How to make a “Enduro” Kit Strap

Enduro racers love to strap spares to their bikes, why ride with a pack when you have duct tape?

But that option as useful as it is, is both messy and is a, unrefined solution. Companies like Race Face and Back Country Research have solutions on the market that address this, simple effective velcro strap solutions, albeit with a small pouch attached in the Race Face offering.

But these are in essence, a velcro strap, and they aren’t cheap either, so why not make your own?


Materials & Tools
  • 25mm Nylon Webbing
  • 20 or 25mm Stitch on Velcro
  • 25mm internal diameter rectangular loop
  • Sewing Machine
  • Scissors
  • Matchs or lighter

Method

To make a kit strap long enough for a spare tube and a CO2 inflator, start by cutting your materials to length. the measurements are;

  • Nylon Webbing 37cm
  • Soft Velcro 26cm
  • course velcro 5cm

The nylon webbing will want to fray at the ends, seal the end using the flame from a match or lighter. Carefully pass the end of the webbing over the flame and lightly press down on the end once the nylon starts to melt back to make a solid end to the webbing.

With the materials prepared it time to move to the sewing machine.

How to make a mtb kit strap 2

Start by attaching the rectangular loop. Thread the webbing through the loop and then fold over roughly 3 cm of the webbing.

How to make a mtb kit strap 4

Sew a square around the edge of the overlapping webbing going over the start point to ensure the stitching wont unpick itself.

Turn the strap over and attach the course velcro onto the opposite end of the strap from the Rectangular loop.

Then stitch the soft velcro on the same side and next to the course velcro.

And that is literally it, you have now made a basic kit strap for attaching those vital extra spares to your frame.

Enduro bananas

Whether it is a race day or just a epic ride into the mountains, an easy way of attaching those extra spares can make or break a day if the worst were to happen.

 

MTB POV – A Better Way

Point of View video (POV for Short),

a cornerstone of action sports video. 

Problem is, most of them are rubbish. The video is shaky, the image blurred and you can’t quite see enough of the action. If worn in the classic chest mount there is either too much bike and hairy knee going on and not enough trail or its shaking your retinas loose just watching it. If worn in the UCI bothering helmet mount, it is smoother, but still not great. The trail is flattened out by the effect of being higher and you don’t feel as “in the bike” as you do with the chest mount.

Wearable Gimbal
Feiyu Tech WG S 3 Axis Gimbal

    .

It doesn’t matter how well your suspension is set up either, unless it is a groomed blue trail, that video is going to be shaking like the camera is going through the DTs.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, enter the wearable gimbal. This little gadget mounts between the camera (GoPro Hero Session in this example) and the chest mount.

It uses a giroscope and 3 brushless motors to compensate for body movement keeping the camera stable and the horizon level, which in theory, results in smoother footage.

Does it work? The difference is night and day when comparing the two traditional mounting options against the gimbal footage. It took me a few rides to get mounting the gimbal dialed in so it was stable enough to work effectively, but once secure it works really, really well!

Would I recommend a gimbal to a GoPro user? Yes and no, they are expensive bits of kit, effectively doubling the price of a GoPro setup. So think carefully, if you are getting serious about your video then absolutely, if you just like filming the odd ride, I’d maybe spend my money elsewhere.

I’ll be documenting some notable trails on my YouTube channel using this set up so make you you give the channel a subscribe to see the outcome.

Can you make Tyre Inserts?

Well yes, yes you can.

Whilst investigating a tyre system for my hardtails to help prevent flats and dinged rims. I looked at some of the options on the market and came to the conclusion that I could make that. Now the foam I used is not specially designed and formulated for MTB, but that doesn’t mean its not suitable for the application.

I used a closed cell foam, which is similar to yoga and old style camping mats, it is dense and light. It is also non absorbent, a crucial characteristic for something that will spend its life swimming in tyre sealant. I sourced some rolls online that looked like they could do the job, hit the order button and waited to see what would come.

The foam is easy to cut with a fresh scalpel blade, however, why cut it all by hand when you can use a laser to do the job for you?

A laser cutter is a computer controlled machine that uses a vector (fancy computer drawing) to guide a laser to either cut or engrave a surface.

I used Adobe Illustrator to create my design, refining and going through various drafts and iterations of the drawing. I worked through this drawing process before settling on something close to the final insert before making my first laser cuts.

I find I really need to hold a physical object to help make design decisions

When using a laser cutter you calibrate the laser for the material you are cutting, changing the speed or intensity of the laser until it cuts the material cleanly. Laser cutters are ideal for intricate designs or small run batch production, so cutting some foam wasn’t really stretching the machine.

With the machine dialled in, I then made a few test pieces. Whilst seeing and measuring designs in the software is useful, I find I really need to hold a physical object to help make design decisions. So after a few alterations to the drawings we were ready to go.

Once cut and hand assembled it was time to install and test a set.

Installation was a pain free affair, simply the normal process of setting up a tubeless tyre. The insert had the fringe benefit of helping hold the tyre bead against the rim, aiding with tubeless set up. I did use more sealant than usual, whilst the foam is non absorbent, placing the insert int he tyre did increase the internal surface area. So sealant would not go as far, hence more was required, I added 1oz more than normal.

Home made tyre insert test Stravaiging

Once fitted it was time to test it, I sessioned a rooty section of trail with some drops and sharp rocks. I dropped some PSI from the rear tyre to see how it would handle, the theory being that if the rim has some additional protection, I can run the tyre softer thus increasing grip and traction.

The tyre (a WTB Trailboss) held well on the roots and didn’t deflect, on the rocks it gripped predictably. I bottomed out my shock a few times but the rim went undinged. This gave me the confidence to try other lines, bunny hopping over roots into sharp rock sections ultimately going faster.

Throughout the tyre felt secure and didn’t feel like the sidewall was going to fold, even with lower than usual tyre pressure. I later changed the tyre to discover a few slight cuts into the foam, this would normally have been a good old ding on the rim. Now we cant say for sure that these hits would have dented the rim or punctured the tyre, but both the tyre and rim were fine.

Home made tyre insert opinions Stravaiging

You could argue that the inserts acted like a placebo, like a rock that keeps tigers away. You can’t prove its working, but I don’t see any tigers around. That said the simple piece of mind and extra confidence in a race situation is almost worth it in itself.

I don’t see how the added rim and tyre protection would be required on the front tyre. I have only installed them on rear tyres as that is where I have most need for protection, if I rode downhill I might have more need for inserts front and back.

So can you make your own tyre inserts? Yes you can, a little bit of time and work (and access to a laser cutter) and you can make a whole load for you and your friends, time rich and laser cutter poor? A steady hand and some scalpel blades will probably get the job done, although you’ll probably only want to make one.

Banshee Spitfire 200 Mile Review

200+ Miles in and the Spitfire has lived up to the promises made by modern geometry.

Thought I would share my thoughts on this bike and have a wee bike check of the build and how its holding up. To summerise, the frame is amazing and well balanced now the fork is behaving. Starting to build pace and confidence, but its still a newish bike to me and I don’t put in as many miles as I did when I got its predecessor.

That said I rarely get less than a top 3 time on any given trail I ride on it, not half bad.

 

ERC – (Every Ride Carry)

Short ride long ride, you always need to take some gear with you.

Depending on how long I’m riding and where, I will tend to pack differently, usually risking a smaller carry for shorter rides. However, my hydration pack always has a set amount of gear in it. This has been refined and honed down over the years to what I deem to be “the bare essentials“.

This gear is always there so that I can just grab the pack and ride, knowing that everything I need to get back home in the case of a mechanical or emergency, is there. That being said, sometimes, even with the more comprehensive pack you can still get caught out (more on that later).

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Recently more and more people (myself included) are trying to ride packless, not just because of #fullenduro but because it feels better. Your body feels less restricted, your cooler without the pack against you and you generally feel, freer.

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But I still want to take gear with me when I ride packless, I try to make as few compromises as possible in terms of leaving gear at home. So I use a Race Face Rip Strip as a “hip belt” style carry, its basically a bumbag for the millennial generation of riders but it works and goes neatly under my riding jersey


Big Carry

Little Carry

Breakdown

I can only go packless if I take a water bottle, my hydration pack usually has about 2L of water in it. A bottle can’t carry that, but it is pretty easy to refill a bottle on longer rides. Riding snacks are easy to carry in a pack, when I’m using the Rip Strip I can usually jam a few gels in there and some bars and jelly babies in my pockets.

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Why spend more?

As for unexpected weather, I can fit a packa jac (a tiny packable rain jacket) into the bottom of my pack. Plenty of big names make them but the one I ride with most at the moment came from Aldi, the discount supermarket. When riding packless, I literally stuff this in my shorts pocket, it is so small that it disappears.

The spares I carry in both bags are a small selection that includes;

  • Spare master link
  • Spare Shimano joining pin
  • Short length of chain
  • Jockey wheel
  • Mech Hanger
  • Gear Cable
  • 5M Bolt and Chain Ring bolt

Between these and the cable ties I’ve managed to get home from a lot of mechanicals, every spare in that bag is because of a past mechanical that I struggled to fix.

Why both the pump and the CO2 Inflator in my big carry and not the smaller lighter CO2 inflator in my small carry? I love CO2 carts, they are great when you are in a time sensitive situation, like a race. But they are wasteful and I don’t trust them. Once when riding down Clachnaben I got a rear puncture, no worries I have a tube and CO2, the cart was a dud. that was a long walk home, I have never trusted them as my only option since.

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First Aid Kit

Not enough riders carry one of these with them, in mine I usually have;

  • Fabric Plasters
  • Scissors
  • Fabric Tape
  • Gauze Squares
  • Disinfectant Wipes
  • Ibuprofen

Nothing major, just enough to stop some pedal strike and cut knees from bleeding too badly along with some vitamin I.

stravaiging-mtb-cross-country-trails

I have also taped and strapped additional spares like more tubes and CO2 carts to my saddle and frame. I find this fine for short term stowage and the odd ride, but that tubes don’t weather well when left taped to frames indefinitely with the riding conditions enjoyed here in Scotland. I have taken tubes left taped to saddles only to discover that they have developed small holes and need patching before I can fit them.


So here we have my big and little carries, what I bring, and how I carry those essentials that I just cannot ride without. I’m sure I have missed something and will no doubt find out soon enough.

29ers – Are we really still talking about this?

The internet has calmed down and the storm over Lourdes may have passed, but the fact is, 29ers are here in DH. Deal with it.

It was going to happen, we all knew it would, we had all seen the instagram posts teasing us with hints at what was coming. We had heard rumours of 29 inch wheeled downhill bikes at the onset of the last few seasons, but 2017 would be the season.

The components had finally caught up with the frame design and geometry lessons learned from enduro and AM bikes. And once Fox had their 49 fork, well that was more or less the last piece in the puzzle of making a 29er DH bike happen and work.

People equate the UCI Downhill World Cup to the Formula 1 of mountain biking, and there is mileage in the analogy. but in reality, it is a very different animal in many respects. F1 cars are specific custom built by the teams, and you would never, ever expect to be able to buy one. Sure the trickle down of technology will eventually get there (adaptive suspension anyone?). But you accept that they are a different species to what we own and drive.

In the nineties and early noughties, it would not be unsurprising, in fact it would be almost expected, that the pros would be racing bikes that you could never have. One off team frames, prototypes testing suspension ideas, custom made components, drive trains that were not standard and would only work on that bike. Bikes like the iconic Honda RN01 and Miles Rockwells Cannondale Fulcrum are probably the two more famous examples.

Pushing the technology and what was thought possible on a pushbike. We wanted to see the engineering, the exotica, the unfeasibly skilled riding unattainable bikes.

In all other disciplines teams have to submit any technology being used for approval before it can be used, not so in MTB. So why are all the teams running more or less stock bikes? The UCI have rules stating that bikes raced on the circuit have to be readily available to the public. Within those rules, the manufacturers have used racing as a R&D proving ground and the bikes we ride have improved dramatically over the years because of that.

So why the shit fit over 29 inch wheels?

People have been genuinely furious about the Santa Cruz Syndicate debuting a 29er at Lourdes. Some of the hate has come from within the pro circuit, the Syndicate having apparently broken some gentlemen’s agreement that all the factory teams would show their hands at the same time. But this is racing, if you intend to use a 29er for worlds at Cairns later in the season, why not battle test it for a whole season?

“But it gives you an unfair advantage”

This is not a single manufacturer race series, this is not the Specialised WC circuit. If it was, each team would have the same frame at the start of the season and may the best man win. If you want to eliminate any advantage gained through different bike designs, then you have to give each racer the same equipment.

Fabien Barel famously said that is was “70% the rider 30% the bike”. So why would you get angry if a team tried to improve the 30% that can be adjusted through engineering? Bike designers, Team mechanics and the riders who can articulate what the bike needs to do to be quicker have been doing this as long as pro racing has existed.

For the fans who see this as some kind of bike industry conspiracy to enforce “another new standard”. Get over it, I’m sorry but its true. The fact that “standards” exist in cycling for components is a minor miracle. The fact that one hub wont fit every current production bike? Not really surprising, I’ll still sleep at night and I’m sure you will too.

If we applied the same component standards concept to say, the motor car, we would not have the same range and capability within cars. Hope created an entire new hub width that is specific to the HB211 bike. This allowed them to not compromise the design elsewhere and for the hub and rear axle to be a more integrated part of the overall engineering of the frame. Like how a car is designed…

But ultimately I think as soon as someone podiums on a 29er, we can finally stop having this discussion. JEFF STEBER of Intense fame had this to say in an interview with Dirt back in 2014.

“I always think back to when Doug Henry was the first to run the YZ400 F (four stroke MX bike) during a whole season of supercross and outdoor. He roared against a field of buzzing bees (2 strokes) and he focused on riding that bike for its strengths. After that season of huge success the rest is history. 29 DH needs a Doug Henry and a team willing to take it on and prove it to the world.”
Perhaps the Syndicate is that team.

Bike Build

“Would you like a new bike for your birthday?”

That was the question that my wife asked me towards the end of last year, my 30th was in a few months time and she was sounding me out on the idea. As a committed mountain biker that is the kind of question you have day dreams about hearing.

giphy

With the Heckler starting to show its age, (2005/6 frame) I would of been lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it’s replacement.

Stravaiging Enduro durris February 6
Kaspir, what a machine.

When entering the market for a new bike the choices these days are a wide, varied, confusing minefield. What wheel size should you choose? Should it be plus sized or have boost spacing? 1X10/11/12 and what about 2X drivetrains, they are making a comeback. Hard tail or full suspension or should I just capitulate now and get a E bike?

You need to be honest with yourself about what terrain you actually ride. That 170mm super enduro bike might look amazing in the video but it is going to be a drag around the average trail centre.

Ask yourself a few of these questions;

What do you primarily ride and will that change over the next few years?

Is where you primarily ride trail centres or natural terrain?

Steep or mellow?

Do you have any riding or racing ambitions?

Are you an aggressive or hard rider?

Is covering long distances a regular ride for you?

After asking myself these (and a few other questions) I decided I was looking for an aggressive trail or light enduro machine, or what used to be called “all mountain”. I then wrote a set of criteria that the bike should be. I wasn’t wanting something that was vastly different from what the Heckler was for, just a modern, more capable machine.

  • 650B
  • Aluminum (unlike carbon, it can be recycled)
  • 66/7° Head angle
  • 140-160mm rear travel
  • 150-160mm front fork
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Ideally external cable routing
  • Boost not a priority (screw boost)

I was initially looking to buy a whole bike, I was looking at a few bikes, the Bird Aeris, Canyon Spectral, Vitus Sommet and even a Orbea Rallon had all caught my eye. All of them had good, but not perfect builds for what was within the budget. When I accidentally found a shop in Englandshire that had Banshee frame bundles at very reasonable prices.

And a Banshee Spitfire more than met the criteria listed above.

I hadn’t considered a frame and custom build, but the idea was very appealing. A few conversations with my LBS and they were able to not only match the frame deal from down south, but better it by it coming with a CC Inline instead of a RS Monarch. Let it never be said that a bricks and mortar shop should be ruled out over direct sales when looking for a new ride.

A big part of the fun with a build is the specing, researching the best mix of performance, weight and cost. The simple things like colour matching components and getting your preferred tyres and handlebar width right from the start. And knowing every part, every bolt and having that detailed knowledge of your ride, it all makes a difference.

This also meant that family could gift me components for the build, making the bike more special, as my family helped me build it. The end result is a unique bike that no one else has, no one else is riding the same bike as me, and that is special.

glenlivet-trail-centre-banshee-spitfire
Ash thinks he is called Big Tom.
There are a lot of Canyons on the bike racks of Audi drivers afterall. 
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3D Printing in MTB

I recently presented at an MTB business and education event.

The evening event which was snappily titled “Engineering, Manufacturing and Commercial Opportunities in the Cycling Industry” was hosted at Robert Gordon University where I work. Featuring speakers from key partners that support mountain bike businesses in Scotland.

(Apologies for the audio, the video was a last minute idea)

With Danny Cowe from The Mountain Bike Centre for Scotland showcasing their work in supporting MTB businesses, From start ups, to established firms. Elevator, the entrepreneur support body were there to talk about their accelerator programs for getting new businesses established

I was one of the three speakers from RGU talking about how the university could help support the development of new cycling products.

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Chris O’Neal, the head of Gray’s School of Art, kicked the evening off with an introduction to the opportunities the cycling industries present. I introduced additive manufacture (3D Printing) and how it can and has been used in both prototyping and end user manufacture, with case studies focussing on frame manufacture.

Ben Durack, the studio manager of MAKE Aberdeen, rounded off the RGU contingent with a presentation about the MAKE studio. He also outlined a democratised model for product development and iterative design that MAKE can help facilitate.

The evening ended with a Speed Pitching session where people introduced themselves  and their needs as a business or product developer. This allowed the room to get a sense of who everyone was before the obligatory networking and mingling.

It was something a little bit different for myself, whilst I teach workshops all day as part of my work, the opportunity to do that about MTB in front of a a crowd of engineers and product designers was a little intimidating. Variety being the spice of life and all that.

I met some great people and hopefully Gray’s and RGU will be able to build some partnerships with some innovative Scottish MTB companies off of the back of the event.

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Aspirational Object

As part of my work at the art school I was asked to contribute to a digital Wunderkammer.

A Wunderkammer is half way between a small museum and cabinet of curiosities, this German “room of wonders” will be used as a learning exercise for our first year students. I was asked to add two objects, one personal and one aspirational, my personal object was my custom painted Specialized frame that I wrote about here.

My aspirational object was a very special anniversary edition Yeti frame.

Anyway I decided to post the short here as well.


Yeti are a bicycle maker that only produce mountain bikes, that singular focus is actually an incredibly rare thing. They were there from the start, founded in 1985 by John Parker when he sold his Indian motorcycle to buy a jig and some tubing. He started building frames and bikes that were at the very peak of design and performance for their day.

They are a brand that have developed a cult following called “the Tribe”, this following is so loyal they cross the globe for the annual Yetimeets with special anniversary meets going as far as Nepal, the home of their namesake.

Being there since the beginning of mountain biking means racing and Yeti have always raced. They brought a level of factory support and professionalism to their race team in the late 80’s and early 90’s that did not exist elsewhere. A small outfit in reality, their race presence has always been that of a much larger company, they have also boasted a rider rooster to match that ambition.

Yeti were there at the first UCI Mountain bike World Cup. The first female mountain bike world champion was Julie Furtardo on her fully rigid Yeti FRO (For Racing Only).

The early racers like John Tomac and Furtardo piloted the distinctive turquoise and yellow machines in both the downhill hill and cross country disciplines to successive victories.

1993-yeti-arc-lt-missy-giove-13
Picture Credit The Pro’s Closet

The infamous Missy Giove made her name ragging amongst other Yeti’s a early full suspension ARC ASLT, simplistic and unrefined by todays standards but jaw dropping for 1993. Mountain biking in the early days was punk, it was tribal and it was on the edge of extreme sport counter culture, Yeti fitted right in.

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Picture Credit Yeti Fan

30 years later and some things have never changed, Yeti still race, they still support the uppermost talent of the sport and they are still that boutique brand from Durango.

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Only 250 frames were ever produced.

The racing may have changed focus to the new discipline of Enduro and the  EWS  but they are still at the top of the field. In 2015 Richie Rude won the Enduro world series on his SB 6C, with team mate and the previous years champion Jared Graves winning the last race of the season.

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Picture Credit Pinkbike

This long introduction leads me finally to my object of desire, 2015 was the last year that Jared graves raced for Yeti, he also won that race. After over a decade on the iconic bikes a year later and its still hard not to picture Graves in the Turquoise and Yellow.

You can’t collect racers but you can collect their bikes and my object for the Wunderkammer is the bike (no doubt in Graves’s own collection) in the 30th anniversary colours that he piloted in his last winning race for Yeti.

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Picture Credit Pink bike

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Race Routine

It’s great when you can travel from home to a race, you have all the support and kit there to help set you up for a great day on the bike. But more often than not you have to travel, and as the adage goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, sorry, Boy Scout.

Preparing for a race covers a whole host of elements, from physical training and mental preparation, bike prep, nutrition through to travel and accomodation logistics to name but a few. In this post I’m going to cover the week running up to a big race, what I do to prepare and when, as well as outlining my race day routine running up to the start line.


7 Days to go

With 7 days to race day, chances are it is the weekend, you might want to get one last big training ride in before resting up over the coming week. Conveniently the weekend also gives you plenty of time to get your bike race ready, a good place to start is with my earlier post on race Bike prep.

Hopefully your bike received the all clear, however if anything has been flagged up as needing replaced then you have the time to order any new parts to get your steed back to full health before the race weekend.

On a side note, try not to stack it in the week running up to a race, just a suggestion.

Other things to do are to ensure any travel and accommodation arrangements are made and you know how to get there, you don’t want a stressful drive to ruin to start of your race experience, after all its meant to be fun!


3 Days to go

With 3 days to go your training should be in full taper mode, so instead of lounging on the sofa its time to pack your race kit. This is a basic list and should only be used as a starting point. It is always better to pack something and leave it in the car than have to scrounge around the carpark for a bottom bracket tool 30 minutes before the start of the race!

  • Bike (obviously)
  • Helmet
  • Knee pads and armour if it is a gravity race
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Jersey
  • Shorts and Bib if you are so inclined
  • Winter/rain clothes (being caught off-guard can make for a miserable race) including base layer, arm/leg warmers, etc.
  • Post-race, warm change of clothes (change out of chamois as soon as you can)
  • Back pack (if using one)
  • Bottles, use N+1 to work out how many you need
  • Heart rate strap (if you use one)
  • Race food
  • Post-race recovery drink/snack
  • Post race beer (if not driving)
  • Electrolyte drink or tabs
  • Plenty of water
  • Spare wheels ready to race
  • Cycling computer (if you use one)
  • Bike floor pump
  • Tools: Ensure you have tools for all parts of your bike, bare minimum take, Allen key multi-tool, flathead & Phillips screwdrivers, electrical tape
  • Spare tubes, tire levers & CO2

With your race kit packed its time to give the bike one last check. This is especially important if you needed to order any parts for your race bike after its thorough going over earlier in the week.


Night before

So you’ve traveled to the race venue and got your self settled into your dig’s, tomorrows the big race and its time for the race routine to kick in. Not staying at the race venue and traveling the morning of the race? No problem just just do the final count down at home.

10 under the ben campsite
Mountain Bikestock

If at the venue and its possible, go check out the course, if its a downhill, go walk the track, if its a XC race go walk or ride a lap.

carb loading
Two Teas McGhee

Time to eat, carb load like crazy, pasta and a lean protein like chicken or tuna is a great place to start. Don’t over do it and don’t eat anything that your not familiar with the last thing you need is stomach issues from a dodgy curry, keep simple and carb filled. Lay you race day kit out, pack your back pack if you are using one, set your bottles or hydration pack out, you know it’s all fine as you checked it when you packed it on day three but peace of mind leads to a good sleep and rest is important.


Race Day

Breakfast time! this meal sets you up for your race so make it count! A balanced mix of slow release carbs and some protein for the win. So a big bowl of porridge followed by a fruit salad with some greek yoghurt and coffee for me. Some people like eggs as well, but I’m not an egg guy.

Hydration before your race is just as important as during your race, make sure you include electrolyte drinks in your pre-race hydration especially if its a warm day.

Get to the race venue good and early with at least an hour to spare, as soon as you arrive get yourself registered and collect your race number.

Run through the final check list

  • Number pinned
  • Tires pumped and pressure checked
  • Computer on bike and HR monitor on
  • Full bottles
  • All the food you need
  • All multi tools and spares needed packed

Allow time for a proper warm up, stretch up slowly working through all the major muscle groups, a quality warm up should take at least 30 minutes. Do some sprints as well as some climbing where possible, the more intense the race is from the gun the more intense the warm up should be.

The hour before your start time have a final snack, a banana or a gel with caffeine is ideal.

Get yourself to the start line early and get a good position if its a mass start, if the race has a staggered start then be early for your start time.

And finally, have a good race.

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Bike Prep

So much preparation can go into one race, training, strategy and of course bike preparation.

When it comes to race prepping my bike, the first thing to decide is which bike is most appropriate for the race. I don’t have the most extensive quiver but I have a XC bike and the big all mountain bike. Is it an enduro or endurance event? Are the trails natural or man made, will the racing be mostly gravity, cross country or a mix? Youtube and Strava are great tools for scoping out the potential terrain and helping to guide the decision, which ultimately boils down to – hardtail or full sus.

Bike chosen its time to get a cup of tea, hit the shed and get the tools out.

A clean bike is a happy bike, first thing to do is get the bike on the stand, get the wheels off and give it a good deep clean. Cleaning the bike usually red flags any potential maintenance issues that have gone unnoticed, as well as making sure everything is running free and clear.

Now we have a sparkling clean bike to work on, it’s time to check the torque on all the bolts. Starting from the top and working down the bike, make sure to adjust the torque wrench to the correct torque for each bolt in turn. If you suspect a bolt has been over tightened, loosen the bolt with an allen key (never loosen a bolt with a torque wrench) then re-tighten the bolt to the correct torque. Don’t forget to check disc rotor bolts as they are sometimes easy to forget.

Once all the bolts are checked, I break the bike down into key areas, making a list of jobs needing done for each.


Drivetrain
  • Fresh gear cable and index deraileur
  • Fresh chain
Cockpit and brakes
  • Fresh brake pads
  • Bleed brakes
Suspension
  • Fork lower service and oil change
Wheels and Tyres
  • True and tension wheels
  • Fresh tubeless sealant
  • Service hubs and bearings

Drive Train

Slipping gears aren’t acceptable on a race run and a snapped chain (unless you’re Aaron Gwinning) will end your day, so a smooth drive train is vital.

Fit a fresh gear cable then check the high and low limit screws to make sure the deraileur can’t shift off the cassette. A fresh cable will stretch a little as it beds in, so you will need to repeat the indexing after a few rides to get the deraileur shifting well again. Or, you can pre-stretch your new cable so you don’t have to re-index the deraileur, good news for race prepping.

To stretch your gear cable, shift to the innermost sprocket, then whilst turning the cranks pull the deraileur cage outward so you shift the chain into the middle of the cassette. When you let go of the mech the chain will shift back to the innermost sprocket. Repeat a few times and the shift will become slower. Re-index the cable and you have a pre-streched gear cable and a crisp gear shift.

If you’re unsure how to index your deraileur, Park Tools have a excellent guide.

Fitting a fresh chain is usually pretty high on the list of priorities when prepping for race day. If a new chain is going to fail it will usually be fairly early on in its life. Therefore I try to get a few rides on a new chain to make sure it won’t fail and that it’s bedded in.

Make sure the chain is properly oiled and any excess has been removed.


Cockpit and brakes

Racing burns through brake pads like nothing else, with the heat of the moment you’ll brake harder and more aggressively than normal. Pads also pick up all kinds of contaminants in normal use, so as with a fresh chain, it is always best to race on fresh pads. Just remember to bed them in properly in advance.

With fresh pads I always like to give my brakes a quick bleed, not necessarily a full fluid change, just a quick bleed to make sure they are at their best. If its my Avid brakes (yes they can work!), a quick lever bleed will usually suffice.

The other thing to ensure is that your brake calipers are properly aligned to ensure the discs aren’t rubbing and slowing you down.


Suspension

Nothing is quite as nice on a bike as a dialed fork. Sadly, just like all of the components on a bike, their performance slowly deteriorates over time, we just don’t notice this as we ride them all the time.

One of the easiest ways to refresh your fork is with fresh seals and servicing the lowers. This is the kind of job we know we need to do to maintain our forks performance and prevent damage, but it’s very easy to forget.

TF Tuned Box Suspension service

An event is a great reason to make you service your fork and remind you that it’s a straightforward job that doesn’t take all that much time.


Wheels and Tyres

Pros and serious racers will race on fresh rubber, for privateers and casual racers that can be a little pricey. If your tyres still have plenty of tread on them, then some fresh sealant and ensuring they are properly seated is the thing to do. Some people go as far as applying fresh rim tape (Gorilla tape) before reseating the tyre, but this isn’t strictly necessary.

While your tyres are off, it is the perfect time to true and tension your wheels. You can do this yourself with a little patience and some basic tools, but if you’re unsure or short of time then a trip to the local bike shop will sort you out. This could take some time, so remember to factor that in as your bike may be out of commission for training rides while the wheels are in the shop.

There is a comprehensive guide on Pinkbike for truing wheels on the bike.


Final touches

Lastly I like to wipe the frame down with a silicon spray or detail it with a coat of car wax. This prevents mud from building up on the frame as well as keeping the frame looking box-fresh come race day.

Like with washing the frame, it’s wheels off as well as pads out, after all no point changing pads just to contaminate them! There are various brands of silicon spray – some like WD40, some prefer bike specific products. Whatever you use, ensure you keep the wheels and pads well out of the way.


 There you have it, that new bike feeling and ready to race.

Tour De Ben Nevis 2014

#Ovalthis

There are some things that are constant, they may evolve but can you reinvent the wheel?

I have been curious to try oval chain rings ever since reading an excellent article about them a while back on James Wilson’s site. Now, thanks to my support from absoluteBLACK I have one of their oval chain rings to find out for myself.

Off round chain rings are not a new idea, back in the late 80’s Shimano championed their Biopace system. Seriously flawed, users complained of knee and joint pain. Time has thankfully moved on, and the oval chain ring is not the oval ring of the past. AbsoluteBLACK’s offers gains and benefits over conventional round rings.

“Absolute Black oval chainrings deliver power more smoothly to your rear wheel. This means you are better able to generate and maintain, constant cadence. Because oval chainrings reduce the peak loads on knee joints, riders using them get less stress on the joints (knees) and therefore are able to keep certain level of effort for longer. This results in higher average speed.” (source absoluteBLACK.cc)

With the timing and shape being completely different to that of the Biopace rings, comparisons between them are less apples and oranges and more like apples and tuna.

Out of the package it was immediately obvious these were not your average narrow wide chain rings. The oval shape was subtle, but enough to make you look twice if you didn’t know it was not a round chain ring. The asymmetric tooth profile is superbly detailed and shaped to hold the chain and move dirt and oil off of the tooth’s face.

AbsoluteBLACK offer a 30 day trail period, if oval is not for you they will swap it for a round one; as a brand ambassador I was still more than ready to make use of this trial period.

Oval chainring

Fitting the ring was a straightforward affair with the 32 tooth ring having built in threads, once on and with a fresh new chain it certainly scored in the good looks department. One thing to note is if you are running a top guide, make sure to adjust and check the height of it to avoid it hitting on the high point of the oval!

It was time to hit the trails and to see how the theory applied to reality. The initial test ride would be on some newly cut trails that were steep and loamy, hitting them blind would mean drive train worries would need to be the last thing on my mind.

Clipping in I was expecting to feel something very pronounced through the pedals, a pulsing in the torque. Being completely honest, it felt natural, very quickly it didn’t feel strange at all and most importantly I noticed I was losing my fellow riders on the fire road climbs.

It encouraged a smooth, even pedal stroke, but it still felt good even at lower cadences, one thing I was concerned about was that it would have a “sweet spot” in terms of cadence, but it just doesn’t.

When the terrain turned steep it again performed flawlessly, we have all gotten used to not dropping chains thanks to 1X and narrow wide chain rings, in this regard the oval ring performs perfectly and inspires confidence in your drive train. On more pedally trails the extra gains in power and torque led to faster acceleration and less fatigue in the legs.

Finella Steeps Stravaiging

My initial feelings are that I will not be needing the 30 day trial offer, the additional power in the strong part of the pedal stroke provides a noticeable enhancement to performance and encourages a smooth pedal technique. Long term durability is not a concern as the build quality is just so good, with the grinding paste of Scottish dirt doing nothing to take the shine off of the teeth’s anodizing.

I’ll no doubt be returning with some long term assessments once I have a few months of turning oval under the belt, but for now I can certainly recommend them.

Support

I am delighted to announce that I am being supported by some great brands this coming year.

ab logo wide-01

Firstly I will be representing AbsolutBLACK as a brand ambassador during 2016. I will be running AbsoluteBLACK chain rings as well as some other components, I am really looking forward to experimenting with oval chain rings and the gains they will bring to my riding.

Banner only

I am also pleased to announce that I am part of Riders Company’s Grassroots Program, I’ll be wearing some of their great t-shirts during rides and dig days as well as whilst relaxing off the bike.

You can expect some posts looking into the whole crazy/not crazy concept of oval chain rings and how I use them in my riding and training, as well as looking rather dapper in some fresh tees.

I would like to thank both of these brands for their support for 2016, I am looking forward to working with both of them and for another great year on the bikes.

Tour De Ben Nevis 2014 Stage 4 Nevis Range Race

Rewarded

No good deed goes unrewarded, so the saying goes.

Some people would warn against emotional attachment to objects, they would say that a bike is simply a tool that serves a function, versatile it may be it is still a just a utilitarian object. I am not one of those people, having spent the long hours together I know not only the characters and capabilities of my bikes but their names also.

Sven the bike 2

Sven Specialized hardrock fat creations before stravaiging 1

Sven is a Specialized Hardrock, he is not a flashy frame, nor a poorly conceived one. he is part of a long line that through gradual refinement and evolution has led to him being a compliant, comfortable, fast and adaptable frame. If we borrowed language from the drug world he would be a “gateway bike”, easy to ride, forgiving to beginners but fast and surprisingly capable once you’ve gotten to know him.

Hardrocks are usually considered a beginners entry level bike, they have a special place in many peoples hearts as they introduced them to riding. I rode mountain bikes as a teenager, but after a long break when I discovered gin and other distractions at university Sven reminded me of what I didn’t know I had missed.

I wanted a Hardrock that was unique, the build has been a continuous project which has left no component stock. I liked the colour and graphics but the paint was a little tired and my tastes in colourways has matured. A respray was the answer.

I spoke about Fat Creations in a previous post, having had some email conversations with Ali at Fat Creations I started the tricky process of designing my own colour and graphics package.

ruling out everything from murdered out stealth to candy apple red I settled on a petrol blue and teal colourway in metallic pearl paint.

With the RAL codes confirmed I parceled Sven up and confused the local post office with the size of the box and waited impatiently for Christmas.

Needless to say, Ali did a stunning job the photo’s honestly don’t do it justice as the depth of paint and metallic finish really sing in natural light. All that is left to do is to build him back up, get some nice finishing touches and take the time to service and build the best bike he can be.

Shed time
Shed time

Sven the bike 7


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