running

Man Too Hot.

Super Quaich, The Third Round.

Roukenglen Park, 18.2.18.

Albannach and the Unicorn tamer Jim Cameron are the hosts of the last Super Quaich party.

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Roulenglen Park isn’t my best course, but I always look forward to it as my Mum and Dad come and join the ranks of the Two Wheel Army support crew. (also help with Victoria getting the kids out from the trees) This year’s race is a bit later on in the race calendar so no snow this year but there is still a nip in the air.

Clare is racing in the B race today, the crew and I turn up just as the race has begun. Kevin Pugh and Craig Lewis Hamilton are at the font of the race as they come through the trees and into the main support bowl. RGCX has an excellent location for spectating, 95% of the course is watchable from the sign on the tent. (this year the burger van is on hand to feed the faces of all the spectators)

Clare is slogging through lap after lap for the hour’s race. A head full of determination of not getting a DNF on her last Cyclocross race of the season. Her grit and fighting spirit gets her around the course and rolls over the finish line celebrating that she is the last rider home. Well, news for you CC, you didn’t come last, and you beat the course. That’s always the right way to end the race season.

My turn to race approaches, I say my goodbyes, and I am wished good luck as I ride down to the start shoot. I find myself late to the party, squeeze past the bunch and nestle in the right on top of a sand pit. Great, more sand! I thought I had seen enough at Irvine. Chat away to Owen Philipson, then four by four we get moved out the sand and up behind the 20 gridded riders. While chatting away we don’t hear the briefing, and before we know it, the front has burst apart, and the race is on. It takes a moment to hear the Hoot Hoot Hoot of the starting horns, but they are going off, now It’s my turn to race.

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Sprint up the slog of the tarmac hill, suck in lungfuls of oxygen at the top. Navigate the muddy lines and other racers in this condensed area. Come through the trees and out to the open grass, take a quick left and ride along the treeline and then a right turn has you coming back on yourself. The bike soon dips down, taking in the fastest part of the course, a quick descent heading past the spectator bowl for the first time. Drive up the incline with the rear wheel slipping and sliding all the way and turn right and into the woods. A narrow path keeps us all close and fighting for space. Thanks to those pesky B racers they have churned up the grass and made it sticky and slippy slog. I slowly grind my way through the first section, and as I get into the next HTCC old guard Julian passes by, he forces me off track with a close pass, and I’m leaving patches of skin from my leg in the thick bramble bushes.

I like riding the last section of the woods, I always seem to ride this part quite fast, and I gain some place as we exit the woods and ride past the pits. My tyres roll over the timing line for the first time as we race down and around to the first run-up. It’s a short, sharp climb. My feet skid and slide as I run the mud/grassy incline. Dig my feet in a little deeper, and I get to the top of the hill, again taking a few places as I remount the bike and the TWA crew shout me on.

Run the next half of a hill as some riders go past still in the saddle, (why is it called a saddle when its attached to a seat post?) then ride along to the hurdles. Were still bunched up as we turn and dismount for the double magenta barriers. A lot of riders remount and ride along to the new downhill section. Me on the other hand, I keep running until I reach the brow of the hill, back on the bike and freewheel to the bottom of the hill. Some tremendous sweeping switchbacks line you up for the second longer grassy climb. I usually have to dismount and run this hill, but do you know what, I’m going to give it a bash and try to ride this sucker! And I do! I struggle to the top by some zig-zag riding and seeking out grip, also lots of sheer stubbornness helps at this point. The growing crowd also helps with tones of encouragement to all riders tackling the hill.

Back in the saddle (seat) and ride through the mud soup, that takes you into the trees once again. This links you back up with the tarmac start shoot, I have to walk/run the last of the bog as by peddling I don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. Get to the tarmac and back to riding a bike race in a bike race. It’s being to string out and riding the top wood section I can pick a decent line with some free space ahead. I am gaining on a small group just a few seconds out in front. Deep down I know I won’t be able to hold on to the group as this course isn’t my fastest to get around.

Eventually lap after lap I run out of gas, I hear two laps to go as I come round to the timing van. (great commentary by @mikefixerpayne) Which probably means one and a half for me as I’m sure David Duggan will catch me again. I manage to ride the big hill a few more times but slowing every time I complete it. The last two times I manage 3/4 of the way up. I don’t have any lying down in the mud today, always a good race when that happens but I do regret wearing gloves and arm warmers.

Man got too hot! Halfway around I have stop and strip my arm warmers down to my wrists to cool down. Then at the spectator’s bowl, I pull up to remove my gloves and warmers altogether. I hate being too hot! It distracts me, I think about it too much instead of concentrating on racing. Also, I get a bit nauseous if I am too hot. I lose a tone of time to the riders in front of me by pissing about, but at least I feel some much-needed fresh air.

David does catch me again, just as we entered the woods behind the pits. I now know my race will soon be over as David is riding along to get the checkered flag and the win. I have someone in my sights, a Johnston Wheeler is slowing, this spurs my legs on and the speed is up as we come through the last section of woods. At the end of the woods and entry into the pit area, he slips and goes down. I dig in and pass him on the inside. Kept the power going, ride around the bend and into the last corner. A quick glance over my shoulder and I see I have some space on riders at my back, let the bike glide over the line in 64th spot and to complete RGCX and my Cyclocross season.

Huge thanks to all the Unicorn helpers and event organisers, RGCX is always special.
Thanks again to Michael Martin again some incredible pictures and also to Graeme Cross for some classic black and white images.
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Camber Cross

Super Quaich Round 2.

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The car is packed and ready to hit the beach today. Irvine is situated on the West Coast of Scotland, yeah the windy part of the world with multi-weather fronts per day.

We arrive at the carpark with a small dusting of snow covering the grass, the youth riders have just fought through some snowfall during their 15 minutes of racing. The course is open for the B race to have a warm up and see what’s on the menu today.

Sandwiches with camber, cucamber are today’s offering from Walkers Cycling. This is a new course for the Super Quaich race, and it’s a tester before next years National Trophy round. Two sand pits and a multitude of off camber riding, throw in some hills for good measure and you have a tough course served up. Good news is it’s not too soft underfoot due to the fast draining sandy soil.

As the B race gets under way, they race off at a frantic speed on the way to the first sand pit. We watch and learn as the riders bite into the sand(witch) and see what lines are best to avoid/ride. First section is pretty rideable as long as you have some wiggle room, the second one after the downhill descent is rideable, again if you pick the right line! Kevin Pugh is back racing his cross bike, he comes into the sand in third place. Selects the wrong rut,comes to a hault and is off running with sand between his toes and bike held high.

As the B race battle on in the winter sun, we head for sign on and then go sort our race numbers out. Drop the pit bike off and grab a few pictures while making my way back to the warmth of the car as the cold is creeping in.

I mentioned the changeable weather, didn’t I! A snowstorm rolls in as me and G roll away from the car towards the racing tape. It’s brutal, we try and take in a quick lap of the course with the snow stinging your face no matter the direction of travel. My chin is frozen with the bite of the sharp arctic blast. Gary is nearly in tears as he can’t speak and lost all feeling in his pinky fingers. Then we find out the race is being held back for 20 mins.

What! Twenty more minutes riding about in this weather, makes me understand how the athletes in Pyeongchang are dealing with lycra, outdoor sports and cold temperatures. Just as quickly as the snow came on, its soon blow past leaving a dark steel sky, and we soon got shouted forward to the starting area.

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I get a decent spot in the starting bunch, Discard my jacket and trousers but keep the sunglasses. (Ever the optimist) Gary is about five people in front of me, don’t think he will be that close come the end of this race. Countdown begins as we wait for the whistle.

Breeeeep we are on and racing at the new Irvine Beach Park.

We have a good starting area, an extensive flat grassland soon gets the 87 riders up to racing speed and the dash to the front commences without too much fighting. A right turn has you lining up for the first bottleneck, a small incline with a left turn slowed the riders in front down. I stick wide right and take the long road around the corner as the inside riders tiptoe around the bend.

A few more bends are ridden then we come to the first of the sand pits. I’m still on the right-hand side of the course, and glad I stuck with that. Some riders get into a tangle on the left and stop the race on that side dead in its tracks. A few of us on the right manage to sneak past they play in the sandbox.

A short blast uphill then a sharp left at the top takes you on to the first of many camber section for today. We snake our way around the lower slopes of the hill at the far side of the pond. I’m still making decent progress in the race. As we come to the 90° right turn, I switch from riding to running. LRM_EXPORT_20180211_204835.jpg

I say running it’s more jogging and slidding gradually to the bottom of the camber and along the scrim and barrior tape. Without toe studs, I’m like a dog on lino in these parts. Can’t get grip, so I get back on the bike and see if that’s any better. Manage to ride slowly to the uphill run. And from there is more camber and running/slipping until you reach the highest point of the course, turn 180° right and line yourself up for a big drop down and along to sandpit number two.

I practised riding this sandpit once, I fell right over the bars, so I decided to run it every lap, saving the embaresment of me going face first into the sand. Swing off the bike and run the sand holding my bike like a huge handbag. A flying remount and I have managed to take a few places coming through the sand.

I’m in a group of five as we ride past the pits and over the line. I am just going to hang with this group and see if I can last the pace of the A race. Tackle the double hurdles, and now the group ride up to the uphill yeah uphill switchbacks. I haven’t got the gears to ride this, I opt for swinging off and run my way up the hill. Remount and I’m soon riding back down the hill, I lock the rear wheel, this sends me into a skid and right out the tape! Come to a stop and get back in between the tape, now to chase back into the group as they ride past the hurdles and on to another uphill section that looms over head.

As said, I’m optimistic. Good job I kept the sunglasses on, as the afternoon light is soon cast over the course and brightens my mood for a short period in the race. Then the hill run kicks me back to reality, and I’m soon suffering once again.

Us bitches blaze on past the skate park, past the pits on they way to the sand pit. Then back onto the never-ending off-camber section.

A few more times around the course, my little group soon crumbles, a few push on, and a few fall back. I am now riding solo again. Head along to the first sand pit and for the last time, and I see Gary for the first time since the startline. He just comes through the second sand trap and is heading for the finish line. We give each other a shout and cheer, and roughly at the same time that changeable weather kicks back in.

The snowstorm returns, softly at the start but by the time I have reached the high point with the chambers behind me, the wind picks up and the snowflakes increase. I blast down the hill for the last time, run the sand pit and hop back on the bike. A 30mph headwind with snow in the face is greeting me, I try and push the cranks round, and round, slowly I gain some speed to get me out of the worst of the wind.

I’m riding past the pits and the weather is killing me. As I hit the tarmac, I find Andy Ingles on my tail. Another sprint finish is on the cards. Both of us get out the saddle, and the line is coming up fast, Andy is creaking ahead, I am out of gear and spinning at my fastest. He soon pulls away and takes the line and 43rd spot.

44th from 87 riders isn’t to bad a result from me. Last year I would have been down at 60s-70s so an improvement. Imagine if I stopped eating shite and pushed my training. I might actually be top 20-30.

Gary finished in 23rd spot and became my pit bitch for finishing ahead of me, although he done well by getting my pit bike and jacket. But forgot the trousers with the car key. Bloody useless these young ones. LRM_EXPORT_20180211_202629.jpg

That’s Garys Cross season over, and he’s been a natural at the racing game, some excellent results and a lot of experience gained for 18/19 season kicking off at the tail end of the year.

Clare and I have one more race, RGCX is our last bike race. Then we swap tyres for trainers and take on the hill running races. With our first being the Hill Billy Trail Race. Hosted by CX racer Brian Yates.

Thanks to Michael Martin, Bill Kennedy and George Stewart for letting me use the images from the race.

Huge thanks to all the Walkers and their cycling team, thanks to the marshals who braved the cold and wind to let the racing go ahead. This will be a grat National Trouphy Round looking forward to the beach again in October. received_1907882002872509_20171118142324756.jpg

40 Year Old Veteran.

4 February 2018 Cyclocross Race.

The World Champs? Nope, it’s M&G’s Cyclocross Playpark.IMG_20180129_113639.jpeg

Half the Scottish Cyclocross Population are eating Frites & Mayo
in Valkenburg, cheering on the riders at the pinnacle of the Cyclocross Calander, Team Two Wheel Army head for Rolls & Sausage at Strathclyde Park. Today wraps up the Lappiere Scottish Cyclocross Series.

Clare is first rider up in the trio of races that the army span today. Her race has been held back while the commissars and organisers work out some minor course tweaks. We manage to lend our support as Clare rides over the line and onto her 2nd lap. We soon greet her as she grinds up the bridge climb and gets back on with riding the fast wood section of the course. She completed three laps of the 2.8km course and accomplishes her mission and finishes the race in 32nd spot.

I’m next to race. My V40 virginity is going to be ripped away from me as I roll up to the start line for the 40-minute long race.

With two seasons of riding the open race, I have become accustomed to seeing my race nemesis on the start grid. This gives me a starting target but I usually scan ahead at the front riders, assessing who I can pick out as a target, gauging if I’m making improvements in my racing at the end of the race. Rolling up to the V40 I kinda felt like the new guy again. Even though I do know a few faces around me.

As the race brief is going down, the marshall’s radio crackles, a V50 rider has been posted missing. (Maybe the deer has got him!)

After a being held while, we are told to watch out as there might be a rider on the course, and we will be off in the next 30 seconds. (does anyone else hum the countdown theme in there head at this point)

Breeeep we are off, and off to a soggy start. The soft grass is being ripped up with the 97 sets of wheels digging in and driving the riders forward and up to full speed. I am grateful I oppted for glasses now, they keep the worst of the mud out my eyes in the first few frantic seconds. I try to stick wide right as we come down to the carpark, but a couple of ditches slow me down, finally ride off the soft stuff with a left turn, ride behind the Mylaps timing van and onto the foot of the Big Red climb. Power down on the cranks and weave in and out of the slowing riders that are spinning in the top of their cassette. Eventually get to the top of the red ash, but instead of jumping off and running through the quagmire, I continue to slowly pedal through the ever thicking mud. Eventually, I come to my senses and jump off and push the bike towards some solid ground.

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Shoot down towards the Bridge, I can’t see a thing through the dirty glasses as we ride in a bunch towards the run-up. Dismount the bike and time to charge up the side of the bridge wall. My spare shoes don’t have the studs, so at this point, I’m panicking about grip. I manage to use some well-placed boulders to assist with the climb. (An excellent organiser has even marked them out for me with some bright white paint!)

The fast part of the course comes next. The speed increases as we flow along the gravel paths and through the woods at the back of the theme park. The low sun and a pack of riders make it difficult to see the ruts and racing line. Ride over the bridge and down through the soft leaf litter weaving through the trees. A quick flick of the bike through the taped off chicane has you out onto the carpark and breathing in lungfuls of salt and vinegar from the chips at the burger van.

Shoot past the pits chasing a few riders as we head for the timing van and the grass on the far side of the course. Ditch my glasses to the fan club as I slowly ride past as fellow single speeder Scott McKendrick seeks past. We hit a bump in the track, and as we turn 180° to ride back over the bump, there is a traffic jam. I head left and shout at Scott to get his fat arse out the way. (I’ll have to add that to the apology Facebook thread)

The next grass section looks a bit wet and sticky. I line the bike up, dismount and start off running at a pretty fast pace. Two bends in and I am taking places. Three curves in and I’m breathing out my hoop but still taking places, back into the saddle and round the back of timing van again and Big Red is in my sight once again.

Big Red was ridden two more times, and I run the top swamp section each time, learning from my first lap mistake. As I came into the pits to tackle Big Red the fourth time I swap bikes as the brakes on the cross bike have decided to stop working. Using my foot as an anchor coming down to the bridge and through the bomb hole at the trees is the only way to ditch some speed.

My MTB was passed on by Clare, and I was soon riding up the red gravel. Every time I tried to push the power down the chain skipped about and I lose momentum. Gary used the bike at Doonbank for the last lap, and he said the same. A dead cassette is his diagnostics. I struggle on the fourth lap with speed up any hill and gears are all over the place, as I come past the pits on the last lap, I get back on the Cross bike. I would rather have no brakes than no gears. Just as well, the MTB picks up a rear puncture as I come into the carpark before the pits.

Last time up Big Red and I’m struggling. Glad to get to the top as that’s the hard part of the course taken care of. As I come through the woods, I see a funny shape in the mud at the dip in the trees. It’s all flattened and smooth! As I round the bend, I understand why. A Nightingale has fallen. He’s getting back onto his bike and covered with a nice layer of mud.

I push my speed up the small drag that takes you along and over the bridge. Ride down to the woods and remember my brakes are non-existent, take it easy riding the bomb hole, turn left to ride down and through the chicane. I am carrying too much speed as I go through the first of the tapes, I can’t stop! My foots out and dragging on the ground, brake levers are at the max, yet I’m still gliding forward. Then BANG! I soon stop as I hit the tarmac. My rear wheel slipped out and took me down.

I’m on the floor, things are sore. I hear the Nightingale close in, I right my bike and bang the lever level again and try to ride off. My right hand has gone numb with the hit to my elbow, I’m bent over as the Nightingale swoops past. I hear Victoria, my boys and Clare shout me on, I suck it up and chase the rider down. I’m gaining as the line rapidly approaches, before I know it I’m flinging the bike forward like Chris Hoy in a track sprint. I take 37th place by a Vulgar sprint as Jammy described.

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Last on today’s race card is Gary. He will have to suffer an hour of racing the course and probably seven times around the course. They get underway about an hour behind schedule, Gary goes past us in the top half of the field he is off to a good start. The late start sends quite a lot of the crowd home, and the car park is alive with the sound of power washers.

Gary seems to be in the top 15 on lap three and is keeping pace with riders just ahead. The race is being strung out with the fast pace of David Duggan riding at the front. As the light slowly fades me and the boys head to the bridge and cheer Gary on his last accent along the wall. He scoots through the woods knowing he’s not that far from the finishing line. His seventh and last time over the line gives him a 16th place.

Not a bad days racing for the team. All three riders home and bikes intact (except in I have three punctures by the time I get back home, two slow punctures but all three due to thorns)

Thanks to Pamela La’Craig & Pete Bentley for the use of some images. thanks to M&G and EK Cycling Club for hosting today’s race.

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F#©π Off Gary!

Super Quaich 2018.

28.1.18 Razelle Park, Ayr.

Super Quaich, the first batch has been organised by Christopher JC and JP Baxter their band of Ayr Burners. Clare and I have been drawn out in today’s B race. Gary will be racing an hour after us in with the A race chasing the Pros.

It’s a proud moment for me seeing my two teammates roll up to race altogether, making it a six-wheel army. Just have to get the kit sorted and pay the fees to British Cycling again and become Team Two Wheel Army for realsies. (hopefully, kit will be ready for Sunday)

A couple of the kids trundle past racing for the orange and black checkered flag as Gary and I dodge our way over the puddles and through the mud heading to sign on. Brown envelop to match the brown shoes is secured, time to walk the course and let Gary see what he’s signed up for. (No Ice Cream and deck chairs with this visit to Ayr G Dog)

The trio of us wanders through to the start area, ditch the pit bike then ditch the body waste at the other pits, then me and CC head for the growing bunch of riders assembling for the B race. It’s good to see lots familiar faces and join in with the nervous/excited chatter waiting for the call to grid up. The Commissioner and Jammy battle it out in trying to talk over each other. Jammy wins as he has the mic and PA power. Eventually, we get the brief and in 30 seconds we will be racing.

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I secured a spot on the second row, four riders are between me and the start line. (Still, reminisce about being called to the front row of the grid at Dig In The Dock) Clare is just a few rows back and super eager to defeat Rozelle Park in 2018.

Brrrreeeeeep the whistle blows and we are off.

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Clip in and time to power down the centre of the course. Sprinting down the start shoot we send the puddles flying into the air, a rather large puddle is directly in front of me, have to ride through it as I am boxed in with riders each side of me. Bang! My rear tyre takes a beating, it’s got to have punctured with that impact. The bouncing of the rim on the hard surface isn’t a great sign. Though I have luck on my side for now. Seems my tyre is just somewhat soft with the couple of baby farts of air I put into my tube.

We ride off the hardpack onto the grass for the first time, I am still near the front. But due to my limited top end speed on the single speed, I lose a few position in the sprint. Point the bike downhill and ride through swampageddon and between the gap in the hedge. Through the gate, we turn left and are sandwiched between the hedgerows. A long grass/mud hill is the view, I manage to stay on the bike and ride halfway, then it became time to jump off and join in on running to the top.

Still only a fist full of people in front of me as get to the top of the hill and disappear into the woods. Try and calm down now, the first few minutes are always chaos and burning myself out trying to catch the lead riders is a possibility. Another uphill run soon comes into vision, jump off the bike and dig the toes in and run past the pits. Onto some firmer ground which takes us down and round to tackle the triple stair threat. I can see I am closing in on Gary Currie from Ayr Burners. He’s riding about 4th, I am back to my starting position.

Ride back into the woods after riding a nice grassy bend, as I ride up the muddy knoll I have the orange jersey of Currie in my sights. Slip and slide around the curves trying to find some grip. Then a slow slog through the mud to the double barriers. I have a crazy idea of bunny hoping these barriers, they aren’t too high off the dirt making them very tempting to hop over. I bin that stupid idea, and I stick to getting off the bike and running over them. As I turn for the timing van and finish line, I catch Gary and now surf his rear wheel.

In doing so, I earn a face full mud. I had just discarded my glasses to HTCC massive at the hurdles so I couldn’t see a bloody thing. I pop out from Gary’s wheel and ride beside him, blinking out the mud and grit as we cross the line. I have the inside track into the approaching left bend so move up a place as we race under the trees on the fastest section of the course.

I’m third place as we come to the first corner and back down to the swampland. Third bloody place! What’s happening here, I think to myself. I ride through the hedge and try to ride as much of hedgerow slope as I can. (I know Gary runs this part of the course so I try and gain a bit of ground by riding) It’s not long before I’m off and running and I didn’t gain much distacne on the Currie.

As we ride past the pits, Gary’s getting a lot of encouragement from his teammates (Rabbie Burners). “Come On Garrrrry” “Keep Chasing Gary” “Come On Gary“. Sorry to the young readers and spectators, but I blurt out “Fuck Of Gary” as he’s stuck to me like smelly fart and can’t escape from him.

As we ride this year’s new addition, a small section of singletrack, with a dash of deep puddles, rider number two is struggling with his gears. We overtake him as we hit the mud soup. Me and my shadow are now in second and third place as we race towards the hurdles.

What’s happened to me, 2nd place! It’s only lap two and still have 45 minutes of racing to go. Time to put the podium dreams to the back of my mind.

The shadow is still tracking me, I seem to distance him on the second half of the course but on the first half, he keeps on pulling me back. With his presence, I start to crumble under the pressure. Mistakes are creeping in and these result in some stupid falls making be lose valuble time. Number four rider soon joins us in the battle for 2nd place. He takes full advantage of us two scrapping it out and before we know it he is pulling into the second spot and getting a gap on us.

Thoughts return to the battle at hand, fight Currie off! If I can get to the last lap and Gary is just ahead of me I know, there is a good chance I can take his position as I am riding the last half faster on each lap. We take the bell as we cross the line. I look behind and I have distanced him, now I am actually gaining on the second spot. I’m spurred on to try and make the catch.

On the ride down to Swampageddon for the last time, I make a huge mistake. I am pushing it to the edge trying to give me a chance to catch rider number two. I take a massive fall as I pass a lapped rider. Over cook it on the corner before the descent and my front wheel slips out shipping me off the bike face first onto the grass. Normally when you fall your feet come out your pedals. Not this time. My right foot was stuck, and stuck fast!

Full panic mode sets in, I can feel the shadow closing in on me while I roll about the mud. Eventually, my shoe gets out the death grip just as Gary rides past. I right my bike and run after him like a loonball. I manage to get past once more as we run the hill, but soon as I start to ride the bike, I realise my cleat has been ripped from the sole of my shoe and won’t clip into the pedal. Trying to ride one gear, with one foot clipped in, uphill and through mud, at race pace was an impossible task.

I hear the deep breaths of a rider coming through as we ride under the branches of the trees, It’s not Gary this time it’s a Velo rider coming to take third spot from me. My nemesis is not to far behind him and now I am riding in fifth spot. I conceded my podium dreams with my shoe malfunction and keep riding to try and finish top five. I manage not to lose any more places as I take the flag and finish in fifth place. I came into todays race hoping for a top ten placing and beating my 2017 place of 17th. To get top five today was amazing and my best result in all of my bike racing. If I am right, I gain promotion into the A race now?.

This is what Super Quaich racing is all about, a battle from lap one to the checkered flag. Huge thanks to Gary Currie for the best race I have ever had and putting up with my wide lines and blocking tactics.

The rest of 2WA done well, Clare fought the course for four laps then her chain snapped, so the course won again, 2019 you better watch out as she’s mad and looking for vengeance.

Gary had a slog-fest after the course being turned into chocolate by the B racers destroying the grass. He came home in 32 place, so he was happy with being in the top third of the field.

Huge thanks to Kenny Girvan Photography and Velo Cafe for the use off their amazing images.

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Next up is M&G’s Strathy Park all three of us racing again.IMG_20180129_113639.jpeg

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Riding The Fat Tyres.

MTB Days.

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A break in the Scottish Cyclocross season gives me a chance to change up the 33mm Cross tyres for the large 2.1-inch Schwalbes to hit the local snow-covered hills.

I am grateful I decided to keep the triple ring up front on the Dirty Harry MTB. By spinning in the little 22 tooth cog I can ride the 90% of the grassy slopes in the Kilpatrick Hills, this gets me to the playground of singletrack and fire roads.

Gary comes from an MTB riding history and is desperate to take me out and show me his G-string but more worryingly he’s talking about his Mangina! When talk of talking about taking me up the Khyber Pass I really started to worry about being alone in the woods with him. Lucky for me these are just the names of the Strava segments. (Mountain bikers and their weird humour I suppose)

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The trails up in the Kilpatrick Hills have some great singletrack riding amongst the heather strewn hills, but the G-string section is a lot more technical for my standard. A lot of arse crack hanging an inch off the back tyre and rear wheel skids gets me down the switchbacks in one piece, with only the one little tumble in the deep snow. Navigate through the darkness of the Pine Forest and come out to where the trees are being cut down and turned to massive piles of logs by the roadside, we pick our way over dead branches and carpet of needles as we head down to a small pond. We are now at the ass crack of the G-string, a lengthy climb back up to the Loch Humphrey on the logging roads is ahead of us. (Glad again to have the wee 22 upfront)

Next ride out on the fat tyres takes us out along to Mugdock Park, Milngavie. The rain is coming down quite persistent, It’s going to be a somewhat wet ride today. Gary wants to let me loose on his Mangina trail. This is another bike handling level up on my limited bike handling skills. Some very technical riding through the Pine Forest starts us off. The constant up-down, up-down of drainage ditches between the rows of trees have some deep ruts and exposed rocks just waiting to have a fight with my rigid front fork and hardtail MTB. Gary is alright and scoots along on his full suspension bouncy bike like its a freshly laid tarmac road.

The good thing about Mugdock trails is the coffee shop halfway through. Stop off to top up our caffeine levels then swing back into the saddle and ride back out into the sleet. The quick stop didn’t help to defrost our frozen fingers, back on with the wet gloves and try to warm up again as we ride the next section of the Mangina trail.

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A lot of wooden bridge riding comes next, and when we come to a massive fallen tree, the local trail builders have put this to use, they have built a wooden ramp to get you up and over and back riding the trail. Gary rides it without a hitch, me on the other hand, I ride around the long way as I know my skill level and just now it wasn’t going to be put to the test on this obstacle.

We come to the end of the trail, we take the decision to turn around and ride back the way we have come. Today we had planned on getting to the end of the Mugdock trails and then ride over the heather moors and hills to join back in with the Kilpatrick Hills, then towards home. The low lying clouds put an end to these plans. We would be riding up into the clouds as we made our way home. It could become a bit of a hazard as we don’t have any GPS equipment with us apart from our smartphones. They can be temperamental with the weather and not the best equipment to pick up a strong signal and aid with navigating the deer trails to get us in the right direction of home. The safe option was to turn around.

Riding back along the trails gave me a little bit more practice and helped build more confidence in my bike handling abilities, but I’m a long way off being comfortable and taking drop-offs and jumps just yet. The more I get out and ride these things the better and more natural It will become on the bike. Hopefully, some of the skills I learn will help during some cross races as well. Transferable bike skills, we should all have them.

Mountain Bikes Belong in the Hills, not the shopping run to Aldi.

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Northern Soul.

Scottish Championships Knockburn Loch. 3.12.17

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Beep beep beep beep, the noise of the alarm at 6am gets me up and out from the comfort of a warm bed. Drag the poor dog out into the cold, and I wake up to the morning of the Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

The early alarm is for me to get some food made then load the bikes onto the car, double check I have packed everything before I go and pick DNF Dougan up at 8am. We have just short of a three hour drive up Aberdeenshire and another new venue for me this year of Knockburn Loch.

Break some crusts of cow shite as I roll the car over the field and into a cow pat free zone in the already busy Knockburn Loch Outdoor Sports Center and it’s just clicked past 11 am. One of the earliest times I have been at the races. The regular routine is to tumble out the car, get my numbers on and then race. With this one, the long drive I wanted to get here and get blood to my legs by having a scout of the course and see a bit of racing.

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The start of the week brought some snowfall to the course, turning it into a white wonderland. A rapid defrost midweek took it right back to a standard green and brown tone just in time for race day. Now the course I have in mind is going to be a mud fest with the quick thaw. I am wrong as its actually holding out really well as I take in the V50, Women and Junior race. The ground is still hard under the top inch of grass so the mud fest might not be on the cards after all.

The battle to be crowned Scottish V40 Champion has just kicked off and I now have just over an hour to get my numbers pinned on and sort myself out, then get to the start line with a little detour of a few laps of the grass velodrome.

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Sixty-nine riders line up for the Scottish Open Cyclocross Championships, while the top twenty riders or so get gridded the cold wind picks up, and I am eager to get going and get a bit of heat into my bones. After a long hold, the whistle finally blasts, and the race begins. We are off to a flyer as we batter along the grass and sprint down the start shoot. From walking the course I planned to keep left of the course, I manage to execute my plan, and this gives me a good line to shoot up the small incline and then hustle along the soft ground making our way to the woods.

Still riding on the left of the course as we narrow through the entry gate into the woods. Davie Hamill is just in front of me and has the same idea in mind. Both of us dismount and get running when the speed slows, and the bottleneck grows. I gain a few places while pushing the bike, but a lousy remount kills my momentum, and the positions are soon lost. The wood section has a great flow to it, your eyes have to be peeled though as there are plenty of roots waiting to knock you to the ground. (Gary found this out later on in the race)

A fast pedal past the pits after negotiating the first slippery little hill takes you over the bridge and around to the back of the Loch. This brings you to the highest and hardest part of the course. On the first part of the climb, my bike is making some spectacular crunching and grinding noises. My freehub will need a wee looking at, it’s not engaging when I put some power through the pedals, making it skip just like last year at Bute. I lose a heap load of places while I nurse the bike up to the top. The climb isn’t over as I get to the top, we hang a right, and now a slippy grass incline is on the menu.

I use a bit of advice before the start of my race, I got told to get off and run the short muddy downhill section, and then keep running when the gradient turns uphill again. The bike stays on my shoulder as I drop down between the gorse bushes, then keep on trudging to the top of the never-ending hill. As I crest the summit of Knockburn Everest, a magnificent sight comes into my eyes. A 200 meter decent, and is a joy to behold.

It is also a joy to ride, but the mud flicking into one’s eyes isn’t so helpful with where you are pointing the front wheel as you rattle down the hill. Ride around the Loch and back over the bridge passing the busy pits. Now comes the fans favourite. The sand trap! Ride up and over a red gravel hill, try to keep the speed up and power through the sand/gravel, hoping I don’t come off and make a fool of myself in the cat litter box. Manage to get to the end of the pit without incident and ride out into the finishing field.

Ride past the finishing line and with George Stewart’s advice being spot on about the hill climb, I decide to take him up on his other words of wisdom. He told me that the S bends behind the timing van are cut up and slightly slippy under the tyre. Again that the best option is to get off and run them. Roll down the first hill the swing off and get my running legs going. Back on the bike on the last turn and ride down the long grassy decent, back to the left of the course as I ride the hill up and along into the woods once again.

The woods were a joy to ride with a bit of space in front of me as the race spread out as the laps grew. The hill climb became harder and longer with each passing lap. The 200 meter decent never changed with every lap. That was always a blast to ride down, but I know a few people didn’t enjoy it as they shipped their chain as the battered down at high speed. The cat litter tray I managed to ride every lap except for the final time, where I ground to a halt and dropped down like a dead fly. (But thankfully most of the spectators and cameras had moved around to the finishing field) The S bends I enjoyed every lap, as I kept it simple and didn’t even to entertain the thought of trying to ride them, a 99% chance that I would fail and end up in a tangled mess at the bottom of a hill, with running them it gave me a chance to gain a lot of time on riders ahead of my front wheel.

I get lapped once while I am plodding through the course and as always I am in awe of how fast the top riders can get through a lap. My bike holds out for the full race, and the weird crunching noise doesn’t return in my 6 laps of Knockburn Loch which is a huge relief. I take the finishing flag after 1hr 6mins of riding and finishing 47th place. The other two-wheel-army rider Gazza came in 35th in his first champs with is an excellent result for the novice rider.

Huge, huge thanks to Gordon Watt and his merry band of Deesiders that bring a heap of Northen Soul to Cyclocross racing in Scotland.

Huge congratulations to all the Scottish Champions and to every rider who rolls over the start line week in week out. All results are here.

All the best over in Mull with round 6 of the Lapierre Scottish Cyclocross Series and also the Santa Cross Champions on Sunday.

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Riding The Dream At Plean.

Plean Country Park. 26.11.17

I have wanted to write this blog for a while. A blog about a race where I turn up, finish without any incident or mechanicals then I end the hour within the top 30 riders. Well, I finally get to tell you about it.

Plean is a new course for me, I have seen the footage on YouTube, and every one of them has snow and mud involved. Today is no different. A small covering of snow has dusted the car park, and it’s a little thicker as I wander through the woods on the way to pick up my race numbers.

The course from what I have been told has been shortened due to heavy ice on one part deeming it a bit of a hazard. From the practice lap and dropping the pit bike off, I get a feel for the course and that feeling is slippy. I am confident that the soft grass and fast decents combo will be taking a few people down if it’s ridden too fast. So leaving out another hazard for us to contend with was the right call by the organisers, (Stirling Bike Club)

Head to the start line and strip off the manky waterproofs and prepare to race. Look around, there is a small number of riders at the line in today’s race. I think, even if I come dead last I will still have one of my best placings in the senior open race. I just hope the bikes hold together and no DNFs today.

Some good news for the skinny guys, we aren’t being held for too long at the start line, meaning they won’t be shivering in the cold for too long. That’s the bonus of my bigger belly, extra winter heat! The whistle blasts as soon as the griding has been sorted and the fast boys power away.

It seems I am going backwards, I run out of gear on the start and lose distance on the bunch as we descend down to the first turn. A right corner takes us up through a thick carpet of leaf litter with the bare skeletal branches keeping us in the shade overhead.

On the climb is where I claw back a few seconds, manage to get back onto the wheels of the guys in front making me feel I am back into the race. Speed along the snow, past the pits and now it’s time to pick a good line through the spacious but very soft ground taking you to the first of two fast grass downhills.

I keep right as we shoot down the hill, bang on the brakes to take the inside of the corner and away from the soft ground on the right. Rise out the seat and climb up the hill to repeat the same move over again. Keep to the right of the grass, to try and bang off the mud build up on the bumps. Brakes on and ride the tight inside line. This time two barriers have to be negotiated before I ride uphill once more. None of this bunny hopping malarkey from me. So off the bike and run over the two small barriers, then back on to a grind up the hill.

The next descent was a bit sketchy, multiple lines to choose from but they all seemed to try and spit you out of the course, or worse down into the small burn as it narrowed taking you around a fast right-hand berm. Blast through a muddy sinkhole, then time to shoot down through the woods on a loose gravel path. At the end of the gravel, I dismount and slog up the muddy run-up. The encouragement never faltered from this marshalling point and spurs you on to the top of the deepening mud.

Get back on the peddles and swing around the condemned building in the park, and past the timing van. Time to suck in some much-needed air and not let the Stirling rider get too far ahead, as we ride down to the foot of the first climb up to the pit area.

Managed to keep on the guy’s wheel, then overtake as I passed my pit bike. A lousy line and some colourful language escaped from my mouth that shocks the English HTCC spectators as we battle through the mud. My wallowing in the mire allows him to sneak past once again. I am on his wheel for the remainder of the lap, Stirling rider receives great encouragement from his bike club as we both run the mud up to the tarmac.

I take the chance and overtake as we ride the first climb, I push on a bit harder and manage to gap him as we journey through the mud, I control my race line this time, which in turn controls my corrupt language. On the drop down I stick to the lumps to try to clear the mud on the grass decent.

I hike through the mucky runup, and as I pass the marshall and sporting a smug smile, I ask where his rider is now after gaining a bit of distance on the chasing Stirling rider. Just go to hope it doesn’t come back and bit me later on in the race. Go past the finish line for another lap and get shown the 9 laps to go. Whit!! Nine laps. I am not feeling so smug now.

I feel I can’t manage another 9 laps at the moment but settle in and time to take each lap as it comes. It’s a short course today, so it’s not long before the leaders come past. Then they do so another twice, so my nine-lap fear turned into seven laps slog. All in I complete ten laps within the hour.

I rolled over the line covered in mud and boogies in 24th position, which sounds good and gives my Statage ranking a tremendous boost, but it was only out 30 riders so when you say it like that it doesn’t seem that impressive.

Gary lapped me on the second last lap, he completed 11 laps while the winners have done 13. He rolls over the line in another impressive 17th place.

Plean you were a dream. Let’s see if I can make it the same for next week at Knockburn Loch and the Scottish Cyclocross Championships.

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Thanks to Karly Millar, Falk Meier for the use of the images in the blog post.

One Century, One Gear

Ride To The Sun.

17th June 2017, Carlisle.

Ride to the Sun had interested me for a while, so when Clare messaged me about going to this year’s I jumped at it. With a chance to ride a Virgin (train) for £8.50, I was even more eager.

Meet up with Clare at Central Station, she is using her powers of persuasion and negotiating to get our bikes loaded onto the train (apparently have to book your bikes on board).  We get offered the next train with the bikes being stored in the cargo hold, so at least we will get down to the event.  We are told to wait and see if the two passengers who are booked on to our original train turn up, if not, then we get their spots.  Kill a bit of time chatting to the staff, telling them why there are so many bikes going to Carlisle.  They think were mental and wish us well in the final minutes of the cut-off time for bike passengers, soon we are told to get ready to board as we are getting the spots as the other bikes don’t turn up on time.  It’s great to be getting out of Glasgow on time.

Time to sit back and enjoy the train ride down to Carlisle.  Just little over an hour later we pull into a sunny Carlisle.  Grab the bikes, and get our bearings, time to navigate to the shadow of Carlisle Castle at Bitts Park.

 

Clare has arranged to meet a few people from a meetup group she is a member of, one girl turns up.  Before we set off, I have to change her front inner tube, that turned into an hour of changing tubes and trying to locate the monster that is eating holes in them.  Find a huge crack/hole in her rim and think her ride is over before it has even begun.  One of the organisers comes to the rescue with a track pump and also hands over another inner tube (3rd now).  He also donates a five-pound note to her rim to block the hole and hey presto it works.

An hour later than intended, the clock passes 8 pm.  Clare is armed with the directions, and we point our front tyres north and set off to ride to the Sun, Edinburgh here we come.

We had planned to head off with a group, to cut down on the chance of us getting lost but due to leaving later we were in a bit of a rush just to get moving.  The new plan was just to get out on the road and hopefully, we pick people up, or when people pass we can tag onto the back of them.  We manage to get onto the right road, a few fast riders ride past wishing us luck, especially me on the single speed.  We look around, and the Irish girl has been dropped, just Clare and me now.  Soon we roll into and through Longtown, This is where things fuck up!

We intended to stop and look at the directions,  if we did then we would have noticed the mistake we were about to make!  In our excitement of being out riding, we have a brain fart, we follow the road right and continue on the A7 heading to Edinburgh thinking this is the right way.  Wrong!

We are riding at a decent pace and the miles to the border are tumbling down.  Stop off for a quick selfie at the Welcome to Scotland sign.  The mood is high as we as we cross the border into Scotland.  Deep down I am feeling something is not right, in my mind, I am thinking this road is far too quiet of cyclists.  There is meant to be over 1000 people riding to the sun, but on this road, there seems to be only two!  We ride into the village of Langholm, and this is where I ask the question.  “Do you think we have fucked up and went the wrong way?” A look at the directions and it’s a huge YES ya pair of tits!

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We have two options now! Ride all the way back to Longtown, then take the road for Gretna Green, like we were meant to.  Or shall we ride the B7068 road, taking us across into Lockerbie and from there we can get back onto the correct roads.  B7068 wins, Lockerbie here we come!

Thankfully the road doesn’t have too many steep inclines, but there are enough rolling hills to get pissed off with.  Darkness is also coming, and with this, it brings sleepy yawns and heavy eyelids.  After a few hours, we manage to crest the last hill and see one of the greatest sights so far.  Street lights of Lockerbie!  We let out a few yelps of delight as we feel part of the event now, but it’s also good to be into some sort of civilisation again.  A huge boost to the moral as we ride through the town and get on the B7076  and head north to Moffat and keep our date with the chippy.

A long and slow 17 miles later we hit Moffat.  Get to the chippy, it’s good to see some other folks on bikes outside, think we are the last ones to arrive.   The other riders pull away as we sit down to the last of the fish and chips, we are lone cyclists once again.  I am suffering big time, my head is pounding, obviously not drinking enough.  Also, I feel like shit, the consumption of a gel a while back doesn’t sit well in my empty stomach (might have been out of date?)  With the feeling that I was going to puke at any minute, I don’t eat any of the last supper.  By not eating it didn’t help me refuel for the remaining 55 miles to go.

Moffat from Carlisle is looked at the halfway point of the event, roughly 45 miles.  It’s also one of the last places for refuelling this late at night.  My Garmin was showing 60 miles covered, so we had ridden a massive detour to this chippy date.  Water bottles get refilled, and now it’s time to roll out and tackle the seven-mile climb up the Devils Beef Tub. (best road name ever)

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As we ride up, up and up, our moral goes down, down and down.  I pull over and stop for Clare to catch up, her lights blinding me as she creeps ever closer. One look at each other and we can tell we are both finished with this cycle!

This is not enjoyable anymore, it never was going to be super fun, but this is a struggle. We are alone on the high pass, in the middle of the night and the temperature is dropping as the minute’s tick by.  We have over nine miles to get to the Cyclorave at the Crook Inn, Tweedsmuir.  This is our next chance to eat if banana man is still hanging around dishing out the yellow fruit.  Can we make it?  We discuss what to do, the topic that Clare could get our emergency driver Jas to come and rescue us from our looming nightmare.  At one in the morning halfway up a hill, this is the best idea of 2017.  The SOS call is placed and we decide that a two mile ride back down the hill to Moffat is the best option as A. It’s downhill and B. it’s not that far off the motorway for Jas to come and get us.

We find a bus shelter to get us out cold, some locals head home from the pub and ask why the funk are cyclist waiting for a bus at this time in the morning  “you’re in for a long wait” they shout and laugh as the stagger up the main street.  Youtube and Facebook keep us entertained for a while as we have used up all our chat in our 65 miles cycle.  Jas pulls up after an hour, we load the bikes onto the car and seek the warmth and comfort of the car. (first time I have ever looked forward to seeing a BMW driver)

Was it the right decision to quit, YIP it sure was.  I had the onset of the Bonk and to think I would make the ride to Edinburgh on a few gels that I had left in my pocket was a joke.  Also, I was freezing.  I only had a lightweight jacket and an even lighter gilet to keep me warm.  This set up wasn’t even enough to keep me warm going up half the Beef Tub never mind descending from it.

A huge learning curve for next year.  Learn to follow directions correctly and not just blast up the road.  Ride with a bunch as you can share the riding on the front but more importantly enjoy chatting with folk, this should take the mind of the grind.  Take my saddle bag with a better jacket packed and pack a lot better food options, rather than out of date gels.  Last of all is to book the bike onto the train and don’t gamble on getting it at aboard the train at the platform.

Carlisle we shall see you in 2018.

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Rise Of The Machine. 

Could Parts of Strava die?

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With most manufacturers producing e-bikes, I must presume the popularity of them is on the rise.  With the growing market are your hard earned Strava King Of The Mountain (KOM) and segment times in jeopardy?

Lately, I just lost (KOM).  A long held gravel climb, up to the local reservoir.  The rider took it by forty-six seconds.  The loss got me thinking!

Forty-six, how did he manage forty-six? Bet he was aided by battery power! (I don’t really think he did by the way).  I have just been beaten by a faster rider. The thought didn’t leave my head though. It got me wondering, with the e-bikes out on the trails and roads will there be faster time being posted?

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of blood sweat and gears in claiming a KOM or posting a fast time on Strava.

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With a little Google search, I saw that e-bikes from one company can power you for 80 miles on one charge and up to speeds of 25 kph. So with fresh legs and a little assistance, riding up the slopes might bring you bag load of KOMs after a day of riding. On the flat maybe the extra weight of the battery pack might slow you down in the sprint race, but I’m sure a top ten could be on the cards when you switch on the power of lithium

I don’t actually chase the KOM anymore, but I still use Strava as a tool for logging my rides/races and like to see my feeble annual mileage on the bike. For some King’s out there, their crowns and Kingdom’s could be overpowered by electricity very soon!

A power struggle might take grip soon. Instead of 250 watt motor, like now. Things could get juiced up in the battle to retain the top of the leaderboards 300-400 watt, higher? Then it doesn’t become a cycling app anymore, as with that power your talking mopheads.  I’m not by any means saying riding an e-bike and logging your ride shouldn’t be done, but If you did take a segment KOM, then I think it should be flagged and reported keeping Kingdom’s intact.

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I am sure some sly Strava hunters out there will be taking crowns by electronic technology, getting one up on their mate. But come on guys, give Joe Blogs a chance to claim a piece of Strava for themselves.

Any thoughts post them below.

Mantra Mornings.

Dusting off my Mountain Bike.

Nine years soon to be ten, the bank of Mum and Dad paid for a half decent bike for my 30th birthday.  Ten years on I shall be withdrawing again to purchase a shed to keep all my bikes in (I know how to spend their money).  Having a bike let me escape into the woods and trails around Darnley Dams (it’s a park now, Dams to Darnley County Park).

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I eventually went further to explore offroad tracks.  First was a short cycle over to Pollok Park.  Trying out my skills on their little colour code trails.  Green was super easy, Blue pretty easy.  The Red had a couple of good bits, but after a few loops, it became easy and within half an hour you were done messing about in the woods.  I needed more!

Carren Valley became my next playground for the bike,  I loved the last section of jumps, flight path I think it was called.  Eventually found myself driving to Glentress a few times a week and riding Spooky Wood trail most of the day (the old hub in the forest with its huge slices of cake and great coffee, made it hard to get back on the bike once you descend the full trail).

Recently I have just got my bike back after foolishly rehoming it to a friend.  Glad to get it back and it shall be staying with me now.  It’s a burnt Orange Saracen Mantra 2.  It weighs more than my car, but with plenty of gears, this should help ease the pain of the heavy frame and fat tyres.

If you have read the blog, you will know I race Cyclocross.  For training rides, I head up to the Kilpatrick Hills.  My cross bikes are both singlespeed; this is brutal on my legs going up the hundreds of meters of grass and muddy hills on recent rides.  I decided to dust of the Mantra and take to the hills to see how the MTB compares to riding the same loops on a cross bike.

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I don’t know if it was my lack of bike riding recently or the extra weight and tyre width, but as I climbed the road leading to the hills I was breathing from places I shouldn’t have been breathing from!  This is me only getting to the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills, the offroad tracks up to Jaw reservoir was hard going.  Harder than the cross bike when it had gears.  There are some great trails for a cross bike around the top the hills, so with some suspension on the front, this ride should be even better.

It was, hitting rocky drops not think about, letting the bike ride the ruts and relaxing in the bike as I went was refreshing.  The wider tyres were excellent for riding over the boggy stuff.  I would normally get off and get my socks wet while carrying the bike over the boggy stuff as it normally grinds to a halt with the CX tyres.  The triple rings at the front came in very handy when things went skywards.  Rather than run/walk the hills with the cross bike on my shoulder I worked my way down the gears until spinning was not winning and I was faster walking.

The best bits came as I got to Greenside Reservoir, there is steep and rocky track dropping you from the brow of the hill down to the banks of the reservoir.  I used to have to jump off and pick my bike up and walk my way down, as a puncture on the jagged rock edges was guaranteed.  Not today though!  Arse hanging off the back of the saddle, I ride the rocks to the bottom.  Next thing to put a huge smile on your face was a great gravel road, power onto the pedals and get the speed up, I am blasting back down to the main road then down to the house.

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 Can’t wait to get back out on the heavy bike again as Mountain Bikes are GREAT!