Mountain Bike Shenanigans

New Trails
May 29th, 2006

The local trails have lost their appeal. The road bike is out of favour. The weather isn’t particularly wonderful, but it’s a bank holiday weekend and it’d reached the monday without a ride, so it was time for action. The weather this morning was far from wonderful, but when I was just getting ready to go out and ride, it started raining again. The plans were then put on hold until after lunch and a new route was planned out.

After lunch the heavens opened again. There was a brief amount of deliberation about whether it was worth going out or not, and after that it was time to head off. The weather on the eastern sie of the Peak District was much better and the trails were dryer than expected. I parked at Calver and then rode up to the Grouse Inn, which was a fairly good warm up. From there it was across White Edge Moor and through the mudfest of Totley Moor.

Totley Moor Ride

The track was clearly used by 4×4 and in places turned out to have some very deep puddles. Puddles deep enough to reach the bottle bosses on the seat tube. Riding through them also proved impossible due to the fact that at some point you would invariably clip a pedal on the side of the rut that lurked beneath the muddy waters. After a fairly good attempt to remove all the flesh from one of my ankles, I decided I’d had enough of playing in the mud and gave up trying to ride the trail.

The Blacka Plantation proved to be a real gem. The trail drops down to a ford crossing over a small stream where there’s a set of stepping stones. The drop down has a number of stepped drop offs as well as a mini section of wooden walk way. It was ace. The climb back up to the A625 was in use by a trio if downhillers who’d spent all day wearing out their disc pads. The singletrack section that contoured between the two exits onto the A625 coming out at Devil’s Elbow Gate was absolutely fantastic. It’s one of the best natural singletrack sections I’ve ridden and it flew by like a super smooth thing.

The Houndkirk Road was a great end to a good day’s riding. It was a definite blast and the downhill section at the end was a chance to pop jumps and lifts off all the little ramps and platforms that had been created by all the rocks and outcrops on the trail. It wasn’t a massive ride, but it was great riding. The singletrack that was lurking in the woods made the whole trip worth while. Photos are up here.

Here’s a whole selection of links to friends’ flickr photo sites: Benji | Steve M | RHS | Punkass | Dan

Mayhem
May 25th, 2006

I’m racing in a team with Jim and Jam at this years Mountain Mayhem. The space has been freed up by Nige who has decided to ride solo. It’s the ninth year of the event, now under sponsorship from Saab Salomon. The biggest and oldest 24 hour race in Europe has earned a reputation for being a good race, but I hope the course isn’t muddy this year.

I won’t be enjoying it if it is muddy that’s for sure… What should be eight miles of fun, testing riding in the Malvern Hills can be sheer hell if it’s wet. This is what happened the first year we raced at the venue over the course of one lap. There’s a Ti Deluxe under all that mud.

Mountain Mayhem takes place during the weekend of 24 – 25 June, which is just two weeks before we do the TransAlp. Many racers and supporters will be at the venue from the Thursday night or Friday morning, but I’ll be heading down on Friday night.

Welsh Road Trip
May 21st, 2006

With a long weekend booked off work and accommodation in South Wales organised by Tim for the usual suspects, I headed off on Friday and drove down to Coed-y-Brenin. It started to rain just as I started the climb up from the trail head and it became progressively wetter as I rode the best bits of the Karrimor and MBR trails. It was a nice quiet ride and I felt that I was setting a good pace.

The MBR trail is looking fairly eroded these days and it’s turned several sectiosn into quite badly gullied and rutted techno sections. It was good to getaround the woods again, but it has changed a lot since the last time I was there, which must have been a couple of years ago now. There’s some new trails being built by the looks of things and a new visitors centre too.

So after that it was an epic cross country drive through Wales, including a fly through of Llangurig where we’d stayed during the Trans Cambrian route and onwards down towards the M4. It was wet and grey, but the roads were pretty clear and it was a good opportunity to bed the new brakes in on the car. The valley roads made for a long drive and by the time I arrived in the Afan valley it had gone half ten, but that still left plenty of time to catch up with friends and become failiar with the winning effects of fine beers.

The following day the usual degree of faffing ensured that there was no early start, but Phil, Dean, Seb and I rode out and sample the highlights of the Wall before taking on the Penhydd Trail. From there we then headed up the valley to the new Visitors centre. This is a great place with a cafe/restaurant that serves big portions of fantastic food, has a well stocked bike shop and a useful campsite. After lunch and some time chilling out (and drying out) watching some DVDs on the big screen, we headed up White’s Level.

The popularity of Scotland as an mtb destination is bringing with it a noticeable increase in injuries. Typically, Borders General Hospital treats around ten mtb casualties every weekend out of the 250,000 mountain bikers riding at Glentress last year. Injuries range from serious lacerations to major fractures and head and spinal injuries, with a similar pattern noted at Fort William’s Belford Hospital. According to IMBA the Forestry Commission have already accepted the need to reduce the potential for injuries and are conducting a two year review with the aim of developing best practice for adoption thoughout the UK.

I suspect that a lot of the injuries come from people riding elevated wooden sections. These are also known under the generic term of ‘North Shore’, but in think that many UK sections are quite different to the Canadian examples that have popularised this unique style of riding. The various bits I have ridden in Wales and Scotland have all been very different, but the recent riding at White’s Level was devoid of chicken wire. Instead all the wood was painted with some green paint. When we rode it, the section was dry (fairly amazing really given how wet the rest of the weekend was), but I’m not convinced that it would be that grippy. The Grizedale trails were opened before the trails were painted and I am reliably informed had the added benefit of sending riders off the trail when it was wet like it was riding on ice… In my mind the fact that you can actually feel the rubber of the tyres biting into the wire is kind of reassuring.

After White’s Level we then rode the rest of the The Wall and ended up back at the cabins. there’s more details about Afan on the dedicated website for Afan Forest Park. In all I think we were looking at about 72km riding for the day and just over 1200m climbing. I’m glad I took some Fruit Pastilles that’s for sure, because they’re about the only thing that managed to get me around the rest of the Wall.

The weather was crap on the whole and there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to get the camera out for some shots, but there are a handful here. I had also completely forgotten that last year when I rode here I had really bad handpump and fatigue from braking and this year with a different bike was no different. The singlespeed was absolutely flying on the singletrack and I’m sure it’s the better bike for riding here. The Enduro last year just felt so slow and awkward in comparison to the whippy, goes where you point it hardtail.

Foreign Adventures
May 16th, 2006

After a long time of making excuses and never quite getting around to it I finally lived up to a long standing promise and made it over to southern Italy to catch up with an old friend. When I flew out of Stanstead it was raining and when I arrived back it was still raining, but in the time inbetween I was enjoying Mediterranean sunshine and temperatures in the 30s. It was great, there’s a few photos from my time in Pompeii here. It’s pretty much core national curriculum teaching in Italy, but there is some information about the fate of the famous roman city here and here.

A few emails have come in over the last few weeks. Here’s a few:

From: Chrissy
Subject: Croatia

Reckon you could ride on these local trails?

Croatian Trail

I think that’s rideable. I’d love to get out there and check it out, now all I need is some more holiday time, so, er, that’d be sometime after September. This next one is in from a fellow fan of Belgian beers.

From: Tyrrell
Subject: 10 FACTS

10 – Life is sexually transmitted.

9 – Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

8 – Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see one without an erection, make him a sandwich.

7 – Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks.

6 – Some people are like a Slinky… Not really good for anything, but you still can’t help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.
5 – Health freaks are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

4 – All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

3 – Why does a slight tax increase cost you 50 quid and a substantial tax cut saves you 50p?

2 – In the 60s, people took LSD to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and People take Prozac to make it normal.

AND THE NUMBER 1 THOUGHT FOR 2006:

1- They know exactly where any untaxed car is located among the millions of cars in Britain……

But they haven’t got a clue as to where thousands of illegal immigrants and terrorists are located. Maybe we should put the DVLA in charge of immigration…….

This one is in via Shaun at Aegishosting and it just goes to show that there’s a good chance that not everyone who stumbles across this site does so because of the bike related content.

From: Martha
Subject: INFO: wrong date

Please contact the designer of this web page you are hosting the flood was in 2005 not 2006.

Bit of a balls up that, but well spotted. I’ve sorted it now. Here’s some local news from Jed…

From: Jed
Subject: Hanging Around

I missed this last night on the news… apparently it was a cracker and this farmer was a real country guy.

Finally when is a Vehicle not a Vehicle? Perhaps when it is a bike… The law regards the bike as a vehicle, and IMBA is constantly chiding Local Authorities for issuing orders to restrict vehicular access, when they actually mean motorised vehicular access. Unfortunately such wrongly worded notices cause a lot of confusion and aggravation as they appear to reduce routes available to cyclists. So it is of particular concern when the well regarded Lake District National Park issues a widely distributed but inaccurate letter stating that 31 routes in the National Park ‘have now had their vehicular rights extinguished’. This mistake is a result of a clause in NERC which is thought to extinguish motorised rights over highways which are on both the definitive and highways maps – and even includes some bridleways! So keep a watchful eye for similarly wrong statements in your own Local Authority areas and contact IMBA if you spot any.

TransAlp Planning…
May 9th, 2006

I’ve just put together the provisional itinerary for this summers roadtrip…

Tuesday 4th July

Leave Norfolk about 8.30pm and drive down to Folkestone
Total distance: 161.9 miles (260.5 km )
Total estimated time: 3 hours and 50 min

Wednesday 5th July

EuroTunnel Outwards Journey
Early doors rag it across France to Switzerland. Hopefully crash at Suzi’s place in Luzern in central Switzerland. If we get there early we can chill by the lake :)
Total distance: 507.6 miles (816.9 km )
Total estimated time: 8 hours and 41 min

Thursday 6th July

Riding opportunity in the morning. I have routes :)
In the afternoon pack up and head over to Grenoble to see MacPuppy.
Total distance: 253.1 miles (407.3 km )
Total estimated time: 4 hours and 18 min

Friday 7th July

Riding opportunity in the morning courtesy of MacPuppy with luck.
In the afternoon head off for Argentiere. Settle in and check bikes over. Meet guides and briefing for the trip.
Total distance: 91.8 miles (147.7 km )
Total estimated time: 2 hours and 1 min

Saturday 8th July

Ride to Le Tour and take the gondola up part way to the Col de Balme with stunning views of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix valley. A fantastic but technical descent in places to Trient and an off-road climb on a grassy track up to Col de Forclaz. A tough road climb gets us to our over night stop of Champex – a beautiful Swiss lake side resort. 35km approx. 2,000m descent. 1,350m ascent. 5 hours.

Sunday 9th July

A fantastic, fast sweeping descent from Champex to Sembrancher on paths and tracks. A gradual off road climb through woodland followed by some technical singletrack descent and a short road section bring us to the gondola ride up to Verbier. Then it’s play time for the rest of the day as we sample some of the best singletrack descents in the area. At the end of the afternoon we take the last cable car up to 2,222m before climbing the remaining 300m on double track to our stunning over night stop at Cabane du Mont Fort. The sunsets here will take your breath away, as will the panoramic views from the Petit Combin to Mont Blanc to the Dents du Midi. 45km approx. 3,060m descent. 1,250m ascent (cable car assisted). 6 hours.

Monday 10th July

The elite pro racers do the next two days in one as we follow the Grand Raid Cristal Alp course, but its still tough for us as we climb around 3,500m today and tomorrow. In fact today is arguably the toughest day of the trip, certainly the longest in distance. From Cabane du Mont Fort we descend back to 2,222m on single and double track before traversing to the top of the Croix de Coeur at 2174m followed by a fabulous descent on rocky, rooty and swooping singletrack. We will do three climbs today, mostly on forest track with some road and some singletrack. We may get a helping hand on the second climb with a chair lift, depending on the time of year. Either way, we are rewarded by a switch back descent through pine forests on rarely ridden, technical singletrack. If we take the chair lift then the last climb before our overnight stop at Evolene will be the toughest, with 600m on road and dirt track up through forest and alpine pasture before an exciting traverse on technical singletrack with beautiful views to our left, followed by a fast descent into the town. If the chair lift is out of action then we will skirt round this final spur and take the lower road climb up the valley to our overnight stop. Evolene is a picturesque rural Valais town which has retained all of its traditional alpine charm. 75km approx. 2,400m descent. 1,750m ascent. 9.5 hours.

Tuesday 11th July

The big one today and we start early to get the coolest temperature as we tackle the Col and Basset de Lona at 2787m and 2792m respectively – the highest points we shall reach on this trip. The route up is mostly rideable on double dirt track and then singletrack but the final section will involve some pushing or carrying. There is actually a double pass here with the Col coming before the Basset. The descent from the Col is smooth and flowing and the climb up to the Basset is all rideable. Spectacular views from the top all the way back to Mont Blanc and the Grand Combin we left a few days ago. It gives a great sense of achievement seeing how far we have come. The descent is fast and again spectacular as we approach the lovely turquoise water of Lac de Moiry. We continue our seemingly endless descent towards Grimentz on varied, fun singletrack where we break for coffee and cake and a rest for the brake pads. A lovely forested singletrack descent to our overnight stop outside of Grimentz. 45km approx. 1,950m descent. 1,750m ascent. 9 hours.

Wednesday 12th July

Today is a well-earned half rest day. We have the option of a road or off-road climb followed by a funicular train ride up to Tignousa where we can spend the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the views or visiting the spectacular Hotel Weisshorn which has a wonderful location perched high above the valley. For the brave at heart there is the option of riding the Swiss National downhill cup course which twists and jumps it’s way down under the funicular (500m descent). From Tignousa we will receive our first and only veiws of the Matterhorn before we reach the Zermatt valley. 15km approx. 200m descent. 500m ascent. 3 hours.

Thursday 13th July

Another big pass today over the Illhorn at 2,552m. Depending on the time of year we may be able to take a chair lift assisted route, otherwise it’s a climb on dirt track before a short push on singletrack and a narrow traverse to the Col itself. It’s another double pass day with a technical descent followed by a 20 minute push to our highest point of the day. From here follows an awesome, uninterupted 1,300m descent split into three distinct sections; the first is fast, high alpine with big views, the second and hardest section forms the start of our descent into the trees with boulder-strewn switchbacks, the final section in the woods is the best by far with corner after corner taking us down steeply through the trees – 58 switchbacks at the last count! Taken as a whole the descent will test some riders to their limits but the first and last sections should be almost 100% rideable for every one. You will have to go a long way to find a better descent than this! After a short road climb there follows yet more descent, on fast and flowing singletrack through woodland. More great riding brings us back to the the very edge of the Rhone valley and our overnight stop at one of the best hotels en route. 35km approx. 2,270m descent. 1,200m ascent. 8 hours.

Friday 14th July

Today we say goodbye to the Rhone valley as we turn the corner into the Zermatt valley, ever closer to our final destination. It’s a fantastic day which contrasts nicely with yesterday’s high alpine experience. We follow varied singletrack trails with a series of short sharp climbs and descents on soft pine needles, through beautiful alpine villages which cling to the valley side and more of those never ending switch back descents! The day ends with the “technical singletrack challenge” – a testing climb on a rooty trail which brings us out near our home for two nights – the comfortable and friendly Hotel La Reserve in St Niklaus. The hotel is run by a member of one of the oldest mountaineering families in the area, the Pollingers. The modern day Pollingers also make an excellent pizza! 33km approx. 1,120m descent.1,050m ascent. 6 hours.

Saturday 15th July

A fitting end to our trip we head up the valley on cycle trails by the river and marvel at the height of the mountains surrounding us – the Weisshorn, the Briethorn, the Dom and of course the Matterhorn. Once in Zermatt we take the Sunnegga Express funicular train up to a high view point for breathtaking, stunning views of the Matterhorn. The perfect spot for lunch and a celebratory photoshoot. From Sunnegga there is a choice of descents back to Zermatt town. You can take the leisurely winding doubletrack descent with glimpses of the Matterhorn through the trees or alternatively climb up a bit further from the lunch stop on singletrack before a spectacular traverse trail leads you to a hard technical descent into Zermatt. There is time now for shopping and sight seeing in the town centre. As if the day couldn’t get any better, the jewel in the crown is an excellent singletrack route back to St Niklaus which gives a magical end to this classic route. 52km approx. 1,500m descent. 700m ascent. 7.5 hours.

Sunday 16th July

Departure day from St Niklaus. Hopefully Hitch a lift back to the car in Chamonix and then drive over into Italy and head for Lake Como. Crash at Chris’ Kitesurf place down by the lake.
Total distance: 165.5 miles (266.3 km )
Total estimated time: 2 hours and 54 min

Monday 17th July

Relaxing day by the lake and hopefully a bit of kite-surfing and then think about the drive home…
Total distance: 632.3 miles (1017.5 km )
Total estimated time: 10 hours and 46 min

Tuesday 18th July

EuroTunnel Return
Arrive back in Norfolk.
Total distance: 161.9 miles (260.5 km )
Total estimated time: 3 hours and 50 min

Reality Check. It’s going to be epic.

IMBA: Long Live Long Rides