Edd Grant :: Code, Compose, Bike, Brew etc ... though not necessarily in that order
 
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May 23, 2013

 

For the last 4-5 years my trusty downhill/freeride/dirt-jump/trail centre/ hard-tail has been ferrying me back and forth from my places of work. Each day I cycle my 2 * 10 mile journey, trying (usually in vain) to keep up with the sensible folk on their fast road bikes. When I first started commuting on the hard-tail I got a bit of a kick out of the fact that it was so much fun riding a bike built for anything other than road-riding on the road. I could hop obstacles, manual over sleeping policemen and do massive stoppies in to the bike boxes at lights. Plus having a whopping 200mm disk on the front gave me bundles of confidence that I could stop in no time when bus or taxi drivers pull their seemingly obligatory crazy daily manoeuvres.

There's always been one thing which I've found difficult though - getting good road speed. At first I didn't really care as I was having so much fun, but over the years I guess my base level of fitness has improved and I've started trying to keep pace with the faster bikes on the road. This is when I realised that riding a heavy mountain bike with 2.4" dirt jump tyres, a chain device and lots of heavy components does not make for an easy time trying to break the london-commute-speed-record! And so over the years I've felt the gentle yet persistent tug from the dark side, that all mountain bikers fear... that's right, I've started to want a road bike!

Ok, so I'm being dramatic, there is no "dark side", I'm sure road bikes are ace, it's just I've never ridden one before. Also given my limited distance of ~100 miles a week I wasn't sure a full-on road bike was what I wanted (lots of roadies I know regularly do 100 miles in a day!).

So what then?

I've been hearing more and more about a discipline called Cyclo-cross recently and after chatting to a few mates who have some experience I decided it definitely sounded like something I should find out about. Cyclo-Cross is a mixture of on and off road riding on what is ostensibly a souped up road-bike (i.e. slightly different geometry, disk brakes (usually) and thin but treaded tyres for off-road). The folks who do it seem to be of fine fettle and essentially like throwing themselves down slippery trails on fairly inappropriate bikes (hang on I'm sensing a theme emriding tree roots on narrow tyres with drop bars seem like a good example here!). After watching a few YouTube entries my decision had been made - I needed a Cyclo-cross bike!

Fast forward through lots of internet research to last weekend when I picked up shiny new bike from BonVelo (who are lovely, friendly and generally awesome by the way), a Kinesis Crosslight Pro6... and it's beauuuutiful!:

Alt text

Riding the thing

This Monday was my first commute on the Kinesis. I didn't have much time to fettle over the weekend in preparation so I took a few tools in case I needed to make any adjustments en-route.

Things I thought would be scary:

  • SPDs: I was a bit nervous of riding SPDs as I've never used them before but after slightly slackening the cleats off from their default position I found that they were pretty easy to clip in and out of. On Monday I made sure to clip out uber early when approaching lights but on Tuesday I did a bit of trackstand practise and found that I could still trackstand easily enough on the new bike so as not to need to unclip at lights.

Things I didn't think would be scary that are:

  • General balance: I'm used to riding my Easton MonkeyLites which are nice and wide, in contrast the bars on the Kinesis are so narrow and consequentially the bike feels massively unstable which makes me feel vulnerable to traffic.
  • Brakes don't work very well (yet): Again being used to Avid Elixirs with a 200m disc my mechanical 160mm bb7's feel somewhat lacking by comparison. They seem so be getting more grippy as they bed in though so should be easy enough to get used to.
  • Trying to stand up and pedal hard and nearly catapulting myself diagonally over the bars. This is getting easier each day as I get use to the bike but I think I could benefit from improving my core + upper body strength.
  • Cornering on those tiny little tyres: The road/tyre contact patch is literally tiny! Definitely an opportunity to improve my cornering skills!
  • General riding position: It's mental, I'm hunched over like Quasimodo!
  • How in the name of all things sane am I supposed to ride this thing offroad?! Actually I'm quite looking forward to figuring this out so am going to try out for the London Cyclo-Cross Summer Series which looks like a noob friendly way of getting some off-road practise done just down the road in Herne Hill.

Things that are ace:

  • It is SO fast!
  • It it SO light!
  • Bunny Hops really easily

What next?

I'm enjoying riding the Kinesis more and more every day, so I think next steps are just to continue to get more familiar with the bike and then see if I can get some of that all important road speed I was after. Actually I can see that happening already, in the last few days I have started to consistently take 3 minutes out of my 35 minute to-work journey and 5 minutes off my 38 minute return journey. Something must be going right there!

I'm also really looking forwards to riding the bike offroad at the summer-series, that's going to be quite a different kettle of fish to riding downhill I bet!

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Mar 10, 2011

 

Wow! Last weekend was truly a special one! A few folk from CGCC, ThisIsSheffield and notably Steve Peat himself, had  been busy at work organising a downhill race in Grenoside Woods. Titled 'Peaty's Steel City Downhill'  the race took place on the Saturday. Tash and I drove up to Sheffield and stayed with some CGCC mates on Friday before heading over to Greno woods on Saturday.

The weather wasn't great on Saturday (it was Sheffield - what do you expect!) but the constant mist that hung in the air made the woods look great and made for some great photos. I'd not ridden the track before, it was pretty great though - very pedally throughout, full of rocks and as slippery as hell, especially on my balding high rollers.

I really enjoyed the track despite not really being able to get to grips with it. Some of the faster boys and girls were managing to carry speed through the rocky, muddy, heather mid-section where I just seemed to lose all control! The drop at the finish was top fun though, although I did have a moment of panic during practise when someone fell at the finish directly where I was about to land!! Fortunately we managed to avoid a collision so all was well... *phew*.

Despite the wet the turnout was fantastic - I couldn't believe how many people came down both to race and spectate. I was also impressed at the number of companies who had rocked up with their various bits and pieces, some were even giving out free stuff!

After the results and (frankly incredible) prizes were handed out at Greno we finished the day at the Showroom watching a series of Alex Rankin films followed by a short interview with Rob Warner and Steve Peat.

One of my favourite aspects of the day was the fact that all the pro bikers were so easy going and were happy to race with all the people who just ride bikes for fun - quite rightly thrashing us in the process! I love the fact that there was no elitism in this way and that world champs like Steve Peat make an effort to get so involved with the general mountain biking community. Can you imagine this happening in Formula 1? I think not!

Also - I should mention - one of the main points of the race was to raise money for the Greno Woods Appeal - in an attempt to raise money to save the woods. A worthy cause!

There are already a few photos and videos of the event cropping up, here are some links which I'd highly recommend checking out:

This Is Sheffield race report

Roots and Rain photos - Various Photographers

Rob Haines photos of the event on Flickr

John Alexander's photos on Flickr

And the vids (I don't know how these guys get their stuff edited and put together so quickly!)

 

 

 

Just want to say a HUGE thanks to the organisers Steve Peat, Nick Hamilton, Joe Bowman, Steve Hardcastle and Henry Norman for organising such a great event, also to the marshals who braved the grim Sheffield weather all day and to John and Anna for being such generous hosts! I won't be forgetting this weekend for a long long time!

Cheers everyone!

EdD

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Feb 03, 2011

 
A couple of days ago I celebrated my 30th Birthday, Tash and I took a few days off work and travelled to Langollen in North Wales. We spent a couple of days biking at the Coed Llandegla trail centre and stayed at the Riverside Mews which is in close driving distance to the trails. Llandegla has always been one of my favourite trail centres in the UK but has been greatly improved with the addition of dedicated skills and free ride areas, we spent quite a bit of time playing on these, rode the main red/ black route and also rode the new black section 'Parallel Universe' which was great fun. The next morning we departed Wales and drove back to London.

On my birthday we drove over to
Chicksands Bike Park and spent the day riding the various tracks and trails. We virtually had the place to ourselves which was great so we got in a good few runs on the dual slalom,  4X and freeride areas. I spent a bit of time trying to clear the 4X double cleanly...


... had a play in the freeride area...


... and had a bash at the small set of tables in the jump area


Tash got some great practise in and really enjoyed the dual course! After riding all day we were absolutely knackered so we went home, ate some awesome Indian food from the Bombay Bicycle Club and drank a great bottle of Champagne! To my surprise the next day Tash had arranged a secret meal where we met up with my sister Jo and her boyfriend Dave - it was great to see them both - cheers for coming down guys!

I must admit I was half expecting to feel a bit weird about turning 30, but actually I feel pretty good about it. The fact that I got a good 3 days off work, riding bikes with Tash fixes it firmly as my favourite birthday so far! Big thanks to Tash for everything!!

Today I went back to work and got stuck in to a fun technical problem which has been plaguing our project for a while, I was fortunate to find a good solution - something I will probably blog about once I've tidied it all up as it's a very poorly documented area.

Anyway that's about it, I'm enjoying being 30 and am looking forward to what this year brings!

EdD

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Jun 07, 2009

 

Despite the rather brash thunderstorm which rocked up in the small hours of last night the SE raggers met up for a quick ride and build session this morning. Den, Rod and Srdj made an amusing vid of the track for the CGCC guys and I spent most of the morning building more ladders with Ed, who was on building duty due to having some freshly damaged ribs from the list riding session.

The main ladder area is looking pretty nice now, the leftmost ladder seems to be the one which catches most people out as it is not always on-camber and becomes a little lively when wet. The central ladder section is flowing nicely though, my favourite bit being the little kick at the end of the bottom which sends you off nicely on to the bottom section.

Today we worked mostly on a couple of new ladders which, when complete, will form a path along the rightmost edge of the tree-trunk. I think these are going to be nice when finished but will require good skills since there's a vertical drop of a good few feet if you come off the right hand side. I took a couple of pictures with my phone for posterity in case the whole thing gets wrecked by the local woodland dwelling 'community' like some of the other stuff we've built.

1: Upwards view of the main ladder section:

A view of the main ladder area from below. 

2: Downwards of the same section:

Middle of the ladder section. 

3: Downwards view from the top ladder:

View from the top of the ladders section 

Oh, and I managed to make the ultimate trail building mistake of mistaking my Thumb for a nail

An excellent example of why you should never mistake your thumb for a nail!

So a good morning's work I think, although there's lots more to do to make sure the track is up to scratch before the upcoming CGCC visit!

EdD


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Apr 28, 2009

 
I spent last weekend in Kielder in Northumberland, taking part in my first Mountain Bike Race: the Avalanche Enduro. Organised by the same group that run the infamous MegaAvalanche in the french Alps, the enduro is an endurance based downhill event made up of 7 timed downhill runs over 4 different courses (3 of which are repeated twice). In addition to the downhill stages, and to justify the 'enduro' part of the title, all travelling between stages is done on the bike, is entirely uphill and has to be completed within a given time otherwise a time penalty is given. A reasonable amount of time is given for the ascents between stages but my god it hurts when you're as unfit as I am!

This year there were approx 250 entries, this was up on last year's entries which were around the 180 mark apparently. Most entrants were quite sensibly on full suspension bikes, in addition to the full bouncers I counted about 10 hardtails and a single full rigid bike! I was one of the few hardtail riders so was expecting to be pretty slow and get a fairly comprehensive battering on the downhill stages. I rode with the guys and girls of Crookes Gentlemen's Cycling Club (CGCC) - a top bunch mostly based in Sheffield and Leeds.

Saturday was practice and qualifying (a.k.a. prologue) day, after a good cooked breakfast courtesy of CGCC Nick we rocked up at Kielder and rode each of the stages for the first time. After practising the first stage once I felt that some of the roots on the stage had it in for me so was pretty nervous, however as we rode more and I continued to keep the bike rubber side down the nerves relented somewhat. Prologue was a timed run of stage 4, by this point I was quite tired but had a good crack at it, I was a little disappointed with my 169th position after qualifying but in retrospect it seemed fairly reasonable considering my lack of fitness and bike handling finesse!

My start time on Sunday was 09:54am, the weather was largely pretty warm and sunny, with the exception of a few short spells of rain and cold at the top of a few stages. CGCC were pretty spread out across the qualifying rankings so I spent most of the day chatting to the guys who had qualified around me and the various CGCC peeps I saw through the day, there's a great level of camaraderie amongst the riders at these events with everyone spurring each other onwards!

CGCC did really well with several people finishing in top places amongst the pros, I finished in 149th place - 20 places up from where I started  which was quite pleasing, particularly as it meant I must have beaten people riding full suspension bikes on my hardtail! :-)

Thanks to all the CGCC folks for making me feel so welcome, in particular Nick for organising the accommodation and grub, Fuller for driving up from Sheffield and Alec for helping me get my puncture changed quickly enough to avoid a time penalty before the last stage!

Some photos have already surfaced from the event, here are some links so you can see what it was like for yourself:

Various Flickr Photos

CGCC John's Photos

Oliver Coat's Prologue Gallery

Oliver Coat's Stage 1 Gallery

Oliver Coat's Stage 3 Gallery

Oliver Coat's Stage 6 Gallery 

One CGCC!

EdD


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