Time For Something Completely Different

The site and Youtube channel has been a little quiet of late, there have been a few reasons for this, change of work duties, maoving house and my Masters in Fine Art. As part of my MA I made a video essay instead of a normal written one, no less work as I had to essentially write a essay length lecture.

 

Eitherway, I thought I would share it here to show you all what I’d been doing with myself.


Bibliography

Shepherd, Nan, and Robert Macfarlane. The Living Mountain a Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. Canongate, 2011.

Bloom, Brett, and Sacramento, Nuno. Deep Mapping. Breakdown Break Down Press, 2017

Monbiot, George. Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding. Allen Lane, 2013.

Vince, Gaia. Adventures in the Anthropocene A Journey to the heart of the planet we made. Vintage, 2016.
Websites

Outdooraccess-scotland.scot. (2018). Scottish Outdoor Access Code. [online] Available at: https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/ [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018].

Nature.scot. (2018). Home | Scottish Natural Heritage. [online] Available at: https://www.nature.scot/ [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018].

Scotways.com. (2018). Statutory Access Rights – ScotWays. [online] Available at: https://www.scotways.com/faq/law-on-statutory-access-rights [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018].
Government Guidelines Documents

Gov.scot. (2011). The Muirburn Code. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.scot/Resource/Doc/355582/0120117.pdf [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018].

 

Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About Handlebars

This article was originally written and published on Singletracks.com

Handlebars are perhaps the single most important point of contact on a bike. However, it can be easy to overlook this crucial element and its impact on bike fit, steering accuracy, and comfort on the bike.

The first thing to realize is that mountain bike handlebar size and shape can be a personal choice. What might work for one person might not work for another. And as a part of the bike fit equation, what makes for a good comfortable fit on one frame might not work as well on a different bike since the geometry and sizing will be different. The main thing to understand is that it might take a bit of experimentation with your setup to find the ideal sweet spot.

Mountain bike handlebar geometry

No, this has nothing to do with your favorite watering hole, though geometry can get complicated after a visit to your local hostelry. When it comes to handlebar geometry, there are two main numbers to consider: rise and sweep.

Handlebar Rise

Rise is essentially the height differential between the center of the bar, where it attaches to the stem, and the center of the 22.2mm diameter just after the taper and transitional bend. Mountain bike handlebars are typically configured with zero rise (flat bars) all the way up to 100mm (roughly 4 inches). Bars with 100mm rise aren’t very common anymore, so these days, “high-rise” bars are usually in the 40-50mm range (about 1.5-2 inches).

Choosing the right amount of rise usually comes down to rider position on the bike. If the cockpit feels too low (for a taller rider, for example), a riser bar can get grips up into a more comfortable position. A riser bar will naturally have a bit more flex than a straight bar, assuming both bars are made of the same material and have identical diameters and widths.

Flat bars tend to be found on XC-oriented bikes while riser bars are used on more gravity-oriented setups. Since gravity bikes are optimized for riding downhill, a riser bar keeps the rider’s head and torso slightly higher on the bike for better control on the descents. Finally, some riders just prefer the look of one style over the other, so again personal preference plays a big part.

Sweep

After the rise, the next thing we need to think about is bar sweep. There are two measures of sweep: upsweep and backsweep.

Upsweep

Upsweep is the vertical angle of the bars at the grip. Upsweep does affect the overall rise of the bars, and is a separate measurement that affects rider comfort more than anything else. Most bars, if they list an upsweep measurement at all, will fall between 4° and 6°. This tends to provide a good, neutral wrist angle for riders.

Backsweep

Backsweep refers to the angle at which the bars swoop toward the back of the bike. This angle can range from 0° for a completely straight bar to 45° for a specialty bar like the Jones H-Bar. Again, sweep comes down to rider comfort and preference ahead of any other considerations like performance.

Bar Diameter

Thankfully, mountain bike bars come in just one width at the grip: 22.2mm. This means grips are interchangeable with any bar on the market. When it comes to the stem clamp, that is a different story. The most common diameter is still 31.8mm, but older bars can be 25.4mm.

More recently an oversize 35mm standard was introduced by Easton that promises even greater strength and stiffness. With a larger clamp area, the bars tend to be stronger and stiffer. Larger clamp diameters also provide increased surface area for the stem connection, resulting in lower clamping pressure requirements, which is a good thing for carbon bars.

However some riders prefer the flex and lower weight that is associated with 31.8mm bars. The comparative increased strength and lack of flex of the 35mm clamp diameter bars can sometimes lead to a harsher ride feel than the narrower diameter bars.

Bottom line: if you’re upgrading your bars but keeping your stem, make sure the new bars will fit your stem clamp diameter. If buying both, ensure they will play nicely together.

Bar Width

For the past several years mountain bike handlebars have been trending wider. The wider, the better.

Now this is actually true for most modern riders, as wider bars slow down steering input for added control, especially when paired with a short stem. The longer a lever, the easier it is to move a weight, and since handlebars are a lever, the same rules apply.

Wider handlebars can even make breathing easier on the climbs. (Think about taking a deep breath with arms wide vs. arms crossed in front of your chest.) Now the crucial thing is to have a bar that is wide but not too wide. A handlebar that is too wide will stretch a rider out on the bike, ultimately limiting the range of potential motion on the bike. A bar that is too narrow has the opposite effect; while it increases the rider’s range of movement, it does make steering heavier and less stable feeling.

Beyond control considerations, wider bars can make navigating dense forest trails more difficult. But also keep comfort in mind. If you have short arms, you may not want the widest bars available, even if you are a super aggressive gravity rider.

These days, mountain bike bars are available in widths ranging from less than 600mm all the way up to 840mm or more. When shopping for mountain bike handlebars, it is important to note the width of the bars but keep in mind that you can always cut the bars down. Unfortunately you can’t safely add width to a set that are too narrow to begin with.

Cross-country riders will usually prefer narrower bars compared to trail and downhill riders.

Handlebar Material

Now bar material is conventionally thought of as a binary question: you either run aluminum alloy, because you’re not rich or you don’t trust carbon; or, you run carbon, knowing those fears of a bar failing are unfounded and you like a bit of black glossy bling. But these are not the only options available on the market. Titanium and steel bars are also on offer for the discerning and offbeat rider.

Aluminum bars are generally the least expensive but are heavy. Titanium bars can be more expensive than carbon, and are generally heavier than carbon as well.

Titanium offers the least “harsh” ride feel in terms of impact and vibration, with carbon bars providing some forgiveness as well, and aluminum bars being the stiffest and harshest. Steel has some natural spring to it and offers a feel that some riders prefer.

Each of these four materials offer various and differing amounts of these key characteristics:

  • Strength
  • Flex
  • Weight
  • Vibration damping

In addition to these characteristics, there is also fatigue considerations, a specification seldom listed for a bar. But the number of hours of expected use is something to consider.

Some aggressive riders shy away from carbon bars, thinking they’re not as strong as aluminum. The fact is, carbon bars are often as strong, if not stronger than their aluminum counterparts. But aluminum fails in a much more predictable manner (bending or yielding), which is significantly less dramatic than a carbon bar snapping in combat.

The crucial factor for all bars is to ensure they are correctly installed with the proper torque, which will help prevent a catastrophic failure. It is also vital to inspect and perhaps replace any bar that has taken a mighty pounding in a bad crash. If in any doubt, see you local bike shop mechanic and get them to inspect or fit any new bars for you.

Shape

Most mountain bikes utilize a standard straight bar, but these days, mountain bikers are experimenting with other shapes like the Jones H-Bar and road-style drop bars. Many of these choices are based on extreme use cases like bikepacking and ultra-endurance riding where riders want to utilize multiple hand positions throughout the ride to avoid fatigue. In general, these types of bars trade comfort over trail handling

So there you have it, the 101 intro to mountain bike handlebars. Let us know which bars and widths you’re running in the comments.

Still Stravaiging but Elsewhere

Pretty interesting and exciting times for Stravaiging in 2018.

Well technically not only on Stravaiging, as I have started producing content for Singletracks.com. Whilst I will be making videos and articles for Singletracks as part of the editorial team, I will still be writing here. Just not necessarily on the same topics or with the same tone.

For example, my opinion pieces such as Why I didn’t choose a carbon frame will be posted here. Whilst Shed Time style videos (like this one about going single speed), will most likely be appearing on Singletracks.

Writing and producing content that is exclusively for for another site is a step up from a hobby blog, but it is one I am excited to make. I will also be sharing the posts I produce on Singletracks here as well, so I can keep an archive of all of my posts and content.

I want to thank everyone that has visited and supported StravaigingMTB these past few years. Without you visiting and reading my ramblings I wouldn’t of been able to progress my writing or make the steps towards being paid for doing it.

 

I hope you enjoy the posts that I have planed for both sites in 2018.

Cheers

Callum


P.S.

Special shout out goes to DialledMag.com   for sharing posts and videos from Stravaiging the last few months. Cheers guys you’ve been awesome.

Shed Time! – New project

The eagle eyed among you might have noticed a new page on stravaigingMTB, Shed Time.

Shed Time is a new series of videos and articles to compliment my existing blog feed. These new videos will focus on MTB tech and servicing. Working on and maintaining my bikes is a big part of the sport for me, as is the tech and setup of those bikes. Shed Time is a way for me to share the passion and enjoyment I get from the simple act of fixing bikes in my shed.

There will also be videos discussing bike tech theory such as steering geometry and suspension kinematics and terminology.

Ultimately this may mean that there are less of the style of blog posts that I have written in the past, but I hope the diversity helps to keep the site interesting. Regular readers (what few of you there are) will have noticed this already this month. That is because I have been working on the Shed Time videos to get a good tranche together to launch the new section of the site.

MTB fork service lower oil change stravaiging shed time

To help with this I am working through a teardown and rebuild project of one of my hardtails. This is project where I have been disassembling and servicing each component of an existing bike before rebuilding the whole, will hopefully cover enough of the basics to act as a good starting point for the video series.

I hope you enjoy the new content and follow the project, if you are a regular YouTube viewer you can follow my channel here.

TF Tuned Box Suspension service

 

New Year, More Miles

New year, same me, but time to get some miles in the legs to get over the festive excess.

Christmas and new year, the winter is at its height and the draw of a warm well stocked kitchen is all too strong. Time to recharge, relax and celebrate the season with family and friends. With the end of the festivities it was time to assess the damage done and get some bases miles and climbs in the legs.

I also wanted to try a long ride with a packless setup, I had planed to do this on the Tour De Ben I pulled out of a few months back. Whilst nothing new and the norm for many distance and marathon type riders all my long wild rides were with a pack and the kitchen sink. I wanted to get as much of the weight off my back and onto the frame or in pocketsas possible whilst bringing everything I needed if it went wrong.

This meant two water bottles in cages,  tube, levers and CO2 cart with inflator taped under the saddle. Everything else (phone, multi tool, spare link, mech hanger, cable, camera and vitamin I) went in my Race Face Rip strip with a healthy number of gels and a banana in my softshell pockets for easy access. Simples, nothing crazy just a new set up for me.

it was time to assess the damage done and get some bases miles and climbs in the legs

I fancied some climbing and I had unfinished business with the Fungle Singletrack after my last aborted attempt. So a big loop to take that in and back to the house via the Deeside way, nothing too exciting, just some honest solid base miles.

stravaiging-mtb-cross-country-birsesidestravaiging-mtb-cross-country-xc-cyclestravaiging-mtb-cross-country-fungle-roadstravaiging-mtb-cross-country-singletrack

The conditions where pretty good for a long mission, the ground was wet but rolling well, not to cold, with some scotch mist that never really lifted.

The Fungle was fun as always, but I forgot to drop my seat post for the first third, so was a bit Bambi on ice for the loose rocky section. Once into it, it was pretty fast all things considered, but that clean run alluded me. I will have to come back and properly cane it with the new build, but not until next month.

The return leg had nothing to report, just a leg spin on flattish and mostly graded trails. Some good miles and a gentle reminder of the work to be done to get back to full summer strength. Roll on 2017.

stravaiging-mtb-cross-country-mountain-bikestravaiging-mtb-cross-country-wild-natural

Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

Blog Awards Public Vote

Stravaiging is through to the public vote stage of the UKBlog awards 2017

votenow-1-trans

 

The awards which are in their third year the awards celebrate companies and individuals who use a blog and web content to spread their message and to share thoughts and opinions. The awards recognise and celebrate those who generate engaging content and who share best practice, with 16 award categories the UKBlog awards represent the full spectrum of blogging being produced today.
 
The long list is then opened up to a public vote with the finalists being judged by a panel of industry experts.
The public vote is now open so please vote here.
The vote will close on Monday 19th December at 10.00am

I work really hard to make the site what it is and a vote is a deeply appreciated way to help support both the site and my blogging, which will help me to promote and share my bike based adventures.


Elsewhere

Instagram StravaigerStrava Facebook

Year One

It all started innocently.

I thought I’d create a wee blog to keep all my mountain biking efforts in one place. I produce blog posts and maintain webspace at work so I had the know how and wanted to make something that was for me.

One year on the site has grown and has been given a fresh new look and URL (www.stravaigingmtb.com). I thought I would just say thank you to everyone who has visited the site this last year.  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my ramblings. And to my Wife for putting up with my poor punctuation and time spent typing on the sofa.

Hopefully next year will be just as exciting, with a new bike build on the way (again thank you to my Wife 🙂 ) as well as the usual exploits, should be fun!


Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

Fair City Enduro – 2016

It’s still dark, the rain is the heavy wet kind, its a Saturday morning in late October and I find myself loading the bike onto the car for a drive to Perth. It can only mean the Muckmedden Fair City Enduro.

The Fair City Enduro is a little bit different to your usual one day enduro, with its proximity to Halloween, those participating are encouraged to don fancy dress and race in costume. This instantly lightens the mood, with untimed transitions and no stage start times its a very laid back affair. Last years outing was not really a clean run for me, so I was out to improve on on that performance whilst just having a really good day on the bike.

Time to remind myself how to ride in the wet!

Like last year, the heavens where fully open with heavy showers interspersed with smearing drizzle. Unlike the previous year however, the rain never really broke and was a constant feature of the day. With six downhill stages taking in some new and some old, it was going to be a loose, greasy, back wheel drifting sort of day. Time to remind myself how to ride in the wet!

The long slow burner of a climb brought us up to stage one. A new addition for this year, it started dark, slick and rooted, before breaking cover and diving nose first down a steep loamy turn. It was a complete sea change to the trail so far and caught a few people out (myself included). Then it was an of camber thigh burning sprint over wet grass before sliding sideways on grassy flat turns to the dibber.

It was a run to wake you up, riders had been warned that it was probably the stage you were most likely to crash on. My over the bars done, it was back up the hill to stage two.

stravaiging-fair-city-enduro-2016-4

Stage two was a subtle variant of the same stage the year before, the top section was an exercise in keeping momentum as you searched for grip in the super slick, super muddy ruts and berms. Once the trail dropped back into the trees you soon joined the bike park for a fast blast through the berms and jumps.

I made possibly the best dib in the history of dibbing

As I popped off the last drop of the stage, I made possibly the best dib in the history of dibbing. Coming in hot I managed to clock the dibber perfectly into the timer whilst still skidding the rear wheel. No dibber dance, perfect first time, I could not of done it twice if I tried.

stravaiging-fair-city-enduro-2016-2Stage three was the same as last year, It was a fun trail and my best stage of the previous year. A nasty wee drop at the gate led to a fast sprint with plenty of scope to pop off logs and small drops, before a sudden short climb robbed you of all momentum. Any attempt of mine to regain some pace was moderated by the flat turns and pedal heavy nature of the last stretch of trail.

The transition of the final three stages brought us closer to Perth and to the cliffs overlooking the river and valley below. The low cloud cover refused to lift and a misty haze clung to the hillside that made you question if it was the scotch mist or your steamed up googles obscuring your view.

Stage four was probably my favorite of the day, fast, flowing and with many high “enduro lines” to keep things interesting. The whole trail was carpeted in a colourful display of freshly fallen autumn leaves. Pretty it may be, but the slick leaves led to plenty of moments when your rear wheel tried to overtake your front.

The climbs were sociable affairs, with no stage start times you could catch up with friends and share stories of the near misses and perfect lines from your past stages.

The fifth stage was the shortest of the day. A short run in gave you just enough time to get both feet clipped in before an all to short rock garden spat you out onto a fast grassy trail. Blind turns and drops were followed by wide flat greasy corners where keeping on the wet grass was for a change, your best hope for finding grip!

stravaiging-fair-city-enduro-2016-3

The sixth and final stage of the day is a local classic, the cliff run mixed techy chutes, fast open single track and stiff thigh destroying climbs. being the last stage of the day, I was absolutely emptying the tank whilst trying to ignore the fire in my legs. The last hundred yards was rudely interrupted by some freshly cut flat turns that robbed you of all momentum as you fought to keep within the tape without staling out completely.

I was by no means bother the podium (or even the top 50% of my category) but that isn’t the point of racing for me. I was there to do better than myself, to push hard and have a great day riding bikes with friends, mission accomplished.

It was also the last ride on my faithful stead, Kaspir the Santa Cruz Heckler. He moved on to new adventures near Bike Park Wales the day after, and what a parting rip round the woods it was.


Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

Walking Away From the Mountain

Yellow: Be aware. Severe weather is possible over the next few days and could affect you. Yellow means that you should plan ahead thinking about possible travel delays, or the disruption of your day to day activities.

The Tour was my training focus for the last few months, the usual planning and preparations had been made and with training going well I was hopeful of a clean run come race day.

This would be my third run of the TBN, The first year I wasn’t the best prepared training or skills wise, but the two punctures were what slowed me down most. The second attempt I was mechanical free and feeling fit but my day was plagued with cramps that forced me to my knees. This time my goal was a clean run, the best run I could make, the third run would be the charm.

We left the morning before the race, leaving a Deeside that had been enjoying a prolonged period of dry weather. But traveling west the skies steadily built in density, the predicted storms seemed to be coming to fruition. Things didn’t improve once we had found and settled into the chalet as the rain started to lash across the windows. The wee man was delighted with the digs and was totally unfussed by this adventure or the weather. The sky continued to darken long before its time.

Whilst I stretched off that night and during the bike’s final going-over, the wind rattled and battered the chalet. I had drawn the curtains as much as a way to deny the weather as to keep the heat in. But I knew the following day was in question.

Racing and to some extent riding your bike is a singularly selfish pursuit, for what ever reasons we ride, ultimately we ride for ourselves. It takes us away from family, it makes us sacrifice time, energy and all too frequently, finances. It pushes us to try to better our fitness and skills, challenging us to push harder, but that can come at a cost. Sometimes the ride is not worth the potential cost.

Dawn barely broke the morning of the race and the sound of the wind had not eased. The minor miracle I had been vainly hoping for had not surfaced and the weather had not broken. I stepped outside to make an assessment and come to peace with the decision I knew was already made, a decision I had hoped the race organisers would make for me. I  looked down towards the north face of Nevis and across towards Aonoch Mor. I could see hints of mountain through razor thin breaks in the fast moving cloud, curtains of rain washed across the view and my face. I knew today wasn’t going to be a race for me. It would be too great a fall with the chances of the fall getting greater the higher I climbed on the course.

I had come to see the mountain, nodded my appreciation and the mountain was unmoved, stoic in its cloud bound vigil over the loch and all below. The race went ahead, what else could the organisers do, the route curtailed into a out and back sortie. From all accounts it was a grim affair with large portions of the course wallowing in standing and flowing water.

I will no doubt be back, this race has yet to get out of my system, I will never know if this year was the year were I was ready, luck had other ideas. I guess no race is the perfect race, there will always be mistakes made or opportunities that go uncapitalised. Ultimately all you are left with (and the reason why we do it) are the feelings and the experiences, to come down from the hill with a head full of magic and a story to tell.

There will always be other races and other stories to tell.


Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

A Change is as Good as a Rest?

I’ve just had the best six months of my life.

I was able to take six month of shared parental leave from work to look after my baby during the first year. That time is over and reality has brought back to work with a bump. Now I like my job, it is kind of unique and interesting, but it is not looking after baby.

Now as far as my riding and fitness was concerned looking after baby had its own impacts and “compromises” if you can even call them that. I wrote about trying to fit fitness training around looking after baby in a previous post. Once established, the time to ride my bike became a part of the regular routine. There were a few outings of the “Rad Dads Club“, myself and another rider with a similar family setup hitting the trails and sharing the tales of being a new dad.

Scolty DH 2
Rad Dads

The time on the bike whilst certainly great, wasn’t enough in itself to keep certain areas of my fitness where they once were. One of the things that I was missing in terms of my training during those months was gym work.

I had previously used my works excellent gym, getting in three too four sessions a week during my lunch hour. I had used this time to build power and keep my overall condition as good as possible, especially during the period approaching a race.

any other cyclists found a brand with a more generous thigh?

Without this block in my training, I had noticed a weakening of my power output on the pedals, especially over longer sprints. Whilst this meant my thighs fitted in my jeans better (seriously, any other cyclists found a brand with a more generous thigh? then please leave a comment below.) it was an area that now needed work. Particularly with my return to the Tour De Ben being the new focus of any training.

A change is as good as a rest they say

A change is as good as a rest they say, my families routine and rhythm has changed again, and it will take some time to settle into its new pattern and for the time to ride to once again become part of that routine. Until the rhythm is established, the gym is my main outlet, to build on the good base that I was able to establish whilst looking after the little one and to progress my fitness.

Whilst the gym is refreshing and the impacts of the time spent there will pay dividends when I aim to improve on my past Tours. It is not looking after baby.

Things will settle, things adapt, I will settle, I will adapt.


Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

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


Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook