Saturday, 29 December 2012

Line in the sand

I guess that's the decision I have made about 2012, initial plans for multiple events and an ultra long ride have failed to materialise, in fact the only thing which has been successful is the quality of excuses for not doing the stuff I wanted to.  Whilst training and competing have been lacklustre to say the least other areas of my life have been incredibly successful; a new job (which has changed our lives completely),  Dash will have a little brother come April and to complete the trio we moved house.  Looking at the list I'm pretty happy.  Despite feeling less fit than I have for a long time I have still managed a few decent runs lately.  My trip to America during early December saw me fulfill an ambition by running around Central Park - that run turned out to be just shy of 14 miles.. I was chuffed with that, I didn't even ache, I just need to build on it to achieve my 2013 plans.

So, 2013 then.

It's going to be a big year.

MTB plans are fairly simple..
1) Complete the Wentwood 50k in a time which is significantly better than 2012's which ended up being close to, around 3.5 then.
2) Learn to jump.. Simple in theory but something which is holding me back in my riding, I really think that jumping will speed me up, even if only psychologically.

Other Stuff.
1) Ride 2013 miles, I've seen a fair few people do this sort of thing and fancy a go!
2) Complete a 70.3 Triathlon.. that's a half Iron Man to you and me

So will it be easy? No, probably not, especially the jumping! And doubly so with a second baby due April but I'm determined to give it a go, I hope you will be along for the ride.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Teko Merino Minicrew sock review

Jeez.. you're probably thinking, have you got that little going on that you have to write a review on socks.. SOCKS!!?

Thing is, I think socks are an often overlooked part of any wannabe sportsmans kit list.

Without our feet being in good condition biking and running can be painful and even impossible.

I seem to suffer with blisters, especially at the front of the arch.  In my quest to solve this problem I've thrown many a different pair onto various shop counters and handed over good money only to be left hobbling after a run or two.  The list of discarded solutions is long and contains many of the 'swear bys' seen on internet running forums.

A couple of years back I was recommended a pair of Teko minicrews by a salesman whilst buying a new pair of trainers.. hesitant, I would have left them on the peg if he had not offered a discount, so assured was he they would be ideal.

Putting them on I noticed how they had been made to hug tightly around the arch (my problem area). The pressure was comforting and soon unnoticeable.  Subsequent runs were done with no problem, even during hot weather and double figure mileage runs my feet remained comfortable and blister free.

My originals are now wafer thin on the heel but resolutely protect my feet; even during a soaking wet puddle filled six miler this morning my feet were fine.

I know have four pairs and wear them both during running and biking.  I won't even consider looking for alternatives as long as they remain on the virtual shelves of internet shops.

Being Merino means they don't smell (brilliant for socks!) so several wears are possible between washes, something useful for training whilst away from home.

Sizing wise I use Mediums which although snug for my Size 9 (UK) feet and technically a size down from what I should be in feel comfortable and planted once on.

They typcially retail for about £9.00 excl. postage and to mind are well worth every penny !

Saturday, 10 November 2012

My Tuppence Worth

Take a look at any photo of me from the last seven years and you will see one constant, a little yellow band on my right wrist.

The Livestrong foundation and its distinctive band immediately appealed, Lance Armstrongs cancer awareness charity formed off the back of his own plight struck a chord, my mom had breast cancer 10 years ago and the struggle he outlined in his book left me reading late into the night.

Since then I have defended Armstrong from friends and faceless biking forum members who accused him of being a drugs cheat.  I could not, or maybe would not accept that this cycling god who went from Triathlon champion to young world champion to 'Cancer Survivor' and later a multi Tour de France winner would resort to drugs, especially, as he went through the poisonous treatment of Chemotherapy.

I wanted to believe that things like that happened, those clinging to life by the thinnest of threads can overcome the odds and become winners.

I even handed Mum my copy of Armstrongs book during her own course of Chemotherapy hoping to give her a degree of hope in her own darkness.

The overwhelming amount of evidence presented over the last couple of months, along with Armstrongs decision not to contest the case any longer has finally answered one of the biggest questions to dominate professional cycling for the past 15 years.

I can't be arsed to get into the detail of USDA reports and the UCI, who I generally have a rather low opinion of, but one this is for sure, the yellow band is currently residing in a landfill somewhere.. in it's place is this; please take a look

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

"Used To" doesn't count

That's the thought which found itself in my head as I paused momentarily mid-air during the second of my over the bars incidents this evening.

It was one of those rides which started badly and rapidly pointed its nose downhill. 

After extolling the virtues of my Exposure 6 pack light to a work colleague today the back panel fell out following a slight bump through a gully.

Maybe that was an omen.

Something became clear though, that in the market of the present using past exploits as currency can count for nothing at all.

A lot of new riders now turn up for the Wednesday night ride, I'm just a lad who has started turning up and happens to know the decent riders. 

Sitting behind someone on either a climb or descent and thinking how much quicker I used to be, or that I used to beat the lads disappearing over the horizon on this very trail means nothing; Respect is earned

So, no more used to, it's all about the now

Monday, 10 September 2012

Thankyou, Goodbye and Hello

May of last year saw me move to Sheffield for 3 months.  An offer of a temporary contract ending my jobless state, last Thursday I said goodbye to a group of people I've come to regards as good friends and came home.

It's fair to say that when I arrived I was considered as a wide eyed southerner.  I quickly adapted, the sharp suit went to be replaced by a Northerners vocabularly.

Living as a family man Friday to Sunday and then as a Singleton Monday to Thursday took some getting used to, luckily I had a bike and plenty of work to keep myself busy.  A few lads I made contact with from Singletrack offered to show me their local trails which was fantastic, I extend the same to them should they see themselves in the Forest Of Dean at any time.

I have fond memories of warm summer evenings spent turning pedals over long road rides, setting out with the intention of getting lost in order to find new and seemingly endless beauty in the Peak District roads.  Each ride different from the last but always similar in the feeling it left me with.. contentment from tired legs.

In recent months however I have not moved far from my laptop and books, an exam and then a dissertation has stopped the potential for riding and a house move at home has piled pressure on.  This has meant that I arrived home on Thursday night feeling close to burn out and probably as unfit as I have been in a long while.  The gym membership stopped long ago to be replaced by a daily commute to work.  10 miles a day doesnt' really cut it.  I admit though, in the last few weeks I've relished the lack of fitness knowing that I will soon be carving out new fitness ahead of next year.

Kate has suffered phone calls in the evenings where a dark mood has surfaced from deep in me, loneliness seemed at times to be my only companion and I struggled to acknowledge the longterm benefit the job was doing.  Whilst I was occasionally unable to see light at the end of a tunnel she managed to calmly talk me through, putting perspective on things and giving me a boost until my weekend.  Weekends have been a chance to recharge, not from work like most people, but to recharge on family, enough hopefully to last me until the following weekend.

Now, though, now I'm home, back, amongst loved ones and friends.  It is said that you don't know what you've got til it's gone and I know how true it is.  I want to remember the darkness, remember the loneliness to ensure I don't take friends or family for granted again.

My time in Sheffield has given me more than I realised at the time.  I've found a new desire for self improvement and the knowledge I've got the mental strength to follow change through. I've made new friends and most of all, I've learnt to appreciate the people at home.

So thankyou Sheffield and for now, at least goodbye

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


A horrible word, a word which implies that no forward movement or development has occurred.  In certain areas of my life that rings 100% true, in others, it could not be further from the truth.

During my last blog post I mentioned the frenetic nature of life at home.  Little in the way of riding except for 24/12 and a trip to Brechfa but one hell of a journey through one of the most stressful things you can willingly enter into.

Moving house.. the minute our offer on a house both myself and Kate fell in love with on first sight was accepted a tension introduced itself across my shoulders which failed to dissipate until the key was being turned in the lock for the first time.  Lessons I've learned from the whole experience is that Solicitors and Estate Agents will never form the backbone of my Christmas Card list and that if you want something doing you may as well do it yourself, regardless of how much money you're paying someone to do it for you.

24/12 went well, conditions were generally horrendous and our planned meet up with a few friends failed to go ahead when Plymouth became an island the night before the race started.  We finished 8th in the Male Pairs for the 12 hour race and, despite having a real shortage of miles in my legs I got through unscathed due to 98% determination and 2% fitness.

Since then there has been another complete lack of riding, my beloved Scandal sits awaiting the post ride fettle it desperately needs in a new over sized shed at the bottom of our new over sized garden and I swear I can feel my legs shrinking by the day.  Any saddle arse interaction has come in the form of a 10 mile daily commute, something that has failed to occur this week after a trajectory error with a chisel saw me pay 2 visits to the local A&E on Sunday to have my thumb glued.

The safety course rattles on, I'm adding the finishing touches to my final project but shutting down my laptop after a long day at work to reopen another for yet more typing takes its toll.

On a positive note, my 15 month exile to South Yorkshire is coming to an end after I landed a dream job close to home, it's a big thing for me, I worked damned hard in amongst the cloud of stuff filling my head to do my homework on the Company and how I could make a positive impact.  I'm determined to repay the job offer through total commitment, it's not until you lose your family for a period of time that you realise how much you need them in your life on a daily basis.

I feel as though the summer has been a tunnel, I've stumbled through the dark and a spot of light in front of me is growing daily, the course and working away from home will finish in the same week.  I consider this the bottom of the dip, I want to get back out on the trails of home with long term friends without guilt of ignoring my family.  Next year is taking shape in my head, this one has been consigned to the drawer marked 'experience'.

Stagnation? maybe to an extent, but any ship exiting the doldrums will soon feel the wind filling its sails and progress towards its goal being made

Monday, 18 June 2012

Ye Gods

Two months without a post.. it's not that I haven't wanted to, honest;

I've just had bugger all of interest to say, no ground breaking reveleations there then.  Lack of interesting conversation very rarely keeps me quiet and, if I'm honest, I have been doing stuff.

Interesting stuff if you reside at ABR Towers, of little more than passing 'that's nice dear' interest to the rest of the world.

Our house has been put on the market, viewed and sold, we, in turn have viewed, put in offers, had a house withdrawn from sale from under our noses, viewed some more and finally (it was a week, but a week is a long time when you have my attention span) had an offer accepted.  Our future home currently lies in the hands of money grabbing solicitors with a frenchman's opinion on what constitutes hard work, I expect to move in sometime around New Year, what year remains an exciting mystery..

I've also ridden.  A trip to Brechfa and plenty of forays in the Forest with old riding buddies that prove, no matter the time between meetings, true mates are always pleased to see you (and happily prove it by mercilessly piss taking everything you do or say).

I'm currently neck deep in revision for an upcoming exam, an exam that takes place just before 24/12, a weekend I'm hugely looking forward to, it'll be an opportunity to ride with Rex and camp in our oversized tent with family.

Right, that's the two month thing sorted, back to the books

Keep pedalling!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

April already

Doesn't time fly when you're enjoying yourself*

So my last post was just ahead of the Wentwood 50.  An event that I completed in a rather disappointing time, but with a smile on my face.  The enduro landed bang in the middle of a cracking spell of weather and this made for rather novel issue for the UK.. I spotted a fair number of riders writhing on the floor with cramps in various bits.

The course however, was fantastic, plenty of new bits were added from the 2011 version and they had moved things around abit to make the whole thing tough but rewarding. 

My riding has really been low in both quality and quantity if I'm honest, if 'Fitness' and 'Slack' were placed on opposite ends of a seesaw then 'Slack' would be winning lardy butt down at present.

I went to Afan a few weeks ago, I'd not visited for a good couple of years and couldn't remember any of it.  It was a good day and we seemed blessed on the whole with the weather.  I could feel my riding improve as the day wore on and, on the final descent removed fingers from brakes and concentrated on attack. 

This new and improved attitude served me well for 75% of the descent until the chain came off, not a problem, I hopped off and discovered the cage of my rear mech was bent.. how the hell that happened I can't say.  All I know is that to buy the replacement will cost me £52.. a new mech will cost me £53.. SRAM really are a bunch of thieving arses aren't they?

Singlespeed it is then...

*up to your eyes in work can't really be classed as enjoyment can it?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Perfect Prep?

I sometimes wonder whether the man with his eye on the big game is having a laugh at my expense.  During my last event of 2011 my rear shifter decided to give up the ghost a mere 200 metres before the start line.  Hurried replacement and a charge to the line in time to see my fellow competitors moving off were the order of the day.

In order to get myself ready for Wentwood my preparation started last night... and ended this morning with nothing in between.

A thorough clean off after Tuesdays cracking ride around Rivelin Valley saw me finding a few little things that need attention.

My 10 month old Hope BB is making noises that 10 month old bottom brackets shouldn't and, more annoying, my rear SRAM X9 shifter decided that it wanted to play the same game as the front one did last year.

Cue swearing, late night google searches and dozens of attempts to get little springs back into tinier spaces in the old shifter.

I eventually gave up on the idea of repair some time past midnight and dejectedly switched searching the net from 'Repair' to 'Buy'.

Two things spring to mind when considering SRAM;

1) When they work, they're fantastic
2) When you need to buy them they're bastard expensive

A final decision saw Chainreactions relieve me of yet more of CJ's inheritance in the vain hope they will deliver in time for sundays start line.

A frustrated text to Nic this morning proved the theory that seeing things the next morning always makes it seem a bit better.  The offer of a loaned shifter whilst he attempts a second SRAM warranty replacement for me in as many months and the suggestion that a similar try with Hope will probably see me right on the Bottom Bracket front.

I know that the internet based cycles stores are the first stop off point for many cyclists, but you can't beat the service from your local one.

So, my prep hasn't been perfect, the bike will need more work the day before the event, my legs have less miles in than I had hoped and I have a sleep deficit last seen when CJ was about 2 weeks old.

At least I've got the all the bad stuff out of the way eh?

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Miles or Smiles?

Should anyone have cared to notice, it's now about a week 'til the Goshawk Challenge.

A ride that last year brought me tiredness, a deep questioning over my own sanity and one hell of a final descent..

I promised I'd be back.. I will be

I promised I'd be fitter.. oh arse

Not enough miles, simple as that, but, the miles I've done have brought smiles to my face and sometimes that is more important than churning out countless miles and weighing your lunch.

I know I need to get fitter, I always do, but I've started enjoying my riding again and have a real desire to get out do it.  That probably has something to do with the fact the evenings are getting lighter, but the last few rides I have had really have ticked the right boxes for me.

Last nights for example, a ride around Low Bradfield and best described as 'cheeky' - a route thrown together by Chris whilst walking 'somewhere new' with his soon to be wife.. good skills I say.

The possible descent the whole route was based around proved to be challenging - in that we all fell off, but the eagle eyed gent had spotted another option and kindly informed us as much once we had rolled (bodily) to a halt at the bottom of the rather stony trail.  A lung challenging hike a bike later saw us climbing over the 20th or so fence of the evening before embarking on a real beauty of a trail, roots, little drops and enough flow to ensure we all reached the bottom with speech rpm wound right up.

A steep road climb to reach the top of another trail saw us ratchet cheeky up to 11 by short cutting through a church yard.

"Best be sneaky here lads" informed Chris, as if on cue we dowsed our lights, at which point my mobile rang.. then stopped, then rang.. and so on for the next five minutes.

For anyone who has never seen Low Bradfield, picture Midsomer, in my minds eye Barnaby was turning up the following morning after the discovery of three pitchforked to death mtbers were found next to a ringing mobile..

A great ride though, lots of laughs and an evening warm enough for short sleeves to be suitable even at 9pm.. that felt odd for February I can tell you.

So, Goshawk may again punish me for my lack of preparation, but I'm willing to risk it

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV Pump Review

Picture courtesy of Lezyne
I'll happily admit to being a gadget geek and can easily justify adding shiny things to internet shopping baskets because of how a product looks (although I will always look at reviews before pressing the 'Confirm Payment' button.  When I recently decided I needed a new pump I assumed my normal position in front of the laptop searching online bike shops for the best solution at the right price.

A few months back I bought a puncture repair kit made by Lezyne, a company founded in 2007 that set out to design high quality cycling equipment.  I admit to falling slightly in love with its styling, daft I know for something as seemingly inconsequential as a puncture repair kit, but some things are not only functional but finished in such a way that you have no option but to admire the design process behind them.

Lezyne therefore seemed an ideal starting point for the trail pump.  My final choice is the High Volume track / trail pump that is designed for MTBs, they also do a High Pressure variant for Roadies.  The next choice was whether or not I needed a pressure gauge, I decided I didn't and that the time honoured tradition of checking tyre pressures with the thumb and forefinger squeeze hasn't done me wrong yet (I can't be arsed to get too hung up on tyre pressures I have to admit and stare blankly at people when they ask what pressures I run my tyres at).

I went for the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV after much agonising..

The rather eye watering price is £32.99, A tag would suggest normally being reserved for full on track pumps, but I have bought cheap before and usually send them spinning over next doors hedge with a frustrated drop kick after a pre-trail trial proves they match their price tag.

When it arrived it I was keen to give it a try, the weight is feather light at 150g and the quality of finish exceptional, with lazer etched logos on the handle.

There is a 60cm long hose to ensure you don't have the issue of direct attachment issues of the bike wobbling when you pump the tyre up and a thread chuck to securely fit onto the valve - this proved both a curse and blessing during my first attempt as I managed to unscrew the valve stem deflating my nicely inflated tyre within a second or two.  Once I got the hang of it though, it really did make short work of inflating my tyre (2.2" Bontrager Mud X)  From dead flat to pressure in 58 pumps *ahem*, way quicker than other trail pumps I've owned.

Whilst using it I did notice the handle is small and uncomfortable after a time (I wouldn't want to do three or four tyres in a row with it that's for sure) but with gloves on it's not unbearable - this is a common complaint though and most user reviews I've seen make mention of the same thing.

There is also a fold out foot rest (foot rest is probably stretching it a little, it's about 3" long, but it does the job of keeping the pump upright during use)

It comes with a bottle cage mount but to be honest, it's on the large side for that and I also wouldn't want to lose it so it lives in my pack instead, the weight is bugger all so it won't slow me down.

Solid Build
Positive Connection to tube valve

Uncomfortable handle

This is a high recommendation if you're after a well styled and effective pump, with it's high volume capability it would make an ideal companion for long trips or travel, the cons are far outweighed in my eyes

Monday, 16 January 2012


I've had this for a couple of weeks, but haven't published it for some reason..

The lights of my riding buddies fade in the distance, dropping my head, I concentrate on the pool of light in front of my front wheel and resume the bollocking I'd been giving myself for the past 30 minutes.  As the track rises I click down gears and stand on increasingly tired legs to summit before another wave of tiredness robs me of yet more precious momentum.

Rounding a corner I drift to a stop beside them, two concerned faces highlighted by the powerful beam of light shining from my headlight. I can tell they're worried, instead of the merciless piss taking they ask quietly if I'm ok and reassure me that we'll soon be back at the carpark.. there's just the final descent to home, warmth and food...

The final descent, that fantastic opportunity on normal rides to race against friends one last time until responsibility drags me reluctantly to home.  This time it is faced with nothing more than a stoic resolve to get down in one piece.

We set off again, them racing off ahead, me consumed by the dreaded 'bonk'.  Reflexes are dulled and my riding is cling on rather than hang off.

I reach the carpark, clearly some time has passed between my riding buddies getting there and me rolling in.  Again at a stop I rest my forehead on my bars and contemplate the seemingly monster task of loading a muddy bike and rider into a car for the drive home..
So, that was the ride then, my mid Christmas ride that I've been looking forward to for some time, my fitness has gone from high to low in a few arrogant months and I suddenly face the prospect of rebuilding it all again, the task at hand is now akin to reaching forward to place the last two playing cards on the full pack tower only for someone to open the door and blow the whole lot down.

The idiot with his hand on the door is me though.. I've let the laziness in through the mistaken belief I'd kept more fitness than I had.. laziness that has blown the house of cards down around my ears and I'm now staring dejectedly at the scattered remains of 2011's health coming to a rest at my feet.

Getting home after that ride I re-read a post I wrote ahead of last years Enduro about a new mindset.. I needed reminding, the ride served the purpose of doubling the new resolve.  I felt angry that I had wasted my hard work, I know illness has played its part and I can bet that I've not had this many colds in such a short space of time for years.  I was angry nonetheless.  I have plans for 2012, plans that require a fitness I've not had before and I don't want to be apologetically writing at the end of the the year about how I didn't do them because..

So, I need to regain my aggression, assume nothing and set out to demolish 2012..