Thursday, 23 April 2015

Video from Hadleigh Farm

Yesterday was the first time I have played with a GoPro. Here are a few minutes showing some of the trails on offer at Hadleigh Park:

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Hadleigh Park MTB Trail Center

Last time I rode at the London 2012 Olympic MTB venue I left bruised, battered and nursing two broken ribs. So as well as excellent training for this years National Championships in June, a day riding at Hadleigh Park was also an opportunity to get the monkey of that previous experience off my back.

Since that fateful day in 2013 the course has been closed while renovations were carried out in preparation for the grand opening of the new trail center to the public in a few days time. The opportunity came through the South Downs Bikes club to attend an Army Cycling Union event prior to the grand opening.  

The South Downs Bikes crew at Hadleigh Park

When you arrive there is now a nice large welcoming car park, and facilities including a cafe serving coffee and cakes or chips and sausages depending on your preference. Before you reach the main trails there is also a pump track and a skills area for a bit of a warm up and chance to hone your reflexes. 

The main trail still stays largely true to the course on which Yaroslav Kulhavy battled Nino Schurter for Olympic gold. Classics like 'Deans Drop', 'Triple Trouble' and 'Oak Tree Drop' are largely unchanged. Fresh sections including the side by side single track and bermed descents add to the fun of the original layout. The new all weather surface was a little sketchy during our visit, requiring a delicate drifting style through the corners rather than just leaning on the front wheel and turning in. A few months of tyres and rain should sweep the loose 'kitty litter' surface aside improving the grip levels.

The A-line 'red' sections are still a challenge for even the most skilled riders, including Olympians! Where the majority of improvements have taken place is to the B-Lines which are often now smooth and flowing. In fact some proved faster than the A-line and personally I often found them to frequently be more fun. Interest has also been added to the linking sections between the main features.

Gary rides Oak Tree Drop
After a couple of laps time had come to face my nemesis. It was at the bottom of Oak Tree Drop that my front wheel had washed out in 2013. The entry to the steep incline starts, as the name suggests, under a large Oak tree. Riders must negotiate the tree roots before hitting the bolder surfaced drop. Having watched all 5 of my colleagues swoop out of sight I was left alone with my anxiety and a lump in the pit of my stomach at the top of the hill. In truth it is far from the hardess section of the course, but my mind was ringing every internal alarm bell it could locate, trying to convince my body to sneak off down the B-line. With a deep breath I rolled towards the lip and let the front wheel float off into space. Gravity pulled it down, tugging me along after it. With a bump I reached the first bolder my speed increasing. Tensing up I didn't push my backside behind the saddle and over the rear wheel, meaning there was too much weight on my front wheel. It was too late now, I was plunging down, bouncing over the joints in the rocks, there was nothing I could do but hang on and wait for the bottom of the slope to gather me back up and slow my momentum. It was unganely and a bit sketchy but I was down and still upright! A wave of relief washed through every vein. Then it was on to the next section, Oak Tree drop had been conquered!
When you fall off a horse they tell you to get straight back on. It has taken me 2 years, but I can finally put my fear of Hadleigh Park behind me. Instead I can appreciate the fantastic facility that is as challenging as you decide to make it. With more than 200m climbing per lap it is a serious physical workout, as well as a chance to test your technical skills. Over the 3 miles there is very little chance for a rest, the trail constantly either heading up or down.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Spring has sprung!

Spring is here. Sunshine and Bluebells!
I can't remember the last time it rained, which means the singletrack up at Whiteways is dusty, dry and perfect to be hammered at warp speed. Even the trails at Kingley Vale are mud free which usually only happens for a few days in mid August! The added bonus is that the undergrowth hasn't grown up yet, so every corner can be nailed without ending up with arms and legs buzzing from bramble cuts and nettle stings!

Frustratingly despite the sunshine I haven't managed many rides recently, but when I have been out it has been for fun filled off-road blasts. No mind numbing commutes this week.

An early morning pre-work lap of Whiteways was cut short on Wednesday after a split tyre. But not before I had conquered my irrational fear of the 'log roll'. After work I tried to make up for the mornings problems with 30 minutes up and down the man made trails at Kingley Vale. I hadn't ridden 'The Edge' and 'The Hare & Hounds' since last autumn.

Friday I rode an extended route home from work, through both Kingley and Whiteways to try and boost the miles. The Kawasaki 100km is looming on the horizon and I am desperately short of longer rides.

On Sunday the Fab Four were joined on a dizzying singletrack dash by representatives from two Worthing bike shops; JP from Quest Adventure and Alex from South Downs Bikes, to make the Super Six! There can be nothing more addictive on two wheels than flying flat out through flowing corners in a group of riders, sun on your back and no bike washing or dirty clothing to worry about when you get home! 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Cycling in Majorca

You may have noticed that I have been away! I've been taking advantage of the Easter break for a family holiday in Majorca. More accurately we have been staying in the gorgeous little town of Canyamel on the East coast of the island, approximately 1 hours drive from the airport in the capital, Palma. Temperatures are comfortably short sleeves and shorts in the midday sun, although it can be a bit fresh in the mornings and evenings.

So why am I giving you a full travel itinerary on my bike blog, especially since this was originally intended to be a bike free holiday of rest and relaxation? Two weekends with very little cycling preceeding the trip had left me feeling a little lazy. So I snuck my helmet and shoes into the suitcase - just in case!

View from the top of the hill above Canyamel
At this time of year the island is literally whirring to the sound of spinning pedals as cyclists from all over Europe descend on the island to grab some early season training in the sunshine. Even Bradley Wiggins is apparently a fan! Cyclists were streaming through while we waited to meet our host at the airport, and we passed peletons of cycle clubs, families, couples and soloists everywhere we went. As you can guess there are no shortage of places to hire bikes. At busy times of the year, like early spring, it probably pays to book in advance if you want something specific.

Sturdy and functional!
I didn't and just rolled up to Bisiclete Sancho in the nearby town of Cala Bona and hired the cheapest road bike available at a very acceptable 34 Euro's for 2 days. I've never heard of Opera as a brand and the bike had the mass of the HMS Ark Royal, but the Shimano 105 groupset worked immaculately (better than my bike back home if I am honest) and the tyres and wheels were all tidy and true.

Hard not to smile with the sun on your back!
So early in the morning I snuck downstairs and crept out  the door of the apartment while the family slept. Within a few minutes under the clear blue sky I knew why cyclists flock to this island. With the sun on your back and the beautiful smooth tarmac that seems to make you 2mph faster everywhere you go, I raced along amongst stunning scenery. Although I didn't have chance to explore the north of the island where the hilly terrain encourages so many to head. I still found some serious shorter ramps to surge up with a rush of joy and excitement. After all it was the first week in April and I was out in just shorts and a jersey. It was worth it for that alone! 

I really hope to return in the future for a proper cycling holiday.