Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Santa Cruz Santa Cruise 2012

Pic: Josh Lewis, courtesy of Joe Whitaker
Every year the ever brilliant Joe Whitaker organises all the Santa Cruz Bikes people from all around the UK, across all disciplines, to get together to benefit a good cause close to his heart and to celebrate another great year having a lot of fun on some lovely bikes, Santa Cruz Bikes Santa Cruise. The ride is fast becoming a UK Santa Cruz Bikes institution and it's great to see so many riders (yes, this includes the legend that is Steve Peat), from so many disciples meeting up, smiling and just enjoying riding so many varieties types of bike.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Kendal Mountain Festival - A Night Out at Santacruz Bikes' Bike Night

Last weekend I was extremely honoured to be asked to talk about my adventures on two wheels at Kendal Mountain Festival's Bike Night. To have the opportunity to share what I love doing and talk about the things that I have done that bring a smile to my face was fantastic. However, I'm a cyclist (and sometime engineer), not a public speaker, so it was also extremely terrifying!

It turned into a great night out, and I was honoured to join some people on stage who were both amazing and lovely at the same time, including none other than Chriss Akrigg, Alex Rankin and Ed Oxley
The microphone looked a lot, lot scarier from the other side!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

New Bike In The House & It's Not Mine - Santacruz Highball 29er Hardtail in Size Small

Grace's Shiny New Highball 29er
Earlier in the year Grace got her first 29er, a lovely black and green Superlight 29er. It was such a success, she would go on to become only the second woman to complete the 202 miles and 25'700ft of climbing of the South Downs Double. A challenge that has a success rate of <30% of the men who have started it in recent years. If you want to read more about her epic ride, you can find it all on BikeMagic here, or Cyclist No.1 here. If you want to read about a lovely little 29er hardtail, well, read on.

Having gone 29er, it was just a matter of time before the, now abandoned, hardtail went that way too. Inevitably a lovely white and green Santacruz Highball Alloy frame, in size small, dropped through the letterbox thanks to the lovely guys at Suntacruz UK, much to everyone's great excitement....

Sunday, 14 October 2012

BearBones 200 - More Bikepacking to Finish 2012

BB200 Route: Click to make it bigger
Almost like it's designed to take in all the biggest hills!
This year I've found myself doing a lot more bikepacking, so it's no surprise I was looking forward to the Bare Bones 200, held in an area that contains some of my favourite riding in the UK, and through one of the sections I enjoyed the most in my earlier EWE adventure.

My race preparation hadn't been ideal: An 7-day work trip to South Korea, followed by a 9-day work trip to Austria, rounded off with a birthday trip to Munich's Oktoberfest, all finished off with a violent (and certainly self inflicted) case of gastroentiritis. No matter, a few cups of coffee on my return home got me and my kit to a cheap night in a Travel Lodge near the Welsh border and a breakfast of RedBull got me to the start line raring to go.

This was never going to be my strongest ride, but I was determined to enjoy myself and, riding through the sub-zero overnight temperatures I found some great company and finished with a huge smile on my face, earning myself a coveted "Black Badge" in the process.

And here's how it all went......

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cover Model! Outdoor Fitness Magazine

This month I made it onto the front cover of Outdoor Fitness magazine. Woo-hoo! This made me smile. 
The photo is by the amazing Dan Milner.

Friday, 31 August 2012

EWE - Bikepacking Racing The Hard Way

My reward, waiting for me when I got
home, the best prize I ever won!
I've always got an eye out for a new challenge and bikepacking, or more specifically bikepacking racing, is something that's always caught my imagination for the last several years but that I'd never gotten around to planning into my calendar, nor did I fancy my first big race to be on another continent, only to find my prep was off the mark or my equipment didn't quite work. With a few big bikepacking trips under my belt over the winter for the first time, in all weathers and with the announcement of England-Wales-England, the UK's first, super-hard, bikepacking race that would traverse off of England and Wales' national parks and would be sure to take over a week, possibly up to 10-11 days (or so we thought), I signed up to the 800mile, off road, strictly self supported adventure that lay ahead. As a sign of things to come, within a week of signing up the route had "crept" up to just over 1000miles...... and then to 1300 with 2 weeks to go. I should have heeded the first warning, to ignore the second could be considered foolish!

The race can only be described as an incredible experience for me, but turned out to be much harder than I, or Aidan Harding who had organised the event, could have possibly imagined when we set off. Beset by some exceptionally unseasonal weather, which had also made for some pretty inhospitable trail conditions. On top of this I suffered a few big kit and accident setbacks. It was just the kind of super-tough challenge of both body and mind I had hoped it would be, but one that also provided some incredibly inspiring moments too. A few weeks after I've finished and it still brings a grin to my face whenever I remember bits of it. If you want to see a bit more about the bike and dynamo light and recharging set-up I used, see this link here otherwise, here's how my ride went:

Friday, 3 August 2012

BrightonBigDog 2012 - Video Preview

Saturday sees the, now hugely popular, BrightonBigDog mountain bike race taking place in the sublime singletrack of Stanmer Park.

Josh Ibbett has made a lovely little video preview of the course, now that everything's finally dried out, to whet your appetite for treat all the riders have in store for them this weekend

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

England-Wales-England 2012, A Quick Round Up

All smiles as I passed Steve and Aidan's
marker, but it was hard work getting there!
2012 saw the running of EWE, the UK's first multi-day bikepacking race, through the national parks of England and Wales. The race was a brilliant experience (helped by the fact that I finished in sunshine!), and once I've caught up with real life, I'll be able to make the time for a full write up of my 10 days of super tough racing. For now, a much more concise review will have to suffice:


Before I sit down and write any more, I must pause to say a multitude of HUGE thank yous to the lovely and amazing people who got me and my equipment to the start and who helped me keep going along the way, without whom, I'd have been stuck at home watching the last week of the Tour de France on telly while it rained outside instead:

Friday, 13 July 2012

England-Wales-England (EWE) is GO!

As I type this, final preparations are underway for the 1300miles of the England-Wales-England, or EWE, a self supported, bikepacking race through a selection of the best singletrack of all the national parks in England and Wales (and England again), starting at 8am on Sunday 15th July. As you read this I am, hopefully, pedalling my way through the race.

You can follow the progress of all the riders in the race live, through a dedicated trackleaders webpage, linked through the image and text on the right. We all have Spot satellite trackers and every 10minutes a shiny new dot will appear, along with a whole bunch of possible analysis, should you so wish. A big thanks to trackleaders for offering their support for this race.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Alpkit - Welcome Aboard

I'm delighted to add Alpkit to the list of friends who have offered me support in my endeavours on a bike, they'll be supplying me with a custom framebag, the Alpkit Stingray, for the EWE race next week (and some of the week after!)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Racing on a Dynamo - Charging My GPS, A Bright Light and Some Very Special Hub Dynamo Wheels

In just under two weeks I'll be taking on the 1300miles of racing that is the EWE (England-Wales-England). This means I'll have to last a long time without being able to plug my phone, my GPS and my lights into a mains recharging socket. Suddenly my winter riding dynamo lights (nicknamed "the deanamo" by my friends) have taken on a whole new level of importance.

For the race I'll be free not only from mains charging, but I'll also be able to avoid faffing trying to find alkaline batteries (nasty things I try and avoid) from petrol stations and corner shops to keep my lights and navigation going. I'll be powering and charging everything from my Shutter Precision PD-8 hub dynamo :-)

Battery (and mains charging) free: Bar light and GPS charging all powered by a dynamo hub
Should I want to be connected to the real world, it will charge my phone too

The North Face Journal - Story Of The Month!

A while ago, I headed down with my bike to Auronzo di Cadore on the banks of Lake Misurina, the Tre Cime and the Lavaredo Ultra Trail with Dan Milner and Josh Ibbett to take on the trail by bike. Dan took some amazing shots of our adventure and the tale of our 2-day ride is now July's story of the month on The North Face Journal!

Follow THIS LINK to the story, some amazing pictures from Dan and a little video of the trip

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Mayhem Done

My disappointingly accurate vision

Well, that was even muddier and nastier than I had dared to foresee when I set off on Friday morning. Mountain Mayhem 2012 was surely the muddiest ever.

the course on Sunday morning :-(
or should that be Sunday mourning? (sic)

Luckily I got to spend the weekend working as pit crew and riding with the Santa Cruz Bikes team, a role which lasted about as long as our enthusiasm for destroying our bikes whilst pushing them across a grassy field. OK, so it wasn't that bad and there were some great bits, but it sure felt like it at times on the lap!

A big thank you to Jungle and Santa Cruz for keeping me warm dry and full of BBQ & beer and a massive well done to those hardy soles who finished.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Mayhem 2012 Here We Come

I'm off to ride at Mountain Mayhem this weekend. As I pack the car with both bikes and every piece of mountain bike clothing I own, I'm trying to ignore the talk of the weather. More specifically, the talk of mud and rain. However, I fear it may become more a battle of man vs. weather than with the other racers out there! Here's hoping the predictions don't come true and it doesn't turn out like this:
Will everybody's predictions of weather of doom turn out to be true, I hope not!
I've got several waterproofs and two sets of mud tyres packed just in case......

Here's hoping for a fab weekend's furious riding, racing and maybe a few exciting moments on the inevitably "damp" course. See you there!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Mountain Biking The North Face Lavaredo Ultra Trail

Last September Josh Ibbett, Dan Milner and I went to the Dolomites and rode the stunning trails that make up the Lavaredo Ultra Trail over two memorable days in the Italian sunshine. It was truly amazing and just a little bit epic. Here's what we got up to:

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

2 Tall Boys On 2 Tallboys go to BristolBikeFest 2012

Saturday saw me pair up with Santa Cruz & The North Face team mate Josh Ibbett, under the apt team name (of which we are very proud) "2 Tall Boys on 2 Tallboys".

2 Tall Boys on 2 Tallboys...... and also on the podium :-)
All smiles at BristolBikeFest for Josh and I after a hard day's racing
After the mayhem of the first lap we were in 5th place, but we knew we'd come through strongly in the closing stages of what would prove to be a tough, and incredibly close, race, with just 13 minutes separating the first four places we'd climbed to third by the time 12hrs was up. Unfortunately for Josh, I'd recently been ill, so wasn't quite firing on all cylinders, luckily for me Josh was on good form and put in consistent laptimes. With Tom from USE helping us in the pits, giving me a kick between laps, firing me up to wring everything out of my legs and make sure I did enough to hold our position in the field and keep the lap times down, ignoring my screaming legs, before turning his attention Josh, who went out on the attack!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Santa Cruz Superlight 29er - A Teeny Tiny 29er

Not so long ago I did a short interview for BikeMagic on the pros and cons of 29ers. The final question was one of rider size, in which I stated my opinion that the benefits of 29ers were for all riders (well, those that wanted them), not just the tall ones, and that the only thing really stopping Grace from going 29er was the lack of availability of suitably sized 29er frames.

Not long after this, Santa Cruz announced the release of their new Superlight 29er frameset, with a special small size specific rear triangle, allowing them to offer sizes for a full suspension 29er their other bikes hadn't offered before, including a short and low small that is very small indeed. Putting my money where my mouth is I got one on order straight away and, after a lot of time and care on the build, a 23lb full suspension 29er, suitable for a 5'3" racer, is born!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Pennine Bridleway Northern Section - Bank Holiday Weekend Bivvy Ride

Ready to roll for some Bank Holiday fun 
Two weeks ago I rode, and completed, the "Pennine Bridleway Double", a 195mile route, into and across the Peak District and then back again. As I wrote up my experience I discovered that as I typed, the finishing touches were being put to the first major northern section of the route and that this section stretched from Calderdale, into the Yorkshire Dales National Park and out  of the northern edge to Kikby Stephen. I'd enjoyed the southern section so much it took me but an instant to decide that I had to finish my ride and complete the northern section too, that would open in June, just a couple of weeks away!

Still feeling a wee bit tired from my 26hr ride 2 weeks before, and with BristolBikeFest a week away, I decided a bank holiday treat was in order and a packed the bag for a luxuriously paced outing, with my luggage including a selection of movies for the evening and a cooked breakfast!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Stilettos On Wheels

While I got a view of life behind the race tape as mechanic and pit crew, last weekend Grace switched too, and took to the race course for the first Stilettos on Wheels, women's only mountain bike race in Birchall. Here's how her day went:
Looks like someone had a good time
Last Saturday, before it got sunny, was the first ever Stilettos on Wheels women only mtb race, up in Birchall, Derbyshire. A crowd of girls and their bikes met nervously in the car park of Birchall Golf and Leisure Club, for many (including my race partner Karen) this was their first mtb race ever. The organisers had done a great job - big smiles greeted us on arrival, pink water bottles were doled out, local mechanics were on hand to check over bikes pre-race, there was tea and cake, what could be more welcoming?

Monday, 21 May 2012

Pennine Bridleway Double - Ouch!

A few days after I finished the ride and am still grinning to myself about finishing it. Why? I didn't break the record, far from it, I was several hours slower. I didn't have great weather, in fact I had many hours of rain. I didn't have the perfect ride, I suffered punctures, a mechanical problem and had a couple of kit issues. I am smiling because I kept on going, pushing myself towards the finish, taking the opportunities where they presented themselves (and there were plenty) to enjoy the varied and stunning terrain and views of the Pennines and the Peak District, and I kept going all the way to the finish of the challenge that I set myself, not stopping once until I had reached my goal. I had done it, I had completed the Pennine Bridleway Double, a continuous ride north up the southern section of the Pennine Bridleway, around the Mary Townley Loop, and then back down the Pennine Bridleway to Middleton Top......
Here's how my ride went:

Monday, 7 May 2012

The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival

Being lucky enough to be supported by The North Face doesn't just mean I have some great cycling gear and a waterproof for every occasion. Much more importantly; I am privileged enough to get to see some amazingly talented athletes and passionate individuals who do both incredible and inspiring things. The latest showcase for this, and for the climbers who are part of The North Face family, is The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival. It looks like a whole bunch of fun, I only wish my other commitments meant I could go myself. I'll just have to settle for gazing at this lovely little trailer that the team put together, add it to the to-do-list and dream that constant dream of "maybe next year":

Friday, 13 April 2012

24hrs Of Exposure 2012 - Not The Start To The Season I "Knee"-ded

In the same event last year, I set out to secure a steady ride to set my season off in the right direction. This year I had slightly grander plans after what I hoped had been a really good winter for me where I have remained free of injury or illness and kept the miles ticking over regularly. Starting with the 2nd seed board and with Santa Cruz & The North Face stablemate Josh Ibbett alongside me on the start line billed as 4th seed, and with several of the usual suspects opting for the 12hr event, I was hoping for a strong ride to launch this year with a bang. 
24hrs Of Exposure 2012 - I had a lot of fun while it lasted
Pic: Joolze Dymond
Unfortunately, my knee let me down. It's off to Active Physio Clinics for me to get myself up and running again. No permanent damage done thankfully, and after a bit of moaning about a sore knee and a touch of physiotherapy magic (and tape!) I'll be back on the bike in no time. Just a whole bunch of frustration, disappointment and a feeling of having let down sponsors, friends and family who have been amazingly supportive to me over the winter to deal with. I guess there's always next year..... And now, onto the next race :-)
Having fun in Newcastleton on the new bike
Pic: Joolze Dymond
Here's how my whole weekend went:

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

2012 Race Bike #1 - Santa Cruz Tallboy "The General Levi"

Everyone that knows me, knows I don't just love riding my bike, I particularly love riding my XXL Orange Santa Cruz Tallboy, nicknamed the "General Lee" by my friends. So, when it was inevitably time to move over to the 2012 bike and it was no longer available in orange, the new bike was always going to have a lot to live up to. It was with this in mind that the new bike (another XXL Tallboy - accept no substitute!) was, very carefully, built up by me.

Monday, 2 April 2012

2012 Race Bike #2 - Santa Cruz Highball

I've been riding my Santa Cruz Highball for a while now and I'm consistently delighted with how a bike that's so out and out fast is also so capable on the technical too. For 2012 I've spruced the bike up a little to save a teeny bit of weight, but mainly to try and wring the last little ounce of speed out if the bike. 

All the changes happen up front; namely controls & forks:

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Reynolds Wheels - Welcome Aboard

Shiny new Reynolds 29er Wheels
I am absolutely thrilled to announce that, for 2012, I will be supported by Reynolds, well established makers of super fast, stiff carbon wheels. I'll be riding their new 29er XC carbon disc wheelset throughout the year. 

The wheels have just arrived and came supplied with a full array of adaptors for front and rear hub standards, as well as some snazzy looking quick release skewers for "normal" frames & forks. Even betrer than this, they have a tubeless style rim form and in the same bag was a roll of tubeless rim tape and two, extra long (for the deep rims) tubeless valves. Top marks for attention to detail. Thank you Reynolds :-)

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Winter Reminded Me: It's Not Spring Yet

A bit nasty out
Down South, in sunny Brighton, you could have been forgiven for believing Spring had come early for the last week or so, last weekend there was a definite feeling of "spring is in the air", with bright blue skies and an abundance of shorts and a dearth of jackets out on the trails. That is, until today. With just a few days of winter remaining, the season reared its head and reminded me that it was definitely not spring yet.

It was a great day to be out. I had the trails all to myself and the thick mist made for a very peaceful, isolated feeling; much needed after a hectic week. Still, there's only so much fun to be had riding 100km through muddy trails in the wind and rain. Scrub that, who am I kidding, I had a great day! In fact I've pencilled in the same tomorrow, but heading out in another direction.
Fantastic swoopy trails dropping through the trees, extra exciting when covered in a layer of greasy mud
and with every corner or drop scattered with wet roots. It's not all SDW around here!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Prototype Switchable Dynamo Hub From Shutter Precision

A shiny new hub turned up this week, a prototype, 32H, disc, dynamo hub from the guys at Shutter Precision. This is no ordinary hub, it's a switchable dynamo. The hub has a large flange on the connector side that clutches the dynamo in or out. When disengaged, the hub acts just like a normal hub, only providing any resistance when the clutch is re-engaged. The hub is based on the 7 Series range PD-7 model, but has been sent to me with a special, not yet available, 32H drilling so I can use my preferred rims, rather than the currently available 36H version. Aren't I a lucky boy? :-)
Prototype SP PD-7 switchable dynamo hub, with clutching dynamo mechanism. Nice tyre name too! ;-)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Misty March Morning

Where did the Downs go?!
On some mornings getting up early to ride before work every day is a chore, not very often though and certainly not today. 

I was treated to one of the best misty mornings in the dips I'd ever seen, rolling from perfect sun filled blue skis to dense moisture filled air that left my kit wet and gave visibility of only a few metres every time I rolled into and out of any significant dip along the Downs ridge. Simply stunning, even if I did get more than a little damp and chilly in the thick of the mist! I was too busy having a nice time to take too many shots, but I did manage to grab a couple to look back on to remind myself just how spectacular the effect was.
What an amazing sight as a reward for getting up and out on the bike early. It was a bit cold in the bottom of that though!
It was a fantastic morning, but riding the last couple of miles at the bottom of that 
saw me get quite cold & wet by the time I got to work, brrrr!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Spring Is In The Air

Smiles & sunshine all
round, all day
What a fabulous day! I had originally planned a bit of a shakedown ride for my new USE finishing kit and then a late morning trip on the North Downs (a rare excursion for me), but with a positively balmy weather forecast I rolled both of these together and rode up to the Peaslake in the heart of the North Downs Surrey Hills, where I was to meet my riding buddies for the day (I was joined on the North Downs by Stilettos on Wheels organiser, Irene Lachner & SITS winner "Competitive Grace") and jump in the car on the way back. It was such a lovely day I poo-pooed that idea and rode back home again. 90miles done, 7:30 ride time, 6500calories burned (although I did my very best to replace them at lunch!). Smiles all round :-)

Here are a few moments from the day I managed capture for posterity:

Friday, 9 March 2012

2012 Race Equipment - USE

Wide, flat bars; perfect for riding 29ers very fast
The final pieces of 2012 are falling into place with just a few weeks before the 2012 UK 24hr Championships, my first big event of the year. 

The latest box to arrive was an exciting one (for me) as it was from USE and contained handlebars, stems & posts for both my Highball and my Tallboy. For 2012 I would be going very much "on trend" and using the new USE wide, flat Atom bar and to try it out to see whether this is the Emperor's new clothes or something good, I have decided to start the year with the bars at their full 710mm. Also in the box were USE stems and their excellent SUMO carbon seatpost. I must confess that, after my first ride, I'm pretty pleased with how the finished bikes have turned out.

Thanks guys!

Monday, 5 March 2012

2012 Race Equipment - Juice Lubes

It never rains, it pours: More new goodies to keep me going for the fast approaching 2012 summer endurance race season. This time from the "aren't they everywhere?" (and for good reason) guys at Juice Lubes who will keep all my moving bits both clean and moving this year, including bearings, forks, brakes, drivetrain and my legs!
A full house of Juice Lubes goodies to got my bike sparkling clean and then keep
 it going smoothly no matter what I, or the British summertime weather, throw at it

Friday, 2 March 2012

Juice Lubes - Welcome Aboard

I'm delighted to announce that, for 2012, I will be supported by Juice Lubes, who will keep me and my bike clean, shiny and lubricated, in all the important areas and just about everywhere else that moves.

Juice Lubes cover every liquid, paste, cleaner, spray or grease that a rider or his bike could wish for, so you'll see an even brighter & oranger General Lee trundling around an endurance race course near you throughout the summer of 2012.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

U.S.E. - Welcome Aboard

I'm delighted to announce that, for the 2012 season, I will be supported by USE (Ultimate Sports Engineering) who will be providing me with their lightweight and race proven handlebars, seatposts and stems to finish my race bikes in style

I'm delighted about this new partnership as, not only are they the sister company to Exposure Lights, who have supported me throughout my riding career, but they are a local company to me and I have had opportunity to observe the effort, enthusiasm and heartache that goes into each product by the team to ensure that only the products they are happy with finally make it out the door.