For what seems like the entire year to date I haven’t ridden a mountain bike with gears… this started as the racing that was initially available suited the singlespeed… then I invested a lot more time in it… then I took it everywhere I went and soon it has become pretty much the only bike I ride.
I love its simplicity.. I like the fact its quiet… I love how light it feels and how responsive it is.. and if the truth be known I love the way it looks!
After getting back from France I have been itching to ride another event… I had half considered the Merida event at Selkirk but wasn’t 100% into doing it although was somewhere I hadn’t ridden and had heard good things.. I was just taking a look over the site and saw that on the Saturday they had a sportive.. a non competitive road event for those not in the know, they had the usual distances but then had added an ‘Extreme’ distance of 120 miles.. when anything has a tagline like ‘extreme’ or ‘ultra’ I’ve got to take a look.. so I emailed James at Genesis to see what his thoughts were.. ride the Vapour on the Saturday and then the IO on Sunday in the long 85km off road distance event… he thought a good workout before SITS.. then I thought why take 2 bikes… I could gear IO low and get some slicks then it would be ‘One bike to rule them all’ .. or at least get the job done on both days..
A set of 1” Continental slicks for my IO were sent out to me from Madison and a 15t sprocket..i wanted a 14t but in hindsight it would have meant messing with shortening/lengthening of chains… I was gonna be very undergeared so would have to spin, spin, spin my way through it.
Grace decided to come for the weekend too as there was ample opportunity to catch up on reading and sleep.. we set off Friday night and after driving through some dubious scottish villages with drunks rolling into the streets.. we arrived at the campsite at midnight and again the pop up tent came into its own and I was tucked into the Alpkit sleeping bag within 15 minutes
In the morning I woke to another rainy event… getting a little tired of this bad weather that seems to come with me to every race… but being a road event I aimed to just wrap up and spin the legs for what I thought would take about 8 hours ish.
8am I started and soon got into the mix of riders who I assume were doing the shorter distance or weren’t holding anything back for the long ride… I had to jump wheel to wheel on the flat sections to draft and then ‘pulse’ bursts of what felt like 200rpm at the pedals to keep up.. when the climbs started I slowly pulled my way up and past people.. the riding was very rolling so what I would gain on the climbs I would lose on the descents…
I ended up with a riding partner for the day and unfortunately did not catch his name but we rode until he took the turn home for the 90 mile distance leaving me a final 30 to do on my own.. the day was spent as always debating the pro riding scene and its issues.. bike purchases.. places we had ridden etc.. all in a very pleasant day when the rain stopped and I rolled back through the start/finish a little shy of 8 hours… my knee very achy after a lot of spinning but not so much I would consider not riding the next day… that night I changed back to fat tyres and a 16t at the rear.
Sunday was really the main event for me… 85km of what looked to be good quality mountain biking… on the start there was not another singlespeeder in sight which nowadays surprises me… the start was a little too long on the tarmac and I had to spin like a mad man to keep moving up through the large field… life got easier when the first long climb started as it was of a gradient I could push the gear up and through people going slower… the climb was quite long and I was looking forward to the descent at the top but was only rewarded with some brief gravelly fast section before we descended over a rutted field which was hell on a fully rigid.. I couldn’t let the bike just go as it was too wet and the rigid bike wasn’t tracking the ground well enough to let me brake and gain control.. so it was an initial slow and jarring descent before I could get stuck into the next climb and get some time back.
In contrast to the day before the weather was glorious… I was drinking though my water bottles very quickly and the feed stations were only just close enough together to see me through… the riding on the whole was excellent.. the climb from Innerleithen was brutal and relentless...
The descending in parts was such good fun… a good mix of fast stuff and some very steep techy rooty drop ins… The climbs were going well and I felt nicely strong.. some sections were a push as although the gradient was manageable the ground was so soft under wheels it really dragged and sucked you in..
I had predicted a 6 hour ride but came in 5hrs 20mins roughly… happy that I had felt strong on the climbs but disappointed that in some sections I should have been quicker on descents…think maybe I will experiment going back to a suspension fork and see what the difference is.
Now I have a few days of recovery riding and eating before SITS and some fun in the mud and the dark