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.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Wolf Tooth chain rings

My previous post introduced my newest cycling sponsor Wolf Tooth Components, well of course nothing comes for free.  So here is a review on their 32t 104 BCD chain ring.  A one word review would be "AWESOME!" and yes I would be that enthusiastic, trust me in this.

As many of you know I mainly run my MTBikes as single speed, but there are occasions when I would like to use gears.  My solution to this for a few years has been 1x9(10) and a chain device.  This has its drawbacks, if the chain does come off its an ar*e ache to sort, if it is muddy the chain device jams and they generally are a pain in the butt.

So what is the solution? Well a little while back the guys at WTC worked out how to reduce the chances of dropping a chain on a 1x XX configuration by having a narrow wide tooth configuration on their chain rings, with a slightly higher profile then some others out there.  Below the is the 32t chain ring fitted to one of my bikes prepared for the Bontrager Twentyfour12 (race report to follow).

It is recommended to fit the chain ring with the appropriate speed chain (10 speed in this case) and a clutch rear mech (Shimano SLX SGS - not shown). The clutch mech helps reduce chain slap and hence further reduces the chance of chain drop.  Ensure the chain is measured and broken to the right length (say 3-4 links overlap when wrapped around the chain ring and the largest rear sprocket - yes I read the manual).

Once fitted something was apparent pulling the chain down and forward of the chain ring you could feel the wider teeth holding on and the narrow ones letting go of the chain. Interesting!

So how does it actually perform.  Did you read the bit were I said AWESOME!, I wasn't joking.  My first test ride on the local trails and I was so impressed.  However, the Bontrager Twentyfour12 would provide a real test.  A big test would be how would this work on my 1x9 configuration with no clutch mech?

Fast forward to the morning of the 2412 and a quick test ride on the 1x9 config with no clutch mech and no chain device et voila the chain stayed in place. Super! Now I was amazed.  I could also answer the question, how does it work without a clutch mech that I had been asked the Friday evening and Saturday morning by other racers and their pit crews.  It work really well.

A full 24hr race with me making some poor line choices and bad gear changes would be the ultimate test.  After 24hrs of racing on both configurations I can safely say this.  I didn't drop a chain once, it didn't even come close.  Even at the point when I broke my drive side crank arm off my bike, the chain stayed wrapped neatly around the chain ring.  This certainly helped a more graceful stop and sensible dismount.  Clutch mech or not, these chain rings work. :)

I have to say I am so impressed and really happy to be able to promote WTC.  I had researched their product quite a bit, before approaching them and I now can safely say I will replace all worn 1x chain rings I own as I need to with these. 

Your is pedaling in circles for a bit,

New Cycling sponsor Wolf Tooth Components

I would like to introduce my newest cycling sponsor Wolf Tooth Components  Minneapolis, Minnesota based cyclist and propeller heads behind the no drop chain rings.

The components are design and manufactured in Minneapolis and are great quality and very much do what they say on the tin.  Look out for my review.

I will be taking the chain rings to hell and back, and after my first experience I will get to make this trip quite a few times.

Thanks Brendan, Dan and the team.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Army Cycling - Are You Tough Enough

Last Sunday in some nice warm conditions I raced the Army Cycling Union's - Are You Tough Enough event, in the 4 hours Single Speed category.  The race would end with some controversy.  But I am over that and looking forward.

As I said the day was warm and this suited me. As I lined up I knew Al would be the man to try and beat or at least try to stay close to.  But with these events there is always one or that suddenly pop up out of nowhere and seem to be flying, then disappear for the rest of the year.

The race started and I planned to stick to my race plan. Often the best way as most of the time in these races it is hard to know exactly where you our.  As the laps whiled away and my nutrition and plan seemed to hold together another SS passed me, but without clocking his number and real idea I didn't chase, plus at this point in the race, it would be against my plan and the bigger picture in a few weeks time.

I pushed on and passed many riders, in many different categories and even got caught up in the start of the 2hrs race, but put in the effort to up my pace so as not to lose time on other I was racing to slowing to let these guys passed. Once these guys had passed I settled into my rhythm again and ticked the legs over nicely.  However soon, my bike was plagued by an ominous creak, which I decide to inspect thoroughly once.  I would have easily lost a minute here, but better than the alternative.  Everything checked and in working order I pressed on, however as I started another SS rider appeared on my wheel.  Balls! I had gifted him a minute or so.  But lets not panic.

Over the next 2 laps we swap positions, 2nd and 3rd a few times. Then I managed to steadily ride him off my wheel, but suddenly he reappeared. Onto the last lap and the same occurred I rode him off my wheel, but in the last 600m's he appeared from nowhere and latched onto my wheel, but he didn't have the legs to get past.

Coming into the last 300m's I made a simple mistake, which meant he sneaked past, but I was soon on his wheel again. Once chance was left, a dirty loamy corner in a steep climb.  I had nailed this every lap. I back off a bike length or 2 has he sat right on the wheel of the 2hr rider in front of him.  This would be a mistake, sure enough at the corner, they both faltered and stepped off. I called "track" and the 2hr rider who was on my line jumped out the way.  The SS rider, with not right of way, jumped in my way, knocking me off my bike.  Angrily I run my bike to the top as he did the same and sprinted for the line and just missed pipping him on it.

I have to admit I was quite pissed off at the time and rightly so.  But like I say I have moved on. After a while I focused on the good. I had stuck to the plan, my nutrition was spot on and I rode the sections the way I had planned after the first lap.  In fact, it was probably my most disciplined race in the last 18 months.  I also got 3rd in the Cat and roughly 16th overall in the 4hr.  So another podium for Cycleworks, the team is getting quite a few this year.

(Photo: Chris Noble)

So overall, I am really happy with this result.  I feel disappointed for Al Fairbairn, whos handle bars snapped, but glad he was OK and inspired by his massive attempt to get back in the race.  Thanks to Chris's dad for helping out, Cheers!

ACU and Gorrick, awesome course and great event well done again.

Thanks Cycleworks, Weldtite and Alpkit.

Next stop, Bontrager Twentyfour12.  Confidence is up, I am finding some form and everything else seems to be coming together nicely. Fingers crossed at the end of July I can have a similar blog to post.  :)

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Splintered Ankle

The title makes it sounds worse than it is/was.  Out on a ride Sunday with Nik, after she had headed back I was off to do another couple of hours.  Feeling a bit bored with the old trails I decided to have a look at some new trails to ride and found some great stuff packed into a small area with some nice little descents and climbs. I will be riding these again for sure, just one section a bit more carefully.

Coming to the end I a well worn trail, I could see a path extending under the trees and knew that the main trail was not far ahead. So I decided to go a bit cross country shall we say.  If I am honest, the only flora that was going to take a hiding was the bracken (a weed in the Surrey Hills) so morally I felt happy to press on even though the path was a little over grown.

With the main trail in sight I decided to forge on a bit quicker and as I did, WHACK! I slammed my leg into a hidden log.  Looking down I didn't think too much of the damage, just a torn sock. As I brushed a bit of broken wood from my leg I realised the extent, I felt the piece of wood move deep in my ankle, but now the end sticking out I had broken off. Idiot!

I walked the last few metres to the main trail and took a look, it was in deep and was not coming out trail side.  I called Nik as I was not keen to ride too much, as this would work it in further.  After speaking to Nik I managed to ride one legged for about 3k back to a car park to wait.  At the car park I could confirm the splinter was between 2-3 cm's long and quite thick, easily felt and a visible lump on my ankle, I was also surprised by how painful it was getting.

By the time Nik arrived it was indeed very uncomfortable, she drove me home and took a quick look, but couldn't quite get it out and was reluctant to dig around too much.  So off to A&E we went.  Here I was seen very rapidly and I am sure the male Triage Nurse played the system a little.  The Nurse Practitioner who saw me after X-ray, had a pretty good go at getting it out, but unfortunately she lost it at one point and had to refer me for a consult Monday morning, as the splinter slipped further in.

Monday morning came and I was at A&E only long enough to sit down before being called.  The Dr, Mark turned out to be a climber from Craggy and recognised me (a good thing this time  :)  ).  He got stuck in after a quick look, he filled my ankle with local and started cutting, then digging around.  After a bit more cutting (an incision about an inch long and quite deep) et voila, he produced a splinter nearly 3 cm's long and about 4mm in diameter.  Now I know why it hurt, it was damn fat.

No riding or climbing Monday, just sitting around with this on my leg (below) and waiting for the swelling to go down, fat ankle.

Super impressed with Mark the Dr, as he did just get stuck in and was very efficient, and it was nice to be able to chat about sports and not be looked at as if "why are you doing supposed dangerous sports?".  As I have had a more than a few times in the past.  The nurse was also super chatty and efficient and before I could get a photo of the offending twig, she had thrown it in the bin.

Anyway, the splinter is gone and it is Tuesday, which means I am allowed back on the bike and will head out this eve for a spin and then head to Eelmoor tomorrow to race.  Only down side is, that Mark was confident the scar will heal very well and not be too big.  No war wound to talk of. :(

Moral of the story is folks, watch out for those fallen branches, they do just jump out in front of you.


Monday, 1 July 2013

Y Wrench Allen Keys - Cyclo Tools

I have had two sets of Y Wrench Allen Keys from Cyclo (Weldtite), the 2, 2.5, 3 and the 4, 5, 6 for review for a little while now.

OK, I will get the one con out the way first.  The 4, 5 and 6 version comes as ball ended version and I understand why, you get a little more tolerance of the angle you can use the tool at. My issue with this being that sometimes ball ended Allen keys slip and round out the bolt, even a little can become a problem.

Now for all the good stuff and there is a lot.  Firstly as the picture above shows they have a really nice surface area to grip, not too big and not too small, I find them easy to use with my big hands as does Nik with her little hands, super important as she is my chief mechanic at 24hr races, they are also comfortable use.

The tools are well made and certainly stand up to a great deal of abuse, I have had mine for a while now and used them a lot, but they show very little use.  Between the two tools they cover all sizes of Allen Keys I need for my bikes and the Y shape I have to add is surprising helpful in improving access and adding leverage with some of the harder to access bolts.

These have become a permanent fixture in my tool box.  Great work guys, but sometimes you still need something with quite a long handle to get enough torque on a bolt.  For everything else these do the job.