Mountain Bike Shenanigans

July 30th, 2008

So I’m at a technology conference in Boston right now. It’ one of those places where you get bombarded with content – lots of people sharing what they are using to do certain things. One of the more interesting things I’ve discovered is Frappr. It’s the product of three UC Berkeley students and it’s rather neat. Here’s a map I’ve created:

The biggest issue with it in terms of integration is that it comes with some very complex imbed code. So the plan with the map above was to be able to add it to one of the Singletrackworld forums. Any way I’ve put a post up here to try and see if this gets any uptake.

Clustrmaps was also discussed in one session. Here’s a map for (see below) it’s really something that needs to be added to the sidebar or footer and it’s an aggregation tool so it will collate content over time. What would be really need was if it was possible to integrate it into Google Analytics to use visitor data to create a retrospective summary at install stage.

Locations of visitors to this page

California Photos
July 28th, 2008

I’ve uploaded some photos from California to Flickr. It was worth going to Stanford just to see all of the Rodin sculptures and Berkeley was a great campus to visit. I want to go back!

Three Flags

There’s some more photos on Flickr.

Bay Area Baby
July 24th, 2008

In northern California on business and it’s my first trip to the Golden State. Warmth, sunlight, people with suntans – pretty much everything that the British summer has failed to produce. From a base on Alameda Island, meetings have taken me to downtown San Francisco, the wealthy and art rich campus of Stanford and up to the home of the Golden Bears, UC Berkeley. Fantastic insight into some of the world’s leading universities and life in and off campus. Tomorrow I’ll be in Boston… Still at least’s there’s still Tour de France coverage, although no escape from Liggett and Sherwen.

The Epic. Should I?
July 21st, 2008

A reader sent an email in recently regarding the Cape Epic having read the blog posts from the 2007. They seem to have caused some worries. It seems that the two have just been accepted onto the 2009 race. With no mountain biking experience they’re starting to worry about what they’re letting themselves in for. Here are the questions and my advice:

Is it madness to attempt this? We’re both 30 and fit with 9 months to train, but we’ve never done serious mountain biking, let alone raced. Should we forget all about it and save ourselves the bother?

It’s not madness, but be in no doubt that this is an exceptionally hard event. Some of the best mountain bikers in the world will be there and the level of racing is generally of a high standard. That said not every one is a pro and you will undoubtedly find other riders of a similar level to yourself – whatever that level ends up being – because the field is massive.

What’s the best way to start training, to get the right equipment etc? Are there any UK marathon racing experts or coaches that we should speak to? I guess the ideal might be some guy near London who has a bike shop and is a racing expert who’d fancy helping us get the right kit and maybe take us out on a few bike rides too…

Ride your bike as much as possible and with your team mate as often as possible. We lost 45 minutes on one stage because of poor communication so you need to practice riding with each other and talking as much as possible. In terms of coaching then I can’t advise. I would try and find a road club and get some road miles in with a regular chaingang.

St Alfred's Pass out of Knysna

Are there any particular websites or clubs for this particular branch of mountain biking? Where we can find other people who do this all the time? Is this considered Enduro? Marathon? Epic? or 24Hr? as all seem to be related.

Mmm. There are enduro events like Trailbreaks, but most of them are over the summer and you’ll be training in winter. The main options are to do some Trailquests. There are no specific websites. You’ll find people who’ve ridden similar events (i.e. TransRockies and La Ruta de los Conquistadores) on Singletrack and Bikemagic forums and also on the US MTBR and DirtRag Forums.

Hardtail or full-suss? I assume it’s full-suss if we can afford £4K+ for a bike, but otherwise it’s a tough call? In your blog it sounded like hardtail made it hurt you more? That sounds like a bad idea then, or is it worth the pain for the extra uphill speed?

I would say a hardtail with disc brakes is fine but I would upgrade to a Ritchey WCS carbon seatpost and quality saddle like an SDG Bel Air RL Titanium. I was lucky to be riding a custom built Titanium bike engineered for endurance racing costing well over £4k all in, but my team mate was on a £1400 bike with a few upgrades. He didn’t change the seatpost, but wished he had. Make sure your shocks are serviced and setup or you prior to the race. Replace the gear cables, chain, cassette and big and middle rings before the event. Convert the wheels to run tubeless withe sealant – speak to Jon at Just Riding Along for advice. We rode ultra skinny 1.9 Maxxis Larsen TTs with JRA Milk in them and had no punctures.

What would you have done differently?

Trained more in a hot climate – a Canary Islands trip would have been ideal. Listened to my body more and sought medical help earlier. Planned for communication breakdowns with my team mate.

A third of the way up...

What’s the question I should be asking that I don’t know to ask because I’m a dumb novice?

Nutrition. Get some advice and used to using the products you intend to use well in advance of the race so your body gets used to them. Eat as much as possible during the race. Take food with you that you are used to – don’t rely only on what is provided as it may not be to your taste. Pay the extra for using the nutrition stops during the race so you can pick up new waterbottles at each checkpoint.

Anything else?

In terms of the race it should be awesome next year with the likelihood of the start being moved a lot closer to Cape Town. If it happens the routes will be all new and probably a lot hillier and more technical. If it starts in Gordon’s Bay and goes around the surrounding mountainous area there will be plenty of climbing and although it won’t be as hot,  there will be some seriously good views over the ocean. I guess everyone will find out more at the official launch in October. Will I be there? Maybe…

ProTour No More
July 16th, 2008

It appears that the conflict between the UCI, the organisers of the Cycling Global ProTour, and the organsers of the three grand tours* (Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España and Tour de France) and racing teams have come to a head. The UCI have had the foundations of the series swept from under them by the recent decision of all the major teams to leave the ProTour – a decision apparently supported by the grand tour organisers. Pat McQuaid’s cries that:

“These teams need to think of the responsibilities they have to those organisers, rather than just thinking of themselves,” he added. “They have a responsibility to the rest of the sport, and they are not doing that. The ramifications in a year or two is that ASO will be selecting the teams for the Tour de France out of a possible 30 or 40 Pro Continental teams. So where are half of these teams gone then?” (From

He seems to be missing the point that majority of the teams and event organisers seem to have been deeply unhappy about the direction that UCI was taking professional cycling. Road Racing isn’t Formula One (although I’m sure many cyclists wish they were on F1 salaries) and efforts to globalise the sport further by taking it into ‘new markets’ isn’t something that’s in their interests. By failing to listen to the feedback and not working with the Grand Tour organisers to agree compromises on simple things like wildcard entries, the ProTour has been fatally undermined.

Most teams won’t care even if McQuaid’s warnings about the decision effectively being a jump out of the frying pan and into the fire is true. They should never have been pressurised to the point where such a radical decision was needed. The big question now is what significance the UCI will play in the future of professional road racing. Clearly the World Championships will continue to fall under their remit (complete with ghastly and shonkily rubbish website presences), but they tend to focus more on the individual and national interests rather than significance of the team.

I say keep a very close eye on Greg Lemond. Recently free of his connection with Trek through Lemond Bikes, the former Tour winner has been a vocal critic of the UCI under McQuaid. His statement that Cycling doesn’t need the UCI has generated a lot of support from the public. His anti-doping message which features an open criticism and (justifiable) lack of sympathy for those caught is in harmony with the current atmosphere in the 2008 Tour – the race is filled with and dominated by a new generation of riders who don’t share the same attitude to drugs**.

Lemond could very well be the man of the moment. Watch this space.

* operated by companies linked by an interesting web of shares in each others businesses.
** something that many cynics believe to be just as rampant as ever, just masked by increasingly sophisticated methods.

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