The inuagural No Fuss Intro-(En)duro was held a few weekends back at the hallowed ground that is the Nevis Range. Hallowed however it may be, one thing the ground certainly was, was wet!
The forecast had been for heavy snow fall with a weather warning for the day preceeding the race with only rain and/or snow on the day itself. That however did little to deter over 200 riders from turning up on the day.
The race itself had a bit of a so called mash-up format to procedings. Whilst being an enduro, it was an enduro with a twist. The course was made up of three relatively short stages that all shared the same access road and finished within a stones throw of one another at the car park and a coffee. The twist was that each stage can be run as many times as you wanted with only your best times counting.
The race was pitched as being a race for those who wanted to dip a toe in the enduro waters. But judging from the vans and rigs rolling through the car park, this was not the first rodeo for the majority of those turning out to race. A pre-season race to get through those winter blues.
What the race was however, was destinctly un-racey.
The stages were hard packed and impervious (mostly) to the weather. They were fast flowing blues and red graded trail centre fair. So whilst lacking in technicality, the shortness meant that times were tight, with sub 1:45 times necessary to be at the sharp end.
What the race was however, was destinctly un-racey. With everyone able to repeat stages and socialise at the cafe created a really relaxed atmosphere. Groups could split up and run different stages but meet up again for a catch up at the bottom. Mechanicals were a non-issue, sure you lost one run, but you were back at the car to get it fixed and go again, day saved.
The weather was to put it politely, absolutely horrendous. Vearing from rain to snow to stong winds to sidways rain. But again, you could wait out 20 minutes to get warm and get back at it without penalty. Your dibber could only store 9 runs, which again, you could easily clock up in the time allowed without breaking yourself.
Enduro racing is probably at a bit of a tipping point. Racing a whole series is an expensive affair both financially and in time commitment. For a race series to continue it needs fresh blood. It needs new riders to enter the races, even if they are only trying one or two, an organiser can’t rely on repeat racers to sustain. That is why I think single weekend festival style events are so popular, its a lot easier to justify one big blow out weekend than four or five smalelr ones across a year.
And that is where events like this come in. Not sure if your up to it but want to try it? Then this is a gateway event. Something to let people get a taste for runs between the tape and hopefully, they will come along to a national race or two. The format has potential, but might be hard to roll out at some venues. But as for relaxed racing experiences, this one like the rain, was horizontal.
So towards the end of last summer, I had a little road bump that stopped me from riding for a while. We all have them from time to time. Some accrued on the bike as injuries and some (usually more seriously) come about all by themselves in everyday life. Mine was an annoyingly small umbilical hernia.
This is pretty much, eactly like a hernia in real life.
I say annoying, because it was small, yet caused such a surprisingly big break in my riding. Time off the bike always feels longer than it is in reality, and it was no different in my case. The recovery whilst smooth, and shorter than some others with the same condition seemed to drag and drain more than I had hoped for.
I have been back riding for a while now, and whilst I probably could be riding proper trails again, I have taken my time. Easing back in with lots of XC orientated miles. Building the fitness back up and not pushing the healed surgery more than I know it can handle.
I have been giving the big bike some TLC and spent some time building myself back up as well. But that break in period I feel is over, its time to go ride bikes in the woods again.
Most of us like tinkering with our bikes, However, some jobs are easier than others. But being able to ride a bike you’ve maintained yourself is a gratifying feeling. It not only can save you money, but the skills and knowledge of what works (and more crucially why) will help guide your equipment choices. Honing everything down to what works for you.
But some jobs, some jobs I would recommend not attempting yourself.
Its not that a competent home mechanic cannot successfully do these jobs (because they absolutely can). But that some jobs have a fairly high cost of entry. Not only in the expense of the tools required, but also the knowedge and experience needing to do them.
Wheel truing and building, rear shock servicing and in this instance, frame pivot bearings. These are all the kinds of jobs that I would suggest taking to your LBS instead of tackling yourself. Again this isn’t saying that a home mechanic cannot learn these skills. But the cost of the tools and almost more importantly, the time it would take you to do the job. Can add up and tip the scales in favour of going to the bike shop.
I don’t own a truing stand, so to dish my wheel correctly would leave me with not much change from £200 before I could mess the job up first before getting it right. Wasting time and getting stressed in the mean time.
So sometimes, sometimes its better to go to the pros and spend your time elsewhere.
We all love new bike parts. Part of the hobby (if it can be called that) is afterall, the equipment that allows us to ride what we want to ride. Whether it is a slick new fork, brakeset or even just a stem. Seeking out and researching the best upgrades for our performance or budgetry requirements, and sometimes, for pure bike vanity is a constant distraction to the commited cyclist.
Upgraditist is a very real thing afterall.
But in reality, do most of us really need the udgrade? Will we really notice the marginal performance improvement? Have we really worn out the part that is being replaced? More often than not, I would suggest that we are swapping out perfectly servicable equipment for something new for the sake of something new. So do you really need that upgrade? probably not, now I’m not suggesting I am any different, we all catch upgraditist from time to time.
What this results in however, is all of us who have been riding for a long time, having a large collection of spare parts. Just sitting in greasy boxes becoming more and more redundant (or unfashionable) by the day, in our sheds. Most of these 9 speed drive trains, front deraileurs and non-dropper seat posts, will be of little interest to most modern riders. But when they were replaced, they probably weren’t that redundant. Not many riders would have gone from a 9 speed with a triple to a 1x 13 speed for example.
Progress is incremental, and the upgrade cycle that we run our gear through, for most of us, is also incremental. But when making these incremental upgrades I try always to find what I want (as need is rarely the driving factor) second hand first before buying new.
I do this for two main reasons, the first is purely financial, nice bikes are hella expensive. So finding a boutique brand stem or high quality dropper lever that actually works second hand, can allow me to run a bike I couldn’t afford if I bought everything new.
There are however parts that I will not buy second hand, normally things that will wear out. I am suspicous to the level of wear and tear that those parts may have been through. Cassettes and chain rings for example, is it being sold with 50km on the clock because the seller prefers Sram over Shimano or is it for sale because its been through the mill? SCrew it I’ll get a new one.
But if a part was top tier when new, I wont normally worry too much about its servicablility. I have for example bought Hope and XTR on a good nember of occasions. But as always, I try and look things over and make my purchasing decisions on a case by case basis.
The second reason is slightly different. When trying to assess and reduce the waste caused by single-use items in my homelife, why would this stop at the shed?
So when I do need (more often want) a new crank/shifter/dropper etc, I have a stalk about eBay and the various facebook buy and sell groups. The search can be far more rewarding (and not to mention distracting) than the more prosaic scroll through Chain Reactions or Wiggle (both are the same thing anyway).
So theres my take on it, second hand parts for the win, almost everytime.
The last few years have seen the growth of the grass roots enduro races put on by Doon Tha Brae Events. This year however they held the inaugural Aberdeenshire Enduro Series. Three races held over the late summer on some of Aberdeenshires best natural trails.
And whilst the prospect of every stage of an entire series being within half an hours drive from home was tempting, I took a different approach. Volunteering as a marschal and being the course back marker for each event.
As the back marker, I would be one of two who would be sweeping the course. Making sure all those racing were safely off the course and helping out with anyone who was having a bad day.
So being course sweep seemed like the perfect compromise.
This sounded like the perfect setup to me. All the atmosphere of being part of a race or event and the focus of riding a taped off trail. But none of the self imposed stress and pressure of being on the clock.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love racing, you will never feel faster than when you are racing. But I am not very good at racing. I enjoy it, it is a hell of a lot of fun, but you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it. I like watching marathons, but I’m not about to run one. And part of the reason I’m rubbish at racing (apart from generally being slow), is the stress of being on the clock, So being course sweep seemed like the perfect compromise.
The first race was the Aboyne Enduro, it was a great course with ideal weather both on the day and in the run up. In short, perfect. The stages were in prime condition and the crowd were in high spirits. Now as a course sweep, there are certain fringe benefits that you don’t get to enjoy in the same way as you would if you were racing.
Like being able to session a section of a stage because theres a photographer and you just want to try for a better shot? Or why not push back up and do that drop again, get that line dialled better second try? You have the time, why not enjoy it!
You also have the dubious pleasure of helping people who are having very bad days and trying to help them out if they need it. From minor mechanicals, to wheels so badly tachoed that the axle wont even come out the hub (that one felt like an expensive phone call from the bike shop). Now whilst I genuinely had no schadenfreude from these unfortunate events, the best stories tend to be the dramatic ones.
The main thing for me that was different from almost all my other race experiences, was just how much more social the whole experience was. When racing by myself, it has been a fairly solitary experience. You have chat with folk, but mostly, I’m either in my head or the pain cave. Without this, having time to kill at the start of each stage and with the agency of being a marschal. Striking up conversation and generally having a some banter with other racers and marschals was a highlight.
The second stage was a hilariously slick Hill of Fare. There was less drama on the mechanical side of things, thanks mostly to Bennachie Bike Bothy having a service station mid race. Less drama meant no one was having a really bad day, so win win.
The third stage was going to be at Drumtochty Glen. A venue that I knew best, and one I was really looking forward to and as the course looped around itself, there would be a good atmosphere on course. Unfortunatley, things would conspire against me being on course that day. A casual little hernia surgery got in the way of that.
So we while have to come back next year to collect the full set.
Was roughly the conversation that led of me trailing down to Dunkeld one damp saturday morning. My brother in-law (Jonny) was looking for events to enter and Dunkeld’s trails have bit of a reputation, as does the enduro, so it was an easy sell.
The Highland Perthshire Enduro takes place in the early spring on three of the hills over-shadowing the quiet little town of Dunkeld. The trails around Dunkeld are infamous for their steep natural character, with each hill having its own distinct flavour. But as I drove into the town, those hills were shrouded in rain and low cloud. To say this was going to be a wet day was an understatement, the lint in an otter’s pocket was drier that the trails that day.
The first two stages shared a climb up Birnam hill with the popular Rake & Ruin and Pink Floyd trails setting the tone for the day. Rake & Ruin was a fairly mad cold open and left you in no doubt as to what the riding would be like for the rest of the day. I have never ridden mud like this, the mix of thick clag and slick greasiness that kicked up and hit you in the chest as you drifted both wheels was something special. It was was more like skiing than riding, with both wheels on full lock you didn’t slow down. Wild. But after somehow not crashing, I made it down.
Now cramp is a right bastard; the only cure I have found that works for me, is to stop riding.
after making the climb the second time whilst awaiting my turn at the start of Pink Floyd, the mantra of “Ride Don’t Slide” was repeating in my head. This was by far and away my best stage of the day, after this it was all downhill.
The opening straight had ample grip and I was loving the speed on offer. Popping off of rocks and through compressions the bike was just motoring. More motivation to let the bike run came from the decreasing gap between me and the rider infront. After a brief low slide off the track as I entered the trees, I was back on the hunt letting the bike drift into corners as I learned how much traction I had to play with. The gap was narrowing.
I called “RIDER” which was a first for me at an enduro, (normally something I am used to hearing shouted at me!) and overtook the boy infront. Making yet more good progress I got over confident, overcooking a berm in the process. By the time I was back on track the guy I had passed was once more in front. Nope, not having that. Attacking yet again, I knew the end wasn’t far away, so putting down what power I had, I hollered “RIDER” overtaking him in the last few hundred yards.
Careening out of the mud bath and past the dibber, it wasn’t long before Jonny finished the stage. He had had an absolute mare, with so much mud hitching a lift on his drivtrain, his cranks, his rear mech, everything had jammed and refused to turn. Nightmare.
However all this was bittersweet, as the begining of the end for my day started during that climb to stage two, as the first twinges of cramp started creeping and dancing around my calves. Now cramp is a right bastard, and once I have cramp on a ride, the only cure I have found that works for me, is to stop riding, my day is done. Not really an option during a race, so I hydrated and refueled as best I could and tried to push through it.
Stage 3 was a very different affair, Doug’s and Dan’s Trails may lack gradient but are beautifully dug and crafted flow trails. Perfect catch berms and features help you carry speed, whilst they are tricky to ride fast blind, they are bloody good fun! And once more traction evaded me, I blew through a berm and ended up running downhill, again.
Then came the long 9km transition and climb up the fireroads of Craigvinean to stage four and five. This was the 9km that broke me. Added to this, was the cut-off time for stage 4, if you didn’t make that, you were bumped from the full enduro to the lite verison of the event.
“I’m fine keep going!”
The cramp built and built, and my energy levels fell lower and lower as I was increasingly struggling to push through it. And what was albiet a sustained fireroad climb, turned into a death march. Strava afterwards told me that this climb was no steeper in gradient and only fractionally longer than the climbs on my local loop. But when the body is needing to stop, climbs you would happily spin up extend beyond the horizon. I am not embarressed to say that it was during this climb that I decided that the full enduro was not going to happen that day. After stage 4 my day was over.
Meeting Jonny at the top, he could see it in me, even if I wasn’t on the edge of a cramp addled bonk (not as sexy as that sounds) the clock was against us.
“Theres a really good chippy in Dunkeld”
” That sounds magic”
Stage four was a series of linked trails with the odd fire road sprint mixed in for good measure. One last push, soak up the cramp for one last trail then limp back to the carpark, thats all I had to do. One. last. run.
Dibbing in after Jonny I was hoping for a clean cruisey run, not far in Jonny got taken out by a sniper rock, hidden deep in the mud. After making sure he was OK I was back in front. I tried (as always) to keep light and let the bike work, to take it easy. The quality of the trail however encouraged me to push, I should not of pushed.
As the gradient began to mellow out and the end felt within reach, the fire in my thighs tipped over what was tolerable and my legs more or less locked up. Not being able to absorb the ground or counteract the bikes movements, everything became sketchy and painful. Rolling off course I lay down and my legs curled into my chest. “I’m fine keep going!” was my pained answer to everyone coming down behind me. Crawling back onto the bike I rolled through the time gate and lay back on the ground letting the lactate acid drain slowly out of my legs. Breathe.
Now a few hard lessons were learnt that day;
I have lost fitness.
Just because its cold and wet, doesn’t mean you can’t dehydrate.
But my primary objective of beating Jonny, against all odds had been achieved, somehow.
But the disaster aside, I took some positive things from the day, my riding felt good and the bike worked well, with no issues or mechnicals. My goal of landing mid-pack in the results wasn’t that unrealistic either. While the Lite Enduro was a smaller field, when going through the results on Roots & Rain I was solid mid pack until the disaster of stage 4. With a 4th on stage 2 being my best stage result of the day. There is however, always more to work on and definetely one to redemn myself on next time.
Looking for a backup light for spring & summer evening rides?
I was sent the ALLTY 1000 by Magicshine, and after enjoying the transformative powers that their Monteer 6500 brought to my night riding, I had high hopes for it. This light delivers 1000 lumens, it has an internal battery that is USB re-chargeable, is waterproof and like the Monteer, uses a standard Garmin base mount.
1000 lumens is not going to replace your main night riding light, but it could be a really good secondary light. With a brighter lamp on your bars this could be an solid option for a helmet mounted light. I however, have been using it as my “get you home” light for my evening rides. During the spring it is all too easy to lose the light and get caught out. Whether heavy cloud or tree cover, riding longer than expected or simply misjudging it, we all sometimes need an emergency light to get us home safely.
The ALLTY weighs only 132 grams, and is small enough to fit in your pocket whilst riding without noticing. The 1000 lumens is delivered as a very usable spot of light rather than a broader flood. This works well as a second light with a flood on the bars, but it is broad enough to give you ample light to ride at pace in darkened tree cover. It is not enough light to ride at full pace on trails I don’t know (but you probably shouldn’t be riding new terrain blind at full speed in the dark anyway).
The running time matches the quoted numbers on the box, but if running in sub zero temperatures, I would expect the running time to drop. My only concern about the build quality, is that the Garmin base mount is not as solid a connection as that on other lights or accessories that use this mounting system. There is a small amount of play, only a few milimetres, but this isn’t noticable whilst riding.
All in all, if you’re looking for a small, self-contained light as second, backup or commuter light, then you wouldn’t have many complaints about this one.
When I was recently looking for a new tyre insert option, I came across Rimpact. A UK based insert maker, producing their SendNoodz “pool-noodle” style insert. The profile looked interesting and being UK made was another draw, but the biggest thing that caught my attention was the price.
£36.99 for a set of enduro happy inserts with specialist valves. With CushCore coming in at three times that amount, makes these a very, very interesting prospect.
Whether for the good old social media game or, just so you have some pictures for posterity. Problem is, you don’t have someone to hold the camera. So, how do you up your selfie game to get good quality action shots?
Well I’ve used three tricks to get these kind of shots before, they all have pros and cons.
Timelapse – Action Camera
Timelapse – SLR & Intervalometer
The simplest is pulling a video still, for this the better the original video clip the better, however a smartphone or action camera can also work well. You have at least 25 stills (if not more) every second to choose from, so you are more or less guaranteed the shot. The problens are resolution and blur.
A full hd video still has a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, so, if you are using it on social platforms then it will be fine, but it will be useless for print.
The second draw back is blur, video generally shots at a slower frame rate than you need to freeze fast motion. So unless you have full manual control or a very sunny day there will more than likely be some motion blur.
Action Camera Timelapse
The second approach I use is to use the same action camera, but set it in timelapse mode. For this you need a little bit of luck, some patience and a large memory card. The benefits of this method are the image is a higher resolution, so printing the image becomes an option, or, you can crop it to refine the composition. The image also is noticeably sharper than a pulled video still.
I use a small tripod or a small modified woodworking clamp to position the camera, then set it running at its shortest interval, which is usually 1 second. The drawbacks here are you will more frequently be in the wrong place when the shutter fires to get the shot.
So this works well if you are sessioning a feature anyway, and if you weren’t planning on sessioning, well now you are if your shooting timelapse to get your action shots.
Intervalometer (Pro timelapse)
So if you really want the best resolution and more crucially, RAW files to work with, then using an SLR and an intervalometer is the way to go. It has all the same pros and cons as shooting timelapse with an action camera, except the image quality is night and day.
You instanly gain full manual control of the exposure and focus and the resolution is usually higher. The sensor is also signiciantly larger, even on a crop sensor than an action camera and this is before you think about the glass up front. Basically, without getting too deep into it, its better. Trust me.
So What Else?
There are a few other things we can do to get the best out of our images by editing them in the post. Programs like Photoshop and Lightroom are the usualk suspects when it comes to image editting Classics include dropping to black and white and adding a little grain to create a more evocative image, this can work well with images that have a little blur.
We can also combine images to create a series of stills in a single image, this is called photomerging. I wont go into the how-to here, but they can be quite eye catching images.
I recently produced a little video work for Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland
The video was to promote a new funding grant scheme for Scottish accomodation providers. As riders we all know that finding somewhere to stay when on weekenders away is a challenge, as more or less, nowhere has secure bike storage. This scheme is an attempt by DMBinS to help change that, and improve the range of accomodation available to cyclists.
The riders in the shoot and my willing actors, are members of the DMBinS team, Will Clarke and Colena Cotter. The Hotel in the video, is the exceptionally bike friendly and helpful Peebles Hydro. Seriously if you want to see the high bar for bike provision by an accomodation provider, see what they have done with Genesis Bikes.
The shoot was a fun little morning. We sessioned sections of Daves trail at Glentress, gradually making our way down to the Hydro. Probably one of the more challenging and fun elements of this project where the animated sequences in the second half.
Using a mix of C4D and After Effects I pulled it all together in Premiere. Whilst being fairly simple, I am pretty happy with the overall effect and outcome.
So whilst not being the usual kind of video I make for Stravaiging, it is still MTB related! And thank you again to the Hydro for being so accomodating and to Will and Colena for their acting (and riding) skills!
If this sounds like something your work or business might be interested in, then follow thislink for more details. Or if you would like to contact me regarding any video production work, please don’t hesitate to contact me here.
This post, which is of the badged up TranzX in disguise variety, is available from a few places. But most famously, from Chain Reactions where it is frequently on sale south of £100. Not only is it a post with 120mm of drop for less than a £100 (that 82p per mm of drop!), it also comes with a warranty. Which surely I will be needing if it is that price?
It comes with a under the bar shifter paddle style lever as well as all the gear cables and outers needed to install the post. So with the lever kit being in the range of £25 on its own, the value is frankly astounding.
Once installed, I have to say, the post looks the part. The only obvious weak link is the lever, which has a ferocious amount of slop and what looks like a barrel adjuster nut that will snap as soon as you look at it. But after 1000km of use, the lever is immaculate and not withstanding a crash, I can see the lever going the distance.
The post however, has a niggle or two. The post no longer returns to full height under its own steam, 10/15mm short of full return. A strip and service might bring it back to full life but if not, the mechanism is built around a sealed replaceable cartridge which will certainly do the job.
But if you had a Reverb that had that as its only issue after one year, then your more than lucky.
So this isn’t necessarily a good post for the money, its just a great dropper and a solid contender.
Each day is noticably a little bit brighter when the end of the working day rolls around. It is by no means time to pack away the riding lights, we have need of all those lumins for a good few weeks, if not months, yet.
But it certainly feels like a corner has been turned, and we can start to remember and feel the excitement of the mid-week ride. The wonder that a few stolen hours of an evening can do for a rider is hard to quantify, but we all feel it. Especially if the spring and summer are as endless as those of 2018.
Heres to the evening ride. Heres to seeing the long shadows, to feeling the setting suns warmth on your back. We’re not there yet, but its close enough to almost touch. Almost.
Nothing beats riding packless, and the OneUp Components EDC tool system helps in that quest. It allows you to carry all the tools and small misc parts either in a mini pump or more excitingly, inside your forks steerer tube. But how does it work? Is it any good? and who is it for?
ARTICLE 1.3.007“Bicycles and their accessories shall be of a type that is sold for use by anyone practising cycling as a sport. “
So the Athertons have a launched a bike brand, sort of. Robot Bikes Co has emerged butterfly-like from its chrysalis and has unveiled itself with Atherton winningness on the head badge. But is this just a cash in on their brand whilst Rachel is still at the height of her career as Gee’s star is on the fading side of his? Or could it something else, or both?
I have previously mused on the UCI article 1.3.007 and how it requires all bikes raced to be available for purchase by anyone. I am of the mind that this, in fact, stifles bike development. This requirement for a race bike, means that compromises must be made if the bike raced is for mass public consumption.
If you built a bike that was a pure race only machine, it would probably have quite a high cost of entry regarding the skills required to pilot it. Race teams are primo marketing for a bike company. So the ability for the man on the street to buy the same bike as the racers they follow is a big draw. It is also one of the things that makes bike racing unique compared to automotive racing. But does it make for better racing? Yes and no.
If teams were able to race custom built machines never intended for public consumption, like F1 or WRC. Then the teams with the deepest pockets would win. But it means that top tier racers are always fighting with bike fit and suspension kinematics. There is only so much you can do to make a frame fit with anglesets and custom linkages, this is only exacerbated when your over 6 foot.
So how do the Athertons and Robot, I mean, Atherton bikes come into this train of thought? This could be next level thinking to work within the UCI rules and still ride the perfect tailored race bike.
Robot Bike Co’s USP was their method of manufacture and their offer of custom geometry. By using sintering additive manufacture (3D printing in metal), they were able to make each bike to order, exactly to your bodies measurements. They were a tailored suit in a world of off the peg frames.
So acquired, re-branded and re-launched as Atherton Bikes means Rach, Gee and not forgetting Dan, now have the ability to have the perfect fitting bike, with the exact geometry they need. The kinematics or reach not working out? Then a new front triangle or linkage can be fabricated between races, it can be that quick.
Selling direct to consumer, they can then offer the “Gee Bike” or the “Mere Mortal” editions of their frames. If each bike is a custom piece, then they can constantly evolve and adjust the design betweeen races. Just like F1, which is funny as two of the founders of Robot work in F1.
So are the Atherton’s cashing in on their brand? Well maybe, but who can blame them, Peaties been selling unicorn jizz in his retirement afterall. But is this a next level strategy crossing over from motorsport into DH? Maybe, just maybe.