All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Dorset Gravel Dash 100 - Beers, bikes and pirates. Aaarrrhhhh!

Charlie The Bike Monger, the purveyor of fine bicycles in Swanage, has been running the Dorset Gravel Dash 50:50 and 100 for a couple for a few years now.

The 50:50 is an over night bike packing, eating an drinking fest, which sees many participants enjoy the riding, food and the antics of the combination of alcohol, fire and bikes in an empty farmers field. Many of the 50:50 arrive back at The Red Lion in worse condition than the 100 riders.

The 100, bikes off the entire route in one day and there are brutal climbs to get the blood flowing in the early stages.  The 2 years I have done it now have been single speed over the 100. This year it was on the Sonder Broken Road and a slightly changed and more challenging course, with far too much sticky mud.

Before DGD100

After a few ciders, a great lasange at The Red Lion in he company of may pirates and their antics (Swanage Pirate Festival) and a group of divers, it was time for a walk watch the sun set, park the van up on the shore and watch the lighting show roll in and fall asleep.

Waking early to find my rear tyre flat was not ideal, then for the tubeless valve to snap, less ideal, first tube in was faulty, even less ideal. 2nd spare tube did the trick. I would need to buy 2 spares of Charlie shortly after the start. Food and coffee whilst I hid from the biblical rain, which stopped a few minutes before the start.

Once signed in and having made a plan with Charlie and Sam to get my tubes, I drifted to the back of the 100 riders.  After some fine poetry from Charlie, we were off, well, me to the shop first.

Paid for and stuffed in my saddle bag, I headed off confident in my new spares if anything would go wrong (it didn't). Having wasted 10-15 minutes I was very surprised to be catching people up this climb. I combination of single speed grinding and walking (running slowly) I crested the first obstacle.  Reward with fine views and big blue skies.

Onward, over familiar ground, spinning, grinding, running and walking, I paced myself making good time, enjoying the views and chatting to others as I went. Yo-yoing with others over the differing terrain, where the mix of gravel, mountain, CX and fat bikes, rubbed shoulders.

The weather was stunning and made me forget mostly about my legs, sore from kilometer 20, Charlies helpers, where in the perfect spots both times and filled us with water and treats.  The best of which was a Lance ball, I had two.  My short stop in the pub at Humble before the hill forts proved helpful also, OJ and more water was chosen over a beer and pub lunch.

From 30+ k's to go I found myself alone, having broken the elastic on my Yo-yo. My Garmin gave me a warning beep of Low Battery and my legs started to spin a bit faster. 20 to go I lifted the cadence again. It is not a race, but a personal challenge and I was doing just that.

The last punch in the guts comes at about 6k to go, Old Henry the climb back up onto Purbeck Way is tough after the day in the saddle, and the rough section before the crest was just too much for my legs. Off and brisk walk to the crest of the hill and straight back to work. Across the top and then through a herd of the most chilled cows in the world.

Now it was down for the last time, a tricky descent, made easier by some walkers opening the top gate for me and some 50:50 riders holding the bottom one open too. A slick descent and onto the road to run back into The Red Lion and the finish.

I managed to be 1st Single Speed back by some way and 8th overall according to the unofficial results board (It's not a race!). I felt like I had worked hard and finding a friendly face proceeded with some celebrations in food and drink form.

Again the after event antics were funny and certainly entertaining. Charlie with the combination of pirates, Drunk Cyclist and Surly International Drinking team, certainly made it lively.

After DGD100 and the very sticky mud

It is quietly one of the best events I do and I'll do again. It has a subtle international feel as riders are learning more about the event from near and far.  The scenery is amazing and The Red Lion is a super chilled start and finish venue and Charlie is a showman.

A massive big up to Charlie and his helpers and to Sam, who holds the fort down until every rider is safely home. I hope to see the event grow (not too big) but enough to make it a regular event on the calendar.

As for the Broken Road, I have to give that it's own blog. But I wanted one the first time I rode one a couple of years back.  I was right, it is an awesome bike.  I am excited about it as much as I was about my SIR9 Niner, probably more so, that is really saying something. More on that soon.

Thanks to Sonder/Alpkit, SurreyHillsCycleWorks and Wolf Tooth Components for getting me set up and the bike tweaked to perfection.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Hi all,
So I have had an Alpkit Arro and Balance jacket for sometime now and have tested both extensively.  I give a short review of both below.

This is a lightweight, small (not ultra small) packing waterproof. It breathes really well and is cut nicely so as to not be too baggy for cycling and still have room for a few thin layers and plenty of movement to swing an ice axe.

The hood is ample for most helmets and snugs down well, helmet or not. A slight smaller peal than my Crux Shock, but that is no issue, and the Shock is built for full gnarl, winter ice with sharp teeth (check out the Alpkit Definition).  The Balance is built to do a lot of things really well.  So far I have found it does this.

On the bike is always a real test for jacket.  The Balance has passed with flying colours, decent overlap with waterproof trousers, doesn't ride up and in wettest test days, 5hrs in the rain and grot, stayed dry. The top of my waterproof shorts were bone dry to prove this.  It has easily out performed my much loved Endura Flyte

The dual pit zip vent/map pocket vent really well and are good pockets, although I do think too many wet mild walks, and the lack of separate map pocket and pit zip vent might bother me. But on the bike and climbing, it is not noticeable as I keep nothing in those pockets.  Maybe a small phone/camera sized chest pocket could be added for little weight gain?

The only other tiny quibble would be I think the storm flap could be a little wider. I found sometimes that on a really active decent or just throwing it on quickly the storm flap easily folded back on itself and the wind cut through the zip a little.  But this was only on occasion and easily manageable.

I love this jacket and it is as minimal as I would go, but still give great performance from the elements. My Endura Flyte now sits as quality spare for when the UK really turns on the muddy riding weather.

 Balance proving it's breathe ability in a sunny but cold Kielder.

Not much to say here other than, just buy one.  It is the best lightweight wind stopper I own.  I have a couple of the Endura wind stoppers and they are great, but they don't pack like this does or are as light, unless you buy the FS260 Pro Cape.  But that is not a multi-purpose jacket, I have, biked (a lot) ran, climbed, carried the rug rat in her backpack and even cut wood in this jacket.

It is loose fitting, which allows some layering, but it is again not too baggy.  The cut ensures your lower back isn't exposed when hunch over the bars chewing on your stem. It has a small (I find) super useful zip pocket on the right side hem, which my keys nestle in - out of the way (even with a small pack on). Whilst it is not a brushed back soft shell, it certain is comfy against bare arms.

As for wear, this should be falling apart by now, as it gets used or packed for every 2nd ride. As you can see above, it still looks new.

The technical bit.
I won't go into details as Alpkit have them here in these links:



I say buy the Arro and really consider the Balance as a multi-purpose does it all really well light weight jacket, I haven't had the chance to test the Balance skiing yet, but I am sure it will be as great ski touring as it is biking. Super glad I got mine.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Sonder Camino Ti by Alpkit

Sometime ago,as part of the Sonder Bikes marketing photo shoot and video, I as fortunate enough to ride the Sonder Camino Ti.  It is rare I jump on a bike and want to buy one with in a few minutes.  But with the exception of the SRAM components I really wanted to own one.

Being more incline to build a bespoke Camino Ti, the time came for me to order my rolling chassis (frame, fork, and wheels) and strip down the old KR810 for components.  Below is the bespoke build of my Camino.

All good things start with a nice frame with smooth welds as shown below. Campagnolo (Campag) BB, Thompson seat post and Campag front mech hanger installed.

 Next a Hope headset, Wolf Tooth Components steerer spacers, Easton EA90 stem and SLX bars.

Campag Chorus crankset and 53/44 chain rings, Chorus front and rear mech.

Stopping power provided by TRP HY/RD, with Alligator discs (not pictured).  Originally had planned to use TRP Spyre.  However, on fitting I found that even when shimmed, the clearance provided by the disc mount on the Love Mud hub was at least 1.5mm less (when I measured) than that of Hope hubs and the actuator on the inner side of the break would collide with the spokes.  My MonsterX now adorns the Spyres (possibly the best mechanical disc break on the market).

Next Specialized 143 Toupe saddle, Chorus shifters and Hudz hoods, Love Mud Orbit wheels, Ultegra 11/28 11spd cassette (this works seamlessly with the Campag and was required as the Love Mud hubs don't have a Campag free hub option at present) shod with WTB Riddler 47c tyres (these tyres are brilliant for gravel, cross, beach racing and mixed commuting, so good I got a set for the MonsterX) and Hope skewers.

Looking alright (steerer is now cut down to correct size, I needed to ride it both off road and on to find a flexible set of spacers with steerer cut to a sensible length).

Finally, some cables, Specliazed bar tape and bottle cages, Campag 11spd chain, Shimano XT pedals (Look KEO for the road) and the aforementioned Alligator 160mm discs.

Ride Report:

I have been riding the Camino Ti in road or gravel guise for the past 5 months and I can safely say it hasn't disappointed one bit. It is agile and fast across the terrain it is designed for.  Very comfortable and ensured my body didn't suffer much at all during the Dirty Reiver 200 this year.  It accelerates well off and on road, and with the 28c Specialized Rubaix tyres it is brilliant on the rough and often grot covered roads of Surrey and Hampshire.  It is a little heavier than the Enigma and Seven bikes, but that would be it's only drawback I can see against these brands having ridden and researched them over the years.  But is a fun, fast and comfortable frame set and the Love Mud wheel set is reliable despite the tiny issue with break fitting I encountered.

Sonder has a range of SRAM and Shimano options for complete bikes, and have built a couple bespoke versions as well, of course there is always the the build your own from their great frame and fork set.

It is a bike I feel confident on and off road, happy cruising or sitting on the rivet.  The Camino Ti is a great bike and has a little brother now in the Camino AL.  Both are worth researching and contacting Sonder (Alpkit) about.

Pack testing for the DR200.