Glentress Seven 2015 Tweedlove!

 

A seven hour endurance XC race not my usual cup of tea, but I thought I’d give it a go to see if my BC Bike race training is working. 

So the idea is to complete as many laps as possible within the seven hour time limit. The course is around 11km with roughly 450m of up and down. The main descent is a total classic, but it’s only available for the day – a lot of the trails are closed again straight after the event.

 Camping at the Rosetta site nearby.

The morning of the race was glorious not a cloud in the sky. Consuming the usual pre-race fuel of porridge, coffee, porridge and more coffee I was excited and ready to go.

  Gathering at the start

All the start line there was a big mix of bikes from superlight weight 29er flying machines to hefty full sus fat bikes with 5″ tyres. I decided to race my Santa Cruz Bronson over of my hard tail thinking the full sus will be more forgiving on the body.

Lining up at the start, flat pedals, gloveless and in baggy shorts looking more Enduro than XC I was surrounded by a good chunk of Lycra clad racers. I had no expectations of where I was going to finish, so I shuffled in the middle of the pack, with the serious racers elbowing there way to the front of the line.

After a quick tune on the bagpipes we were off and straight into a climb to help space out the field of riders. The first lap consisted of passing as and when you could, on the first descent I was stuck behind a train of riders for frustratingly too long. With the first lap out of the way the second began thinning out abit giving me more opportunities to pass which I took with both hands!

The course itself felt like a big old up followed by a big down albeit with a few punchy climbs linking the downs together. The climbs were tough in places and the descents were fast and flowy with the odd techy sections which for me and the Bronson were superb.  

 Harder but faster option down the wee drop.

Three hours into the race I had four laps under my belt which felt good as did, so I set myself a target off a lap an hour which seemed reasonable. Four hours in and I began to deliberately drink and eat more to keep me going with my kids in the solo pit lane ready to throw me fresh bottles and power bars when needed on passing.

By now over five and a half hours in and still feeling good I knocked out lap seven which was my target set earlier in the race, ok let’s just keep going and see how many I can do. It turns out lap eight was tough both mentally and physically but more mentally, I thought this is it bang I had hit the wall. After a hard 10 mins I was through it and if I managed to finish the lap before 4.30pm I was allowed to start lap nine. Crack on!

  Taking the inside line!

So I pushed on hard and made the cut for my last lap, although I only had fifty eight minutes to get round, no pressure. Talking to fellow racers out on the laps I thought I must be doing ok as they all seemed to be on laps six or seven. 

Lap nine was a tough, my legs were screaming on the climbs as I pedalled hard to get home. Reaching the feed station signalled the end of the climbing and the start of the downhill just about all the way to the finish line. My final decent was fast and loose to say the least hammering every section I could running on pure adrenaline, with end in sight I could hear my kids cheering and ringing the cowbells relentlessly, what a feeling, goosebumps galore!! Dad Dad Dad!! They were shouting.

   
 Come on Dad!!!

Crossing the finish line I was feeling pretty damn tired, I had completed nine laps in seven hours twenty six minutes and the hands to prove it!

 Next time gloves?

Grabbing a bite to eat we sat down for a while waiting for all the results to come in. We headed over to the computer screen to check the scores on the doors where I was shocked and so chuffed to have managed 10th place, awesome, I couldn’t be believe it. At the start I had given myself little chance of being up there in the top ten, I started thinking what if I had started nearer the front? Top five? I was only two laps behind first place and one behind second, third and fourth. 

Maybe next year, time for a beer now!

  
 

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Cyclewise “Altura Gravity Stage Race” Whinlatter Forest a tad moist!

After the glorious sunshine of my last race it was only fitting that this one was going to be a wet one, well it is the Lake District! 

Beeeeeeep beeeeeep alarm was going off and I awoke to the rain hammering it down accompanied with thick fog, I nearly turned over and went back to sleep. 

During the drive upto Whinlatter it was clear today was going to be muddy to say the least, passing through some terrible weather on the way up. A few cars passed on the M6 with the bikes on their racks already equipped with mud spikes.

Registration complete, number board attached, timing chip on my wrist and find somewhere out of the rain to keep dry until the race starts. 
 Cyclewise HQ

After hiding under the porch of the Cyclewise shop for a while it was race time, and by now the rain had stopped but unfortunately the damage to the stage’s had been done, all week the trails had been dry and dusty not anymore.

This was a blind race, with the stage’s ridden in any order. We started on Stage four, from the off this was off piste muddiness with big holes, slick roots and no grip till you reached the fire road at the end. Straight into the deepend.

After a long climb upto five we knew that this was going to be one of the faster stage’s as it was the trail centre decent on the South Loop which is rock based. Starting from the top straight into the first rock garden keeping speed through the tight greasy rocks was tricky and there were a couple of pedally sections in the middle that you could struggle on your in the wrong gear. There was one sharp flat right that caught a lot of people out at the end of the stage, coming into it fast if you didn’t make the turn you were over a drop to the road. Super stage for the weather conditions with next to mud!!

Stage 6 in the dry is a super tight fast loamy trail with natural jumps and drops, awesome. Today on the other hand all you can really say is mud mud and more mud, to the point where you wheels would barely turn as the bikes clogged up! Sense of humour failure ? Not me but some guys were throwing there bikes down shouting “this is shit” well not really its mud welcome to the Lakes! 

A gently ride and mud shedding mission to stage seven, another off piste goodness in the dry! It started off really nice, steep and flowy  even through the muddier sections until you reached the last fifty metres. 

Coming into a right hander the mud just swallowed the bikes up for fun, most people had to run with or push the bikes here as wheels just jammed solid. Coming out of the mud there was a steep chute to ride to finish the stage, I threw my bike down as the wheels were seized and pushed the bike over the timing line. I was not the only one! 

  
 Crossing the line anyway you can! 

Heading over to the North loop we heard that stage one was the muddiest of the lot, no way it couldn’t get any muddier! We also found out the fastest stage of the day three had been cancelled due to a bad injury. 

Reaching the start of stage one the marshall informed us that it was as muddy as the others but faster! As I dropped into the muddy abbyss this was super fun, with the steeper gradient it was pretty much mud surfing from top to bottom, foot out flat out! Well maybe not flat out but definitely foot out.

  
Stage 2 was for me the best of the day with a mix of everything we had raced or ridden so far and all without having to push or carry through the mud. It felt more like a race run as opposed to a mission to just get to then bottom.

 

That was one tough race wrestling the bike through the mud down the stage’s was super tiring. Just one more race of the day and that was back to the visitor centre for food and superb free beer in my unbiased opinion, even though I did brew it in my day job for Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery. 

Mud, crud and beer! Bike wash queue was huge another beer it was!! Results in and I finished 37th / 130ish riders which considering the conditions it could have gone either way. Looking forward to next year and dry trails!

MTB Meetup Llandegla 2015

What is MTB Meetup? 

MTB Meetup is a social MTB gathering organised by Si Bradley aka @Good_Guy_Si with the word spread via the world of Twitter @MTBMeetupUK

The MTB Meetup took place over the weekend of 18th and 19th April 2015 at One Planet Adventure in Llandegla, North Wales.

This was my first year at the Meetup, I was there to meet other riders, ride great trails and also to serve the free beer which I had organised from Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery. Prior to the event we run a competition on Twitter to name the beer for the event, we had a good number of entries and the winner picked out was Berm Basher! 

  
Eager to get out and ride, I got the beer setup and ready to serve and off I went on the first ride with a bunch of guys I didn’t know, putting a face to all the different Twitter handles. With a group of like minded people who are all there for the same thing it’s not hard to make friends and we were soon having good laughs and banter en route.

 
Back lunch and a sample of Berm Basher beer which went down a treat. 

Next we headed out on the second ride of the day, after riding Llandeglla red and black first up we took to the blue this time round, playing on some features on the way. After anothe top ride we returned to finish off the Berm Basher, eat more cake and have a good old English raffle!

 

What a superb idea for a day out, with over 150 people attending I met new friends, new riding buddies and even new business contacts. If your not on Twitter join it just so you can find out when the next one is! Great effort Si!

@MTBMeetupUK

@Good_Guy_Si

Grizedale Enduro PMBA Round 2

 

Could it be the sun is shining and it’s race day!!!

After racing round one on my trusty hardtail through the mud of Gisburn,  I decided to mix it up with the big boy’s in round two racing my Santa Cruz Bronson enduro weapon!

With the stage’s using some footpath’s there was no route map available until race day so you were unable to go and reccy a few day’s early, instead practice was in the morning then racing starting at 12.30pm.

Heading to the stages I bumped into some guys I had met at previous events so I joined up with them for the usual banter and line choice discussion during the practice run’s.

With Grizedale being a local forest for riding I was keen to see the stage’s and find out if there was a any new cheeky trail’s or footpath’s I hadn’t ridden yet. It turn’s out I knew all the stage’s pretty well, which was definitely an advantage or so I thought.

Racing the trail’s is totally different to just riding them, usually I would hunt out the tricky more challenging line’s to ride but come race day you need to find the fastest. On some of the stage’s especially stage 2 it was like riding it for the first time, not the advantage I was hoping for.

Other than a ripped tyre through the rocks of stage 2 practice went ok not really much chance to scope the new line’s as it was so busy with over 500 rider’s to get round, so we rode the stage’s and went back to the van to fuel up and get ready to race.

  Practice run on Stage 1

Time to race, I was in the first group to go at 12.30pm so no queue’s at any of the stages which was nice, we could rattle through the stage’s fairly quickly. 

Stage 1 

Straight into steep off piste techy root’s through the wood’s popping out onto fast open rooty harvested woodland section then hitting ‘The Black’ Grizedale decent. This was a mix of drops, jumps and berms to finish, super fun!

  

Stage 2 
The locals stage Caron Cragg was a short but packed a punch. Pretty much from the start to finish was a rock fest, with some nasty wheel grabbers and tyre shredders. A fast techy gnarly blast, wicked!

Stage 3

Another short stage, fairly simple flat out singletrack with the odd trail obstacle to try and catch you out, staying of the brake’s for as long as you dare was the aim of the game.

Stage 4

The final stage was a wicked off piste local’s decent fast singletrack through the tree’s dropping steeply to the fire road crossing and joining the end of the North Face route for a lung burning pedally sprint to the finish!

  
I was slightly frustrated during the race as the ripped tyre I suffered in practice meant putting a tube in my usually tubeless tyre’s. Not wanting to risk a pinch flat I was running a lot higher than usual PSI resulting in a loss of grip and generally feeling very skitterish on the front end. Excuses aside the race didn’t go to bad, I came into the race hoping for a top 20 finish and ended up 31st out of 134, I know next time take some spare tyres!!

 

Fat bike FUN TIME ?!?!?!?

Whats all the fuss about fat bikes? 

With so much talk about the fatty’s both good and bad it was time to find out for myself! 

  Fat and light!

During a recent trip to Coed y Brenin I hired a Trek Farley six to put to the sword.

The first thing I noticed was how light she was it didn’t feel much heavier than your average mountain bike. Flinging my leg over I blasted straight onto the blue trail with no regard for the fact it was fat and fully rigid. To my surprise it felt pretty quick and fairly nimble, where was the sluggish draggy pointless bike I was expecting! 

  Fat=Fun!

This fatty was super fun to ride, you get a real feel of being able to and wanting to ride up, over and through anything and you can! I started deliberately looking for mega steep climbs, deep mud, tight turns to stop the fat rubber turning, which was proving difficult. The grip you get from the four inch tyres is immense crawling up steep climbs like its being winched to the top, blast though mud like a hippo on the charge! I even managed some air off the jumps which again was just taken in its stride! 

After a couple of laps of the blue trail I hit the red trail which is straight into a fast rock garden with some decent size boulders to ride over. This was the first time it started getting sketchy, riding at speed caused the bike to bounce over the rocks progressively bouncing higher each time like space hopper, the fact it was fully rigid didn’t help with a set of Rockshox Bluto’s on the front you’d be laughing, which for me is what the bike oozes and that’s FUN!

  
In reality this was a short term test on a fatty round a trail centre but I was amazed how fast and capable they felt and best of all how much fun! I was interested to see the Strava time’s and shocked to see I got a KOM on a section of the blue loop in 2015 out of around 900 riders! 

  
The fatty is definitely a guilty pleasure which I hope to purchase soon for some long term fun, adventure and of course testing!

Lake District ‘hike a bike’ goodness!

Early finish from work and a sunny afternoon weather forecast we decided to hit the hills before dark. Only just!! 

We ve had this big mountain Lake District loop in our mind’s for a while now but have never got round to doing it. A couple of week’s prior the route we in mind turned up on Pinkbike with photo’s and a report from James Vincent a local to the Lakes. After reading the ride we report it was time to stop talking about it and do it!

 Map of the planned route, borrowed off Pinkbike.

So with when a free afternoon came up there was no other choice lets get this big ride in the bag. With the clocks yet to go forward we needed to be back before dark, neither of us were carrying a light. No worries 15 mile loop with a couple of hike a bikes 5 hours would be plenty!

Starting the route in a different order to the one on Pinkbike we headed up Rossett Ghyll first. From Langdale a nice ride out to the first hike a bike of the day, the ride had a real remote, in the middle of nowhere feel soon into the loop. Determined to carry my Bronson to the summit without putting it down was tough, reaching the top or so I thought was a relief until the wind hit and the realisation that it was a false summit! 

 What about those views! I had to put the bike down to take it all in, good excuse! 

  View down Rossett Gyhll

An undulating pedal past Angle Tarn then more carrying, pushing and trying to ride to reach the top. 

The scenery up there is amazing with a real big mountain atmosphere, awesome! 

 Angle Tarn 

Reaching Esk House was the first descent of the day, eager to blast down the trail littered with Lake District rock, fast natural tech, tight and steep, the big climb by now a distant memory, what big climb! Well worth the effort!

  Top Notch!

Still pointing down from Sty Head we had loads of descending still to do, superb. Passing Sty Head Tarn to Stockley Bridge was flat out fast loose gravely trail, staying off the brakes not risking washing out.

Sty Head Tarn

Crossing a narrow bridge the trail soon disappeared into a sea of rock which was barely rideable, a quick push and shove got us back on track. Soon getting back up to speed buzzing off the descent, I found myself thinking why go to the Alps when you’ve got this on your doorstep! When suddenely the trail dropped super steep over rocky steps, the pace slowed a lot, burning brakes picking lines hopping drainage ditches, staying focused you didn’t want to come off here.  The steps seemed to go on for ever before reaching a gate giving the brakes chance to cool, not for long. Through the gate and straight into a steeper section of natural rock drops and steps mixed in with some sweet switchbacks. We’d come to ride this stuff and we sure did! Fantastic downhill from the very top of Rossett Ghyll to Stonethwaite you won’t get much better, everything you could ask for if your into your mega techy, fast, fun filled,  fully focused descents.

With time ticking on and big grins on our faces we headed round to Longstrath Beck for what turned out to be a long slog through boggy ground, this caught us by surprise we had planed on riding all this stretch but ended up pushing most of it. The grins soon disappeared, all of a sudden we were racing to get to the top of Stake Pass before dark so we could ride the last descent in the daylight. You wouldn’t want to descend the  super steep rocky switchbacks in the dark!

 Darkness creeping in!

After a  fairly short but very steep ascent we made it to the top in time, ready to hit Stakes Pass. The super techy switchbacks were hard  but made harder by the fact everyone of them had a big drainage ditch in the middle looking to grab your front wheel, the fastest and best option was to straight line the corners down steep grassy banks and back onto the trail rockfest, another cracking full on descent! A short pedal back along a bridleway in which time it was now well into dusk, by the time we reached the couple of minutes road stretch to the car it was proper dark. Perfect timing. Phew!

What an afternoon’s ride! 

Don’t take for granted what’s on your doorstep, you could be missing out! 

  

Racing Escape to Gisburn PMBA Enduro round 1

Decision decision’s, what bike should I race on? I own a Santa Cruz Bronson which is a race ready fully carbon enduro race machine or a steel is real Stanton Sherpa 29er Hardtail which is bags of fun keeping it real. The choice was simple I went with the…………Stanton Sherpa lets go and have some serious fun mixing it up with the big boys on the full susser’s. 

Come race day the rain was poking it’s head out here and there which was going to make things intresting especially on stage 2 aptly named Loamudeggon! Arriving for practice at 9am I hooked up with some guys that I’d met in France on the Trans Savioe last year to ride with.  

Steel is real.

Practice 

Stage 1 ‘The Snake’ from the stone circle to the fire road, blasting fast trail centre singletrack with a few tight berms, a north shore bridge and a leg burning pedal to finish. Straight forward enough hopefully.

Stage 2 ‘Loamudeggon’ all off piste this was going to be fun, I rode it earlier in the week and it was loam not anymore. Practice was slow a big train of riders checking out the fastest lines through the trees avoiding mud. The stage began reasonably flat and not to muddy until you hit the middle section, this would need speed and balance to get through come race run. The gradient then dropped increasing the fun factor and speed over another north shore bridge before navigating roots into a loose corner followed by a steep drop that was rollable into a mudfest, line choice here would be key. Over a bank into a loamy corner to finish. This will be a different beast at speed come race run.

 Loam before race day.

Stage 3 ‘Home Baked’ a Gisburn classic, tight and twisty red graded trail centre decent with a section on off camber, off piste goodness in the middle of the stage to spice things up, then across the fire road back into the tree’s for another off piste section to finish. During practice this was really starting to get cut up pretty bad, I predict a riot for the race! 

Stage 4 ‘Gas to Flat’ This started above the downhill line on off camber roots with rock drops linking onto the downhill course hitting drops two and three then joining a different line with the sketchiest left hander of the day, hit this to wrong and you will lose lots of time come race run. Crossing a stream at the bottom through the tree’s over the fire road diving back into the tree’s for another leg burner of off piste to end of the stage.

 Airtime during practice on Stage 4 

During practice most of the stage’s were run pretty slow due to the volume of rider’s, these would be different hitting them at race pace especially the off piste sections. Bring it on! 

   Map of stage’s

So far the Sherpa had taken everything in its stride over the stage’s at practice pace. Time to refuel and clean down the bikes before the race. 

Race time, feeling excited and ready to go knowing the first stage ‘The Snake’ pretty well I was off flying through the singletrack section but hitting the berms to fast meant losing time and flow. I knew I had to try a make it up back on the twisty flat trail but messing up the berms knocked my rhythm, I dabbed a corner clipped a tree and blasted to the finish with my legs screaming. Not to happy with the first stage as that should have been one my faster stage’s.

   

 Who says 29er’s can’t fly.

Pedalling over to stage two the plan was to concentrate on being smooth and keeping the flow through ‘Loamudeggon’ which by now had been chewed up from practice, with polished roots now exposed everywhere. Riding the stage I felt I got a good start carrying my speed well, pedalled through the deep mud section where I believe a lot of people picked up their bikes and ran. I had one hiccup on the stage a tight right flat turn which was now deep mud, I stalled for a split second. Onto the steep roller and the line spotted early was to keep tight left hopping over a stump missing the muddy abyss straight onto the finish, worked a treat. Fairly happy, most people would find that a tough stage to keep flowing in place’s.

‘Home Baked’ was a wicked stage, again with local knowledge this was fast on the top coming into the middle off piste section hot was carnage there was mud, off camber roots, drops and lines everywhere! Point and shoot let the bike carry me through, this worked pretty well until near the finish where I got bogged down for a split second, there was a marshall shouting “pick it up and run” out of principle I wasn’t going to and manged to plough on to the end. Phew!!

 

Rooooooots!

One stage to go I was feeling pretty good with only a few stall’s in the mud, the odd duff line choice it could be worse.

‘Gas to Flat’ This was the stage I was most looking forward too, from the off it was fast over the off camber root’s and rock’s onto the downhill line, fast off the drop’s ready for the sketchy left hander. Not to bad got round it better than in practice, then pinned it over the stream, flying through the woods hanging on to the charging Sherpa. Somehow I managed to pass a rider through the mud taking a high is dry line over to the last off piste stretch. This was another lottery of which line choice to take through the claggy deep mud, legs burning, cranking on I hit a tree stopping me dead! Don’t know what happened but quickly got back upto speed, blasting to the finish. Bugger if I hadn’t hit the tree I felt that would have been fast.

 

Spotting the landing.

Round one done, overall I felt fairly happy with the race, with only stage one being the most disappointing. Over to the timing tent to see my result, 10mins 12 seconds which at that time was a good time putting me 11th overall in the masters category of both full suspension and hardtail hero’s, but with still a lot of rider’s to come in. More and more rider’s returned and I only dropped down to 18th, I was starting to feel really good with my time. By the time everyone was back I was down in 30th out of 127 which I was still pleased about, but what was the fastest hardtail time? Podium time, there were some very fast lad’s out there, the winning time for a pro rider 8 minute’s 3 second’s. The hardtail category the winner is with a time of 9 minutes 36 seconds, second place with a time of 10 minutes 6 seconds and third place with 10 minutes 12 seconds goes to Stu Taylor. Well chuffed to sneak on the podium and was left thinking what if I hadn’t stalled, come into the berms to fast on ‘The Snake’ but that’s racing and an awesome day was had. 

 

Dizzy height’s of the podium 

The decision to ride the Sherpa paid off, would I have been much faster my Bronson? Who know’s but it was bag’s of fun nailing the Sherpa down the stage’s. 

Looking forward to round 2 at Grizedale, maybe I ll take the Bronson next time. 

http://www.pmba.org.uk/news.php?iframe=News/N140121.htm

 

Real mountain bike stuff!