Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Downhill Rock and Roll.

So the Fort William round of the UCI Downhill World Cup swung into action last week and I went along to Qualifying on Saturday to check it out. The Nevis Range at Fort William is a brilliant venue with Gondelas to take you directly to the top of the course and loads of space at the bottom for a great village of traders, teams and stalls.

What's really fantastic about the World Cup events is the incredible amount of access you get to the best riders in the world. Want to see Rachel Atherton fine tuning her brakes with her mechanic before a run? There she is... Want to chat with Gee about how his qualifying went? He's all ears... Want to watch Peaty sessioning a couple of big drops before qualifying? He's right over there! Greg Minnar was in the queue for the gondela in front of me... how awesome is that?

I've got some more photos to put up soon and a report on the choice looking new kit from Crank Bros that you might have seen in the press recently, in the meantime here's a little video I made of the Downhill qualifying...  What a day.

click here to go to MPORA for the video

Friday, 4 June 2010

Chillin' out at the cinema with Danny Mac...

Great night out at the cinema on Tuesday with Eden Court in Inverness showing a double-bill of mountain bike films. First up was Follow Me from Anthill Films. A fantastic new film in full HD with some brilliant sequences, it follows a bunch of bikers including Thomas Vanderham, Sam Hill, Gee Atherton and the ever hilarious Cam McCaul as they ripped it up in all kinds of different locations around the world from Mount Washington to The Shore, Whistler to Sun Peaks. The action is superb and the riders are all on top form as they fly through the stunning locations. The second film was a favourite of mine, Seasons from The Collective (who've since become Anthill). The film follows a bunch of riders including Steve Peat on great form and my own fave rider Darren Berrecloth. As the title suggests it follows the riders through winter training, spring, summer racing and competing and into the autumn when they all get together for a stunning ride at Whistler. It has some great sections and although the lack of HD shows when viewed directly after Follow Me, I still love the simplicity of the approach and the sense of really getting to know the riders as they move through the year. I've loved this film since its original release and it was amazing to see it on the big screen. I still think the last section of Seasons defines everything that I think is fantastic about getting out on a bike and hitting the trails with friends.

Watch a bit of the final section of Seasons by clicking the link HERE.

The final bonkers thing about the evening was that as soon as I walked into the bar at Eden Court and sat down I noticed a guy sitting talking bikes with a bunch of his friends and you know when you get that feeling that you know someone but you can't quite... It took me a second to realise that it was none other that Danny Macaskill, bike trickster extraordinaire. So I figured no one would believe me and I plucked up the courage to mosey on over and ask him for a picture for my blog. Despite the fact that I was rather annoyingly interrupting his evening, he very politely obliged, and here it is. What a nice guy! Thanks Danny.

So a great night, and I hope that more mountain bike film makers will get the opportunity to bring films into our cinemas. Seeing the films in this way gives such an amazing perspective on them, and seeing them in a cinema with 250 other mountain bikers just made it so much better. Films like Follow Me and Seasons and others like Roam, Virtuous and Home are so inspiring, I'm sure we were all itching to get out and ride as soon as we got out of the place.

Whilst I'm talking films, at the moment I'm waiting with baited breath for the release of Life Cycles from Stance Films, created by Photographer Derek Frankowski and film maker Ryan Gibb, the film looks like it's going to be truly amazing, Berrecloth and McCaul both feature along with a whole host of other amazing riders and the set up of the film looks outstanding. Check out this Cam McCaul flip whip and when you've finished wondering how the hell he got up there and where he's going to land it, imagine it on film, in full HD... CAN'T. WAIT.


Talking of inspiration, I'm off to the World Cup Downhill at Fort William tomorrow, so I should get to see a whole bunch of the riders from these films doing what they do best in real life. How's that for a fun day out?

Friday, 28 May 2010

Strathpuffer comin' at ya...

So I've just gone and signed up for the Strathpuffer Lite. This is a 12 hour Endurance event held in Contin Woods near the spa town of Strathpeffer. The event is on June 26th/27th 2010 and it starts at 8.00pm and runs through until 8.00am the good thing being that at this time of year, this far north we'll probably only get 2-3 hours of full darkness so the lights won't have to be on for too long!

The only really scary thing is that I've entered it SOLO! This will be the first time I've entered an event like this on my own and I'm already starting to get butterflies about the whole thing. I think I'm going to need to seriously get off my backside and train for this one. 12 hours of riding seems fairly feasible and I suppose I can take as many breaks as I need. I haven't ridden at Contin before and I plan on getting over there in the next week or so for a good ride round and a look at the course.


Thursday, 27 May 2010

North Sea to the Atlantic - Coast to Coast trip

The other nice little adventure I've had recently, has been the Coast to Coast trip from Ardgay on the East Coast of Scotland to Ullapool on the West Coast. With 30 students and 6 other members of staff from the school where I work, we took a fantastic route almost totally off road and right up through the hills. 

The first day saw us ride up to Croik Church where the church window bears the names of some of the 92 highlanders (18 families) who sheltered here after being driven out of Glen Calvie in the clearances of 1845. The church was built in 1827 to a design by Thomas Telford. After Croik the trail becomes much more mountainous and proved a challenge to some of the youngsters but we were all impressed with the way that every one of them dug in and found the spirit to keep going. 

We then spent the night at a very well appointed Bothy, much to the surprise of the walker who'd just set himself up for a quiet night in front of the fire!

A journey like this really reminds you of the remoteness of the wilderness up her in the North of Scotland and in these days of trail centres riding manicured singletrack and perfectly placed rock gardens it was excellent to really remind myself what mountain biking is all about, namely, riding through great big mountains on a bike that's tough enough to take whatever you can throw at it.

Unfortunately not all of our students bikes were quite tough enough and we did have quite a number of inevitable technical problems from a snapped off rear derailleur (quick conversion to singlespeed) to a front wheel that totally lost one of its locking nuts (fixed on with a piece of kevlar twine!). Unbelievably there were no punctures on any of the bikes throughout the whole journey.  

On the second day it was my turn to have technical difficulties as my bike suddenly decided not to change gear. First up I only had the middle ring and three cogs and then suddenly it dropped down into the granny ring of its own accord and wouldn't budge. The slightest downhill slope suddenly became something of a chore! In the end I decided to sit at the back of the group with the slower students just spinning away in the much too easy gears that I had available.

Really this was one of the most enjoyable times I've had in all the years I've been riding mountain bikes. It's not that often that you get the chance to just go out and ride your bike all day, and not just round some loop, graded red or black. This was real mountain biking with a real aim and a purpose. Somehow that seemed to make it much more exciting and special.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Trail Cycle Leader... that's me!

                                 View from the window...

A couple of weeks ago I had a fantastic time on the Trail Cycle Leader Course (TCL) at Glenmore Lodge down in Aviemore. The two day course led by George McEwan (who was a great teacher) leads to an assessment day that will see me qualified to guide groups of mountain bikers on terrain that is rideable over 90-95% of the total length' in daylight conditions.

                 Our Tutor George with fellow course member Darren

Following this qualification there is a second more complex course that results in the qualification of Mountain Bike Leader (MBL). The course was well structured and well presented, with a good mix of classroom activities and practical riding. Glenmore Lodge is a fantastic facility based at the foot of Cairngorm with some great little trails in its grounds (including some fun north shore) and, of course, hundreds of miles of great mountain trails right on the doorstep. 

                                  Got to practice those track stands....

                                           Nice room!

If you ever get the opportunity to take any of the courses at Glenmore Lodge, I would highly recommend the place. The rooms are excellent (probably the best shower I've ever had in my life), the food is very good indeed and the bar serves fantastic Cairngorm Brewery Ale on tap... What more could you want after a full day in the saddle?

I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Glenmore Lodge and also thanks to the Highland Council Outdoor Activities department who fully funded the course for me. I even loved being woken up by ducks at 6.00am ready to go out riding... I can't wait to go back! 

                                                           Noisy Duck!

Friday, 30 April 2010

Such Fun.

Oh I'm just having so much fun at the moment. The weather's been fine and I've been able to get out and ride almost every day. Finding new routes and some lovely technical little trails right on my doorstep has been the best thing about the past week, so I thought I'd include a little vid of the latest fun spots around here...
I'm getting really excited about going to Glenmore Lodge in just over a week's time to take my Trail Cycle Leader course and I hope to get some really good riding in around Aviemore while I'm over there as well. I'll be writing more about all that after the event. Then, in two weeks time I'm taking a group of 30 teenagers coast to coast from Ardgay to Ullapool which is going top be really fun trip. All in all I'm just having so many opportunities to do really good riding at the moment I've gotta consider myself very lucky indeed.

Friday, 23 April 2010

USE Atom Carbon Riser bar

I've got a pair of these bars for my singlespeed and having had them on the bike for a little while now I guess it's about time for a review...

I've always liked Ultimate Sports Engineering products and I got these bars as a little treat for myself when I finished the conversion of my hardtail over to singlespeed. 

The bars feel really light, at 170g. I know that there are lighter bars out there but I'm not the lightest guy and these feel super strong as well. They are full carbon construction, not bonded, but they do have alloy end pieces and brake area insets to help prevent crushing which is good as I feel happy using lock-on grips with them knowing that I'm not in danger of collapsing the weave.

They're not super wide at 660mm but they're a nice width for me and on a short stem (I've got a 60mm on at the moment) they track really well.

What's great is the way that they seem to soak up vibrations, mine are the 25.4 version and they seem to have this lovely springy feel and yet still feel stiff and precise. I've recently put 1.5 slicks on the bike as I'm using it for commuting duties and even on the road, the vibrations are damped by the carbon leaving me with tingle fee hands.

I guess I might have to consider getting a USE Sumo Carbon seatpost now, just to complete the set...