2014 – bloody hell

I know it’s a cliche, but good grief that one has flown by. In accordance with tradition, here’s a 100 mph sprint through the highlights of the year (there’s been a few let me tells ya)

The year kicked off like it did in 2013 with a Strathpuffer24 Solo win. I was dead chuffed as you can imagine. Not least because I could eat normally for a while and I wasn’t compelled to go out training in the cold, dark and wet mornings. Vowed never to do the Strathpuffer again but then entered the Strathpuffer again the following November.

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Celebrated the win and the subsequent weight gain by flying out to Tenerife for some quality suffering on the road bike in nice weather. In spite of the nice weather, there was more snow in Tenerife than there was in Scotland a couple of weeks previously. Flew back and started to film a TV programme. As you do.

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Then I was brushing my teeth one morning and suddenly remembered I was running the 3 Peaks Fell Race in a few weeks. I prepared as best I could – I even managed a 20 mile trail run – and lined up like I did the year before. This time however it hurt a lot more. I didn’t do any more running for long time afterwards…

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I rode a fatbike competitively for the last time in April in the brilliant Battle on the Beach race. There wasn’t much battling (not what would pass as ‘battling’ around here anyway) but it was on a beach. I’ve a feeling 2015 will see a bit more fatbike action, in spite of the entire world and his dog owning fatbikes nowadays…

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Almost snapped my knees and lower back riding a too-tall-geared singlespeed at the Builth Wells marathon double-header to round off April, before spending a week or so in Fort William with Dave and the No Fuss team. We spent the week riding bikes a lot, unsurprisingly. Some more days were spent filming for the telly…

June was a corker. We did some more filming, me and Dave had our faith tested in a frustrating 12 hour mechanical-and-puncture-fest at the Bristol Bikefest 12 hour race.  We narrowly missed out on a podium after yo-yo-ing up and down the top ten as the gods took the piss out of us, basically. I ‘celebrated’ by taking part in the 6 hour race the day after, hanging onto the back of Chipps’ tandem. We came third.

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I indulged in some local midweek cross country racing and didn’t get my arse handed to me on a plate by anywhere near as many people as I thought I would.

The week after I won Mountain Mayhem solo. At last. As a reward I was presented with a medal by Princess Anne, which was nice apart from the fact I said “YER WOT” instead of “excuse me?” when I misheard what she said. I was tired.

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Filmed some more telly and did some more XC racing in July. Also, I sailed across to the Isle of Man for the Manx100 race. 100 miles of unsupported, cramp-inducing, climb-infested suffering. It was a good day out, but after the 6th puncture and the 2nd wrong turning I was glad to be on the boat back to the mainland. Maybe one to try again next year.

Arrived home, grabbed 3 hours sleep then Guy picked me up in the van for some more filming – by now things were getting serious with the ‘telly job’ – the tandem was built and we were spending a couple of days testing it. I’d also spent the late spring and the summer so far training on a single-seater recumbent on a track in Preston. I was loving it.

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August was the big one. Our attempt at the human-powered 24 hour record. I don’t need to go on about it here, it was on the telly.

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A couple of weeks later me and Phil did the Ruthin marathon. Phil crashed and broke his collarbone. Retrieving him from the hospital at 3am the next morning was an adventure in itself.

I’d been training and focussing on the World 24 Hour champs for the 16 weeks before the race itself in October. With many things that we focus and plan for weeks (even months) on end, things can often play out as you didn’t expect them to. The main thing is to be prepared for the unexpected and not give up and that’s pretty much what happened. Not feeling very well at all (sorry Scotland, I made a mess in your forest), I had a shocking start, a mediocre middle bit and a final 8 or 9 hours where I pulled my finger out and made the most of it. The race didn’t go competely tits up, but it could probably have gone better. I finished 6th in the elite category, which at the very least won me enough to pay for the diesel there and back and I did get to spend another weekend riding my bike. Hopefully I’ll make it to the WEMBO World Champs in 2015. It’s not in Scotland though, it’s thousands of miles away in California…

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An all-too-short rest after the 24 Hour Worlds (which included the screening of the Speed with Guy Martin episode. Mega!) was followed by me entering and starting to train for the 2015 Strathpuffer, which sort of brings us back to where we started.

Thanks to everyone that has helped me, encouraged me and have given me opportunities to do ace and cool things in the past year. Thanks to all the people who have kindly agreed to help me (and to those of you whose help I might appear to take for granted!) in 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LoCo Tuning

Loco Tuning, the masters of mountain bike suspension tuning and servicing, are continuing to look after my forks and shocks in 2015. Anyone who knows how inept and lazy I am when it comes to keeping my suspension forks properly maintained will know that this comes as a relief.

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Not only will Simon and the rest of the team at Loco keep everything working correctly, they can custom-tune suspension forks and shocks to match your riding style, weight, etc. Make your suspension better-than-new, in other words.

And if your knob falls off, they can get spare parts too.

Thanks for your support chaps!

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Craft clothing

I’m super-chuffed that Craft are very generously sponsoring my clothing needs for 2015. In fact, they’ve sent me a huge box of winter gear to see me through the remainder of 2014, too. Just in time really as I’m writing this in the middle of a Weather Bomb (I prefer the scientific term for this, but anyway).

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I’ve been a fan of Craft stuff for years, spending my hard-earned on it as it’s brilliantly designed, well made and lasts. The fact that I’m regularly banging in 15 – 20 hour weeks on the bike, my clothes need to be good as nobody wants to see me riding around with my bum cheeks hanging out of worn-out shorts :-/

Some highlights in the box are – windproof tops, windproof bibtights, warm and windproof gloves, waterproof jackets…some summer stuff that will have to wait for a while yet…a brilliant hat that has a windproof panel on the front to avoid midwinter Ice Cream Headaches, socks, thermal jerseys, baselayers (regular and ‘Active Extreme’ with a Windstopper panel on the chest) and some proper heavy-duty not-messing-about waterproof “Siberian” overshoes.

“There’s no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothing”, or something. Now I’ve no excuses not to go out in the middle of an Explosive Cyclogenesis

 

 

Mount Zoom tubeless valves

Tubeless set up does my head in. Yeah yeah, it’s dead good once it’s working and things are so much better than riding a bike with inner tubes….but I often find myself with a tyre that won’t seal on a rim or with a valve that leaks air faster than I can put it in while creating several large puddles of liquid latex on the kitchen floor. I’ll not go into the time when the cat walked it all over the carpet. Occasionally it ‘just works’ but invariably it’s a right faff.

I noticed that Mount Zoom were doing some universal valves. I must admit I was a bit sceptical about the ‘universal’ bit but Ant sent some over for me to try. Enough valves for a couple bikes.

First I tried them on some Syncros rims on the Scott Genius. Tubes out, screw valves into rim – they come with a rubber ‘O’ ring on each screw-down collar that’s there to improve the seal and lets you get things really tight. A couple of splashes of Squirt sealant (good stuff, easily as good as anything else I’ve used), remount the tyre and re-inflated first time with a track pump.

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Ten minutes, no massive puddle of sealant, no tantrums, everyone’s happy.

If you prefer to mount the tyre first and then put the sealant in, each pair of valves comes with a handy valve core remover.

After the positive experience with the Syncros rims I got cocky and tried the other pair of valves on my freshly-built Strathpuffer Racy Singlespeed – this time a pair of Stans 355 rims and a pair of non-tubeless ready tyres. I had to pump a bit faster with the trackpump and I have to admit I did break a sweat at this point (but there was no way I was going to waste a C02– I think I also used a bit more sealant than I did with the proper tubeless tyres but once again the valves didn’t leak, all the air went in, the tyres did that satisfying-but-also-a-bit-scary BANG as the bead was pushed into place. No leaks from the bead/rim interface, so the Squirt sealant did its job perfectly.

I’m impressed. I wasn’t sure that the valves would ‘just work’, especially with two different rims but I spent a total of 30 minutes on this. What’s more I sort of ‘won’ four inner tubes.

Available in black or red, get your Mount Zoom valves from the XC Racer Shop. While you’re there, don’t forget your Squirt sealant.

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Armadillo Raptor base layer

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Not many things survived 24 hours in the recumbent tandem. Most of our belongings ended up on the floor of the human-powered vehicle, crushed and soaked in the sweat, water and urine of two people. It was a grim environment. Hot, incredibly humid, cramped and unhygienic.

Fortunately the various items of expensive (and quite heavy) recording equipment and cameras survived and so did the tandem, which was pretty much as good as new at the end of the 565 mile ride. It needed a good rinse with a pressure washer, but it was otherwise ok.

We survived too – in spite of various items of Guy’s clothing causing him some (well-documented) intimate discomfort. My clothing on the other hand gave me no trouble at all. Part of it was pure luck, but it was mostly because of the clothes I was wearing.

As well as one pair of shorts, I wore a total of three baselayers. All brilliant, but chosen for different parts of the event. A couple of very light mesh ones for the daytime but for the colder, darker hours I wore a merino t-shirt provided by Armadillo Merino. In fact, if they’re good enough for astronauts, they’ll do for me.

First off, these are incredibly comfortable. Some merino garments can itch and irritate the skin, but this is the softest and smoothest out there. The fit can be ‘roomy’ if you order your regular size and you’re not a beefcake (I’m not a beefcake) but size down a little bit and it’s spot-on.

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Also the ideal t shirt for having a laugh in

 

The styling doesn’t shout “look at me!” as there’s hardly a visible logo – just a small one on one sleeve and near the lower hem, so ideal if you’re a logo-averse or on the telly.

Performance-wise, I couldn’t fault the shirt at all. The temperature in the tandem dropped quite dramatically during the night but my core temperature was nice and steady. The shirt inevitably got wet but it didn’t ever feel saturated or become heavy in spite of the environment making evaporation almost impossible.

I’ve worn the t shirt pretty much all the time since – in 24 hour mountain bike races, running or popping down the shops. A truly brilliant piece of kit.

I’ve since received a pair of Armadillo socks which I’ll wear through the winter (including the Strathpuffer 24 hour race in January) to see if they can help keep my toes warm. Stay tuned…