Category Archives: MTB

Pre-race nerves…

Every time. No matter how short, long or hyped the event is – there it is, the little niggle of uncertainty of what is about to unfold. I can’t deny, that’s part of the appeal…

It’s the first enduro of the year, the Wentwood Forest 50km Goshawk Challenge down in South Wales and a chance to see friends I have ridden with since last summer, put the new steed (an almost luminous red On One 456) to the test and to see just how many mince pies and pints of Gunniess I consumed over the winter months. Sadly I already know the latter…

After the Irish Singlspeed trip last August I decided to pursue the 69er build and the 456 comes sporting 29 inch Rockshox Rebas. The shakedown rides have proved fun, the 29 inch front wheel and forks eating up everything in their path. My partner on the trip has gone full blown 29er and it will be fun to see how they both ride over the weekend.

New bikes. Untested fitness. Uncertainty. But we’re all in the same boat and will come out grinning.

So will 2012 be the year of the 29er? It’s been an explosion of activity from manufacturers, and a great deal of hype. Personally I’m already planning a venture into the 29er world, eyeing up the Giant Anthem X or the Scott Spark. @BikeMagic have been tweeting about some great featurs and reviews on the latest in 29ers.

Are you tempted?

What goes up, must come down (the wheels on the bus go round and round)

A month. It’s flown by if truth be told, but when you think about the numbers; 4 weeks, 28 days, 672 hours – reality bites.

It’s a period long enough to put a hefty dink in the previous 6 months of riding & fitness training if you’re hit by illness, injury or any other circumstances to prevent you swinging your leg over the loyal steed. I’ve just been through some of those very circumstances, with chest infection, sickness bug, man flu & stress, September has been a month of frustration. Made moreso by seeing my friends participating & performing well in events that I had been looking forward to with big ideas. It was not to be.

My first ride out with my training buddy Fruity this evening brought a renewed vigour, a little inspiration (that regaining my level of fitness from a month ago was within reach) and a simple reminder that what goes around, comes around. I have had a great summer competing in endurance & singlespeed competitions, achieving more than I ever had done in previous years but the reality that there will always be somebody out there quicker, stronger & fitter than you is always prominent in my mind. Fact.

A confession: I think I suffered more mentally in the last month than in physical well-being, throwing dark clouds over the self-confidence I have been working on – yup, it’s all about the mojo. Establishing your self image, knowing who you are and then looking at your (recent) achievements & reviving ambition from deep down, thrusting it into the spotlight. You are what you achieve? It’s not as outlandish nor boastful as it sounds – consider what you could achieve in your lifetime, and then consider how it would make you feel. In my minor existence one of my ambitions is to achieve a win in a mountain bike endurance event in the coming months and despite the last month of toil, armed with the reality of the predicament (someone will always better you in time)  I found that I was able to rationalise my situation and pull myself up out of the preverbial gutter and grab back hold of the ladder rung. Resume climbing!

So what would I like for you to take from this brief rambling about what essentially has been a rather dull few weeks of my life? Never give up. Find your ambition, and grab it with both hands. For every blow, if you can stand again you will find that you will be that much stronger.

Go on, get out there and do it. : )

To the Irish.

It was a whistle-stop tour and it feels like it was a lifetime ago already. But my god it was fun.

Nearly a thousand miles under our belt, the ageing Mercedes camper ticking along kindly without a complaint, we arrived back at Rossguard ferry port with wide grins still spread across our faces. Chris & I had made the trip to Ireland with the Ballyhoura mountains as our final destination, to participate in the Singlespeed World Championships for 2011. It seemed a good opportunity to explore some of Irelands trail offerings – particularly as neither of us had been outside of Dublin previously.

So, wind back a whole week to bleary eyes descending from the Rossguard ferry onto Irish soil, having chosen to sail with the 2.45am ferry to nip in an extra days riding on the Monday. Chris had thrown together a basic itinerary that took us in a decent round-trip to close in Ballyhoura, sampling some of the recommended trails put together by Coiltte. First stop: Ballinastoe, near the Wicklow Mountains in the backyard of the guinness estate.

60 miles, a bacon sarnie & stern cup o’tea later we arrive in the vicinity. It takes two laps of the local area to find the small parking clearing but yawns aside we emerge from the van keen to sample the first trail of the week. It’s a good one too. What it lacked in distance, it gained in speed, flow & a continual state of adrenaline coursing as you flick the front wheel through the twisty, rock-strewn trail. It was a beautiful reminder of some of the New Zealand trails we experienced last October.

A post-ride natter and we discovered we had missed out an entire section – a common error apparently. In we went again. First impressions count & we finally found ourselves back at the van buzzing about our find & stating that we probably should’ve brought knee & elbow armour… but that’s speed combined with a lack of sleep for you. We decided simply to man up.

So onto Portumna the following day, this was a natural next stop en route to Galway. With hard pack trails with a height gain of no more than 20m at any point I’ll confess I was a little flippant going into the first of the two 10Km trails after our experience in Ballinastoe. I was duly brought back to earth finding the many rocks marking the narrow trail edge keen to catch me out as I banked round each twist & turn! In hindsight I think I managed to do myself the most damage on this ride! Lesson learnt. Don’t be put off by the stated moderate difficulty; it’s worth a look-in for an afternoon.

Day 3 of the trip found us just outside of Oughterrad, Galway at the Derroura mountain bike trail. Moody skies above threatened to follow up the 45 degree downpour we saw in the morning from the comfort of the van in the Salthill campsite. But sunshine prevailed, drying the rocky trails before our eyes as we pounded round over the craggy trails. In between the rocky terrain was smooth flowing hard pack, now a common feel after the previous two days riding. There was a surprising level of grip in the slightly damp conditions, with drop-offs, switchbacks, berms & technical climbs. The views were the most awe-inspiring we found over the trip, reminiscent of North Wales riding, with little civilisation visible & beautiful mountain ranges & lochs sprawling across the landscape.

Day 5: Ballyhoura – the finale. We had actually arrived in Kilfinane, Co. Limerick on the Thursday, late in the afternoon to a greeting of a heavy downpour. As it happened we stumbled upon some other Singlespeeders and found ourselves on a bus to Limerick for the 2012 Singlespeed Championship hosting rights games… a story for another time.

Friday found us heading back out to the Ballhoura mountain trails, supported by an excellent centre with clearly marked trails – and 51km of them. It was seventh heaven. Probably unwisely, with a Guinness head on & a race the following day we each decided that the full 51Km route was the one for us – the full experience. There are 3 other flavours of lesser distances that cross each other making it easy to swap trails as you wish / need. The trails themselves range from hard pack, pump-track type flowing trails across the side of the mountains, to clay-mud tracks leading into forest trails. Split by the odd section of North Shore. Grin factor 11.

The steeds what we rode…

A rigid 69er Kona Kileau, sporting Continental Race Kings & an On one Inbred softened by front suspension.

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Try it for yourself. : )