Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 Review

 2012 was muddy but hugely enjoyable!

Race wise 2012 has been a busy and exciting year, with over 20 events at a broad range of venues from January through to December.

The Gorrick XC series from February through to April is the largest mtb series in the UK. Attendance exceeded 600 at each of the 5 rounds. I frustratingly finished just outside the top 10 overall in 11th; a position I repeated in the Southern UK series including the Southern UK championship.

The popularity of cycling continues to increase and the number of entries for events grows and grows every year. With this in mind I was pleased to be consistently finishing in the top 10. This year I just missed out on the headline top podium positions, finishing 4th on three occasions. This wasn’t always down to my own performance. I was deprived of a likely victory by a snapped chain and another podium went begging after a puncture. After 6 hours of racing across Salisbury Plain in May, I finished only a few seconds behind third, despite spending time helping a friend who had fallen and was injured. So there is plenty of opportunity to make amends next year.
This year the birth of my son at the end of June meant I had other priorities during July, a month which had seen my best results in 2011. I intend to return to these events in 2013 and hopefully claim some silverware.
My cycling highlight of the year is not race related however. It has to be riding along behind the Olympic road race as the huge crowds that lined the route cheered us on!
I am greatly looking forward to 2013. The highlight will be the opportunity to race a national event at the Olympic Hadleigh Park venue. The national championship should also be nearer to home so there is the added prospect of a national ranking as motivation.
I would like to thank my sponsors South Downs Bikes and Fast Find Personal Locator Beacons. Also special mentions to Muc-off and Exposure lights for their support! Finally Happy New Year and thanks to you all for reading my blog.

Friday, 28 December 2012

S-Works Ground Control Review

Given the recent weather conditions I decided to look for a tyre with a little extra grip than my usual racing slicks. The Ground Control features large, squarish knobs that offered the promise of extra purchase in loose conditions. The knobs are well spaced so I hoped that the tyre would shed mud well when things got gloopy.
After some indecision I chose the S-Works version which weighs a raceably acceptable 600g for the 29x2.1in size. Heavier than my usual race tyres but hopefully it would be worth it for the extra purchase when things got slippery.
With a Rocket Ron already on the front wheel, I inflated the Ground Control on the rear using Joe's No Flats tubeless latex. The tyre inflated first time with a track pump. Setting the pressure at 28psi I headed for the first round of the Brass Monkeys Enduro series.
The course was a mixture of loose loamy soil, soft muddy sections and hard packed forest roads. The Ground Control hooked up well on climbs regardless of the conditions, digging in and powering the bike forward. It also rolled surprisingly well on the fireroad sections. However, laterally the tyre squirmed left to right, making off camber sections especially difficult. Overall I had hoped for more from the deep tread.
After 8 miles the tyre lost pressure instantly and on inspection the sidewall was torn. Any puncture is down to bad luck but it is difficult to recommend a tyre that you have to bin after less than an hour of riding. My feeling is that the rubber in the S-Works has been trimmed back to save weight at the expense of acceptable durability. 
When I got home I ordered a Maxxis Beaver. The Beaver is more costly but it's only 500g and offers better grip.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Glass on the path!

There is a small store in the village near my home. A group of the local youth often congregate outside in the amber glow of the street light. I have become used to a torrent of abusive comments as I cycle past on my way home. Occasionally a few of them will give chase, buzzing around me on their BMX, bums in the air, boxer shorts showing, skinny legs flailing wildly. It can be intimidating but I have learnt that they soon lose interest once out of sight of their audience back at the shop.

The other night, I dropped down the cycle bridge over the A27 into the village. Too late I noticed large shards from a broken beer bottle or two, distributed deliberately across the cycle path. Unable to swerve I rode directly over the base of a bottle, the sharp jagged edges pointing viciously towards the sky.

I stopped and after clearing the glass examined my tyres in amazement. Both were still inflated! Incredulous I rode home and apart from a quick mention to my wife thought no more about it - until the following morning! I opened the door to the utility room, and it looked as if my bike had been attacked by some serpentine sea creature. Its black tentacles reaching out from my rear wheel.

Overnight the rear tyre had split in two, the inner tube forcing itself out of the hole and then bursting into long rubbery tendrils. The tyre was almost new so it must have been caused by the glass from the previous day.

Furious and grumpy I fitted an old tyre and set off for work. Only then did I think I might actually have been quite lucky. True £40 of tube and tyre destroyed just before Christmas is annoying. However, what if the tyre had burst while I had still been making my way home the evening before? I would almost certainly have been thrown into the road, in front of whatever traffic was around me at the time.

I don't expect the idiots who put glass on cycle paths think much at all. What might have seemed a harmless prank to them has left me £40 out of pocket, but the consequences could have had far more serious.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Merida Brass Monkeys - Rnd 1

Legions of riders gathered at Caesar’s Camp on the 25th November for the 1st round of the Merida Brass Monkeys enduro series. Winter had certainly arrived and most of the 500 riders huddled at the start were sporting over shoes and ear muffs. The Caesar’s Camp course uses tank and military tracks to really make the most of the undulating countryside near Aldershot. There were several long withering climbs, the gradient increasing horribly towards the top. The energy sapping mud constantly tugging at the tyres throughout the lap.

I was cautious on the first lap, aware that there was a long way to go I didn’t want to burn any bridges this early in the day. On the second lap I pushed a little harder and passed a few riders until I was challenging the 10 ten.
The hills were loaded toward the beginning of the lap. So once over the final climb the reward was a flat out series of swooping bomb holes back to the pit area. Third time through and suddenly the rear rim was banging against the rocks and roots, all the air had ‘burped’ from my tyre. I rattled back to start with riders streaming past. Back in the pit I re-inflated the tyre and re-joined but I had lost 10 minutes.
I hauled myself over the hills three more times, finishing 22nd and the last rider to complete 6 laps. I’ll hope for better luck in three weeks at round 2!