Saturday, 22 October 2016

a rather special just because...

cyclesguff has made it onto - thanks Kirsti!

In keeping with the misty moody shots. I captured this intrepid fellow earlier today. Climbing through the mist on Cuilt Brae on the way to Stokiemuir is a tough start to anyone's morning.

Stay upright

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Wet Highland Way

My plan was to write a more comprehensive report on this Guffer's recent foray into the wilderness. Alas, I'm still too knackered! Last weekend's trip along the West Highland Way was brutal. Hopefully the pics will make up for the lack of words. 

oh dear, that's coming our way

Loch Lomond makes an appearance

hike a bike

It wasn't all bad

a view to reflect upon 

a familiar view and a final spot of blue on the Sunday
The decision to ride the WHW from North to South (reverse) in 2 days was logical. The reason being that all the riders live close to the official start in would only be a short ride home. The added warmth of a celebratory Whisky in our bellies would only add to the sense of achievement. We could have done with a few more drams to keep warm on the journey. The West coast of Scotland was hit with a formidable weather front on the Saturday and it accompanied us for the ride. I've never ridden in rain that was so persistent and heavy. Trails and paths became rivers, waterproof clothing became wet and the notion of taking up kayaking became more appealing by the minute. Thankfully, the riders sprits were in fine fettle and the weather was far more agreeable on the Sunday.

Stay upright

Monday, 5 September 2016

retail news

Just in from the Vuelta. Cyclists rush to see Scotsman opening his own German discount store.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

how things change

Visitors to gufftowers will be aware that over the past few years my riding has taken a back seat and time spent on the trails has been shared with Salomon Speedcross 3. The local trail running crew 'Blane Runners' are also a pretty keen and capable bunch of riders. The local strava segments pay testament to this. During a Blane Runners outing, there was a little suggestion for two day North - South take on the West Highland Way. Isn't funny how little suggestions end up with people buying new bikes and kit....

The Old Kilpatricks - taken when you could count megapixels on one hand....
One thing that was very obvious (well, at least for me) was the requirement to spend more time in the saddle and build up the bike fitness. Sunday outings have steadily grown in duration, but I'm still looking to build the miles. My Lemond is in bits, so the idea of going out on the road with that bike won't happen anytime soon. Truth be told, I've almost had it with the roads around here. I've seen too many close calls between riders and other road users to make me question why I should bother. And, it is not always the other road users fault. I just wish that the 'all the gear and no idea squads' could learn to ride at a pace and respect the fact that it is not only them on the road. Some of the riding I have witnessed is beyond belief. My old coach would have dished out a severe ticking off and left you in no uncertain terms as to what you did wrong. His primary concern was the safety of the younger riders, building group riding skills and awareness of road craft. If our bunch had strung out, he would sit on the front, slow the pace and let us regroup. If we were causing a tail back, he'd signal, pull up at safe point and let others pass. We also had no issue with changing from 2 abreast to single file and letting others past. Those of use that remember the roads in the eighties will hopefully agree that things were a bit quieter then and road etiquette was something to embrace. 

A quick jump to the nineties, a change from skinnies to knobblies and a common loop was the Old Kilpatricks on the outskirts of Glasgow. I'm sure those from that area will refer to Glasgow as being on the out skirts of West Dumbartonshire. It was a tough pedal - take the cyclepath from Glasgow and head out to Bowling, then string together some underpasses, attempt to avoid the angry farmer and head up a very long and steep rocky ascent. The views from the summit are fantastic and provided a wonderful backdrop for heaving bodies gasping for breath. The quick dash down to Loch Humprey (a name that's only challenged by Loch Drunkie) was a short respite prior to the wonderful ribbon of rocky, rooty singletrack that ran along the edge of Loch. The next section was a mudfest through the forest that awaited the unwary. The fun really started when you pointed the bike back down towards the Clyde and went for it on the grassy descent to Overton House. This descent never failed to raise uncontrollable giggles. I just remember it being so fast. Flowing corners benefited from natural berms and not so kind off camber bends, a good number of exposed sections of rocks and drops finished off by a wide grass chute to the Overton House grounds gate. Bliss!

you call that a stem....
My memory banks were on overload when a fellow Blane Runner posted a cross country loop for 'more miles'. The route would take in Loch Humphrey and that descent. The amount of work carried out by Forestry Commission Scotland took me by surprise. Memorable sections have been stripped of their character, I can understand why with the aim to open access to others. However, I was disappointed and wasn't holding out much hope for the descent. Oh, how wrong I was! Isn't it wonderful how bikes knock age out of the equation and take you back. The giggles returned and I could have been back on my Bontrager Race Lite. 

it's not only the trails that have changed
It's been well over ten years since I've ridden that descent and it's less than 10 miles away! The changes that have been made to open up the access are obviously working, I can't ever recall having to shout ahead to walkers on that descent. The only people I recall seeing where poachers scaling the terrain on their way to enjoying the spoils of Loch Humphrey.

Stay upright

Thursday, 18 August 2016

there's gold in them thar hills

A very light, hoppy session ale with a clean, refreshing character.

Never mind Rio, there's a carnival atmosphere closer to home. I recently found this bottle of Golden joy. I enjoyed a few days in that area earlier in the summer, so it was a surprise seeing it for sale at the Scottish Real Ale Shop near Callander and not closer to where it is brewed.

An Teallach Ale Company's Bealach Na Ba would be a welcome tonic after climbing the Bealach Na Ba. The idea of cold bottle (or two), sitting outside the Applecross Inn as the sun sets and waiting on a wonderful medley of shellfish to share with fellow guffers sets the scene for a trip worth planning.

If you do see it on your travels, it is well worth a try and do raise a glass to all those involved in the Rio Gold Rush

Stay upright, hopefully....

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

it just gets better

Apologies to gufftowers visitors, you may see some familiar views in this post and references to my previous go to bike. The Boardman CX Team has been replaced by a Boardman CXR 9.2. (thru axle flavour) Are there differences? Yes, some good and some bad. The great thing about the CX Team was its ability to cover ground without making much of a fuzz. The CXR certainly has the ability to cover ground, but it makes an absolute racket in the process! The large carbon tubes, especially the squareish section downtube acts like a drum. Small stones bounce off with a satisfying ding, the big stones create an unnerving whack. On a few occasions I've had to stop and check that everything is ok.

The CX Team did begin to make its presence felt in the lower back after an hour or so. I put this down to the box section alloy chainstays and wishbone seatstay. The CXR has similar sections and wishbone arrangement, but the carbon's ability to absorb the bumps does make for a more comfortable and relaxed ride. The CXR also has an incredible ability to transfer what little power I have to whatever surface I'm on, it really does shift. A few other gripes are toe overlap. This came as surprise as the head angle is slightly slacker, I'll have to go back and compare geo charts to see what's behind it. The other gripe is tyre clearance. The CX Team had no issues with WTB Nano 40mm. The CXR is bordering on challenging Hoy's track bike for clearance. I'll have to change the tyres for something smaller, pity as the Nanos on the Hunt 4 Seasons wheels are truly excellent. The comfort and compliance with this set up is going to be difficult to improve upon. The Hunt wheels are still spinning and looking splendid. They've been ridden over surfaces that are more appropriate for an MTB, but they don't complain and just keep doing what they do. I'm really impressed, not only with their durability, weight, ease of setting up tubeless, but for the money there is not much out there to challenge them. They also look excellent on the already very easy on the eye CXR.

Today's route was a true mix of surfaces and the first real test of the CXR. The last ride was pretty scary. There's an infamous road in these parts called the Khyber Pass. I was descending a lumpy, damp and gravel strewn section when the front brake lever came all the way back to the bars (bleeding/set up issue). Not particularity good when you consider the pace and hairpin bend that was getting closer and closer. For those of you that are questioning discs on the road, all I will say is that the power and modulation of the back brake (Shimano BR785) enabled me to stay upright. The Nanos also played their part, they never broke loose. The tree I had chosen to stop my pace never did have the opportunity for a hug, I want to keep it that way. It is not surprising that earlier in today's ride I was a tad ginger on the descents and applying the front brake. It didn't take long for the confidence to return. It was then that I could begin to feel the benefit of the thru axle forks. The front end of the CXR is a joy. Not only does it go where you point it, but if the steering is knocked by the surface you are on, it doesn't become unsettled and start to wander off in another direction with the added plan of sending you over the bars. This was very noticeable on a section of the John Muir Way. There are sections around the Burncrooks Reservoir that are very steep and have hairpin bends doing their best to reduce the gradient. Whoever designed this section obviously had a plan to make you work whether going up or down. The surface has yet to bed in and it does make for an entertaining experience on a stable and quick cross bike.

With the sun out and a favourable tail wind helping you home it does make you take stock of what is on your doorstep. This guffer is pretty bloody lucky. With the West Highland Way, the John Muir Way, Sustran cycle ways and a host of other paths to choose from, the CXR will no doubt become my go to bike. There are a few tweaks to be made that will make it even better, but I'm pretty happy with the initial set up.

Stay upright

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

just because...

This 'just because...' deserves a bit more than a caption. This rig was spotted at the bikers favourite hang out - the Green Whelly Stop, Tyndrum (imagine a friendly, but not so cool highland Ace Cafe that sells some very nice, but over priced whisky and tartan tat). 

The rig was a topic of conversation and a few of the hairy, burly biker brigade were having a good time pointing fingers and laughing out loud. The chicken strips on the bikes rear tyres were considerably less than theirs. I just hope the rider enjoyed the last laugh roasting them on the twisties.

Judging by the zipties and interesting connections to the bike, I came to the conclusion that it was a test rig. I'm maybe being a bit presumptuous and cheeky, but basic materials cradling an old and cheap bike created a sense of a proof of concept prototype - something to learn from, not hugely expensive and could easily be tweaked/junked if something went wrong. What would happen to anyone behind, to the side etc is a different matter!  

I never had the opportunity to speak with the owner of the rig. I'll keep an eye open for a snazzy video of a developed concept on the crowdsourcing platforms. The image of the moto being ridden through Glen Coe, the rider stopping at the ski station, unhooking his doon hill rig and then letting the local team 'feel the burn' is surely worth investing in.

Stay upright

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

luck and unluck

A brief glance in the section titled the things we do will reveal the affection that cyclesguff have for the spring classic Paris Roubaix. Guffers and associates have notched up some 10 appearances at the paris roubaix cyclo since 2008. A bunch of passionate and very well organised enthusiasts Les Amis de Paris Roubaix run the event every two years ensuring that us amateurs get a chance to ride 53km of bone jarring stones in 210km and that the money goes not to ASO who organise a shorter event the day before the pro race but to renovating, rediscovering and rebuilding more secteurs of pave. A neat masochistic/sadistic circle ensures our pain leads to more pain.

In the race luck surely plays such a huge part in winning or losing. You can see how in the right circumstances, riders who’s usual job is just to get on the front and ride for the team have their day in the sun. Magnus Backsted, Yohan Vansummeren and this year Matt Hayman have been able to outwit the pack of chasers who’ve been undone by mistakes, accidents or mechanicals. Other specialists seem to have the cycling gods shine on them more regularly and in recent years none more so than Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara have seen the sun moon and stars align in the shape of victory. At the same time luck shines a cruel fickle light depending on when it reveals itself. It is quite possible to be lucky and lose or to have bad luck and win. This year Cancellara straddled the crown of the pave with his bike and Sagan somehow wheelied on his front wheel to avoid him and carry on racing. Great bike handling, great skill but as Sagan might describe the incident himself it was ‘unluck’. His rhythm was disturbed enough, and on his own he could not bridge the gap so a win eludes him.

In this year's cyclo on 12 June a spill early on was sore but did not end the race though instead scraped an arm, leg, hip and shoulder smarted a bit and the fall put a hole in a rather nice jersey. This guffer narrowly avoided disaster when the rider behind launched himself into a wet corner at the bottom of a hill on the pave and unseating himself slipped into a rather ugly one piece mud suit.

As the examples reveal it is not so much the fact that you will experience the capricious nature of luck in a race of this length but more to do with where it manifests itself.

The last secteur is known as Pave de Hem. 1400m of cobbles that merit as little as 3 stars in the pro parcours but easily catch the unaware, tired and na├»ve. In this instance about a third of the way in a wobble in the saddle department. There isn’t much call for out of the saddle action on the pave so this guffer determined to hold on and tighten the wobble at the end. Not surprisingly under such duress the wobble persisted but minimal fanfare no mighty snap or bang the saddle in question simply fell off. The clamp sheared at the bolt half on half off and the saddle post with the lay back was no more. Equipment can be stressed to destruction at any time, and there can be little complaint since this the fourth time the post has endured such agonies. I am glad to say that the guffer in question was sufficiently energetic enough to be ride the last 5km or so BMX style out of the saddle, through Hem and over the flyover into Roubaix and the velodrome and gather a few respectful glances and bad jokes about sitting down along the way. Unluck no doubt. But unluck with great timing.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Toys out of the SRAM

Apologies for the lack of recent blog content, too much time spent away from the bike. Thankfully, the sun has been out and a new purchase has rekindled the passion for two wheels.

The latest purchase is proof that my 'one bike for all' test almost worked. Time also had to be allocated for a spot of tweaking and personalising the new bike. That allocation of time has resulted in a very frustrating and time consuming experience.

I’ve decided to replace my go to bike – Boardman CX Team with a Boardman CXR 9.2. The price was right - without sacrificing a family holiday! The CX team is up for sale and being someone who wants the new owner to enjoy their purchase and not have to spend time fixing and adjusting, I decided to do the right thing; replace cables, brake pads, deep clean etc etc. The fun really started when I started to change the gear gables on the SRAM Rival Double Tap levers.

Let’s take a moment to think about who the SRAM Rival components/groupset is aimed at. Would I be wrong in suggesting that it is at the lower/mid end of the groupset spectrum? For someone on a budget starting out? As fitness and ability levels improve, they may also start to consider replacing and upgrading components from the same manufacturer to ensure that everything works. That user may also have plans to build skills and knowledge in bicycle maintenance, buy tools for the job and have a sense of achievement in making the bike run smooth and quiet. If that’s the case, SRAM think about your user! Maybe I’m wrong and naive, maybe the market is the bike manufacturers looking to shift units and accessories.

Sometimes, a single speed is the only way to escape

The interface and experience of a product does not start and finish at the immediate touch points. For me, and I'm sure many of us out there, who take pride in maintaining and servicing our bikes. Well thought out placement of fasteners and clear access to mechanical features provide you with a sense of confidence that the team responsible for bringing that product to market have considered us, the market.  In the case of SRAM Rival (I don’t have knowledge of their other gruppos) this is far from the case. I have never had to refer to bike forums to workout how to change a gear cable. I have also never wasted 2 hours of a lovely sunny evening also fitting said gear cable. If I had recently started cycling and fell into the 'user profile' listed above, the experience would result in me never specifying SRAM components or considering bikes with their groupsets. 

Have Shimano closed the patent loop hole to such a degree that the competition are really struggling to improve upon STI component packaging? If this is the case, should we accept that the trade off with combined brake/shifting is the complexity of the actual components and how to maintain it? In short, no.  At one point last night I had an image of a very helpful and understanding bike shop mechanic looking forward to an early escape and heading out into the sun. Just at that point, in walks some chap, his rear mech cable has snapped and he really needs to get the bike fixed asap. Good luck and there goes today’s servicing profits!

I’m wondering what levels of training and product awareness are now in place for bike mechanics? I was recently chatting with a bike industry rep and he had an interesting take on the proliferation of Standards, he prefers Options. I can appreciate the marketing logic behind Options. If I ever have the opportunity to spec a custom bike with Options, where would I start? Note to self: One bike for all rule kicked into the long grass, I am now thinking about a new MTB. Hydro Electrical rear set up, cable front, or go 1 x whatever, 29+ boost rear end with 5" Full Fat hub spacing upfront, frame geo corrected for suspension for when I want to fit electro active bouncy forks that understand the terrain based on previous rides, GPS data and telemetry.....We have now entered the generation of syncing ourselves and bikes to apps. The developments are no doubt exciting and keeping the jockey wheels of the trade lubed. However, I am wondering what the total user experience and journey will be like? How long will that Option remain current before it is made obsolete by more ratios, mm/inches (don't you just love the unit of measurement wonders of the bike trade) and girth? If my recent experience is anything to go by, I sincerely hope that the current company making the e-generation headlines has got their act together.

Stay upright and connected