Tuesday, 31 January 2012

January Summary

Miles : 561.9
Riding Time : 36 hours 21 minutes

Highlight: New Trek Madone
Low Point: The DNF. I NEVER DNF!

The early winter training had gone well and this continued over Christmas into the New Year. I concentrated mainly on 3 to 4 hour endurance rides specifically targeting the final of the Brass Monkeys Series.

Right on cue a cold brought on severe asthma just in time for race day. Looking at the results I probably missed out on a top 5 finish in the series; which is hard to take. The asthma also meant an entire week off the bike and the frustration that brings.

Thinking positively, there are lots of races in 2012 and I still have that good winter base in the bank. Sometimes a week off gives the body chance to recover after all the hard miles.

We head straight into the Gorrick XC series this weekend. Usually I target these early season events when everyone else is still a little green. This year however, I intend to use the first races as part of my preparation, building towards the southern area championship later in the season. (Obviously I will still be pushing as hard as I can!)
At least I started at the front, but I wasn't smiling for long.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

New Shoes!

S-Works MTB shoes - carbon sole, 675g for the pair! Available in any colour as long as it is white! Picked up from South Downs Bikes today.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Maxxis Beaver Tyre

This is intended by Maxxis to be a mud specific tyre. Coming in 29 x 2.0 size only, this might seem narrow but is perfect for cutting through mud. Mine weighed in at about 520g which is pretty good for a full treaded 29er tyre.

I have mainly been running this tyre on the rear paired with a Rocket Ron up front. I found it gripped to anything and everything! The tyre lets you attack a muddy climb without hesitation. In the greasy slime at Mountain Mayhem last year I was blitzing sections where other riders rear wheels were spinning wildly!

I also used it at the last round of the Brass Monkeys. It wasn’t wet or that muddy but the extra grip the tyre offered in the loose sand increased confidence and allowed me to push a little harder. I actually feel it rolls pretty well too and doesn’t feel slow despite the deepish tread.

I have also run the Beaver on the front wheel. Again it gripped well in any conditions, taking everything in its stride. However, I found it was perhaps a little narrow for my tastes up front, bouncing off roots and rocks.

Summary: Awesome tyre if grip is valued over out and out speed. Certainly a good tyre choice for muddy races, although it works just as well in any conditions. I’ve been running it tubeless since last summer and haven’t had a puncture yet.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Frustrating start to 2012

Unfortunately I didn't recover in time for todays final round of the Brass Monkeys series. I knew my asthma wasn't good but I had to at least try to earn the points needed to maintain my 6th position in the series. 

It was a bright sunny start in Aldershot but with a strong, cold wind making hard work of the exposed hillside sections. The venue is not one where I have raced previously but the hillside was criss crossed by flowing sandy trails and with little rain recently it was grippy and dry too. The course was fast and open with 1000ft of climbing each lap. It should have suited me perfectly!

The top positions were gridded so I had the advantage of starting right at the front of the over 200 hundred strong field. However, within the first mile I was soon losing positions hand over fist, as I struggled for breath. Having watched my rivals for the series streak away on the first lap, I tried to continue but as I fell further back down the field I decided it was better to call it a day and improve my chances of a quick recovery than struggle on.

So after all the months of training and preparation a very frustrating and disappointing start to 2012. Things can only get better! Training emphasis switches now to speed and interval work for the short course XC season which starts in only 2 weeks!!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Merida Brass Monkeys

Final round of the Brass Monkeys Series on Sunday - currently 6th overall. Just like round 2 I've got the lurgy AGAIN! Hopefully I'll be feeling better by Sunday morning.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Team Training Ride

The @southdownsbikes team having a well earned coffee in Midhurst.
Perfect winters day for a bike ride. Cold clear and crisp! 
3 hours / 54 miles

Saturday, 14 January 2012

New Bike!

Picked up my new bike from South Downs Bikes new shop in Goring. Thanks to Alex and the team for setting her up.
The Goring branch of SDB @southdownsbikes

Trek Madone 3.1
Got her home now but I am going to wait until my birthday before her inaugural ride. At the moment I will just sit and admire her! Replacement for the Old Workhorse? Maybe, but I don't think I'm ready to say goodbye to the old girl just yet.
The new stead

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Old Workhorse

The workhorse! It is not glamourous and it is definitely not pretty but it is 13,482.1 miles young today! Photo taken this afternoon between Harting and Cocking on the long route home.
2006 Trek 1400
x3 100 mile Sportives
x5 10 mile Time Trials
x1 Week on holiday in Tenerife

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Wet & Windy!

Hard work just staying upright on the shop ride from Storrington tonight!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Mavic Aksium Wheel Review

Although I race mountain bikes, road riding is a necessary evil for all year round training. Sometimes you just don’t want to spend an hour cleaning mud off your bike and then yourself when you get home! Truth be told I actually do far more miles on my road bike than the MTB, many of them slogging to work a couple of times a week.

After a couple of rough winters I didn’t think the Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels on my training / commuting bike would make another year. The rims were worn wafer thin and they were already on the third set of bearings. My road bike is really just a workhorse and I spend more than enough of my cash on the Mountain Bike, so I was looking for a quality wheelset at a reasonable price. After speaking to Simon at South Downs Bikes (a conversation that included the use of the shop scales!) I purchased some Mavic Aksium wheels.

These are the base model in the Mavic range but should still be an improvement over the wheelset found on most entry level road bikes. The main advantage of upgrading your wheels is reduced weight, which allows you to accelerate more quickly and also haul less mass up the climbs. Usually there is a trade off between lightness and strength so a slightly heavier but more robust wheel should be ideal for my training and commuting purposes. Although by no means lightweights, the Aksium wheel weights are reasonable, my kitchen scales confirmed the official weights on the Mavic Website which makes a nice change! Mavic Website

I have put 250 miles on the wheels over Christmas and despite some pretty poor road surfaces they have remained straight and true. I haven’t noticed any brake rub when hauling out of the saddle and although it is probably too early to tell how the flooded roads have affected the bearings everything is still spinning freely so far! I did notice a couple of the bladed spokes weren’t sitting straight in the rear wheel, so not really offering the intended aero advantage they are meant to provide.  The wheels come complete with tubes and Mavic’s own brand Aksion tyres, which certainly improves the value for money. The tyres roll well but I haven’t had the confidence in wet corners that I have had on other tyres. Only one puncture to report, from an arrow like flint that I think would have defeated most tyres.

Summary: Sensibly priced entry level wheel from Mavic with the bonus of some decent tyres and tubes. The weight means they won’t hold you back on long rides but should be robust enough to survive a few potholes. No noticeable difference in performance from the Fulcrums they replaced, time will tell if the bearings are more resistant to water ingress.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Ben Races Bikes


Welcome to my new blog site! Ben Races Bikes!

This blog will follow my training, preparation and racing for the 2012 UK mountain bike season. I will provide thoughts on equipment and gear, my favourite routes, training diaries and race reports.

My first race will be the final round of the Brass Monkeys at the end of January and then I'll be tackling the  Gorrick and Southern Series. I am sure there will be highs and lows and I hope that you enjoy following my progress through the year.