Cheesy Grins at Cheddar Gorge

Instead of spending saturday pretending to revise and watching the Giro d’italia on Eurosport instead, I took up the invitation to go ride on the mendips. Rather than the normal Cycling club crew, this group was a lot more Biology oriented and the atmosphere was more ‘Eat cake’ than ‘Heart rate.’ Trouble was, I was the only person to bring cake, and seeing as the ride had taken priority over dinner it meant that Sarah was starving before we had even got to the top of the first climb!

Its fun riding with new people, and fun riding with people who are only just getting into Mountain Biking. I did a quick 30 seconds of ‘how to ride down a hill safely’ and after that Jamie the local boy showed us around a 2 hour loop of The Mendips and Cheddar Gorge.

I’m not sure whether its time of the year, or the huge ash cloud which is supposedly sitting over the UK right now, but the sunsets recently have been phenominal. The light would have been a photographers dream, unfortunately even a new camera can only do so much for my limited photo taking ability. It helps when you have a subject like Sarah giving out some pretty awesome facial expressions!

Climbing up onto Beacon Batch gave a great view over the Bristol channel, Bristol itself, Bath and the coast of South wales. (standard ‘standing on top of the hill’ photo below)

From the top we managed to take a bit of a wrong turn, and thus ensued a good 5 minutes of bog trotting. I found it quite enjoyable to see how far you could pedal through a bog before going over the handlebars, however in hindsight perhaps the singletrack would have been a better option! After that we headed down into the woods for a really cracking singletrack descent; a footpath ran almost parallel to the Bridleway, so I made everyone follow me down a really fun steep and twisty path that landed us pretty much in Cheddar. was pretty relieved when everyone got to the bottom still smiling; I’m sure Matt, Katie and Jamie will get bitten by the mountain bike bug and never look back!

After that followed the climb back out of Cheddar to the top. Jamie chose a really cool climb that started off on grass before finishing with a good 5 minutes of loose rocks to pick your way up through. Nice challenge to go with the workout… again Sarah deciding that the  camera needed more than a smile

The sunset at the top was worth doing the climb 10 times.

By the time we got back to the car, everyone was severly under nourished. A Chip shop stop was called, but to my (and Jamies) dismay there wasn’t a single chip shop for the entire 40 minute drive home! What has England come to?! Then when we got into Bath, our first chip choice was closed, and we ended up getting chips and burgers from a place in Bath called ‘American Hamburgers’… How very british!

All in, it was a pretty good way to spend a Saturday night. Looking forward to spending a little bit more time exploring the Mendips in the future.

Birthday

Had a pretty amazing Birthday; thanks to everyone who wished me a happy one. Particular mention will have to go to Levi, Sarah, Mike and Trevor who put on a whole birthday meal for me – Sarah even made a cake! (picture to be included at a later date!)

My main birthday present from the Parents was a new digital camera. I can’t claim to be an amazing photographer, but then thats not the reason I take photos. I love to document all the fun times I’ve had, so I can share them with the people not there to enjoy it themselves, and secondly to enable vicarious re-enactment at a later date. My last digital camera has taken over 4000 photos, and due to being randomly slung in my jersey pocket, filled with mud, water, sand and powdery snow it is now less than capable of capturing the scene.

My new camera is another Fuji; I think the lens and the zoom on them are fantastic for a compact camera, and the picture quality is plenty good enough for my purposes. Heres a few examples from the walk today with Mum and Dad:

Inspiration

I’ve been reading Eszther and Chris’ blog and it gets me pretty excited about heading back to colorado.

Really looking forward to taking an avalanche course when I get back to Boulder, you can never learn too much about the mountains. Will be nice to get out and explore the backcountry a bit next winter.

Heres some amazing cinematography to keep me focussed on revision

Sunny day in Bath

Went around the ‘nosey cows’ loop outside of Bath today with Mike, Levi, Sarah and Johan. A pretty spontaneous ride, but great fun. Theres a little known about woods just over the hill from Bath that takes about 5 minutes max to ride around, but it probably has some of the best corners in the area. The ground was so dry today it has actually cracked, making everything super fast, dusty and fun.

Bath can be fun when its sunny, but I’m still pretty sad that I’m missing out on the world cup this weekend. Only 4 weeks until I graduate and then I can ride non-stop! cannot wait!

My Bike

A bit geeky I know, but I thought I’d tell you all about my bike for the 2010 season. I was riding a specialized epic, and loved it, but for british racing the suspension isnt really needed, and I found myself dragging around 2kgs extra for no reason. I changed the frame and fork to a Scott Scale and Rock Shox SIDThe Crank Brothers wheels had to stay though, as so far, I havent found any wheels that can match them for stiffness and I’ve ridden a fair few expensive wheelsets!

The 1×9 gearing has been in use for almost a year now and I cant say I’d go back to a triple. I would be interested in trying out a double, so I may get around to doing that if I can find a front mech somewhere. My current gear ratio is 36 x (11-34) and after trying 34t and 37t chainrings, I think its perfect. the last time I ran a 34t chainring was at Snowmass for the Colorado State Champs, and that was certainly needed. Until I head back to CO, the 36t is staying.

Still undecided about tyres; I havent found anything which can beat the Maxxis Crossmarks at the moment, but I’ve been tempted by the Conti race kings and the Maxxis Aspen. Maybe I’ll try them and see how I get along.

Afan adventure

So generally I’m not the hugest fan of trail centres. Lots of people driving Audi’s with really really expensive bikes on the top; Riding in a crowd around a pre-marked and very worn trail is not the sort of thing I normally go in for. Today was different however, and it was with great delight that I woke up at 6am looking forward to leaving Bath for a day in Wales. Trevor and I had been discussing earlier in the week the need for a bit of adventure, and Trevs need to ride for more than 6 hours without going crazy. So we decided wales was the place to go.

7am on a Saturday, Trev, Sarah, Kate and I piled into Trevs 17 year old transit and headed down the motorway. The day turned out to be a beautiful one, and after arriving just before 10am, We set off for a big ride. The girls were planning on mixing some riding with some sunbathing, and we said we’d meet them at the van at 5pm… thats meant 7 hours of riding ’til home time.

Afan argoed has 100Km of singletrack. more than enough for a day, I hear you say? but no, that wasnt enough. The pace was high from the start, and with both of us feeling strong, the pace stayed high all day. Trev was on his new Canyon full susser, so he was pushing me on the downhills from the beginning. We started with a lap of the W2 trail at 44kms, but somehow missed a turn and ended up doing an extra half lap before we made it back to the van for lunch. 60kms down, we set off again for the Wall trail. this is where I started to suffer. It was the first tough ride I’ve done on my Scale, and it wasnt very forgiving. My legs and lungs were feeling fine, but my hands were struggling. It was the first ride where I’ve ever struggling to hold on to the bars… As Trev is sponsored by Ergon, he was quick to suggest a solution. I do, however, think that a switch back to full suspension might be on the cards  soon.

Once the Wall was down, that gave us 83km in the bag, and still time to carry on. We headed next for the Skyline trail; a huge loop to the top of the valley, and away from all the people we’d been overtaking all day (why do people ride 6 inch travel bikes and wear body armour on an XC trail?!). The climb from the Valley bottom to the top is the best I’ve done in the UK. 30 mins of singletrack, real switchbacks, a nice even gradient. I set the pace early on and Trev responded well. It felt great to be riding together and both pushing it hard. Trev took over at the top of the climb, and we hammered up to the peak in no time. The view up there was immense, if only I had remembered my camera! Energy was an expensive commodity at this point, and tired thighs started to tell me I had already ridden 100Km. The skyline trail isnt quite as manicured as the other trails at Afan, so it was refreshing to feel like we were a little bit further away from civilisation. The last climb of the day was a brutal fire road drag, and as I was feeling good, I thought I’d put a little kick in; I got a half wheel length on Trev before he responded but we were both moving pretty fast by the time we hit the last downhill. This is where my wrists really gave away, and Trev put a good distance between us by the time we hit the bottom.

So after 6 hours 30 mins of cycling, 113km covered, we headed back to the van, to find the girls sitting on the grass eating ice cream! why had we just ridden all day again?!

It was great to really stretch my legs, and it was by far the toughest ride I’ve done since getting back from the USA. I’m looking forward to plenty more once the summer really starts.

Easter on exmoor

I dont get to be home much anymore, and always enjoy the time I have there. Easter was a bit different than normal as I’m graduating in less than 2 months so have a load of coursework to get done. I did get out for two fun rides though, and got to ride my favourite stretch of exmoor singletrack

Back to Bath now though – no such thing as fun singletrack around here. Only 2 months til I escape for good though, then the summer will truly begin!

British Universities Championships, Ae forest, Scotland

After a winter of dissertations, coursework and exams, I wasn’t sure I was ready to be racing yet, but such is life and on a cold thursday afternoon in March 18 of us from the University of Bath loaded into a minibus and made the long, slow journey northwards. After the first wrong turn, there wasnt much hope that we were going to find the camping barn we’d booked up, but with a bit of luck and a dabble of judgement we made it to our destination – Craigsheilds outdoor centre (yes, it is just a barn)

On the Friday, we awoke to a slightly chilly, but beautifully sunny scottish day, and even though we had a race to think about, we couldnt resist going for a proper ride. 25kms later and lots of singletrack accomplished, I was pretty glad that I hadnt sat around all day. The red route at Ae forest isn’t the best in the world but after a winter of riding around Bath in the mud and rain, it felt almost as good as the 401 trail in crested butte! I’d forgotten how green scotland is too – the forst floor is completely coated with moss. By the time saturday came around I thought I should start concentrating on the race. The course designers had done a pretty good job of excluding all the fun bits from the race, so we were left with an 8km loop, at least 5km of which was on fire road or flat gravel paths. not the best. the singletrack downhill was fun with some tricky corners that I was sure I could gain some time on. unfortunately it led straight into a swamp to get back to the finish. I did two laps of the course and my legs felt pretty heavy. something about preriding that my body always feels terrible. I went back to the barn and ate a good load of pasta to get the energy up. I has set myself a personal goal of top 5, however with at least 6 elite cat riders in the field, it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew that a lot of guys had dedicated their winter to the upcoming season, and with my lack of training I could have been thrown out the back. A few encouraging performance tests back in Bath were the only proof I had that I could stick it.

Sunday came around and as usual getting ready for a race is so much work in itself. Luckily I had recruited a good friend to do my bottles, which on a 6 lap race was going to be essential. My head was all over the place on the morning, and my warm up was severely restricted as a result. I managed to get to the start line without my timing chip, so had to sprint back to the minibus and pick it up. I arrived on the grid out of breathe, but luckily the race went off a bit late. John Whittington was ranked our number 1 rider, which put me in the second group of riders; at least 40 people to get past before the racing even began, and since all the people I wanted to beat were on the front row I had my work cut out. The start was a bottleneck and gave the leaders a good minute at least on me. there wasnt much chance of picking up a fast train, so I worked hard on the first two laps to get into the top 10. from here on it was progressively easier; as I kept on pedalling other people had some impressive fireworks and I didnt have to work any harder to gain another 4 spots. It was a good job too because I was working at the limit of blowing up. Obviously I had done better base miles than some people, but still not enough to stick with the elites. I ended up finishing in 6th place; one down on my goal but reasonably happy.

The team did pretty good too; John had high hopes of a gold medal, but it wasnt to be and he came home a dissapointed 4th, 3.5 minutes ahead of me. Trevor has been training really hard all winter and battled past at least 60 riders from his 3rd row gridding to take 11th place. The newest member of the team, Liam, came home in 16th too, proving he’s got a lot of potential for the future; pro peloton watch out!

Overall, Bath won Team XC and Team DH for the men, and Silver XC for the women. Not a bad weekend at together!