Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Dark&White MTB Orienteering Winter Series Rnd 3 Buxton

After last month's debacle where Deb & I had not really gave it our best efforts by being a bit complacent
and not organising ourselves better, also as we drove through Bakewell they were shutting the roads for the Remembrance Sunday Parade which meant us having to detour through all the surrounding villages to get to the start in Matlock, which ended up with us arriving half an hour after the 10.30 starting cut off time and by the time we had got ourselves and the bikes ready we were starting an hour late, so we made sure we arrived in plenty of time this time.

The control HQ for round 3 in Buxton was at the Derbyshire University site at Harpur Hill on the south western fringe of the town. This is a bit closer to us from where we live than the first two rounds which were deeper into the Peak District National Park, about 45 min-1 hr, so no excuses this time. One of the tips for this orienteering malarkey is to start as late as possible so you can use the other riders to help you with your navigation, not to follow the other riders mind you but just to give you clue's as to your direction of travel, so turning up a bit late is to your advantage and a tactic that as novice's Deb & I are happy to employ.

After finding a place to park we wasted no time and unloaded the bikes and fitted the wheels and got ourselves togged up. At the HQ you sign in, get your dibbers, little plastic keys that go round your wrist for clocking in to the little electronic clocking device's at the checkpoint's, and make your way outside where you collect your maps and control clue's and dib you dibbers. From then on the clock's ticking, so you have quickly try and come up with a route that isn't going to be beyond your capabilities. I like to think that I'm OK at navigation/map reading which I have been doing since I learnt the basics in my teens whilst in the Army Cadets and so far we haven't gone too far wrong with our plan of going for the nearest to the start and then the nearest to that one and so on, then when we have an hour left we start to head back and if we can pick any up on the way then it's a bonus.

I decided to try and stay away from the Hollinsclough area where some of the bridleway tracks are serious descent's/climbs strewn with baby's head sized and bigger rocks making them unrideable unless you possess the skills of Danny Macaskill. Also to the north west of Buxton towards Three Shires Head it's pretty much the same so we headed South, and judging by how many riders that we were coming across at gates and crossing points we weren't the only ones.

We managed to get 8 controls which was 2 more than we got on round one and would give us 110 points, and covered 30 km and nearly 600m of elevation gain so we were did OK, but we made a stupid rookie mistake at the start and didn't make note of what time we started so we had to best guess what our start time was. I made a couple of wrong turns but quickly realised and backtracked, but these couple of little errors and not knowing the exact time we started had us arriving 3:10:9 after we started meaning we were 11 Min's late and cost us 20 points.

In hindsight I would of done the route the opposite way round as we had a 28 min uphill slog from our last control to the finish which was at the top of a hill, so we would of been climbing whatever way we came back but it would of been a bit more gentle. Deb would of probably managed without it but I gave her little helping push some of the way up the climb, but I was amazed and really proud of her the way she dug in and pulled herself inside out to try and get back in time, chapeau to Debs because if it wasn't for the way she gave her all we would of ended up losing all our points as I was close to throwing  the towel in on that last climb. Also we wasted far too much time again as our Strava's showed a moving time of 2:25 which we could of maybe got another two but at least one more control.

It was a bit gutting to know we could of avoided losing the points but all in all it was a successful day for us and thoroughly enjoyed by us and everybody there judging by all the smiling but flushed faces at the finish, my heart goes out to the unlucky few who lost all their points for lateness penalty's and some had high scores too so must of covered some serious ground, hope they were philosophical about it which is how I would hope to be.

Bring on round four in the New Year.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Planet X SL Pro carbon new arrival to the family

Planet X SL Pro

Planet X SL Pro Carbon

Any followers or anybody that's read my blog before will know that I'm a big fan of the online bike retailer Planet X/On One, with me owning 5 of their bikes, starting with a 26" Inbred steel hardtail that was stolen.  I replaced it with a single speed Pompino and set it up for riding cyclocross which is a cracking bike and I absolutely love it. Then I bought a Macinato frame & fork going cheap in one of their many sales and built it up as cheap as I could but still tried to make it a nice build and was meant for something to just knock about on but sadly hasn't had much use. Up next was my first carbon bike and first mtb since the Inbred was stolen and is the Lurcher 29er  and yet another great bike from On One and getting the most use.

I have been lusting a road bike for a few years now especially the Planet X SL Pro carbon so the time had finally come and  with the girlfriend we took the plunge. You get a lot of bike for the money, I don't know of any other company's offering full carbon bikes with a full 2x10 compact Shimano Ultegra including the chainset and brakes for a penny under a grand .

This is my first road bike so I'm no expert but on my first impressions it's a lovely bike and unless I'm expecting to turn pro anytime soon I can't see me needing any more than this.

When I specked it I chose Deda for the stem & seatpost purely because I liked the look of them but the seatpost is quite heavy and stiff, so I tried the carbon seatpost from my Lurcher, and this transformed the ride feel making it much more comfortable and makes more sense to me to use a carbon post with a carbon frame to get the stiff but compliant characteristics you get from a carbon frame, so I will replace the Deda as soon as the funds allow.

The quiver is steadily growing. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Dark & White MTB Orienteering rnd 2 Matlock, Derbyshire

Round 2 Round Up

After a pretty good start to our first foray into MTB Orienteering at the first rnd at Hayfield last month where we came second in our age category mixed pairs finishing with a 105 pts which isn't anything special but we were really pleased to get a great finishing time of 2 hrs58mins leaving us 2 Min's before you start losing points. So Deb & I were really looking forward to rnd two in Matlock and even went for a recce ride in the area in shit weather and doing the last hr in the dark up some real tetchy tracks. But because of Deb's commitments with her uni studies she had only had one little road ride in the fortnight up to the Sunday of the event which isn't ideal as Deb's is still trying to build her fitness but I have to give her credit for even taking on these rides as I'm finding them tuff and I have way more miles in my legs than she does. 

We weren't very organised and paid for it by running a bit late and cutting it fine and sods law intervened when we hit Bakewell which was closed when we got there,  another 5 mins and we would have missed it but it was closed to traffic for the Remembrance Sunday parade which meant a detour round the outlying villages to get to Matlock. By the time we were saddled up and ready to go with maps and dibbers we were an hr late from the 10.30 cutoff  so we were leaving a bit stressed and didn't study the map properly and we just went for the checkpoints not too far away from the start. We picked up a couple of easy ones in about 30 Min's but after that all the others meant we were going up hill and the climbs were brutal and even had me worried Deb was going to have an asthma attack at one point, I was a bit hard on her too and not very sympathetic which wasn't fair at all considering she hadn't ridden much up too the event. It can be very difficult finding the right balance when the team is so miss matched in terms of skill & fitness but that is my responsibility to try a manage it so i don't make her feel like she is holding me back or letting me down which she has said that's how she feels sometimes which makes me feel like a right shit because that's the last thing iIwant because i'm really proud of the way she has taken to the sport and showing a real & genuine interest in all the aspects of cycling and I feel really lucky to have her riding with me and can''t wait to see her progress & gain her confidence.

We managed to get 5 checkpoints worth 10 points each in the 1,40 Min's we were on the course and one bonus was we finished a lot cleaner than the rest of the contestants and remarkably we didn't come last which was a nice surprise finishing 124th from 128 with somebody not getting any points in over 3 hrs and another team only getting 70 points after 3hrs so it wasn't all bad and like i said to Deb you learn from your mistakes.

The next round is Buxton which is a bit closer to us and is an area i have ridden quite a bit but also it got some of the most rocky technical descents int he peak District so i have told deb if we are going to improve on our first round we have got to get some serious training sessions in and to help her with her times constraints with uni & kids I have got her a turbo trainer so she can get the miles in, I have some rollers and I love em because half hr on them can smash you to bits but I think they scare the living daylights out of her so a trainer will do the job.

So The goal for next month is to get a bigger points tally than rnd one which should be possible if we get off our backsides and put in the saddle time  .

Monday, 4 November 2013

British cycling MTB level 2 Leader Award

Living the Dream

I have been riding mtb's since the late 80's so I would like to think I have absorbed a lot of cycling information, some of it useful and some of it less so and since then my passion for cycling has grown to what some people who know me might think of as a bit of an obsession or put it another way an addiction. It's not just mtb's any more either as I ride a road bike, a single speed cross and also an urban fixie for knocking about town on, and if I'm not riding my bikes I'm reading books about cycling or trawling the interweb to glean as much info as I can, be that about riding skills or mechanics or whatever, as long as it's to do with cycling, it's all good in my book and I can't get enough of it.

I'm always being told by friends and family that I ought to get a job as a mechanic as I build all my own bike's and do all my own wrenching, and it's something that I would like to do and no doubt would enjoy and it's something that I have looked at and tried to do a few times in the past, but it isn't as easy as you might think. For starters there aren't a lot of bike shops around and the ones that are like to employ youngsters and train them up.  
The best bet is to get yourself on a Cytech course but your looking at well in excess of a £1000 to gain the basic qualification and then your in the lap of the gods on whether it will lead to employment.

For anyone who loves cycling a job riding your bike is the dream and it's always been mine. I have looked at being a bike courier but there just aren't any courier company's in Stoke on Trent/Newcastle u Lyme that use cycle's ? If anyone reading this knows of any please let me know ?

Another way for you to get to ride your bike and get paid for it is as a mtb guide but when I have read about it in magazines I got the feeling that I wouldn't be anywhere near good enough but that has changed since my brilliant and lovely girlfriend Debs started mtbing with me. I have been coaching her and leading her on rides and it's made me realise that over the years I have learnt a quite a bit afterall and that I could, with a bit of training, become a mtb leader.  We got talking to a British Cycling rep at the Thornbridge Outdoors festival a couple of months ago and he gave me a leaflet on the new British Cycling MTB Leadership  course that has merged with and is replacing from 2014 the SMBLA (Scottish Mountain bike Leadership) which is well regarded as the gold standard mtb leadership course in the UK. After looking at the BC website I thought if I was ever going to live the dream then this was it so I took up membership with BC, which is a course requirement and have taken delivery of the course handbook which tells you everything you need to know and learn about to become a leader. I have to keep a diary of my rides as you need to prove you have the experience in mountainous terrain & in all weathers and you need to have a minimum of 11 2-3 hr rides & 4 4+ hr rides before you attend the 2 day training course which will make sure you are able to plan & deliver rides, your leading techniques, map reading & navigation skills, management of accidents & emergency's, equipment set-up & trail side repairs and core mtb techniques. You also have to pass an online course on child protection and have a two day outdoors first aid certificate before you take your final assessment upon which if your successful you are qualified and insured to lead a group of up to 8 riders in mountainous terrain from spring until the end of autumn in the  UK & Europe. 

There are a few places that you can take the 2 day training course throughout the year and one is at Cannock Chase which is not far from where I live and would be cheaper but I'm going to take the course at the Plas y Brenin National Mountain Sports Centre which means me boarding for a couple of days and costing a little more but I think its worth the extra to have had the training in the Mountains and provided by the experts at the PYB NMSC .

I'm now trying to plan some big rides to make sure I can turn up with the confidence that I have the necessary experience, the Dark & White Orienteering should help with this and with the navigation skills as Debs & I plan to do every round, so fingers & toes crossed this time next year I will be writing about one of my first group rides as a MTB Leader. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


The picture above is the new mark II version of a very good winter jacket. I had had the mark one version for about 4 winters and it had been my go to jacket for when the temps start hitting single figures Celsius . It is a bit too warm for me with just a short sleeve base layer above +5 C but the beauty of this jacket is it can be worn with a good layer system down to about minus 15 C and be warm enough which I have tested so it's a very versatile jacket. It's as waterproof as anything else I've ever worn with it's Softshell front and Thermal Roubaix fabric on the underarms,side and back. It has pit zips to help regulate your temps when your working hard, it has a useful chest pocket with a little hole for your headphones and three rear pockets with a little waterproof zipped pocket too. The fit is good too and the sizing seems spot on. 

If your on the lookout for a good value, hard wearing jacket you won't go too far wrong with the ENDURA WINDCHILL II but here's the clincher, I mentioned I had had the previous version for about 4 winters but some of the stitching around the cuffs, chest pocket and rear pockets had started to come away, so I emailed ENDURA to ask if they could repair it which they replied they could and to send it to them with the returns code they give me.

A week later I was amazed to find they had sent me back a brand new mark II version which is in my book the best customer service bar none and has guaranteed my loyalty for many years to come and if I was you reading this it would certainly make me think I need to give them a try. 


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Dark & White MTB Orienteering, Hayfield, Peak District, Derbyshire, 13/10/13

Last Sunday I enjoyed my first foray into MTB orienteering and what fun it was too. Along with my girlfriend Deb, we entered as a mixed couple in the vets category in the first of six rounds of the winter series organised by Dark & White under the umbrella of the BMBO (British Mountain Bike Orienteering) who's membership you need to have to be able to take part.  So for a paltry some of £6 for an annual membership we were in and for a couple of weeks prior we eagerly kept tabs on the weather.  We had been enjoying quite a prolonged dry spell with the weather but our luck ran out when strong winds & rain were forecasted for the weekend.

Deb's dipping her dibber

Sunday morning arrived and the forecast was right, the weather was 'stinkingly foul' but we were both committed and there was no way we were going to be put off by a bit of bad weather, after all if you want to be a mtber in the UK then you had better not mind getting a soaking now and again.

That would be me checking the map on the homemade map board

It was an early start for us being about an hour and half's drive from the Scout Hut in Hayfield that was being used as the HQ for the event. The event was scheduled for 3hrs with a start time anytime between 9.00am & 10.30. We arrived about 9.30 and there were already plenty of mtbers, some very professional looking,  flying off in all directions undeterred by the monsoon like conditions.

My own little mighty atom - the indomitable Deb's

It was with a little nervous trepidation that we unloaded the bikes and got saddled up for the short ride from where we parked to the event HQ to pick up our maps and our electronic dibbers for checking in at the checkpoints.  I had been scouring the BMBO website for tips on what to do and about strategy and timing and as I have been able to use a map & compass since my army cadet days in my early teens, I was reasonably confident we would do ok or at least not get lost.

Muddy bums

So with our dibbers dibbed we were off and within minutes we were literally off and walking as we were in the bottom of a valley and as everybody knows when you're in the bottom of a valley all roads lead up and this valley was no different and with stiff cold legs it was just a bit too much too early and had us both wondering what we had got ourselves in to ?

We still managed a smile despite the weather

We huffed & puffed to our first checkpoint and with our first one in the bag we now took a little time to study the map for some semblance of  of a route. After all the effort it took gaining our elevation we decided to go after all the checkpoints that could be reached at our height. This turned out to be a good plan in the end as they were high value points.

The checkpoints are awarded points values dependent on how difficult they are to attain, be that in distance or elevation or if it's a particularly difficult track, which in the Peak District means very rocky paths and tracks.

We were plodding along nicely picking up a checkpoint every 20 mins or so which when considering the weather was getting worse by the minute we  weren't doing too badly for our first attempt.

I've got to give Deb a mention here because she really surprised me with how well she was coping with the technical nature of the course, as we were either bouncing down very rocky trails with rivers flowing down them or ploughing through deep rut's & puddles, which considering she has only been riding a few months and had been really struggling with her confidence of late after having a few falls, was quite amazing.

With an hour left we decided to head back and see if we could pick up a couple more checkpoints on the way back,  which we managed to do and finish within 2 mins of the 3 hr cut off time where you start to lose the points you've gained with every minute your late, and if you're half hour late you lose all your point's !

So all in all I think our first little foray into MTB orienteering was a success, we even made onto the leaders board finishing second in our category with 105 points which we got quite excited about until we realised that there were only two couples in our age category ! Oh well we'll at least we'll have a chance to finish first next time.

We have definitely got a taste for it now and I don't think the weather could be any worse for the next round in Matlock unless it snows,  so I think we can really go for it and see if we can do better.  We're both really looking forward to it.

Roll on round 2 !

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Debby's On One Inbred

I love my girlfriend's bike

On One Inbred -Debby's pride & joy

Pink Hope Pro 2'S

My girlfriends Inbred has taken a big step towards being the pink-tastic bike of her dreams recently with the addition of some cracking upgrades.

First up was a pink Chris King sotte voce headset which need no explanation because if you're looking to add some colour co-ordination and bling to your bike Chris King is an easy if a little expensive choice. It really sets the pink theme off.

Next came the Salsa fliplock seatpost quick release binder.  This is another quality bit of kit and has a really positive feel to it when locking it down, a much nicer feel to the similar offering from Hope. I wanted Deb to have the simpler seatpost collar with just the Allen key bolt as it's a bit more pleasing to the eye,  but I'm glad she has stuck to her gun's and gone for the quick release option really so she can drop her seat easier to give her a bit more confidence when the trail starts to point downwards.

The pink gear cabling was up next. I wasn't too sure about this thinking it might be a step too far in the co-ordination stakes but Debs had been wanting them for a while so on went the Clark's cabling. Like my Lurcher the Inbred runs full outers so I like to add a couple of Middleburn cable oilers to help keep the cables running smooth.
These little aluminium thingies fit on the cables and have a rubber o-ring that pop's off to reveal a little hole that fits the red pipe you get with cans of wd40 or GT85 so you can just squirt in the lube to keep the cables running free. They also double as frame protectors as a bonus. I would just like to add I think they look great after my initial reservations and would even like to see the brake hoses going pink too when Deb's upgrades the brakeset.

Last but certainly not least is the new  Stans Crest/pink Hope hubs wheelset.
Debs was really lusting after some pink hubs to finish the look of her bike but I was more concerned about shedding some weight off the bike and everyone knows that the wheels is the best place to do that.  I have the 29er Stans Crest / Hope Pro 2'S wheelset on my Lurcher and Stans Alpha 340 rims on Goldtec hubs on my Pompino and I can't think of one negative thing to say about Stans tubeless rims. They build into inexpensive light weight wheelset's and with Hope Pro 2'S they are probably in my view the best value for money upgrade you can make for your bike and are one of a very few genuine bargains to be had in mtbing and will give instant performance enhancements to your bike like no other. So when we did a search and found out that Hope had started a limited run of their pink hubs we were chuffed. I emailed Hope to ask if they offered the pink hub option in their wheel builds because it wasn't available on the website and was puzzled when the reply said they didn't do the wheel builds with the pink hubs. Strange. Anyway after much searching we found On Yer Bike were offering a Stans Crest / pink Hope Pro 2'S wheelset build and that was that we thought. Deb's was buzzing with anticipation for her new wheels, but we hadn't heard anything back after a week so I contacted On Yer Bike who explained that it would take a bit longer for the wheels to arrive as Hope as a rule don't make the wheels with the pink hubs, like the email to me from Hope had said. But after a day of phone calls between Hope and On Yer Bike, Hope agreed to make the wheels as a one off only because On Yer Bike were a Hopetech centre.  On Yer Bike had mistakenly been offering the pink hubs in the wheel builds on their website luckily for us. Full marks must go to On Yer Bike for going the extra mile for us to get Hope to build the wheels for us though, I bet there are a few shops out there who would of just turned round and told us they couldn't be done.  Deb's likes to think she now has a custom set of wheels  which I suppose in a way she has. Thanks again to On Yer Bike.

Deb's hasn't had much chance to put her new wheels to test yet apart from a few hours on a core skills course at the Alpkit-Big shakeout festival but what she has done she has been able to feel the benefit of a good lightweight tubeless wheelset that the Stans/Hope combination gives you.

The groupset is in the firing line next with the low end elixir brakes and clunky & stiff Sram gears being replaced with a lot nicer female friendly lighter action Shimano SLX groupo.

The poor girl has well and truly been infected with my affliction for mtb upgrade-itis.

Sorry Debs I hope you can forgive me.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013



I'm really exited at the moment as along with my girlfriend Debs we have been accepted as  Alpkit Shaker Makers at Alpkit's Bigshakeout Festival 2013 which is a celebration of getting out into and enjoying the Great Outdoors.

Alpkit are a fantastic online outdoors retailer based in the UK selling some of the best value for money outdoor gear money can buy.  I own quite a few bits and pieces myself like their Hunka bivvy bag,My-TiPot,MytiMug and Numo sleeping mat and in winter I practically live in their Filet Down gilet which they have stopped making for the time being. One of the most versatile products is their Airlock XTra dry bags which are brilliant for strapping to your bike for bikepacking trips, something that I love doing and it's fair to say that Alpkit were instrumental in me getting the bug for bikepacking in the first place through the Daring deeds Spotlight sections of their website. Alpkit are making a big move into bikepacking at the moment with their bikepacking range of goods, especially the brilliant & affordable bikepacking luggage which is set to smash the UK market.

Daring Deeds highlight's the exploits & adventures of people using Alpkit products, from Mountain climbing expeditions, kayaking & bikepacking to adventure racing and a whole lot of other outdoor activities & adventures. The Spotlight section shows you how you can best utilise the Alpkit products for the various activities that they have been designed for which helps you to get the most out of their equipment.

As a Shaker Maker we will be "hopefully" helping the Alpkit staff to make the event  run smoothly and for that you get a free weekend pass & a place on one of the half day School of Adventure courses that are running throughout the weekend.

Here's a list of just some of the courses over the weekend

Navigation skills
Girls only navigation skills
MTB Core skills
Girls only MTB core skills
Lead climbing
Canoeing & Kayaking

There will be talks & Q&A sessions with adventurer Alastair Humphreys which is going to be really interesting and which I'm particularly looking forward to.

There's going to be live music on the Saturday night which will help give the weekend that festival feel along with all sorts of other activities all weekend from cooking to photography and plenty more that are too many to mention.

So if this is your kind of thing and you think you would like to come along too, follow the links and get booking your tickets but be quick because they are selling like the proverbial "hotcakes" .

Hope to see you there...

Monday, 2 September 2013

Another Lurcher Update

The Lurcher has had some of the planned upgrades in the shape of the Blackspire Super Pro chain rings and the uber light hollow pin & slotted plate black & red KMC x10sl DLC (Diamond Like Coating) chain that comes in a nice box, and so it should for a £60 chain.  I replaced the FHM mixer headset which was showing signs of rust in the cups already, with a beautiful Chris King Inset 1.8-1.5 headset which I don't think I need to worry about rust after 3 months.

nice jewelry box for the chain

kmc black&red x10sl dlc
The KMC chain retails for about £89.99 rrp and by sourcing from Taiwan I managed to get it for £56 posted which is a bit of a bargain if you ask me. Now I'm sure there are plenty of people thinking I must be mad to pay that much for a chain let alone think it's a bargain but I did a lot of researching before I bought it. I don't think you could use anymore acronyms to describe a chain but KMC have certainly packed a lot of technology into it. The pins are riveted  with "Lat step" processing, which supposedly uses 350kg of force to seal the plates together making what is claimed to be the strongest chain connection on the market. Both the inner & outer plates are slotted to reduce weight with the outer plate using X-Bridge technology and due to X-SP friction reducing coating and the precise manufacturing tolerances gives it a longer life.

What makes the X10SL DLC differ from the rest of the X10SL chains is the Diamond Like Coating which is a process KMC uses to get a coating of carbon on to the chains to make them harder/smoother making the chains more resistant to wear which causes chain stretch and causes the wear to the rest of your drive train. So what seems like an expensive initial outlay could save you money in the long run and at least prolong the inevitable of replacing chain rings & cassettes.

Blackspire Super Pro
I have used Blackspire Super Pro chain rings before and know how good they are, and that they shift every bit as good as Shimano, they even improved the shifting of the Truvativ chain rings on my girlfriend's Deb's Inbred, but what they do best is give your bike a nice bit of colour and bling. But with my groupset being the new Dynasys with a directional chain which I have to say is definitely the smoothest shifting I've ever used I wondered is it worth sacrificing that smooth shifting for the sake of trying to make the bike as nice looking as I could.

I took the gamble in the name of bling and I'm glad to say I didn't need to worry, everything is just a smooth and crisp shifting, but possibly a little bit noisier but that's negligible . I have stuck with the 38t middle and 26t inner size's that the XT crankset came with. I had already experimented with a DIY 2x10 setup on my old Inbred and found that it made more sense for me and my XC riding , but these new dedicated 2x10 systems have taken it to a whole new level with the big range cassettes.  The new drivetrain with the red aluminium kcnc jockey wheels,red Blackspire chain rings and the black & red KMC chain in is looking pretty cool, even if I do say so myself.

Chris King Inset 1.8-1.5 mixer

As you can see in the pic above I leave a lot of steerer above the stem for which I get quite a lot of stupid remarks when I've posted pics on forums before especially Singletrackworld about taking my eye out with it and about being careful with my manhood. Ascetically a tall steerer doesn't bother me as it seems to a lot of other people but the main reasons I like to leave it tall is that if ever I want to swap the forks out on another frame I shouldn't have any problems and if I ever want to sell it it makes it a lot easier with a longer steerer. I've never understood why you would want to take what is an expensive item and chop it down to make it probably useless to use with any other frame ?

A Lurcher in it's natural enviorement 
There have been a couple of more changes to the original build but they have been because I haven't been happy with them, the first is the ESI Chunky grips which I just couldn't get on with, they were an absolute pig to get on the bars but in use they were a big let down. I had read that they were comfy & shock absorbing, well for me they weren't, they gave me wrist ache and I just couldn't get used to them so they have been replaced with a pair of Oury Lock On's in white. I had these on my old Inbred a few years ago when they only came in black and they are much comfier, soft & sticky and were my first choice but after reading all the hype about the ESI's I chose them, a lesson learnt, stick with what you know works for you where comfort is the issue!

The second of the changes as been the most disappointing and is the Look S-Track pedals. I'm a big fan of the Look Quartz pedals, I had them on my stolen Inbred and have them on my Pompino and really like the amount of float you get with them and how easy they are to engage/disengage when setup right,but I know a lot of people have struggled with this as you have to use wedges to get the cleat height right but I have always had no problems and the bearings last forever so for me they have been great.

The S-Track is the new model so I was expecting good things especially as the tension of the retention bars is adjustable  but I just haven't been able to get them set up right. It seems I have had the problems with these that I had read about other people having with the Quartz. I would struggle with getting clipped in and out which as been a nightmare at times because Deb and I have been riding a lot of very rocky trails and I have had a couple close calls clipping out just in time. I'm sure they are good pedals if you can get them set up right but I have had to go back to the Quartz and have been much happier with the positive feel I get with them so I shall be sticking with the Quartz.

I'm just starting to really gel with the Lurcher and it's 29" wheels, it definitely gives you more confidence and makes up for any lack of skill a lot better than a 26" wheel bike does and I certainly feel faster than I did on my 26" . I find it better for riding up hill too as you just roll over stuff that would stall you on a 26" and downhill those big wheels give you more grip. It felt weird at first almost as if you are sitting on horse but I'm really starting to feel like I'm part of the bike now and getting a good feel for how far it can be pushed, which is a lot further than my skills can take it I'm sure.

I've been asked if I'm a 29er convert ? I think I have to say I am and long may it continue,  bigger wheeled bikes are definitely the future for me.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Bikepacking Fright-night

I took the chance this week to give Deb her first taste of bikepacking with a trip up to a great little wild camp spot near Luds church/chasm, Gradbach in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Luds chasm or church as it is sometimes known is a deep gorge that is carved into the landscape at the back end of ridge line of rocky outcrops. There are many tales & story's going back to prehistoric times, it's been used as a meeting place by persecuted religious groups hence church being used in it's name, smugglers, and is also thought to be the location for the story of Sir Gawain and the Green knight. It is a very atmospheric place and has got an other worldly feel to it.

It's quite a trek up to Luds church in day light and not somewhere you would want to go looking for at night but I will come back to that .

Deb & I had planned to ride up to the bivvy spot from where we live which is about 30km and something I've done a few times, but time was against us and with this being Debs first foray into the world of bikepacking, I didn't want to make it some kind of a suffer fest to get there before dark and put her off,
.So we decided to drive up with the intention of getting in some riding the following day. From the car park it's a short rocky decent to a small stream crossing and then a steep rocky push up to the bivvy spot.
The bivvy spot from an earlier trip
As you can see from the pic above it's a great spot for a bivvy. We pitched the tent just before it got dark and the only thing bothering us were the midges, but this is the moorlands in summer so there's no escaping them but it had warmed up the last couple of days so they were out in force, but once zipped up we were nice and cosy and happy. We settled down for an early night. At about 1.30 am we were woken by voices, and by the kind of talk they were using we could tell they were not the type of people you would find around this neck of the woods, they were talking like they were in some kind of gangsta rap video and obviously drunk or off their heads and as we had a few grands worth of bikes outside we were a bit concerned. The next thing we know they've shaken the tent and screamed/shouted really loud over the tent frightening us both to bloody death, at that point I've jumped out the tent as quick as I could expecting a confrontation but they were hiding in the trees making stupid noises, obviously thinking they were scaring us which I'm man enough to say they were but I wasn't going let them know that. I was shouting at them to man up and show themselves instead off hiding and that I was with my girlfriend who they were frightening (in hindsight probably not a good idea). After warning them I was going to call the Police if they didn't show themselves, I did when they didn't respond. After a few minutes a black guy came out from the trees and walked towards me obviously worse for the ware holding out his hand and flashing a torch in my face killing my vision saying he was sorry and wanting to shake my hand.  I was very wary, had he got a knife ? It was very dark with the tree cover and with my night vision gone I couldn't tell. I told him where he could stick his hand and a few choice other words too. Then another fella appeared this time an Asian guy so now it's two against one so now I was even more wary but things were about to take a turn for the surreal. Things calmed down after they apologised and I could see that they were just a pair of drunken idiots, not what you expect to find in this neck of the woods. It turns out these two guys who said they were from Birmingham had seen a program on BBC 2 a few nights before about Luds church and had driven up see it for themselves. They were adamant on seeing it but I warned them that it was very dangerous to go up there in the dark but being drunk they wouldn't listen, I warned them that I had called the Police but they weren't bothered so I pointed them in the direction of Luds church and fully expected to be reading the papers in a few days time about two body's found at the bottom of the gorge. The Police called back and I explained the situation and that we would be ok  and not to send anybody out to us.

About an hour later we had a phone call from the Police who were making there way up to us anyway to make sure we were ok, and just when they found us the two comedians appeared and were promptly searched and questioned. After speaking to them the Police informed us that these to guys were known to the Police in the Birmingham area for various things and that they would be a lot happier if we could pack up and escort us back to our car, I said we would be ok but they really weren't happy about leaving us so that was that. We packed up and had to scramble back down to the car park in the dark just using the torch light from the Police, nearly coming a croper a few times on the way down.

Debs first foray into bikepacking will certainly be a memorable one but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons thanks to a couple of numb nuts from Birmingham, I just hope it hasn't put her off ?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Carneddau Mountains camp & ride

Deb & I had the chance to get away for a couple of days last week so we decided to go to North Wales for some camping and an epic ride or two. I love North Wales and Snowdonia but don't get to go there nowhere near enough,  especially as it's only just a couple of hrs drive away. Snowdonia has got some of the best riding in the UK, road & offroad, but it was the offroad flavour Deb & I were after. We decided we didn't want to do the forest trail centre's but instead search out some adventure in the high mountains. With the summertime voluntary ban on cycles on Snowdon, Wales & England's highest mountain, which asks cyclists to not ride on the mountain between 9am & 5pm, we decided to do one of the hardest, remote and most technical rides in the Wales mtb guide book. The ride is in the Carneddau mountain range situated between the Snowdon mountain range and the Clwydian mountains to the east.

Llyn Colwyd Reservoir

Double track from the campsite in the Ogwyn Valley

Debs trophy shot after carrying her bike 300m up through the pass behind her

Somewhere up there is a pass

As you can see from the photo's the Carneddau is a beautiful place to ride which made up for the ride being anything but, in short the ride was brutal but the guide did warn us so we're not complaining as it was quite an adventure which was what we wanted and it was certainly what we got.

The ride started with a steep double track climb up from the campsite to a gate that was locked, so we threw our self's & bikes over and then for the next hour and half it was a case of pushing and carrying over marshes where there was no obvious trail which meant we went a bit off course and had to double back on ourselves which cost us about an hour.  This was also mentioned in the guide book so we stayed philosophical and trudged on, crossing streams and bridges made from big stone megalithic slabs. It was a relief when we finally got to the top of the hillside and the view of the Llyn Colwyd Reservoir opened up before us. After stopping for some photos & refreshments we pushed on, it would be rocky technical singletrack all the way alongside the reservoir but we didn't realise just how technical, with big drop offs,  step ups and loose jagged rocks just waiting to rip your tyres & legs to shreds. I must admit this was pushing the boundaries of my skills but poor Deb, who's confidence had been shaken recently by a couple of nasty falls was visibly nervous to say the least, and after all she is still a novice and this was graded a black route so she deserves a lot of credit for just being there.  I didn't want Deb trying to follow me and hurting herself especially as this was as remote as you can get in North Wales so I decided it was best to just walk the really tricky bits and ride where we could safely.

After the reservoir we had to climb what is probably one of the steepest road climbs I've ever seen and I'm proud to say I rode all the way to the top. The views from here were magnificent, it was just a shame our batteries on our phones were now running low so we couldn't take any photos.  The houses down in the valley looked tiny, it was like looking down from an airplane , in fact an RAF Herculies transport plane flew by in the valley and we were looking down on it, pretty cool stuff.  After the steep climb came an even steeper decent which took a good half hour with countless switchbacks and two stops to let my brakes cool after they started to fade.

A nice steady climb followed up to the Llyn Crafnant and a quick stop for some scones at the lakeside cafe.

It was a good time to refuel because what was to come can only be described as full on mountaineering or scrambling at least to reach a pass through the mountains.  I've got to say a few words about my amazing girlfriend here as I was blown away how she managed to push & carry her bike which is heavier than mine up the steep climbs, I wanted to push it for her but most of the time she wouldn't let me, she really is a tough little cookie. I was knackered by this point and she is tiny compared to me so I really want to give a big shout out to my mtb goddess of a girlfriend,  Chapeau Debs !

I just want to give Debs a plug, she has started a blog about her slide into cycling obsession that I've saddled her with, sorry Deb,and no pun intended either, anyway her blog is called Gearly Bird . It's a new blog so there isn't a lot of posts yet but she would love a follower or two so please be kind and follow.

When we got through the pass we were hoping the trail would be more rideable but if anything it was even more rocky and technical. We rode where we could and carried & pushed where we couldn't but we were on the last leg and it was now all downhill into Capel Curig. We were rewarded with a nice steady double track ride back to the campsite.

The guide book said 4-5hrs for fit & experienced riders, we came in at 7 1/2 hrs totally spent which is what we had wanted to be and isn't too shabby as we had quite a few stops along the way. Debs has said she wants to go back and do it again when she has mastered a few more skills and built some more confidence.

I can't wait.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Peak District camping & ride

These were taken a couple of weeks ago now but I just haven't had the time to do a proper post with them because of helping my girlfriend Debs move house. We decided that a couple of days camping in the Peak District near Hayfield, would be just the ticket for a bit of a respite from the strains & stresses that moving house can be.

We arrived late at the campsite around 9.45 pm and had a bit of a shock when we were told it was going to cost us just over £50 for a pitch for a little two man tent. Well we decided that we would only be staying one night and proceeded to our pitch, within seconds of being out of the car we were being eaten alive by midges, they were in our eye's ,up our noses,  everywhere.  We got the tent up rapido, and even though there were quite a few in the tent,  we were glad to be zipped up in our little refuge. The heavy rain & thunderstorm in the early hours was welcome and would hopefully break the hot humid air and clear the midges in the morning. The next day the midges were still about but nowhere near as bad and seemed to be leaving us alone now we both looked liked we had the measles,  Debs said we were sporting a King of the mountains look with our red polka dots, always best to try to see the funny side.

I wanted the ride to give me and my new Lurcher a chance to really get to know each other but it probably wasn't the right place for that as it was a very rocky, techy trail, that required a lot of pushing and stop/start kind of riding and I was also having to make sure Debs didn't come a cropper on the steep drop off's. 

I didn't really gel with the bike during the ride but I did realise I had fitted a stem that was too short which I have rectified with a 90mm 10º rise Thomson stem flipped negative, which now feels much better and more like I remember my old mtb feeling. 

I did enjoy the extra control and grip that your told that 29er wheels give you, you really do feel more confident when things get steep and after being a 29er sceptic before having ridden one I can say that a lot of what I had read about 29er's is quite true.

I think I won't get truly acquainted with the Lurcher until I can get out on my local trails by myself for a couple of hours to really put it through its paces, I think Debs will understand.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Lurcher has Lift Off

The Lurcher is finally up and running after what seemed like the longest bike build in history. I have been helping my girlfriend Debs to move house which has meant we have had no time to ride let alone time to build a bike, but we somehow managed it and we got to squeeze in a ride here and there too.

Full specification as is in the pics
On One Lurcher carbon 29er.
Rock Shox Sid 29er 120mm XX tapered forks.
FRM 1/8-1/5 zero stack headset
Stans Crest tubeless rims on red Hope Pro 2'S wheelset.
Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.10 tubeless ready tyres.
Shimano  XT m785 2x10 silver groupset with a direct mount front mech & Shadow rear mech, 38t-26t XT chainset and full XT cable outers.
Shimano XT m785 silver brakeset.
Aligator Aries 160mm discs (red)
Look S-Track pedals.
Red Token press fit BB92 bottom bracket.
eXotic carbon ti in line seatpost 350mm.
Selle Italia Flite XC ti saddle.
Red Planet X seatpost collar.
Truvativ noir 700mm flat carbon bar.
90mm 10º rise Thomson stem flipped.
ESI chunky grips.
Hope bar end bungs.
KCNC red jockey wheels.
KCNC red cable ferrules.
Red Thomson faceplate & top cap upgrade kit.
Red Middleburn cable oilers.
Red Mt Zoom shroom bottle cage bolts.

Planned upgrades are some red Blackspire chainrings which in my experience are lighter, harder wearing and shift just as good if not better than the stock Shimano chainrings. A KMC X10 SL DLC red&black chain which are bloody expensive for a chain but they are bloody good too with a special coating that makes them very hard wearing and one of the lightest 10 speed chains around which KMC developed  for some Pro Tour teams.

I have weighed the bike with luggage scales and the lowest reading I got was 21 1/2 lbs or 9 1/2 kg's so I reckon I can safely say that its about 22 lbs which I'm more than happy with and with the planned upgrades it should come down a little further. I'm not trying to make it a weight weenie but if I can shave some weight then why not.

Well there it is my newest member of my growing On One quiver of bikes.

How does it ride ?

Tune in next time to find out...

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Lurcher Update

The Lurcher is coming together nicely now with just the finishing touches like the fitting of the gear cables and the brake lines to cut to size . After trying the 0º rise 70mm Thomson stem off the Pompino with a low riser I have had to fit a 0º rise 50mm Thomson with a flat Truvativ noir 700mm wide carbon bar to keep the front end low, a 60mm would probably have been just right but  Thomson don't do a 60mm. I thought with being tall and long in the arm the 70mm would work but Jez you were right ! I've fitted some pimpy bits for a bit of individuality and to make it stand out from the crowd. The Aligator aries discs give great stopping power,  way more than stock discs and they only weigh 75g and look great too. I'm just waiting for the bleed kit so I can cut the brake hoses and then I can take it out and give it a good thrashing and I can't wait !

Aligator aries disc rotor

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Want it Wednesday- Planet X Pro Carbon Tour De France Limited Edition

Anybody that's read my blog lately will know that I'm a big fan of Planet X / On One and that I'm building a nice collection of their bikes but there is one type of bike that's missing and that's a road bike. Currently in my stable I've got a single speed cross Pompino , urban single speed/fixie Macinato , my girlfriend's Inbred  mtb and a carbon Lurcher 29er mtb that's still in the build stage, but I would love to add a road bike to my collection at some point in the future. I love the look of road bikes, I think they are far more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than mtb's and if I were to have one it would have to be from and the one that's caught my eye at the moment is the Pro Carbon Tour De France Limited Edition in homage to the 100th edition of the race . I would love to have a high end all singing all dancing pro level racing machine and Planet X have got them but I think I would probably look a bit stupid on one so the Pro Carbon Tour De France Limited Edition will do me just fine. It has a mix of Sram Rival and Force groupset with an FSA Gossamer crank but what gives it a bit of an edge are the 50/50 carbon rimmed wheels and a stealthy all black finish to give it that pro look and all for a very reasonable £1,299,99. 

So there you have it folks my Want it Wednesday and if you would like to see some more have a pop over to Jez Andrews Following the Chainline blog where it all started.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

On One Lurcher new build- Shimano 2x10 XT groupset

On One Lurcher 29er
The Lurcher has been patiently waiting since I fitted the Token BB92 press fit bottom bracket  and FRM D-SET 1,5" Tapered headset  for the arrival of a lovely Shimano XT 2x10 groupset . Well it's arrived and what a sexy bit of kit it is.

2x10 XT Groupset-lovely shininess
I have chosen the 38-26 chainset and the 11-36 cassette. I did want the 40-28 chainset but for some reason that option wasn't available with the direct mount front mech, also as you can see I chose the silver group over the black because I think it's more classic looking and also in my opinion the black looks like it's OE component's. I'm not sure if it was a mistake but the front mech supplied  is black but I'm glad because as it's direct mount on to the black frame I think it looks better black. Bonus ! I chose the massive 11-36 cassette because I might go 1x10 at some point in the future. I think my favourite bits though are the brake levers, they are just gorgeous. I can't wait to get it all fitted.

Also arriving this week are the carbon low riseCrankbrothers Cobalt 11 bar  which look real quality and my favourite saddle the Selle Italia Flite XC   which I have on my Pompino SSCX and will be my third Flite saddle. I had pondered about trying a different saddle as the Flite on my Pompino had a bit of the stitching and cover come away but I have decided better the devil you know. Both these items were bought from at half the manufacturers rrp, yet another great deal from them. I'm picking up some Stans Crest/hope 29er wheels from 18 bikes later this week. Just the tyres,seastpost grips and discs to get then and it will be ready to roll.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Hot cross Pompino Fun

Today's ride with Deb was our biggest ride so far and It was a scorcher too with the thermometer hitting about 26-27 C and probably our hottest day for a few years. It was a nice steady ride and nothing technical on farm tracks/bridleways and forest trails. Deb had her first puncture from the usual suspect, a thorn ! It gave us a chance for a breather and Debs a lesson on how to fix a puncture. I'm running tubeless with Stans rims and haven't had a puncture since I had the wheels before Xmas so I've told Deb we will get some tubes with removable cores and put some sealant in so she doesn't get anymore punctures, which she likes the sound of.

It's great to watch Debs confidence grow with each ride, she really does try hard but I think I might be a bit hard on her sometimes, it can be difficult finding the balance between pushing her just hard enough and too hard, I think I might expect a bit too much at times but it's a learning curve for both of us, and one we are both really enjoying.

Greenedge Rocks-Tour De France Highlights

Friday, 5 July 2013

Look Quartz pedals - Debby goes clippless

Debbs took the plunge this week with her first ride on her new Look Quartz pedals. I had been trying to persuade her that clipless was the way to go but I think she just couldn't get her head round being attached to the bike and not being able to bail in an emergency which, of course she could.  Debbys flat pedals were nice but they terrified me with all those sharp pins just waiting to shred her shins to pieces. The pins they came with were basically just rounded off screws, so we replaced them with some nice colour matched pins with bolt heads that screwed in with a little spanner, very tedious.  They were a lot safer but they would still make a mess of her legs if she stacked or her foot slipped.  Debbs was struggling with getting her feet positioned right on them which was starting to bug her so she finally agreed to give clipless pedals a go.

My first experience with clipless was in the late 90's with a set of Ritchey copies, which themselves were a licensed version of Shimano's SPD setup. I never really got on with the direct feel you get with the SPD type of pedal as I have a bit of Osteo-Arthritis in my left knee which gives me pain from time to time, but is generally ok as long as I don't play football as it's mostly sideways movement that causes the problems.  I did a lot of reading of mags and stuff at the time and they were saying that if you suffered with knee pain you were better off with a pedal that gave you lots of float, which basically means a pedal that gives your foot a bit more movement and a less direct feel when your clipped in. At that time to my knowledge there was really only one company that was making a pedal that provided lots of float and that was Time with the Attac. I bought the Attac and used them for a few years and much prefered the open twin bar design that gave your feet more movement and good mud shedding ability but still gave you that connected to the bike feel that clipless pedals give you. The Attac is a great pedal but they weigh a ton so when Crankbrothers came out with the Eggbeater pedal which was a lot lighter but a similar twin bar system and which I liked the look of straight away, I had to try them. They were great from the off with a 4 way entry and easy to service too as they had a grease port so you could pump fresh grease in and force the old grease out, but you would end up using a lot of grease. I happily used the Eggbeaters for the next few years even though the bearings didn't last that long, until I came across the Look Quartz . Like the Eggbeater I liked the look of them straight away, but what was most striking was the weight ! The standard model weighed less than the bling carbon ti models of their counterparts offerings and they were cheap as well, about £50 if you shopped around. I've used these pedals for a few years now on my mtb's and now on my Pompino and think they're great. I have read a bit on some forums that people can't stand them, that the cleats are a nightmare to setup , well I just don't know what they are doing because I have found just the opposite,  you get some different thickness wedges that enables you to set the cleat up easy to clip in and lots of float or setup to make it harder to clip in and less float, simple.  I had no problems in advising Debs to go for the Quartz and that goes for anybody new to mtbing who is thinking of trying out clippless pedals, they make sense for a new rider because of the easy way they clip in/out and the generous float they offer.

Debby is using the pedals with Shimano SH-WM62 womens mtb shoes which are a great shoe for the money and makes Debb look quite pro. She loves the pedals and shoes and has found them to be quite easy to get the hang off and she admits to being quite frightened off them at first, but to her credit she just got to grips with them and is now clipping in and out without incident but I'm still expecting her to have the falling over clipped in moment that most of us have had when we first started out riding clipless, I just hope there's no one around unlike when it happened to me many moons ago.

I'm still pinching myself with how much my girl has taken my passion for cycling to her heart...

Monday, 1 July 2013

On One in the Peak District

Hi de- Hi Campers

Deb and I spent a night under canvas on Saturday. It's been a couple of years since I slept in a tent and several years for Deb, although I have bivvied a few times, but the way Deb slept like the proverbial log and I tossed and turned you would of thought it was the other way round,  the campsite being near a busy road didn't help but it didn't bother Deb so I shouldn't really complain about that.

home for the night

The tent is only a cheap little two man or a one man & one woman to be precise but it did the job although we very didn't nearly make it only arriving at the campsite at Newhaven in the White peak, Derbyshire at 9 pm and it's only just over an hour drive from where we live in Stoke on Trent. We decided to camp because I wanted to give Deb a flavour of some real offroad riding that you get in the Derbyshire Peak District and because we are pretty crap at organising ourselves, always getting side tracked with kids and all the other stuff you have to deal with day to day, so I thought it would give us more time to spend on the ride.

As I said I didn't get much sleep so we took it easy Sunday morn not putting the coffee pot on till about 9.30 am but that and the bacon butties soon got me going. We weren't in a rush but that didn't stop me from leaving one of my bidon's in the camp toilet block ..Doh

The ride started in Youlgreave and followed some quite technical bridleways along small valley gorges that characterize the area. Most of the climbing was on roads which were long but not too steep, again I was amazed how Debs toughed them out and kept the hammer down trying to keep up with me because as I was on my sscx pompino I have to keep my cadence up. We did a bit of hike a bike & pushing along Gratton Dale which was a bit too technical in places and hemmed in with overgrown Hawthorn bushes making it even more difficult without getting off and pushing. Debs was on her new 14" Inbred which she was glad of or else she would of had to get off and do more even more pushing.

Gratton Dale

By the end of Gratton Dale Debs was beginning to flag but with 2/3rds of the ride done I wasn't too worried but I couldn't say the same for Debs though because after I showed her the map she was convinced we had another 15km to go instead of the 5 there really was. We had a little steep push up out of Long Dale, which was rewarded with a fast 1.5km 80m decent along rutted double track, across some fields, dodging the cows down to Smerril Grange which put a big smile back on Debs face and a Queen of the Mountains award on Strava and 10th place overall out of 34, pretty good for a novice.  She says she was glad that she was following me or she wouldn't have gone that fast. I came 9th overall which I'm pretty pleased with, I would be interested to know if any of those that are higher were riding a ss cross ?
There were a couple of little road climbs left but it was just a short ride left to where we started after that.

Overall it was a great little taster for Deb for the hopefully bigger and better adventures to come, I for one can not wait and I hope Debs can't too