Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Almost over and nearly about to start.

So 2012 thats pretty much done with save a few weeks but 2013 is nearly here .. a fresh year .. a new start ... 12 whole months of opportunity !!!!

I got back from Dirty Kanza pretty tired ... I wasn't done with bikes but I was certainly done with rigorous training regimes so I decided to have a few weeks off training and racing .. well that kind of turned into a few months .. I rode when I wanted to, I went trail running .. I even bought a surfboard and am still attempting to learn to surf :)

I weighed up what I wanted from cycling ... tried to put myself back into the mindset you always find yourself in mid race when you just wanna quit and eat cake .. well i was sure I still wanted to eat cake and I was 99% sure I still wanted to race or at least put myself into challenging situations even if that involved a number board or not.

Then the 1% doubt I had was quashed by Salsa.. both UK and US Salsa folk.. showing enough faith in me to set me up with a few new bikes and let me start telling people I was a Salsa sponsored rider ... joining a great group of existing riders who never fail to inspire me.

So then the training started ... I never train when the motivation is not there its so counter productive to force yourself to do anything your heart is not in ... turbo sessions and longer rides were the order of the day and thats where I am now.

Oh yeah those Salsa bikes ... well I can't complain on that front .. I cleaned house of everything I owned prior to these bikes and put in place what I consider 3 bikes that can do absolutely anything .. a quiver with a bike for every occasion, mood, event ...


Warbird, El Mariachi SS and Mukluk .... a bike for any mood that takes me ...

The Warbird is going to see a great winter of long mixed on and off road rides .. not to mention the Pave of Belgium ... getting ready for taking it 'home' to where it belongs .. the gravel roads of the US... 320 miles of them at Trans Iowa.

The EL Mariachi will see a fairly quiet time before being let loose at Hit the North race in February and from then it will be my go to bike for all shorter mountain bike rides and races ... I suspect it will see some bikepacking action too.

Then the Mukluk .. well why not ... you can never not have fun riding a fat bike :)

So I have already sketched out a rough start to 2013 event wise ...

- El and Back, Wales .. a super cool bikepacking event from Stu at Forest Freeride / Bearbones Bikepacking.

- Hit the North, England .. another episode of the excellent cross vs mtb 2 hour race by Jason Miles and friends.

- Whinlatter Challenge, England, .. 30+ miles of climbs of supeb Whinlatter Forest racing.

- Ronde Van Vlanderren, Belgium .. Tour of Flanders sportive ... can you say 'CANCELLARA' !!! :)

- Trans Iowa, US .. this is the flagship event of my 2013 ... 320 miles of grinding gravel :)

A little light on events initially but everyday the list grows and I find myself juggling finances and annual leave ... certainly gonna be a diverse year if nothing else.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Dirty Kanza 200 ... the whole story.

Apologies this has taken so long to put together .. the following is my Dirty Kanza 200 story ..

Indecisive … maybe not the right word but one I could apply to my cycling history … I am never sure which bike I prefer riding or indeed what racing I prefer… so I don’t limit myself to any particular discipline or machine.

At the end of 2011 I was convinced that 2012 would be the year I stayed in the UK with no desire to attend some far flung challenge that would test me physically and usually financially … it wasn’t long however until I was called out on a passing comment on my desire to go and compete in one of the ever growing number of ‘Gravel Grinder’ races in the US … once the words have passed your lips and you have called it then you have to do it… that’s the law.

Gravel grinding is the name adopted to represent the practice of covering large distances travelling on the many gravel roads found within the US … events usually cover anywhere between 100 miles to 320 miles and attracting road and mountain bike riders to race head to head on a fairly level playing field.

With some internet research, facilitated by the excellent XXC Mag news (http://xxcmag.com/news) and the Gravel dedicated blog  ‘Gravel Grinder News’ (http://www.gravelgrindernews.com/), I came across an event hailed as the ultimate gravel grinder… The Dirty Kanza 200 …. My race for 2012 had been found… sorry bank balance.

The first hurdle was to get an entry, easy I thought as with time differences in play I could leisurely apply online over a coffee whilst others were having to get up at 5am to try and get in.  I knew the race last year sold out quickly so I was prepared to get my entry in… I even had time that day to do some base miles in the morning.  Getting home after my ride I logged on a few hours after entries had opened .. ‘Sold Out’ !!!!!!!

The event had sold out in 2 hours !!!! 400 places gone … I was quick to get added to the waiting list and to contact the race organiser, Jim Cummins, to see how likely a ‘wait’ would be converted to an entry … luckily the organisational excellence of this event allowed them to grant every rider that was on the waiting list an entry… I was in.

Training began … in fact before I had my entry it had already began … I stopped cyclo cross racing at the end of December and on New years day I tagged my first road century of the year … which was followed near every weekend with a ride of at least 80 miles every Saturday and more usually over 100 miles.  As I trained I was always conscious of my average speeds and trying to replicate a speed that would see me finish the DK200 in reasonable time.

Training progressed well … in March I was able to complete a near 200 mile ride on a mix of mainly road with some offroad sections in just over 13 hours … the event as a total unknown was difficult to train for so I just aimed to ride as many miles as possible.

Researching the event it was clear that equipment choice was also a key element to having a successful race … not only did the bike have to be set up well for many hours in the saddle but also the durability of the parts was a key issue tyres especially as some racers in previous years had suffered up to 8 flats in this race.. I guess the venue… the Flint hills … was an indicator of the challenge posed to the bikes rubber.

As always I had a pretty clear picture of the bike set up I wanted to race on… cyclo cross geometry… disc brakes… clearance for bigger volume tyres… comfort and durability being key… these desires could only be provided by a small number of companies.  Those companies were approached in a hope that some may extend an offer of help and in most cases they did… a bike was born.

The build centred around a Salsa Vaya frameset, Salsa being one of few companies that have embraced gravel grinding and actually invest time into developing product for it as well as sponsoring events such as the DK200.  The UK supplier of Salsa, Ison Distribution, kindly provided not only the Vaya frameset but also the Halo tyres and wheels to be used too.  Other companies to offer assistance included the saddle manufacturer Brooks who supplied a saddle which even out of the box offered some reassuring levels of comfort to an area I had no desire to abuse on the bike.

Once the bike equipment was resolved then the nutritional side was addressed with help from Bounce Balls and Eat Natural bars … the calorie requirements of century rides every weekend was astronomical.

Close to the event I managed to squeeze in a double century on the Vaya which was a reassuring ride as everything felt just perfect and after 13 hours on the bike I had no untoward aches and pains … everything was set to go.

The day of travel started as usual with the usual gamble at the airport check in desk … will they charge me excess or will I blag it ??? Excess ...  Luckily only £40 which seemed fairly reasonable as the bike bag weighed in a not so lightweight 28kg.

Arriving at the midway point Chicago we filed through another security check and filled in forms stating we hadn’t brought a selection of fruit and veg into the country eventually reaching the luggage collection … easy, collect bag, re check in bag, go catch next flight.
First bag comes through no problem ... go wait for bike at oversize baggage … belt starts… pushchair, pushchair, some kind of ornament.. cardboard box… pushchair… belt stops.  NO BIKE !!! … checked other areas of luggage hall and asked as many people as possible all who were slightly less informed than that last.  Eventually we gave up waiting for it and went to check in our remaining bag and report it missing.

Arrive at Wichita… final destination only to find bike still missing and only a day to find itL
We caught a ride to the town of Emporia, home of the DK200, with a wife of one of the local racers, we were immediately struck by how helpful everyone was… the word had got out my bike was missing and for the next mornings social ride I had already been loaned a bike, a little small but it mean’t I could turn some pedals and loosen my legs.

At this point I had got word back to Pat at ISON distribution in the UK that the Vaya was missing and I guess he just sent a cry for help across all contacts at Salsa in the US as sitting in my motel room the afternoon before the race I get a text to say that Salsa have a bike for me ... a few hours later I am at the High Gear Cyclery in Emporia meeting Bobby from Salsa and he is handing me a prototype Salsa ti gravel bike owned by Ryan Horkey, another Salsa rider … thank you very much !!! a bike I had never ridden but I was back in the game.  After a quick supermarket sweep to replace my missing shoes, hydration pack etc I was fully kitted up and ready to race.

Race day …. The race started at 6am so myself and a friend from Oregon, Tom Letsinger,   rolled out the motel at 5.30am and joined the procession of blinking led lights to downtown Emporia … the entire main street had been closed for the event and the 400 riders due to start had begun to amass organised by projected finishing time banners held by women on roller skates.. Rock and Roll !!!  After a pre race coffee I optimistically jumped up the front and lined up with the 12 hour guys.. after all I was hear to race not ride 

The first 3 miles were neutralised … or as neutral as a pack of nervous riders could be as everyone constantly jostled for the best position in the pack before a right hand turn onto gravel would see this race get underway.
The pace was brisk … well it was bordering on fast .. I had been warned that the start of the event would be fast as people tried to get out the front out of the dust and form some early groups … I wasn’t lied to as this is exactly how it played out and like racing a road race I was always mindful of my position in the group and stayed within the first 20 or so riders so as to be best placed for any eventuality.

As it turns out that eventuality was that everyone in this lead group of 20 or so was so pre occupied with racing that navigation had taken a back seat …. The event route is mostly way marked but this isn’t a given as things move so each rider gets a route card to the next checkpoint of which there are 3 and as you arrive at the checkpoint you get the route card to get you to the next one.
So we arrived as a swiftly moving pack into a t junction then the realisation of the navigational error set in …. We had ridden maybe 2 miles passed the turn off we needed … so now we needed to ride 2 miles back to it …. What once was a fast pace then became insane as the lead group then became the gruppeto with 380 or so riders ahead of us.

Quickly that lead 20 riders had become maybe 10 or 12… the quality of the group was good with 2 previous winners and the winner of the annual Gravel worlds race and we were cutting a path through the riders in front fighting our way back to the front … with still 170 or so miles to race there was no consideration of the effort that was being invested in this chase,  as every minute passed the temperature had started to rise.

50 miles into the race we had finally regained the lead but the pace had just become too much and I decided ... although my hand was being forced by those around me… that to continue riding this quickly would soon see me exploding spectactularly so I eased back and as I watched the front group ride away I found myself on my own.

Mentally this race is very tough … the terrain is undulating you get very little reprise from the effort of racing … the temperature this year was around 30 degrees celcius so for a Brit it was very hot and it is very dry … what can be soul destroying is that you can see the line of riders strung out over miles ahead of you and to look back the same …. This also becomes very disconcerting later in the race when you can’t see riders ahead or behind as the doubts of possible navigational errors creep in.

The salvation from the mental anguish this event can place a rider in is the checkpoints, of which there are 3,  where a rider can have a support team with supplies .. in my case this would be my girlfriend Grace and Tom’s girlfriend Cassie operating out of a motorhome… these checkpoints were a welcome break to take a moment off the bike get some cold fluids and try and eat which in the heat was difficult.

As the race continued I found myself less and less able to force any real effort through the pedals as I was constantly battling to replenish the fluids my body was expelling through every pore on my body and the effort of riding alone on these roads was mentally tiring, it is never good to have a lot of time mid race to contemplate the wisdom of riding these endurance races as invariably the question of sanity arises.

Every now and then I would ride past an unfortunate racer with a flat and customarily offer assistance which unfortunately was mostly not required … fellow Salsa rider Tim Ek I passed on 3 occasions with flats later learning he eventually had to change both tyres due to sidewall cuts… other than these brief encounters the occasional rider or group would catch up but I would find it difficult to settle into a pace other than the one I was riding at so eventually I would be out on my own again… even the iPod wasn’t helping as I never realised how very similar every AC-DC track is.

Not long after the second checkpoint with around 80 miles left to ride I was caught by another rider ... I think I had seen him coming for maybe 10 miles and this time instead of passing we seemed to be riding at a similar pace, Shane from Boulder, Colorado.
Shane was also appreciative of the company and we settled into a similar paced ride each waiting if the other needed a quick stop or was slightly slower on any section as to ride together was a great mental preserver.

My hopes that the temperature would start to fall off in late afternoon never materialised and coming into the final checkpoint with less than 40 miles remaining I was hotter than ever … rolling out saw the first 7 miles of the final section ridden on shaded disused rail path … a real treat after baking for so long we were quickly however back onto gravel and into the sun to cruelly ride past not only the shaded track we had been on several times but also a large lake to watch people enjoying numerous watersports … at this point the idea of riding straight into the motels pool on return to Emporia had started to seem quite reasonable.

A final missed turn 12 miles from the end added another few bonus miles to the days travels and I was thankful that only 2 navigational errors had been made the whole race as I had read of huge errors being made by previous years racers and at that point it would have been difficult to force myself to backtrack any huge distance.

The welcome sight of paved road saw us enter the final few miles of the race as we passed through the centre of the University campus then entered the finish straight … the whole town it seemed had come out to party and cheer the finishing riders over the line. As myself and Shane rolled over the line together we had time for a final knowing handshake in recognition of the tough day on the bike we had just endured and eventually overcome then I was greeted by Grace and local rider Shawn Honea who quickly furnished me with a cold beer.  The bike was returned to Salsa’s finishing line stand and I got to sit on the pavement and reflect the days ride …. First international rider to not only complete the DK200 but also any US gravel grinder hopefully highlighting the challenge of these events and the worth of travelling to race them… a true physical and mental challenge.

The event blew me away on all fronts .. the organisation.. the local people.. the tough challenge of just completing this race.  The drama of losing my bike never seemed to matter as the help I received overcame any obstacle that arose from it.
Huge thank you to especially the following people in no order;

Grace, my long suffering bike widow girlfriend,  for letting me again take up our holidays with crazy races and still having the patience to support me well during the event.

Jim Cummins and the Dirty Kanza crew for such a fantastic event

The kind people of Emporia for making me feel so welcome.. especially Shawn, Rick, Amy and Lynette.

Pat from Ison Distributiion for the bike and parts.

The guys at Salsa in the US for the replacement bike.

Brooks for the saddle I never got to race on but in training proved excellent.

Eat Natural for all the great bars I consumed preparing for this great event.

Bounce Balls for all your product that helped me recover after every crazy training ride.

Matt Brown and the rest of the guys at High Gear Cyclery, Emporia, Kansas for their help in setting me up with what I need to race.

My friends Tom and Cassie from Oregon, Tom raced well to a 2nd place singlespeed finish and Cassie was the means to get Grace to every checkpoint and help to support my race.

Finally and maybe most importantly Rick Perry, this crazy fool convinced me to enter this event and also entered himself … he worked hard to secure sponsors and logistics only to have life and work conspire against him so he himself couldn’t make the trip.

All photographs for this race report kindly supplied by Eric Benjamin, The Adventure Monkey and John Foote ... Ultra race pics .

Friday, 13 July 2012

Euro mooch - Day 7

Last day in mainland Europe ... Finished in what I consider the European home of all things good about cycling ... Belgium.

Started with a drive to Oudenaarde and a chance passing of the BMC concept store ... Complete with a warehouse full of team bikes ... Amazing place.

In Oudenaarde we paid a visit to the museum for the Ronde van vlaandered museum .. Checked out some classic machines from riders who have prospered in one of my favourite races.

A short drive 10km west of the city to the campsite which was conveniently located to allow me to ride both the Oude kwaremont and the koppenberg !! Fantastic few hours on the bike.

Euro Mooch - Day 6

Had planned to make Belgium today but 3 hours of driving was enough .. Only broken up by a drive into Luxembourg City for what was to be a walk around but torrential rain forced an abort to the campsite at Mamer we stopped in on the way south ... Weather is crap so today will be spent doing very little ... Tomorrow Oudenarde and the Tour of Flanders museum :)

Euro Mooch - Day 5

Heading back gently towards the ferry over a few days ... Stopped for the day and night in Colmar, France.

Had hoped to ride again but nothing appealed so a walk into the historic town then a trip to the supermarket to restock :)

Euro Mooch - Day 4

Drove down into Switzerland to Grindelwald ... The town at the foot of the north face of the Eiger !!!! Views were outstanding ... Lay in bed in camper with clear views of the Eigerwand :)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Euro Mooch - Day 3.5

After a walk around Liechtenstein I managed to get out on the bike.. First up a monster road climb with some cool cobbled switchbacks ... 1000m height gain ... Then a road descent racing the cars through tight hair pins with brakes smoking :)
After the descent because of Liechtenstein being so small I rode over a bridge into Switzerland along an embankment then back over a bridge into Liechtenstein and the campsite ... Excellent riding to be had.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Euro Mooch - Day 3

Woke up middle of the night to intense rain on top of the van ... Not optimistic of what the day would bring we were surprised to wake up to a beautiful day and spectacular mountains ... Why have I never been here before .. At moment sitting in town Vaduz after a longish walk. This afternoon bike is coming out and going to follow one of the many marked trails that head up the valley sides.

Euro mooch - Day 2

End of day 1 saw us finish in Luxembourg .. Schlek country :) .. Beautiful place and as it was Grace's birthday we splashed out on schnitzel and beer :)

Day 2 We lleft Luxembourg and went in search of the Tour ... We found the finish in Porrentruy, Switzerland. Found a great spot in the town but the view of the riders was all too brief in comparison to the wait for them to arrive ... You wanna 'watch' the tour then stay at home and put tv on.. You wanna 'see' the tour wait for hours in a small village :) managed to catch a glimpse of Cadel trying to claw back some seconds in the GC ... Tough rider.

We then did some cross country driving to get to the motorway again and ended up in Liechtenstein.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Euro Mooch - Day 1

After much rushing about and van having a new turbo managed to make drive to France yesterday only to arrive at campsite late and be told to go away by a stoner French lady :(

In true rebel fashion we just parked outside campsite and used facilities for free :).

Today already I have ridden the Trouee d'Arenbourg of Paris Roubaix fame ... Crazy tough section of cobbles that did its best to try and snap my steel Vaya.

Now en route to Luxembourg :)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Dirty Kanza 200 ... Completed :)

This is very much a brief update ... So 2 days ago I took on the Dirty Kanza 200 gravel grinder ... 204 miles of Kansas gravel road.

Happy to say that I finished .. 14hrs 20mins.

Slower time than I thought but on reflection I'm very happy I crossed the finishing line ... The event was superb and I'm looking forward to sitting down when I get back to the UK and writing a good race report.

Right now the recovery process is almost complete and as we are now in Colorado and travelling west seems only right to go ride some of the most iconic bike trails in the world :)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Final few days

As always happens the closer I get to an event the less time I have for blogging.

I have managed to squeeze a few good events into the final month or so having positive rides at the Colne valley Mtb challenge and the Selkirk Mtb marathon.

Recent event rides have highlighted the importance of nutrition and managing heat ... Weather is looking cool and dry for Kansas on Saturday which means easier going but far faster conditions.

This race is still a massive unknown but I'm going with the mindset to ride hard and the result at the end of the day is what it is.

Today is a day of packing .. Both bike and clothes then later a drive to Manchester to drop the dogs off and tomorrow we fly out. Hoping Friday will allow a relaxing spin and good opportunity to eat and get ready as Saturday is gonna be crazy !!!

Thanks to all that have wished me luck and let's hope my legs and lungs are fit for purpose :)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Spring ... mostly just riding bikes.

The blog has been a little neglected of late this spring ... not through lack of content as I have been busy just through I guess plain old lack of time to sit down and pour some thoughts onto the internet.

At the moment it seems if I am not riding bikes i'm building bikes .. and even when bikes are built they are needing constant love and attention as the weather is still taking its toll not to mention the miles they are having to cover.

Stand out recent events have been the Whinlatter Challenge, the Ronde van Oost and some just good honest long day rides with friends.

Whinlatter really didn't go to plan for me ... I was ill with a cold, the weather was real hot and I just didn't feel right .. however on the plus side the riding was good .. I had made a fair start and was up in the top 2o steadily making my way up through the field but I felt sick so couldn't eat so just had to survive till the end. I ended up in 26th ... worse than last year but in a field of 350 plus riders I can't feel too bad.

Ronde van Oost , a tribute ride organised by Alan Dorrington to the great Ronde Van Vlanderren road race of Belgium ... this 50 mile low key event is basically a meeting time and a route with a fantastic cake stop toward the end of the ride.
Starting at the Heritage centre in Pendle the route then takes in the quiet lanes and sections of historic cobbles the local area has to offer. As I was staying in south Manchester at Graces parents it seemed a good idea rather than drive the 30 miles to the start to up the mileage and take a ride over. Endurance racing types Dave Powell and Jason Miles were in attendance as well as top photographer Ed Rollason .. we set off in the last group and the pace although variable was comfortable.
There was some fantastic long climbs and some short sharp efforts too ... just before the cake stop a cobbled climb out of Hebden Bridge I struggled to walk up although Dave Powell made it look easy... as the climb topped out the cake started :)

Huge thank you to SportsSunday Photography for the cake stop !!

The final 15 or so miles I rode back to Pendle with a rider from Honister 92 road club, unfortunately I failed to get his name but the Ronde was rounded off with a tea cake and coffee before the ride back to Manchester. Look forward to next years.

Day rides have been a plenty .. I really haven't found many events I want to ride in the run up to Dirty Kanza so have been concentrating on just good days out on the bike.

First started with our recent spell of good weather .. definately worthy of a day off work mid week ... myself and Adam Cooke took the opportunity to go ride a long route in Swaledale .. starting out from the Dales Bike Centre as it offered both route advice and a cafe we soaked up all the best tracks the area had to offer ... long climbs then flowing descents ... Trail centres really do allow a much better appreciation of natural riding... ride a trail centre all groomed and sanitised then try and flow a natural trail with no defined line where you really have to think about what you are doing... was a pleasure to ride this route.

Now we come to this bank holiday....

Good Friday ... again myself and Adam Cooke took the time off the get some good miles in ... after the great weather we were now enduring not so great weather .. we rode a road route to Alston and back ... 130 miles ... low points being drifts of snow and Adam feeling ill after only covering 30miles .. high points being the miles are in the legs and Adam still completing a further 100 miles whilst feeling sick ... legend !!

Saturday ... finally I got to ride the Salsa Vaya .. went out on the local club run so got a decent 50 miles in at least ... mixed it in the faster longer ride .. constantly stretching legs until only 3 riders were left then had to sit up as the previous days ride stiffened up my legs.
The Vaya was a pleasure to ride ... even if I subsequently discovered my cranks weren't spinning freely .. it really is the right tool for the job and i'm very happy to be taking it to Dirty Kanza ..

Sunday .. the mountain bike came out for a local 2 hour loop .. I really like this mountain bike ... I actually might keep this one :)

Today .. an easy spin on the turbo ready for another solid week of training :)

Hoping that the weather forecasts are works of fiction and next weekend will see some better weather as I want to do a VERY long days riding :)

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Cycling is all about the numbers ... HR Zones, Power Readings, Mileage covered, Minutes in intervals ... number, numbers, numbers !!!

Well my important numbers this week are 83 and 16.7.

83, my weight in kilos .... when I started weighing myself at the start of the year I was at a staggering 87kg ... hefty for a cyclist .. i've not been dieting ... i've just been on the bike ALOT more and i'm happy with the current trend of weight loss... by the time Dirty Kanza comes around I should be south of 80kg without any drastic weight loss plan and hanging on to good old fashioned diesel strength .. i'm not the fastest guy but I can hold a speed for a long time :)

16.7, my average speed in mph recorded on Saturdays training ride ... I covered a distance of 83 miles .. the first 50 were hilly with some decent climbs then the remainder were fairly flat .. using the cross bike on the Halo Twin Rail 38c tyres and a good mix of road and gravel. If I can hold that average for another 117 miles on a ride then I will be in good shape for a decent finish at Dirty Kanza.

The weather is now showing good signs that spring is firmly on its way .. winter gear has given way to arm warmers and knee warmers :) .. miles in the sun over the next few months :)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

'Hot' new frameset :)

I don't feel quite ready to unleash this full item yet but all I will say is huge thanks to Pat at Ison Distribution the UK guys for Salsa for supplying a Gravel Eating Monster ...

.. Salsa being a brand I have always loved it is exciting to finally get my hands on one for a big event..

A little taster image ..

Build will be happening this week hopefully ... next weekend hoping to come back with the full low down on the bike build and its maiden voyage :)

Training fit for purpose

The only way to know what its going to be like to ride for 12 hours is to ride for 12 hours.

It had been a while since I had ridden for 12 hours or more ... never on a cross bike as by the very nature of cyclocross most time spent on a cross bike in one sitting is usually an hour so it seemed fitting to head out and just see what happened.

The route was simple ... head out on the Reivers route to Bellingham (just before Kielder Reservoir) .. swing north east and keep riding along the pennine cycleway until I hit Berwick upon Tweed then turn south and ride home .. easy.

The weather was great in that it was dry and sunny .. what wasn't so great was the headwind I had for the first 3 hours all the way to Bellingham .. so strong at times it was blowing the earphones out of my ears !! .. on a side note thank you to VeloBeats for the producing such great riding music :)

The north westerly journey to Berwick was mainly a crosswind which was great ... the route was very 'rolling' ... never ridden this route so had no idea what to expect .. a ton of small hills.. some medium sized one.. mostly lanes but sometimes off road too .. a real mix ... first stop of the day came after 6 hours in Wooler ... quick Co-Op shop stop for more water and an energy drink then back off again.

I reached Berwick after 8 hours ish of riding and was happy to make the turn for home ... only 70 ish miles remained ... I tried initially following the Sustrans Coast and Castle route No.1 but it was pretty convoluted for a man trying to get home so to eat some miles I jumped reluctantly on the A1 .. luckily this far north its not as busy with a decent if small hard shoulder to ride on... 21 miles later just past Alnwick just as it was getting dark I chose to take the coastal route on a quieter road.

Then at Ashington feeling quite tired I suffered a puncture :( A quick change then home via Bedlington, Seaton Delaval, Earson ... back on familar ground the miles went alot quicker ..

Home finally in 12 hours 40 minutes having covered 180 miles ... so I can ride for 12 hours plus .. discovered a few little niggles I need to work out ... another 2 months of training think I will try another one and see how if at all I have improved :)

Fuelling the Fire

In all the time I haver been racing one thing I have yet to master and am notoriously bad for is nutrition ... when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat ...

I have been told a million times the basic principles but never listened ... with this years goal being the Dirty Kanza 200 I wanted to put everything into this race so am paying a little more attention to food for fuel.

With this it was well timed that fellow Brit Dirty Kanza entrant Rick Perry secured us some great sponsors to provide us with the products we need.

First up on the bike nutrition ... riding for 12 hours plus requires variety in what you eat.. energy products alone are great but sometimes you need something more natural and a little less engineered... Eat Natural Products have supplied us with enough bars to support all the training that we plan to achieve between now and June and I will be taking some with me too ... they are great tasting natural bars that offer a welcome break from energy product .. right now my personal favourite is the almond, apricot and yoghurt coated :)
Making sure I get enough calories on the bike is one thing but the importance of recovery has been stressed over and over again so I have adopted a recovery drink and snack straight after any training session .. the drink is a chocolate milk or dedicated recovery product .. the snack is protein rich product called Bounce Balls. Another all natural product .. noticing a theme here .. they deliver all important protein for post excercise recovery ... I have been using 2 flavours.. peanut and almond ... both taste great and take the hassle out of figuring what to eat.

Huge thanks to Eat Natural and Bounce Foods for fuelling this adventure :)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Brrrrr !!!!!!!!!!! Hit the North- 2012

Hit the North is an event I will never miss .. ever .. I love the course and the atmosphere .. even the organisers are alright :)

The event is 2 hour long affair and is always a battle between cyclocross riders and mountain bikers or more importantly cross bikes and mountain bikes .... last year the event was muddy and a cyclocross bike was the weapon of choice .. this year I gambled on more mud so the cross bike was chose.

The trip down started at 5am with Cross Club riders Adam Cooke and Rob Walker also racing .. soon as we arrived the cold was evident.

Signing on there were alot of familiar faces .. always good to catch up with people that you really only see at races.

Getting ready and 'warming up' (unsuccessfully) I couldn't feel my fingers ... the start was for the first time right at the lowest part of the course leaving a longer climb ahead right from the gun .. on the start line I was on the front row ..

after a bit of shuffling around I found myself 6 or 7 rows back .. right behind Guy Martin of Isle of Man TT fame ... straight off from the gun the ducking and weaving started to try and get on ...

alot of people I think underestimated the climb and there was alot of people fading before we got to the singletrack.

The course was rock hard frozen .. cross bike getting a little bullied on the frozen ruts .. the descents were a little cheeky and I opted to run a few sections ..

what time I was loosing on the downs I felt that I was more than holding my own on the climbs ... the lower part of the course was fast flowing singletrack and a lovely descent with berms .. lots of fun !!!

I managed to get away relatively unscathed until on consecutive laps I slid over smashing my bottle cage and then the following lap shoulder charged a tree .. donated plenty of skin to the cause.

Towards the end of the race although I was still catching and passing the back markers there was a sizeable gap to the place in front and behind me so I got to ride at about 80% effort and enjoy the singletrack... I even managed to get through the time cut off and get another lap in.

I finally finished 21st ... not a fantastic result but what I took away from this event was so much more than a result ... I thoroughly enjoyed racing my bike ... I lost nothing on the flat or the climbs so my legs are good even if my bike handling needs some work ... I now just need to build this comfort and effort over 200 miles and at around 40 degrees hotter.

Bring on June and the Dirty Kanza 200

All pictures courtesy of Ed Rollason Photography

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Fresh Rubber - Halo Twin Rail

With every new unique event comes a list of 'must have' bike features ... for racing on gravel at the Dirty Kanza 200 a wider than normal tyre is going to be used and not only that but a fairly robust tread to cope with the the flint of the Flint Hills we will be riding in.
Halo have kindly sent myself and Rick Perry a set of their Halo Twin Rail tyres, 38c wide and with extra puncture protection its like they made them for gravel Grinding :)

Huge thank you to Halo for their support.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Dirty Kanza 200

I got an entry for the Dirty Kanza 200 !!!

This is my primary goal for 2012 ... the event sold out after opening yesterday in 3.5 hours !!!

200 miles of Kansas gravel await me ... time to increase training miles, build a bike, book flights etc.

Gonna be a great year.

Monday, 9 January 2012


I thought it was about time to break radio silence and post an update as to what has been happening over the last few months.

Shoestring racing is going to be back on track for 2012.

First and most important change has been my long term coach , Mark Forgy, deciding to prioritise himself a little more in a more than hectic lifestyle he leads ... As Mark reminded me we have worked together since 2008 so every great achievement I attribute to Mark and his guidance making sure I was physically and mentally ready ... I wish Mark the best of luck in whatever he decides to achieve and I am sure we will stay in touch for many years to come.

At the moment I am without coach so simply doing what I know works until I can find someone to fill Mark's shoes.

Kit wise I was almost riding for a new team but decided that my schedule is so hit and miss and my events so random at times it would just be easier to have the flexibility in owning my own bikes and paying my own way ( although with help from friends ;) ) .

Event wise I have started to put together a great year of riding ... Hit the North 3, Whinlatter Challenge, TransALLgarve to name but a few.

The biggest challenge of the year comes in the form of a single event in the US ... a single day event in which I hope to be very competitive ... I will leave it at that until next week when the entry hopefully gets secured.

Fair to say I am very focussed at the moment .. I started the year on New years day with a Metric Century on the cross bike with Cross Club rider Adam Cooke , Last weekend another big 70 plus mile ride .. this weekend hopefully another century ... just gonna keep pushing out the distance until I am VERY comfortable at the event distance I want to do well at :)

Hopefully in the next few weeks I will give a more detailed run down of both the event I am gunning for this year and also all the bikes I plan to ride and race :)

Happy Days :)