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