Wednesday, March 30, 2011

B.A update.

So i have a year onboard with B.A and it's been all good. He even got sedated and flown out to NAHBS this year. Many trails under tyre and lots of smiles and heart in mouth moments. Awesome!

The time came for some upgrades. The 6 speed was really useful, but the funny thing was, it showed me more i decided to go for 9 speeds. The DT 440 rear 150mm hub is pretty much dishless, and with DT comps and the edge am rim, its going to be bomber. Swapped to an Ethirteen xcx guide, which is stiffer than the mrp, but this is also going to be pulled in favour of an LG1+ running the back plate and the upper guide only initially. I've noticed the bb cups loosen occasionally and i reckon its the guide getting bashed and rotating a little. 36 tooth ring, with 11-34 on the rear.

The Saints are amazing brakes, but i've been spoiled by xtr M988, so on they went (replacing the lever clamp bolts with ti, and using SM 76 rotors and xtr post mount adaptors. All good. Last but not least the steerer is shortened and the stem dropped 5mm: I'm running less sag than i was initially with the terralogic on the Fox. It's all working out.

Next on the list is Conti Rubber Queens when they finally get released and i'm still humming and haaing about a dropper post. We'll see. Here's to the next year on B.A.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Loops 2.

Giga endurance rider shaggy, just back from alaska, and mel were staying this weekend. A great time had: even managed to slip out for a ride at the local trails. In some ways it acted to kick start a high intensity training block...such as i'm capable of at present.... but in other ways it was just a damn fun time riding our bikes in the woods. We were joined by Marty maebegears and Ken. Conditions were so good we even managed to check out where i'm trying to bed in some trail. It needs more work, but by summer i reckon we'll have 4 hours of primarily singletrack loops out there with very little repetition. Sweet as.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Loops 1.

So, with the sun's appearance low in the sky, my blood finally warmed enough to get out and break the 4 hour early season barrier. Yes, there have been one or two longer rides, but that has mostly been conditions and/or terrain dictated. An early 'test piece' loop i often use to gauge where i am on the wide scale of fitness is the Mangrunt loop. So named as when Chris and myself ticked it off first time around, it led to a fair bit of man grunting as we tackled the steeper pitches on our relatively new-at-the-time singlespeeds.

Anyways, usually you leave around six hours for this loop. Various permutations, and i took a slight short cut to miss out on some foresting but all in all a respectable 4.30 for the whole loop. Pretty stoked about that: it wouldnt have surprised me if it had taken at least an hour longer.

I started at the car park midway between Drymen and Aberfoyle and whipped back over the hill (into a brisk headwind) to Garadhban. From there i avoided the dilapidated trails over Conic Hill by dropping down to Milton of Buchanan. Re-joining the West Highland Way my mind turned to a possible attempt at the WHW double. We'll see about that, but not soon.

The trails were in great condition and i made good time up to Inversnaid. The little steppy sections and tight trail in the trees were a joy. Instead of taking the road from Inversnaid to Loch Arklet, i headed up the steep trails to Rob Roy's view, then rejoined the road. Time saved was a wash, but the views were way better.

Back into the Queen Elizabeth Forest and then joined the mustard loop, but took a diversion to avoid the section nearest Aberfoyle - knocking 30 or so mins i reckon off the total loop.

The last section of the forest access road was ruined by recent foresting, and was covered in a carpet of dead frogs. An odd way to finish a grand loop. A little more in the legs than expected, i was able to push quite hard. There is a degree of hope for the 12 hours of exposure afterall....

Next up: Loops 2.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Access by bike.

An interesting thread is developing on singletrackworld. Worth a read, really!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hup, hup...

First ride back in the uk today. On some new-to-me trail. My legs are p a t h e t i c. Some serious work needs to be done... Create custom animated gifs at!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Detail work.

Now we're back from Texas, y'all. It was a great time. Ace to see friends old and new and meet in person people i have known over the internet for some time. I need to do an entire entry about the super-ace hoppy delights sampled, and a further review of the 'show. In the meantime, we have electricity, again, at home after re-wiring to the meters and fuse boxes was required (after a little blow out prior to our leaving on holiday). It was odd to spend the day without the internet - good infact! but strange. Every time we needed to do something, there was a point we reached for a keyboard or the phones only to realise we were cut off. Isolation can be informatics/communication based as easily as geographic, weather or emotional.

And yes, the snow is still falling. Given that, it's time for some detail work. And - what with the horrific effects of the earthquake in Japan, with astonishing and gruesome footage of the tsunamis generated by the huge quake wiping out all signs of human activity in it's path - the weather here is just going to be accepted and our blessings counted. I truly hope that the venting of the nuclear reactor cores is enough and that meltdown of any one of the 5 damaged reactors is averted as that is the last thing that Japan (and indeed the world) needs.

Talking of which, i have just read an interesting if 'lite' article in Outside magazine about a visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (linked here if you want a read). Mother Nature has been filling in the blanks despite the abuse. Interesting how endlessly adaptive and persistent the rush for life can be.

Anyways, as mentioned: time for detail work. That means some work on BA post-nahbs. First and foremost, it was a trifle embarrassing to have so much excess steer tube on show, so thats getting a trim. Lets face it, i aint going to be running the terralogic/talas on any other bike and i'm not going to raise the bars so it is time to commit. I'll also slot a ti spacer in there rather than the king aluminium ones. Just cos.

Talking of King, they had their first 44 external headsets on show at nahbs - and although the cane creek has given me no issues - i'm going to have to invest. The only question is what colour....boring and monochromatic is my norm, but mango or gold are strong contenders - especially given the gold/mango touches already present on the bike.

Sean's bike was also sporting a Syntace seat post clamp. I have been using a Chromag, which is fine - big bolt and basic but does the job - but recently i have noticed that the clamp area has started bending inwards. i suspect this may cause uneven clamping on the post, and usually prefer offset slot clamps a la Campag.

I dont use qr clamps much, but BA benefits from occasional dropping of the post, so i'd like to keep the qr if possible. The Syntace has an offset slot, a clever 3d clamp lever and a scraper that will remove gunk from the post if and when its time to move it. The clamp is also tightened by a neat little nylock thumbwheel that should allow easy tension adjustment. We'll see how it goes.

I had some good chat with Jimbo while in Austin about the benefits of Gravity Dropper seat posts. I like them, particulalry due to the mechanical nature of their action rather than hydro. It seems the Rock Shox Reverb has been having some issues with the hoses that are requiring to be upgraded to a thicker or stiffer hose to stop them, well, stopping working. The Fox DOSS (drop on steep shit) post is apparently mechanical, but uses their tried and true seals, so this may be an option in the future. It also seems to use Thomson seat rail clamps - which are good. We'll see. The other things i like about Gravity Dropper is the shear range of sizes and that the cable exits on the static section of the post and forwards, minimising fuss with cable routing and extension.

The bike was transported in a trico iron case, which has to be commended for doing such and incredible job of protecting my bikes while travelling over the years. If you absolutely want the best protection available, you need to look at these...

However, one problem i encountered when packing the bike, due to the loop bars, i had to take the brakes off, which meant removing the grips. I am also completely head over heals with xtr M988 brakes, so i'm going to have to get another set of these for BA and the split clamp will help if and when its time to pack up again. They also have some mango anodised highlights, right?

Chainline will also see some action on BA. When built, it was optimised for 6 speeds on a singlespeed rear hub - albeit a 150mm wide one!. This means that with 9 speeds the chainline at the chainring end is a little wide. It worked well in Austin, even over rough ground and i had the full range of gears with no rub or major hesitation shifting (given i needed the wee dwidget on the rear mech) but I will use a set of Wheels Manufacturing chainring spacers to bring it in a few mm. I need to be careful because the e13 xcx guide (which is flawless btw) has a limited ability to deal with lateral movement. That give a better chainline. I'll also use a 36 tooth ring, rather than the 35 to give me a little more oomph with the 11-34.

What else? i have a couple of freak-bike tyres to test for Singletrack World. Initial impressions are 'sticky'. But clearly, details will be in the mag'.

If i'm honest, i also need to break out the hack saw and guide to remove a chunk of steerer from the 'cross bike fork....but then i might actually have to use my 'cross bike, and i'm not convinced my fitness would allow that we'll see....and the Jones?

Well it just needs ridden!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Home: a lost bear...

Home. Travelling with kids is easier than photographing kids i suspect. You just need to tune into their rhythm and it seems to work ok. All that despite our flights from Houston being delayed by hours, then being set in a holding pattern above Heathrow for an age. Heathrow then got partially shut down for some 'security' issue that had police hanging around for the rest of the day and so many flights delayed (including our connecting flight) that we were glad we had brought the extra baby milk.

Eventually we got home only to find that (yep! you guessed it!) the luggage was only partly with us. Daisy's stuff and trina's stuff and my bike are nowhere to be seen.

Anxious, yes. Fed up, yes. That makes flying through Heathrow for me about a 1 in 3 chance of not arriving with luggage. Yes, it is complicated, but FFS....there has got to be a better strike rate than that.

Anyways. Home, and its raining. But thats not too bad....

Sunday, March 06, 2011


I was watching Chris Akirgg's new video, A Hill in Spain, on STW the other day. Typically for him, it is not only great riding but really well edited and shot. I'm pretty sure he does a lot of that himself. A couple days later i went for a bike ride with Jimbo, who is in town on Genuine Innovations business. The trails we were on were good: rocky, slabby and tacky. Obviously, there were times when we didn't clear a trail feature: sometimes we didnt even try. So the talk turned to those who can - from persistent locals to those who are just natural born riders.

If you havent seen the latest Akrigg video, here it is...

A Hill in Spain from chris akrigg on Vimeo.

Of course, natural talent is one thing, but there is also practice and skill learning. Just recently for example i have been employing 'third eye' steering on tight switchbacks, and also counter steering on most flowing trails. It has been really interesting to pick up some new riding skills after 22 years of being on a mountain bike. One of the better ways to upgrade your bike riding is to spend money on a skills course, such as Great Rock's varied courses run by Ed Oxley.

On reflection, my riding is often quite limited: i would like to attempt (and clear!) more than i do. Picking up skills and practicing them on the trail is one thing, but belief is another.

Something that resonated for me in Akrigg's video is his belief. He isn't alone in this, the Macaskills, Peats, Craigs and Vouillozs of the world also have a very strong belief in their abilities. When they try to ride something it is wholeheartedly. If i dont believe i will clear an obstacle, i probably wont.

That needs to change.

Course, immediately after having this conversation on the trail i tried to drop into a slightly dicey, rooty, rocky chute and whacked my right shoulder and knuckles on a tree as i *just* made the left hander at the bottom. The blood stained my right glove similarly to the ripped and dripping wound on the knuckles of my left hand, sustained earlier in the ride when i apexed a corner a little too close. Hmmmm. Still some way to go then?

Friday, March 04, 2011


It's been cool to have a little time to sit and follow some of the media and internet coverage of the NAHBS. Particularly because i helped put together a photo essay for Singletrackworld and i wanted to see what i might have missed! It was my first visit and i was particularly lucky to spend some time not only walking the halls, taking in all the amazing work, but talking with one of the most exciting and forward thinking builders at the show.

It made me smile every time someone popped by Sean's booth and had to double take when they noticed the internal hydro routing on his own 29er.

Usually by that time they had commented on how cleanly he had integrated Ti Cycles/Dave Levy's concept of the conical-split seat stay into a belt driven cross bike.

Or the super-utility/belt driven ti commuter with ti racks and integrated rear light and lock holder.

You could imply that i am a biased customer, but the steady stream of builders commenting positively would suggest i'm not alone in thinking that my last bike (and my next!) are being built by a bright and rising star. You may not think a custom/ti commuter is sensible, but the features on these bikes are statements of ability and possibility. A T shirt i spotted at NAHBS had a slogan along the lines of 'do you know your bike's builder?'. Not only is this a motto for the show, but it is also excellent advice if you are looking to have a custom bike made. Once you have established roughly what you want, and which builders could potentially take on the project, the next step is to somehow conjoin a builder's philosophy, skills and personality with your vision and then you are good to go.

Anyway, enough proselytizing!

I get quite a lot of questions from readers about my bike and i'm going to link some video and website footage here so that the middleman can be cut out...enjoy!

First: Cycling News' James Huang.

Second: Velonews' article.

Third: MTBR's article, who also posted a video-interview with main man Francis Cebedo.

I'm sure i'll be waffling on a bit more about the show over coming weeks.

Mode converter.

So i spent a bit of time trying to get the shifting sorted on my bike.....

Seems i should have fitted the mode converter....Damn! I think i left it by the flux capacitor at home. Maybe.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Barton Creek.

It would be rude to visit Austin, especially in possession of a top notch bike, and not ride. After a few minutes on google i found an area that likely had the sort of trails i like to ride. The website is AustinBike and if you are ever in the area with a jones to ride, i'd recommend it.

So with the sun not yet up and at em, i popped out for a 2-3 hour blast round the Barton Creek area trails. These are accessible from downtown Austin, and within a few km it was clear there is a myriad network squirreled away in a relatively small area.

You can ride pretty benign, but super fast 'velcro' trail, creek feeder beds, or rocky/rooty trails in any combination. The smile on my face was wide and the dust blocking my pores was incredibly welcome after the winter in Scotland.

I needed to get back so didn't poke around the area at the far west end of the trail system - on a hill known as 'hill of life'. But i reckon i'll be back there at some point...

These 2 pictures were taken in sequence through one of my favourite bits of trail - very reminiscent of east coast riding, with rock sections and some hopping required to thread the needle. Awesome! ... needless to say the bike was great, though i need to relearn how to set up rear shifting! was noisy and inexact, just like the rider! It has been great to be here in Austin, and meet the bikes' builder, Sean of Vertigo Cycles. I felt like i'd known him for years - and it was a treat to spend time talking to him between visitors to the (always busy!) booth. Next time we'll have to work it out so he can school me in some trials moves on the trail: i could have done with them today!