Saturday, 7 July 2018

Time Loop

There's a loop that I often ride if time is not on my side. The terrain and surface varies from blacktop, disused railway lines, parts of the West Highland Way, the John Muir Way, singletrack, forest roads and Ford crossings. 380m of elevation gain in a loop of 26k isn't huge but there are some fairly short, steep ascents to contend with. This route is also a gauge for how dry it is. There's a singletrack section that always has puddles of mud with large stones under the surface patiently waiting to catch the unwary peddler. The other night was different, the incredible dry spell and high temperatures has resulted in scorched trails that have to be ridden to be experienced. Rooster tails of dust have replaced mud splattered bike, bodies and clothing. 

The Bokeh has not been ridden for a few weeks. I've been waiting on new disc pads and the Stache was the go to ride.  Thoughts focusing on changing my mud tyres for something more suitable for bone dry trails are all too common. The problem is limited time, and I'd rather just get out and ride my bike instead of swapping treads. I really should do it soon. The Stache on Minions in these conditions is a drifting, dusty steam roller. It also requires new BB bearings. 

With new pads fitted to the Bokeh. The all too common reviewers buzzwords of feel, modulation and power are back in abundance. If anyone is interested, an upgrade from the original SRAM Force Hydro R pads to Swissstop sintered has been money well spent. 

Stay upright

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Scots Dialect

Shand Cycles have certainly raised the cycling community's awareness of Scots Dialect through the names of their frames. It's great to see them being recognised for their work and quality on bikerumour.  The bikes look even better in the flesh.

Stay upright

Friday, 18 May 2018

Split Personality

55k, 916m ascent

This guffer has made a few comments in the past about sportives and the culture that has grown alongside the rise of the activity. A recent mini escape into the Perthshire Glens provided time once again to reflect upon sportive experiences of the past and the differences to the ultra marathon scene. My other half was running in the GlenLyon Ultra, 31 miles of epic scenery and pain to accompany the strides. BAM do a great job and the atmosphere at the beginning of the event is as refreshing as it is laid back (have a look on their site for a definition of BAM).  Just like cyclists, runners demonstrate the classic symptoms of pre-start nerves:

1.Entrants stand in long queues waiting for a portaloo to become available 
2.The classic last-minute tweaking and faffing with kit is clear to see
3.The overall ambience and atmosphere is a pleasant experience
4.You always hear someone asking if they have enough gels

However, there isn’t the bravado of the ‘all the gear and no idea brigade’ to deal with as you can’t exactly draft and be towed along by the bunch, or by a small number of riders who are willing to put in the effort and do their bit on the front.  Covering in excess of 30 miles of trails, multiple river crossings, ascending and descending scree on shank’s pony is not something to take lightly and this is where the main differences lie. Ultra Runners tend to look out for one another, stories of runners sacrificing their PB to help others, share out kit, food and even provide and listen to advice(!) is very common. 

The level of investment in kit and the all-important ‘van life’ decision is another parallel with cycling, especially the mtb scene. The area surrounding the start looked like a camper van section of a spring classic had been teleported into deepest Perthshire. 

Beep Beep
Pitlochry will no doubt look something similar this weekend as the Etape Caledonia rolls in and out of town. Thankfully, the ultra scene isn’t affected by a small section of society that doesn’t seem to appreciate the investment and interest that sportives create for the immediate and surrounding area – you just can’t please some people…..

The day after my Ultra-support duties, I decided to take the Mason Bokeh over Ben Lawers, down to Bridge of Balgie and then along Glen Lyon and back over towards Kenknock and Killin. Time and energy permitting, there was also the option of following the running route around Loch Lyon – that didn’t happen. 

Ben Lawers Dam
If time was on my side, I would have swapped the 650b set up for the 700c and WTB Nanos. The WTB Rangers were a drag for 80% of the time, but came into their own on a few sections of the brilliant descent towards Bridge of Balgie. The road surface isn’t too bad, there are a few potholes and sections of gravel on the crown of the road to deal with. It has been a while since I spent so long on the roads, but one thing hasn’t changed. Isn’t it interesting how certain drivers can’t wait to get passed cyclists on singletrack roads, but when things point downwards, they don’t make use of passing places to let cyclists past? The number of sheep and lambs on the road provided opportunities to nip past as cars slowed down. This was another string to the Bokeh’s current set up. A quick switch from tarmac to grassy road side and you had the descent to enjoy. 

The ride along Glen Lyon is stunning. Scenery and sky that make you stop and absorb the fact that you are in an area of outstanding beauty. The wind on the other hand was an absolute bugger! 

The first 1km of the climb out of Loch Lyon heading toward Kenknock is steep and unforgiving, other than that, the climb is a pleasant experience. 

The descent is another matter altogether. There are sections completely devoid of tarmac, strewn with potholes and gravel. Choosing a line and braking zones resulted in less time looking at the scenery and more time trying to stay upright. 

River Lochy
Thankfully, the Bokeh was sure footed and just kept wanting to be let off the leash. The 55km route was shared with a few walkers, one trail runner, one cyclist and a Golden Eagle.

If you do happen to be reading this before this weekends Etape Caledonia, enjoy the weather, do your bit on the front and Stay upright

Friday, 11 May 2018

Grande Cretto - Alberto Burri

Image credit Alfio Garozzo

Watching the Giro on Wednesday was astonishing, not due to the riders, but due to footage of the Grande Cretto by Alberto Burri (1915-1995). 

The concrete structure is a memorial to the town of Gibellina, Sicily. Gibellina was flattened in 1968 by an earthquake that measured 6.1 magnitude. Covering 8,000 square metres, the memorial follows the footprint of the original town.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Lens Flare

This post has been sometime in the making. Main factors being available time, a nasty injury and resources to complete the latest bike build. Thankfully, it’s been worth the wait, but I’ll get on to that later....

There’s been a rant before on this blog about SRAM and my recent experience of setting up Force Hydro Brakes hasn’t made me any more enamoured. The simplicity of fitting and maintaining Shimano brakes didn’t prepare me for SRAM. I’ve worked on cars and bikes and am well aware of the hazards with DOT. There was no way I was going to entertain a spillage ruining the stunning finish on my flare orange Mason Bokeh. It was time to set up stall and make sure that everything was in place for any potential spills and leaks. What I wasn’t prepared for was different Torx sizes for the threaded barbs. A T8 to remove old barbs from the hose (had to trim the length) and a T10 for fitting the new one! SRAM, do yourselves a favour, spend less time on the marketing of fancy names for connections and invest more thought in the system.

On the subject of fasteners, one thing that has always troubled me with current bikes and components is the sheer number of fastener types. Where possible, I aim to have my bikes set up with all the main components benefitting from one type and size of fastener. It won't be long until the Torx hardware is removed and replaced with Allen fasteners.

With the workshop already resembling a Jim Dine tool painting, it was time to start assembling the bike. Those of you that have enjoyed fitting internal cables will know all too well that it can be a tricky task. My memory had taken me back to working in the shop on 'day glow' Klein’s with internal cables, oh the joys! I don’t envy frame designers and builders with the task of keeping up with the proliferation of cables, hoses, wires and ‘standards’. Thankfully, Mason’s approach has made the experience easier and a small bag of fixtures and fittings provided evidence of their attention to detail and consideration.

I’ve been singing the praises of Hunt Wheels over the years and the final piece in the build was a pair of 650b Hunt Gravel 4 seasons. I decided to go for tyres that are more suitable to the local conditions than what's specced on the Mason 650b build. WTB's Ranger 2.0 popped on without any issues. There’s plenty of clearance up front, but less so at the back. I’m not expecting any issues, but have applied helitape to keep that lovely paint looking fresh. It really is a wonderful hue of orange, not too dissimilar to my Cannibal Orange LeMond.

I couldn't resist

The first ride covered well-travelled local paths and roads. I was on borrowed time, otherwise the option to travel further afield would have been taken without a second thought. Initial impressions. The 650b set up does encourage you to venture off onto the MTB trails and I was quickly finding out that the set up would benefit from different gearing. The gearing wasn’t detracting from the bike’s capability, it was my lack of fitness.  I’m running a 40T up front and 11-36T at the back. I’ll either go 40 or 42T when time and funds permit.

It's so capable, even stands up on its own

There’s been a considerable amount of virtual and physical space granted to the Bokeh. The reviews pay tribute to the fine features, build quality, handling, adaptability etc, etc. For me, it was pure and simple, the bike made me smile and I thoroughly enjoy being back in the saddle, albeit too briefly.  Inevitably, a test ride does result in a few wee tweaks to the set up, but riding the Bokeh did remind me of my old (missed) 29er SS, in that there was a requirement for a bit of finesse and forward planning (gears, or lack of!). My Trek Stache on the other hand, and not surprisingly, is the antithesis of this approach and just rolls over whatever lays ahead. Add to that the recent fitting of Maxxis Minions and dog walkers could be forgiven in thinking that a moto has been in the woods. To be fair to the Bokeh, this was only experienced on very muddy, rooty singletrack trails. When it was out on the open, gravel, fire and sealed roads, it didn’t display any traits or required input that would make you think that this type of frame and set-up was a victim of attempting to meet too many demands.

I do intend to try the Bokeh with 700c, a pair of Hunt 4 seasons and WTB Nano 40c will provide a base for comparison. However, taking into account the fun of the initial test ride, that post and comparison may be sometime coming…

Stay upright

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Athlete or Genius?

This guffer had a part to play in Graeme Obree's land speed record attempt with the 'beastie'. I'm wondering if Graeme is hatching new plans....