2014 LEJOG here we come! Can’t wait. Just need to get some rack mounts and some panniers. One end of the country to the other un-supported.
2014 LEJOG here we come! Can’t wait. Just need to get some rack mounts and some panniers. One end of the country to the other un-supported.
Today I headed out to Swinley on my own to ride the new range of trails they’ve put in there recently. I’ve seen bits of them before but the markers weren’t in and a lot of them weren’t open. This was the first time I could ride it as a complete loop and tie it all together.
What I hadn’t realised when the development was taking place was that all the other trails will be closed now that these are open which is a bit of a shame. The official loops do use quite a lot of the existing trails though. There’s a blue and a red loop as well as a very short green loop – for kids I guess. I did the blue then jumped over to the red before coming back to the centre on the blue.
I got there at 10am and even then struggled to find a parking spot. I don’t think I’ve seen so many riders at Swinley. There’s were 100′s of them. I can’t tell if this was due to everyone bunching up on the trails or just the sheer number of riders wanting to try the new trails out. There were loads of large groups too which I still never understand. Riding with more than five or so others as it just takes so long to regroup all the time. I had to keep going to make sure I didn’t get caught behind them all.
Off the compacted trails it was a total shitfest, muddy as hell and slippy too. I had a few funny moments in the corners and it took me a while to get used to the terrain after riding rocky slabs last weekend in Wales. The trails also felt quite sanitised at first but then they’re often taking the place of a fire road and getting you to better trails. To be fair they’re also generally flat and work exceptionally well. As the trail progresses there are some really nice moments in there with some enormous berms which switch you from side to side rather nicely. I’m hoping these will be maintained properly as I’m sure people will drag their brakes through them.
Being on my own it’s hard to judge how fast you’re going. Normally I’d gauge it against those I was riding with but I did feel like I was riding faster than normal and only stopped twice to take on some food and water. I tried to not stop and constantly adjust my bike all the way round. The saddle stayed at the same height and I just pedalled as hard as I could round the whole lot. It was all a bit XC but I got a lot out of it and not stopping all the time helped keep a lot of momentum and speed. I whipped round the whole lot in around two hours and got back to the cafe for a veggie burger and a drink.
Some of the jumps on the loop back had the tops ripped out of them already, presumably from some overzealous braking. I hope it doesn’t get ruined too quickly and that a decent bit of maintenance goes into it. I’m sorely tempted to go back next Sunday and have another go when hopefully its dried out a bit.
I was completely caked in mud by the time I got back so hit the jet wash in Streatham to wash the bike (and shoes) and then went to the Albanians in Peckham who did a great job on the van. Clean as a whistle all round!
Had a great day out in the sunshine.
Last weekend I headed up to North Wales with Gav, Matt and also Jonty from the office. We drove up on the Friday night and were treated to a cracking sky over the M1 as we headed North. We even managed to get to Dolgellau for a couple of pints in the pub before closing time.
Sat morning we headed over to Coed-Y-Brenin to do the Dragon’s Back trail. It’s been a while since I’d been but fortunately nothing had really changed. I had however forgotten how rocky that first bit is and Jonty looked pretty worried that the whole trail would be like this. He’s ridden lots on road but not off road before. Fortunately we managed go borrow a decent bike for him to have all weekend otherwise it would have been even harder.
Having prepared for cold weather, even Matt was wearing tights, we all soon found ourselves far too warm in the wintery sun. Having expected cold and grey weather it was such a pleasure to be riding in clear sunshine with the surrounding mountains still covered in snow and in t-shirts.
After stopping at the tea shop on the way round we headed back onto the trail and forgot to take the shortcut we normally do which avoids a lot of very boring fire road. One good reason for doing the extra bit was the chance of a great team photo with some snowy peaks in the background.
As usual Matt found room for an impromptu track stand, this time on top of a burnt out car.
But we did actually manage some riding too which was tip top. The trails were great and once you’ve hit the top of the climb the series of trails back to the centre are just incredible. I love following Matt down the trails, trying to follow his line and equally like it when someone is sitting on my tail making you go faster through the trail. The adrenaline is such a buzz.
Once we’d tidied up and packed the van I remembered that I’d been to a superb riverside pub adjacent to a rickety old toll bridge many years back which is a real sun trap. After some asking around we found it went to bask in the sun for a bit. Whilst I was in the car park we discovered that our planned ride at Llandegla was going to have to be re-arranged as it was under ten foot of snow.
So next morning after a night on the town in Dolgellau we gave the Marin trail at Betwys a go. None of us had ever ridden there before but were pleasantly surprised by its quality. A little too much fire road climbing for me but the trails were rocky, flowy and felt very natural rather than the manicured ones that have been cropping up so much recently.
There was one section where we rode along a rocky ridge with Snowdon in the background. The balance between looking at the trail or the scenery is always hard, especially with this section of trail. I wish I’d gone back for a picture of someone riding it really.
The final section of trail was the fastest of the weekend with some really nice jumps and steps in the trail to pop off. Know that I know the trail I’d love to go back and have a go at riding it a bit faster, again with someone on my tail to give me a bit more speed.
So after that it was back into the van for the long trip back to London. We managed a round trip of 600 miles and a full tank of diesel. Haven’t had such a good riding trip in a long time. Worth the extra drive for sure!
Yesterday Matt and I headed out to Swinley to have a look at the new trails I’d been exploring recently. A few others dropped out and I wasn’t that keen to be honest but we went anyway. It’s possibly the coldest I’ve ever been on a bike and most of the trails were out of action as they hadn’t hardened with all this rain we’ve been having. So we had a bit of a ride around just looking out for trails and seeing what was around. We caught a few leads and it was nice to just get lost in there for a bit a lot of the time following bits of tape which presumably had been used to mark out an XC race course. I’m not quite sure at what point a puddle stops being a puddle and becomes a lagoon, but I think we were getting pretty close with this one. The new trails were appearing in more and more places but all still roped off. The markers for them had also started appearing and looks to be a huge network going in. My only worry is that they’ll be slightly sanitized and too manicured. No sign of roots in there.
We soldiered on and got wetter and colder and then found the windy twisty one before tank traps. A bit slower in the wet but still fun. Then through tank traps and to the top of the nice traverse down to the jump gulley. Ahh, this had gone due to caterpillar tracks chewing up the area around. We skipped the jump gulley and then headed over to labyrinth and the trails over that side. We hardly saw anyone around for the majority of the ride.
By the time I got to the end of labyrinth my feet were so cold I couldn’t feel my toes. That was it, I’d had enough and wanted to get back and get warm. So funnily enough we got lost again and had to retrace our steps along a bit of the forest I hadn’t seen before. All good exploring potential though.
It was so cold that the water and mud that had spattered over us had frozen. Matt’s shoelaces were frozen solid and both our gears had stopped working so well – actually Matt’s never work. So we got back to the van, started boiling the kettle and then the bloody gas bottle ran out. I’d also forgotten the milk, useless. So we managed two just about brewed mugs of coffee and headed back. All that frozen mud had warmed up nicely on the way back turning into a pile of muck in the back of the van, wonderful. I guess that’s what it’s for though.
I can’t wait to be riding in some even vaguely warm weather. Hard to believe that in 2008 we were riding in shorts and T-shirts in Wales around about this time of the year 8th – 9th April.
Cotic have a new little video out making a bit of a play on the 26″ vs 29″ wheels discussion that seems to be happening in the mountain biking world at present. I’m not really that bothered about the debate for now but there’s some handy riding in here and the video is beautifully shot.
Having said that this 29er does look like a LOT of fun!
When I say trailside I really mean carpark. This year I got one of those new fangled
breast pumps aeropress thingys to make coffee from the back of the van and have been enjoying a. saving money and b. looking smug whilst having a decent cup of coffee before and/or after a ride.
I’ve been trying to make a decent brew and have spoken to a few people who are better at coffee than I which is how I ended up with the aeropress. Fortunately Andy Waterman seems to have collated all this various advice in one place for the budding car park brewer. It also seems like we share similar views on coffee.
I’m not the biggest coffee snob in the world, but I can’t bring myself to drink bad coffee, and I struggle to ride without having a coffee first. A day that starts with bad or no coffee, is rarely a day that goes well.
Time to buy a grinder then to sort my complete coffee kit and also stop buying ground coffee and do it myself.
I’ve been back in the West Country since Weds evening which has been great. I did a series of lectures and workshops on photography at the University of Bath School of Architecture on Thursday and Friday which was pretty tiring, more on that in a bit. Then on Friday I met up with my old boss, David Kent, and former colleagues in the Pultney Arms. It’s at least ten years since I saw David and the same amount of time since I had a drink in the Pultney. We’ve kept in touch via Twitter of all things since but great to catch up in person. A few of us went for a curry after including Alex who now is one half of BrickItPro on Twitter.
I stayed at Gav’s on Friday and woke to the taste of raw onions from the previous nights curry and beer. We then headed down to get the new alloys on the van. Unfortunately they all needed tyres adding and balancing too and new valves adding. Gav had sorted out a set of Alfa 156 wheels and got them cleaned and powder coated black for me.
They jacked the van up on what looked like four very spindly jacks. Rather than doing front first, then back they had the whole thing up which looked more than a little precarious. Obviously they know what they’re doing though. It did look a little odd like this.
Then the final showing with the new alloys on with wider, thinner Michelin tyres on. Time for a clean of the van and I think it’ll look a lot better. It seems to drive a lot better and not roll around quite so much. Maybe this is due to less balloon like tyres on there. This could all just be the placebo effect though as I’m no expert on cars.
So having completed this, stood back and admired for a bit, we headed over to Bristol for some brunch with some more people I hadn’t seen in years. This time Sam and Kiera and also their friend Susie who I hadn’t met before. Coffee was ingested along with a fine breakfast. Then we headed out to get onto the M4 to head to Wales.
We were hoping to ride Afan and some quick maths and a rough idea of when it was going to get dark suggested we carry on and go for the better ride. I love riding Cwm-Carn but always seem to enjoy Whites at Afan that little bit more. Gav drove there in my van whilst I fell asleep against the window. By the time we got there I really wanted to just sleep some more but we got the bikes out and headed out into a grey covered landscape.
Unfortunately there was a diversion for a large part of the climb which went up a claggy clay bank. It was impossible to ride as the tyres just skidded around so we ended up pushing. I was hoping that this new diversion meant that the old descent was open.
The diversion soon ended and we got back onto the normal climb. Soon enough we got to the bit near the top where it ever so slightly flattens out and you get a short burst of single track before popping out at the clearing with the view of the wind farms. Saddles down and then straight into the fun bit. I was trying to not get over confident and crash as usual. No bruises from this trip which was great.
The energy trail was running well and the cinder path single track through the woods was great fun. I love that section of the trail as it’s so narrow and twisty. It would have been nice to have done W2 but there was no way we’d make it round before darkness. Fortunately the final section of trail was open. I hadn’t ridden this in ages – maybe 18 months – as they’d been doing forestry works here.
Sadly this final descent had been a victim of the ash die back problem that has affected much of the forestry round this area. What was once a dark, dense tree lined trail was now an open moor and type of path. We rode down not really recognising it even though we’ve been riding it for a long time now. It really is shame that all these trees have died off but hopefully new ones can be planted when this issues is resolved.
By the end of the trail we had a little rain which cooled us of, then went back to the van, changed quickly to get our coffee and cake at the cafe. Driving back along the winding road to the M4 we were treated to the beginnings of a fantastic sunset over the misty hills.
After a day of repairing computers, buying new ones and sorting out dead hard drives and SSDs I was definitely in need of a bit of fresh air and a bit of a ride to clear the head.
I met Finn, Joe, Ben and Stu at Swinley on Sunday morning for a ride round the trails there. The last time we were there was New Years Eve and it was a dreadful wet mess. At that time there were some signs of the new trails being constructed but nothing too exciting. We headed out to pick up some of the further out trails we had ridden last time but our route was cut short by a cross country race who were using many of the trails we wanted to ride. We stopped for a bit to watch as they crossed over. Funny watching people ride the things you find easy and most were quite tentative on the slightest incline downwards. I guess thin tyres, an almost rigid bike, a steep head angle and exhaustion don’t inspire confidence.
We traced round a number of the new trails and the first I wasn’t particularly keen on. What used to be a rooty and fun traverse seemed to have been made into a wide path suitable for road bikes. Having rubbished that one I was pleasantly surprised with the rest of them. One near the tank traps over a flat section was incredible. Just berm after berm with a nice tight feel to it all. We raced through it all but were glad that some slightly slower riders held us up a bit at the end before our lungs burst.
Having relaxed for a bit we headed through the tank traps then over to the jump gulley. We had a bit of a play on that but I enjoyed the previous trails more. I grabbed a few shots of Finn and Stu doing far bigger stuff than me.
Having finished at the gulley we went over past the reservoir and found a new entrance into another series of trails. It was super fast and rode like an enormous BMX track. You could see all the rest of the development happening in front which wasn’t finished but a serious amount of work had gone on here. We then did the usual series of trails off the other hill and ended on labyrinth to shake every last bit of energy out of us. We even managed to get a reasonable amount of miles in for what was a bit of a play about ride – 16 miles. Doesn’t seem like much but the rides have been getting shorter and shorter over the years so I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing longer ones. Maybe try and hit the 20 miler each weekend. Should sort the fitness out. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the developments at Swinley. I have a feeling they’re going to need the carpark much larger once everyone hears how good the trails are.
Having spent years and years dismantling bikes to fit into small cars and getting mud, oil and various other muck on the ceiling and doors, I really do love being able to just throw my bike in the back of the van with both wheels on. Then grab it out at the other end, shut the door and change inside then head off out into the hills. No idea why I didn’t get one years ago, apart from the money issue of course. Whilst I try to avoid the idea of owning things to make you happy each time I get into it it does genuinely make me smile. Maybe it’s a boys with toys kind of thing but I do genuinely think its great, and it’s getting me out on my bike more which has to be a good thing. It could probably do with a clean out as it’s started to honk a bit from wet kit and muddy shoes.
It was good to get out yesterday after Lee and Susie stayed over. A walk round the park and some breakfast and a catch up was great. It meant I didn’t get to the hills until 2.30 but still managed to get 12 miles in with Matt. Trail conditions were vastly improved since my last trip and the deep freeze had set the ground nice and hard. It was completely bitter out though and was glad to get back in the van and get the heater on.
Maybe next week I’ll try out some of the new bits at Swinley or try and do a longer ride round the Surrey Hills. It’s been ages since I’ve been to Leith so should probably check that out.
I wasn’t feeling at all good this morning after the dreaded cold arrived back on Thursday. I’d been looking forward to getting out on my bike all week though. Unfortunately no one else was available to ride so I headed out on my own, which always provokes those “am I weird for going on my own“ feelings.
It’s a good job I did go on my own because even the most patient of my riding buddies would have been tearing their hair out with me and the extent of faffing I achieved. I had new rear pads to fit, new cassette, new chain, a chain device and some fiddling with my shock. That took an hour by the time I’d had the bottom bracket out. I even got the work stand out to make it a little easier. All this time meant I also had to hear some of the most excruciating loud experts on all sorts of subjects as they came and went around me.
So having set out onto the trail I realised I had totally forgotten that the front chain ring was as equally as worn as the gears I was replacing at the rear. So my chain kept on throwing itself off and sucking up as well as making an annoying noise. Once a bit of mud was covering it all it got a bit better.
Whilst I’d been feeling a bit fitter recently this cold seemed to have killed off a bit of lung capacity. However I did think I was doing ok up some of the hills though, with the first one doing a pretty good job at warming me up and sweating most of those germs out.
The trails were still pretty
damp swamp like in places but there was still plenty of fun to be had. Certain sections were rolling well though. Not having anyone to ride with it was hard to judge how well or fast I was, but I soon came to enjoy this and just kept turning the pedals. It actually felt I was moving quickly, but who knows.
I didn’t bother stopping at the stores but went straight up the road to the top of Barry Knows Best. I did a quick run down which I thoroughly enjoyed and head back to the van to make a coffee and relax a bit. Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil it was pleasant to listen to the birds around. Seemed very peaceful and relaxing.