I am old

To celebrate me reaching The Big 4-0, a week off was planned. We were going to have a family holiday that for a change, didn’t involve a 24 hour bicycle race. I had an idea that we were going to Scotland but apart from that the whole week was a mystery.

We arrived at our cottage in the grounds of Threave Castle (surprise number 1) – handily just 7 miles from the trails at Dalbeattie. Not long after we’d arrived, Phil, Jacqui, their kids and their bikes arrived (surprise number 2). They were going to stay in the adjoining cottage for the weekend. Ace.

Then Lee, Rachael and their little one arrived (surprise number 3). Lee had his bike ready and his helmet on so off we went for a blast around the harder-than-I-remember Dalbeattie red trail.

The next day, Phil and I set off again for Dalbeattie but had a much bigger ride planned. Two-thirds of the red trail, drop down to the road then a climb over Little Hard Hill (it’s not little), eventually arriving at nearby Mabie Forest. We were supposed to be meeting Lee there but arrived an hour later than expected. Waiting for us were Dave, Wayne and Michael – more bikes and more surprises (number 4 in fact).

A ride around the Mabie red trail began, good laughs, good company and some pretty spectacular crashes. Back to ‘our place’ for home-made soup and then a few beers and The Longest 40th Birthday Celebration Ever rumbled on…

Eventually the party came to an end, friends went home, leaving Debbie, the girls, Michael and I to spend the rest of the week sightseeing and riding bikes some more…I even managed to get a few early-morning rides in at Dalbeattie too – despite the beer and cake consumption, I think I made a good job of making sure my fitness didn’t suffer too much. Which is lucky, because the next few weeks are MENTAL with the number of big races I’m lining up at.

We even came back with a kitten! We’ve called him ‘Archibald The Grim’ (I’m sure you can work it out).




The Pendle….thingy

Regular readers of drivel on Twitter will be aware that I crashed out of a criterium race a few weeks ago, my rear wheel giving way on a hairpin bend covered with some  kind of super-grippy (AKA drunken football fan-proof) blue paint. I noticed at the time that I’d lost rather a lot of skin from my leg and caused some cosmetic damage to the bike. I hadn’t noticed however that my rear tyre had a one-inch hole in the outer layer of rubber – torn off by the aforementioned Man City blue grippy floor covering – which exposed the canvas (?) material underneath….

The 112 mile Pendle Pedal (I’m calling it by its old name because every time I say the new name for the event I cringe a very large cringe….)

Setting off in the first group, Dave and I managed to ride for 5 miles before I got a puncture. Having not ridden the Vitus since the crit a few weeks ago I wasn’t aware of the tyre problem until now. Eventually we got going again with a new tube in my tyre and the first improvised tyre boot of the day protecting it from the tarmac and a silly number of cattle grids, each one accelerating the already-rapid growth of the tyre’s bald patch.

One after another, the route took in some truly brilliant climbs – big, brutes of hills that had varying gradients throughout their length, fantastic views from the top, stunning descents and most of them regarded as ‘classics’ – Trough of Bowland, Nick O Pendle, Waddington Fell, Cross O Greet to name just a small number of the big ones and also some really steep buggers that I don’t think have names other than ‘Bastard’ or ‘Oooyerfucker’.

35 miles later, my rear inner tube finally made contact with the tarmac and punctured. Luckily it wasn’t whilst hurtling down a steep hillside, it was halfway up a hill, my relative lack of speed meaning that I didn’t end up in a ditch.

Another tube, another gel wrapper. By now the exposed tyre canvas had worn through and the tyre had a proper hole in it.

Stopping to check we were ok, local celeb and national cyclocross champ Paul Oldham reassured me that I’d ‘get 500 miles out of a gel wrapper’. Maybe an overestimation on his part or a reflection on my riding technique, the gel wrapper lasted quite a lot less than that.

Gel wrapper bodge and inner tube swap number 3 kicked in at 97 miles, again I was riding uphill (evidently the Gods wanted to annoy rather than kill me), by now the hole in the tyre was now a large gash and I was getting worried that the whole thing would burst open.

The riders that were passing us now as we tended to my stricken bike for the 3rd time today were many of the same riders that we’d passed, were passed by, then passed, then were passed by and then passed throughout this entire ‘test of patience bike ride’.

Thankfully, that final tube/wrapper swap saw me to the end of the route. The tyre problems, whilst irritating, didn’t take much away from what was a brilliant day out on the bike. The route is a real cracker, the event raises money for a brilliant cause and the feed stations had Mars Bars. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Mount Zoom – a longish-term review

I’ve been lucky enough this year to have been sent some Mt Zoom components by Ant White (of the XC Racer.com shop and ‘kicking plenty of arse in races’ fame).

Aside from looking ace, all of this gear is light. Very, very light – we’re talking proper featherweight stuff here – and even if some Mt Zoom bars, bar ends, headset top caps, bottle cages and jockey wheels might not make a massive difference weight-wise if you chuck them on a pretty hardcore bike, they still look the part, work well and for the weight, they’re surprisingly durable.

If, however, you’ve got a lightweight, racy bike anyway and want to gain every possible advantage then these components are just the ticket. After all, there’s no point in putting lardy bits on a light bike is there?

The carbon handlebars are a nice width without being so wide that you can’t thread the bike between a couple of trees without breaking your fingers and they’re ‘bar end friendly’ which means they’re reinforced in the right places if you like riding with bar ends.

The headset top cap is a one-piece affair and weighs something like four grams.

My favourite components though are these beautiful jockey wheels. They might look fragile but after several hundred miles of sometimes-clumsy Pennine off-road riding, they still look pretty good. In fact they’ve not worn at all really.

Check out the Mt Zoom website for more details, specs, links to sponsored rider blogs and loads of other stuff.