Thursday, 20 December 2007

Looking back

As 2007 draws to a close I guess a short recap of the year is in order (well everyone else is doing it!) The biggest event was undoubtedly the MTB Himachal race and the amazing people and places that it involved. Such an undertaking was pretty daunting but with the help of a lot of people it was manageable. Becca for letting me go and not burning the house down when I was away, Dhanajay for organising the overseas riders and putting up with the endless emails. Amanda at Chocolate Fish and Chris at Endura for the clothing and Kenda for the tyres. Asif at the Spars Lodge Shimla for the floor of his cafe and the great food...I will be back there. Ray and Joe for being great friends and putting up with an OCD Brit singlespeeder. Dickie Boy for the encouragement and being a damn nice bloke to everyone, I wish more people were like him. Alan, Luca, Matt, Roopak and all the other riders for the camaraderie and banter. John for showing me what it takes to race the GDR (no time soon for me!)

2007 also saw Solitude close its doors due to other commitments, it was a tough call to make but with training, wedding plans and a full time job I could not fit in the time needed to email customers / design bikes / fettle the finished frames etc...and I really did not want my reputation to suffer. That did not put a stop to my BikeCAD addiction and I am still throwing ideas about and I'm looking for a micro-brand to take on my new 29er design. My Solitude really had a thrashing in India and still came back for more, the fit is 100% spot on and I am really struggling if I ever need to upgrade / change anything. I did flirt with freewheels and suspension but with that out of my system I am back on the rigid-n-fixed path. Slower, more difficult but I am smiling more and wrenching bikes less :) A 185mm front disc and a powder coat finish are on the cards for January.

So what's planned for 2008? Well the wedding in September is the big one but I am planning a 3-4 day "stag ride" probably from north to south Wales on dirt (as much as possible) and get to use my bike packing kit some more some time in june / july. Might try and make the SSUK for a weekend of beer and friends depending where / when it is. More local rides, less worry+stress and fingers crossed some good weather!

So I wish everyone a happy Yule and see you net year :)

Alex

Thursday, 6 December 2007

New bikes, old bikes and bold bikes

Tuesday, as my normal day off was a complete loss as I was up at 6:30am and worked on bikes all day. Not as bad as it sounded as I spent the day at my old shop John Atkins Cycles (Leamington) spannering in their very well equipped workshop.

First job after the full English breakfast at Zebbs was to fit new headset bearings to a gator linear fade Klein Adroit and MC2 (yep, i can tell and Mission Control 1 form a 2 at 20paces...I am sad!) JAC is the last place in the UK with a full Klein headset / bb tool kit...like I said they are tooled up. Being the only bugger who knows how to do it I get called in every so often to fettle a bike. Its not a really complex job but it takes time, Patience and a little mechanical know-how. So 3hrs later the Klein has a new, sweet turning headset that should be good for another 10 years.

Next job was to build up a Solitude frame, specifically Matt's stainless lugged audax frame named Rosie. Ultrgra 10sp, ITM forks, Thomson and Cane Creek filled out the gaps in the spec with Brooks bar tape and Swift saddle topping it off. Even with mudguards and lots of steerer spacers it looked great. Matt has promised to make a couple of dry fettle-up rides before taking some proper shots for the web.

Treat of the day was getting to oggle and then briefly test ride a Jeff Jones space-frame bike (thanks Graham!) When it comes to nice bike I have owned and ridden a few but none left such an impression on me as that bike. Even a street ride in trainers on eggbeater pedals on a bike with too lower a saddle and the bars a bit close I felt really at home and instantly able to hop up curbs and wheelie off them. Jeff really knows where its at and has nailed it with this bike (a 23" top tube "production" spec one like Merlin build)

To finish a couple of shots from the workshop (sorry, none of the Jones or Klein, I was pushed for time and photos are thanks to Matt)

Alex




















Thursday, 29 November 2007

Best bike of the year is....

...I'll keep you in suspense for a while while I update you on other things. Riding has been sporadic but great fun when I can be arsed / the weather cooperates. 2hrs on Sunday and then a 3.5hr blast with the Ashton crew from Gretton up Prescot and over Cleeve on Tuesday night felt really good. The new Fenix L2D Q5 and 2Fish mount on the helmet were great...plenty of light on its own let alone with the home-brew twin LEDs. The Conti Twister 42c are on the bike and despite lowering the BB by 15mm I have not noticed any more pedal strikes than normal. Line choice is a little more demanding as it traction / power transfer if you wand to avoid fish-tailing up the trail. While this does look cool to the people behind it just makes it harder work!

Running the CX / Monster-Cross type tyres has got me thinking about a dedicated monster-cross bike and what is the maximum tyre size I would need in the front and back. The 29x2.0" Michelin AT are plenty big enough as were the Bonty ACX and Kenda SB-8's although I do have a hankering for a WTB Weirwolf LT 29x2.55" for the front run at 20psi for added suspension! Seriously though a Conti Vapor 29x1.8" (they are marked 2.0" but are nowhere near) or the Bonty XR 1.8" would be more than enough so perhaps a more CX style bike might fit the bill, especially with the new Audax UK calender out now.

My big descision is do I prototype the frame in steel via Lee then wait for the Ti version OR just go straight to the Ti and trust the builder/designer? Hmmmm kind of weird letting someone else design a frame for me, like a pilot getting nervous when someone else is flying the plane :) These are just musings at the moment but the BikeCAD time keeps me sharp and keyed into the geeky side of things.

OK,you have waded throught that junk so what is the best bike of the year? Well here are a few stats:

It has gears
It has 26" wheels
It is only ridden on the road
It is a stock bike

Yep, my Saracen Pylon (2007 geared one) and Xtracycle combo. For all out fun and practicality you can't beat it with a very big stick. It does a great job of commuting me the mile to work and the mile and a half to the shops and rides well even with a weeks shopping for 2 in the back. It looks so mad no one wants to steal it and can be loked anywhere in town with out hassle.

Becca was, I think its fair to say, skeptical with the idea. Until she rode it once and now I have to leave it at home on Saturdays as she does the shopping on it. Oh, and she's named it "Dotty"...always a good sign of acceptance (although I think it looks more like an "Igor" with reference to the Terry Pratchet character who is ugly but very practical)

So, 29er drop-bar fixies loose out this year. Perhaps next year.

Alex

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Ok, I have been slack

Not much riding or blogging going on and a stack of other things to do as well. Sundays are lazy days with bad weather outside providing the soundtrack and Tuesdays have been "work through the list" days.

Looking at fitting some Conti Twister 42c to the Solly as with the mud I will need something that won't clog and if its really bad not hold me back on the road too much!

Still some photos from India and Sheldons Long Mynd Ride to up-load / fettle.

My hardly used WB Magic-29 forks are on EBay as I am really rocking the On-One carbons again. Starting price of £199 and only a few days to run.

Thats about it.

Alex

Monday, 12 November 2007

Time for taking stock

After such a big trip, intense planning and execution and post-event catch-up / wind down can leave you feeling a little, well vacant and empty. Riding the MTB Himachal was an exercise in enforced simplicity and purity, ie. you ate because you were really hungry and you slept because you were dog tired, two basic things that we rarely do in the western world with any great regularity. Petty things like TV programs, work hassle, DIY and other "concerns" we fill ourselves up with in everyday life just didn't appear on the radar. Coming back to the "normal" way of life has been rather odd and I have had to adapt some what to get back into the swing of things.

I am not totally reverting to my old self though. I plan to ride more and further on a regular basis. I have switched back to rigid and fixed and now feel more at home on the bike despite the perceived "hindrance" of such a set up. Local rides are approached with a nonchalant air of someone who does not need a bag full of "just in case" kit and extraneous gubbins to enjoy the ride. The only bad bit is all the mud :) I am also planning more long distance events to test my self now I know my limits lie somewhere beyond the horizon of my expectations. Audax events and bivvi trips are the two way I see this going. There are just not enough long distance MTB events in the UK (forget 24hr races and "enduros", that shit just don't do it for me) that are a) remote and challenging and b) not silly £££ entry fees.

I also plan to get by with less, consider my actions more carefully and plan a little more. Having seen the abject poverty in Delhi and the meager possession of other people in India I have really woken up to all the crap we buy "just because..." does not make us better or happier (EDIT: see later in this post for more info, I really can't be bothered to edit it as I would rather spend time with Becca and I can always re-visit this after a long solo ride to mull it over) In fact walking round the new Habitat store in cheltenham made me feel really uneasy. Now I am not talking about giving everything away and living in a commune but as the Solitude strap-line said, Need Less - Do More. Guess I sort of forgot about that in the rush to Do More.

Bivvi trips will most likely be "ride form the door step" 2-3dayers with minimal kit and planning. I would love to try some audax events in the 200-400km range and possibly a 600km later in the year. I don't plan on a new bike, well I did sketch out an audax frame and kit list but realised that I could throw slicks and a 15t sprocket on the 29er (along with a rack if needed) and make do. I know the position is fine for 200km+ and the kit is top-notch and durable. I did take a look at (and perform a currency conversion) one of these as the last one was great and I think it would be the ultimate "do it all" bike (with cantis so I can fit CX tyres and get silly in the mud) although the kit would be very similar to the 29er!

I am currently reading the "The way of happiness" by HH the Dali Lama. Now I am not a "spiritual" person and have a pretty pragmatic out look on life and thought that this book might be a little "airy fairy" but I was very happy to find that HH has a very common sense approach to the problems of the world and ways to improve your life which don't involve tie-dye, joss sticks and "spirits" Now I don't see my self becoming a Buddhist but I can certainly see the benefit in their approach.

The basics are to see your self as a human being and know that you are like all the other people. That you want to increase your happiness and decrease your suffering. That all other sentient beings want the same and you should do all you can to assist them. Sounds like common sense to me.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Grab a coffee, this will take a while.

Below is the write up on the race, full details of the trip and other interesting information will be added as and when (depending on magazine articles that might be forthcoming) So sit back and get a taste of endurnace racing in India:

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Well I made it back in one piece and what an amazing adventure I had along the way. The big news is that I raised, thanks to your donations, over £700 for Leonard Cheshire Disability! Thank you so much for supporting this great charity.

The race started from the Peter Hoff hotel in Shimla (the former colonial summer capital) and wound its way round the mountains to Manali. Well that's the short version, what it entailed was transport (un-timed but no easy ride) stages and competitive stages where the standings would be decided totalling 700km with 14,000m of vertical climbing! The trails covered everything from tarmac to broken jeep tracks and narrow sheep trails snaking across alpine meadows. The only unifying factors were the sun and the heat that we had everyday, being a pale UK-dweller this was pretty hard to deal with but I managed to keep my body temperature down thanks to a bit of cloth over my neck that I kept soaked with water and lots of factor 20 sun block!

Days 1 and 2 were not the best for me as the combination of heat, dust and altitude took its toll on my body and the psychological barriers of racing on uncertain courses with only basic route notes and quite often on my own. Thankfully the course was well marked with chalk arrows on the road and banners / posters on trees and rock walls so I soon got into the routine and didn't get lost once. Racing on your own is difficult as you don't have a pace rider and can easily convince yourself that you are about to be swept up by the broom-waggon. Most of the first 2 days I was no more than 200m from another rider in front or behind but the multitude of switch backs meant that you never saw each other!

Each day finished with chai, vegtable soup and pakoras when we got into camp, before a shower (bucket of warm water and a measuring jug) clean and fix the bike (ok, oil the chain and brush off some of the dust) and get ready to load up on rice, roti, dhal, mutter paneer and aloo chana. Bed by 9pm was pretty much the rule as you had to be up at about 6am to get ready and sort out the kit for the day, have breakfast (2 parathra with honey, cereal, porridge, 2 hard boiled eggs, bananas and lots of chai) and be ready to ride at about 8:30am at which point the sun was making its way over the mountains and creeping across camp. We soon learned to get the tent that would see the sun first so the shorts and top might be slightly dry when you put it on (or at least not too cold)

Day 3 was where it all fell into place and I started feeling comfortable and with reasonable (ie not last) finishes in the first 2 days I built my confidence and apart from the seatpost on the bike slipping down slowly over the course of a day there were no mechanical problems with the bike or kit. Day started with a 14km down hill which I used to make up some time on other riders, now I am not a downhiller by nature but the course was a limestone jeep track with a few sections of mud...not that far removed from the tracks on Leckhampton or Cleeve hill! After a short but steep road stage we all re-grouped at a dhaba (cafe / truck stop) were we fueled up on chai and cardamon biscuits before riding en-mass over the hydro electric dam to the second stage of the day, a 10km undulating trail along side the river left after the construction of the dam. I started 1minute in front of Joe Cruz, (a semi-pro racer) and John Nobile (endurance racing legend) with the only thought of putting off them overtaking me. In the end they did catch and pass me but I came in less than 2 minutes slower than them, a result I am more than happy with.

Day 5 was a relatively easy day with only 1 really big climb and an early night as we had Jalori Pass to climb the next day as well as another 16km timed up hill. Jalori pass is 3,223m above sea level and we started out at 1,500m that morning from the bridge at the bottom of the valley. The 30km stage consisted of 23km of rideable tracks and road then 7km of much steeper broken jeep track. Feed stations were situated at 4-5km intervals and lunch was at the top. Despite the climbing and running only 1 gear I was really looking forward to this as the gradient looked ideal for a singlespeed....not too steep to make it unrideable but steep enough that geared riders would select a tiny gear and spin like idiots at walking speed.

I started at a reasonable pace that I knew I could keep up and started passing riders almost immediately. As I was in a good rhythm I blew through each of the first 4 feed stations grabbing a juice of banana as I went feeling great and even chatting to riders as I drew level and passed them. At the start of the really steep rough section I stopped to re-fill my water (I had drunk all 3liters by then) and grab more juice and bananas before riding the broken track until it became too slow going. Off the bike and on with the MP3 player and start walking. This might sound like a bad plan but I can walk up hill faster than many were riding it so continued to keep pace with the riders in front. It was about this point that I started to loose the plot a little, I had been riding hard for over 2hrs at altitude and this really started to take its toll as I laughed, cried and sang out loud as I trudged up the mountain, sometimes doing all three at once. It was a very cathartic experience and one I am glad I did, knowing your breaking point makes everyday trials seem pretty small.

The last 400m were tarmac and while steep were rideable so with a pounding tune on the earphones I stormed up the last switch back and over the line in 3hrs 23m 15s and 20th for that day. The views from the top were amazing and once I had had lunch and a snooze on the temple steps in the sun (and out of the wind) I felt a lot better.

Day 7 started with my first puncture when 500m out of camp the rear tube blew out from damage it had sustained on the previous days downhill section. A quick change and we were off on the 8km to the start of the hike-a-bike section which I understood to be 3km. It turned out to be 13km with only about 1km being rideable and much of it dangerous to walk as the trails were 1' wide with a 500f' drop on one side. I had brought my trainers so I was able to walk easily but the riding sections were tricky not clipped into my pedals. At one point I got a really odd feeling and stopped dead, took out my earphones and looked around, the rider 20m infront and Ray, who was about 50m behind, did exactly the same as well. Apart form the incessant cicadas and the breeze there were no other sounds so we shrugged and continued on our way. Talking about it later that night it turns out that the official photographer had snapped a leopard about 100m down slope from us in that area! Luckily by this point we probably smelt too bad to eat and it had left us alone.

The hike-a-bike finally ended and the downhill stage started until I blew out the rear tyre on the first corner. I hurriedly changed the tube again and set of carefully as I had no more spares and patching a tube takes ages. I stopped to help another rider who had ripped his rear gears off and was walking down the hill, I performed a quick singlespeed conversion and he was able to pedal down the rest of it. I made it to the finish in a really bad time (about double what it should have been) and quickly set off for the final stage in the next village, our progress only slowed by the local festival of taking the village gods to Kullu every year and the villages being fully of people dancing and carrying the statue through the streets! Ray and I were some of the last to make it to the final stage and we immediatly got a start time and our time sheets signed for the final 10km, 7 of which were up hill. We started off at a reasonable pace but the 13km of carrying the bike and the previous 6 days slowed us and it was only the two broom-waggon jeeps behind us that kept us going, failure was not an option at this point. As we crested the last switchback the deep red sun was setting behind the ridge line and despite the time ticking away we both snapped a couple of pictures before starting the final descent to camp.

Day 8 was a relatively easy day and we were in camp by 3pm and had time for an informal cricket match and to wash and dry some clothes. A few of us walked down the road to a dhaba for some noodles as the "all you can eat curry buffet" was wearing a little thin, even with the addition of pasta and cauliflower cheese for us Westerners! That night we celebrated John Nobiles 44th birthday with a big cake and some beers that appeared from nowhere. We were still all asleep by 9:30 though.

Day 9, the final day. Only one competative section but an hours bike carry up concrete steps to the top of the mountain. 58 minutes later I was at the top of the mountain with amazing panoramic views all around. At the very summit was a temple to Shiva which I visited and was encouraged to ring the bell for good luck, I am not sure if it worked but I had no more punctures! The final stage was, we were assures, 99.9% down hill. We took this with a pinch of salt as the percentages of down hill and even distances were a little hit and miss and the organisers had not got a GPS in time to pre-ride the route and give us an elevation profile, something they are promising for next year!

The route was about 70% downhill with some long gradual climbs in between. The upper reaches were shady forest tracks not that far removed from the Forest of Dean on a summers day but the lower sections became rockier and covered in a super fine dust that coated everything and made reading the trial almost impossible. I spent a lot of that sections just holding on as I pin-balled from one rock to another waiting for a tyre to rupture. The final short road stage gave me some respite before the finish line appeared round a switchback and people yelling "Stop! Stop! its over!" as I skidded the back tyre down the road, my face split by a huge grin. I had lost a lot of altitude in the last two hours but I was still on top of the world.

After a podium presentation and champagne in the local town we rode together to Manali and up the cordoned off main street to the park where the official finish was. Sitting in the cafe loading up on pakoras and chai it dawned on me that I had finished and that there was no riding tomorrow, the bike could stay dirty, no cycling shorts needed washing and that I would sleep in a real bed tonight. The awards ceremony ran late with lots of local big-wigs presenting prizes and various sponsors being thanked for their part in the event. I won the 3rd place Solo International Mens category much to my surprise as I had only been keeping track of the over all positions so had no idea. I also received a yellow jersey for being the first and only singlespeeder ever to take part.

We rode to the overnight accommodation and had to wait for our bags to arrive so we could shower, change and go to the end of race party at 9pm. At 9:30 the bags finally arrive and we grab a quick shower and change with one of the marshals trying to hurry us along and getting some rather terse replies! We make it to the party at 10pm and preceded to eat our own body weight in curry, drink the complementary beer but gave the "Old Smuggler" rum a miss because it was only good for cleaning bike chains as we found out at the pre-race meal! After the meal and some very spirited dancing we all received finishers jerseys and certificates and made our way back to bed at 1am totally shattered.

Photos of the event can be seen at http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Singlespeedpunk666/MTBHimachal2007

Again a big thanks to everyone who sponsored me for the event, 100% of your money went to Leonard Cheshire Disability as I don't think that people should pay for my holiday :) I would also like to thank my sponsors who supplied equipment for the trip, all of which performed faultlessly in some of the harshest conditions.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Photos now, words later

Pretty much as the title, I have sorted the snaps (although the dozen or so of pro quality shots still need sorting) and uploaded them to Picasa.com. Below is a slide show and link to the site so you can see bigger images. If any one would like a full size picture (for non-comercial use) please email me at singlespeedpunk AT gmail DOT com.

Congratulations to MC who got married this weekend, I wish you and your wife all the best.

Over and out.

Alex



Picasa Link

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Race end

Well I did it! 700km, 14,000m climbing and 3 punctures and the race is finished. To top it all I took 3rd in solo men and 21st over all!!!

The Endura shorts and Chocolate Fish Merino were amazing and stood up to repeated wearing / washing / and all round thrashing in some really tough conditions...go buy some now.

The bike and kit was pretty much with out fault although my seatpost did slip very slowly until zipties and gaffer tape came to the rescue! The Kenda SB8's gripped like s**t to a blanket and were only really out of their depth on 30mph+ rocky and loose down hills (which were all 10km+!)

Lots of new friends and stories to catch up on but i need to pack the bike, do some shopping and eat pizza (rice, dhal and aloo chana get a little boring after 9days!)

Thanks to all my supporters and friends, see you soon.

Alex

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Photos from previous years

Credit to Cass from Out There Biking tours...great if you don't fancy racing through the amazing scenery!

This album is powered by BubbleShare - Share your baby pictures


Alex

Friday, 28 September 2007

10...9...8...7...6...5...all systems green...4 days to go

Yep, pretty much all stuff that needs sorting is done and all I have to occupy me now are random fears of the unknown. I have copies of all imporant documents (in triplicate and a set at home!) plus useful addresses, phone numbers, race T+C and course / event info. Its the impotent waiting that kills me, I plan on having a lazy Sunday with a lie in, some meditation and possibly a movie (must check the in-flight selection so I don't double up on films!)

I have read a rather disparaging review on last years event which hinged on the writer not getting the idea that it was an adventure race not 9 back to back short-course XC races! The weather, navigation, sleep deprivation and wildlife all come in for criticism but what really got me was the dig he had at the Indian Army Team (who won it!) who instead of riding down a technical descent at 2mph shouldered their 20kg bikes and ran past people riding...hell its a race FFS! Probably won't see the name-less whinger on the GDR start line anytime soon!

Endura have sent me a lovely pair of FS260 bib shorts and a pair of MT500 3/4s to thrash and report on, initial examination show that they are probably the nicest shorts I have ever seen. I can't wait to try tehm out and I hope to have at least one day cold enough to warrant the 3/4s!

The bags are packed (and under wight!) Bike is boxed but not sealed as I need to make a final packing check. I did discover that NO LIQUIDS are allowed in hand luggage to/from India! This lead to a rapid re-packing to loose the mossie spray, sun cream and glasses cleaner from the carry-on bag. I have a change of clothes and some other important stuff in the carry on so if I do loose the main bag I at least have something to change in to and keep me going!

OK, off to bug employees for money :)

Alex

Monday, 24 September 2007

Glitch central...

Had a slight issue with my "waterproof" jacket and trousers at the weekend...note the " " round the word! I knew I would have to give the trousers a once over with Grangers (or Blacks own brand eqiv) but I thought I hade the jacket covered. After 30-40mins the rain was soaking through the sleeves and running down my arms and starting to come through the shoulder seams. The jacket is only designed as a windproof shell with a little water repellancy so even with the extra proofing its out of its comfort zone. I am going to pony-up and get the Montane Velocity 100% wind, water and yak proof jkt today as being damp at the FoD with a hot shower and tea 10mins away is not the same as 10,000ft and 50km to go!

The karrimor hydropack will need proofing to as its not very water repellant and the rain cover does not fit! Nice one guys! Its big enough to fit over the bag and has an elasticated draw cord but as the pack is tapered and rounded it just falls off. I guess I could tie it on some how in a real emercency but its less than ideal. I will add some bin bags to my list to keep my kit dry.

On a plus note the bike was fine but anything other than sustained climbing or tricky singletrack on 34:20 fixie is sloooow. Thank you Mr White Ind for the freewheel!

The Chocolate Fish clothing is great and the new long sleeve stuff is just that! I am 6'2" and have long arms, most cycling tops are just long enough...the CF has plenty to spare! I would say that they are 1-2" longer than the longest sleeves I have (Endura LS top / Rapha Fixed jersey) I wear a medium in their stuff and the body is fitted with not too much to flap in the wind and long enough to avoid a builder-bum when I bend over so throw in the looong arms and I am a happy camper :)

A big thanks to those people who have just sponsored me, the Johnny A's crew and Alex...I am really raking it in now! Thanks!

OK, off to work.

Alex

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Its the final countdown...with out the big hair+spandex

Well, ok a little bit of lycra!

Not long to go now, I have done a test pack of pretty much all my gear and it fits in the carry on bag (Karrimor hydropack) and holdall. Bike plus shoes / helmet / tyres / tools will go in the bike box with extra padding and some zipties / parcel tape for the return trip. Only a couple of little things to get now like a plug adaptor and waterproofing spray for my over trousers.

My goodie bag of merino wool has turned up from Amanda at Chocolate Fish, another great t-shirt (dark red/grey this time) zip-neck LS top and the Endevour heavy weight LS top / fleece that it double the thickness of a regular winter jersey and £100 less than the Rapha Training Top! Great for chilly nights around camp at 3,000m! Some more socks, prototype boxers and leggings finished of the package. I already have some Mt Cook merino T's and LS tops for casual wear (shorter in the body, baggyer fit) so pretty much 70% of my kit is merino!

I would like to say a huge thank you to Amanda for supplying the kit to some one she has never met and you should all buy some thing from CHOCOLATE FISH as its great kit made in NZ at the old IceBreaker factory.

I got a nice ride in on Sunday in the Forest of Dean including a couple of big-ish climbs and both Dowies and the Skull (looking for Becca's rear light that fell off!) as well as the Lawnmower...I still find freewheeling weird through singletrack but I do like the ease of catching (small) air off roots and steps!

Kit on the bike is 100% sorted now and I have a Cateye front light instead of the old 9LED one. The new one lasts 30hrs on 4AA's and throws a pretty good beam, 2 on the handlebars and you could ride off road pretty well! I am half tempted to try and rig up a helmet mount when I get time. I am pretty taken by these though form a Lancashire chap in Oz warning excessive FLASH content! Even offering constant-current battery setups soon! The biggest nightmare with home-brew lights is the casing / mounts and these are so sweet and tiny :)

ALex

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

20 years....

Just realised that I have been mountain biking for 20years this year. I started when I was 11 with a Dawes Tracker (18 gears, plastic canti brakes) although I had been bombing about on my BMX and 24x1-3/8" racer before then. The freedom it gave me was great as I was able to escape to far flung corners of Gloucestershire and spent many rainy afternoons with a cup of tea and slice of fruit cake pouring over maps planning routes or looking for places to explore.

Looking back its a bit weird that I have kept it up despite how much I have changed in that time, I guess cycling just rings true with some thing deep inside of me that, say, playing the guitar or RPG games never did. I can happily ride alone, with friends or in a big faceless group of strangers; on the road or off and in all weathers. It has given me great memories, taken me all over the planet and given me employment for the last 10years.

A little riding in the last week but not as much as I hoped but my fitness continues to improve. Last nights ride up Cleeve had me leave the house in a foul mood after a busy and stressful day at work and at the bottom of the climb I really did not want to be there...so I analysed why I didn't and found that it wasn't anything to do with the riding; work, staff, accountants and food but not actually about riding. I completed the climb as fast as I ever had but at a much reduced effort and only a 2-3min recovery time. Loosing the baggage really helped.

Still not got back in to standing meditation but I plan to start today and try and build it up slowly. Standing for 5mins does not sound hard but maintaining the "knees slightly bent, back straight, arms loose" really starts to burn after 60seconds and I get the knee shakes. The trick is to not tense your legs but rather relax and let the tension out....but not fall over!

Amanda has emailed to say the new Chocolate Fish merino is in and she will send it off soon. I can't describe how great it is to have people helping in this way and since ditching all my synthetic cycling tops I have had no regrets...wool all the way! Look out for a write up on the clothes once I have had a chance to put them through their paces.

OK, plan for the day is: Mediation, hotel in Delhi, wedding insurance and a bike ride (surprise!)

Best get on with it...

Alex

Monday, 3 September 2007

More in the press...

I am in the local press again but importantly with a link to the Justgiving page so I hope for some more donations! I am trying to get hold of Nelli at Star 107.4 for a follow up interview and mush chase BBC Radio Glos about my email last week...its almost as exhausting as the training (sort of!)

Speaking of which I am planning on being at the Ashton ride tomorrow as it is around my home turf of Cleeve Hill...7pm at the Golf Club y'all. Zero "proper" riding last weekend but plenty of Xtracycle work hauling food and stuff so I hope that all counts towards it and offsets the food and beer consumed at Matt and Katies wedding!

I now have my travel insurance (with race coverage) and am seeing the Dr tomorrow about a letter confirming my (un)fitness. Pretty much wraps up all the prep and kit which is lucky as I am skint! I need to book 3 nights in hotels and the prices seem to waver between £9 and £159 a night! Shimla and Manali are pretty pricy but I hope the organisers can hook me up with a deal somewhere (or keep me out of the worse ones!) Once I have them sorted I can see what I have left for food/entertainment/sightseeing and gifts.

I also plan to get back into practicing Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation) as the race approaches to keep me focused and calm. I did it quite a lot last year partly due to house move / overseas trips and hassle at work but have got out of the routine. I need to set my alarm a little earlier and spend 5-10mins each morning. Its amazing how much more focused, calm and energetic you are after so its really worth making the effort for.




Alex

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

That was the week(end) that was...hard.

After a pretty quiet and boring day in the shop on Saturday the planned 75km ride on Sunday was eagerly awaited. The weather was floorless (if a little hot and sunny for an epic...but after the summer we have had so far I really hate to complain) and the bikes ready to go. The first 30km out to Guiting went pretty well but the next 30km really dragged (partly due to unknow trails) and the lack of proper food (frutini's and flapjack are not enough for Becca...she needs a cheese+onion sarnie!)made it an effort to finish. We did re-jig the route back but still managed 72km. After a shower and change of clothes we went to the all-you-can-eat "Real China" in the Brewery complex. I think we pretty much ate our own bodyweight in food and returned home sleepy and full.

The plan was to ride with the Ashton club in the Forest of Dean on Monday afternoon and with a little leverage (and bribes) we turned up at the appointed time and place. Sheldon had planned out a great route and despite snapping his XTR crank after 1/2 mile it went really well. Big shout out to Mandi who got a singlespeed baptism of fire after Sheldon "borrowed" her XTR crank and she was relegated to the rigid Kona SS (32:16...way to big for them hills!) despite being used to a geared full-sus she made pretty reasonable time!

At the cut-out point I opted to follow the "faster / more stupid" pack to take in some more climbing and a really sweet singletrack descent (The Lawnmower) before meeting back at the pub for cider and cheesy chips.

No real riding on Tuesday but plenty ouf round town stuff on the Xtracycle including a trip back with a BIG bag of kitty litter in one side :)

The glitch list is starting to get smaller with only a couple of minor niggles on there at the moment. My Karrimor hydropack is working great and the camera is easy to get to on the belt (plus I can karibina the wrist strap to the excess shoulder strap so I can't drop the camera!) Even after 7hrs on the bike the pack does not screw up my neck/shoulders/back and keeps still on nasty jarring singletrack. I plan to take some photos and give a complete kit run-down at some point...possibly this Sunday as we have a wedding on Saturday (with in staggering distace of home) and friends staying over so chances to get out on the bike will be limited.

Fundraising is going well with an article due in the Echo soon and BBC Radio Glos and Star FM also giving me some more coverage. I have my bus tickets booked and printed out. Insurance and Dr's Letter are still on the "to do" list and must be sorted out this week.

At this point in the training / preperation I am pretty sure I have covered all the bases (barring death or dismemberment for me or the bike) and my fitness is the best it ever has been but I am now doubting that despite the preperation and training I might still not be up to the task. Day 6 for example is only 52km....but all but the last 2km into camp are up hill! The day consists of climbing all the way to the top of Jalori Pass 3223m (about 2000m vertical!) and a hike-a-bike section to finish it off.

At this point there really is no turning back.

Alex

Saturday, 25 August 2007

The BIG test

This weekend will be the big test for me and the kit. On Sunday we have a 75km+ epic planned taking in 1450m of vertical ascent. To follow up there is a "big" ride in the FoD with the Ashton club that Sheldon has warned me "includes some climbing"...bring it on :)

I am also planning more after work rides and will be charging all the batteries so I can run my home-brew LED lights and plan on making another mini helmet light that runs on 2 AAs and gives out 3w of light (about a 10w halogen eqv.) for 2hrs+.

I have just got off the phone with Emily at the Glos Echo about the trip and hope to snag some more sponsorship. I have put a post on STW but still to get any £££ out of it although the good wishes help :)

On a (sort of related point) I am looking for an on-line copy of the Orange mobile phone advert with the film producer running in the park yells to his personal trainer who is trying drag him back on some raines "Gunther, make me bleeeeeed!" I seem to be one of the few people who have seen it and some frineds think I am mad!

Later

Alex

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Back on the 'net

Ended up buying a new laptop as Dell are taking the P by asking me to pay for a new mother board despite having paid for a new one less than 9mths ago....this can run and run as I have a faster, better laptop for less £££ so I can afford to string it out :)

Riding has been sporadic but I have been feeling really good on the bike, the 20t White Ind sprocket is on and the test ride up Cheltenham hill (A435) showed how much it was worth...totally aerobic climb all the way. I must change it back to the 18t to keep up the training.

The bike strip down went well and the forks are totally amazing having changed the 4wt for 2.5wt that suits my 10st (140lb) better. The BB is securly fitted in the frame thanks to extra strong loc-tite...I have a feeling that a lot of heat will be needed to shift it one day. Lots of little things to sort out (my ever growing "glitch list") over the next few weeks.

I picked up one of the last bits of kit I need and one I hope not to use...some sterile needles and syringes should I need drastic medical attention!

Fund raising is going well but I am still a way off the £1k I am after. With luck some more coverage in the local press will help boost the "not a friend of mine already" donations.

Not much else going on.

Alex

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Down time

Due to the laptop dying again I will be a little light on blogging over the next week or so. With luck Dell will sort it out ASAP (motherboard is only 9mths old!) and I will be back on-line soon.

In the mean time I will keep getting the miles in and raising money.

Thanks,

Alex

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

MC is back!

Great news that my friend, fixie-inspiration and all round nice guy Matt Chester is back, feeling better and will be back builidng sweet frames once he has caught up with the backlog. Looks like a move north of the border and wedding bells are also on the horizon :)

Alex

Monday, 13 August 2007

Fine tuning the kit and planning a soundtrack for the singletrack

Yep, been riding some more, last Sunday I strained some back muscles pretty bad out climbing some bouncy-shifty bikes on a hot and sunny 40km thanks to Si (Ihatenettles) and Sheldon. I took it pretty easy last week (apart from lots of utility cycling on the Xtracycle...photos to follow) and went out for 3hrs (what I now refer to as a "short ride") to recover from a hangover and test out the new Karrimor camelbak that I got for my birthday.

I hate carrying stuff on my back but this bag keeps the weight low and on the hips so I can ride with the shoulder straps really loose and avoid neck and shoulder pain. I can fit pretty much everything in it and 1.2l of water. I will carry the tools and other spares in the Jandd frame pack to keep the weight on the bike...low and centered. I can carry 2x 0.75l bottles on the frame making just under 3l of H2O at any one time.

There are two zipped side pockets that I can access on the go so I can use these for snacks, sun cream and insect repellant. Speaking of nasty stuff I had my jabs last week for...well pretty much everything! My arms hurt and I felt a bit rough for the day but I am now covered for most of the nasties. The good news I had was that I don't need malaria tablets as Delhi is a low risk area and Shimla north is pretty much too high for the pesky mossies. I plan on high strength repellant and developing a love of G+T's...ok, just the repellant then!

I won't be on the bike tomorrow as there is a bad weather warning and I need to strip and re-build the bike a la Mike Curiak "Build it strong, build it comfey and use lots of loc-tite" People might wonder why I am doing this mid-August and not later September, well I want to give it a service then ride it some more to make sure that it is 100% fine before I go. There will probably be a few niggling things that need sorting over a few weeks.

My other task for wet-days is to rip some of my CDs on to my MP3 player for the trip. I already have an SD card half full of down-tempo, ambient stuff for the big climbs and long flights (Neurosis, Isis, Final, GY!BE, Silver Mt Zion) and now need some faster stuff like the Haunted, Dead Kennedys, Therapy?, Entombed and the Beastie Boys...did I say I had an ecclectic music collection?

Over and out.

Alex

Friday, 3 August 2007

Entry fee......done

Finally got the entry fee sorted thanks to Akhil at MTBHimachal and Gill at the HSBC Cheltenham. Turns out I didn't need a SWIFT number and I can send US$ to India. The last two people I saw at the bank were addamant that it just wasn't possible!

I have re-built my wheels with the DT Swiss TK7.1 rims (disc version on the front) and it looks great and gives the tyre a much wider profile than the skinny Mavic MA3's. I had forgotten how well the DT rims build up compared to anything else out there...highly reccomended.

Still scouting round for insurance but the BCF seems to be the only way :(

Probably riding Sunday if I can get a new suit sorted in my 45min lunch break tomorrow. I plan to hook up with IHateNettles in Winchcombe and ride about 20miles on the fixie...probably ride up and over Cleeve hill there and back to get some extra alltitude in...yep I'm a sucker!

Solitude Cycles has ceased trading as with the race, work and other stuff I just didn't have the time.

Later

Alex

Monday, 30 July 2007

Just typical

Following on from my last post I did order some new, heavier duty rims....and on Sunday buckled the front wheel so I was pretty glad when they turned up this morning! I will try and get my wheels stripped tonight so I can re-build them tomorrow morning and get out in the afternoon.

I have also ordered some Oury grips, these are chunky, grippy and sticky MTB grips that you can wrestle onto the lower section of drop-bars and gives more comfort than even double bartape wrap. Only a little tape is then needed round the brake hoods and up to the top corner (as I don't use the flats and the bar bag gets in the way!)

The fundraising is going really well and I am almost at the £200 mark! Keep sending the cash in people and thanks to all those who have already donated.

Later

Alex

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Storage sorted...



The carradice saddle bag worked really well on Tuesdays 50km / lots of climbing ride. The extra weight did feel like a flat rear tyre but because it was centred under my CoG and not over the rear axle it rode really well. The two side pockets were really good for tools / tubes / money and keys and the main compartment held the bulk of the other stuff.

I managed to pack all the clothes, 1st aid kit and spares into the saddle bag with only the camera, arm-warmers, jacket and food in the bar bag. Total weight was 1Kg for the bar bag and 4Kg for the saddle bag which is pretty good considering the weight of the bags and amount of kit. I plan to thin down on a couple of things and try different packing arrangements plus a way of carrying my camera so I can get to it easier (and so it does not sway about round my neck!)

One option is a small camelbak which would also allow a little more H2O and things like the camera could be attached to the shoulder straps (did I say I was a BIG fan of gaffer tape? :) ) and allow easier (and cleaner) drinking with bottles only being used for re-fills (and I plan on bottles with spout covers anyway!) I am really weary of carrying stuff on my back but I think in this case it might be the best way.

My next big choice is whether to re-build my wheels with beefier rims or stick with the MA3's which have held up really well over the last 3years...

Monday, 23 July 2007

Now I am legal

My visa arrived today, and contrary to what I thought I was going to receive all I got was a small sheet glued in my passport...but as long as it gets me in and out the country! I guess I had a big ornate certificate with gold edging, but ohh well.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far, I am off to a great start but I am still a way off my target!

As a equipment geek who works in a bike shop I am trying out a Carradice Barley saddle bag (with my Crud Raceguard as a support!) that on a test-pack held everything I needed with my jacket, camera, gloves and a few other essentials in my Carradice ZippedRoll on the handlebars.

I will use my ride tomorrow as a test for the stability and get used to riding with the weight in a different place. The bike looks real old-skool with the green cotton duck and honey leather straps :)

With all the floods and disruption in Gloucestershire we have escaped with 5mm of water in the cellar and none in the pipes (but plenty of bottles) and so far the power is still on :)

Alex

Thursday, 19 July 2007

I want your money!

Well, only so I can pass it on to the Leonard Cheshire Homes :) Follow the link to see what they do and then pop back here and donate via the JustGiving sponsorship widget thingy over there ----->

I was interviewed live on BBC Radio Gloucestershire today about the trip and I think I freaked the guy out. He was an ex road cyclist and time-trialer so he knew a bit about bikes but really didn't get why I was doing it :) It went really well and I hope I didn't come off as a cocky git, I did make it clear that it was going to hurt and I would consider throwing in the towel several times a day...but I won't have that option with all the sponsorship you are going to give me!

I am still trying to sort out payment for the entry fee, I have the £££ but they want either $UD draft payable on an Indian Bank (HSBC say "No") or a bank transfer...except their bank is not on the SWIFT system. Any international bank experts out there please feel free to contact me with ideas! Only other way is to send a bank draft for the Indian Rupees equivalent of US$500 and keep my fingers crossed!

Made it over to Glos in under 30mins today and back in only slightly longer, pretty good for a 55"gear and 2" tyres on tarmac.

Over and out

Alex

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

The publicity machine kicks up a gear...

I have a meeting with Laura from Leonard Cheshire Homes tomorrow to sort out how I am going to raise money for them. Check out the website and the work they do...they do some really good work and I am happy to use my silly adventure for something more than breaking my self!

Traing has gone well with 4-5good rides a week at the moment and plenty of hills thrown in. Rode up to the Bontager 24/12 at Guiting on Saturday night to have a look round. It seemed a really chilled event although people were bitiching on the forums about the mud (well duh! 3 weeks of rain on clay soil....)

Still playing about with how to carry my kit, Carousel Design Bags are one option as a partial or complete frame pack and/or h-bar mounted bottles....or a wingnut gear hydropack combo. I have a little while to finalise my selection and try it all out.

On Thursday at 10:30am I will be live on air at BBC Radio Gloucestershire about my trip, all good coverage. There is also talk about an audio training diary.

Moore+Large / Kenda have sponsored me with some Kenda Small Block 8 tyres in 29". Really fast rolling (like a CX tyre) but loads of grip on dry / dusty / hard surfaces, and not bad on grass / loose gravel etc. Most definately NOT a mud tyre though, even so it does clear pretty well once you hit tarmac! Looks like a winner for the conditions I will encounter.

OK, over n out.

Alex

Monday, 9 July 2007

New kit and (shock-horror) some riding at last!

Yep, finally back on the bike after a 3 week hiatus (bar a session on the turbo!) Felt good to get out on the bike and ride...quit stressing about work, kit, visas etc... My new BBB prescription glasses are working well with no steam issues on climbs and the grey lenses take off the glare but don't blind me when the sun goes behind a cloud.

My trip to Brum was only partially useful (got to see Chris, Nigel and the accountant) but the Indian High Commission was a loss. If you don't start queing at 7am you have NO chance of getting a vias that day. They are open for 3hrs and its a take a ticket and wait system. They only hand out 200 visas a day and the screen was showing "Now Serving 415" I waited for a bit but the lines were not moving and midday was approaching so I relented and posted the application instead :)

Kenda (and the UK importers Moore+Large) are sponsoring me some Kenda Small Block 8's for the race. The small, close spaced tread should be great on the dry dusty forest roads and tarmac that I will be on 95% of the time. I have a spare too incase I trash one too bad for the tyre-boot to fix.

I am also going to be trying a Wingnut Hyper 2.5 hydration pack. The Wingnut low-rider system sits the weight low on your back, has side pockets that you can access with out taking it off (2 zipped, 2 mesh pockets) plus room for a 2.5l bladder. Light weight sail-cloth and waterproof zips are the main construction with mesh straps for low weight and comfort. All the reviews I have read are great and as a "Hydration-hater" I am sure the lower c-o-g will solve the neck and shoulder problems that all the other hydration packs out there.

Subject to a long test I will carry the bulky but light stuff in the Wingnut (clothes, food etc..) and pack the tools+tubes in the Jandd frame pack.

My friend Phil is coming down tomorrow so I can show him some local trails, although given the rain today I think the FoD might be the best bet!

More later,

Alex

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Finding inspiration...

...In the strangest places, well not that strange considering the amazing standard of the music. Relaxing in the bath after my crash at SSUK I listened to "A Sun That Never Sets" by Neurosis and I was struck by one of the lyrics in "Falling Unknown"

"You dream of a mountain, the peaks rise to the sky,
Will you answer their call?

Lie in wait, I will lie awake
Falling through a world unknown"


Pretty much sums up what I am thinking about the whole trip, eager to be tested but humbled by the uncertainties.

I will train and plan for what I can conceive, and hope that I am up to the task of any other hurdle I might encounter.

Enough moping,

Alex

Friday, 29 June 2007

Star FM (Cheltenham) today 11:20 and 13:20

I had an interview about my trip at Star FM in Cheltenham yesterday, all the normal questions except that I had to be prompted to say that I was doing it on a singlespeed...gears are just not on my radar anymore so I kind of forget! That was the good part of the day, the bad part was the crab+prawn salad with a side of food poisoning :( Kicked in yesterday at 4pm and still going today at 10am...lost a lot of fluids and food but can't keep too much down. I'm that ill that I am off work (for the first time in ages) and bored senseless (hence the post!) Hopefully I can manage some lunch and be back at work tomorrow as Saturdays are manic!

I have been asked back to Star FM for a follow up interview with Elle (I have to write her name somewhere as I will forget otherwise and sound a dumbass when I phone up!) once the training and fund raising is in full effect (injury and illness allowing!)

I did a test pack of my gear on Tuesday and it all fits in my Jandd rack duffel with space to spare (I don't currently have a spare tyre and some other small bits and bobs so excess space is good) Pack weight was not too bad and I did consider carrying the lighter stuff in my Alpkit bag but it only half filled it so would shift about and there are no compression straps on the pack to clinch it down (as its a super light design!) and I think I would have regretted it in the long run. Still have to decide what to pack in the frame bag and if I should take a bar bag (probably my Carradice zipped roll) for food / essentials. I plan to use long training rides to fine tune that aspect of the kit.

Water carrying is another factor that I need to look at, I have 3 bottle mounts on the frame (DT, ST and under the DT) so I can carry 2l (0.75l x2 and 0.5l) but I might also fit a bottle cage to my bars if there is space amongst the light and GPS. SJS have a double bottle holder that fits to the bars or I might make a holder out of parts and spares....either of which would preclude a barbag...argh!

That's about all for now, hopefully I will be back to full health over the weekend and can at least get some time on the turbo trainer!

Alex

Monday, 25 June 2007

Read all about it! Nutter to ride Himalayas on singlespeed!

Yep, I have appeared in the local rag (with obligatory dodgy photo, thankfully not visible on-line!) and they got all the facts correct...a relief to say the least! Only 30mins after it went on the website I was rung up by a charity asking if I would use the trip to raise money for them. I should be meeting with them later in the week to thrash out details so look out for more info on who it is and how to donate to them :)

Tyres should be sorted thanks to Simon at M+L who import Kenda, I think a pair of Small Block 8's in 29x2.2" should do the trick nicely...as long as the monsoon is over by then!

I am off to Brum tomorrow to the Indian High Commission to get my visa. Two dodgy photos and £30 are all you need, oh, and really small hand writing to get all the info on the form! As its a "first come, first served" system I plan to be there early to avoid wasting half the day.

EDIT: B'ham will have to wait until next week as Becca is oop north today so I am in Cheltenham sorting other stuff! Registering with a Dr, getting some prescription riding glasses and a test-pack are on the list.

Due to the weather I will be fitting a slick to the back of my bike and riding intervals all this week, with luck the weekend should be better so a trip to the FoD should be on the cards (as it drains better down there than on the Cotswold clay!) My shoulder is not 95-98% OK and only really hurts when I press on it in one small place so I can get back on the bike and actually steer ;)

More photos of the 2005 MTB Himanchal race can be found HERE thanks to Cass from Out There Biking who runs tours of the area if you don't fancy racing :)

Over n out

Alex

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Scottish shorts...

To cover and protect my behind :) Chris at Endura has kindly agreed to kit me out with some of the great Endura shorts for my trip. I would say that shorts are the biggest comfort factor on a bike (with shoes a close second!) so its great to have a company like Endura who consistently win "best in test" kit me out with arse-pads :)

Fine details will be sorted out next week as Chris is currently at Mountain Mayhem 24hr riding round a muddy course...rather him than me!

I should be back on the bike tomorrow 2 weeks after my fall at SSUK. I might do a local ride or possibly head over to Ledbury for the end of the MM 24hr if I fancy a long-ish road ride...depends on the weather and my motivation levels which are a little flat from lack of riding. I also plan to do a test packing of the kit I plan to carry in the race for a rough weight and method of packing. A good job to do if the weather is s#!t.

Amanda at CF has sent a Tshirt for me to try for size, the medium fits like a treat. Plenty long enough in the body but not too baggy that it is "sports wear only" Plus the sleeves are short enough to show off my tatts (and skinny arms!) The merino feels much softer than the previous batch and the moss green goes with anything with out clashing. I am also looking forward to a 300-something gram long sleeve zip-neck top that should make a great winter top / mid-layer for cold nights on the mountain.

Pictures soon...

Over n out

Alex

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

I am naked no more!

Amanda from Chocloate Fish has stepped up and offered to kit me out with Merino clothing for the trip. Merino will be great in the wide range of conditions that I will encounter, it keeps you warm when its cold, cool and wicking when its hot and even works when wet! Plus it does not stink after a couple of days like synthetics due to the lack of good breeding grounds for bacteria (and any that do cling on wash of easily and the garment will dry PDQ)

I have some CF clothing already but I am looking forward to the new stuff coming on line with a longer body and sleeve cut and slightly more fitted (being tall and lanky!) I plan on using a couple of T's, a long sleeve zip-neck, socks, boxers and leggings (hey, it can get damn cold up in the hills!) with only my cycling shorts, trousers and a formal shirt being the only non-wool items!

I have been using the new MTB Socks and love the dual thickness construction, L and R specific fit and very flat seams that don't rub even when you tighten up your shoes silly tight! They work in everything from damn cold to hot n sweaty while keeping my feet feeling and smelling pretty good. Also good for busy days in the shop running about after customers.

Later

Alex

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Now a reason to post

Having had this site for a while I finally have a use for this blog and the site of the same name.

I have signed up for a 9 day, 700km stage race in the Himalayan foothills this October...on a singlespeed.

Yep, fixed will be well and truely fucked on the 14km descents so I will be taking a freewheel for those crazy downs but I will keep the fixed side for the climbs...and there will be plenty of that!

I will be keeping people sad enough to follow my ramblings up to date with my training, kit selection and other logistics involved with doing a race in some damn big hills thousands of miles from home.

The local paper have already been in touch for an interview and a photographer will be round for the cheesy shot of me and the bike. I am hoping that I can pick up some sort of sponsorship to help out with the cost as it is totally self-funded at the moment.

My alter-ego / weekend job Solitude Cycles is running a comp to win a custom frame, only £10 a ticket and you can enter as many times as you want...all the correct answers will go into a hat. See the full info HERE.

As its been a busy day I am signing off now...more to follow.

Alex

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Testing, 1,2; 1,2?

Hello, more to follow once I have the site up and running (and know what I want to do with it!)

SSP