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.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Gorrick Brass Monkeys Rnd 1 and 2

So in the last month and a bit I have competed in Rnd 1 and 2 of the Gorrick Brass Monkeys, with mixed and slightly unexpected results, all this in my new category of Vet, albeit a little early moving up thanks to Gorrick's birth dates requirements. :)

Rnd 1 came around it was cold, stayed dry, mostly and the course held up well. After struggling to find my rhythm with a geared bike I managed to ride myself into 8th in Vets and 21st overall.  Not too bad considering in the last 2 laps I really struggled to get past 2hr race back markers who mainly refused to get out the way of faster riders.  This was clearly addressed at the start of Rnd 2 by the Gorrick Officials.

So happy with Rnd 1 and a bit surprised as other things have taken priority since I effectively wrapped up my season and planned to use the Brass Monkeys to keep some race fitness up.

Onto Rnd 2, a stomach bug in the week and I had no aspiration of a great result.  It was sunny, fairly dry, the undulating and heavy course suited me well and I headed off at a steady pace and looking at the result timings I was doing OK.

Out on my 4th lap and overtaking a couple of 2hr riders, I heard a massive crack from my saddle. Balls! A quick check and it was toast, snapped clean through and directly over the seat post. No the rails the saddle. I tried to push on, but racing on a broken saddle for another 1.5hrs was going to be too tough and is a major pain in the arse (sorry)  :)

If it was half a lap or even a lap left I would have pressed on as that is close enough, but the prospect of another 2-3 laps without being able to sit down, didn't appeal.  I have finished races with 1 lap to go before with a broken seat post bolt and your legs don't like you a whole lot for quite a while.

So as I had done much better than I expected due to illness I was content to pull the pin and encourage the rest of Team Cyclesworks and my friends home.

They all did very well and it was actually nice to be there waiting for them at the end.

Good news for me is that even with a stomach bug in the week, I seem to recover well enough to at least put in a good show for a few laps, so the training is on the right path.

Happy Riding and Merry Christmas all and fingers crossed for some winter climbing.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Gorrick Brass Monkeys Rnd 1

Well this weekend sees the first of the Gorrick Brass Monkeys, put on by the Army Cycling Union.  These tend to be fast and not so much fun. ;)

The weather is looking like it my play into my hands, cold, wet for the days before and heavy going.  Single speed it is then, unless they change to fire road trucking, then I'll just be annoyed as it turns into a 4hr CX race and I will have a bread knife at a gun fight.

Great to see a number of CW team mates heading out as well.  Hopeful some podiums.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Weldtite Dirt Trap Chain Degreaser Machine

I do get a little excited every time a Weldtite parcel arrives, "What do I have to play with now?"  Well this time it was this

Dirt Trap Chain Degreaser Machine thumbnail 
 Weldtite Dirt Trap Chain Degreaser Machine, the smallest such machine I have seen or used.  I tend to be the brush sort of person and have developed a technique that stops be getting covered in the grot of the chain.

However, this is a pretty good little machine and is easy to use and clean as you can pull it apart pretty easily.  I should have taken a photo when using it, but I tend to clean my bikes before me, and haven't been carrying a camera.

It does sit well on the chain and supporting arm is a very simple and effective way to keep the machine in place, it is easy enough to add more degreaser whilst it is still in place on the chain.  It worked well on chains that were slightly to medium covered in grot, but struggled with heavy dirt and mud, this just made a mess of the machine.  But this would happen with any chain cleaning machine, so a quick degrease and scrub is very helpful.

The machine does manage to clean the chain really well, some don't clean the inside of the links that well. The easy of use I guess is the stand out for me and the fact it does pretty good job. 

I did find with the sandy types soils that I ride in most of the time, I still need to use a tooth brush to clean the inside of the links properly.  I also found that my single speed chains seem to snag a bit in the machine, due to their slightly wider gauge, I was a little surprised by this, but it worked great on my road and CX bike.

In Summary, this is a good little chain cleaner and will get used on my road and CX bike a lot and maybe my MTB's if I run gears.  It doesn't cope that well with heavy dirt and mud, but what really does other that a good stiff brush?  For ever day grot it is perfect and as I clean my drive trains more than anything else, it is damn helpful for the geared bikes.  It has found a place in my cleaning bucket and wont be leaving it in a hurry.

Nice little device guys.

Been a bit quiet

I have been a bit quiet on here lately, life in general has been keeping me busy and I have been hatching plans, which will become clear in time.

But what I can tell you is the work has started on the new bike shed, some of you would call this a garage (silly people) and that I have started entering races for next year and despite 10 days of a bad cold I remain optimistic about the upcoming Merida Brass Monkey winters enduro series.  The 25th Nov, will test this.

Riding wise things have been a bit up and down this year, but 2011 was a great year, so I can't really complain, and I have been to Alaska mountaineering and Canada for a general climbing and MTBiking holiday with Nik which was awesome.

As winter closes in, those who know me well the cycling will keep ticking away, but my thoughts turn to winter and ice climbing.  With so much happening and quite a bit of required expense a European trip might not happen this year.  So can everyone cross their fingers for a Baltic winter so the winter climbing venues of the UK come in to brilliant conditions so we can steal a weekend here and there on the tools.

I know it is quite the end of the year, but I feel a couple of thank you's are needed.  A massive thanks to Nik for her unbridled support and motivation, Solo 24hr racing is certainly a team support, even if it is one riding and the other feeding, motivating and checking on ones health.

To Cycleworks, thanks for the support, team rides and friendships, lets hope I can deliver more come the 25th Nov.

To Alkit and Peglers, you guys have all been awesome, supporting and supplying quality kit rapidly, I don't think I thank you all enough.

Weldtite, what a bunch of great people, for a simple and informative product review, I have had some pretty cool and very useful products, it has been fun testing some of the products.

To the Denali team, as we all know things didn't go to plan and we all learnt a great deal.  But without you all, it would have been a very different experience.

Thanks everyone.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Alpkit Big Shakeout

This weekend if you are free and near The Peak District or the weather puts you off your current plans, maybe a trip to the Alpkit Big Shakeout might be the answer:

There is lots of fun stuff to do and even some athletes providing advice and even an informal panel style session Saturday night that I personally will be apart of.

If the weather holds I might even get back on the grit.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Herne Hill Velodrome Cross Race

Well today, I headed to Herne Hill Velodrome to meet Phil M and Gareth and get set to have my legs ripped off for 50+ minutes as the fast boys tried to destroy each other.

On a great course and with some excellent riders fighting it out for top honors I settled in and did my best to keep the legs spinning hard and fast and using handling skills to outwit and past the riders around me, as flat out speed for this amount of time is not exactly my bag.

As the race progressed, I surprised myself with the fact that I wasn't going backwards, in fact, I was overtaking people.  Sure the fast boys were whizzing past still.

Towards the the end of the race (2 Laps to go) I seemed to find my legs proper and started to gain a few places, which surprised me a little.  I dug a little deeper and pushed on and past another one or two, over the hurdle I managed to drop the guy that had held my wheel for the best part of the last lap and crossed the line.

Once again I had a ball and can highly recommend a cross race for those even if you only have a mountain bike.  I plan to do a few this year and have entered the Knog Muddy Hell: and others have recommend this as a great night out even if you aren't racing.

Maybe see you there?


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Denali Part 3 - Out of the range.

After 6-7 days at camp 14200 (I lost count), a camp move due to avalanche risk, a trip to the Edge of the World (fantastic views) and attempted outing to the top of the fixed lines foiled by my own lucid concern over coughing up some blood, which did turn out to be nothing, and a weather pattern that repeated itself.  Cold crisp mornings, sunny warm days with very high winds from 16800 up then enough snow overnight to increase the avalanche risk daily.

New 14200 Camp and the next front moving in

After all this I finally made a decision to head down the mountain with Ty and Aaron, Alex soon decided to join us. The decision was based on the fact that weather reports seemed to be being quite accurate, even though others on the mountain were trying to convince themselves otherwise.  Some discussions with the rangers and hearing the weather reports that Aaron was getting from his wife, meant that we had plenty more of this weather to come.  This would prove to be the case when some friends summited as the weather turned, about 8 days after we left the mountain.  I also wanted to see a few more things in Alaska, sorry to say I am not a died in the blood climber and with the odds stacked against a summit bid I headed out.

 Mount Hunter from 14200

Heading out when I did with Ty, Aaron and Alex, was timed quite well.  As we did have to endure some pretty foul weather and with Alex suffering, he and I got to endure significantly more of it then Ty and Aaron.  After a couple of moments making camp 11000, we dug out the cache (I dug a great deal more being the stronger of our team).  We attempted to ski from here but Alex was having trouble with the weight of pack and sled and only having mountaineering boots to ski in.  So we changed plan and started to hump our way out on foot.  This would prove to be painfully slow and difficult with fresh warm wet snow and sagging snow bridges, skiing would have been the best option.

Eventually we passed camp 9600 and the lower camp 9400 and we where soon at the top of ski hill.  Which had been very benign on the 3 days we had passed over this section of the route days before. I wanted to unrope as the load on my knee with us roped up was beginning to created issues.  Alex and I had a slight altercation over this, but as I was in a huge amount of pain from being pulled left and right as Alex stumbled or his sled went over again, he was really suffering.  I feared that I might not be able to ski out from 7800 camp.  I knew what was occurring in my knee and knew how debilitating it can be.

We unroped and moved on down Ski Hill with not too much distance between us for most of the descent and without too many issues.  At one point Alex post holed in the same spot I had done and walked out of, he panicked a bit fearing the worse, but was soon out and we roped up again to be sure.  Nearing the bottom of Ski Hill I punched through a crevasse properly to my waist, I had my sled in front of me incase of such an occasion I pushed it forward and stopped rapidly.  I turned to see Alex still walking down the hill towards me and the rope entirely slack.  I yelled at him to stop walking a couple of times and to take the slack.  By the time he had done, I had managed to self extract myself with one of my skis, I pulled off my pack.  We continued down to 7800 camp found Ty and Aaron’s tent and pitched up next to them for a few hours of kip.  Ty poked his head out to check we where ok.

The next morning, we packed tents and roped as a four as planned from this point and headed out.  As we did we watched several groups approaching on snow shoes struggle with the crevasses, I was on point and managed to make good decisions on each crevasse and we only had one incident of Alex getting a little stuck on our trip back to Base Camp and the wish of a flight to Talkeetna.

Once at BC, the weather finally started to clear, but we would spend a night here and the next day fly out, Alex and I in the morning and Ty and Aaron late that night.  Alex and I had basically ate our way around Talkeetna and once joined by Ty and Aaron, we added drinking our way around Talkeetna to the list (its not a big place) all though the Fairview did  do well out of us.

The TAT way home.

Back in Anchorage I mooched around Anchorage to get to see the place, went on a sight seeing flight to see bears in their natural habitat and generally put weight back on I had lost on the mountain.

Unlike some others, I am not that fussed about not making the summit, that’s mountaineering as I see, any trip you return from is a good one, yes?  I am also not that fussed to return to Alaska to try Denali again.  However, the range is an amazing place and I am very keen to return and try more technical routes, in other parts of the range.  So in time I will return, but there are many other places to climb.

I learnt a few things on the mountain, which I assume the others did as well.  Make a long detailed list of food that you need, if you think it is wrong or you personally need more, say or do something.  Make sure the entire team is fit and really knows what they are getting themselves in for and finally makes sure the team spends more time together than we did, people really need to know each other and how each other react under pressure, boredom or indeed if a member of the team has a health concern.

I will certainly only travel to the mountains in the future as pair or a close knit team of no more than 4, out team size was a little difficult to manage and maybe had a few too many ego’s and one too many passengers, but everyone did get along and conflict cause by stress and the affects of the altitude were few and resolved super fast without ill feeling.

I learnt a lot about myself as well and one thing being that slogging up a mountain for days, is maybe not my first choices of mountaineering and that I am better suited technical routes.

Alaska I will certainly be back, but winter is near now and my thoughts turn to ice and mixed routes.  Fingers crossed for a cold cold winter.

"Sorry, no photo's as WIFI link in Banff is messing around" :-D  "I will update with pics when I can."

Friday, 7 September 2012

Cyclo Tyre Remover/Fitter and Red Devils

A few weeks back I received the latest review products from Weldtite, the Cyclo Tools Tyre remover and fitter and some Red Devil patches (pitched below). The later I was hoping not to have to use for a while.  How wrong was I?

The tyre tool was always going to get the first use and lots of it with the changeable weather and tight fitting tubeless tyres.  To say the least, it makes life dead easy.  Simply place the lever under the tyre, put some torque on it, attached to QR and spin the tool around the tyre, it is really that easy.  Putting a tyre on has always been a battle of strong thumbs and tyre bead resistance. No more, place the tool back on the wheel with the lower lever over the rim and the tyre behind it and spin the tool again.  Even with a tube in, there is no risk of pinching it.

As for the Red Devils (RD's), tearing a big hole in a tubless tyre is never great, then pinch flatting no long after with the newly installed tube, just plain sucks.  Although the accompanying note had wished that I didn't get a chance to use them, I did.

The first thing I notice and liked about the RD's was they are thicker than other stick-ons and so lets hope more durable and certainly seal a big puncture than say TopPeak, the RD's have sealed fairly sizable pinch flat a few weeks back and I am still running that tube.  Everything else is the same they stick well and are simple to use.

I can highly recommend both these products and anyone who works on bike wheels lots or changes/trashes tyres lots you have to get the tyre tool.

The Red Devils are coming to Canada for sure.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Denali Part 2 - Getting to 14200

So we had turned in for the night and would get a peaceful nights, today we would break camp and move as much as the 3 of us could carry to 9600 and wait for the others.  There was discussion of pushing onto 11000 and descending the next day to meet Dan and Will at 9600 and retrieve the cache, but we thought this might put too much ground between us and them and we had the best part of the kit and food and if the weather turned it could get a bit painful for Dan and Will.

Nick, Alex and I ate, packed and broke camp and headed for 9600, the weather had started to turn after we had been waiting for the sun to sink a bit lower.  As we started off the wind had picked up and the snow started to fall.  We were about to experience some Denali weather.  We pushed on and made it to the camp, dug out the cache and got the tents up fast and ate.  The weather got increasingly bad and more snow and spindrift was picked up by the wind.

 Change in the weather.

We quickly turned in and assumed that Will and Dan would do the same down at 9400, bit it would turn out they only made 7800 in the bad weather.  The next morning I woke, the wind was all but gone and the sun was out.  Fearing the worst the night before I put a shovel in my tent and I needed it, see below.

  Kangri after a bit of digging.

Soon after I was out Nick and Alwx heard from Dan and Will and that they had only made 7800 and bundle into the tiny BD tent and spent a trying 17hrs in it, total respect guys.  We waited for them to join us which would be a while as they were tired from their over night and the massive effort of heading down with Franca.

As they arrived we got them fed and watered and discussed if moving to 11,000 was worth it.  We decided against this to let them fully recover and head up the next day.  So we spent the day eating drinking and relaxing a bit.  We also met Ty and Aaron for the first time at the camp and would move up the mountain with them pretty much to 14200.

The next day we moved to 11,000 not without some sled and pole issues (I broke one, disciplining my sled).  Whilst we had started off quite comfortably the hill below 11,000 camp needs to be traversed a little and this is where it all went a bit wrong for a bit.  Alex had a sense of humour fail, I managed not to, but did manage to snap a pole re-inacting Basil Fawlty hitting his car with the branch, and could only summon an "Oh bugger" when I did it, Dan was upset as he had just stopped videoing just before this.  Sorry Dan. :)

Soon, we where into the meat of the climb and pushed on at a casual pace, Dan and I being the tortoise to everyone's hare.  At 11,000 we struck camp in a lovely split level site with great views, ate and got to bed.

 View from 11000 Camp

The next day we rested, sorted gear for the haul to 14200 the next morning and I think this proved to be a good idea and it was good to see the team making decisions together and discussing our options, that had been limited by our fool-hardiness in our catering (something that will be given greater attention to detail next time).

The next morning working in the following teams Nick and Will, Dan, Alex and myself we headed off for a haul to 14200.  At about Squirrel Point I started to feel rather ill and let Dan and Alex know.  This meant we had to move slower and that I might have to turned back if it got any worse.  The guys kept and eye on me and after about 3.5hrs we arrived at 14200 and found the others and they had found a good campsite.

Camp site 1 at 14200, headwall in the background.

We dropped our gear, sorted the site a bit and rested for a little and started down, I was still not great and was still feeling rubbish after Windy Corner, it was not until nearing the top of Motorcycle Hill, well below Squirrel Point I felt better again.

Back at camp we sorted stuff for the move the next day and went about the normal end of day duties.

The next we moved to 14200, tired and in need of rest, we sorted the camp the best we chose ate, melted ice for water bottles and the 5 of us piled into the Heksa and fell asleep, cocooned in our down bags and the heat within the tent.

The move to 14200

The next day we milled around the campsite, dug the snow walls a bit higher and enjoyed the views.  We also welcomed Ty and Aaron to 14200 and chatted to other climbers and watched the precession up and down the fixed lines and the massively high winds batter the summit ridge and everything down to Washburns Thumb.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Garmin Battery Pack by PowerTraveller

Sometime ago I bought a Garmin Battery Pack for my Garmin to keep it running for the 24hr races that I do. Most Garmins give out at about the 10-12hr mark dependent on the temperature and how you have it configured.  So something had to be done to record all the information I wanted to and be able to read the vital information I use when racing.

So the pack was ordered and received. It is shown below.

Garmin External Battery Pack
It is effectively a PowerTraveller PowerMonkey commissioned by Garmin, so it was clearly going to get use elsewhere in time.  The pack comes the battery, solar panel, varying adapters, rubber case and velcro strap for fastening it to your bars or stem.

Using it with the Garmin 705 on the bike for 24hr races it does what it says on the tin, no doubt and in an unobtrusive manner as you can mount it neatly with the rubber case and strap, not to mention rapidly (important for me as I only put it on when the Garmin internal battery is getting low).

Once it is mounted plugged in and turned on it provides the Garmin with more than enough charge to finish a 24hr race.

But being a PowerTraveller product and with me heading off to Alaska in June for a month long climbing expedition and PowerTraveller providing other team members with products I decided that I would chance my arm with this one.

Well what can I say, powering a phone, several camera and GoPro batteries it is fair to say that the PowerMonkey far exceeded expectations.  Sure it drained quickly due to its small size and it being overworked, but it worked.  With near full 24hr sun the solar panel dutifully charge the battery and when I needed to charge another product it was ready.  It coped brilliantly with the cold and I was very glad I chose to take it.  Other on the expedition also used PowerTraveller products and were very impressed with them.

PowerMonkey, what can I say I use it a lot and in the mountains and on the bike, it is just great.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Denali Report - Part 1

On the 25th May, a team of climbers with varying experience left London Heathrow for Mount McKinley (Denali), Alaska.  The team consisted of Will Hardy, Franca Serafini, Daniel Bergo, Nick Mortley, Alex Erskine and myself.  We all had different strengths and weaknesses coming into the expedition and some of these would be shown.

We arrived in Anchorage very early on the 26th, got some sleep did our food and last minute equipment shopping and then headed for Talkeetna, the gateway to Denali.  We got registered at Talkeetna Air Taxi (TAT) and then rested up for the night.

Talkeetna Air Strip

The next day we had our briefing with the rangers at the Denali National Park Service and then we began to wait at TAT for a window of opportunity.  The weather needs to be good in Talkeetna, in the range and in between.  We would wait here patiently some times and others frustrated for a few days.  Even one evening we were in a plane with our new friend Nina, off the ground and heading for the mountain.  It rises straight out of the tundra and looks intimidating when you first see it.  But this flight was turned around as we heard the weather had closed in again.

The next day however would be our lucky day, as we got crammed into Cessna 185's and after a flight with amazing views we were stood on the glacier at Base Camp.  It was finally all happening.  We registered with Lisa, got our fuel and set up camp, ate and got some sleep.

 View down the airstrip at Base Camp, Foraker in the distance.

The next day was meant to be a rest day, but eagerness and maybe a bit of weakness saw us heading off across the glacier in the middle of the day for 7800 Camp.  With skis on our feet and sleds attached to our rucksacks these sleds would cause us no end of frustration and I would even break a ski pole on one, we headed into the white cauldron. Dan, Alex and Nick and one team, Will, Franca and I as the other.

It was hot and hard work and Franca was already struggling with weight of pack and sled, and she was having binding problems also. This was resolved by me, and the application of her ski over to the boot that kept popping out of the ski.  Half way up, Will and I swapped rope positions and Will lead to 7800 camp.  We arrived and met the others, who had set up camp and started to melt snow.  We set up camp and began to help the guys.  Franca was still struggling and appeared to be faffing a lot.  Few members of the team had noticed this and were concerned about the apparent difficulties that lay ahead on the route.

 Camp 7800 (Ski Hill)

After a good meal we retired to bed and I got a surprisingly good nights sleep.  The next morning after a solid breakfast thoughts turned to the next few days and how to approach them and some of the team members expressed their concerns with Franca in an open and candid discussion and that they were concerned that the weather and speed of movement may affect the group safety and summit bid.  As we made plans to head to Camp 9600 and then 11000 to allow for good acclimatisation for the entire group.  Franca took me to one side to discuss what had been discussed and had decided that she thought it best to head to BC and out of the range.  A no doubt difficult and painful decision to make.  But this did change our plans.

Will and Dan would head back down to base camp with Franca, Nick, Alex and myself would head up to 9600 with a load carry and hope to meet the guys back at 7800.  Not long after they headed to BC, we sorted a load to carry and headed up to 9600 Camp.  The weather was getting a little gloomy and threaten to whiteout a few times.  But soon after arriving at 9600 and caching the load we were on a out way back down.

On the way back, Alex was struggling greatly with the mountaineering boot ski combination while Nick and I cut turns and even videoed each other.  Who said mountaineering was hard work?

Soon back at camp and some toys out of Alex's pram ;) we ate and turned in for the night.

Part 2 soon.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

DirtWash Bike Cleaner and G-Strings

Over the last month or so my pitch manager (other half) and I have had plenty of opportunity to test the Bike Cleaner and G-Strings.  The weather has been appalling and the mud sticky, and with a conversion to gears for a few recent races, the G-String's have been keeping the cassettes nice and clean.  They replace a stiff brush which often covers me in the grease and mud as it flicks of in all directions or a cloth folded over and pulled through the cassette (much like the G-Strings) but unlike them you inevitably leave half of the cloth behind.  The G-Strings make cleaning the rear cassette's much easier and much cleaner and are dead simple to use.  Why has no-one thought of this before?  Brilliant idea!

G-String Gear Cleaning Strings thumbnail  Dirtwash Bike Cleaner Spray (1 ltr) thumbnail

As for the Bike Cleaner, I have once again performed some side-by-side tests between this and the another leading product which I still have a lot left of.  I used both on mud covered MTBikes and my road bike.  Whilst the overall results are pretty good, the Bike Cleaner required quite a few applications to remove the heavier grease around the cassette, chain rings, chain and frame as opposed to the other brand.  This occurrence on the MTBikes lead me to test on the road bike.  Once again with the more stubborn grease and road grime a few applications were required to remove them.  This obviously leads to pretty rapid use of the Bike Cleaner and the process of cleaning the bikes is extended a bit.

All-in-all, the G-Strings are absolutely fantastic and I will be getting some more when these are used up.  The Bike Cleaner requires some improvement to displace my current one, but does a pretty good job.

As a side note, I am still using TF2 lubricant and will getting more of this soon too.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


Well last weekend was the Bontrager Twentyfour12 and I was racing the 24hr Solo. With Nik and Rob in support it was game on.

As you can imagine the course was wet, muddy and hard going. I was sitting in 4th and physically and mentally feeling strong.....well apart from my wrists developing servere tendonitis in both of them, which still hurts today.

Anyway, pulling out at about 10:30hrs i still finished 18th and will be able to keep training for my ultimate goal for this year. The worlds in Canmore in September.

This years results havent been as great as last year. There have been top 10's and 20's but nothing significant. Maybe the worlds is the big story this year?

At least out of the Twentyfour12 I can take some good things, Nik is now an awesome Pit Babe (Bitch) ;) and I was physically and mentally in a very good place. Just need to repair the broken bits.

As for the Twentyfour12 itself, the event was overall great as I hoped it would be as I really love this event. But two things stood out and I understand the first was difficult to manage.

Which was the changing of the course during the race. Not that it occured, but there did appear that an advantageous situation could have arose as a rider chasing another may have benefitted from arriving at the course change shortly after the change an behind the rider they are chasing as that other rider still had to deal with a sludge fest. Just a pondering and I am sure it was thought of.

The second, confused me to what Solo 24hr Racing is? No disrespect to the rider. But if you sign up for a 24hr, it is in my opinion and others for the challenge mentally, emotionally and physically. To which, at the point when you mentally need a usher to ride with you, surely based on this being part of the challenge I would imagine you would wisely withdraw for safety reasons an in the spirit of 24hr racing and its challenges. Just my thoughts as this seemed an odd tactic as a soloist and as I said, no disrespect meant rider he did well to find the physical ability to keep turning the pedals.

To the Bontrager Twentyfour12 team, Martin and Keith, thanks for another brilliant race, despite the monsoon.

Next stop Big Dog.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

training and twentyfour12

A brief update.

Since returning from Alaska, a little under two weeks ago I have been training madly to get some bike legs back and it seems to have gone alright.  To keep me honest I went out on the single 26" the first few times and found that I felt quite good, a bonus.

The last few rides have been on the single, the roadie and the now converted to 1x9 blocks SIR9's, as the Twentyfour12 doesn't have a SS category and one of the hills is a particular ball breaker.  It is rideable single speed, I have done a few laps there single, but to be competitive I decided to run gears.

As the horrible weather appears to be setting in, this might end up being a bad decision, but I know my pit manager is awesome and whilst the Plymouth course can get proper wet, it seems to be the type of mud that falls off when you get a certain amount on your bike and there is a creek crossing part way round, so I hope her job will be easier.

I am feeling pretty psyched for this event and can't wait to even start packing the van Thursday night.  It is a great course and event and I failed to race it last year due to a broken ankle, so I am super keen this year.

There will be 3 other Cycleworks racers taking on the solo 12hr, so we should have a good presence this year and hopefully some great results.

It will be great to see friends again and attempt to go toe-to-toe with Big Rob Dean and Huw Thomas, and this should be a good gauge of how prep is going or should be directed for the Adrenalin 24hr Solo World Champs in Canada in September.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Denali first photo's.

A few pics from Denali, no editing yet.

 My favorite plane
Pile of gear and team mates, Alex, Dan, Franca and Nick
 Beaver, coolest hangar cat.
 About to land at BC, in Cessna 185.
BC brew, Foraker in the background. 
 Unleash the sleds of hell.
Looking back down the Kahiltna on the way to 7800 camp.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Off the mountain and back in Anchorage.

After several days sat at 14200 Camp watching the never ending cycle of the weather, snow, high winds, with the occasional clear spell with high winds and watching multiple avalanches and some climbers play lotto with said avalanches.  A few in the camp decided to retreat of the mountain.  Alex and I would do so with Ty and Aaron a couple of Americans we met on the mountain and they are great and very funny guys.

We left in ok weather leaving Will, Nick and Dan to see if they could get much higher (they made 17000, but are now off the mountain now too). We descended into the murk below and into a horrible wet snow storm, with visibility being reduce to nothing at points and the occasional small crevasse fall, a couple with legs pedaling in thin air above the cavern below.  We made 7800 and bunkered down after our 8.5hrs of storm fighting.

In the morning Alex, Ty, Aaron and I all roped together and skinned out of 7800 and towards Base Camp and the air strip.  After some initial crevasse avoidance and Alex digging out of one we made good time and cruised to BC and even Heartbreak Hill didn't dampen our spirits.

We checked in with Lisa and had to wait until the morning to get off the mountain with Paul from TAT flying the long way home, video to come, we landed in Talkeetna again.  Ty and Aaron would need to wait until evening as TAT produced their magic and took advantage of a small window and flew a bunch of climbers off the mountain Ty and Aaron being the first.

Alex and I had already started on the beer and food and Ty and Aaron getting of the mountain would lead to 2 days of eating and drinking in Talkeetna and entertaining Tanya the bar manager of the Fairview with our out of town antics (as I am sure many do every session).

After a big night Thursday it was a slow start to Friday and then a sleepy return to Anchorage.  The last few days have been spent milling about and investigating Anchorage and I am currently trying to get on a flight to see the bears in a natural environment feeding on salmon, fingers crossed I can get out there Sunday or Monday.

I will write more and post vids and photos of the trip soon and certainly write a trip report.

One thing I can say, Denali showed us some tough weather, without getting cold even and hauling your own gear is certainly one way to make things hard for yourself.  I am very glad we went unguided and that even in some terrible weather we did very well.

A bit more planning of team, objectives and food would be ideal, but we made out pretty damn good.

Thanks to Peglers for the support with gear.

Thanks to Alpkit for tents and cooking pots, mugs, utensils and lots of stuff sacks.

Thanks to PowerTraveller from Will.

And to cycleworks for sorting the replacement GoPro in a couple of days at the 11th hour.

I am now off to chase bears hopefully and see more of anchorage and maybe take in a crag of two.


Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Still waiting

We got off the ground briefly and took in the objective. But the mountain is marching to its own tune as they do. We are still waiting.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Looks like flight time

28th and just waiting for final clearance to fly. There is a bit of a buzz in the team now and some little nerves. Wish us luck and we will be safe and smart. Thanks for all the support everyone.

Below team ready to roll.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Talkeetna wait.

Not exactly flying weather so we are waiting for the weather to improve. We will be patient.


And ready to fly, after we have NPS briefing. Talkeetna is a kinda cool little place. Hope to have some comms.

Monday, 21 May 2012

3 days until flight

With 3 days nefore we fly out to Alaska, the team is excited. Me I'm trying to get work finished and some final training and rest.

Also, testing mobile blogging tool, just incase we find a service. :)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Denali Team - Brecon Beacons

On the 21st/22nd, the bulk of the Denali Team Cold Cheeks (Nick, Franca, Dan and myself, Will joined us later) descended on the Brecon Beacons, with the aim to spend some time in the hills, test a few bits of kit and the Alpkit tents.  Fortunately the weather would play ball and be a bit wild and wet and let the tents get a good test.

Keeping this short, we got to test the Heksa on the Friday night and when Franca joined us in the morning we headed off into the hills.  First heading cross country to a Wellington Bomber memorial and then we walked onto the northern barrier of the Brecons and contoured around the Fan y Big, then down onto the head of the saddle below this and Cribin and set up our Alpkit Kangri and Zhota adversely to the elements to give them a real test (Sssh! Don't tel Col).

With the tents sorted, it was brew time, followed by more brew time and chatting about the tents, gear and what Alaska would have in store for us (I suspect a lot), mentally I think we are all a little reserved yet very conscious of what we are about to embark on.  Soon Will arrived as he had headed down from Uni for the rest of the weekend.

As the sun started to go down we cooked dinner and soon retired to the tents, as the wind started pick-up. With some idle chat we all soon were asleep.  Come the morning no-one was in a hurry and as I drifted in and out of sleep I only snored once and only got elbowed by Dan once.  My new SOL sleeping mat had been awesome, toasty warm.

Soon we where chatting about the tent and making a brew in the vestibule which when opening this to cook we saw what the wind was really like.  We finished breakfast hiding from the elements as the others started to stir in the Zhota. We could hear the wind and rain, but didn't really think much of this until we finally scrambled out the tent to break camp.  The weather was foul and we had been fooled into thinking it wasn't bad.

Soon we were off and heading for Pen Y Fan and hiding behind Cribin for much of the way.  By the time we reached the summit, there was snow and hail falling but not settling.  The team paced itself quite well and seems to have bonded really well and share a common sense of humor.  This is a huge relief as we all only knew 1-2 others in the team initially, but now seem to have already formed a great bond.

We all know there will be trying times and we have devised a couple of strategies to get around this, such as sharing tents on a rota and trying to rotate duties if movement on the mountain allows.

I think there are some nerves and I am glad of this as it will keep our minds keen.. There have been some little concerns about elements of the expedition, but this has served to show that we are all very happy to communicate our feelings with each other either directly, this makes for strong team in anyone's book.

With only a few weeks left the panic of have I got this, do I really need that and where is my passport starts.

I am looking forward to the 25th May, but also feeling a bit sad about the looming date.  I need to get lots of cuddles in before I go, a month is a long time away from my Nik.

Franca, Dan and Nick, top of Fan Y Big

Best Laid Plans and all

On 6th May it was Gorrick 100 time and the Gorrick team pulled a great and not too wet track out the bag nice work.

Arriving not feeling the love and having not chosen which incarnation of SIR9 to ride I bumped in to Chris Noble, Irish (Graham) and Darren Garlish returning from a long lay off. The first two convincing me to run single (it never takes much) I got sorted and was soon on the start line. We started and by the end of the first bit of technical track, myself, Graham Chris were in the top 20 a good start.

Chris was a few riders in front of me when disaster struck, a slightly dodgy line choice and Chris and his bike bounced down the track in spectacular fashion.  I was surprised and a bit disgusted at the number of riders near the crash that kept riding without considering a fellow rider crashing that badly.  I stopped and soon Graham, whilst we tended to Chris we kept calling to the other riders to get a medic. Many rode pass without taking any action, eventually the last rider in this start group stopped, then turned around and went back for help.  She soon returned and said help was on the way and offered to stay with Chris.

Now he was a bit more lucid and had someone else to take care of him, Graham and I said take care and headed off working together to ride back on.  We caught many riders by The Wall, which somehow I managed to clean and lost contact with Graham. From this point on I would need to work by myself to get any sort of result.

On a bit of flat grassy trails I approached a small furry lump on the ground and my heart sunk as I realised it was a tiny fox cub maybe 6 weeks old.  Not knowing what to do, but knowing it had been hit by the front runners I hoped someone would move it, but I vowed to do so if it was still there on the next lap.

Soon I would catch another group of riders nearing what should have been the last couple of k's of my first lap, somehow though as we sped along the fire road we managed to miss the turn.  10 minutes later we returned to where we had gone wrong and I immediately went on the hunt, drawing a few in the group with me.

I had lost lots of time and the effort making it up would tell towards the end of my race.  On the next lap, my opinion of my fellow MTBikers sunk even further, I found the cub still on the trail.  I stopped and gently picked it up, it was still warm, it had certainly been hit by the front runners as there was one tyre mark across its chest.  I placed it a couple of meters off the track and climbed back on my bike.

Quite annoyed with whoever had hit it.  Even if you don't like foxes or animals, whoever hit it should have had enough respect to move it.

I raced on and would pay the price in my last two laps for the chasing back on, where my times where my lap times stretched a bit too much.  The kilometers of flat fire road hadn't helped the single speed times either, but we are racing each other anyway.

On the last lap, Graham caught me as I was wobbling a bit from my double effort and he even offered a tow, which was kind, but I was a bit too knackered now and didn't wish for him to lose a place due to me.

Surprisingly I did find enough to hold off a late charger and even distance him thanks to a technical climb with a super fast descent after.  I rolled across the line in 28th in the 7 Lap event and was pretty surprised with that.

I guessed to myself I proved I can chase back hard from a terrible spot and that there is always time for a fallen competitor friend or foe and any fallen wildlife, a little of respect doesn't cost much.

To Gorrick, another great course and I get why there was so much fire road, weather has been great.  Also, are you ever going to consider a Single Speed category at the bigger races you run like the 100, Brass Monkey Series and 12:12?

Cycleworks, Alpkit and Weldtite - thanks guys.

(Photos to follow) 

Monday, 30 April 2012

Gorrick 100 is approaching

this weekend and training this week should include a couple of horribly wet and muddy MTB rides, a criterium Wednesday night if the weather is kind, a CX smash Thursday and hopefully another MTB Friday evening.  I don't do tapering for the short races as I find my legs get stiff and heavy, I will back the intensity back a bit though.  Each to their own.

Lets see what work dictates as now my colds have gone.

Oh, there seems to be this orangey yellow sphere in the sky as well.


Weldtite TF2 a full report

Well as part of the official test team I have been given the TF2 All weather lubricant to test and I have been doing exactly that.  For a little over a month I have used it in dry and slightly dusty conditions to wet sodden conditions with trails running like streams.  It has been used on my SS MTB's, my CX and my roadie, and it is safe to say I really like it.  I also ensured I considered everything from application to performance.

One of the many sprockets the TF2 has been protecting.

There are a couple of other brands I have used and even compared directly with the TF2 as I still have some laying around and these comparisons were the real eye opener.

The TF2 is easy to apply, the consistency of it allows you to get it on the chain easily, work it in to the links and wipe off what little excess there is.  With some other lubes I find myself cleaning the rim, chain stay and wiping the excess off many times.   The long application lid makes it easy to get into jockey wheels and other places without covering everything in lube.

Some of the trails I have ridden on in the last month have quite a bit of grit on them and after a few k's riding (particularly the SS) you get that familiar grinding sound.  With the TF2 this seem to take a lot longer to occur. i.e. the grit isn't sticking to a gloopy lube on your chain.  After my first ride with TF2 in the wet I was surprised by this and checked that my chain was indeed lubricated properly and it was, it just didn't attract as much rubbish.

In the dry and the wet, TF2 just works and I have to admitted to being a little surprised about the difference when I did a back to back test on the same loop on the same bike in the same conditions.  First using TF2 on a sodden trail ride I returned and the chain had not collected as much mud and grit as it would on the next ride using another leading brand.  I had ensured I cleaned the and lube the chain appropriately between each ride to give a balanced test.  The other leading brand lube, collected more rubbish than TF2, not huge amounts, but it was noticeable even without inspecting the chain.  This of course has the adverse affect that we use lubricants for, so we really want to reduce this as much as we can, TF2 does and keeps the chain lubed.

In a test with another brand, which I was using when I received the TF2.  The other brand works as well once applied and even helps clean things up a bit, it does go everywhere due to its viscosity and requires a few passes with a dry cloth to clean off excess.  TF2 did not and this also meant less TF2 was used.

So TF2 is easy to apply, not messy and doesn't leave excess on the chain, it keeps the chain lubricated in a variety of riding conditions and is not a magnet for crude and grit.

I should ideally find something in this area as well, but I have to say I can't. I guess some lubricants work others don't and some work better than most.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Keeping the training up, well at lest trying.

With the UK weather turning to pretty much soaking wet every day for the last 2-3 weeks and first a head cold and now a chest cold. It has been hard to keep motivated.

Enter, the crossing training. In particular climbing.  Yesterday lunch time I did a bunch of core strength work, with a plan to get out on the bike in the evening.  However, with the coughing increasing and Dr Nik instructing me to not ride due to the weather and go climbing instead, I followed my orders.

I headed to the wall, met Rich and Russ and bsaically smashed myself to bits.  The lunch time session had destroyed my arms and core already, the wall session finished me off.  Climbing hard routes to the point I could not hold on anymore, let alone pull on the holds.

Suffice to say I slept well last night and seem to have broken the lack of motivation curse.  Although wrenching the bars on a climb on the single with the way my arms feel is probably out.  So a wet lunch time road ride followed by a wet evening CX ride should see me right.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Weldtite TF2

I am still in the process of testing the TF2 lube from Weldtite and will write a full review shortly.  But in a recent back to back test with another leading product on the same trails in the same conditions on the same bike setup one thing was assured.

The TF2 does not collect anywhere near as much trail grit and grim as the other product.  It is such a stark difference I was surprised.

TF2 All Weather just works.  Full report coming soon.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Alpkit Bits

Last week I got two parcels from Alpkit. They are providing the Denali team with some good support with some stuff sacs, utensils, Ti pot and mug, a cheeky down, padded cell sacs and the first of the tents, the Heksa.

Where to start, well first. Thank you again Col and Alpkit.  The kit looks premium and looks ever bit up to the job it is designed for as my Thud, Hunka, my Nik's Pipedream and other stuff sacs have been.

Where to start? Well the Heksa is just a brilliant tent, big sturdy and very quick to set up, 10-15 minutes for the first go. The vestibules are huge and can take loads of kit and bags upon bags of food, needed for a 24hr MTB race. Inside the tent there is so much room, Alpkit say 4, that is in luxury.  I would say 6 would be comfy and with all those pockets and hang loops that carefully spread the load and those fore mention vestibules your gear will be safe and sound too.

One of the large vestibules.
The Heksa looming large behind the pit at 24Hrs of Exposure.

The first night I had in it, the rain was heavy and the windy picked right up and the tent stood as if it was still, a good start as this may end up on Denali as our base camp tent.

To the other bits. We as a team have also ordered some great bits and pieces from Alpkit at a very good discount and so far I have managed to start testing the following bits out.

Alpkit goodies.

The Padded Cell 1, 2, 3 and 4.  These are ideal for keeping items such as phones, eReaders, even your water bottle warm and in the case of the electronics dry.  The padded construction also gives extra impact protection and has already been tested with my camera and eReader.  Both are still working fine.  The bags are light as well so no additional weight issues for the weight weenies. Shown above.

Apollo II stuff sacs, what can I say, light and tough and do a good job of organizing bits in your holdall or rucksac. They come in a range of colours and sizes (see photo above) to help the organizing.

Airlok, I haven't tested these yet, but I soon will and will post an update.

MytiPot and MytiMug. Very light and tough, and retain the heat really well for such thin Ti.  The size of the mug is just great and allows you to pour loads of tea and coffee down your throat without it getting cold.  I found with the lid on I could leave my tea sat for about 5 minutes in 4C before I noticed any real temperature difference a good surprise.  But lets be fair we are more interested in the weight, strength and volume.  They both deliver here and I look forward to nestling these inside the bigger exped pot and keeping the weight down on Denali.

MytiPot, Mug and Tirons

Tirons, these are brilliant little utensils and will still be going strong when I retire from climbing and biking I suspect.  Light, tough and quite nice to handle. Pretty cool to look at as well.


I also got a lovely down and it has been keeping me snug on the unexpected cold nights recently and I love the fact that the hood overlaps well but can be removed.  It has good sized pockets and whilst it won't head to Denali. It will head to loads of races with me and to ice climbing venues in Europe, it packs down well and provides loads of warmth for its weight.

I know the above, does actually make me sound like a weight weenie, but I want to save weight and not quality for the trip to Denali so as to make sure things are not even tougher.  Plus with a few future plans both bike, ski and climbing oriented, lightweight quality kit is needed and so far all the above is proving to fit that bill.


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Good from the bad.

Well as most would know I headed to the 24Hrs of Exposure this weekend with my awesome pit crew Nik.  We arrived with plenty of time, set up the pit, (below), and I headed off with Chris Noble for a loop of the course.

 The pit.

After completing a loop, Nik and I finished sorting a few things, I went to registration and then had a bit of physio.  This was meant to be just a leg rub, but Sabreen found a couple of problems, including my pelvis being slightly misaligned, WTF?  Anyway with this fixed and food eaten we climbed into the massive Alpkit Heksa and settled down for the night.

 Inside the awesome Alpkit Heksa.

The rain pelted the canvass and wind crashed into the tent as finally I drifted off, thinking that the course will be hell in the morning.  In the morning I was keen, did my usual amount of faff and was ready to race.  A point I wasn't sure I would be at 6 weeks ago as I took a very long time to get off the ground after a sizable crash, I had done quite a bit of damage and really thought I'd not be riding in 6 weeks, let alone racing.

Well here I was, charged, ready to go, a great pit crew and a back up pit crew in Phil M and two awesome bikes (below) to see me through.  Things were going to be peachy and I was going to have a great race.

 Toad and Tonka ready to roll.

Unfortunately things didn't go as planned, once racing started.  A good and calm start, pacing with a familiar face Graham "Irish" McConaghy and the first few laps would see us checking on each other as we had a few mechanical problems.  However, as Grahams got sorted, mine just changed and had me stopping several times each lap to resolve and changing bikes each lap.  This was getting tiresome when I managed to get two flats on the same lap. With some help at the course aid station, Phil and Rory and some much need motivation I was on my way, but due to a long walk back to the aid station I had lost buckets of time.

But now despite the flats the bikes were running smoothly, thanks to Nik and Phil.  I finished the lap and headed out again.  But this time the engine started failing, feeling dizzy I reached for a gel in my jersey, as I did I veered to one side, I corrected and tried again, the same outcome.  I've been here before and it is not a good place. I stopped fired a gel in and got going again, soon I was stopped again and fired another gel in.

Things slowed down a bit from here, I managed to get more than 2/3rds of the lap done, before I forced myself to have my last gel.  As I made my way back to the pit area feeling dizzier with each minute, I had a plan to try to keep going.

I got back and told Nik what was going on, I drunk water and electrolytes, ate fruit, chicken, pasta and some sweets over the period of about 30 minutes, but there was no change.  Nik was a star as usual being totally supportive and offering advice. Watching the clock tick by and knowing that if I waited much longer I would not be able to overhaul the other single speed riders I had to think hard.

How bad was I feeling? Racing when dizzy in the dark (as it was now) was just plain dangerous, waiting around forever to get better just to finish, is no longer my goal at these events. I can finish them and I can finish them well.  If I pushed on after resting longer, would this just do more damage to my body?  Would I go through the same thing and start feeling the same, but not have the clarity to ease up and make the right decisions as I'd certainly be more tired?

I decided that due to my prep with the injury in the 6 weeks before being poor and that I had so many mechanicals that I should let this one go.  I difficult and disappointing decision and I always feel as if I have let Nik, cycleworks and all the others that have offered support and encouragement along the path.

Clarity is a fine thing.  Once back home and with some time to think, I know I made the right choice.  Another crash could have injured me again and possibly worse than before.  So I look at things to take the good from the bad.

All in all, some things had gone really well, Nik had become an awesome mechanic (thanks babe), I personally had not let the rubbish prep get me down or cause me to doubt myself, even if deep inside I knew I was up against it.  From the start I rode through the mechanical issues and kept calm and my focus, working with Nik as a brilliant team we got me to a point that if the engine hadn't failed completely that I would have been keen for the hunt and calm enough to execute it.  Something that is important for the long game.

Time to recover a bit and then start all over again.  The Gorrick 100 is next and is short and fast in comparison, there is a rumor I might even use some gears for this.

Thanks to Nik, Phil and Rory, they all get a hug too. Nik gets a bigger one.

Thanks Alpkit (Col) for the tent, the lovely warm down that got worn lots.

Thanks Weldtite for the TF2, it certainly is ace.

Thanks Cycleworks and Team Cycleworks for the support and encouragement.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

First impressions TF2...

Saturday I got my first product to test from Weldtite TF2 All Weather lube.

I have only had a brief chance to test it since receiving and the first impressions are good. Easy to apply, not to messy and in a dusty race it didn't collect to much dust from the trail, hence no grinding of grit between chain and chain rings and sprocket.

When applying it, it stayed on the chain as it was rotated and didn't just fly off or drip straight off and it worked nicely into the links and there was very little excess to wipe off.

It will get a proper test this weekend as I head for the 24hrs of Exposure and what appears to be some cold and maybe a little wet to start with weather.

More to follow.