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.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Autumn Classic No:1

Headed out to race in another Gorrick MTB race today, the Autumn Classic No:1, a short course sprint around Tunnel Hill.  I had elected to race in Super Masters, which meant an early start and the first bit of scrapping ice from the windscreen.

I arrived at Tunnel Hill and met Darren and we headed out for a quick practice and warm up lap (it was still brisk), after we had registered.  The course was a good mix of fire roads and single track, some nice technical sections and a couple of small but stinging hills.  Especially when you can breathe that well, my chest infection was going to make this that little bit harder, I thought the single speed would be more the problem.

Fueling the body and chatting to Darren, Dave from Cycleworks arrived and we chatted briefly before I set about warming up again.  Dave and I would see each other on the start line in a few minutes.  Then I would only see him after the race.  Darren was racing in another category starting a bit later.

The race started and was a mad dash as usual and I felt rubbish from the start, this did not bode well.  I pushed around the first lap having a few in my category pass and then a few in another category also go past.

I settled into a rhythm on the fire roads and enjoyed the single tracks, and tried to hold a descent pace for the way I felt. The second lap felt much like the first and I tried to hold my pace and enjoy the race.  But my chest felt heavy and I was coughing up lots of mucus.

The 3rd lap started to feel better, but I think this was due to a slightly slower pace and controlled riding and not getting sucked in to any games.  Just as everything was flowing, my chain popped off, it's a single speed that shouldn't happen.  I quickly sorted this and pressed on.

Coming into the 4th lap I was feeling better, mostly due to I knew this was it.  I chewed on another ShotBloc and tried to dig a bit deeper.  Coughed a couple of times which actually hurt this time. :-(  after my coughing episode this lap started to hurt.  What was frustrating was the legs feeling fine, but my lungs feeling rubbish, oh and the severe lack of race fitness.

On the few hills I dug deeper and powered past some of the riders in other categories, on a bit of single track a nice girl bailed off the track between some trees to let me pass. (Thank you, if by some strange chance you read this, I was on the red single speed in the Cycleworks top).

The last hill was bit more drawn out when I was tired on this lap, but I pushed up it hard and then did my best impression of coughing mucus filled mess to sprint the last few hundred metres to the finishline.

I finished 15th out of 18, not great, but actually better than I expected, considering my prep (none) and my chest.  There was one other in a category on a single speed that finished 6th I think, a great effort.

Gorrick once again, nice work.  Dave well done on you top ten!  Darren, glad you enjoyed the track in the end and I hope Karl did well in the afternoon races.

I have since seemed to have strained something in my abdominal region from all my post race coughing, nice!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Old News, News Update

After not climbing much rock in the conventional manner (I have been dry tooling lots, due to injury) for sometime. Nik, myself and a friend James headed off on a Uk road trip for a week, a few weeks back.

The plan was to do some climbing, some walking/scrambling (for Mountain Leader Quality Mountain Days) and for Nik to maybe get some rides done.  We headed first to Ogwen Valley - Wales, then Borrowdale, The Lakes and then finally to The Peak, Derbyshire.

The weather was its changeable self in Wales, but I did get to do something I have not done so much of there......climb.  On the first day we managed a handful of short multi-pitch routes on Little Tryfan.  The next day saw James and I head off for what was meant to be a 3hr walk in, ascent and return on a near by seldom frequented crag. This went very wrong, after giving up trying to find the start of the route in the undergrowth.  We opted for another.

We completely missed this one as well, but were rewarded with a fluttery and balancy slab with no gear for about 30ft, a heather terrace, a really nice traverse with a very interesting mantle shelf, a belay on a ledge made of heather, two love little over hangs once cleaned and an airy rock over into a mantle shelf, 30 meters of crawling through heather to a tree belay and then a walk off through yet more heather.  This may be a new route, will need to contact the climbers club.

The following day we did a very nice walk, although the winds were high and took in some ridges on the Carneddau and finished the walk in sunshine and that night drunk a 13 year old bottle of Rioja, that was amazing.

The next day we headed to The Lakes and took our time. The first day in The Lakes saw a lazy start and a short walk for Nik and I as I had hurt my knee during the walk on the descent.  James hit the Bowderstone and wasted himself.  During the walk Nik and I took in Castle Rock and the quarry at the top, a strange little spot.  We also found a Lakeland Slate Quarry called Dalt Quarry, with a good variety of short slate sport climbs.  We also found an undeveloped and not on the map slate quarry, that I shall be talking to the BMC about.  That night Nik and I wondered back to Dalt Quarry to send a couple of the routes and the slate was lovely.  The routes interesting even if short.

James joined us to have a looked at the quarry and shortly after we headed back to the camp and then to the pub.

The next day we headed to Wodens Face near Bowderstone Crag in Borrowdale.  We climbed some lovely Severe's and VS's on good rock in a great location, but we ran out of time before I could get on an E1 arete I had been eying up.  Next time, for sure it is a blunt exposed arete with an interesting looking finish, called Soxon.

That afternoon we headed off to The Peak District, it was time for some grit.  We arrived at the faithful Hardhurst Farm Campsite to bump into some friends.  We had a chat some dinner and then the obligatory pint of Farmers Blonde at The Travellers Rest Inn.

The next day James and I headed for Burbage North to get some time on the grit on a bunch of short routes.  Whilst Nik had planned to go for a ride, but her neck and a good book kept her in the warmth of the van.  James and I managed to rack up about 20 climbs each, by soloing a whole bunch up to and including VS 5b, we also added in on the lead an HVS 5b and E1 5b, before calling it a day.  This was James' first HVS and E1, nice one.

The next day we headed to High Neb on Stanage Edge, where Nik and I did a few of the nice routes.  Nik was seconding to get her head back in the game and so she didn't have to worried too much about her neck and being on the lead if it started hurting more than it has since the damn car accident back in January.  We chose some really nice routes that were more balancy than thuggy and just enjoyed the sunny days climbing.  Later in the day I got on a route called Jeepers Creepers and proved to myself how weak I am at the moment, taking 3 attempts to pull through the roof.  When I did so I found it still a struggle, I need to get stronger.

That night we headed to Glossop for Simon's pub crawl on wheels.  We had decided not to stay too late to we would not get too drunk and so we could climb the next day.  It was a great night out, however, Simon either likes walking in circles or his urban navigation is complete rubbish.

The next day was the final day of the road trip.  Froggat would be the crag of the day.  Nik went for a short ride, while James and I headed in to climb.  James had decided to get on Tody's Wall and had a fine lead.  Manchester Uni were at the crag as well, but they are a great bunch and we had a few laughs with them and encourage the freshers on.

I had chosen an E2 that looked like my type of climbing and slab arete combo with low gear, ground strike guaranteed.  :-(  After cheering on some freshers on a route sharing the first few meters and looking at the climb for a while I was hooked on the climb and really relaxed.  This bodes well I thought and off I went.  Arriving below the crux and placing a few runners, stepping down a bit I took a rest.

There were several moves at around the same tech grade making it a bit more sustained than expected. I worked out the sequence and then committed. The first few moves felt better than expected, the next one a bit thinner, the next hold a rounded crimp and very rounded edge of the arete, but I felt good.  Without warning my left foot popped, I stayed where I was, this was good news and in my head even with a couple of tricky moves left, this climb was over.  I made the next few moves carefully reached for a very rounded top, got my left foot high and moved to the top of the route.

I was very very happy with this, I bounced around on top of the crag.  A just reward for my patience, after racing to E1 several years ago when I started trad climbing, bad weather, bad timing and string of injuries has keep me off climbing on real rock for any period of time.  But the week had gone smoothly and my headed was very clear and calm on all routes and my stamina greatly improved.  I put a lot of this down to the dry tooling and chalk climbing, where you don't want to make a mistake and I have learnt to keep myself calm and focused.

All in all, the week had been nice and some rewards received.  Nik had even managed a few climbs and a ride without hurting too much, but still has a long way to go with her recovery, but at least now she knows she is on the mend.

A very happy climber, that can't wait to get back on the rock.

News Update: 17/10/2009

Gorrick Autumn Classic short course x-country tomorrow.

I haven't raced one of these for years now and I truly can't wait, even though my training has been rubbish thanks to a cold and work, for some reason I think racing on the single speed will be good fun and apparently the course is a fast one.  Hmmm, single speed really?

Anyway, looking forward to tomorrow the bike is prep with new faster gearing, will I have gone from a rear sprocket of 18 teeth to a more manly one of 16, brakes bled and working smoothly, front wheel trued, chain tensioned, bike thoroughly cleaned and lube, and ready to race.

Watch this space for an after race update.

Bring on the pain.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Endura Laser Jacket and MT500 shorts

Sometime ago I purchased a Endura Laser jacket from Cycleworks.  The jacket has been worn a few times and proved to be bit more breathable than expected, but not much and it is not why I bought the jacket.  I bought it to stay dry and warm.

The jacket in constructed from 50% polyester and 50% nylon, has easy to adjust wrist straps, easy to use baffle on the collar, large pocket on the back which it packs into when not in use.  Keeping in mind I chose this jacket to keep me warm and dry in woeful weather, so I will ignore the breathability.  I'll also ignore the fact that Endura have updated this jacket, although maybe at the detriment to the product.

The jacket is bright without being too loud and the reflective pipping, logo and dots on the arm apparently stand out quite well according to friends.

As I mentioned I have had the jacket for sometime and never used it in conditions that have truly tested it.  I have ridden in damp or light rain, but never an extended down pour.  However, the other week on the ride home from work this and my new MT500 shorts go their test: Drowned Rat Test, more below.

Endura Laser Jacket

Endura MT500 Spray Baggy shorts, information and picture borrowed from Endura and remains the property of Endura.

MT500 construction:

  • 4-way lightweight stretch Cordura® front
  • Waterproof 3-layer fully seam taped rear to prevent splash back
  • Integral jacquard stretch adjusters
  • Zipped thigh vents with sprung pullers
  • Rear stretch waterproof panel
  • Waterproof crotch panel in durable 3-layer Cordura®
  • Reflective thigh logos
  • Zipped front flap pockets
  • Hem adjusters
  • Clickfast™ compatible

 So these are touted as a spray short and have been tested as and are great, the leg adjustments are perfect, the leg vents well positioned, two decent front pockets if need and loads of waist adjustment.

The cordura and spandex (yes it says spandex on the label) mix is genius and works like a charm, these are super comfy to ride and do what they say on the tin.  Keep spray, puddles and light rain at bay.  So what about heavier rain? See below.

Drowned Rat Test:

Those in the south of England would know that last Wednesday was a little wet.  My normal ride home was in about 1/2 inch of constant water, even up most of the hills.  The climb up through Denbies Vinegars was a stream about an inch deep.  The rain was constant, it was one of those rides, you resign yourself to getting wet before you step out the door.

So I had set off from the office with this mind set and ploughed through the water happily, my merino X-Socks doing there job of keeping wet feet warm, the MT500's standing up to the heavy rain and wash back from the front wheel in an unexpected manner, the Laser repelling everything.

It was about the point I started up the first climb I noticed the shorts start to fail, but only on the thighs, this was expected to happen kilometers back.  The Laser was still keeping me dry and warm.

I pressed on, Exposure Max lighting the way over wet, sodden ground, slippery roots hidden by leaves around or through the puddles and mud.  My butt still felt dry and the Laser continued to work as the water steamed off the Exposure.

After an 1 1/2 hours of this in constant heavy rain and splashing through mud and puddles I arrived home.  With one very muddy bike and I was covered head to toe.  But I still felt warm and had a grin on my face.

I took off the Laser and the only dampness was my sweat, the Laser had finally been tested in the conditions I expect it was designed for and was a success.  The MT500 shorts had been pushed beyond their design specification and exceeded expectations, by cycling shorts underneath were drier than expected (still a bit wet, but they should have been soaked) and the water beaded off the water proof seat and crotch of the shorts.  I suspect that the cycling shorts had only got wet from water that had come in through the front of the shorts which are only splash/spray proof.

All round top marks to Endura on these products, an excellent purchase.  I just hope that haven't compromised the Laser jackets performance in these conditions in the Laser II.

Happy, is now a little wet, cycling.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Climbing Factory - Hog Mats

A little while back I went in search of a bouldering mat come mattress for the van.  After looking around at multiple mats and different sizes, it was decide that a Hog Mat made to measure was the way to go.

The Climbing Factory in Matlock was chosen and a mat measuring 210cm x 105cm x 10cm, folding in the centre was ordered in the same configuration as the one shown here:

So the mat was ordered and then dispatch once it was complete, I'll come back to the mat.  Dealing with the guys at The Climbing Factory after the initial communications mix up was excellent and relaxed and soon after being dispatched the mat arrived.

As you can imagine the mat is huge and can protect a small bouldering traverse without moving it, bonus.  So with such a big mat is it heavy? For its size no, the mat is a 3 ply foam sandwich.  A closed cell foam outer either side of the middle layer of foam referred to on the website as shape retaining.  This proves to be 100% accurate from having my fat arse fall onto it the foam just bounces back, but the landings are always happy.  Even a slam a friend took that I only heard but did not see, she just bounced back and was very happy with the performance of the mat.

The cover is 1000 denier Cordura fabric and claimed to be both waterproof and very durable, looking, handling and using the mat so far I have no reason to doubt this.  I think this mat will take a good battering and keep coming back for more.  The muck just seems to brush straight off as well.  Which is great considering the other you of the mat.

Getting the mat around is easy, it comes with a configurable rucksac/shoulder strap, the best of both worlds.  Folds easily in half and has 3 simple clasps to secure it.

A big bonus in being custom made the dimensions were chosen to fit the van as a mattress as well as be a suitable boulder mat, it has worked perfectly. It goes from boulder to van mattress in a few seconds and is also very comfy to sleep on.

Boulder Crid, it gets loads, mostly likely initially due to its size.  But a few other have tried it now and have been super impressed and hopefully have been in touch with Ian at The Climbing Factory.

So far I can highly recommend if you want a bouldering mat check out the Hog Mats and if you really want or need it custom made, don't look anywhere else other than The Climbing Factory.

I will get some photo's and further dribblings about the mats performance up soon.

Happy half climbing.  ;-)