Monthly Archives: November 2010

16 teeth, and I use all of them.

Ah, the crunch of frozen grass under the tyres – THAT is a great feeling. I wouldn’t be able to explain why, it’s just one of my simple pleasures and much like the feeling I get at the top of a climb on a cold wintry evening having churned up it on a singlespeed.

A lot of people over the last few years have asked “why the hell do you ride a bike with one gear?” – sometimes coloured with expletives but more often, simply disbelief. I’ve asked myself the same at certain points in time; the last being lap two into a dry Mountain Mayhem at Eastnor last summer, over a fairly quick track. Yes at times you can get caught out, trying to spin a little faster to keep up with the geared guy in front or grinding to a halt on that unexpected climb just round the corner…

Simplicity. That’s why I ride singlespeed. I love the sheer simplicity of the bike; shut up and ride attitude, and barely a mechanical cough as you silently slip through the trails (excusing squeaky saddles and those doofer things!). It’s the challenge of the thing; in the majority you will find yourself the minority – that’s where I get my kicks, if you can do it on a singlespeed you can do it on anything.

The downsides? I blew my knees out three summers back after 12 months of running one gear. “Sorry mate, your just getting old and worn out”, I think was the wry comment from the St John’s aide. Three years on and I’m still riding them though, having learnt a huge amount about correct bike setup and improving your riding style (big shout out to Chris and Beddis!) and consuming a healthy intake of Glucosamine!

So a few weeks back from NZ and with the aim to keep up the training for the forthcoming winter series (I chose to go for the Welsh XC by the way) the 16 tooth gear is storming the muddy trails round Herefordshire and the Forest of Dean.

Last night was no exception. Kicking off around 6.30pm, you’re not giving yourself much evening to ride when you live an hour in the wrong direction but it is well worth it. Two and half hours of grin factor, slipping and sliding your way through some of the best local trails across the Forest of Dean from the Pedalaway Cycle Centre with an ever increasing bunch of local lads, who between them can show you some little gems of trails to ride. One word to get you salivating – rollercoaster.

Ok it’s as much about sharing stories, gripes and spills, but I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold, icy evening.

Anyway, go on, get yourself away and down to On one* and try one gear out for yourself, you’ll bloody love it.

* in no way plugging On one; there are other reputable, nay very cool, singlespeed frame manufacturers out there – we just have a history of enjoying riding On one bikes… : D

Winter training. I’d rather tear an arm off.

“But then how the hell would I hold on to the damned bike?” I reason…

Sigh. Two weeks back and the UK weather has descended into cyclic chaos; hard frosts, 70mph gales and now monsoon downpours. The blazing blue skies of the North Island of New Zealand are now simply a fond-distant memory and so is the mountain biking. I find myself now second-guessing the mornings on which I could ride the roadbike to work without kissing the tarmac with my teeth, or testing whether the length of time getting ready for work in the morning is enough to also fill the van with MBK gear. So it’s out with the usual routine and in with the old Kona and a pair of heavy(ish), cross-purposes Michelins. Country rocks I think they are. Yes they’ll be a bit shit in the mud, but I usually find at around 10psi any tyre gives a bit more grip…

Anyway. A little gym work in the mornings and a pair of NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB lights* for riding out of work hours and we are away and in preparation for some intriguing winter series, choices so far:

  1. Brass Monkey
  2. Soggy Bottoms
  3.  Welsh XC

At the moment Soggy Bottoms is looking a favourite as I enjoy going back to Newnham Park, outside Plymouth (host site for the Bontrager 24/12) followed possibly by a round or two of the Welsh XC next year – it’s a bit more local!

In the meantime I should pull my finger out of my arse and organise a trip out to the Beacons…

* lightweight, 110 lumens LEDs – but don’t let the low lumens put you off I’ve had these for a year and if you’re on a budget they come highly recommended!

Is this just fantasy?

Two weeks ago I was in recovery. After 25 hours of flying, 11 hours in Borneo and a fantastic night at a Hexstatic gig (kids, this was no way to avoid jetlag); I was in agony.

Ok largely this was not helped by the ultimate comedown of a month in the North Island of New Zealand, emerging into spring, beautiful coastline, glorious forest biking and meeting / staying with some of the friendliest people I’ve come to know in the last few years. After two weeks of soaking up the Whakarewarewa forest trail, myself and biking partner extraordinaire Chris, were also fortunate enough to enter the Whaka 100 followed a week later by the fantastic Singlespeed Worlds Champs event (also held in the Whaka forest trails outside Rotorua).

Rotorua itself (and the entirety of the north island I was assured) was somewhat of a bike haven, with cycle paths along every major road and drivers going so far out of their way to give you room you got the impression they were playing chicken with the oncoming traffic.The town itself was mountain biking central, boasting (now) 8 bike shops including Bike Vegas, who play a large hand in organising many national events and Kiwi bikes, sponsors of SSWC10 and renowned bike frame builders on the island. The trails were gloriously built (established by the Rotorua Cycling club), they are continuously maintained and as you can imagine they left an inane grin.

I’m not going to rub your face in it. Just one day think to experience it for yourself because it is very much worth the trip. I intend to head back as I wish to see what the South Island offers (and may well be accompanied by snowboard.. : D ). From the little I explored, the country is beautiful, very much like the UK but the weather and landscape seems more at peace with itself, despite any underlying cultural unrest there maybe. If you do find yourself there, drop me a line, you never know I may be sunning myself on a beautiful beach in Maketu…

Keep an eye on the fkkracing site  / facebook page as I’ll be posting photos asap…