Wednesday, 26 November 2014

testing testing....

 I hate being broken, it's been two days without a ride and it's killing me. Tonight I thought i'd test my back with a short tarmac only ride. It hurt as first but as my back stretched into the cycling position and warmed up it felt ok, certainly no worse than before i swung a leg over anyway. Getting off the bike and i was shuffling like a pensioner again proof positive that cycling is the best
Ride 162
7 miles
Total 3243
commute 938

Battered



After the bone shaking experience of the forest of dean I needed a gentle ride back in familiar territory and thankfully the overnight rain had abated. The woods though were thick with mud and greasy roots, no problem for the fat bike. The only benefit of the heavy rain was that it had washed channels down the trails clearing the mud from a singletrack width section of them leaving harder packed soil and stone behind, if you picked your line carefully the rolling became much easier.
There’s a particularly tough route with big roots surrounded by deep mud all slightly uphill which is tough to conquer in the dry and is an area we use to test a bikes (and riders) prowess. Today even though conditions under tyre were as bad as they will probably get all winter I managed to clear it with out a foot down!
Buoyed by  this I then got a bit cocky and spent a while trying to capture a wheelie picture for this blog. Inevitably my enthusiasm overwhelmed my talent and a splt second after the above picture I was sat in the mud!
Unfortunately with Saturdays jarring and todays tumble I seem to have injured my lower back and am writing this suffering from a bout of sciatica. Hoping for a quick recovery, I’ve not ridden for 3 days and it’s killing me
 Ride 161
10 miles
Total 3236
commute 938

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Forest of Dean

We've ridden these fat bikes on local trails and they have made us grin a lot, making samey trails seem more exciting so the natural next thing to do is to try them at a trail centre. As the weather has been biblically wet lately we decided on a pretty much all weather track in the Forest of Dean. You could tell the weather had been bad as we got there just before 10am and was still able to park in the main car park. a bit of traditional car park faffing and a cuppa later and we were off into the forest, first tacking the new "freeminers" trails. This was very rooty, very twisty with some testing climbs. Tough going on the heavy fatbike, but at least i had 20 gears, Dan was limited to 10. The ascents were greasy and contained lots of exposed roots which, even though there were a few slips were conquered easily by the fat tyres. There are a series of wooden drop offs that Dan gave a good go at proving airtime is possible even on a bike as heavy as these but just after he noticed air leaking around the rim of the wheel, a puncture! the first fat wheel puncture we've had.
The big problem was the mulefut rim, the tyre was so well seated to it we couldn't get it off, two 6ft+ blokes wrestling with the tyre for 215 minutes with an assortment of levers, tools and swearing couldn't get it off! Luckily a short cut back to the visitor centre bike shop enabled us to borrow a pair of enormous tyre levers and Dan eventually managed to prize the tyre off. If he ever decides to go tubeless it'll be a breeze with these rims!
Puncture fixed we returned to the forest and rode the entire Verderers trail, checking strava afterwards i got personal bests on two climbs and the final descent which amazes me as other visits have been on a full suspension 29er but the most surprising is that I felt so battered at the end from the roughness of the trail on a rigid bike. I need to look at tyre pressures but it's a fine line between cushioning and rolling resistance. At times i tought my kidneys were going to detach and my arm muscles were just flailing about, I'm still sore two days later!
So, trails centres on a fat bike?, the numbers speak for themselves i guess, I'm quicker! I passed a few people! (i got passed by a few too though) i got a little amount of air over some of the table tops and despite the beating I took I was still smiling at the end which afterall is what it's all about
Ride 160
10 miles
Total 3226
commute 884
(picture by Dan Phillips)

Monday, 24 November 2014

a fat day out

Dan has finally built up his fat bike and he needed a long ride to test it out. Best to do this on familiar trails and luckily we have a few locally and the wet muddy conditions were perfect, The fat bikes are very at home in the mud. To make things more pleasant Dan was also testing a fat bike front mudguard for www.themudhugger.co.uk  and what a difference it made! I was splattered down my front by mud, my jersey and face covered but Dan was virtually as clean as when he left his house, looks lie another top product by the Mudhugger guys.
As it was Dan's first ride on the fatty we did a long route over, Lickey, Waseley and up to clent, unlike last week the cafe was open and we took advantage of a hot drink and flapjack before beginning the long descent and the more technical way back. The bikes were ideal in what at times was almost axle deep mud & I think Dan really liked his, it seemed to bring out his inner child.
Ride 159
24 miles
Total 3216
commute 884

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

floating

after a couple of days of heavy rain I was expecting the trails to be under feet of water but even where it's traditionally wet didn't seem to bad, there was a lot of damage from run off eroding channels but i think the summer and spring were so dry that the water actually has somewhere to soak into. I dropped the pressure in the floater tyres lower tonight and they stayed on the rim bead and this meant there was a lot more grip available and the front end was a lot more compliant, even root riding was improved. I was glad of the rear mudhugger mudguard though
Ride 158
13 miles
Total 3192
commute 866

Thursday, 13 November 2014

alone in the dark

It wasn't the pitch black of the woods, it wasn't the cloying darkness. It wasn't the potential of crashing and not being found until daylight. It wasn't the peril of riding close to deep water, water covered with leaves that looked just like the trail ahead. It wasn't the swooping bird that seemed to narrowly miss my head, it wasn't the evil looking walker, in the middle of now where with seeming no destination looming at me out of the darkness.
It was the skittering of fast running clawed feet chasing me up the lane, the enormous teeth that were dripping drool and the gnarled hand reaching for my shoulder.
only it wasn't, it was a dry leaf blowing across the tarmac. I've never ridden that section of lane so fast!
Ride 157
13 miles
Total 3179
commute 866

problems at the end of the rainbow

so, I've ridden, through leaves, through deep loam, through rotting brambles, over shipping pallets, axle deep clay, across a stream, on tarmac, over the 3 biggest hills in the area, down scary rooty descents and the draggiest off camber grass imaginable. All in order to get a treat at Clent cafe. I even sprinted the 4" tyred behemoth the last 1/4 mile uphill into the car park, the attendant chuckiling at my massive rubber, but i didn't care, i was getting a cuppa, a cake, maybe a bacon sarnie.....or rather i wasn't, the cafe was closed for refurbishment. ARSE!, the only choice was to carry on, through more bogs, logs, holes and loose pebbles smeared with horse shit. the only highlight the round of applause i got from 2 walkers for cleaning the shitty pebbled climb.
that was a tough ride, with little reward.......IT WAS FLIPPING ACE!!
Ride 156
22 miles
Total 3166
commute 866

Monday, 10 November 2014

the Hair-dryer ride


After the first ride on the fatbike i quickly realised it needed some sort of mud protection as the large tires throw up a huge amount of debris. there are few, if any mudguards suitable. After consulting the guys at www.themudhugger.co.uk   they suggested trying a 29er mudhugger modified to fit using a hair-dryer to mould the plastic into the right shape. It took about half an hour until i was satisfied with the coverage and was easy to do, the only thing left to do was test it
The weather today was horrendous, torrential rain and windy, perfect to test a mudguard! The fat bike excels in the muddy conditions either ploughing through or floating on top of the mud, there were huge puddles, rivers of water and deep, deep mires of thick cloying mud but non of it was being thrown up my back. I was getting drenched though, wearing waterproof coat, shorts and socks but even so the water still finds its way inside of them. It was, i have to say, great fun, once you are wet you can't really get any wetter so splashing through the water trying to find the muddiest trails was the order of the day. I only headed home when my socks got so full of water i could hear a sloshing noise everytime i turned a pedal.
The mudhugger was a complete success, the stripe of mud up the back of my shorts and jacket from thelast ride was missing
Ride 155
7 miles
Total 3144
commute 866

Sunday, 2 November 2014

On One Fatty review



I’ve been intrigued by fat bikes, bikes originally designed to be ridden on snow & sand for a while. They look a lot of fun, they also look as if they would be hard work. They look as if they would be even harder work on normal trails.
I’ve tried a few, the first was a Surly Pugsley in about 2006 then a Salsa Mukluk about three years ago and to be honest it didn’t inspire me to look into getting one myself. I briefly rode the Mukluk on the local trails not on snow or sand though. I’ve tried a Salsa Beargrease, a Genesis Caribou, a Kona Wo and an On One Fatty, but none of them were actually the right size for me, they were fun but not something that jumped out and made me think I had to have one. All of them (apart from the tiny framed carbon feather light Beargrease) seemed heavy and a bit ponderous on the steering front, probably ideal for snow, but we haven’t had snow for 18 months in the NWAlps so I was unsure whether a fat bike was really worth it.
Cut to the present and I’ve been getting more and more fat curious having competed in a few endurance races against riders on them, they do seem a whole lot of fun so when a quite frankly ridiculously cheap option to get a full bike appeared I took the plunge and ordered a 20 inch “fatty” fat bike from On One.
The Fatty is designed by Brant Richards, primarily for a long distance snow race he entered a while ago in Finland but instead of designing purely for snow he made the geometry of the bike much more normal trail friendly, it’s probably got the slackest head angles of all the bikes I’ve ever owned, It came full assembled in the box, all I had to do was turn the bars and it was ready to ride, great job by the team at on one as after ordering the bike I then changed the spec by swapping the steel fork for the carbon fibre one, all without hassle. Even the delivery by Yodel was smooth and without incident!
So, the ride. First impressions are that there is a lot less “self steer” on the bike than some of the others I’ve tried, this is where the front tyre wants to pull you in one direction or the other and needs constant correction. I was able to ride the Fatty no-handed easily without it wandering. It doesn’t ride as heavy as it is (or looks). I was concerned that the 36/22 chainrings would mean I would be on the granny ring pretty much all the time especially off road but surprisingly I stayed on the big ring for all but the steepest/longest ascents. Conditions were pure Autumn, very wet, very muddy, slick leaves and greasy roots, not a snow flake to be seen but the grip from the 4” floater tyres was amazing, where a normal tyre would spin on the slippery surface these just dug in and propelled me forward. There was a lot less “mud shimmy” than normal tyres produce when they seem to loose control and steer where they want to, these monster tyres just plough a furrow and keep on going.
The low stand over is very reassuring (all sizes 16-18-20 have the same stand over) and I expected it to be a slow ponderous bike but I was throwing it down gradients and into turns like it was a hard core hardtail, it actually needs a dropper post to enhance this further. I rode all the usual trails to get a fair comparison with other bikes and it actually surpassed some of them, I can never ride up steps on my other bike, this one was only defeated by the greasiness of the topmost wooden one. It’s not often you can pull a bike from it’s box and feel instantly at home on it with the confidence to let it go down muddy chutes without some tweeking of the set up, all I did was set the seat post to the correct height!
I played with the tyre pressures a little but I might have taken the front a bit too low as it unseated the bead and made it wobbly, it didn’t come off the rim though and just took a bit of pressure to get it to pop back on. The penalty for the huge tyres isn’t the rumble on tarmac or the extra resistance there it’s the fat that they throw up a huge amount of mud, I’m going to need help from Mudhugger to over come this.
After just one ride it’s wrong to say that I’m sold on the idea of fat bikes but first impressions count and I definitely want another date with this Fatty and for the first time in years, probably as an adult I want it to snow this year!
 Ride 154
20 miles
Total 3137
commute 830

the road less travelled

it's nearly November and the temperatures are abnormally high but very breezy. My legs were feeling yesterdays long mtb ride so i just had a short ride around the lanes trying to avoid as much traffic as possible, you now there's not going to be many vehicles when there is grass growing in the centre of the road!
Ride 153
22 miles
Total 3117
commute 794