Mount Zoom

Ant at the XC Racer shop has sent me some nice kit to help shave even more grams off the TD:1. He’s importing Mount Zoom components, clearly aimed at the lightweight end of the market. It’s all really bloody light.

He’s kindly sent me some bars, jockey wheels, a bottle cage, carbon spacers, some wheel skewers (that weigh NOWT) and a couple of bottles and they all look really lovely. Deb thought that someone had posted me an empty box when she collected it from the post office for me.

The bottles come with a little Mt Zoom logo’d elastic band so you can grab a bottle with a gel attached when you’re in a hurry.  I know I know, it’s just an elastic band, but it’s nice to know someone’s thought of it.

I’ll be building the ‘other’ TD:1 in a few days. I need to before I start losing all these components in the cellar…plus all this stuff needs some proper hammer 😉

Whinlatter Enduro

Pic courtesy Ed Rollason Photography

After a fairly steady ride up the first big climb in the Whinlatter Challenge (ok, a bit too fast as I didn’t realise how long this climb actually was) I was quite near the front of the pack but I started to have a bad day at the office as soon as I hit the first singletrack section. No mud or soft earth, no groomed, swoopy-ness – just spiky, jagged, unforgiving and extremely slippery wet rock. Traction and grip seemed to be something  that was completely in the hands of the gods as I did my best to remain the right way up on my fully-rigid bike whilst both tyres would slip and slide seemingly at random.

After every singletrack slip-fest I’d find myself back to the relative safety of a fireroad climb. Here I’d put some space in between me and the riders behind me that I felt had been holding up with all my out-of-control muppetry, only for my good work to be undone again as soon as more singletrack was encountered. Both wheels skittering around, no benefit of a suspension fork the front wheel would sometimes only offer a vague amount of steering control and eventually I lost the front wheel completely and tumbled down a hillside, leaving the bike and a few square centimetres of skin off my leg behind me.

From that point on, I was never too far away from a crash. One particular collector’s item of a stack involved me overshooting a berm completely on the thick gravel approach(!), I kind of fell off on purpose so as not to disappear down a hillside again, then watched as my bike was run over by another rider (an On-One sponsored rider, no less). He was very apologetic despite it not being his fault at all.

By now I was a bit beaten up and I’d tweaked my bad knee again. On the fun scale this was hardly registering…I was getting slower now, probably due to my self-preservation instincts kicking in.

And that was pretty much that. 2 laps of the Whinlatter trails, 32 miles, rather a lot of climbing and even more scary ‘this is going to hurt’ moments I finished 15th in my category and 19th overall, which in the scheme of things wasn’t that bad really.

At the end I chatted to a few friends about how full suspension is a good idea and even the tubeless debate cropped up again (yes, I really need to get my tubeless set up sorted so I can lose a few pounds of wind from my tyres). A cuppa, a butty, a change into roadie cycling clothes, Vitus road bike out of the car and Ragley mountain bike back in the car  and I was ready for the ride back to Manchester with Phil who had arrived after the start of the race.

After an hour or so of riding, a pretty major mechanical occurred near Windermere (Phil’s pedal fell off). We waited around for an hour or so while Phil’s wife drove back to meet us with a pedal and then we carried on.

Due to the delay and the by-now very thick fog, we adjusted our original plan of riding back via the hills around Settle, Gisburn, etc in the dark in favour of the more direct route down the A6. It would be nowhere near as interesting but at least we wouldn’t get lost 😉

100 miles of quick riding later we went our separate ways from Bolton and I got home just after 11pm for a well-earned cuppa and a few more sandwiches…

Vitamin D time

For the past couple of months I’ve not been riding much at night (well, not as much as I normally do) – it seems that every year when February arrives, following several winter months of cold, wind, sleet, snow, rain and dark, I just can’t bring myself to head out most evenings for several hours and starting and finishing the ride in darkness. Every winter it starts to wear thin. I’m not riding less, I just start to set my alarm clock differently and break up the routine with an equal number of evening and morning training rides.

After getting knocked off the bike just after New Year I didn’t ride much at all for weeks. Somewhat inevitably I’m definitely lagging behind where I normally am fitness-wise for this time of year but what is a surprise is that even after a break from the usual silliness I’ve been just as hacked off with the winter as I usually am.

So I’ve been riding early in the morning a bit more regularly. As you can probably imagine, it’s horrible getting out of bed at precisely 4:50 am to be out of the door at 5, it’s just as horrible heading out in the darkness as it is when I ride at night. But the big plus is that the sun comes up at some point during the ride and that’s happening earlier every day. And that makes it all worth it. Not only that, but in March, once the sun comes up, it starts to get noticeably warm.

‘Best time of the day’ is what my grandad used to say about early morning. He might have had a point (although I reckon it’s a tie with dinner time).

Winter Sprinter Sportive, and other stuff.

I had a big day out at the weekend on the new road bike. Allen of Polocini, an event-organising friend, had put together a 100 kilometre cyclosportive that just so happened to be on my mother-in-law’s doorstep so a plan was hatched to incorporate it into a bigger ride to make the day even longer and hairy-chested’er.

After a not-too early start I set off from home and decided that a brisk 15 miles spin, taking the direct route towards Macclesfield through the deserted Sunday morning streets of Manchester City Centre was the sensible option – I’d arrive nicely warmed up rather than hammering myself along the longer and much more hilly ‘usual’ route via Oldham and then the Peak District. Plus I’d have had to get out of bed over 2 hours earlier…

After signing in, a few hello’s and a bowl of Viking Porridge from Rachael and Paul (of Hit the North catering fame) I set off near the front of the mass start, after ‘dibbing’ my timing chip on the way out.

Soon the pack split into smaller groups and I made sure I was in the leading one – the 20 or so riders in the group were all doing a fairly good job of sharing the work but eventually I looked around and counted 5 other riders…

The route was fairly undulating for the first half, then a special timed climb of ‘Swiss Hill’ – a cobbled and slippery steep slope in Wilmslow near the halfway point then some decent challenging hills for the latter half – I found myself more and more often at the front of the group, every time I moved to the side and slowed a little to let someone else take the helm the whole group slowed…oh well. I was training after all. I got on with the hard graft and carried on stomping up every climb for a laugh to keep the pace high and the faces grimacing >:-)

At times everyone was fairly chatty until 3 miles to go when the pace started to increase further and nobody was talking any more. Would this ‘non-competitive’ event really end with a sprint?

Yes it would. Ouch.

Despite crossing the line second (or was that third?), somehow my elapsed time put me in equal 5th place. Maybe I’ll start a couple of minutes later and work my way to the front in the first couple of miles next time…that or just ride a bit faster 😉

The whole thing was great fun. Well organised, loads of free stuff (all the food, gels and recovery drinks were included in the price) and the route was lovely. Allen’s organising a series of cyclosportives this year – enter them!

Deb arrived afterwards, we had a coffee and I ate some more ace food and then said my goodbyes again and rode back via the proper full-fat hilly route.

120 fast miles on a properly lightweight bike in the sunshine, just what I needed.