Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Getting there!

Every cyclist knows the feeling. That day when you can just push and push and push. At the bottom of every hill, instead of gearing back you change up, get out of the saddle and literaly leap up that incline. Like the Duracell bunny there seems no end to this energy and you ride like this all day, pushing yourself deeper and deeper into the red.

It's been a while since I've had a day like that. After a New Year break and a steady start to the year, cycling has been tough going at times. Rides I'd normal tackle for fun have been painfully arduous, I've struggled at the back of group rides and every climb has felt like a challange. 

Although still short of the 700 mile months I was regularly putting in last year, slowly but surely I've got weekly totals back to about 100 to 150 miles. Then just this last week I began to sense the fitness returning and with it my motivation has returned. I've got up early a couple of times and gone out over the hills before work. I've started searching out tougher routes again, and generally enjoying the physical effort of pushing myself a little bit harder.

So with 3 months until the Swiss Grand Raid I'm starting to feel slightly more positive about my chances. A respectable 22nd at the Gorrick 100 showed the legs have 6 hours of racing in them - just! Now I'm starting to plan my kit and think about the actual day.

There was a slight set back last Sunday. I was chasing a friend into a seciton of wooded singletrack. I'm familiar with the trail, but haven't ridden it for a few months. Head down picking my line through the trees, I was concentrating on sticking with Jon's wheel. I missed his warning and with a resounding 'clonk' cracked my head on a low overhanging branch. I was fine, but my helmet looked decided second hand! So just when I was planning a few bike related purchases, I have a large unexpected outlay. I suppose I should count my blessing, an injury now, just as my fitness is returning, could have undone all the hard work of the past 6 weeks.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Thinking about the Grand Raid

In preparation for the Grand Raid I have read a number of rider reports. The link below has proven to be one of the best in terms of describing the day, as well as providing some useful tips and advice

Grand Raid Cristalp Mountain Bike Race / SportPursuit | SportPursuit.com:

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

DT Swiss OPM Team Fork Review

In the last couple of weeks both Fox and Rock Shox have released new forks aimed at the XC race market. Am I regretting my DT Swiss purchase in March? Oh no!

The DT fork is without doubt the best fork I have ridden. I’ve been able to get a pretty good handle on them now after riding in a variety of conditions on familiar local trails as well as at both marathon and Olympic cross country races.

In the fully open setting the fork is soooooo smooth and sensitive to trail chatter, it is like a magic carpet ride. It is everything I always hoped a fork to be. I’ve left the fork in this 'Open' setting 95% of the time, diving into roots and technical sections with increased confidence. In the short course race I only switched to the ‘Drive’ setting to increase the damping slightly through two bombhole sections, to help stop the fork compressing at the bottom of the depression. The rest of the race it was left fully open. In the marathon event I selected the 'Drive' setting for the fire road just to prevent wasting energy bobbing the fork, not that I really noticed this to be a problem at all. Socially I have used the full lock-out for tarmac sections on the way to the trail head and the occasional out of the saddle moment. It is worth noting that the lock-out really is rock solid, riding almost like a rigid fork. So in terms of suspension performance 5 stars - I am blown away! Every time I get on the bike this fork impresses me.

The compression damping in the open setting can be adjusted, I backed it right off almost completely. Unless heaving out of the saddle I haven’t noticed any discernible movement in the fork from pedal action. I set the rebound based on the DT Swiss recommendations and have left it there.
The remote switch to select modes can only be mounted above the bars, which is a shame as it would be nice to tuck it away out of harm’s way. However, the action is smooth and intuitive, I haven’t encountered any problems finding the buttons during the heat of battle. It isn’t hydraulic like other manufacturers, but when function is this good the simplicity of a cable actuated remote can’t be beaten. If I’m nit picking a tiny bit more feedback from the return button might be reassuring and the cable routing could be better.
One poor feature.  The axel handle hits the fork leg when rotated. Protective sticker provided! 
I was impressed to notice the steering was more direct compared to my old Rock Shox SID. I did fit a new pair of wheels at the same time as the fork, which might be contributing, but I believe it is the fork that is influencing the super direct feel turning into corners, at both high and low speed.

As you can gather I am impressed with this beauty from DT Swiss, and all this performance comes at a strikingly low 1458g weight, including the remote and 15mm axel. I have the team edition of the fork with carbon steerer and SKF bushings.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Gorrick 100 - A lesson in pain & suffering

I had been ill in the build up to the G100, which triggered my asthma. Despite the Gorrick 100 being one of my favourite events, my participation was in serious doubt. I told my wife that if my peak flow was less than 500 I definitely wouldn't be going. Saturday evening after dinner I watched the weather forecast and decided that 475 was close enough!

Bright blue skies as riders gather for the start.
The chilly start and first two laps were a tortuous mixture of coughing and spluttering as I discovered the serious limitations of my broken body. In 27th and struggling badly I had a prolonged pit stop where I stripped off the gillet and armwarmers, which were no longer needed, had an extra drink, something to eat and a few squirts of inhaler. This seemed to do the trick and I raced round the next circuit of the 7.5 mile lap passing a lot of riders and climbing to the edge of the top 20. 

Then I began to slow again.  Without any warning I suffered a sudden bout of vomiting. In shock I rode on, feeling better, but worrying about the loss of nutrition and the impact on my hydration. All the riders I had caught and passed on the previous lap came back through. 

During another prolonged pitstop to sort myself out a little, I risked a banana and glugged a bottle of water. Lap five went well, pushing hard in an attempt to make up for lost time. In hindsight perhaps too hard, since half way around the 6th lap, with over 90 minutes of cycling still to go, cramp hit every part of my body. My legs, my arms and strangely even my hands. I rode along with my fingers locked straight, trying hard to stretch out aching legs.

My pace slowed dramatically as a result and I seriously doubted I had two more circuits in me. I really suffered during the penultimate lap, my slowest, but despite this nobody passed me and this is what kept me going. I had to hope that everyone else was feeling pretty tired by this point too. A caffine gel and the positive thought that the end was in sight got me round once more and over the line in 22nd after 6hours and 10minutes. 

I've had tough days in saddle before, but today was right up there. However I can take huge satisfaction from maintaining my 100% finishing record at what was my 10th Gorrick 100.