progressively worse to the point where, on the final lap, any significant effort resulted in the familiar tightening of my chest & an inability to draw breath, which meant I was walking the climbs and taking it easy elsewhere. To put it bluntly, if the race had continued for one more lap, I think I would have had to pull out. I later discovered that my inhaler wasn’t working properly, which certainly wouldn’t have helped! However, tackling this asthma issue is my top priority at the moment & I see it as the biggest single obstacle to achieving my riding goals in the future.

Anyway, I’m really happy to have come second to Aidan, who finished 17 minutes ahead of me in the Solo Singlespeed category. We would have come 5th & 6th overall in the Open Solo class, and I’d have come 1st in the “Old Gits” class, which as of this year I am a member! Not a bad result, and as ever it was a really enjoyable weekend camping & racing with friends. Next year, if it doesn’t clash with the Tour Divide, I reckon I may have a go at a team ride for a bit more fun. Although, I may have said that last year as well!

Aidan 1st, Me 2nd, Graham 3rd…
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May 192012
 

Being a bit of a geek at heart, I love messing about with bikepacking kit…analysing areas to save weight, finding better ways to pack the bags, changing weight distribution and so on.  With the Welsh Ride Thing only a couple of weeks away, I have a great excuse to get my geek on again.  Here’s how the bike is looking at the moment.  It’s loaded for wet weather and comfort in these pics, not ultra lightweight.  So, that means a lovely comfy full length Thermarest Neoair (instead of the short one); my Nemo Gogo Elite bivy is in there instead of the MLD eVENT bivy (the latter is half the weight but for “fun” events like this I’d rather have a bit more comfort and weather protection); also packed is my Gore Fusion hardshell jacket rather than the lighter and smaller-packing Altura Pocket Rocket.  I haven’t put lights or gps on there yet, but my geeky bikepacking spreadsheet allows me to work out the weight penalty of items like that.

Attached to the handlebars is an Alpkit airlok xtra 8L dry bag containing sleeping bag & clothes.  The saddle bag is a Revelate Viscacha containing bivy, mat, waterproof, groundsheet, 2L Platypus bottle etc.  The frame bag is custom made by Wildcat and holds tools, pump and food.  I don’t use a backpack, but can stuff jersey pockets with food & other gubbins when necessary.  What’s the final weight?  Not sure yet, I’ll let you know when I finish geeking :-)

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May 092012
 

It seemed a good idea at the time to take on two concurrent challenges when each served to compound the difficulty of the other.

1.  Ride 1,000 miles in the month of April - http://kinesismorvelo-rob-lee.posterous.com/ride-with-me

2. Climb 105,312 feet between March 15th and April 30th - http://www.strava.com/challenges/specialized-classic

Each of those in isolation would have allowed me to ride lots of easy flat miles, or lots of short hilly ones.  But of course put them together and they create a cocktail of big miles and big hills with nowhere to hide.  To achieve both targets, I’d need to essentially double my average monthly mileage whilst also introducing a lot more climbing – not the smartest of training techniques.   I knew at least it’d be a learning experience depending on how my body reacted to the increased load.  I’d missed the start of the climbing challenge by a few days, but by the end of March had around 30,000 ft already done, helped by a 10,000 ft 85 mile ride around the Brecon Beacons the week before the TCW ride.

I started April with the Trans Cambrian Way record attempt.  133 miles and around 13,000 feet of climbing got me off to a good start and allowed me some slack to recover a bit during the first week whilst still getting some easier miles & hills in.  For the remainder of the month I experienced a lesson in how to shoe-horn seemingly constant riding into a life already quite busy with a full time job & two young children.  Lunch breaks were no longer about food, but rather about that extra 15 miles & 1,000 ft I could squeeze in before the next work meeting.  Meals were generally eaten at my desk (and this month I ate a lot of them!).  Sometimes lunch break rides weren’t enough, and another 20 or 30 or 40 or 50  miles would be required after work, often once the children were in bed.  In the second half of the month I shunned my mtb riding buddies & instead opted for the necessity of longer & hillier road rides.  I had to get creative with local routes…how much climbing could I squeeze into a ride of x miles that I needed to do that day?  It resulted in beauties like this one, my “Chadlington Fingers of Fun”…  http://app.strava.com/rides/6540276.   It’s amazing how one’s perspective can shift so quickly.  Just riding once in a day began to feel like a rest.

Of course, the main feature of April 2012 was rain.  Rain, rain rain rain.  I suppose we’d been spoilt over the winter, I could hardly remember the last time I rode through a proper downpour.  The heavy rain & high winds were a feature on many many rides over the month, and if nothing else, it taught me that with the right motivation, conditions really don’t matter.  And of course I got to (repeatedly) test out my waterproof kit…

Winners:  Gore Fusion jacket;  Altura Pocket Rocket softshell;  Gore Alp-X GT shorts.
Losers:  Sealskinz “waterproof” cold weather gloves (hint – they’re not waterproof);  Any and all chain lube – does a lube exist that doesn’t disappear after a single downpour?

As tends to be the case with me, things went right up to the wire at the end.  The plan for the penultimate day of April (a Sunday) was to ride with Rob Lee & a few others on a 100 mile 10,000 ft route round his way down in Somerset/Dorset.  I’d planned it so that I had about 96 miles and 8,600 feet to complete both challenges, both to be achieved during that ride.  The weather forecast that day was approaching biblical.  40 mph winds with 70 mph gusts, along with heavy rain and cold, but Rob & I needed the mileage so there was no wimping out.  Now, one or other of these weather conditions in isolation is generally ok, but longer rides can present a problem.  If you get properly wet and have a constant cold wind hammering you, you’re not going to warm up very easily.  For an hour or two that’s not so bad, but this would be a 6-7 hour ride in good conditions, let alone today.  There were four of us at the start… Rob, Matt, Pip and me.  Four experienced and, I’d like to think, not too soft cyclists.  In a nutshell, we sacked the ride off after 40 miles.  At about 30 miles Pip was clearly in the early stages of hypothermia.  There was simply no way to stay dry, and therefore warm in those conditions.  One of the riders (will remain nameless!) resorted to peeing in his lycra in an attempt to get warm.  I was wearing full-on frogman waterproofs and still most of me was saturated.  Progress was just too slow, and Pip’s condition too dangerous to continue, so the decision was made and a bee-line back to Rob’s house was taken.

Of course that still left more than 60 miles and about 5,000 feet of climbing to do, in 24 hours and in the pissing rain & wind.  And I was working tomorrow.  So, I drove the 2 and a half  hours home, then got onto the bike again for another wet & grim ride.  Then went to bed, then got up at 5am and rode some more until both challenges were finally completed.  A fitting end to a big month on the bike.

April numbers
Week 1 –  230 miles 21,328 ft
Week 2 –  251 miles 20,748 ft
Week 3 –  245 miles 17,165 ft
Week 4 – 281 miles  19,263 ft

Total = 1007 miles  78,504 ft (105,547 from March 15th)

Apr 032012
 

Getting out of a nice warm bed at 4am isn’t usually my idea of fun, but today it was easy because I knew I had to.  I’d carefully calculated the logistics of the day & they demanded a 4am alarm, 4:30am in the car, 6:30am reach destination, 7am start riding, 7pm finish riding (worse case), 8pm at bunkhouse with tired legs and pizza.  In theory this would give me sufficient time at either end of the day to minimise the need for lights and also to avoid any extremes of temperature (we’re currently seeing sub-zero nights and mid teens days).  Most importantly, this would mean I could carry less stuff…no heavy lights, no bulky cold weather gear…less stuff = faster (in theory).  I’d actually planned to do the ride today at fairly short notice.  Having felt good after an 80+ mile, 10K ft ride in the Beacons the previous week I was feeling strong & confident, and most importantly the weather forecast was looking favourable for a TCW attempt.

Inevitably then, the outside temperature for the start of my Trans Cambrian Way ITT at Knighton train station was a bone chilling minus 2 degrees C.  No matter, I’d been watching the forecast like a hawk for the days running up to the ride & knew the temperature would rise quickly once the sun rose fully.  With that in mind, I kept to my plan of just a jersey & arm warmers, a light gilet and showerproof jacket and some of those marvellously cheap but actually not too bad PlanetX gloves.  Oh, and summer bib shorts.  My hands would eventually stop hurting after about the first 90 minutes or so.

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After a quick faff, I set off at 06:56…in the wrong direction.  Fortunately (this time at least) I noticed my mistake within 50 yards and turned around.  Despite there not being a soul around, I still felt rather embarrassed.  I wondered if the gps track would pick up that little error at the start for people to see?  [yes it did!]

The start of the route is really quite pleasant.  Two miles of smooth minor road gives the legs at least a fighting chance of getting the blood moving around before the inevitable hills arrive.  Having read up on the route, I knew it had quite a reputation for steep, tough climbs.  The hills looming above me in every direction brought that home rather quickly.  They always look so small & easy on the map don’t they?  After that brief stretch of road, things move off-road and upwards at the tiny hamlet of Knucklas.  That short bridleway climb is just a warm-up for the one that follows, westwards up from Lloyney, a 17% grassy climb that provided my first push of the day.  Walking up that hill gave me some time to look around and really start to appreciate the beauty of this area.  It’s a striking landscape, very different from the long sprawling hills of say the Brecon Beacons (one of my favourite places to ride).  The Cambrians are more a collection of mounds.  Very big mounds.  At the top of that first big climb, the enormity of the route starts to hit home.  Gaining altitude around here, all 15,000 feet of it, was not going to be easy.  The sight of a bird of prey circling nearby & the dawn sunlight rising over the hills won out though and at that moment I just felt thrilled to be there.

The other reputation the TCW has is that of how tricky it is to navigate.  There’s the odd yellow arrow or dot on a tree or gatepost here & there, but other than that you’re pretty much on your own.  I did have a gps with me, which helped enormously, but even so some tracks were hard to spot.  You know you’re in trouble when the official IMBA route directions contain instructions such as “drop L down hill on faint track“; “you’ll spy a faint track“; “bear L on track less travelled“; “bear left on faint path“; “though not marked on your map…“; “do not follow the obvious track“. You get the idea.

Ithon Ford at llanbadarn fynydd was running low enough to cycle through with dry feet, and thus avoid losing a bit of time on the detour.  Nevertheless of course, my front wheel caught a rock in the stream which brought me to a dead halt…right foot down…saturated and freezing cold, just 16 miles into the ride.  I think it took a good couple of hours to dry out…at least until the next time I stood in a river.

I lost a bit here & there due to navigation errors but nevertheless made decent time (3 hrs 22) into Rhayader, officially the end of “Day 1″ (the route is touted by IMBA as a 3-day tour).  After a few hours of the closest we still have to wilderness, the roads, people and building of Rhayader are actually quite jarring, though the nice fast cycle track that follows was most welcome.  This is where a singlespeed loses a bit of time as I can only max out at around 15mph on the flat.  Still, stretches like this are few and far between on the route.

Through Rhayader,  the climb up from Elan Village was right up my street, a smooth 8% gradient that matched perfectly with the 32:19 gearing on my 29er.  After the steep climbs of the first “day”, it was refreshing to to know I could stomp up a climb like this all day long without raising the heart rate too much.  Inevitably of course, it didn’t last long before the route took a turn off the road & onto a track, steepening up to 15% and a walk/push for me.  Some more grassy climbing, followed by descending, then led to the run-in to Claerwen Reservoir.

In my mind I had the reservoir as the approximate half way point, and as I’d ridden it a couple of times before I had an element of comfort zone there.  I knew I’d be able to switch off my brain & just pedal for a while without worrying about navigation.  The bit I hadn’t done before however was the track south of the river leading up to the reservoir.  Whilst most of the track had been fairly dry, this stretch was still really quite muddy & wet, requiring a lot of stop/start gloop avoidance.  Rather sadistically, there’s a perfectly good paved road just the other side of the river, running perfectly parallel to this energy-sapping mud & rock fest.  Clearly the designer of the route had a sense of humour.  There’s a ford to cross at the end of this stretch, but it was too high today so I took the slightly longer way around via the bridge & a short but tricky steep bank.

Claerwen Reservoir followed, and I was happy to be able to switch off a bit & just pedal, enjoying the increased speed and the views of the huge reservoir to my left.  At this point I picked up what would be a significant feature all the way until the end of the ride…a headwind.  There was nothing a-typical about it, a NWN wind is perfectly normal around here and I knew it was coming, but it did turn out a bit stronger than I’d expected, and due to the mostly exposed nature of the route, there was little respite from it other than the brief & occasional wooded areas the route runs through.

The rest of “day 2″ went fairly smoothly.  A few more wrong turns lost me some time, along with the odd steep climb that was beyond my legs & gearing.  The stretch through the forest near Llangurig made for an interesting change of scenery, along with a steady climb & fast descent on the other side.  “Day 2″ was done with a total elapsed time of 8 hours 9 mins.  From being on target for a 10 hrs 30 mins finish at about half way, I was clearly slipping a bit but at this point still fairly confident of an 11 hour finish.

Stuart from Bearbones Bikepacking / Forest Freeride, and the “owner” of the Trans Cambrian Way ITT website had planned to meet me out on the trail somewhere around Foel Fadian.  I knew that’d be somewhere around 90 miles in, and for the previous 30 miles I’d been counting down (hey it’s something to do).  The run up to Foel Fadian (at least I think it was, it’s all getting a bit blurry at this point!), included some proper hike-a-bike up a track that was frankly only suitable for a mountain goat.  That led into an exposed stretch where the headwind really started to beat me up.  Stuart later told me that he’d been up there with gusts of 90 mph in the past.  I can well believe it.  Anyway, shortly after, I crested a rise to see someone in the distance pointing a camera at me.   Considering there could be no other possible reason for someone to be here in the middle of nowhere, I concluded it must be Stuart.  I stopped for a brief chat & another photo “for the fans” joked Stuart!  Just a couple of mins chatting definitely perked me up & I went off fairly confident that I could make the remaining ~10 miles or so in about an hour & make a sub 11 hour finish.

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Unfortunately things then got a bit tricky.  By now my GPS had been warning of low battery for quite some time.  Eek!  I’d forgotten that having map view on display all the time (as I needed to on this route) really sapped the battery, as usually a ride of this length would be well within the battery limit.   I knew if it ran out I’d have to resort to the paper maps which would be much slower.  In order to save battery, I disabled the heart rate monitor (which was no great loss as it was over-reading anyway), and I switched the main view from map to statistics.  This meant that I was reliant on the “off course” messages from the gps when I went wrong, rather than being able to know which route to take ahead of time.  Straight away this had an impact on my speed of progress.  I started to take more frequent wrong turns.  As the route seemed to become more convoluted, the minutes were slipping by far too quickly and the miles far too slowly.  I had read on Jason Miles’ blog write-up of his TCW attempt that the hills just kept on coming near the end, so I knew what to expect, but it didn’t make it any easier!  Just when you’re getting tired, this trail chucks yet another climb at you, then another, and another.  By now 11 hours had come and gone, and a bit of disappointment set in.

The route is generally accepted as being around 100 miles.  I recalled from Tracklogs that it was around 103 or so, and yet my gps was now telling me I’d done 106 miles and I was still climbing!  Clearly I’d taken a lot of wrong turns!  And then the gps batteries ran out, with 11 hours and 21 minutes gone.  This was the first point at which I thought I might not even make a 12 hour finish, which I would consider a complete failure.  After all this effort, that was just not an option!  I took out the final sheet of (badly) printed OS map, had a quick look, pointed bike in the correct direction, put map in between teeth and pedalled for all I was worth.  This was repeated for the next 15 minutes or so.  Each potential change of track meant a stop, remove map from teeth, assess, insert map and pedal like crazy.

Mercifully, it then became clear that I was on the final descent to the road and my destination at Dovey Junction station.  As I sped down a final fire road descent, I watched a bird of prey flying low just above the river below & to my left, it’s fresh prey wriggling hopelessly in it’s claws.  I thought there might be something poetic there but frankly my brain was too full of mush by then to work it out.  Even the gravel track to the station platform required a double-take on the map as it seemed such an odd way of approaching a station.  Fortunately it was correct, and as I finally reached the platform I glanced at my watch…18:40.  I knew I’d started somewhere close to 07:00, so it was mission accomplished, albeit with a slower time than I’d hoped for.  I quickly took out my phone & captured the obligatory pictures.

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So that was that. Or, at least it would have been if I hadn’t then cycled the wrong direction on the A487 for 25 minutes before having to turn back & then onwards to Machynlleth & my bunkhouse for the night, giving me an extra 13 miles of riding!

So, overall it was a successful outing, and officially the fastest time on the route to date, but I know I can do it quicker. I’m confident that an 11hr finish is possible now that I know the route, especially if I can choose a day with less of a temperature range and headwind. Unfinished business then, to be revisited in the summer I hope…

GPS track of the route. The batteries ran out 3.3 miles from the end:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/164156538

Trans Cambrian Way ITT website:  http://transcambrianitt.blogspot.co.uk/

IMBA Trans Cambrian Way website:  http://imba.org.uk/where-to-ride/trans-cambrian-way/

 

Mar 282012
 

So, I’ve been riding my replacement frame for three months now and it occurred to me that I hadn’t written anything about it. So here goes…

I won’t revisit the saga of my original broken Pegasus frame, and the subsequent run-around that Nevi gave Singular Sam & me. Suffice to say, Nevi ducked their warranty responsibilities and Sam stepped up & did the right thing by arranging for a new frame from another builder. As it was a one-off, I was able to specify a full custom frame…result!

I already had a pretty good idea of exactly what I wanted out of a frame…
– 29er Ti (obviously!)
– Tough! This frame needed to be strong but still relatively light. With that in mind, Sam specified larger diameter down tube, seat and chain stays. Seat tube is 30.6 shimmed down to 27.2 so I can still use my lovely Eriksen Sweetpost.
– Geometry. Mostly based around the medium Singular Swift, I wanted the head angle of the Swift with the lower front end of the Pegasus. So, based on a 470mm axle-crown Niner rigid fork (or a sagged 100mm Reba, which I also have), this frame has a 71.5 deg head angle.
– Frame bag space. Being a short-arse, my frames tend not to allow much interior space for a good size frame bag. For this one, I specified a higher intersection of the top & seat tubes to allow for a larger frame bag for bikepacking and multi-day rides/races.
– Singlespeed chain tensioning. EBB, but a full link EBB rather than the half-link of the old Pegasus (half links = shonky)
– Cable routing. Although I’ll be primarily riding singlespeed, one day my knees may say otherwise, and I’d like to still be able to ride this frame.
– Curved chainstays. I had some heel clearance issues on the original Pegasus.
– Extra bottle cage bosses on the underside of the down tube. Allowing three bottles in total, very useful for long & multi-day rides/races.

With all that in mind, here is the final design…

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The framebuilder for this one was a talented chap called Mathias Scherer, of Mawis Bikes (Germany). Mathias was kind enough to send me some build photos during the framebuilding process. I’d always wanted to see my own custom frame built up from design to reality, and this was my chance! Here’s the full gallery…

In the three months since I received the frame, I’ve ridden it well over 1000 miles, both loaded & unloaded, from smooth roads to loose rocky descents & it hasn’t put a foot wrong. Probably the most noticeable difference from the original Pegasus is just how stiff this one is. Clearly, those oversized tubes are doing their job. That does have some impact on long distance comfort, but on a mountain bike with big fat tyres it’s not such a big deal as it’s inherently quite a comfortable beast anyway. The larger internal frame space has been a revelation. I’ve already got a new custom frame bag from Wildcat Gear which has a really useful capacity and still allows for two bottles inside the frame (one full size, one smaller).

Overall, I’m really pleased with the bike. After the stress of last year’s frame failure, I think I’ve actually ended up with something more suited to my own riding style, and hopefully a frame that will last a lot longer too. Oh, and current weight as per the pics near the end of the gallery (with three bottle cages)… a smidge over 21 lbs.

Mar 202012
 

Well this should be “fun”.

Take the spring classics…

Milan-San Remo – 6,260 feet (1,908 meters)
Tour of Flanders – 5,709 feet (1,740 meters)
Paris-Roubaix – 3,259 feet (993 meters)
Liège–Bastogne–Liège – 10,883 feet (3,317 meters)
Amstel Gold – 8,993 feet (2,741 meters)

…add up the total cumulative climbing…35,104 feet

… then TREBLE it…  105,312 feet

Now go & ride at least that much between March 15th and April 30th.

Yikes!  Needless to say, I already have a spreadsheet with proposed rides & associated climbing figures laid out.  I’ve missed the first few days but I *think* it’s just about doable.  I’m planning a Trans Cambrian Way end to end in 12hrs on April 21st, which will help (15k feet there).  I need to aim for about 10,000 on each Saturday ride (that’s about double what I do at the moment, but I’m ready to step it up anyway).  Weekday rides can pretty much stay the same, just need to ensure around 1k ft per Monday morning, Tuesday and Wed lunchtime, then at least 2k ft on Thursday evenings on the Chilts, and maintain the approx 1500ft on Tuesday evening social rides.  I think the turbo will be out of the equation for a few weeks :-)

As I’ve missed the first few days of the challenge, I’m only starting from 6508ft from this morning, but I think I can make up for that.  After all, a free water bottle is a free water bottle, isn’t it!

http://app.strava.com/challenges/specialized-classic

Mar 132012
 

Here’s a quick report on a recent overnighter I posted on the Bear Bones Bikepacking forum:

We just had a great weekend in the Berwyns. The route we planned had some really challenging climbs…steep, loose, muddy, which made for some extremely hard work on the loaded bikes, but very satisfying and great views as a payoff (where the cloud wasn’t too low). 11000 feet of hard climbing over only 60 miles is enough for me on a loaded singlespeed. I hardly sat on the saddle all weekend! We decided not to camp at the Moel Ty Uchaf stone circle as planned as it was in heavy cloud, & pitched up a little further down the hill instead.

more pics here… http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150571249196910.375763.606701909&type=1

Route here…
Day 1: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/157228149
Day 2: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/157228157

Faffing in the car park at the start…

Glad I swapped the 18 tooth for a 19 at the back for this trip!

I nearly filled up my water bottles just downstream of this thing – a “working” toilet in the middle of nowhere. That wouldn’t have been the best of choices! Interestingly, there was sheep poo inside it. Getting clever, those sheep…

Cheesy shot, Pedalhead + bike…

At the Wayfarer’s Memorial. Windy, damp & cold up here…

The picture doesn’t do justice to the colours of that sunset…

My bivy. Glad to have the groundsheet as there was a lot of sheep poo around (pretty much the theme of the weekend)!

Caldera Ti Tri ULC doing it’s thing…

Wakey wakey chaps!

Back in the saddle, water bottles refilled from a decent looking stream & we’re back up into the clouds again…

Adam repairing a puncture. At least the view was good…

I’m not getting up that!

Final easy ride back to the van on Sunday afternoon. Glorious!

A pub with a view at the end of the ride. What could be better…

I had never ridden around the Berwyns before this trip, & there’s definitely some great fun trails. If I’m honest, probably not entirely suited to a fully loaded rigid singlespeed as the climbs are steep & the descents loose & rocky, but we kept the mileage low & it was a great laugh.

On a separate note, this was a useful exercise to gauge where I am with climbs on a loaded singlespeed. Despite some silly steep gradients (far steeper than I’m likely to encounter for any length of time on the Divide route), I felt strong & the legs coped ok. I’ve been focusing on zone 2 & 3 singlespeed climbs in training & appear to be at a point where, on a loaded bike with 32:19 gearing, I can sustain a prolonged dirt road type climb of approx 10% grade whilst staying in zone 2 (assuming I’m not riding into a gale!). Quite happy with that for now.