Thursday, 9 February 2017

Destination Clent, a ride with dirt in wearable and edible form

It all started out with a vague plan to ride, Ian and I had ridden on Monday, i had ridden the single speed yesterday and Howard had indulged in many a libation over the weekend and also does that daft "running" sport so non of us were in particularly good shape and the rain that started when we met could have put a literal dampener on things. but I'm proud to say we MTFU and decided to ride to Waseley cafe and assess the situation over a hot drink. 
the trails were pretty grim but nothing we weren't expecting or have experienced in the NWAlps at this time of year before. we made the best of it and giggled our way down some really sketchy muddy trails. Bus stop  in particular is now back to it's slick, greasy best
By the time we reached Waseley the rain had stopped and once again we vowed to carry on, over the summit of Romsley and via a diversion due to road works up to Nimmings cafe (these road closures were to become a feature of this ride) where we indulged in a warm drink. the day seemed to be getting colder and toes and fingers were protesting as we descended off the Clent Hills via a very entertaining seat of the pants trail. then began the ascent of Calcott Hill. never easy in the summer but now a real challenge. Howard received a "Bro fist" for clearing the entire technical climb without dabbing a foot. Ian could clearly be identified as a non mudguard user by wearing most of the trail on himself but he was still grinning.
back now in "civilisation" i was desperate for something warm to eat so in keeping with the dirty theme of the ride we took as many off road routes as possible, including a play in the skate park to Greggs and stuffed a hot sausage roll each into our faces whilst getting funny looks from the locals. feeling like we'd earned that fat fest we then tried to burn it off up the narrow climb of "between the garages" a bar banging bonanza of thick off camber mud, loose bricks and bmx trails in the woods.
what a top ride, awful conditions, it probably took longer than the duration of the ride to clean the bike and myself but I'd not change any of it. top wrk guys, great determination, just imagine how great this route will be in the summer!
ride 12
24 miles
206 miles

Single Speed Shenanigans

After a cuppa with Howard where we discussed the merits and possible stupidity of running a mountain bike with just a single gear ratio i converted my Singular back into what it was designed for and originally was, a single speed bike. i feel this is going to hurt for a while but hopefully get my fitness back quicker than using a geared bike!
ride 11
14 miles
182 miles

testing the Wren Fork at the Forest of Dean

Ian and I drove to the Forest of dean for some quiet trail riding and I was here to try these new forks from on some rougher terrain than we get locally (and hopefully a lot less mud!)
We started from Parkend and rode in on the family trail as a warm up. 
One of my initial concerns about fitting these forks was the weight. Now they are in no way particularly heavy but they are certainly not as light as the carbon rigid fork I was using previously but I'm happy to say the increase didn't seem to make any difference throughout the  whole ride, on the slight gradient of the 3 mile ride in and the much steeper and more technical climbs on the Verderers trail. So first test passed with flying colours.
the second test was how they perform on rough flat and fast rough downhill trails. well, with the inherent stiffness they hold their line well, I found i could turn in to any corner confident that i wasn't going to over shoot, these forks track very well, add this to the grip of that big tyre and even though the conditions were greasy my confidence grew the longer the ride went on that however fast i entered the corner the wheel  and fork was going to respond to my steering imput immediately.
As for downhill on rough trails, well wow! having previously only used a rigid fork my only experience of proper trail riding was one of reaching the limits of the fork. that big fat wheel acts as undamped suspension and once you reach a certain speed it starts to bounce making the bike hard to control causing you to slow the bike down to regain that control. the rigid fork is also very stiff which i always felt through my shoulders and upper back, again causing me to back off the speed. this fork is a complete contrast, with the damping circuit it uses it tames that tyre bounce and even though these forks are set to 110mm (150mm unadjusted) they soaked up everything i threw them at. I was able to go  as fast as i dared, with a bit grin on my face, they absorbed all the trail chatter, the big blown out holes and were unfazed by drop off landings even when my technique let me down and i landed front wheel first on a couple of occasions. i got so confident i even left the ground a couple of times on the final descent!
these forks are a revelation, suddenly my fat bike is now just not a fun bike to pedal around the woods it's now a full on trail bike. I've always resisted suspension as i didn't think the current crop of forks were right for a fat bike, afterall they are just an ordinary MTB fork that has been widened a bit. these Wrensport forks are designed with fat in mind and it really shows, they are going to open up lots of riding possiblities and i can't wait to see what else they can do.
UPDATE: having now added my data to strava I find i have one downhill PR and to climb PRs, may mean nothing but all the previous ones were set on a 29er or a B+ bike
ride 10
14 miles
168 miles

set up ride

the guys at have very kindly appointed me as an ambassador for the very lovely Wren sports fat bike fork. I spent yesterday fitting them to my Henderson and today was a set up ride to check how they feel and do minor adjustments to the compression and rebound circuits to see how they change the fork and set my preferences for local riding.
they are easy to adjust with a shock pump and the rebound lever at the bottom of the right leg. They are a lot stiffer under braking than other "upside down" forks I've owned (Maverick SC32) which is important given the leaverage that fat front wheel produces.
I rode a mix of trails and lanes and even some towpath. the fork took it all in it's stride and i think they are now ready for a test on more gnarlier terrain.
ride 9
19 miles
154 miles

night ride to nowhere

having got a bit stir crazy i thought I'd take the weather window opportunity to get out for a ride, the weather forecast said rain wasn't starting until 10pm. so i started riding at 6:30pm and got 5.5 miles before it started to pour. now i'm not that slow that it took me 3.5 hours to do those miles, clearly the forecast was out and i decided to just ride back home in a grump
ride 8
11 miles
135 miles

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Fork in the road

It's never a chore when you have to make a call into a bike shop but i especially like visiting overspoke cycles in Bewdley as it's right next door to the Wyre forest. and well, it would have been rude not to take a bike and ride a few of the trails there.
Luckily it was very cold. I say luckily because the minus temperatures over night meant that the mud on the trails was frozen enough to make the surface quite hard and ride able, well at least until the thaw set in around lunchtime.
still suffering from a cold it wasn't my most stella performance but it sure was good to be out in the saddle again.
ride 7
10 miles
124 miles

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Enemy within

Picture by Dan Phillips
I am my own worst enemy. My last ride was ok, I had a cold, it was getting better, i thought I was over it. I was not. I tried too hard to keep up with the other guys today and paid the price. the price was a relapse. Now i odn't just have conjestion, blocked sinuses etc, now i have a cough. riding in sub zero temperatures isn't good for your lungs at the best of times and having already got some sort of infection going on was not the sensible thing to do.
I can't help it though, I hate missing out on rides, be it with others or solo. a day without riding is a day wasted is my stupid sides motto, life is too short, there aren't enough opportunities to ride to deliberately miss one is another. my non sensible side always wins out, i feel guilty if i don't ride. my sensible side is weak. i should have been tucked up on the sofa or out for a gentle head clearing walk (walk?? wtf! (stupid side-here)) or even a ride a quarter of the length or at a more sensible pace.
I've lost count the number of times I've mentioned i need to be sensible and utterly failed to follow my own advice, I've even advised other people not to return too soon after illness or injury siting myself as an example of how it can go wrong!
I can resist anything, booze, fags, drugs even cake! (ok, maybe not crisps) but i can't resist riding. currently i feel crap, proper shivery, coughing like an old man with a lifetime of 40 a day cigarette habit and i'm still considering riding to work tomorrow which will potentially fuck up my weekend riding. what an idiot!
my name is rocketdog and i'm a riding addict.
ride 6
20 miles
total 114

Friday, 20 January 2017

hard and soft

wet foggy ride today, decided i needed a reasonable length ride today to blow away some cobwebs and quite a lot of mucus from my sinuses. the snot has now got to that thick unctuous stage where you can get long thick strings of it that makes your head feel amazingly clear after you have ejected it.
the trails have suffered from the recent heavy rain and riding off road is messy and tricky. I've started avoiding many trails as riding them with just destroy them and it'll take longer for them to recover in the string. I'll be sticking to the hard packed routes as much as i can for a while or until the frosts return and firm things up
ride 5
22 miles
total 94

Thursday, 19 January 2017

introducing the Smokestone Henderson

At last some good news, I'm very lucky to have a new fat bike frame to use this year from the top guys at Smokestone Bikes this is their "henderson" frame designed by Graham Foot, the head honcho at Slam69 in Gloucestershire. the frame was designed not to be limited to just snow and sand riding but as a true all rounder. the Forest of Dean is very close to their base and so the geometry and mud clearance reflects the riding there which can entail anything from gently undulating fire roads, way marked public trails to very techy, rooty and occasionally wild boar destroyed natural trails through the woods. 
the frame is also designed around a bluto suspension fork but until funds allow I'm using the carbon forks off my old fat bike. I was a bit concerned that they might make the head angle of the bike a bit too steep but on this maiden ride my fears disappeared as the bike felt just as agile on my local trails as my old bike. it also seems to climb a lot better too without the fairly slack geometry of the old bike which for me is a huge plus.
it usually takes a few rides to dial in the fit of a new bike but i felt right at home almost straight away, a quick adjustment of the seat post height the only change i made.
after saying earlier about the bike not being limited to snow and sand it was slightly ironic that it's first outing involved some snow which remained on top of beacon hill, not much admittedly but myself and the bike loved it!
I was suffering with a heavy cold so this ride was only short, i probably shouldn't have ridden at all but was desperate to get out and try the bike.
so far, i like!
ride 4
7 miles
total 72

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

it's all gone a bit John Wyndham

i pedalled today into Midwich and heard the cuckoos, thankfully they couldn't read my thoughts and all was well if just a little spooky
ride 3
27 miles
total 65