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.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Brass Monkey that Funk Monkey

Temperatures have dropped and winter seems to well and truly here, it must be time for the Gorrick and Army Cycling Union Brass Monkey series Rnd 1:

Myself and a few friends will be heading over here to take on the weather, course and other competitors in what is generally a tough series even though each race is much shorter than I am use to.  I'll be doing the 4hr race whilst others I know are doing the 2hr race.

Good luck to all, lets just see what happens.


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

How to get better.

They say to get better at something you should train with people who are better than you.


With my climbing I have this covered with my trad partners, my sport partners, my winter/ice and alpine partners.  With my mountain biking I also have plenty of people to get out and ride with, who push each other and offer loads of encouragement.

The gap would be with my road cycling and with this in mind and a mate Steve sending me a link to an informal training session, just down the road from me, I thought why not.  If it doesn't make me a competitive roadie it will help improve the MTBiking.

So I headed down to the second of the Mint Training Session organized by Justin from Felt/Colbornes. It was dark, some of the corners on the lanes the route took weren't great and it was getting colder.  On arrival I met Justin, big Steve turned up with some goodies from Mavic (Thanks Steve!), another chap Kevin turned up and that was the it.

The 3 of us set off and with a few easy laps, which I found hard, go figure, the pace started to slowly creep up, but seemed more manageable. The course wasn't too hilly at all but had one hill that for whatever reason seemed to bight the same amount no matter the effort put in.  The course wiggled and turned and had a few corners that one needed to take care on.

After several laps of the pace creeping up and some chat getting to know each other, Justin suggested two laps a bit harder and one easier to finish on.  So at the bottom of the hill, off he went, a turn of pace like a Schleck is all I could compare it to at the time.  In a bit of time myself and then Kev caught Justin's wheel and we kept the pace higher than previous laps.  The next lap would prove to play the same scenario out.

However, on these two laps my legs finally felt good, my lungs, well another question chasing Justin up the hill, recovery was better and quicker than expected.  We rolled around for another easy lap enjoying the crisp clear night.

In all it was a great session, great easy going company and I'll certainly be back over the coming winter months.

Now for the first of the Brass Monkey's 4hr enduro's, possibly in the snow.  :-)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Night Riding

What is it about mountain bikers and night riding? I was pondering this fact on the way home in the dark and wet the other night. As I slipped and slid around the trails, the back end drifting in corners the front wheel slipping of hidden roots. I smiled all the way home, even when the boggy trail sucked at the rear wheel and the climbs were made more difficult and technical by the greasy surface, which in turn made my thighs burn.  I could help but think about how much I enjoy this particular type of riding.

Whenever I get out for a night ride, by myself, with Nik or the crew it always seems to be more fun than riding in the day.  At night or early morning, the trails are alive with dear, pheasants, the occasional badger and owls hooting, how can you not enjoy this is more the question.

The fast rides with the crew ultimately have you riding out of the comfort zone.  Pushing as fast as you do in the day, trying to hold the rider’s wheel in front of you as you twist turn, dart, drop, jump and try to stay upright.  These rides will be a few hours long, but seem to only last for ½ hr or so, a sign we are having too much fun.

Add the fact that the winter curtain is drawing in, longer nights are upon us, and the autumnal blanket is leaving the greasy roots and boggy puddles hidden it has become even more alluring, challenging and fun. Even when you are shivering at the end of the most brutal ride in the wet, cold and dark you seem happy in yourself of what you have done.

Night time is a good time to ride!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Psycho Vertical

Seeing a talk by Andy Kirkpatrick is always a great thing to do with an evening and Psycho Vertical was no exception.  A brilliant show and great to hear so much more about Karen's feats, challenges and utlimate triumph on El Cap.

Andy is a truly remarkable guy and has certainly given so much to quite a number of people over the years.

Nice one Andy!

Monday, 1 November 2010

October Climbing

Lately my focus has returned to climbing and I have headed to the grit stone edges of The Peak District and the chalk cliffs down near Brighton with the ice tools to get strong for the coming winter.

A couple of weeks back, Nik, Rich and I headed to The Peak for me to get back on rock, for Nik to get some climbs under the belt and for Rich to have his first experience on the grit.

 Rich on his first VS.
(Photo: Scott Swalling)

Meeting up with Wayne and being blessed with good weather some nice routes where completed over the few days at first Froggart and then Burbage South.  With Wayne pointing us in the direction of some great little routes and all having success on these, the weekend delivered what we hoped.

Overall a great weekend was had and I was happy with adding Chequers Buttress to the tick list on a fine day of climbing.

The following weekend I headed to chalk with the crew to pull on the ice tools properly for the first time since winter. After a short but tough session inspired by Rob and Ramon, I was spent and knew I was weak and have some work to do.

Me dropping froma Fig 9 to Fig 4.
(Photo: Tommy Harris)

Another session the following Wednesday night was much better, but even harder and I was still feeling spent when I arrived at the wall Thursday night for a short sharp session, before having a day off the climbing.
The following Saturday morning I was Peak bound again, with Rich and Daniel, but minus Nik as she was not feeling too well.

We headed for Burbage North, to meet Si and Charlie, and Wayne and Rachel. With two routes on my tick list in sight, Now or Never E1 5b and The Sentinel E2 5b, the later a proud standing prow of rock on the Burbage North edge and one I have had my eyes on for some time.

The day started and continued brilliantly, with me soloing up to HVS 5a happily and steadily.  I soon found myself stood at the base of Now or Never, making short work of the lower section and took some time (yo-yo’ed several times, about 15) to unlock the crux move (with many different inputs form those watching) in a style that suited me and after finding a suitable way through it cruised to the top happy.

Daniel and Rich had done a few routes and Rich followed me up Now or Never on the back of following Dan up The Sentinel.  Soon I was working out how to place the only gear worthwhile on The Sentinel myself, found a good rest, shock out and prepare to climb the jutting prow.  I set off from my rest, and found the climbing suited me surprisingly well (thanks to the Craggy overhang I think).  I soon stood on top, very happy with nabbing to ticks on my list Onsight and was happy with the day’s work.  Dan jumped back on The Sentinel and this time cruised to the top in style and Rich second it yet again.

The next day we decided to head to the famous Black Rocks, famous for two very hard routes, Gaia and Meshuga, both that feature in the DVD Hard Grit.

We looked for less death defying routes to try, and Rich made short work of the surprisingly strenuous and polished Curved Crack.  Nice one Rich!

Dan and I looked at a few routes and struggled to find something not green like a billiard table that we fancied to climb. We soon settled on a short technical E2 5b called The Sprain.  Daniel had a good lead on this route Onsighting it with apparent ease, Rich made a good second on his second attempt.

Next I moved quickly to the crux move but seem to suffer from incompetence with my feet and my right arm feeling like it had been injected with lead. I feebly sat on my gear after not being able to shake it out. After a moment I pulled back on a got to the top.  Quickly abseiling after Rachel had a go having a chat with the crew I found myself placing the last bit of gear again, placing my foot where I wanted to and cleaning the route comfortably on the second attempt.

Next we selected an E3 6a and after Dan had a couple quick goes and nearly landed on my head.  I thought I have ago even though my arm was dead still. I pulled on to the route, placed two bits of gear, got to the crux moved and was promptly hit by gravity.  Oh well, next time.

Another good weekend in The Peak and the climbing seems to have not suffered too much from a lack of climbing outside this summer.  Maybe one more cheeky rock trip before Christmas and after the house move in early December, we will see.

But thoughts and training are turning to winter, ice and snow, the sharp ice tools and suffering that is climbing in winter. Bring it on!