Tag Archives: mtb

Night rider 

The nights are drawing in. Tomorrow marks the Autumn Equinox, the point at which day and night are equal in duration. After that it’s a dark slippery slope towards winter. 

But that’s just fine by me as it means a chance to get out and ride in the dark and I love it! 

Even the most familiarly mundane and benign trails in daylight somehow come alive at night, like some nocturnal beast, awaking with an empty belly and a need to snatch the first sight of prey that happens upon its path. 

Trails which could be ridden backwards by day take on a whole new dimension, the smallest lumps and bumps seem magnified and trees which you wouldn’t give a second glance by day suddenly become axe murderers. 

But you’re well armed with a gazzilion Suns blasting from your head torch and you start to ease into the ride, nipping through switchbacks, ramping it up on the descents until, without warning, the trail beast reaches out and grabs you, ensnaring you with a stealthily placed rock which sends you flying over the bars. 

The brain works overtime and in the split second between hitting the Rock and the ground you find yourself running through a series of thoughts – “what the fuck?!”, “this is gonna hurt”, “hope my bike’s not busted” before finally landing in a heap on the ground. 

You take a moment to check you’ve not broken any bones and then quickly on to more important matters – how’s the bike? Bones can be reset, muscles repaired but bikes, well they cost money! 

The rest of the ride is spent at a slightly more conservative pace, pride and confidence knocked a little. Until tomorrow night… 😉 


Cycle to work day 

This Wednesday was national Cycle to Work day and what a hump day treat it turned out to be. 

Up at 5:30am I was out the door and heading towards the train station in time to witness sunrise on what would turn out to be one of the hottest days of the year. 

I’d opted to split my commute between bike and train, partly due to fitness and partly due to not fancying a 40 mile round road ride on my ramin 3 plus bike! Don’t get me wrong, I love the big chunky beast of a bike for offroad trails but those big wide tyres do drag somewhat on tarmac. 

It was a nice change to be able to enjoy a beautiful sunrise whilst heading to work without worrying about traffic jams or my broken air con. No need for that when racing through the cool morning air on a bike. 

I arrived at the station in good time, allowing me a while to relax and enjoy watching the London bound commuters rushing in the opposite direction whilst I caught my breath. 

The final section from Pluckley station to the office was just a short 4 mile blast down some quiet rural roads and I spotted two points of interest en route. Firstly, a rather nice looking pub just outside the station which I promised myself I would stop at on the way home and secondly a sweet looking Bridleway which I would also be sure to make use of coming home. 

not London bound

The Bridleway turned out to be a fun cut through but alas upon arrival I found the pub was shut! But I wasn’t going to let that dampen my spirits, I simply hopped on the next train and used my allocated drinking time to take an extended route home. 

no pub but enjoying a well earned beer

All in I clocked up 25 miles of riding, not a huge amount but certainly more than I’d usually get on any given Wednesday (and certainly more than I’d get before work). 

The feeling of arriving at my desk having already had a mini adventure was great and I’ll certainly be looking to do more of this in the future, especially as I’ll be picking up my new road/touring bike next week 🙂 

Week ???

Well I’ve lost all track of time and all momentum, week 9, 10? Who knows. 

What I do know is that London to Brighton is just two weeks away. Yep, 74 miles of mud, gravel, road, ups and downs is just two weeks away. And I’m not gonna be there. I think. 

Basically having just come back from two weeks holiday and about three weeks off the bike dealing with a hip dysplasia flair up before that, I’m having to give serious consideration to whether I’m able to ride the L2B. 

I’ve just been out on my bike, a gentle 8 miler, mostly off road, but 74 miles? Hmmn. I reckon I could do it. But I’m not really in shape. It would be a suffer fest. And could balls up my hips for another three/four weeks after. I’m not really prepared to go through that agony again just for a t-shirt and a finishers medal, no matter how shiny it may be. 

I think setting goals with my hip dysplasia is counter intuitive. Yes goals are good (and I wouldn’t have nailed the South Downs epic earlier this summer if it wasn’t for my L2B goal) but the commitment (and expense) kinda writes a cheque that my hips can’t always cash. 

I’ll see how I feel when the weekend in question comes around, I did after all complete the South Downs epic and managed (just) all the hills over what was a seriously hilly 40 miler. 

But my thinking now is more along the lines of just get out and ride, without ambitious goals pencilled in the diary. Sure I’ll still have goals and still will attempt some ambitious rides as hip pain allows, but they will be on my own terms, at a time and date of my choosing and with the option to back out without being out of pocket. 

And that (to me at least) seems more in keeping with the ethos of mtb anyway – of riding (and finding) your own path, rather than a pre set, signposted and marshalled course. 

Week 6 

Halfway through week 5 I’d be struggling with niggling pain in first my right, then left hip which had limited time on the bike. Frustratingly I’d also got a shiny new stead which I was itching to introduce to my local trails. 

Rather foolishly I pushed on past the niggles, took the new bike for a thrash then attempted a bikepacking trip earlier this week. Result, slight niggles turned into major discomfort and I’ve hardly ridden in nearly two weeks. 

I’m now a week out from a two week holiday abroad (with limited chances for biking) and then just over two weeks before London to Brighton. As it stands I’m not feeling confident. 

I’m frustrated as things were going well, I thought I’d be managing the distances and ride frequency well and my hips had been largely holding up. 

This last week however has left me lacking confidence in not only my fitness but also in my hips and whether they are up to the challenge I’ve asked of them. 

I’m certainly not going to make any decisions at this stage but I need to give serious consideration to the L2B. I know that with care, the right training and nutrition I can cover some serious ground, the 40 mile South Downs epic in June proved that, but perhaps I’ve just not got given myself enough time to build a solid base foundation of miles under my belt. 

As it stands now on Sunday, both hips are pain free and I’ll try some gentle rides out next week but I guess only time will tell if I’m feeling up to L2B… 

Better a bad day on the bike than a good day in the office 

It’s my birthday, it’s the middle of summer, I’ve got a new bike and a day off work. Time to gear up for a microadventure, or so I thought… 

I’d not been on the bike for a week owing to an annoying flair up in my left leg which left me with tight hamstrings and twingy horrible business in hips and adductors. Plenty of stretching, resting and pill popping and I was good (ish) to go. 

Having a birthday day off work in August should be a guaranteed day of blistering heat but this being a British Summer my new Alpkit Kanaga harness was loaded up with waterproofs rather than sun cream, a constant deluge of rain accompanying my morning packing. 

Now, I’m not afraid of a bit of rain (no such thing as bad weather and all that) but today wasn’t even summer rain, in fact it looked like winter outside and as I headed out the door my mood matched the sky – grey. 

Grey turned to black as my route selection failed epically. Just a few miles into the ride I was scything my way through vicious stinging nettles and forests of giant hogweed. My legs are still on fire now! 

A cut through via a small woodland which would have bypassed a busy dual carriageway turned out to be impassable and saw me heading back roughly towards where I had started. I decided to abandon the original destination and instead look for a quiet spot to hang my hammock in a small woods not far from home. 

The woods I’d chosen were heavily coppiced and I spent an hour or so trying to find just two trees thick enough to hold a hammock, turning up nothing suitable. 

bit close to the path

It was at this point that I took stock of the situation. It was raining and the forecast was not looking any better. I couldn’t find anywhere decent to set up the hammock and I’d ridden about 15 miles yet was just a mile or so from where I’d started. I’m not ashamed to say that less than twenty minutes later I was home and waiting for a birthday Chinese to arrive. 

Ultimately Microadventures should be fun. Sure, sometimes you’ve gotta be prepared to rough it a bit but it shouldn’t all be a sufferfest. So I’m gonna draw a line under this particular escapade, take the lessons (perhaps hammocks aren’t quite so versatile, pay better attention to route planning) and move on to the next adventure, the weekend’s not that far away after all… 

Pinnacle Ramin 3+

I’ve been angling after a new bike for a while now. In just four short years since buying my Boardman hardtail, 29ers have become mainstream, 27.5 (or 650b) diameter wheels have entered the foray and just to confuse matters, you can now get both wheel sizes in “plus” flavour. 

Compared to the old standard 26 inch wheels, the new sizes promise more grip, more speed, more control over rough terrain, more everything really, I had to try it out! 

plus size – that’s a lot of rubber!

Looking at the pros and cons of the various options, I’d landed at the decision that a 27.5 “plus” bike was the way to go for the type of riding I do. I’m not an out and out XC speed machine/racer, nor am I an all mountain or trail centre gnarly type. Sure I like single track and sure I’ll hit my local trail centre occasionally but most of my riding is either bikepacking or riding out the door for fitness/fun and maybe trying to blag the odd offroad KOM. 
I didn’t want to spend a fortune, nor did I want a cheap and cheerful rig. I needed something that would stand up to the rigours of bikepacking and let’s face it, the general neglect it’s likely to experience over the years. 

Step forward then the Pinnacle Ramin 3+, a bright orange, plus sized, rigid mountain bike costing £750 from Evans Cycles. Ordered online over the weekend and took a half days leave to collect today (Wednesday). 

box fresh

In the shop I couldn’t escape the fact the the tyres were HUGE! This would certainly be something very different to my old Boardman! It also looked gorgeous, the rigid forks and single chain wheel giving the bike a clean, sleek and purposeful look. It’s painted orange (my favourite colour) and did I mention the huge tyres? 

big tyres need decent rims

The ride 
Rushed home from the shop, frantically scarfed down some lunch and hit the trail. 

On paper this bike is not built for speed. Weight is a good couple of kilos heavier than the Boardman (11.5 vs 13.5) and those huge tyres were certainly going to need some leg power to get them rolling. 

Out in the real world though, this thing flys! Hitting the road before the trail the bike barrels along like a Land Rover, the big tyres humming and buzzing over the tarmac. It’s not going to win the Tour de France but that’s not the point. 

not gonna be Froome’s choice of ride

Hitting the rough stuff the benefits of the big, grippy, bouncy rubber immediately became apparent. The tyres literally eat up mud, gravel, stones, rocks, ruts, fallen branches, hikers, anything! The grip and traction is phenomenal. 

Up the first hill, Strava showed I was a little slower than PR speed but not far off the pace. Halfway up I noticed the seat post slipping down which probably accounted for a loss of power. Quick adjustment and tightening of the QR clamp at the top and I was off again. 

slaying offroad climbs

Over a 9 mile loop I set PRs on a number of sections both flat/twisty and also uphill, including a particularly gnarly uphill Bridleway. I rode this hill on Sunday, setting a PR and beating my previous best by nearly a minute. On the plus bike? Faster by another minute and a half! 

respectable average speed

One other unexpected benefit was on the road. Whilst slow on flat and uphill sections, on the downhills the extra grip and stability meant I could really let loose and fly down without worrying about the front end washing out.  

check out that top speed!

The finishing kit is solid. Nothing flashy but it does the job. The shifting is responsive and I found having a single chain ring/ten speed set up to be a lot less hassle than the twin ring/twenty speed arrangement on my Boardman. One shifter and a full range of gears with no wasted overlaps – simples. 

keep it simple stupid

So, it’s only been one ride and I’ll no doubt add more thoughts once I’ve ridden it in more varied conditions but so far I’m ecstatic. The bike feels comfortable in a way my Boardman never did (just couldn’t get comfy on it) and I came back grinning from ear to ear. 

I think it’s love

I had been considering an Alpkit/Sonder Broken Road but at £1600 I just couldn’t justify the expense. I’m sure it’s a great bike but not so sure it would make me smile more than twice as much as my £750 Ramin! 
Second ride update – short blast tonight, certainly not giving it the full beans and just enjoying being out on my new rig. Even so, across my local Strava segments I was still pulling a good few “podium” times so seems as though the “roll over anything” benefits of the big tyres really do make for a rapid off road machine. 

Only slight dampener was that I noticed a bit of clicking/clacking from the bottom bracket, hoping nothing serious and will flag with Evans when I take it back for its post shop service. 

Week 5 – food, injuries and a new bike

I always struggle with lunch. Not the eating it part, more the logistics. 

I’m not that organised so making a prepared lunch seems like a chore and as I’m often out and about between offices for work, storage and transport become an issue – no one wants a chicken salad that’s been sat in the car all morning. 

fridge required

So yea, it’s a hassle but buying lunch every day gets expensive and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to pick up something suitably nutritious. 

save some for lunch

I’ve therefore made a conscious effort this week to do a little planning ahead. Nothing revolutionary, just simply cook/prepare a healthy evening meal and make sure there’s enough for lunch the next day. No extra work, no extra cost and means I’m using more of my fruit/veg/salad rather than it going off a couple of days after foraging for it in Tesco. 

Highlight of the week was picking up this beauty… 
I’ve written some words about my first impressions here but if you just want a quick review – it’s bloody awesome! 

plus size assisted PRs!

Training hampered by a slight twinge in my hamstrings early on in the week which wasn’t helped by over enthusiastic desire to get out on new bike. Rested up since Thursday which has been frustrating but I know is the
right thing to do. 

Certainly one of the frustrations of hip dysplasia is I never know whether it’s my hips causing referred pain or whether I’ve actually injured something. I keep getting recurrences of what feels like hamstring strains and will certainly look at positioning on my new bike but it’s annoying given the work I’ve put in to build up my core and hip strength lately, not to mention the improvements to my diet. 

Looking at the times of some of the Strava segments ridden on my new bike however and I’ve not exactly been taking it easy, perhaps I need to slow it down a little…