Thursday, 29 June 2006

Great Divide Race

The Great Divide Race is ongoing at the moment. A couple of thousand miles, off-road, down the line of the Rocky Mountains, from the Canadian border to Mexico. Unsupported. On bikes.

Three guys even set off on fixies, but only one is still in the race at the moment.

"...and yeah, this fixie thing, um, it's pretty bomber"
- Matt Chester

You can find out more about the race at the official Great Divide Race website and follow the race on the Great Divide Race Blog. There's a thread on the MTBR forum discussing the race and equipment, with a post by Matt Chester explaining why he had to quit the race.

The fixed gear bikes being ridden my Matt Chester and Rudi Nadler are similar to the set-up I'm going to go for on my SSUK prize frame from Solitude Cycles.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Solitude Build

As I mentioned earlier, I won a custom built bike frame at SSUK2006 from Alex at Solitude Cycles. I finally got round to filling in the build sheet tonight. Here are my replies to some of the questions. Caution: I ramble.

WHAT SORT OF RIDING WILL YOU BE DOING? (Track? Off-road? 24hr races? Down the pub?)

"Most of my riding is a mix of off- and on-road. I generally ride straight from my front door, on local field-edge bridleways, farm tracks, minor roads and bits of Sustrans routes. I've ridden these with my 1.7"" slick commuter tyres, so I'm sure I'd be fine on a 'cross bike.

Once a month, I ride with the Hamsterley Trailblazers in Hamsterley; I'd probably take my Inbred to these rides, but it'd be nice to be able to take this bike too. I like being the only rigid+Vbrake rider in the group so it would be fun to ride there on this bike for a couple of rides per year. The trails at SSUK are easily the most technical my riding gets and these are the trails we ride in the forest.

My first off-road riding was in Swaledale with my dad and brother. I don't get up there very often, so I'd love a bike that I could ride the 20 mile each way on the road to Reeth and then could handle the old mining tracks.

The Hamsterley and Swaledale riding is what's edging me towards a drop-barred 29er, rather than a cross bike. Possibly somewhere between a Monster Cross and a 29er :)"

WHAT SORT OF EQUIPMENT WILL YOU USE? (Bars, brakes, hubs and gearing…)

"On-One Midge bars set up a la Matt Chester, so I can use the tops and hoods for longer road climbs and cruising, and the drops for off-road.

Canti brakes. I've just been trying to set up a mechanical disc brake on my Inbred; I don't really understand it and wouldn't like to have to try and repair it out on a ride. V brake pads seem to wear out really fast. I understand cantis I'm slow/light enough that they stop me.

Stronglight Impact cranks, with a 36t Surly ring (from HubJub). I rode 32:16 from/at/to SSUK (51.5"" on 26""x1.9), which is equivalent to 36:19 on a 700x35 tyre, so I'll probably make 36:18 my starting point for a fixed gear on this bike, but I'm open to suggestions. I'll probably start with a 35c tyre, but having clearance for about a 2.1"" tyre would be nice.

I'm thinking of either Surly or On-One double-fixed hubs, laced to Mavic Open Sport rims. 18t-fixed and 19t-free (?)"

WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM YOUR NEW FRAME? (Let me know what you are looking for )

"I'd like a bike which is simple and timeless. I don't ride fast or hard, and I'm pretty light, so most MTBs are overkill for me; I don't think I've even come close to pushing the limits of my Inbred or Kona (other than in the load I've put on them with heavy things on the rack). I've always liked that fact that the bikes I've owned could do most things ok, from forest singletrack to loaded up roadwork. I'd like the new frame to do the same.

I'd like to be able to ride a 70 mile road 'tourist trial' one Sunday and then ride on the road to Hamsterley to do a group off-road ride before riding back again on the next Sunday. I'm doing just that on my Inbred over the next two weekend, but I think I'll be wishing for a more road-oriented position on Sunday... I'd like to be able to load the bike up with camping gear, ride to a race, race, and then load up again and ride home :)"


"I like their versatility.

The Kona has a position that I can ride all day, but I start wishing for a change of hand position after a while. The bars were a bit too low for off-road use, but I raised them a couple of cm recently and they feel a lot better. I ride this Mon-Fri for getting to/from work (2.5 miles each way sprint through traffic each day, plus another 4.5 miles each-way journey to another school on a Tuesday afternoon). Riding with my hands resting on the ends of the bar, in what I imaging would be their position on a Midge bar, is really comfy.

I'm much more confident on technical off-road on the Inbred, but I feel like the position is too upright (or maybe it's just the wider bars?) a lot oif the time. Part of this might also be just being more used to the Kona."

Thursday, 15 June 2006

It's the end of the world as we know it...

...but everyone seems to feel fine.

He wants us to buy hybrid cars and compact fluorescent lightbulbs. He proposes many other things like that—including walking and biking “wherever possible�—baby steps in the right direction. Add up all the baby steps and, sure, it’s a tick in the right direction, sort of like getting people to move their beach chairs a yard higher up on the sand as the tsunami approaches. It’s a major political achievement to upset all those dozing sunbathers and make it happen. Think of the sacrifice: drinks will spill and hundreds of square inches of mayonnaise surface will be fouled with sand. But tens of lives could be saved.

A Convenient Lie at Clever Chimp is quite a depressing post about just how screwed we potentially are. Everyone who drives should be made to read this.

Today I had to take a heavy and awkward package to the post office for delivery to one of my out-of-town customers, at the same time I was watching my daughter. Juggling errands and child-rearing is one of the most commonly cited examples I hear for why the bicycle/car-free lifestyle isn't realistic.

While A Day in The Life at Oil is For Sissies is a bit more optimistic.

I'm not sure what point I'm making. Just read the links.

Monday, 5 June 2006

SSUK 2006

SSUK2006 happened at the weekend. Lots of great riding, with some cool people.

I rode up to Hamsterley from home on the Saturday morning, with all my camping gear on the rack on the back of the Kona singlespeed. I've no idea what it weighed, but I couldn't lift the back wheel off the floor. The handling with that much weight over the back wheel was 'interesting' with some nice speed wobbles when going downhill. The 32:16 gear and off-road tyres made it a little hard going in places but even having to push it up a hill or two I made it to the Hamsterley Forest in 2 hours. Once in the forest, I followed the hand-drawn map to the campsite, which was aimed at cars, and so got to ride a nice gravel climb and descent, rather than the flat riverside track tot he campsite; just what I was looking for after 20 road miles.

I got to the site and managed to blag possibly the last spot in the 'VIP field' away from the beer tent and near to the HTB crew. Once I'd got my tent set up, I took off the rack and rode the start and end of the race course with Kiwi and GhostRider, then had a ride along the Grove Link and a go down the Skills Loop, before heading back to the site to register. At registration, you had to select a card and have whatever was printed on it written on your arm in marker pen, this was the pass into the free beer and pizza later that evening. I had to "Make it more sensual..."

The free beer and pizza went down well, then I sat talking crap and drinking with the Trailblazers till a relativlely early 12:30 when I went to my very cold bed. Other stayed up much later.

After a rice pudding and flapjack breakfast, the race itself was three laps of the 6 mile circuit, with a climb of almost 3 miles to get everyone warmed up. The leaders lapped me on my second lap, so I finished after two laps. The descents were pushing the limits of my ability and bottle, with some really steep, tight, narrow, rocky, rooty stuff in there. Some people rode these on a fixed gear, which I'd not believe if I hadn't seen it myself. Nutters :)

After finishing, I hung around at the finish line for a while to cheer on some other finishers. The little kid with the "Skids are for kids" T-shirt probably got the biggest cheer. Then I went and ate more flapjacks and drank lots of water and High Five.

The prizegiving was a little surprising, with me winning the top prize! I was a little bit stunned, to say the least. The top prize is a custom-built bike frame worth £695, donated by Solitude Cycles for the "Spirit of Singlespeeding" award. Aparently, riding to and from the race with all my gear on a singlespeed is mad enough to be rewarded. TomL snapped the moment that I stood slighly shocked and recieved my prize. Expect a new blog category and lots of posts as I wonder about what to get and what components to put onto it. Alex at Solitude is a very nice man for donating it. Phil is a very nice man for awarding me the prize. I am a slightly shocked man at winning it.

After that all that was left was to pack up the tent, load up the bike and ride home. This was actually easier than I thought it would be and I made it back in 1 hour 45 minutes, with loads of cars with ss bikes on the back waving and beeping as they passed me, though I probably had a good 1000 yard stare going by the time I got back to Darlington.

Nick also has a write-up and links to a course profile and more photos.

Distance: 55 miles (Over two days: 40 miles on the road, loaded up with a couple of stone of camping gear, 12 miles in the race itself and another couple of miles with Matt and Chris)
Surface: On and off road
Time: About 7 hours total
Weather: Hot and sunny on Saturday, warm and overcast on Sunday
Bike: Rigid singlespeed Kona Hahanna, with Panaracer Cinder on the front and semi slick on the back (32:16)