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.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Relaxed Lakes

Not much climbing has been done since getting back from the Alps other than pulling on the plastic in at my local wall Craggy Island.  With this in mind Nik and headed for The Lakes for a few days.

To get Nik back into gear and I just wanted to be climbing in the mountains again so was happy to just climb and walk fun stuff, not push the limit and spend sometime climbing and walking with Nik.

Great Langdale was the destination and three thing were planned over a drink and dinner, climb Middlefell Buttress a lovely D(difficult) route continue up Curtain Wall an MS (Mildly Severe), the next day walk the Oxendale horseshoe and then pull on the Langdale Boulders.

The climbing was easy and chilled just what Nik wanted and the route was finished in good time, lots of fun and the sunshine was great.  I am pretty sure Nik was stoke to be climbing on rock again after such a long lay-off.

Oxendale horseshoe wasn't as successful as hoped, a relaxed start to the day and Nik feeling the day before a bit saw us having to alter our route.  Which took us down a lovely little valley and back to Blea Tarn for some photography and eventually back to camp.  Overall though a chilled approached was the goal for this trip and that was achieved.

The next day we awoke to rain, we lingered for a while to see how much it might dry up, but as much as we wished for the sun to come out it never did.  We left the campsite and checked the Langdale boulders out anyway, but they were still a bit too wet, next time.  In Ambleside we had a bite to eat and then made leisurely drive back home.

It was great to be back in the mountains in The Lakes, they might not be the Alps, but they are a great place to be.  It was also nice to cruise a classic climb and just trundle around the hills.  A timely break for us both and served to further ignite my fire for the coming winter, also my mountain crag tick list has just grown longer.

Some pics to follow.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Niner SIR 9

I have been meaning to write about the new addition and the retirement of my old friend for a while now.

After many years of faithful and near faultless service, many incarnations of running gear, I finally retired my 2000 Kona Muni-mula I had ridden and raced for many years, many of the most recent updates found their way on to Nik's bike or will do.  They say you shouldn't get attached to such objects and I don't believe we ever do, but stripping that bike down for the last time did remind me of some great rides and great people I met and friends I made along the singe trail.

However, a suitable replacement had been found and was waiting for all the parts to arrive and be built by the guys at Cycleworks to some exacting standards.  The Niner SIR 9 arrived originally as pictured here.

The build was:
SIR 9 Root beer
Reba RL forks
Hope Pro gold hubs
NoTubes Crest ZTR rims
Hope Mini X2 Pro
Hope Gold 90mm stem
Easton EA 70 bars
Hope BB
Middleburn Crank
Middleburn hard coated chain rings
XT rear block
XTR shifters
XT front and rear mech
Thompson set back 27.2 seat post
Specialized Alias 143 saddle
Hope gold expanding bar plugs
XT pedals

Single speed build: as above minus shifters, rear block, two less chain rings and some messy cables.

The SIR 9 was built by the guys at Cycleworks and road fantastically as a geared bike and in my first race on it carried me to 8th in Open Mens 24hr at the Bontrager Twentyfour12.

On the open trail it rides fast and covers the miles quickly and effortlessly, when I turn it to the single track I find it rides as true and nimble as my 26 inch bike.  Where the SIR might be slowed down by the track being twitchy and tight it is balance by the fact that it cruises the rough stuff that normally shake a 26 inch bike around and off line.

Having a slightly wider bar on it helps increase the advantage over the field as it reduces some of the twitchiness (is that a word?) unless the trees get very close.  I did find myself free wheeling and finding even better lines on much of the single track in recent races pulling away from the bikes with tiny wheels.  I put this down to fact the the combination of the big wheels giving you a smoother faster ride allows you more time to concentrate on that improved line and set corners and technical bits up earlier and on lines that you normally wouldn't consider.

When it does get technical and/or steep on the down I find the steel frame lively and going just where I wanted it and when in the saddle for hours it is comfortable and stable. Sure being steel it is no sprinter like a carbon or scandium frame, but neither am I.  The SIR 9 soaks up the trail and provides a positive riding response and keeps doing so, hour-after-hour, mile-after-mile, I have covered many miles on this bike in a number of 24hr and a 12hr race and the steel frame and geometry have delivered me to the end each time with some great results.

I have run the SIR geared for the 24hr races and single speed for the 12hr and will do so from now on (it just feels natural that way).  Running the bike in both options gives you so much choice and allows you to ride a great bike configured just the way you wanted.

The Bio-centric BB is genius, I can change a single speed rear sprocket in about 15 minutes from putting the bike in the stand to taking it out, it truly is brilliant compare with my Voodoo Wanga, which I fiddle with the sliders and multiple bolts to drop the wheel out.  Simply loosen the Bio-centric BB bolt give it a twist and release the rear skewer and sort the rear wheel out.

What can I say about the craftsmanship from Niner, you obviously request a high level of attention to detail from you manufacturer and they are delivering, the frame was finished beautiful and the finish bike seems to turn heads even of the most avid 26 inch geared rider.

A finally note has to be said about Niner's customer service, I have had one slight issue with the frame and that was the seat post slipping.  After getting in contact with Niner customer service (Drew Rhode) the suggestion of some friction paste and the problem is solved.  Brilliant, a simple solution to a problem.

SIR 9 from Niner gets a big thumbs up from me.

Three races on the SIR have netted an 8th (24hr Solo) and 7th (12hr Solo, single speed), I look forward to more good results and fun riding.

Mountain Bike Round Up - After Summer

This year I got back into my Mountain Bike racing, some might say in a big way.  Anyway, with a number of endurance races from 100km to 24hrs, it promised to be a long and difficult learning curve and I did not expect much.  Knowing a few folks which have done these events before and quizzing them was key to knowing what to expect and to helping me approach them prepared but humbly.

Being use to suffering climbing winter routes in Scotland and having long days in the alps would help the mental games.  Riding as much as possible even just short loops and 30 minute turbo sessions along with some pretty decent road rides and single speed mountain bike rides would build the strength and stamina.

But that is about as close as I get to talking about training, as it bores the hell out of me.  I'd rather know how people get on if they are competing, wouldn't you?  Their experience and how they found it, if they do well even better.

So with some sort of plan that would also be interrupted with a trip to the alps to climb, with Nik and the Cycleworks crew in support I entered and achieved the following results in my first full year of endurance MTBike racing.

Gorrick 100, 7 laps - 2nd Open Men 
(Single Speed)

24hrs of Exposure National UK Solo Champs - retired 8hrs30minutes in...
due to tendons torn in my left wrist in the ride to second in the Gorrick 100.

Bontrager Twentyfour12 - 8th Open Men Solo 24hr
(First race on the new SIR 9 Niner)

On my way to 8th in the Twentyfour12

Sleepless in the Saddle - retired 10hrs 30 odd minutes a broken man
(I entered after the disappointment of the 24hrs of Exposure) Rob Dean was right, two weeks was too close to the Twentyfour12.

Gorrick 12:12 TORQ in your Sleep - 7th Open Men Solo (Single Speed)
The SIR 9 Niner as it should be, boy this bike is good.

So overall a pretty good first season, but it has set the bar high for next year and the races are selected, just not entered yet.  It won't be long, but there is a small matter of the Gorrick Brass Monkey series and an all out SIR 9 single speed assault.  I better get riding.

Thanks Nik and Dave and the crew at Cycleworks.

See you on the trails.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Gorrick 12:12

 Well as the bikes gleam after a good wash to remove the grease, dirt, mud and energy drink from their sleek steel frames.  A quick bit of reflection on the Gorrick 12hr race and my 7th place and several others great first efforts.

I'll only go a little way to setting the scene, myself, fired up by Nick and Clive, entering the Gorrick 12:12, were joined by 3 others, Tommy (Solo) and Phil and Dom as the other pair.  Clive, Hudson and I had arrived Saturday set up the pit and camp and as the others started to arrive Saturday morning, the venue started to buzz.  I was for once fairly relaxed and more so when Nik arrived a few hours before the race, I can't do a enduro without here calmly over seeing things.

I had set myself a descent target of a top 20 on the single speed, I guessed tough target.  Arriving at the start line later than I planned I wiggled my way forward and then waited, the quick opening lap and then we were off.

The course was brilliant, nothing too technical, nothing to hard to climb, not at least until hr 8 or 9 and the gearing worked well and the plan to change around the 5th hr was about as good as expected and allowed me to put in some quicker laps, before needing dial it back for a bit.

A wobble about the same sort of time saw a slightly longer stop of about 5 minutes, a feeding frenzy and then a charge down the pit straight, that nearly ended with my stomach contents on the track.  But fortunately not.

Some ice cold rain for a period of time gave those with good bike skills an advantage and I caught and passed quite a number of riders in different cats as well as Solo men.  A shout from Clive now and then helped and the support from the pit was great.

Soon, I like Nick and Clive, would be in my element, the dark, on a course that changed each lap. As more riders pulled them selves out of bushes, picked themselves of the ground, I moved further up the standings.

With 3 hrs to go I had started to pick the pace up again and push on, if there was a crash in front of me and they responded to my enquiry to their well being with "I'm fine thanks", not another thought was given.  Even the lass that bailed into a small tree to get out my way was only given a cursory "Are you Ok?", but a cheery "Thanks a lot" when she said "I'm OK", I wouldn't want anyone to hurt themselves getting out my way, but at the same time I was quite focused on the job at hand.

I stopped briefly and lost 7th spot, but with another time to do two more laps, I took off and caught the chap.  He stuck to my wheel, so on the first climb I dug in and he popped, I wasn't going to win, but I was going to be the highest place single speed.

My final two laps, were all about finding the next rider and chasing them down and not being caught by anyone, this would surely ensure my place or another step up the standings.  Every glow stick I saw I put in an extra special effort as it was another soloist, but most I had past already, damn!

I swung past the pit one last time redlining, and yelled to Nik and Clive, see you at the finish and proceeded to bury myself and at 12.12 I crossed the line.  Found Nik and thanked her and fell on the ground mainly to stretch my legs and to get off that damn saddle.

7th in Solo men on a SS, I can't complain too much about and I also learnt a couple of extra lessons, already for next years assault on the 24hr circuit.

Super big thanks to Nik, Rob and Steve, for keeping me fed, watered and the spanner turning.
Nick/Clive, Phil/Dom, nice work guys top bombing.
Tommy, totally gutted to hear about the knee and sorry I didn't seem more concerned, but I was.  Heal string and fast dude.

So who's for some Brass Monkey 4hr action?  Single Speed anyone?  Make mine a steelie!