Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year!

Here is a look back at some of my favourite photos from 2016. See you all next year!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Vittoria Peyote Tyre Review

Lets be honest. Until a few weeks ago I'd never heard of the Penyote. Vittoria as a MTB tyre brand wasn't on my radar. However, in the cellar at City Cycles I found of box of this 29 x 2.25 tyre. The tread looked promising and at under 600g it passed the weight weenie test.

Vittoria market the Peyote as their "Go to XC tyre", with positive remarks from sponsored rider Pauline Ferrand-Prevot the 2015 World XC Champion. This means a low profile and fast rolling tyre are guaranteed, but what is the grip like? The sipped knobs and stepped side lugs are a positive start. The sidewalls aren't wafer thin either, like some lightweight XC treads; which should help the durability.

I mounted the Peyote on the front wheel tubeless, without any problems. Visually the width was a little disappointing for a 2.25 tyre. For comparison the tyre is just a smidge plumper than a Specialized Fast Trak 2.0 and definitely narrower than the Rocket Ron 2.25 that it replaced.

I tested the tyre on the North Downs at Peaslake on a cold day with very mixed trail conditions. Fast frozen hard packed man made trails, slithery greasy roots, slippery mud on top of hardpack and deep claggy glop! This ride had it all!

I was asked frequently during the ride how I was getting on with the Penyote. My response was slightly non-committal because what could I say? It had handled everything that had been thrown at it. The tyre is nicely predictable and I had just forgotten about it and concentrated on riding!

It is a cross country tyre, but I found you could lean on it pretty hard and still find grip. On firm trails like "Barry Knows Best" it held a tight line on the berms, handling quick direction changes nicely. In softer, loamy conditions the knobs dug in well. This type of tyre is never going to be brilliant in the proper sticky stuff, but it was controlled and manageable. I was also pleased to find it handled wet roots without any scary moments. At the end of the day I was pretty impressed. This tyre definitely gives the Schwalbe Rocket Ron a run for its money, in fact I'd be tempted to say I preferred it trail manners. (I've been running a Ron upfront on the race bike for several years now.)

As a punt in the dark I've been impressed with this Vittoria tyre and will definitely be leaving it on the bike to form a longer term opinion. The Rocket Rons I've had have just gone on and on forever, so I'll post again in a few months when I have a better idea of the durability of the Penyote.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

2016 Year End Summary

Club and Sponsorship:
For the first time since 2010 I didn’t join the South Downs Bikes club this year. Although I definitely missed the camaraderie at races, team sponsorship was unlikely as I couldn’t commit to a definite schedule of events at the beginning of the year due to the birth of my daughter in February. Instead I obtained sponsorship to cover my entry to the Grand Raid marathon race in Switzerland. As part of the package McMurdo also supplied the distinctive orange Fast Find Ranger PLB branded jersey. I was also appointed a brand ambassador for Absolute Black, riding their oval chainrings throughout the year. Both of these agreements meant I continued to blog and also introduced the Ben Races Bikes Facebook fan page.

I continued to ride the S-Works Stumpjumper. The major upgrades this year were new wheels from Strada and the DT Swiss fork which is a revelation compared to the SID I had previously.

For the 2nd year running I purchased a British Cycling racing license. This enabled me to enter the National Marathon Championships and obtain a better grid position at the Grand Raid.

Training in 2016 started slowly following the birth of my daughter in February. However, the focus of the year was August where I would race 3 marathon events in 3 weeks.

Racing started in May with the Gorrick 100 where I rode well but failed to make the top 20.

There was then a brief foray with the Olympic distance at the Southern Championship, where I missed the Open podium by 1.2 seconds!

By the time we reached August my training had gone well, but I was still concerned about my stamina beyond 4 hours after a few issues on longer rides where I completely hit the wall with a racing heartbeat. The Brighton Big Dog allayed the concerns as I came home 10th on a challenging course against a high class field, which included the National Champ. The next weekend was the Grand Raid. The target was simply to finish the 125km Alpine course, which I did in 10hrs 30min. Despite the brutal course I completed the ride ‘relatively’ comfortably apart from the loathsome ‘hike-a-bike’ section. The third race of the month was the National Marathon Champs in Wales, which actually proved to be the toughest of the three. In terrible conditions I battled the elements and inner demons to be the 20th senior rider home.

With the pressure now off it was time to enjoy myself! I entered the Open category at both rounds of the Gorrick Autumn Challenge, where after 13 years of trying I won my first Gorrick race! I was third in the second round, finishing the year on a high.

In the build up to the Grand Raid I had a number of great social rides. Long days in the saddle with friends, including Winchester and back along the South Downs Way with Ian and Julian.

With two children at home and a school run to complete my total mileage for the 2016 was lower than the past few years. However, I enjoyed another cracking summer of off-road commuting. Regularly passing Stanstead house and looping over Kingley Vale in the morning or on a warm summer's evening. There can be nothing better for relieving the stress!

Riding across the Swiss Alps!

In summary:
Enjoyable, experience laden year!

Looking ahead:
2017 is the dawn of a new career in the cycle trade! The effect this will have on my free time and cycling opportunities is unknown. Therefore my focus will be just continuing to ride, maintaining my fitness and entering events when I can. Watch this space!

Monday, 12 December 2016

City Cycles Shop Opening

Opening the shop has meant my life has become entirely cycling focused. However, actually riding my bike has had to take a back seat. Long days in the shop and late evenings ordering stock haven't left much free time.

After a career spent sitting behind a desk, standing at the counter 8 hours a day has also taken its toll. Each morning I've struggled to lurch from my bed with stiff joints and weary limbs. So when I did finally clamber aboard the road bike for a quick afternoon ride on Sunday, you could almost hear my body creaking as I tried to contort it into motion. The first 30 minutes were torture while the muscle memory was restored. 4 hours racing at the Merida Brass Monkeys next weekend could be fun!

As for the shop we've had a very successful first week. We've sold a bike every day and the workshop has seen a steady stream of customers. We held an opening event on Saturday that was extremely well supported and demonstrated the loyal customer base the previous owners Martin and Jackie had built up.