Monday, 18 February 2013

Gorrick Spring Series - Round 1

I didn't head to Tunnel Hill with high aspirations. I have been quite ill recently and hadn't even touched a bike for over two weeks. However, I did make life even harder for myself. Successful racing is largely about prepartion and planning. Long term this means months of training, but it is also true for the days, hours and minutes leading up to the start.

Unusually I hadn't bothered to pack the car night before, which meant I ended up leaving home later than I'd have liked. A problem compounded when confronted with a pea souper on the A3 and a 40mph speed limit. When I finally arrived in Mychett I quickly grabbed my race number, but it was already too late to complete a warm-up lap. The benefit of a warm-up lap is two fold. First it stretches the legs and prepares the heart and lungs for the challenge ahead. Secondly it provides an opportunity to assess the course, identify the difficult bits, pick racing lines and maybe even tweak tyre pressures and suspension to suit the conditions.

Instead of my normal routine I rode the first 10 minutes of the lap and then set off back to the car. Obviously you can't ride backwards down the course, so I had to follow my nose. It might have been my recent cold but my nose had no sense of direction! I was soon lost, riding randomly through the forest. By chance I eventually stumbled onto a road and headed off in what I hoped was the right direction.

The final stage of the pre-race schedule is fuelling the body to prime it for 2hrs physical exersion. In my case this is normally a combination of water, energy drinks, a banana and then a gel. Having thankfully guessed correctly the road had lead me back to the carpark, but with minutes to spare I only had time to ditch a jersey before wheeling my bike onto the line, literaly as the starting horn sounded.

I was dead last and progress was slow. I coughed and wheezed my way past a couple of riders and some others repairing mechanical issues, but the body wasn't really ready for 200bpm heart rates. My challenge was just to finish, a task which became even harder as my poor race preparation left me dehydrated and as a consequence suffering from cramp.

However, two things made the journey worthwhile. I was back on the bike, the sun was shining and I enjoyed the great trails! Plus on a day when my cycling wasn't winning any awards I scooped the £50 spot prize!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Racing Licence

My racing licence has arrived through the post from British Cycling. I can now collect national ranking points at this years Southern XC races. I have also entered the national race at last years London 2012 Olympic venue - Hadleigh Farm in Essex. So excited already and the race is not until August!

You could at least smile about it!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Bike Changes for 2013

Specialized have no plans to update the Stumpjumper this year. With no new bike planned I am instead in the process of making a few componentry changes.

With mud being a frequent adversary on the race courses last year I found myself constantly encountering chain suck. If anything changing my inner ring to a titanium 25t from Carbon-ti mid season made the problem worse.

To try and knock this issue on the head I have decided to go for a 1x10 set-up. Doing away with a chainring at the front has also had the added benefit of knocking a pound off the weight of my bike. I was able to remove the front mech, shifter and associated cabling to bring the total weight down to approx 18.7lbs. The biggest weight saving however was from the super-light and uber-sexy 32t Carbon-ti integrated spider and chainring. (Although I will be sorry to say goodbye to my Rotor Q-Ring.)

Without a front mech the chain is free to jump off the single chainring, so I replaced the rear mech with an XTR Shadow Plus mech. In principle the clutch mechanism locks the rear cage to prevent the chain flapping around over rough ground. Unfortunately my first experiment at the 4 hour Brass Monkeys race was not entirely successful. The chain still dropped off the outside of the chainring when using the lower end of the cassette. Therefore I've bought a Superstar chain guide which I hope will solve the problem.

Following my recent bike-fit I have also replaced the S-Works seatpost with a Syntace P6. This has allowed me to move the saddle position slightly further forward. The clamp of the Syntace post also offers far more support to carbon railed saddles.

Another change is to my racing rubber. A spate of rear punctures due to damaged tyre sidewalls has lead me to look for something more durable. I used to like the old Specialized Fast Trak but I hadn't tried the new 29er version. The Fast Trak Control casing is slightly heavier than the S-Works but it is still only 580g and should be more resistant to wear and tear. The tread may look rather racey but the tyre has performed well in the recent, mud, snow and slush. I will continue to run either the Maxxis Ikon or Beaver up front depending on trail conditions.

I have a couple of further upgrades planned for later in the year. Firstly Formula have updated their R1 brake for 2013, to improve the clearance between the pads and the rotor. My current R1's are brilliant but suffer relentlessly from brake rub, which I spend hours in the shed tuning out.

My Stans Crest wheels have also started to need the occasional tweak and TLC to keep them running true. I'll have to see if I can raise enough on ebay selling my stock pile of old odds and ends to fund a new wheelset ready for the summer.