Friday, 15 June 2012

Bontrager 29-1 Team Issue Review

A racers dream?
First impressions of the 29-1 are that it is narrow (quoted 2.0) and there is not a lot of tread! These two characteristics help give the tyre its exceptionally low weight – approx 490g for mine. Personally it is not a tyre I would consider running up front where I prefer something larger for better grip. So I have been using the 29-1 on the back wheel.

I slopped in some latex and the tyre inflated first time with the track pump – so a positive first impression. The tyre is not designed for tubeless use, but once on the rim it stayed up and using latex really maximises that low weight. Running the tyre tubeless also has the advantage of letting you run a lower pressure, helping to negate its narrow width by increasing traction and bump absorption.

There was no doubt that on the first ride I felt vulnerable, surely one flint would rip this skinny little tyre to shreds. However after a few minutes my fears were forgotten and I started to enjoy the huge benefits of such a low profile, light weight tyre. It rolled along so well it was like having a tail wind blowing me along! The lack of rotating mass also meant it accelerated out of corners like Usain Bolt from the blocks.

I left the tyre on for the recent 6 hour enduro ride at Elrestoke. The tyre behaved flawlessly, helping me crawl up the climbs, while gripping nicely in the singletrack. I have spent some time on this tyre now and despite my fears I haven’t yet had a puncture; so my initial concerns over its fragility might be unfounded.

The obvious thing to say is that the 29-1 is designed for dry, buff trails. With such a shallow tread it is a fair weather tyre and isn’t going to make much progress if conditions are greasy. A 6 hour race is fairly punishing on kit but there is now noticeable wear on the already minimal tread, so don’t purchase these expecting longevity! On the other hand compared to some tyres the cost of these Bontragers is relatively low. You could probably buy two for the price of a Schwalbe.

I have to end with my overwhelming experience of these tyres. They are FAST! If you accept that they are designed purely for dry race days – these tyres fit the bill perfectly. I never noticed any lack of grip despite their slender proportions and the low weight transforms your bike into a rocket ship!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Star Ride - 60 Mile Cycle Ride from Chichester

With racing on hold for a while it was time for a nice long training ride through the Sussex countyside. This star shaped 60 mile route heads out west from Chichester before turning north over the South Downs to Harting. Skirting the market town of Midhurst there is the climb over Bexley Hill to conquer before heading back south. Sticking to quiet lanes and peaceful villages, this rural ride takes you back over the spine of the Downs at Amberley before rolling home for a well earned cuppa!

The well at East Marden - Turn Left!
Head out from Chichester on the B2178. After a mile fork right and keep heading north until you reach West Stoke. Ride through the village and after the church turn right at the Kingley Vale car park and follow Downs Rd through to Funtington. There are great views along here of Kingley Vale to the north.

Take a right onto the main road, ride through the village and after the Fox & Hounds take Hares Lane north again. Descend to the T junction and turn right, follow the road for just over half a mile before the next right towards Walderton and Stoughton. Ride through both villages along the lane to East Marden, where you take the left fork at the well, up to the B2141. Turn left up the long climb and then down the the other side, turning right at the bottom, into Harting. 

Follow the road out of Harting east towards Elstead where you turn right, winding your way through to Bepton. Turn left into the village heading north again towards Midhurst. After 1.5 miles turn left at the Country Inn. Follow the lane through to the A272 which you need to take for 1/2 a mile towards Midhurst before turning left and skirting Midhurst to the north on Hollist Lane. Straight across at the cross roads with the A286, join the A272 again for 100m, before taking Easebourne Street on the left. This is the strenuous climb of the day up Bexley Hill. Take care down the other side and at the bottom turn right and back on yourself at the village green. 

Three main climbs - Harting / Bexley / Amberley
Follow the lane through Lodsworth until you find yourself back at the A272. Turn left and then immediately right and follow the lanes all the way through to Duncton. You'll be pleased to know you aren't heading up Duncton Hill today - instead turn left at the bottom and follow this lane past Bignor Roman Palace to Bury. Go straight across the A29 and on into Amberley. 

Unfortunately it is now time to head right up the hill to the Whiteways roundabout. Take the second exit to Chichester but stay off the main road by turning right almost immediately down through Madehurst. You'll now have to rejoin the A29 for a short time up to the garage at The Spur. 

Turn left here and wind you way back to Chichester through Westergate and Oving. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Southern XC Round 4

I know I said I was going to take a mid season break, but Sunday morning came and I realised I would regret it if I didn’t race. I was keen to defend my 5th position in the Southern XC Series points table. Crow Hill in the New Forest near Ringwood was the venue so if Baby Ben did decide he wanted to make an appearance I would be close enough to rush home!

The dark threatening clouds looked menacing overhead but the track was still bone dry and very dusty! The warm-up lap revealed an undulating course linked by a maze of woodland switchbacks which created a fast and punishing circuit.

Despite being gridded on the front row I had learnt the lesson from the previous round and let the field flood past off the start. Towards the end of the lap I spied Alex Taylor about 30 seconds ahead. As you’ll know from my previous blogs I’ve been racing Alex all season but have become frustratingly familiar with the sight of his rear tyre.
As we crossed the line vocal encouragement from Jon and Ian alerted Alex to my presence. I saw him glance back as we rode down through the switchbacks, and for much of the lap all I saw was the occasional glimpse of the green South Downs Bikes shirt ahead.
However, as we climbed up a leg stinging grassy slope I closed the gap and then pushed down the opposite side, inching my way towards Alex’s rear wheel. Again sensing my presence he was able to frustratingly stabilise the gap at a couple of bike lengths. We continued through the trees, twisting left and right until we emerged at the base of a steep climb.

On the hill I pushed past and pulled ahead. Now it was my turn to be chased! The gap grew slightly and I started to relax but I should have known better. A quick peek over the shoulder showed that Alex was actually closing in!
I pushed on but I could hear from the brakes and crunching of gears that my pursuer was close behind! As hard as I tried I couldn’t drop him and then my worst fear was realised as a front wheel appeared and then inched past. But it wasn’t Alex! The great thing about MTB racing is that Alex's family offered me encouragement every lap and we shook hands and exchanged stories after the race. I'll defintely miss the camaraderie over the next few months.

After 4 rounds I am now 7th in the series. With the next round coming the weekend after my wife’s due date this will DEFINITELY be my final cross country race of the year. I will have to wait and see if those behind in the table can close the gap at the final race.

Friday, 1 June 2012

May Summary

Miles :                568
Riding Time :      42 hours 32 minutes

Highlight:           4th At the Erlestoke 6hr Enduro
Low Point:          24th Southern Champs

Bike racing can be hard work!
The Southern Championships was intended to be the culmination of 5 months XC racing. Unfortunately it wasn't my day as either the pressure or fatigue got to me. So onto summer, traditionally the start of the enduro season - events to which I am more naturally suited.

I hadn't been intending to ride the Erlestoke race but I took the opportunity to put the disappointment of two weeks before behind me. I needed to average 40 minute laps to complete my target of 9, which I knew would get me near the podium places. After 5 laps I crossed the line on exactly 3hrs 20min - so I knew I had to ride the final 4 laps faster than the previous 4. I dug deep, racing each lap against the clock for the next two and a half hours. There was a colossal sense of achievement when I crossed the line in 4th place! Personally this was one of my most satisfying results, I rode strongly all day beating some well respected riders.

Baby Ben is due is June so now would seem the perfect opportunity to take a break, on the back of this positive result. There are several enduro events to target later in the year, if I can survive the sleepless nights! I'll keep the reports coming in but cycling will take a back seat for a while!