Friday, December 17, 2010

Away on my travels

So two weeks ago I sent my forks off to be serviced for the first time (4 months the seals lasted; not complaining, I rode them hard and they were so supple I expected them to go pretty quick).  Having called the people who would be servicing them I was told that they weren't busy and I should just send them along; bit different to home, no booking in...  Turns out the service guy wasn't actually there that week, so I was without a fork for a week for no reason.  Eventually I got them back on Thursday, and was able to put them on on Friday.  Beautiful supple movement, no play; problem solved, albeit at the cost of $230; very steep to my eyes.  I would have been happy with this, but on giving them a nice hard squidge, turns out they only have 60mm of travel now.  Just a little pissed off; fix one problem, create another.  It's not even something hard to check, just take the air out before you send them back and make sure the fork gets full travel, this just shouldn't happen.

So now I am without a bike over xmas which means no mtb training til the new year (if it gets done next week, I'm not about though) and potentially no bike for the first national.  Fan-bloody-tastic.

So whilst I was without the bike I was riding our demo bikes, loving the opportunity and the dry trails.  I can't say that I am in love with any of the bikes, and mostly they had me longing to be riding my own bike.  I know I can ride the Kinesis faster than any of our demo bikes.  The main ones I rode were the Stumpy Hardtail 29er, epic 29er and Stumpy FSR.  The Hardtail was unsuprisingly my favourite; with a penchant for light bikes and responsive climbing ability I was always going to go for a hardtail I think.

I'll do some quick reviews of them now I think, just for fun.  I also rode the Pitch and Camber, I'm still to ride our Camber 29er and Enduro. 

As an end to this, please read the reviews of them, because saying that I don't love the bikes isn't a write off, they are very good, but need some work for them to be perfect and make me want to ride them over my Kinesis.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Huka XL, Taupo

Three days after the race and I've just gotten the washing on from a fantastic weekend.  The weekend actually began on Thursday afternoon for me, with a long drive up to Taupo with Cameron Wood and his family.  With the luxury of travel and accommodation sorted for me (tagging along with Cam who was going up and staying with a family friend, Jude and her partner Marion) all I had to worry about was riding and relaxing.  Both things where done to a T.  It has to have been one of my best weekend yet, the weather was stunning, the company effervescent (even if I wasn't, coming off an 11hour day at work, pre-race nerves and post race tiredness killed my conversation), the food delicious and plentiful (Jude is an excellent cook and certainly looked after us), the bed large and soft (starfished on the first night having expected to be on the floor; my face lit up when I saw my bed and own room; it's been a while since I had a double bed to myself and in such a nice house!) and the riding sublime.

The riding started after a lazy morning on Friday; Cam took me to ride the start and finish of the Huka, which was perfect prep and gave me just a taste of the fast flowing fun that I was in for the next day.  The trails had me grinning from ear to ear and constantly telling Cam that it was just like home but better!  The pumice bedrock meant excellent drainage and the sunny weather we have been having for a while gave rise to dry dusty and drifty trails.  Cam also showed me a local spot for getting up and close (touching distance) from the Huka falls which was very impressive.  We also stopped off at Spa Park and the hot stream and pump track.

The afternoon saw more laziness, eating, getting bottles and kit ready and generally relaxing in readiness for an early start the next morning.  Our race start time was 7am, which we were later grateful for as racing in the heat of the middle of the day would have been tough.  As it was I started in an icebreaker merino baselayer and socks which kept me warm at the start and cool throughout the rest of the race.

So race morning came, Cam and I rode the 5km to the start, did a brief warm up (my warm up was far too short, but I was worried about getting a good start position; I needn't have been, the start had more than enough time to move up) and got lined up.  From the gun we were on road/pavement for a few k, I started well, but quickly found myself struggling to hold wheels on the pavement.  Coming into the singletrack I started moving up a little, but my legs felt slow.  I was pretty miffed and thought I was going to be in for a hard day from here on out.  With riders coming past me who I knew I was better than for the first 20km I knew I would have a lot to do but focused on keeping on drinking and eating, it was going to be all about the tail end of the race for me so I thought I had better ready myself for it.

After the grinder climb we came into the first major descent at about 20km in.  This was open and flowing, and could have been ridden a lot better than I had.  Hisky passed me just after this which annoyed me.  However after this I suddenly started to feel a lot better, the legs were responding without pain, my back was less sore, my hands pain free and everything looked rosy!  Maybe I just needed a longer descend to allow my body to recover from the anaerobic start effort fully.  From here on no one over took me, and I gradually worked my way back through the field.

On one of the steepest climbs I saw Ed Crossling up ahead which gave me motivation to push it to get up to him.  I managed to get on his wheel a little before our second ascent of the grinder climb and followed him up there through the back markers.  I think this was the hardest consistent effort that I had to put in; heart rate up in the high 180's low 190's, I thought that if Ed kept that up I would have to hang back and conserve myself a bit.  However over the top Ed chilled out a bit, and on the flatter stuff that I revel in I was able to recover whilst following his wheel.

I felt that I could probably attack Ed and get away from him on some of the flatter singletrack, but waited until after the half way point as I thought that there was less climbing after this.  Having grabbed my bottle from Derrick (sp?) at the relay change over I got on the front (Gav McCarthy had caught on by this point, around 42km) and did my fair turn before leading into the singletrack and half attacking, half enjoying myself.  After this I didn't see those two again until the finish, although the next piece of singletrack did have me worried that they would be back on my wheel quickly; the staccato nature of it left me pretty tired and slightly frustrated by my lack of flow, but I don't think many (if any) flowed through there.

From here on I was in limbo, riding in my own head at my own pace.  However when we got onto the long out and back firetracks beside the WaikatoCarwin (singlespeed) out the back as they averaged 40kph (according to Carwin, I didn't have a speedo).  I caught Carwin on the way out before the Dam and felt that i was gradually catching the group.  On the way back I knew that I was, and as the trail tightened I could see that the gap had dropped significantly and that the group was splintering as the effort that they had put in started to tell.

It was this group that I ended up battling with for the rest of the race, the last 20km was smattered with patches of half cramp and slightly restrained riding to manage my legs back to the finish.  I caught the tail rider of the group and rode on, chasing hard to catch Dave (Holden McGroin) on his niner just before the final run.  When I caught him, we were still in touch with the other two members of the group, but as i got on the attacked and I couldn't get round Dave/didn't have the legs to respond fully.  I ran past Dave, had a quick word, although only so much to tell him that I was in pain and carried on.  I dropped Dave soon after this and just got my head down pushing as hard as my legs would let me to chase the two in front.

By the bungie I had 8th place in my sights (with me in 9th) who had been shelled by the guy in 7th.  However he started to work harder and kept the gap tantalisingly too big whilst keeping the guy in 7th in his sights.  As we went around the park and onto the lakefront I gave it my all, sprinting to the line to lose out on 8th by 1second and 7th by a further 3...  however I was happy with 9th and just about breaking 4hours.

I came out of the race very proud of the way I had ridden considering the first 20km where horrible.  The trails had been great, the legs had done everything asked of them (after the first 20km) and my Kinesis bike was flawless.  Couldn't have gone much better save the position!  For this effort I got my $100 entry fee back, so I got an amazing weekend in Taupo for free!  Even better.

The rest of the day was spent chilling in the sun, watching cyclists and 'the view'.  Sunday saw me dragging Cam out of bed to go and watch the pump track national champs at Spa Park before lunch and the drive home. 

Like I said, couldn't have been much better; as far as weekends go.  But it would have been so much less without the help and hospitality of Cath, Derrick, Cameron, Jude and Marion (and Mitchell, Cam's brother, although I didn't see much of him after the drive up there).  So thanks to all.

PNP XC finale, Makara Peak

So a couple of weekends ago the PNP series came to an end at the local trail park of Makara Peak.  The course consisted of two big laps and a finishing loop.  This had us climbing up a (usual) descent trail, North Face and Smokin' pretty much off the line, this was a good 15min (and then some) climb.  The weather was stunning, which meant for the poor pom overheating was a real issue, especially with North Face being open and out of the wind.  However, for the first lap I entered North Face in third wheel and followed Alex Revell up as he was my target.  Ed Crossling on his singlespeed was a wheel back and remaining strong.  Come the top I had made it up to first wheel and entered Aratiti as the trail blazer; which resulted in me riding head first into a poor woman coming the other way round a blind corner.  Thankfully we were both ok, it did knock my focus a bit though.

Up the next short climb on firetrack up to the top of Nikau Valley Ed stomped past only for him to stack on Nikau and for me to retake the lead.  On the exit though Dave (Holden McGroin) on his Niner marched past me with strength that I could not match.  Alex did the same just before the entrance to Ridgeline Extension, only for him to wash out on the tight left hander taking us back up North Face and into lap two.  However I mucked up up there and allowed him past.  I was suffering by this stage and couldn't (wouldn't) follow him up here.  I rode hard but never looked like catching the leading two or getting caught by anyone, so was stuck in limbo. 

When I finally crested North Face for the third and final time I just had the descent of Vertigo (nervous steep technical trail) to go.  When I came out of this (with one tired mistake and subsequent dab) I was suprised to meet Alex coming from the wrong direction into AMP.  He had obviously taken a wrong turn and had gone from a comfortable lead to 3rd.  I let him past as he was riding strong and on a mission, but held his wheel only to get beaten at the sprint finish; 34T single ring spin out for me whilst Alex stomped his 42T big ring...

This earned me a happy and hot third in the race and joint 2nd (but as I had lost out on the day I got the trophy for 3rd) overall, matching Alex for points.

Katy came along to this race and really enjoyed it; there was a good spot to watch and good people to talk to.  All the PNP races have been great fun and with a great crowd.  It makes all the difference.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The end is nigh...

It's the eve of my last exam before a long summer of freedom.  Notes are made, exams papers read and re-read, questions answered, definition learnt.  All I can see is tomorrows ride in the sun.  All being well Cam and I will be hacking it round Makara Peak tomorrow afternoon post exam before I go out with mates and sister for a night on the beers.  I will be holding back (I plan to anyway) on the beers atleast, but probably not on the ride. 

This Sunday is the last of the local PNP XC series at the aforementioned Makara Peak, most of the trails will be raced backwards making it a bit more interesting and most of the pre-riding pretty illegal.  However the final descent down the aptly named 'Vertigo' will be riden the right way, and will be sketchy as anything after 2 laps of the Peak (should be about 1.5 hours to the final descent).  This is a really steep track, with some nice rock steps and no clear view down the trail, letting your wheels run requires a fair amount of blind faith/knowledge of the track.  I've only riden it once, I could do with sessioning it a bit tomorrow (and sectioning; it's pretty long) before giving it some beans down there. 

The weather has been incredible the past few days, yesterday I didn't allow myself to ride, but today I couldn't resist.  Only let myself have a really really short play (40mins) on Mt. Vic mind.  She was riding pretty perfectly though, I could have done with some semi-slicks; the only conditions the crossmarks aren't so good at is when it's dusty and loose; just not quite fast enough.  Time to acquire some racing tyres methinks...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Would rather be...

Sat in on a Sunday night 'working' away on my Structural Geology and Tectonics revision all I can think of is what I would rather be doing.  As the sun starts to go down on this Sunny day in Wellington I would love to be hacking down the last trail of the day having spent all the daylight hours playing on the mountain bike, or just rolling back into town from an epic road ride.  Suffice to say that is not how my day has gone.  However it's not been all work (infact it has been very little work).

The day started with my first bunch ride in a while, just a nice 90km up the Hutt road chatting away followed by a nice jaunt over Haywards (didn't have it on the climbs today which was disappointing; however this post is not going to be so much about the bike for once, I will say that I need to get more protein my in diet, I have a feeling this might sort my sleeping out a bit) then up Paekokariki (sp?) and back into town via Whitby, Porirua and J'Ville.  The weather turned out reet good, which was not what I was expecting, so I was carrying far too much clothing having lost a knee warmer this morning; I'm sure it'll turn up though.

After that I rolled into the shop and finally got around to stripping and cleaning in the road bike.  This led me to discover the source of the annoying clicking sound from my BB.  The bearings are fine, but too much power over the last 2 years ( :-P ) has caused me to wear the inside of my non-driveside crank out; not really sure how this has happened as there is nothing for it to rub on, but it results in the crank pushing at an angle on the bearings when under power.  Solution to this... Buy some new cranks, finally an excuse to get a new groupset!  Already I have found myself looking at the options, as I have been for a while.  However as usual, no money means no buying stuff (the bank has once again blocked my card so I will have to call them up again annoyingly).

After that, I came home and slept instead of working, and now I'm blogging instead of working... 

The problem is motivation, I'm not that bothered about my degree anymore.  Currently (and for the last month and a half) I haven't wanted to do Geophysics anymore.  I keep on reading stuff about sports science and engineering applications of physics.  All I want to do seems to revolve around the bikes.  Too late not though, I'll stick out Geophys for another year and a half and then see what I can do on the bikes eh.

So this post is about the bikes again.  Never mind, not much else doing in my life, not that I would want to disclose anyway. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mt Vic trails

The Descent from the water tower
I tried and failed last night to go out for a quick hack round Mt. Victoria, my local trails.  I got half way there and before getting a call from Stew at iRide asking if I wanted to come in for some icebreaker training (the clothing company).  Suffice to say as soon as free beer and pizza was mentioned I was darting through traffic to the other side of town.  Learnt quite a lot which was nice and had some fun at it. 

The weather today was supposed to be pretty poor all day so I decided to get out early (as the best spell of weather should have been early doors) and go up for a play round Mt. Vic.  Sat in bed post ride though it just keeps getting sunnier; gutted!  Never mind, got some good riding in, only a short 90min ride, but that's all I have time for at the moment really.  Legs felt pretty shot today if I'm honest, probably as a result of the beer and pizza. 

Trail wise I was just having a play, re-rode the two descents that Dave Aldridge showed me a few weeks back, the first of which is a pretty steep tech one, especially in the switchbacks.  I rode it cleanly this time which was nice, but I need to get a lot more comfortable getting my wheels off the ground on that kind of a trail.  Need to get some pictures up to show what I mean. 

The second is the 'grom's track'  which is just good fun, quite short with a few little jumps and drops in it.  Not anywhere near to steep or tech, but once again I need to get more comfortable with the air time.  I did ride the last jump and little drop a couple of times and felt more confident pretty quickly; I can cope with it when it's relatively flat, but get a bit scared of them when the jumps are in a traversing trail with pretty steep slopes off to one side and landing into roots. 

Dave at the shop persuaded me to try a more mid-foot cleat position, so today's ride was the first try at that.  It definitely felt easier to pull little manuals, but otherwise technically I noticed very little difference.  It did give me some more foot pain than usual, but that might go away with a bit of a change in foot musculature.  I'll keep them in this position for a bit just to give it a bit more of a chance.  Not sold straight away though, having ridden with my cleat under the ball of my foot for so long it does feel pretty weird anywhere else.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Belmont PNP XC Race

Some Shocking line choice and positioning here!
Last Sunday (31/10/10) was Round 4 of the PNP XC series at Belmont Regional Park.  This was about a 20km ride from my front door, and without a car the plan was to ride out there in time for sign on at around 9am, with the race start at 10am.  I had a number of comments after the race from people thinking me a little odd riding to the race then racing which was quite nice.  I did this as well for the 2nd (Wanuimata where I placed 2nd) and 3rd rounds (Mt. Vic where is placed 4th with a cold) which just makes the races a better training session.  However for this one I underestimated how cold I would get after the race and even with leg warmers, base layer, jersey, t-shirt and hoodie I was still shivering post race, with the usual comedy Bum-shiver; I can only imagine what my massive rear looks like shivering.

I failed at getting to the pre-ride at Belmont the previous week as I had been out the night before (not drinking) which ended with me falling asleep in the bar, probably not the best plan for a 6:30am start...  Instead I got out for a 160km road ride with some nice hills.  My friend Cameron Wood (henceforth referred to as Cam, largely due to laziness) did however make it out there and gave me low down on the course which was mostly farm tracks with about 8 stream crossings.  There were two pieces of singletrack on the course, the start climb and the finishing descent.  The quality of these tracks did make up for the lack of technicality on the rest of the course though, even in the dry they were very slippery.

So I went to the race with fairly low expectations of the course, but with the dry weather running up to the race everything was riding really nicely.  The farm tracks out the back were fast and very bumpy, certainly riding a hardtail required some drifting round the corners to maintain the speed required to be smooth over the rough stuff.  The elite field was quite small, but my main competition of Alex Revell was there along with the strongest rider from the last 2 rounds, Ed Crossling.  Alex was still on his singlespeed from the SSWC's and was recovering from the lurgy which made me quite hopeful of beating him. 

Off the start I managed to get into the first corner of the short start loop first and led back over the startline into the start of the race proper, only to be overtaken by Ed and Alex before the start of the singletrack climb.  However this suited me as it meant that I could follow lines and measure my pace against theirs having not ridden the course before.  The climb seemed to last a horribly long time, although the track (Danzig) was enough fun to keep us entertained.  I had an 'On Your Bike' rider on my tail and there was a small gap opening between myself and the leading two.  However once we got onto the open farm tracks I started closing the gap on the leading two and caught them on the long descent down to the far end of the lap. 

From here there was a long climb back up to the top of the course which saw me get dropped again.  I lost motivation quite a lot here, and got caught by Tony 'bushlove' Keith over the top before he managed to ride away from me on the long descent after I decided to try and open a gate whilst he just hoped over it.  If I'm honest I got quite annoyed by this so I chased hard to try and get back to him.  Onto the climb, Tony had managed to catch and usurp Alex for second place who I then caught as he struggled on the steep sections on his singlespeed. 

When we got onto the drag of Hill rd. Alex was on my wheel, and Tony was about 250m ahead, with Ed quite a ways in front having seemingly decided to drop the hammer a bit.  With Alex tucked on my wheel I rode hard up to Tony and rode away from them both, steadily closing the gap to Ed until we were about 300m apart before the final singletrack.  Not knowing where the entrance to this track was I nearly missed it, but instead crashed trying to turn into it at full pace very late.  Not a good start.  However I managed to make it down, and got onto the little finishing loop with Ed in sight.  I rode as hard as I could to get up to him, but never quite got in contact once he realised I was there.

Coming in 2nd that close to Ed was a nice surprise, having been 10mins off him at Wainui 5 weeks previously, either I was stronger or Ed wasn't trying so hard!


iRide Founding Fathers

Thanks to Tristan at wheelworks ( who put me in touch with Andrew Young having told him that I was desperate for a job (maxed credit card, having taken all £1650 of my overdraft from Natwest already) I am now working part time at Wellington's newest bike shop, iRide.

Tristan has been a great help to me, starting off by rebuilding my front wheel after I landed pretty badly on it after sliding off line on a Mt. Vic. traverse and off a 5ft drop to flat.  Certainly wasn't my proudest moment, however I'm very impressed by my DT Swiss Carbon forks; there was a horrible cracking sound and I was very worried that I would have destroyed them, but 2months later and they are still going strong.  He has since helped me out a number of times for which I am very grateful.  He's also a really nice guy to boot!  If you're ever in NZ and need a wheel built (or even not in NZ), he is your man!  He also writes the spanering sections in MTB and Road NZ with the kick-start things; his little tips will help most mechanics, be they home mechanics or long time professionals.

So, having been put in touch with Andrew we met for a coffee (which seems to be the way the world works here; having also met Zeph Wadsworth, the Wellington Yeti rep and previous mechanic for the lunachix world cup team over a coffee), had a chat and I soon found myself helping build bikes in preparation for the opening of the iRide shop.  I was working under the guidance of the shops mechanic, Stuart (stewie) Thomson who can be seen on the far left of the founding fathers above (Andrew is on the right, Mike is middle Left, Dave middle right).  Since then the shop has opened up, and served quite a few customers.

The shop is a Specialized concept store including massage, workshop, cafe (with the amazing Havana coffee, made by the effervescent Dan and Aiden) and (coming soon) BG fit area.  It's well worth a visit, even just to try some of the cake!  I could go on about the shop for ages, but I won't, just drop in and visit for a chat.

Right, I will stop here and do a seperate blog for the last race.


First Post

Having lost my previous blog on the Mountain-Trax blog I decided that I might start my own personal blog. 

A lot has gone on since I last posted on that blog, for one I'm now living in Wellington, New Zealand rather than Reading (England).  This move was due to my degree program, which requires me to have my 3rd year (of 4) abroad.  I chose to come to Wellington largely because I do have a love of NZ, but also because the riding was supposed to be pretty good here.  This has certainly turned out to be the case, and the cycling comunity has been very welcoming; I've met more people in the four months that I have been here than I have in the 4 years that I was racing in the UK.  It's certainly opened my eyes as to what can come from just talking to a lot of people on the bikes.  Everyone has been very helpful and friendly. 

The first weekend out here I managed to get out on the road bike with a local bunch ride organised by the Wellington shop, Capital cycles (who I shouldn't be promoting as I'm now riding for the competition, but their rides have been the basis for most of my training and have certainly made my life a lot easier).  I managed to get dropped about 10km from the finish as the pace picked up reminding me that I hadn't really riden for 4 weeks.  This was certainly motivation for me to get training again!

So, I'm not going to describe every ride that has hapened since then, suffice to say I have steadily been getting stronger through a combination of sporadic long rides, quite a bit of mounatin biking and some nice races.  Most of the races I have done since coming out here have been run by the local club PNP ( who have put on some really good events with a really good atmosphere.  The road races saw me progress from B to A grade (not knowing what kind of standard on the road I am meant that I didn't have a clue where to start), but I'm not sure I would be able to cut it in a 'real' A grade race...  The time will come for that soon though I think, although I could do with sorting my road bike out before then; either a new groupset or (preferably) a new bike.

I will post a couple more blogs today just with an iRide update and a post regarding the last race.

Hope everyone is well (if anyone reads this; mostly I'm writing it for me though!).