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, 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.