Click here to read about the latest featured race

West Drayton Mountain Bike Club | Beyond Mountain Bikes | Rapid Racer Products | Specialized |

What I've been thinking about recently...

1st April 2010 : Nutcracker Mountain Bike Series, new for 2010 and a return to NEMBA!

There is another new series starting up North and it starts this weekend. Pre-entry is closed but you can apparently enter on the day. You can expect close thought and furiously fast racing as the hardy Northern racers fight over the bragging rights. Head over to Nutcracker MTB and find out the juicy details. It promises to be a cracker!

31st March 2010 : Where does the time go?

It's been a long Winter and peoples thoughts are turning to heading outside on the bike again regularly. I've started a new job which has kept me manically busy but I'm turning it round and hopefully forging some sort of routine on the training front although it's gone full circle now, I'm taking care of business on the career front but the cycling is suffering. Oh for a 25 hour day!

15th December 2009 : Turbo Training

So the new turbo trainer has arrived from

I spent Saturday night assembling it (it was delivered flat packed in a very large box) under Jess's watchful eye. This was a good job as she seemed to have more of an idea of how to put it together, I was too busy being impatient and getting in the way, although I did help with certain aspects of assembly including a very painful slip with a spanner which resulted in me punching the turbo trainer. This was accidental, my hand slipped (cue, it fell down the stairs, etc) and I've now got a nice sored knuckle where I caught it on the frame. For some reason years of carefully garnered experience of tinkering (taking things apart and sometimes being able to put them back together) with things appeared to have left me. Jess seemed to be doing a better job so I stood around offering helpful advice like, "Try reading it again". Jess was probably very close to also having a sore knuckle.

It took around an hour to build the trainer. I then did the following session:

  • 10 minute warm up at around 80 rpm
  • 30 second sprint at 105 rpm, 90 second rest at 80 rpm (repeat 10 times)
  • 20 minutes at 149 BPM on HRM
  • 10 minute warm down from 80 rpm to 50 rpm
This produced the following outputs: 495 Watts, 307 Watts (max) and 144 Watts average.

I went for a classic winners celebration as I finished my first turbo training session. Note the pie on the hob in the background.

I was pretty cooked by the end of the session and quite pleased with the trainer and my first training session. I haven't trained for around four weeks due to work commitments and my gym membership running out so it was good to get back in the saddle. As they say there is nothing like being completely out of breath to get you fit and its my aerobic capacity which needs serious work as I've been training my legs for years in the gym, so they're pretty powerful. Getting aeriobically fit is easier than putting power into your legs so hopefully 2010 should see me much improved, fingers crossed!

10th December 2009 : Where have I been...I wish I knew

OK, I do know where I've been. I've been taking care of people close to me and also starting a new career as an IT Contractor, the former was tough and the latter challenging but both were equally knackering. I seem to have spent all of my free time in the last two months sat in my car travelling somewhere. I shouldn't complain, it's just how things are sometimes, you have to look after your nearest and dearest and further else do you pay for shiny bike things and guarantee you'll have a pit bitch for the Summer enduros! Ok, I'm on thin ice now and pushing my luck a little, but its true to some extent and I'm just glad things are getting back to normal and I can start to organise my free time sufficiently that I can do some training, look forward to some racing, a few challenges for 2010 and catch up with the updates on this website.

What's new? I missed the 2nd round of the Thetford Whyte Winter Series so I am afraid that it doesn't look like I'll be winning it this year which is a real shame as I felt I had the podium in my icy grip with my solid 30th place in round 1. I was gutted to miss the race and see everyone down at Thetford before Christmas, but there will be other races and it will be the end of January before I know it and I'll be queuing for the frozen toilets with 500 other lycra clad lunatics in temperatures little over freezing...and I can't wait!

I have a new toy coming tomorrow which is very exciting in a perverted, excercise kind of way. My first turbo trainer, which I am VERY excited about. I am hoping that this is not another step towards being a roadie, but a step away from the dark side and onwards towards a more productive season with better results. We shall see!

In other news, Bradley Wiggins has signed up with Team Sky which is very cool. It will remain to be seen if he will be joined by Mark Cavendish when his contract runs out next year, although that would be too late for the Tour de France. It will be good to see Wiggins in the Team Sky red white and blue at the front of the peleton next Summer.

Looking ahead to the racing there are a couple of events which have caught my eye. The End2End in the Isle of Man and the UK's first 24 Hours of Exposure UK Solo Mountain Bike Championships, which I have to admit when I first saw it I got confused with the very established race of a similar name in the US, the 24 Hours of Adrenalin. You should check these events out, if, like me you are into the Enduro side of the sport and want to challenge yourself against the terrain and the course designer. If you are into banging handlebars and racing at breakneck speed in a sprint race over a few hours then my club, West Drayton Mountain Bike Club and Beyond Mountain Bikes in association with Rapid Racer Products are pleased to announce the season opening Black Park XC race on the 14th March 2010. It's cheap to enter and pulls in a big crowd of amateurs and semi-pro racers. Here are a few links if you are interested in any of these races.

Black Park XC 2010
24 Hours of Exposure UK Solo Mountain Bike Championships
Manx End 2 End Challenge

I got sent a message today from a guy called Rich who wants you to check out his website. It's a group of racers who blog about their racing experiences. You should check them out, looks like a great little site and its always interesting to see what other people are getting upto. Who knows, maybe we'll be racing against them some day. Keep up the good work on the site Rich, I'll be keeping my eye on your developments.

OK, so that's the last few months in a nutshell...well, what happened today at any rate. I'll let you know how I get on with the trainer...quick plug required here as Rob over at Racix sorted me out with a great deal on the trainer and has a wealth of knowledge on turbo training. If you're curious then why not take a look at the site and give Rob a call, I'm sure he'll help you in some way or help you spend your money ;-)


14th October 2009 : New Autumn Enduro - The Pronghorn Enduro, Bordon, Hants

I know updates on this blog have been a little scarce in recent months but I have been very busy and soon things should calm down and I can get back to working on this site which has some big changes coming.

Before all of that though there is a new race you should know about, the Pronghorn Enduro which is being run by my club, West Drayton Mountain Bike Club with support from Pronghorn Cycles and both have been working hard to make this event a big success and I'm sure it will be so if you're free on the 1st of November then get down to Bordon and bring your race'll definitely get a race from WDMBC\Beyond Mountain Bike racers and there will no doubt be support from all of the usual clubs and teams.

You can read a preview of the event over on Bike Magic here and can enter the race online on or you can find out more details on the West Drayton Mountain Bike Club website. There is also a great preview video of the event on Vimeo which was put together by James Poole from West Drayton MBC\Beyond Mountain Bikes.

If you decide you're going to go along and tear it up then tell them where you found out about the race...probably best you don't mention my name unless you want to be tarred with the same brush and called a "pie eating Northern monkey".

29th August 2009 : Think you're too old for racing? Steve Peat would disagree

Great video which really captures the excitement of the World Championships. It's great to see that we're still showing them how it's done on the Downhill circuit!

13h August 2009 : New training plan is 'In Progress'

This week sees me starting a more precise training plan as I gear up for Dusk 'til Dawn and the Whyte Winter Series. Three days in and I've got to be honest, it feels like I've never trained before in my life, my endurance and stamina levels seemed to be worryingly low, possibly as my body's 'reward' for being ill for a week in July and then taking a week to recover from my accident at Bontrager Twenty Four 12. Either way, the plan is in progress, it's kicking my arse but I am persevering.

In keeping with tradition I am tinkering, but keeping the tinkering to adding more detailed information so that I'm not missing something which is having an adverse effect, such as my diet which I will now track daily along with my training, rather than tinkering with the training itself which has proven to be disastrous in the past. Hopefully being able to compare my diet and training on a daily basis will highlight where I can improve and not reveal me to be the pie eating Northern monkey most people think I am.

I've also decided that I need to use supplements during training, rather than just water. There's no point wasting all this time and effort if I'm not fuelling myself properly in the first place so it's Lucozade Energy or High 5 4+1 for training and then For Goodness Shakes or High 5 Recovery within twenty minutes of training to give my body something to repair itself with after I have broken it.

4th August 2009 : Adding my old races to the new site

Since I redesigned the site back in November 2008 I have been constantly tweaking and fiddling, a bit like my training you might say! However, I'm pretty close to being happy with the look and feel of things so I thought I'd add in the old races that I'd which were already written and sat gathering dust on the old site. The Bontrager Twenty Four 12 2007 race, my very first race in fact, has now been added. Why not grab a brew and check it out in the racing section.

31st May 2009 : Llandegla Forest

Went out for my first mountain bike ride with Dr J today. Decided to kill three birds with one stone and also find somewhere decent local to Dr J's where I can train and to also check out the trails at Llandegla Forest where I might be racing towards the end of Summer in the Dragon XC series.

On arrival we needed a skid lid for our new cross country rider and headed into the trail centre to buy one and pick up one or two bits and bobs...any excuse to have a look at the latest kit. To say the two lads behind the counter didn't look at all interested in serving us would be an understatement, they certainly gave the impression they'd rather not have to deal with customers asking questions. I was wearing my team colours so maybe the fact that I was wearing the club colours and yet asking if they could help Dr J get the right sized helmet seemed odd but I wanted to make sure that we got the right kit for the job. I've a track record for buying the wrong sized items when it comes to buying clothes as I want the experience to end quickly and I still want to buy things even if they are not in my size, the science behind my shopping is not even as well planned as "back of a fag packet", it's more like "rub stick make um heap big fire".

As I was riding with Dr J (who hadn't ridden off road before) we decided to ride the blue route (beginner) and enjoy the trails. With a little bit of luck I could maybe sneak an extra fast lap in once we had finished as the Dr J ate cake and had a brew whilst recovering in the sweltering late twenties heat. The blue trail was rather easy going but contained some technical sections which would certainly test a completely novice rider as well as etch a big grin on their face...see exhibit A below. Considering it was incredibly hot my new riding partner didn't once complain and managed to ride almost the entire course without a single complaint, even on the hills.

The view from the top of the forest was worth the ride
The view from the top of the forest was worth the ride in the sweltering heat

Once we had climbed up to the top of the forest, from absolutely nowhere a huge ten foot wide berm appeared swinging the trail back down to the forest road. I just road it without even noticing it and then waited at the forest road and got my camera out to get an action shot. Dr J stood patiently waiting at the entry point to the berm whilst I got the camera ready for the shot...still she waited as I was all lined up to get her as she railed the berm...smiling and waiting patiently..."Ready when you are" I dice... just a big smile as she waited at the top of the berm...I was confused and couldn't figure out initially what she was waiting for. There were three other riders watching along with me. Maybe she wanted me to move to a different position with the camera to get a better shot? It suddenly occured to me that Dr J had no idea what to do. She'd ridden so easily up through the forest with such confidence that I'd completely forgotten that she might not know what a berm is or how to ride one.

I felt like an idiot for leaving my new riding partner stranded, forgetting that when you've not seen an off road trail before and then your presented with a huge sweeping rocky berm, you might not actually know what the best line to take is. It's great taking someone out on the bike and introducing them to a great trail and seeing how much they enjoy it, but it's easy to forget just how much you've come on as a rider and how you ride certain terrain and features without having to think about it any more. You just turn your brain off and don't think about it. Maybe sometimes it does you good to think a more about technique on these sections and features that you now take for granted. Not only could it increase your speed but it could also increase your skill which in turn can save your body from the extra stresses of poor technique. Less pain usually equates to more enjoyment.

Once we had navigated our way down the berm (no doubt seeing all of the body armour on the other three riders was not helping her confidence) we continued on our way and the further we continued the more confident Dr J became until she was riding trickier sections than the berm with relative ease and trademark big grin.

Loving the blue route in Llandegla!
Loving the blue route in Llandegla!

Riding for fun with friends is a nice break from the routine and if I had done more of this last year I might not have ended up burnt out and jaded by the end of Summer. It's amazing how many times I hear people say "but I won't be able to keep up with you", "you'll get frustrated", etc. I don't train all the time and although a little competition can be a good challenge, riding with friends will always be for the food the beer and the banter.

20th May 2009 : How to enter your first mountain bike race

I've noticed on the forums recently lots of people asking about how you get started in racing and enter your first race, which can be quite difficult when you don't know who to ask or where to look to find out about the races. So I've created a new page in the racing section about how I went about this and initial feedback is that people are finding it useful. Click on the link below to read the article.

How to enter your first mountain bike race.

10th May 2009 : British Mountain Bike Series, Round 2, Dalby Forest

This weekend I was supposed to be attending West Drayton Mountain Bike Club's 10th running of the Bucks Off Road Sportive. On the Saturday whilst preparing my bike I took it out to the back street to check everything was in good working order, the bike felt extremely comfortable when I sat on it and the suspension seemed very plush, I'd either put on four stone overnight or something was definitely amis. It was, I had blown the air can on my rear suspension. Gutted. With the start of Summer the Endurance racing season is in full swing and the longer overnight events beckon. Having always been rather fortunate with not having mechanicals during races I decided to er on the side of caution and book the bike in for a full service, better to be safe than sorry and with most of the events over Summer being in the South of the country the last thing I needed to do was drive for four hours to a race and then find that my bike lets me down with a mechanical fault. First rule of mountain bike racing, always have a safe and serviced bike!

As the Merida is currently in need of some serious TLC also, I decided to write off the Bucks Off Road Sportive. I suddenly had the entire weekend to myself and as the second round of the British Mountain Bike Series was on up the road at Dalby I decided to go and spectate, catch up with and support a few friends who might be there and have a play with my camera.

Although the course used sections of the Dalby red route, the vast majority of the course for this second round of the National series was completely new trail which had been recently designed and then built by Clixby's and what a fantastic job they've done. Admittedly, they're hoping that this new course will be good enough for the UCI to include it in the future World Cup calendar, so we were expecting big things of this new course but even so, it is an absolute cracker and, although I have never ridden or walked a World Cup course before, I've seen enough photographs and video footage of them to know that this course certainly looks the part. UCI officials were walking the course and taking photographs during the race so we should know in the next four weeks or so whether Dalby has been successful or if the bid has been awarded to one of the other four venues so fingers crossed.

The course held a real mixture of man made and natural trails. In the first half of the course, where the trail descended to join the fireroad there were five feet high rock slabs to roll down, a short section of fireroad before rejoining the singletrack via a short, trickier than it looked, rock garden which again, was trickier than it looked. At one of the drop ins, the marshall told me he'd seen ten riders suffer instant blow outs due to pinch flats. Where the sections which rejoined the singletrack most of the riders I saw were dabbing except the Elites. There was a short climb up through the forest then a great North Shore section which split the trail ahead into a smooth flowing section or a much faster but rougher descent down towards the fireroad and onward to Worry Gill.

A little further up the trail the course descended from the fireroad and into the forest, before climbing back up todescend again into one of the most technicals sections, Worry Gill, a demanding and treachorous section which ended with a ten foot drop into a ninety degree turn and a long rocky and very slippery looking run out through a v shaped chute running along the very bottom of the forest. The riders then joined some doubletrack before heading back into the forest to Medusa's Drop, a steep drop down a muddy and very rooty banking which caught out more than a few riders including one poor rider who apparently broke his collar bone and several who went over the bars. Shortly after this the riders had a much less stressful but much more strenuous section in the shape of a lung bursting climb from the very bottom of the forest to the very top. I watched riders climbing the lower slopes on double track, it looked like a real spirit breaker! Around the half way point they switched to the singeltrack, but still had four or five hundred yards before the trail levelled off and although the trail was not that steep, after ten minutes of climbing it the riders were breathing hard and feeling the strain.

Following this monster effort the riders were rewards with a short breather through the trees before dropping down a rooty descent back towards the fireroad for a fast blast up the road, passing Worry Gill again on much smoother singletrack, then climbing up through the forest and back onto a path leading the rider up to the top of the forest and onwards to Dixons Hollow, the man made bike park. After all that effort the riders were rewarded with a quick lap of the jump course with it's table tops, doubles, triples and corkscrew! Some fun to end the lap and take your mind off all of that pain. A real mountain bike course and a real challenge. The feedback from the riders seemed really good, a hard challenge but exactly what the UK needs to get our riders up to the same levels as our European neighbours.

Oli Beckinsale
Oli Beckinsale, one of our 2012 Olympic hopefulls, was in attendance and in winning form. How he can smile riding at the speed he rides at I have no idea. He went on to win the Elite - Male category.

Jenny Copnall
Another top UK rider, Jenny Copnall was also racing, seen here on her way to 4th in the Elite - Female category. Nice jersey!

Debbie Burton
Debbie Burton tackling a seemingly innocuous looking rock garden which caught more than a few riders out. Debbie went on to win the Grand Veterans - Female category.

Ben Thomas
Ben Thomas of Mountain Trax on his way through the corkscrew in the bike park.

George Budd
George Budd of Salsa Factory Racing, climbing up through the forest before dropping down to Worry Gill. This photo shows how close and frantic the racing actually was.

Jon Donachy
Jon Donachy catching some air on his way through the bike park at the end of the lap.

Video: Paulo dropping in at Worry Gill. I swear it wasn't you being called "NumPlumz" mate!

Video: Optional route descending from North Shore

Video: Approach to Worry Gill

Video: Drop in at Worry Gill

Video: Exit from Worry Gill

8th May 2009 : Other things to do with a bike other than ride it round and round in circles for a very long time

I can safely predict that Danny MacAskill is really getting the hang of riding his bike and in a few years time he'll make a very competent rider. Get yourself a brew and put your feet up for ten minutes whilst you watch these videos. Then spend the next fifteen minutes wishing you'd persevered with your BMX when you were younger, rather than chasing girls and throttling ales. Incredible skill and the videos pretty well put together too, nice one!

15th April 2009 : Challenge yourself this Summer and support grass roots racing

I feel the need to post a more positive posting after ranting a little about the North Face Trail.

Mountain bike racing is becoming more and more popular in the UK. My first race was Bontrager TwentyFour/12 in July 2007 and, despite absolutely bricking it before the event and feeling completely out of my depth, I haven't looked back since. Competitive mountain bike racing is great fun and keeps you fit so there is no reason to not give the bike a quick mechanical once over and sign up for your first race this Summer. Some things to bear in mind which will hopefully encourage you to get involved and sign up for that event you've maybe been thinking about taking part in.

  • It might be a race, but enjoy the ride. You're out on your bike and you've done this plenty of times before so just treat it as a personal challenge to finish the course, complete all of the laps, beat your mate or something similar. This will give you a goal to aim for but won't put you under too much pressure.
  • It's natural to feel nervous. It takes organisation and guts just to get to the start line and if you weren't to feel nervous then there would be something wrong, even the Elite riders get nervous before an event. Yes it's a race but providing you're riding in a suitable category you will be amongst people who are not only riding at your level, but are no doubt feeling exactly the same about all of this as you so don't be nervous and try to enjoy yourself and the course.
  • Expect to make some mistakes. You're trying something new, you will have unanswered questions, you will forget to pack something. As long as you remember the basics you'll be fine. Don't be afraid to ask questions. The mountain biking community is 99% friendly in my experience and the other 1% are probably just 'in the zone' so are not being rude, they're just getting mentally prepared for their own race.
  • You will be passed by other riders, don't let it demoralise you. The faster riders are really experienced and know when and how to get past you. Let them past when it's safe to do so and tell them which side they should pass on and they'll usually give you a big grin and thank you, you just made their race a little easier! I don't think I actually passed someone who hadn't had a mechanical breakdown until my second or third race so don't worry about being passed all the time, it will happen and some of these people passing you have been not only riding but racing for years.

Hopefully you can see that there's nothing you can't handle so what are you waiting for? Get involved and sign up for a local race and enter the novice or fun category, maybe drag a friend along for morale support or better still get them to enter too. You will at some point wonder what possessed you to enter the race but I can pretty much guarantee you'll enjoy the experience and be telling stories to your mates over a pint or coffee and cake after rides for months to come. Just make sure you take to the race everything you would normally take on a ride, enjoy yourself and remember to smile for the cameras!

You can find links to websites which list mountain bike races in the links section of this site.

Get your entries in!

15th April 2009 : North Face Trail....neutered

I was in the Lakes this weekend visiting family and decided to do a couple of laps of the North Face Trail whilst I was in the area as it's a great training route and I'm still trying to get round the trail in under an hour, a target set for me by one of the guys who works in the bike shop at the visitor centre. As it was fairly damp underfoot the trail was pretty slippery and I knew the North Shore sections in particular would have to be treated with respect and I may have to abandon my plans of breaking the elusive hour barrier. Climbing the first singletrack section I got to the first North Shore and it had been removed and replaced by rocks and gravel. They must be doing some maintenance on some sections I thought, it's been kicking around for a few years after all and some sections were showing signs of wear and tear. On riding the second section of North Face I almost had the front wheel wash out from underneath me on the slippery boards and decided to drop off the Shore and ride alongside it, rather than run the risk of having an accident (I'm always a little more wary when I'm riding alone). It seemed strange how there was a new trail running alongside the shore but assumed that they were planning on doing some maintenance on this section too. Thinking little of it I continued and decided that today was probably not a good day to push for the hour barrier due to the course not being 'complete' and it being a little slippery on the Shore which remained.

Around half way round the trail you ride past some great view points where the mountains and valleys of the Lakes roll out before you providing a stunning backdrop to your ride and a great distraction from the burning in your legs. It's not uncommon to see wildlife in the forest and this morning (around 8:30am) was no exception. Tearing down the fireroad at eye wateringly fast speeds I was suddenly joined by three Roe Deer which ran across the trail in front of me, an amazing sight which only added to the big grin already plastered across my face! It's moments like these which really make a ride one to remember for years to come.

Towards the end of trail, as you head down from Moor Top to the visitor centre I found two more sections of North Shore which had been completely removed. For some reason it suddenly struck me (ok, I'm clearly not selling my detective skills here) that this wasn't some planned maintenance but more likely a permanent change to the trail due to a recent accident. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great trail but removing these North Shore sections has completely changed the trails character. When I first started to ride the NFT I wasn't a fan of the North Shore sections and saw them as an unnecessary interuption in the flow of the trail. I persevered though and have come to enjoy the technical challenge they offer which you don't see on the many other natural trails in the Lakes. Now they're being removed it feels like the trail has lost some of it's teeth. It still has some great sections to ride and some natural challenges in the form of tight switchbacks and rock gardens but now you don't get the occasional man made test of agility and balance. I for one will now never know what it feels like to complete the course in under an hour. It's not an official test, but knowing how tricky it was to get round in under an hour, it was a great challenge and not something easily done. You had to ride well, smoothly and most of all quickly!

When I got back to the visitor centre I enquired at the bike shop and was told the North Shore was being removed permanently due to the number of accidents which there had been recently on it. I'm no trail builder, I've never (fortunately) had to deal with the after affects of a nasty accident on North Shore and I also don't have the worry of being sued by someone who injures themselves riding my trails but I have noticed a few things from riding at trail centres over the last year or so. Firstly, if you have no gripper boards or chicken wire on North Shore it is going to be lethal in the wet, especially in wooded areas. Having said that, I have heard stories of people slicing their arms and legs open on chicken wire which has started to come away from the boards so maybe the gripper boards are the way forward. Secondly, there is a fine line between pushing your own abilities\scaring yourself\riding on the edge and riding outside of your ability without realising and then having a big accident. I think we've all done this and it's hard to avoid unless you always ride in your comfort zone. Having said that, if you want to go out for a ride and are taking kids onto the trail and you would normally ride the red\black routes, is it a good idea doing that route because you would normally and making the kids ride it when it's way beyond their ability? Thirdly, if you are riding these red and black routes then surely you are accepting that there are dangers to riding these routes and ultimately you're responsible for your own safety and well being, not the trail centre or trail builder? Finally, I've seen people come a cropper on the easier sections so there will still be accidents on the North Face Trail. We've all clipped a tree stump or lost balance unweighting the front wheel over a rock or negotiating a tight switchback. Where do you draw the line? Do you remove all obstacles and leave the trail completely smooth and boring?

Maybe I'm ranting, maybe I just don't want to see this superb trail watered down in this way because people are unable to accept they don't have the skills to ride it yet and won't wait until they're more competent riders. Unfortunately some people will have accidents and will then be looking for someone to be accountable so who can blame the trail owners for being terrified of being sued.

I'm not sure what the answer is, I just wish they'd put the North Face Trail back to how it was and add some gripper boards and better signage to educate people that the sport can be dangerous and ultimately you're responsible for your own health and safety.

Rant over.

8th April 2009 : Brownbacks race support Northern racing!

As I've said before I'm looking to help support the Northern races that are springing up this year. It's great to see some races appearing up North and it's up to us Northern riders to get out and show our support for them. Organising races can take months and sometimes years to organise so if you've no idea what's involved, take it from me, it's a lot of graft, time, favours and commitment.

Brownbacks Racing have been in touch and have asked if I could give them a little promotion with their series and I'm more than happy to help. I'm hoping to do a pre-ride of the course and if and when it happens you can read all about it here. I'm really looking forward to this series, it's clear from the prize list alone that they're pulling out all the stops to make sure this series is not only supported by big names but is also a big success and here to stay. Anyway, you can find out more details about the series over at Brownbacks Racing and here are the details of the's a pretty decent prize list for a brand new race series I think you'll agree.

Series winner
Hope's latest SP3XC wheel set

Racer Category
1st Prize: £150 of Leisure Lakes Vouchers (
2nd Prize: £75 of Leisure Lakes Vouchers
3rd Prize: £50 of Leisure Lakes Vouchers
1st lap Prize: £25 of Leisure Lakes Vouchers
There is also a goodie bag for each finisher in this category again donated by Leisure Lakes.

Weekend Warriors and Have-a-go Heroes
MaxGear and Ride On have combined to offer a very impressive prize list for these two categories. Prizes include MaxGear's latest kit and Altura hydration packs from Ride-On.

Kindly sponsored by Charlie the Bikemonger, we have a singlespeed medal for the fastest singlespeeder in either the racer and weekend warrior category at each race.

Anyone willing who registers to be a marshal, gets entered into our free prize draw to win £50 in cash (yes, cash and not mountain bike parts!).

All of the Brownbacks races can be found listed in the racing section. Get your entries in quickly though. I have no doubts this will be a very popular grass roots race series.

25th March 2009 : Grizedale Forest

If you ever find yourself in the Lakes looking for some good riding you could do a lot worse than spending a day or two hitting the trails around Grizedale Forest. Admittedly I'm slightly biased as I have family who live fairly close by, I used to go and watch the Lombard RAC Rally in the forest when I was a nipper and also it overlooks my favourite part of the Lake District, the little village of Coniston. That aside I really need to tell you about Grizedale because it makes a great hub whether you're short on time, want a great days riding with a group of mates or are planning a weeks mountain biking and you want to bag some classics. Not only do you have a long list of Lakes classics close by, but within the forest you've also got several waymarked trails and mile after mile of unmarked trails and fireroad...who likes fireroad? No one, but it has it's uses for training and sometimes it's just worth riding it for a great view, photo opportunity or just somewhere nice to have your lunch.

As well as all this you've got the purpose built trail North Face Trail (named after the North Face clothing company, unfortunately not for any overly technically demanding sections) which has been around in one form another for over 5 years and it still holds it's own as a demanding, fast, flowing and technical cross country course. It's important to note that like other great cross country trails such as Dalby Red, it's great as a cross country course but it's not all things to all people. If you come looking for free riding or downhill then you'll maybe be a little disappointed. I rode the 3rd round of the Enduro series that supported the 2008 XC National Points Series at Grizedale Forest and not only was it the hardest race I've done to date, I don't think I've ever seen so many broken bikes and so many riders glad to have had to retire with broken bikes, the attrition rate was phenominal.

So what does a spin around the North Face involve? It's a 16 kilometre trail, made up of 9 technical singletrack sections which have been joined up by fireroad. No one likes fireroad ideally on a cross country course, but fortunately the fireroad sections on the North Face Trail are tolerable, usually as they either involve a lung busting climb to test your mettle, a fast downhill blast to test your bottle or stunning views of the rest of the Lake District, providing you get the weather of course, Coniston which is only a few miles away is known as one of the wettest villages in the Lake District due to it's proximity to the coast and the nearby mountains. As for the good stuff, you're going to face technical climbs, switchbacks, North Shore (only low level stuff though, this isn't Whistler but it will test you if you're new to it) and descents that will definitely have you coming back for more.

So let's look at a few of the highlights. The first technical section is a great warm up for what's to come. You're looking at a couple of kilometres of steady climbing up through the forest on a very rough surface involving some tight switchbacks, step ups and also some short North Shore sections. It's easy to get carried away on this first section, particularly if you've ridden it before and you're feeling a bit keen, a word of warning though, there are some off camber sections of the North Shore and although I've ridden it safely when it's been frosty, it can and has caught me out in easier conditions due to the lack of gripper boards or chicken wire so you have been warned! The rough terrain is to be respected too as in the wet it does get quite slippery. The best advice I can give is don't try and make the time up on the North Shore and rough technical singletrack climbs, just aim to ride smoothly and maintain your traction. You can make good time on the fireroad climbs if you want a challenge! When you're on this initial climb keep your eye out off the trail too, I've seen a Golden Eagle on this section before today as well as Roe Deer, hares and foxes.

When you reach the top of this first section you will have just enough time to catch your breath before tackling a short and mostly downhill singletrack section. It's tight, rough and although not overly technical and not that fast, it has caught me out before today so just try and clean it. Straight after this section you'll have a big climb so get into a decent climbing gear and get out of the seat, you'll have a series of plateau's, downhills and climbs to go at before you get to the next singletrack section so give it your all. You'll hit another short singletrack section which has some entertaining North Shore to have a go at including a skinnie which I've never had the bottle to do...I'll explain why later. There are numerous great views of the mountains, villages and valleys of the Lake District so if you've got your camera and the weather's right remember to take a few photo's along the way (the main picture on the training page is from the North Face Trail looking towards Coniston village with Dow Crags and Coniston Old Man in the background).

You're now about half way round the trail. Depending on your level of fitness you're either keen to crack on, ready for something to eat or you're about to blow your breakfast. A good place to stop for something to eat is Moor Top car park (it's pleasantly sheltered amongst the trees and there are tables) which is coming up so hang on just a little longer. Once you start heading down a fire road between the trees you'll peel off to the right and do a cracking 1 kilometre technical section which you should be able to clean fairly easily. Exiting this section there is a brief sharp climb and then you're onto the singletrack again for another kilometre or so of technical singletrack which includes a very tricky uphill natural rock garden towards the end of the section, just before you exit adjacent to Moor Top car park. The rock garden is trickier than it looks but is easy enough for the more capable rider...just grit your teeth and go hard at it! There are some picnic tables in amongst the trees at Moor Top if you need a breather. If you're feeling it a little, take a breather as the final few kilometres, when ridden hard, are very rewarding.

Exiting Moor Top, there's a short fireroad section and then a short but fun singletrack section with a nice flowing rough descent and some tight switchbacks with a short North Shore section - watch out for the off camber section just waiting to wash your front wheel out as you pass the's an accident waiting to happen but fortunately it's not caught me out yet although on the following fireroad section I did almost hit a Roe Deer going flat out. I wasn't sure who was more surprised to see who to be honest. I nearly stacked the bike when it ran in front of me and managed to keep up with me before tearing into the forest at full tilt...I was in top gear and fairly shifting and the deer was almost keeping up with me! The next few kilometres is what makes me come back to Grizedale Forest time and time again. It's fast and furious and flows superbly. There are jumps, switch backs, North Shore and even felled trees which you can ride along the back of. The final kilometre is a full on blast down through the forest which will put a big grin on anyones face, even if you're feeling knackered and are trying to breathe through your ears! There is a tricky North Shore section, a part where the walkers cross the trail, numerous streams which you will have to cross where the trail turns sharply and you could end up dropping off the edge of the world, plus the odd gate towards the end of the trail...and that's without warning you about the dozen or so jumps you can get air off...just go hard but where you're not certain, go steady. You can work on your speed on your second run! I've been trying to get round in under an hour for the last 6 months and so far I've managed it in one hour and three I'm getting close. If you can do it in under an hour then according to the guys in the bike shop you're pretty quick - this is why I don't bother usually attempting the skinnie's...every second counts!

There is a bike shop at the visitor centre in case you need a tube or spare piece of kit, or even fancy hiring out a bike more suited for the terrain. You can even get your bike cleaned outside the bike rental shop. Caffiene, cake and other sugar rushes are available at the cafe. There's a Go-Ape too if you've got friends who bottle out of a chance to tear it up on the trails. Grizedale's trails don't just end with the North Face Trail. There are several other trails in the forest of an easier nature including one of the best singletrack downhill sections apparently in the entire Lake District, although I've not ridden it yet, I can't get enough of the North Face. You can also easily link up with some real Lake District classics from Grizedale including Iron Keld, Loughrigg, Hodge Close and Walna Scar Road to name some of them. Accomodation and pubs are numerous so you should be able to get a decent deal as they fight over themselves for your business. For a boozy night try Hawkshead or Coniston for the feel of a real Lakes village or head for Ambleside or Bowness if you want the "bright lights" of the Lakes (although I like to refer to it as the Blackpool of the Lakes for obvious reasons!).

So with Summer coming you've got no excuse not to start planning your trip. If you give me plenty of notice maybe I'll give you a guided tour!

26th February 2009 : What's coming up...

There is a ton of stuff that I thought I should tell you about so I've made this little posting to tell you what's coming up on here and also then I won't forget. I'm going to add the following to the site over the next couple of weeks...

  • What you can do about the weather...other than throw the toys out of the pram, sack it all off and go home
  • Tyres...which tyre for which conditions?
  • Why you should support Thetford MTB Racing
  • That Grizedale Forest thing I promised...yeah yeah, I know
  • Updated training plan

23rd February 2009 : Whyte Winter Series

So another Winter series has finished, the second one I have participated in in full. Where does the time go? It doesn't seem like five minutes since we started eagerly posting on the Thetford MTB Racing forum in anticipation of the first race back in November. Was that really almost four months ago!? That's pretty scare as it feels like it's passed in the blinking of an eye.

Having done lots of different races last year, in all sorts of categories, I was advised by people in my club to spend this year working on my speed. I decided to do the first round of the Winter Series in the Fun category and treat the 'race' as a two lap sprint and just see if I could push myself hard all the way round the two laps. I have to admit feeling a bit fraudulent entering this category as I was going to ride as fast as I could for the two laps but as it's for fun then I figured people can pretty much ride their own race and do what they like (within the rules obviously) as it's for fun. You can read all about the race in the racing section, but after the race it was apparent there was come friendly rivalry in the category and I'd really enjoyed pushing myself for the two laps and felt like I'd learnt a little about keep myself motivated to push that little bit harder when you think that you are already pushing at 100%. I was worried beforehand in case no one else was riding as fast as they could and I won by a country mile, but that didn't turn out to be the case as I only won by ninety seconds.

The second round I again entered the Fun category, just to see if I could again do my two lap sprint and to see if there would be another close race. During the race I got talking to Andy who came second in the first race and he seemed like he was well up for pushing for the win. Usually in races I have no idea about who is who, if they're passing me for position, what position I'm currently in, etc so it was pretty cool knowing (roughly) what position you were currently in and who you were chasing and who was snapping at your heels trying to get passed. You can read the race report here, it was a very close fight between Andy and I. There was only one second in it after the first lap and, barely hanging on to his wheel towards the end of the second lap I managed to put in a sprint finish and win by a mere seven seconds. This was my first real experience of a sprint finish and, fortunately for me, it worked a treat; Andy told me later he had nothing left in the tank and he wasn't execting me to take off like I did so I guess I learnt how to put in a decent suprise sprint finish!

The third round was my own personal nightmare, not because of the course conditions which were pretty dire due to the heavy downpours in the build up to the race, but because I was ill. People get ill from time to time, Andy had proper flu, which easily trumped my man-flu. I'd decided at this point to see the Fun category out to the end of the season as I was enjoying the tussle with Andy and Rob (second and third respectively). It was a weird race...I felt like crap, Andy and Rob rode strongly...a new guy turned up and blew us all away with his first lap but then faded (Dale), struggling with the conditions like everyone else no doubt...I lost can read about this race here. I finished third almost four and a half minutes behind the race winner (Andy) and was just glad to finish in one piece, albeit absolutely exhausted despite only riding round at a crawl. Fair play to Dale and Andy for having a good scrap in all that mud.

The final round saw us all fit and up for it, a great course layed on by Thetford MTB Racing and superb weather conditions on race day. I haven't done the report yet but it was a great end to the series. Dale took the race win, Andy followed close behind and I was left trailing in their wake...they left me flapping around on lap one. I thought I'd put the boot in early and got a lead on Andy (I let Dale go as I thought I only needed to stay ahead of Andy to get the series win), until Andy cruised past me with the usual poker face not betraying a thing. If I learnt one thing from this race it's that I need to change my training (again) and having talked to Gerald I think I know what I need to do. Following the race I went over to Andy and congratulated him on the series win, I was convinced he'd done enough to win it and he deserved it to be fair. There was nothing between us but he definitely had a stronger finish to the season. As it would turn out though my early successes at rounds one and two were enough to see me take the series on matching points with Andy, but by virtue of having more wins. I've learnt a lot and had an excellent time at this years series. I've made a couple of new mates in Andy and Rob, Andy has signed up for the club and I've decided to move onto the Sport category this year and see if I can earn some national ranking points. It's a big step up but I think I'm ready for it...I have no doubt I will be eating these words come May!

Congrat's to Andy and Rob on second and third and for making this Winter series an amazing experience.

It was great to also have complete strangers come up to me at the weekend and tell me how much they enjoy the site. One of the riders I passed even recognised me which was pretty funny, I was so suprised I nearly fell off the bike!

Follow up...I've just received this message from Gareth (rider 400), the complete stranger mentioned above...

Just wanted to say well done over the series and its good to see you winning after following your blog over the winter. Its been interesting to see your training and race day tips etc... as this was my first series it helped and I must say I now have the bug.

Cheers! It's great to know people are finding this site interesting and it's helping them get into racing. When I passed you on Sunday and you told me you'd been checking out the site it was like getting a fresh pair of legs...having complete strangers say 'thanks' is really cool, you certainly gave me a bit more zip! If you've got any questions just drop me a message and I'll see if I can find out the answers.

Enjoy the trails and I'll hopefully see quite a few of you at the first round of the British Mountain Bike Race Series!


20th February 2009 : A quick thanks

I just wanted to thank people for taking the time to message me and make comments my race report for round 3 of the Whyte Winter Series. It's great knowing other people are getting something out of this little pet project of mine. If you've any idea's or questions then send them to me and I'll either investigate further and\or try to get you an answer to your questions.

Thanks again.


18th February 2009 : Links page added back in

I've added back in the links page. If you want a link adding or know of a great site I can benefit from then contact me and I'll check it out and add it to the page.

17th February 2009 : Cack handed attempts at bike maintenance

I said earlier in the year that this year I was going to attempt to learn to do some of my own bike maintenance. The purposes of this are three fold.

Firstly, I can then do my own maintenance out on the trails and at races. At Dusk 'til Dawn 2007, the Marin factory team ended up working on my bike and crucially getting me back in the race at a critical point so that I could fight off the many riders who coveted my 39th place. I was coming in to hand over to James when I changed into the big ring and, as my front mech had come loose, changing gear had the effect of pulling the front mech cage up and over the big ring, jamming everything up. Harriet and I then attempted to fix it, Harriet by actually trying to figure out the problem and get the front mech into the correct position, whereas I was just making noise and appearing to do something to fix the problem, which in this case was to turn the cranks whilst Harriet had her hand in the way which resulted in the big ring trying to saw through her hand. Net result? I put a nice row of cuts along the palm of her hand so now not only was my bike not fixed, I'd also assaulted my pit crew through the medium of bike.

It was at this point I realised we were stuck so I went and asked the Marin guys if they would help me out...I mean, they were just stood around with nothing to do, their guy was already leading the race anyway (they were no doubt stood around with nothing to do as they're organised, highly motivated and consumate professionals). Ten minutes later my bike was back in the race with a load of new gear cables and to say I was grateful was an understatement. One day I will buy a Marin, I like their style. I should also point out that Harriet was the best pit crew ever, if you think you had a better pit crew, you're wrong. She sat by the track all night, even in the freezing fog, supporting me...on her own, not even the Marin guys in their heated van sat out that night although they apparently brought her hot drinks from time to time which is another reason they're awesome.

This short blog posting has turned into a much longer blog posting already. Damn, never mind.

Secondly (I was talking about why I need to do my own bike maintenance), I don't have to rely on my bike shop so much. I like supporting my local bike shop but I appreciate sometimes Pete likes to be elsewhere other than sat in his bike shop talking about bikes, although to be honest I could sit in there all day with him talking about bikes and racing. It would be nice if I didn't have to go in there periodically and ask stupid questions along the lines of "How the hell does my bottom bracket work?", "Why are Hayes HFX-9's a pile of crap when you need to put new pads in them?" and "Have you got an index for my gears?", you get the general idea.

Thirdly, I like messing with would help if they actually worked better when I'd finished than when I'd started.

So last night I had a go at overhauling the Shimano hubs on my AlexRims (my old full susser). I have a very real fear of making a hash of fixing my bike and I imagine it always ending with me left with a 2" bike part and only a tiny hole it can possibly go in even though it is obviously apparent that it won't go into the hole and doesn't belong there anyway, leaving me staring blankly at the part, then the hole, then the part and thinking to myself "well, that can't be right?".

I spent the first half hour trying to find a guide to overhauling hubs on the internet but could only find details of the rear hub. I decided to go steady and pay attention to what I was doing and remember the order that I took things off the bike so I didn't end up with said 2" part lying around at the end. The whole process took about an hour and by the end of it I'd learnt a few of new things (tightening cones, cleaning out the bearing races and ball bearings, NOT losing all my ball bearings) and it felt really good to have learnt something about my bike. I won't go into the details of how to do this...just in case I end up going in to see Pete to ask him why my hub has bizarrely destroyed itself from just being sat in my kitchen (cough). No, really, I didn't touch it.

ps. I haven't forgotten about the promised blog about Grizedale Forest.

6th February 2009 : Now that's dedication...

Interesting story on BBC sports, and I quote...

Brailsford revealed British Cycling also considered a plan to cope with the most common injury in cycling - a broken collar bone - except it involved deliberately injuring one of their riders.

"Ed Clancy (who won gold in the Olympic team pursuit) said he would not mind having his two collar bones broken.

But then, thankfully, someone said 'what on earth are you doing?' and this madness was stopped."

I'm still laughing...

You can read the original article here

30th January 2009 : Post Whyte Winter Series Round 3

I've been pretty exhausted this week. Although I don't feel too bad, I have no energy and have the constant feeling that I'm coming down with something. There are a few things which will be added to the site shortly, the report on what happened at round 3 of the Whyte Winter Series which is partly written, the FAQ I promised to do about what happens at races for those who have never been to one before and also my updated training regime. I haven't updated the training diary since December, but I have got all the notes in my notebook, I've just been a little too busy to update this site with the details...I also think there were too many details and it needed an overhaul so that's what it's going to get.

As far as this site goes I am also going to be changing the blog shortly so it's a blog entry per page and, in the interests of making this site a little more interactive, I'll be adding the ability to add comments to blog postings, race reports, holiday atories, etc so you can ask questions, take the p***, etc.

It's damn hard staying healthy at the moment!

24th January 2009 : Training through illness and Whyte Winter Series round 3

Training had been going well until Thursday the 15th, when I succumbed to the most vicious and life threatening of Winter illnesses, man flu. Normally I would have attempted to train through this but I've recently read and been told by friends who know such things that the worst thing to do would be to try and train through it. Although I would normally talk myself into training being the best way forward despite the illness, you're actually putting your body under the strain of training whilst it is also under strain dealing with your deadly man flu so instead of working on fighting the flu, it has to deal with repairing itself after your training session...letting your flu off the hook to strengthen its icy grip.

Reading that back it seems like it is so obvious but it's surprising how easy it used to be to justify training, thinking that by keeping up the sessions, you wouldn't be taking a step backwards, but at least treading water in your training regime. This is obviously nonsense and all you're doing is potentially lengthening the amount of time it takes you to recover and get back to positive training.

It's the Whyte Winter Series round 3 this weekend. Common sense tells me I'm probably not well enough to race as quickly as normally. Having said that the old stubborn side of me says I'm not that bad and it would be a good test to just get on with it despite feeling pretty weak. I can only hope my competitors have also had the odd hiccup in their training.

7th January 2009 : Happy New Year...some news...some changes

There are no bikes around at the moment. The Merida is with P getting some much needed TLC and the Scott is with J getting a paranoid check over...that's not to say the bike is getting paranoid, the problem there is very much between the bar ends and the seat, but I just wanted to make sure that it was in the best condition it can be for the third round of the Whyte Winter Series coming up on the 25th. Now having said that, I cannot honestly say I'm in peak condition but I feel like my training is helping and I feel stronger and, according to my training notes at least, I'm actually getting stronger. Looks like walking around the gym with my book and writing down everything I do including a rating of perceived excerption (RPE) is paying off (RPE is usually only used to monitor training intensity whilst you're on the bike but I'm finding it useful to show when certain routines using certain weights are getting too easy).

I didn't have a particularly excessive Christmas this year so I'm not worried about the damage done over the Christmas period (other than the mental scarring of NOT over eating, drinking etc). I have noticed that although I'm eating less, I am putting on a little more weight which must be down to my muscle mass increasing. Although I've been told that my ideal racing weight is around the 146 pounds (66.5 kg in new money), I don't want to lose the best part of two stone as when I was younger I was skinny for years so the thought of returning to the stick boy look isn't appealing...although I may consider it for the improved power to weight ratio it could give me for the 2009/2010 season. I'll reconsider this based on my results this year from the lightweight bike and new training regime.

I was down London way visiting Belly for a long weekend so wasn't able to train Thurs-Sat. On Sunday I travelled up to Tunstall to meet up with some of the TROG MTB guys who were doing a pre-ride of the course for round 3 of the Whyte Winter Series. Never having ridden with more than a couple of riders in the UK, I've never really appreciated how enjoyable it is just having a social ride in such a large group of riders. I really should make more use of my local bike clubs...I keep promising to go riding with them and for one reason or another I end up missing out. This needs to change as the best way to get faster is to ride with people who are faster than you. We rode round the majority of the course for a couple of laps and had a go at the bombholes which were some of the biggest and most technical I've ever seen...they were monsters! This course is going to be very fast, very exciting to watch and great fun to ride...bring on round 3!

I'm going to write a little about what happens at a typical race as so many people seem to ask about it on the forums. It will be in the racing section with the racing FAQ when it's done.

High 5 are currently offering a good deal on supplements, mine arrived today, £fifty worth of gels and energy drinks for £thirty is pretty good value and from experience I can tell you they seem like they're doing a good job and they're easy on the stomach.

I'm hatching a few plans for this year including organising a mountain bike trip to the Lake District for West Drayton MBC, riding as many new routes as I can from the numerous books I have gathering dust on my shelves and blogging about them and also making a list of maintenance jobs I want to tackle so when I break my bike I have some idea of what's happened and how to fix it rather than relying on my local bike shop all the time, after all sometimes they're shut, like before I went on holiday and I needed some new gear cables...oh yeah and the frame was cracked right through the rear rocker...let's not forget that little maintenance task...if I can get to the end of the year and fix a cracked frame using some old dustbins, gas cannisters and a handy oxy-acetylene welding kit I will seriously consider changing my name to BA Baracus.

29th December 2008 : Knowing your limits

I was riding up at Grizedale today, getting some miles in around the North Face Trail. Earlier in the year before my first ride of this trail, I was talking to one of the guys who works in the bike shop at the visitor centre and he told me that a good time for riding the 15km trail was under an hour. Since then I've been trying (when I remembered to bring my stopwatch, helmet, shoe's, no...really) to get round the trail in under an hour. Yesterday I rode the trail in 1 hour and 3 minutes which, considering how much I wanted to puke on the first few climbs felt pretty damn good, so I thought today would be the day that I'd crack the hour barrier.

On the first climb I felt a lot better than I did the previous day but there was a lot of ice and water on the trails making traction on the tricky sections a bit of a lottery. In the space of a couple of minutes I had two major rear wheel slips which resulted in me having to unclip to save myself from stacking the bike. As I didn't want to end up picking up an injury instead of getting in some steady training miles and I also didn't want to break something shiny and carbon I decided to slow down and take it easy, rack up the miles and just enjoy the trail. I could push myself a little on the fire roads as they were fine and there are plenty of opportunities for working on my climbing and if I carried on trying to cane the trail then a stack would be inevitable...I hadn't even hit the North Shore yet.

When I did reach the North Shore, even though I was taking it easy as the boards were covered in frost I had a nice 3 metre slide with wheels locked up where I was just along for the ride and the only thing I could do was warn the two more cautious trail riders watching me do Swan Lake on North Shore. If I had not slowed down they'd have probably have just seen some idiot fly down the trail, hit the North Shore like a kid hitting a home made ramp on a BMX, before flying off and landing in the trees about forty yards from the trail. Part of me secretly would have liked to have done that purely for comedy purposes.

A little further down the trail I caught up with a couple of riders. I backed off a little to let them ride a section of the frosty North Shore but they kindly waved me through. As I approached them I heard the young lad say something that at first nearly made me fall off my bike and then made me think that, despite the conditions, with all the planning I'm doing for the coming season, with the new lightweight cross country bike, all of the good advice given to me by friends and all the books and blogs I've read and all the hours I'm putting in at the gym, maybe I'm still not pushing myself hard enough.

'Grandad, my visions come back, it's not blurry any more'.

22nd December 2008 : Training plan sanity check

Training is going well but I need to speak to a good coach about monitoring progress and what my goals are. I don't have a coach and I'm too inexperienced yet to really think about paying for personal tuition, I've got plenty to work at based on what I'm learning from reading and talking to people so to all extents and purposes the 'coach' is actually a mixture of all of the friends who have given me help and advice over the last 12 months since I started racing. Obviously the coach needs a voice and it can't be all of these people so as I'm a big fan of his work and he's a motivational speaker, for the voice of the coach just imagine it's sporting legend and ex host of Record Breakers, Kris Akabusi (cue wild applause).

SL: Ok, calm down Kris

Kris: What are your goals for this training plan?
SL: The short term answer to this question and a realistic goal for me over the next twelve months is to train at a level which results in me consistantly finishing in the top 25% in the 2 hour race category in the 2009/2010 Thetford Winter Series. The long term goal is to be finishing in the top 10% in the Seniors category once I turn 40, regardless of race or series. A more urgent goal is TwentyFour/12 which I'm entering with PE...I need to talk to him about how we think that might pan out so that we're both on the same page and one of us doesn't turn up with a six pack, while the other turns up with a coolbox full of six packs.

Kris: Ok, what time scale are you working to?
SL: I changed my training towards the end of October and it's constantly evolving, hopefully for the better. The 2009/2010 race series starts around November time so I have approximately 10 months to prepare. My long term goal of good performances in the Seniors category is a little more tricky to monitor progress sufficiently, I'll just have to see how it goes. Hopefully my short term goals will be an indicator to moving in the right direction.

Kris: ...and how often are you doing a sanity check?
SL: I should be starting every training session with a clear goal. I should end every training session with a brief but critical analysis of how the session went. At the end of every week I should do a sanity check of the weeks training when I update my online diary.

Kris: So how will you know if it's going wrong or not working?
SL: Reviewing every training session, a sanity check at the end of the week plus a check on direction, focus and intensity at the end of the month ought to do it. Obviously meeting goals also helps!

Kris: Based on what happened in August 2008, how will you combat burnout?
SL: Incorporate new rides into the training sessions. Enjoy rides which are not training based. Take time to enjoy just being out on the bike and having fun when riding with friends, rather than riding at race speed and not working on other skills such as low speed balance work.

Kris: Alright, check it out, AWOOOGAAA, AWOOOGAAA!
SL: I couldn't have put it better myself.

17th December 2008 : Early mornings

I've struggled to get up early over the last few months and have preferred to train in the gym in the evening. I used to be able to get up at the crack of dawn (insert your own joke here) but I guess I'm getting older and my body is beginning to rebel and slow down...although I'll fight it to the bitter end! Anyway, as I've now ranted about the 'miles on the bike' situation I have no choice but to get up and get the miles in in the morning, besides, it's a great way to start the day and if you have any problems then it's only going to get lighter, not darker :)

Riding my new route in a morning is not only giving me the chance to get some miles in, I think it's good for the soul. Hitting the trails at 6am should mean that you have the trails to yourself but unfortunately I've still got to share the trails with others. Fortunately the 'others' are the deer, badgers, rabbits and red kites that I've met on the trails so far this well as the odd dog walker and surly looking gamekeeper. Riding my new trail is like having your own dawn lap at a 12 or 24 hour race every day. Riding at night is different from riding during the day, you focus more on the trails and technique rather than being distracted with your surroundings. If you then find the sun starts to come up you can get the hard work done early and then enjoy a relaxed last few miles as you cool down and watch the world wake up. It's great and I can't get enough of it!

I also stumbled upon the set of Emmerdale earlier this week which was unexpected. Although I did see them filming in a farmyard earlier this week, I've not been stopped from riding, found the trail blocked or anything like that but I can see a huge problem looming and it's in the shape of the large white catering van which is parked close to the set doing fry ups and sandwiches when I ride past it in the dark. Anyone who knows me knows that deep inside, behind the serious looking facade, the internal workings of a berk, lies the heart and soul of a very fat man indeed...I just don't look it on the outside, I apparently look like Daniel Craig, which is fine by me. In fact someone said last week I was better looking than him so there you go, better looking than James Bond, it's official, I heard it last week.

Anyway, the problem is now not only do I have to get up early to get out and about whilst the roads are quiet, now I have to hit the trails with the smell of a full English wafting up my nostrils. Now that's commitment to the cause when you can keep riding without reaching for your wallet and challenging some random Emmerdale actor to an eat off.

8th December 2008 : Training

The new training plan is going well and I feel like I'm putting in some good training sessions. Having talked to GT and compared training plans it looks like I need to revise my training somewhat. I've been caught in this weird situation recently where I've known I've not been putting in enough time on the bike, yet I've not done anything about it as I keep telling myself I'm focusing on the gym and that's going well so let's get that right first.

Well, frankly that's a load of b***ocks.

I've been updating this website, partly as a training tool, partly so I can look back at it in years to come and say "yeah, THAT'S why my joints are knackered, I'm financially broke and I walk like John Wayne" and also as an example of what I do for potential clients. I'm joking about the second point obviously but it's nice to look back and see progress.

I didn't create this site to make grand statements about what I planned to do without following up on it. I'm not doing this to talk up an interesting and successful hobby of competitive mountain bike racing without actually having one, I'm doing this because it's fun but I also want to see, with some effort applied, just how far I can take it before I'm too old to take it seriously. If you look at the people who've been at the top of mountain bike racing, they're all pretty much retired by my age (36) aside from one or two like Ned Overend and Tinker Juarez, so I know I'm getting into this a little late, which is annoying when I think when I bought my first mountain bike at 23...but I'm not attempting to conquer the world, I wouldn't mind conquering some UK racing though!

Anyway, looking back there's not enough work being put in on the bike and tomorrow morning I'm going to put that right.

7th December 2008 : Whyte Winter Series, Round 2, Mixed Fun Race

You can read all about this race here

11th November 2008 : Categories

Knowing which category to race in is something I'm trying to get my head round at the moment.

Last year was my first year in racing and I decided I would spend the year doing as many different types of races and series as possible. This would hopefully give me a better idea of which races I should enter in my second year. So I entered around nineteen races in my first year, from twelve hour overnight solo enduro's, three lap races races, right through to the 75km enduro's run alongside the cross country national points series. I never considered who I might be racing with, I only considered the distances involved in the race and slowly built it up until I had completed my first 12 hour solo. Going in with no idea and not considering who I might be racing against was possibly not the best approach. At one point I signed James and myself up for an Elite race and was surprised when James asked me why I'd put us in the Elite category, I didn't see Elite, I just saw '6 laps'. So I learnt a lot in my first year, sometimes the hard way but I had a hell of a lot of fun, even if I pulled out of two races in August due to feeling completely knackered.

So this year I now know which races I want to take part in. I think I want to race about once a month and I definitely want to take part in the Winter Series at Thetford as it was excellent last year and I've met some great people down there. I'll take part in a Summer series, although whether that is the planned Thetford Summer Series or the national series I haven't decide yet. I like racing down at Thetford but I also like the thought of seeing where I stand nationally and trying to improve on that every race and every season.

As you can see there isn't much thought about categories so far, race distance dictated which category to enter in my first season. Now I know where I want to ride and I know what my limits are distance wise, I now need to work on my speed. This means entering the shorter races and as this is my second year, this should probably include the novice\beginner\fun races. Generally speaking these races do not have prize money or a podium which is great for me as I can enter them without feeling like if I win people will question why I was entering much longer, higher profile events last year but now I'm doing the novice races. I tried not to let this bother me at Thetford for round one of the Whyte Winter Series but it did, I didn't feel good about racing in the fun race as I was worried what people might think but at the end of the day I just want to increase my speed and I think I can do that by starting off with the two lap fun race at Thetford and trying to basically sprint for the entire race. Looking at the results for the race it was pretty close and if it's a fun race and I get fun out of it then I don't see a problem with that. If other people do then that's their problem.

9th November 2008 : Whyte Winter Series, Round 1, Mixed Fun Race

You can read all about this race here

1st November 2008 : Riding Dalby Forest's Red Route

An early start at 9am on a Saturday (I have no idea why I suggested such a thing, a moment of training induced madness maybe) saw me heading for Dalby Forest with my new riding buddy Amanda. The weather was supposed to be sunny and fourteen degrees C or raining and four degrees C, depending on which day you checked the weather on the BBC website, I insisted the weather would be the former and I think we got lucky.

It felt great to get out for a long ride with a friend rather than training in the gym on my own. The trail was fairly busy but not so you were held up unduly, so we took our time and enjoyed the ride. I realised that if I'm going to train at Dalby I need to ride the Merida and make sure I'm using at least 2.3 inch tyres as my 2.1 Nobby Nic's were too lightweight and skinny for the hammering you get riding the red's just far too rough and you and\or the bike get a good battering! I certainly won't be riding the Scott up here unless I need to disassemble it in a hurry when I get back, it would most likely fall to bits half way round. Another friend I try to meet up at Dalby with is Kyle and he usually rides the blue route and picks up the red route half way round, so you end up riding the technical first third of the trail at the end, his thinking being you'll be warmed up for it by then rather than doing it cold from the start. The run through the woods on the final three or four sections reminds me of riding down at Thetford. Fast, flowing, singletrack heaven but a whole lot rougher!

During the final third of the trail there are some serious switchbacks to negotiate and it reminded me of how impressed I was at Aaron and Leslie's low speed skill and balance when we were in West Virginia. This is an area I definitely need to work on so I'm adding it to the list of goals for this year. It's not easy to quantify how much progress you need to make or have made but it is important so it goes on the list. I used every opportunity whilst in Dalby to slow things down a little and try to pick good lines and be smooth, without dabbing (well, not too much). I also attacked as many of the hills as possible and some of the climbs which I usually dread weren't too bad. Maybe I just need to grit my teeth and get out of the saddle a little more.

I think it tried to snow a couple of times and towards the end of the ride when cutting through the trees around section 36, there was a mist hanging in the woods which made everything look really cool and a little earie. Parts of the trail looked stunning with the leaf fall and the low setting sun so I was so glad when I realised today was the day that I decided to leave my camera at home - again! This is the second ride I've been on with a friend where I've done this, annoyingly when I'm on my own I always seem to remember it!

30th October 2008 : New training plan

In the past couple of weeks I've been focusing on a new training plan. Everything seems to be working out with it and so far I'm really enjoying it. I based it on the Mountain Bikers Training Bible by Joe Friel which is an excellent, very thorough and in places, very academic book. As there is a lot to take in and it would be easy to get too involved in it and put myself off, burnout and lose all my friends as I'd be training every hour under the sun I'm aiming to start off with a scaled down version of what Joe recommends in the book. You can read all about what training I'm doing and what the plan is in the training section.

22nd October 2008 : Going back to school

I've made a big decision this week and some people will find it rather amusing...and come to think of it, they already have found it amusing and have pointed this out.

I have decided to learn to swim (again).

The only time I do any swimming is when I'm on holiday and that generally involves diving in (I quite enjoy this), trying to do handstands (I don't know why I try to do this) and generally arsing around in the pool (I'm an Olympian at this)...note the lack of swimming and the high percentage of time spent mincing around and showing off to my friends. Something tells me that this won't help me get fit or pay dividends if I have to try and save mine or someone else's life, hopefully I'll never need to do either.

So at the risk of making this a more monumental announcement than it needs to be, the die is cast and the decision is made...swimming is in, it's not the new cycling, but I'm getting be perfectly honest it is quite boring and extremely tiring and makes you feel like you got hit by a speeding wall the next day but I'm going to try and ignore that and crack on. I've already made a few schoolboy errors such as eating before I go swimming but I'm baffled how people think that eating a sandwich before you swim turns you into a human version of the Bismark. Nonesense.

1st October 2008 : Completed my second goal

My updates on this blog have been a bit thin on the ground for a number of reasons, but let's remedy that with an update to what's happened over the last four months (didn't realise it had been that long!)

  • Identify a good training routine and successfully monitor progress and improvement
  • Win at the Whyte Winter Series
  • Ride a 12 hour race solo
  • Finish in the top 75% of each round of the 75km Men's national enduro series

I met my goal of finishing in the top 75% of the national enduro series in the rounds I entered but unfortunately the final round was cancelled due to a lack of pre-entries. I finished 15th overall in the Men's 75km which was dead last in the series overall but I think that would have been different if the final round had gone ahead. I did ok for my first year although my old philosophy of "if I race longer distances they won't ride as fast so I should be able to keep up" has been thrown in the naive!

Having talked to the guys at West Drayton MBC it's become pretty clear that in my first season racing I was riding in the wrong category so this year I'll be riding in the right category and not biting off more than I can chew. I'm doing Dusk 'til Dawn solo this year as I like doing 12 hour solo races and it helps me prepare for one day doing a 24 hour solo.

I've bought lots of new kit in the last few's what I bought and what I think of it...

  • Roval Controle XC wheelset. This came highly recommended from other riders at West Drayton MBC. They're not cheap but you'll be hard pressed to find a better set of wheels for the money. They're uber-light, can take the stick of rough terrain (although they do feel a little flexy under you) and they're tubeless ready...I managed to set up some Nobby Nic's using Stan's no Tubes in the same time it would take you to stick in a tube and inflate it (seriously).
  • Specialized BG Expert MTB shoes. I needed some new shoes as my old pair were like wearing slippers, really comfortable but you lost power from your legs to the drivetrain because the shoes flexed too much. These shoes are really light and with the BG (Body Geometry) padding they're comfortable and help keep your leg\knee position correct whilst pedalling which helps protect your knees from wear and tear due to poor riding position. They have a carbon sole to avoid flex and reduce power loss when pedalling. They also look pretty cool although a ratchet rather than a velcro strap would have helped keep them tight on your feet and the straps from flapping about when they get covered in thick mud, which has unfortunately happened a lot this Summer in the UK!
  • Specialized BG Long Finger gloves. These are the best gloves I've ever tried on, very grippy and very comfortable thanks to all the padding. Some people might not like the amount of padding on the palm though as it reduces the amount of feeling you get from the bars when riding. The only way I can explain how comfortable these gloves are is to say that it feels like the entire glove is hugging your hand. Not too tight and not too loose, just right.
  • Scott Spark 20 (carbon fibre race spec mountain bike). I know what you're thinking, this should be at the top of the should...but I'm trying not to draw attention to how expensive it was and how I didn't really follow my own advice and wait until I'd "earned" the bike through decent race results. To cut a long story short I found a crack in the rear rocker of my old full suspension Merida two days before I flew to the US for my West Virginia bike trip...there was no way to get a bike without hiring one for two weeks which would pretty much cost me a good deposit on a new race bike which I've been banging on about for a long time now...I decided that I should cut my losses, especially as my local bike store offered me a huge discount of it as it was 6 months old and an ex demo bike. Trust me, it was just plain rude NOT to buy the bike! You can find out more about this bike and what happened in the report about the West Virginia holiday which I'll be posting up soon, there are also a ton of photos to look at too.

20th May 2008 : Completed my first goal

  • Keep up with James (without relying on his mechanical issues!)
  • Ride a 12 hour race solo (without slacking off too much between the later laps)
  • Finish in the top 50% of each round of the Winter Series, finish top 25% for one race (this should be a good target, top 25% would be amazing)
  • Finish in the top 75% of each round of the NPS (except Scotland)

Last Saturday evening was the SPAM Set 2 Rise 12 hour overnight race. I was planning to pair up with James on this but unfortunately his bike developed a serious mechanical problem (bottom bracket threads stripped) and he had to pull out. I was gutted he couldn't make the race but also excited at the thought of attempting my first 12 hour race, slightly earlier than I anticipated but I thought that it was probably better to be in at the deep end rather than planning well in advance for it. As they say, every day try to do something that makes you scared!

The race went well and strangely didn't feel like a 12 hour event, it went really fast. I think this was probably because (a) I remembered some training advice and segmented the night out to three hour stints, (b) I took it steady and made sure I didn't peak too early on and end up cooked and (c) instead of relying on energy drink and gels I took along tuna sandwiches, chicken pasta (for when I got sick of sarnies), mango (in case of cramp), bananas (for when I'm sick of pasta and sandwiches) and coffee. As usual Harriet brought along enough snacks to run a small sweet shop! The mango was great and helped keep the cramp at bay which threatened to appear on lap 4, but quickly disappeared when I got back to the pits and gorged on it. It tasted amazing in the early hours of the morning when I was really suffering and was sick of the energy drinks, pasta and sandwiches. Thinking about getting back and having a brew definitely helped me get up some of the climbs too!

You can read all about the race in the race reports section. It was a cracking race and I'm really pleased with my final position and the fact that I pretty much managed the full 12 hours, or I would have if I wasn't so saddle sore - I swear at one point I could have rode home without any lights ;-)

A learning point for future events is to make sure I do some self massage (no, not that!) after the race, or even better, get someone else to do it. My legs and back were extremely stiff and sore for a couple of days and, along with better preparation and training I should be making sure I look after myself post race too.

16th April 2008 : Justifying a new bike to myself Goals for 2008

My goals for 2008.

  • Keep up with James (without relying on his mechanical issues!)
  • Ride a 12 hour race solo (without slacking off too much between the later laps)
  • Finish in the top 50% of each round of the Winter Series, finish top 25% for one race (this should be a good target, top 25% would be amazing)
  • Finish in the top 75% of each round of the NPS (except Scotland)

Admittedly, I've not got much evidence to suggest that these are challenging and achievable targets for 2008. They are all things that I would like to achieve though and if I can nail 1,2 and 4 then I think my plans for the 2008 Winter Series will be challenging and ambitious...there is nothing stopping me being able to consistently break into the top half of the field. Having team sponsorship should also help keep the costs a little lower and also give me the technical and emotional support that you need, especially for the longer races. I used to be a little wary of buying Specialized and have no idea why. As they sponsor the team I'm pretty sure they'll be getting plenty of business from me. I remember when I used to say I'd never wear lycra and from next month that will be changing...time to move on and get over it!

Keeping up with James is a huge goal for me. When we were in Spain in 2006 I could keep up with him (most of the time!) and thought he was fast and a good climber and now he's been on the track and also doing road racing his speed and power (compared to mine) have gone up annoying! Still, it's good to have a mate who's better than you as it gives you something to aim for. Hopefully he'll bring the speed to any pair's racing we do and I'll bring the endurance...although I've no doubt he's not short in that department.

2008 should be very interesting!

26th March 2008 : Working on weaknesses...climbing, speed and picking lines

I spent the Easter weekend training in the Lake District by riding the North Face Trail in Grizedale forest. It's around 15 miles of fire road and technical singletrack including some north shore and if you're ever visiting the Lakes it's well worth doing. I managed to ride the trail three times and got my time down to around just over an hour which also included time for me to take a few photos of the snow covered mountains, interesting parts of the trail and what looked like a Golden Eagle! It's well worth a visit, there's a visitor centre, coffe shop and bike shop where you can pick up spares or hire a bike.

This being my first year of racing I'm concentrating on picking up the basic skills and improving my overall fitness. Never having ridden any north shore before I have no problem admitting that at the first attempt I rode it like a complete wuss. Although it was no more than a few feet off ground level, it was very wet, seriously off camber and had no grip strips, I just wanted to get round in one piece rather than doing what I'd usually do and approach it with way too much confidence. In the past this has only succeeded in making me much more confident in picking up myself and my bike after an unplanned brush with the scenery. Examples of this include...

  • Fast descending
    Descending the fast trails and switchbacks from Prado Llano to Granada in Spain and riding pretty much flat out I went straight on at a bend...hello brambles, rocks and legs like chorizo, goodbye bike and riding party as they both keep going down the hill without even stopping except to point, laugh and make helpful comments like 'nice work loser'. I blame James, Mark and Aaron for going over the handlebars numerous times earlier in the day and making me think I was invicible...which I

  • Riding drop off's when you're not used to full suspension
    In the Sierra Nevada I rode a particularly rough section of trail and cleaned it first time. The only way to compensate for the massive boost to my confidence was to ride it again, but somehow better! On my second run I land too heavily and badly bend my chain rings resulting in having to take a file and hammer to parts of my lovely three week old prove the point that I'd do it again three weeks later on the North Yorkshire moors with pretty much the same result.

  • Descending in thick fog
    Whilst descending in thick fog, never anticipate the trail ahead by looking backwards over your shoulder for your riding buddy. It's a well known fact that bikes have a tendency to ride into inanimate objects if they think you're not taking the ride seriously or paying them enough attention. For me this resulted in my bottom bracket hitting a rock and the bike flipping through 90 degrees on the trail, suddenly I'm thrown over the high side of my bike and I'm sprinting down a mountain before inexpicably my legs fail to respond to my brains command to run at 35 miles an hour and I dive head long down the trail. I'm ok, the bike seems ok but the rear wheel looks like a boomerang. I straightened out the rear wheel so it runs clear of the frame and slowly rode back to the car. As some kind of protest at my lucky escape my bike then decided to blow out my rear tyre whilst I'm not 100 yards from the car, throwing me into a ditch. This happened as I was riding past some girls who were hiking up the road...nice move...real cool.

The fact that those first two incidents happened on my Merida over two years ago and I've only just had to replace the drivetrain has led me to two conclusions. Firstly, bike parts can be incredibly resilient and can last way longer than you'd think, even when they're way past their best. Secondly, it would appear that I'm incredibly tight with money when it comes to replacing broken parts, possibly because I'd rather spend my hard earned dosh on something new, exciting and usually unnecessary, like a lightweight racing wheelset.

So although I'm spending time on the bike, at yoga, in the gym and reading all kinds of literature about training, I'm going to focus on getting the basics right and looking at my weaknesses...climbing, speed and picking lines through technical sections.

18th February 2008

Looks like the frustration of January is continuing into February. I've still got a faulty bottom bracket although it is not stopping me riding the bike it does at times feel like the bike is going to fall apart beneath makes so many weird noises it's beginning to sound like it's clockwork!

I've just spent a very enjoyable weekend down in London with Harriet, James and Malin. Enjoyed the weekend, but the racing on the other hand was a different matter. I broke my bike more as well as my much loved Fox Flux helmet, I'd forgotten that sometimes races have hills in them and when I rode Harriet's bike (it's way too small but has bullet proof reliability compared with mine at the moment!) I looked like a wind up monkey. Read about that in the races section. In the end I had to laugh off the disappointment and put it down to experience.

In order to stop the rant early I'll focus on the good stuff that has happened recently. Firstly, the Marin Winter Series is finally over and I'll definetly miss my visits to Thetford. The conditions have been extreme throughout the series, from the wind, rain, mud and occasional hurricane of the first three rounds through to the cracking spring day in the sun for the final round. Whatever the conditions though the racing has always been well organised, exciting and a good crack. It's great that some riders actually noted my improvement through the series which gives the ego a massage and helps confirm that I'm going in the right direction. I finished the series very happily in 29th position.

I've just bought the well respected 'Mountain bikers training bible' by Joe Friel. It's very academic but is exactly what I'm looking for in the search to improve on my current training regime. I'm working through it now and also reading various riders blogs in the search for knowledge and trying to absorb everything like a sponge. I can try these techniques myself and decide what works for me and then incorporate it into my training.

Finally I've just rejoined the world of paying ridiculous taxes, carving out a bigger carbon footprint and being a menace to the local Police force. That's right, after ten years off I'm now officially a motorist again. The main reason to get the car was so that I can visit my family without it turning into a huge militarily planned operation and also (dare I say it) to assist with my training as I'd rather ride off road miles than on road... there are too many lunatics out there behind the wheel ;-)

1st February 2008

January promised so much with respect to my new training plans but was blighted by sickness. Putting that aside, I did pick up a useful racing tip during Round 3 of the Marin winter Series. In Round 2 I'd been mocked by a rider for 'carrying a baby round on my back' in the shape of my CamelBak stuffed with tools, bars, 3 litre bladder etc. For the latest round I decided to sack off the tools and heavy bladder and relied on picking up a fresh bottle and a bar as I passed Harriet in the feed zone and it made a huge difference. I certainly didn't have such a sore back and I definetly had more energy so it's the way forward from now on...although it does mean I'm more reliant on support from my excellent PB, Harriet!

10th January 2008

Happy New Year!

Hope you enjoyed the festive break, I did but did fall ill towards the end of it. So, New year, new training regime! Having done some research it would seem that the best riders recommend a good training plan and also doing as much racing as possible to get your experience up so the plan now is to enter more races and also enter at least some of the NPS and see how I get on.

Training wise I'm back in the gym three times a week, yoga twice a week and trying to put in around 75 km's a week on the roads. Hopefully this should get my fitness levels up and improve my race position over the coming months...hopefully!

10th December 2007

My new race clothing has arrived. Some of my older gear was a bit tatty after the trip to the Sierra Nevada and with Christmas coming and no idea what I wanted I thought I could do with some nifty clobber for the races (ok, there maybe a little gear envy in there too!). I've gone for the red Fox Blitz outfit which despite being advertised as MTB XC clothing now it has arrived appears to be MotoX clothing! Never mind, it looks the business and a little extra padding is no bad thing.

Following the first two Thetford races I've also been thinking a lot about the effort I'm putting in during races and quite frankly I think I'm not pushing myself hard enough, I'm giving up position far too easily and I'm also still sometimes riding in the wrong gear. These problems boil down to still having an attitude of being new to racing and therefore I'm still finding my pace and also being a little worried that the dreaded cramp and hamstring problems I suffered at Bontrager might return.

I've decided the solution is to get more rides and mileage under my belt and to forget about my Bontrager demons (I don't think people realised how disappointed I was after Bontrager). Everyone can prepare badly or have a bad race but I think it's all about recognising this and correcting your training rather than carrying around your early mistakes and bringing that negativity into future races.

19th November 2007

Gone Tubeless! Also fitted carbon SDG carbon seat post, SDG Bel Air saddle and Yeti ODI Lock On grips. Anyone want to buy some puncture repair kits?

October 2007

First 12 hour night enduro! Marin Dusk 'til Dawn with James and Harriet as PB. Crunch time for me, had the painful and expensive physio on my legs over the last six weeks paid off? If I had any more problems I knew I'd seriously be considering knocking the racing on the head. Fortunately it was a big success and we all really enjoyed it. Face plants, broken bikes and that freezing fog! Plus Harriet was the only person to watch the entire race from trackside :)

Read full report...

September 2007

Mountain biking holiday to Iceland. Went for the riding obviously but also the different culture. Excellent trip although the riding was not so technical so the elements were your biggest challenge. Everyone we met was friendly and very up for it - whatever that may be! Everyone had sore knees, grit got everywhere, couldn't take enough photos!

Read about the trip...

July 2007

First 24 hour enduro and first race! Bontrager TwentyFour/12 with James. Mark and Harriet were pulled into the team with less than a week to the race. Event slightly spoiled by suffering from bad cramping but it made me realise I had trained for three months incorrectly and I needed to take a different approach. Due to cramping I missed out on riding at night - gutted :(

Read full report...

September 2006

First mountain biking holiday! Sierra Nevada, Spain was absolutely awesome, plenty of technical single track, very rough, very hot and plenty of drinking! Rode the classic mountain ascent La Ragua.

Read about the trip...

July 2006

Bought first new bike, Merida Trans Mission Speed D, replacing my rigid 12 year old ex-hire Saracen TerraTrax