Monday, 30 March 2009

And the clocks go Forward


Hurrah! more light in the evenings. But correspondingly Sunday morning came an hour earlier (at least) than desired.

However it was for a good reason namely to go and ride bicycles and more to the point round 4 of the Gorrick spring XC series held at the amusingly (well it makes me giggle) Porridge Pot hill.

Upon arrival friends were bumped into and pre race nerves were calmed with banter. The course was as usual a treat. Some sweet, steep, freshly cut, loamy singletrack descents a couple of nasty pinches of climbs and some wide open fireroad to recover on.

The Pack split after the initial few tight turns with by the sound of things a few dummys being thrown from prams as riders tangled in the trees. Then it was off into a nice steep fireroad decsent followed by an equally steep climb and into the joyus loamy singletrack and all concerned got on with thier racing.

All in a top day riding bikes.

Cheers to Joolze for her sterling service behind the camera capturing the action.

Photo credit Joolze Dymond

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Mangrunt Deluxe

Here's to messing around on bikes...

Marty, Jon, Dean, Jac and I undertook the traditional, if slightly belated, FBROTY* on saturday: The Legendary Mangrunt.

A gloriously sunny but damned chilly and breezy 10am saw us saddle up from Balmaha and automatically head for Conic Hill, until Jon and Marty realised their error and immediately veered right on some random track back to the road to avoid the gentle ascent, stunning views and rocky pinball madness of the descent... ho hum. ; )

There followed many miles of fire road through Queen Liz Forest Park - with a puncture, a crash and some kidz in bright red breeks to break the monotony of the snowy mountains, green trees and blue skies.

A few miles of road around Loch Arklet gave us more wind chill and stunning vistas of the Arrochar Alps before dropping us down to the Inversnaid Hotel at kilometre sixty. Hardly the jewel in the crown of Scotland's hospitality industry - but they had beer, sandwiches and cups of tea. I must also publicly apologise to Jac for the lack of hot chocolate - I was'nt aware the hotel kitchen need to be open for such culinary delights...

If you see a cowpat and a stone, what would you do?

Back on bikes for the home straight heading south on the west bank of the Bonny Bonny banks of Loch Lomond... Techy tight swoopy fast and slow. All sorts of good singletrack type things - with a few impromptu sessions on the more interesting bits.

Perhaps because of a week in Spain riding up hills quite a lot I somehow managed to clean a flight of step ups... I claim my twenty pounds of flesh, Mr Steel ; ) And Jon should claim his for a spirited clean of the big tree root step up - Marty has it on video I think.

A few more sharp ups and downs follow on from Rowardennan putting the Grunt in the Man, and zapping the strength from the legs we roll in to Balmaha a wee bit later than planned due to the extra miles at the start and the later time spent messing about on bikes. In fact the extra miles we added on have given us the Mangrunt DELUXE. Oh yes.

All jolly good fun. Riding bikes with your mates on ace, dry trails in the sun is quite splendid.

We should do it more.



*First Big Ride of The Year... hey, we made it before British Summer Time Started...

Friday, 27 March 2009

Dengie - The Hell of the East

....or the Flanders in Essex. looking at the start list I see there is a VCM interest. Of course, I have done my rain dance and today it did indeed rain. Not for long but hopefully just enough. I shall be there tomorrow shooting arty farty (it is a setting on my camera that takes any other options out of my hands) stuff, and for the race proper Sunday. Looking forward to it. So Steve, if you want to blog your day then I should have the appropriate image with which to accompany it. I'll be in a ditch somewhere looking shady. I intend shooting protraits of certain riders before and after the event so if you see me give me a shout. (hint: I look more like a rugby player than a biker cos I was! ). Chapeau!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Another Spring

Glenderaterra




A drier day in the Lakes and I managed to get out early evening for a nice wee ride. I had ridden this route once before, it was last summer when I was certainly fitter and I think running a marginally lower gear, I digress I set off on the Glenderaterra loop. It was a blustery but dry day and the gentle ride out of Keswick filled the soul with positive thoughts. The ride quickly lets you know why a Single Speed is a difficult choice for this area, from where the railway path pops out onto the A66 you quickly start heading up and it’s relentless for the next few kilometres on a single lane tarmac ascent up the side of Blease Fell towards Blencathra Centre. I will confess I had to make a stop on the road just to allow my heart and legs to control themselves. It doesn’t get much better once you reach the centre as the tarmac stops and classic hardpack Lakeland double track begins. The wind in my face at this point was pretty severe, so off I hopped and had a wee walk for a couple of hundred yards just to get me over the brow of the climb. Yes a lower gear would have been very much appreciated. The one advantage of this type of ride on a SS is you get chance to look behind you and with this ride that is very much recommended, the wide panorama of hills spread out in front of you is quite awe inspiring.
Anyway the track quickly becomes very enjoyable with the climb over you quickly get a sense of being out in the wilds, which considering you are only a few km out of Keswick is pretty nice. All the while traversing along the edge of Blease Fell your attention is drawn to the high singletrack on the other side of the valley astride Lonscale Fell, that’s where the return leg will take you, as I reach the bridge over Glenderaterra Beck ahead I can see a couple of riders just cresting the ascent to the start of the high singletrack. In times gone past I would have bust my ass to try and reel them in but today I’m quite happy to be enjoying the space, around my head is the song Another Spring, which I had been listening to in the car the previous day, a great version by Nina Simone, on first hearing it’s a pretty depressing little tune but once it creeps into your head and the words reveal themselves, it’s a joyous celebration of life.
I hang back to make sure the riders are well on their way so I can have the singletrack to myself, one last grunt of a hike up to the start of the real reward of this ride. I had it in my head I would get lots of photos here but to be honest this is just too much fun. For the most part it’s a skinny scratch of a trail high on the hillside that works its way around the hill to swoop you back above Keswick at the Latrigg car park and leave you with an almighty smile on your face. I’ve pondered long and hard about the best way to describe this but in a nutshell this is mountainbiking, it’s how in my head I see the sport.

Part 2

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

flying by the seat of my pants..

I remember when I started night riding i'd stumble along the trails with just the dim glow of a wobbly petzl headtorch or 5wt vistalite to guide the way. Then you'd more 'feel' your way than see your way. An incredible feeling indeed. Tyres slipping on roots, catching the edges of the trail, body weight shifting nervously to stay upright, glimpses of the trail changing direction at the last minute, missing turns altogether and ending up in the bushes!

A few years ago I got my paws on a Lupine Edison 5. Bright yes, faster nighttime riding for sure, great for racing, but there's always been something niggling away that some of the fun of nightriding had been lost.

With this in mind I recently purchased a Exposure joystick. Using only a narrower spot beam I figured might bring back some edgy-ness to night rides.

Last night I got a little more than i'd bargained for..

My friend Steven invited me up to his local trails around Newbattle, just south of Edinburgh. A week of dry, windy weather had dried the trails out beautifully. Some late afternoon showers added a little tackiness to the dirt and slickness to the roots. The trails were stunning, sadly my riding was less so*.

The joystick stuck to its side of the bargain with its tightly focussed beam making for hairy riding all round trying to keep up with Steven. Cue lots of front wheel slides and sketchy moments. It felt amazing. Unfortunately I had a stupid crash. Whilst riding up over a wee mound, my front wheel lifted, my back one slid out, I fell backwards landing awkwadly on my shoulder then banging my head into a tree!

So tail firmly between my legs today and one sore shoulder to boot.



*probably less to do with my lack of lighting, more a lack of recent riding and consequent loss of ability!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

I just had the greatest omelette in the world

Managed to complete my first road race of the year this morning.

It was a treat the sun was shining, the birds were singing and a bunch of lycra clad partially shaven (in my case) men and women lined up in the sleepy Surrey village of Dunsfold to go and ride around in circles until we had completed 50 miles looking at each others asses and avoiding each others spit balls.

The pace was nice from the start and on the third lap I figured I would go for a pair that had already made a break to see how my legs were feeling. Not the wisest move (I rarely make wise moves when road racing) but they felt good. The pack caught us and I dropped back in to the group to see how things went. About half way through and my legs felt pretty good still so I rolled out wise move number two to try and catch the group who had broken off the front and were steadily making a sizable gap. For about 3/4 of lap I sat out by myself slowly trying to close the gap when I was joined by another wise man and the pair of us set out to try and wind ourselves up to the front. Two laps later and we were toasted, sat up and tried to recover a bit before the group caught us again. Which fortunately took longer than either of us had expected and meant when the group came through We sat in with and promptly went backwards fairly quickly and held on for the remainder of the race.

All in a great way to spend a Sunday morning and now its time to eat (more)!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Mallorca.

The island of Mallorca deserves a lot more respect than I had been giving it. In my mind it was always a place for us brits to go on a cheap package holiday. However biking around the North end of the island shows Mallorca to be a really beautiful place. The scenery is fantastic and makes me wonder what it would be like for mountain biking? I am tempted to go back with a good map and my mtb or maybe even my 'cross bike! I've not heard much about off road riding in Mallorca, anyone know if it's any good?

I had an awesome time in Mallorca, probably one of the best weeks training of my life. 9 days on the island 45hrs in the saddle and just short of 750 miles up and down the hills. My legs and butt hurt a bit now but they'll recover soon... I hope. A fantastic 9 days with a good fun group of folk.



The riding in Mallorca is ace, completely different to here in the UK. For a start the weather is generally pretty nice. For the most part the roads are smooth and not littered with pot holes and the cars are used to bikers and generally pretty polite!



One of the big features of riding on the island this year turned out to be the landslide blocking the road from Lluc to Sa Calobra, this effectively cut off one of the best mountian routes on the island. Initially this seemed a bad thing but actually it prompted us to search out new routes which we wouldn't normally have ridden. At one point we even ended up doing some cx along the side of a railway as the road we'd chosen turned into more of a dirt track.



The best things about Mallorca.
1. Proper mountains to ride up and down.
2. Cafe con leche.
3. A whole 9 days on the bike with no work to get in the way.
4. Sun.



Thanks to everyone in our group from both sides of the Atlantic for a top holiday, hope everyone had fun. Hopefully see you for some more of the same next year. VCM in Mallorca 2010 anyone? Would be pretty cool I think.

riding trails, riding road

mangrunt the rematch - saturday 28th march

meet main car park in balmaha @10:00. lots of forest road, lots of singletrack, lots of dodgy sandwiches at the hotel of the damned. 45 miles/6hours.


goatee of filth - sunday 12th april

road ride round the fife riviera with a few pave sectors thrown in. then back to mine for paris-roubaix on tv and soup/cake/coffee/beer. distance c. 60 miles. start time dependent on eurosport coverage.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Training


Training has been anathema 'round these parts for many years. Perhaps forever. But recently i have decided to try and 'improve' myself. Initially this was due to missing a sub 10 hour time at shenandoah, but since then i have realised i have become fat, soft and weak.

Why this occurred is hard to say, but as a response i bought a book by joe friel on training (the mountain bikers training bible) and dug out the niterider heart rate monitor and computer i tested for singletrack mag a while back.

A few sessions on the rollers and one or two bigger rides have left me without any doubt that i need to get some miles in my legs. With this in mind, i set out today with the trusty fixed to tap out a century or die trying.

Interestingly, that last comment is not so much a hyperbole. When you train, as john claude van damme did in kickboxer 3, you must have an aim. For some the aim is a particular race, or series. For me shenandoah is again on the menu, but i also want to get back to being competitive.

In order to do this you not only have to see training as a quickening, you have to see it as a hardening. The body and the soul must be tempered in order to race. You *will* hurt: you will want your opponents to hurt - that is how you will beat them. You will endure more pain than them. Bad weather? make it your advantage. Questionable terrain? a tool of the trade. What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Oops. Got a little carried away there.

Still. Today, the motivation was there. The wet weather, broken road surface and headwind were along for the party. Time to enter the pain cave.

Glasgow, shettleston, airdrie, bathgate, edinburgh, crammond, forth road bridge and north queesnferry. Then turn into the wind and head for rosyth, kincardine, over the kincardine bridge and over to stirling. From here, drop into denny, kilsyth and the rain. Smile, because you know that just like robert millar, you will be a lady soon. No wait, i mean you will be making yourself tougher than your competitors. Over to kirkintilloch, then bishopbriggs, torrance and home. Pizza, beer and a tick in the training diary. 100 miles plus, fixed gear, heart rate 125 average out, 150 average back and the legs could go another round.

This is what training is about.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

racing, but not racing


Photo by dRj0n
A knacked back for new signing Neil, meant no VCM racers on the start line at the Alistair Lees Memorial Mountain Time Trial at Innerleithen today. The event was not VCMless - Neil dropped by, as did Andy, Ros and an in-transit Don. I was there as commissaire and starter.

Helen, Dan and Steve of Innerleithen MTB Racing had set out an awesome course. One big loop which mixed some of the 7Stanes XC, some old-skool stuff and some of the DH too, linked in with some imaginative work. Steep up and down, it was pretty hardcore for XC. Get it in your diary for next year.

Manwinner were Gareth Montgomery taking the win by five minutes from Douglas Shearer and Iain Nimmo. Womanwinner was Lesley Ingram, from Rennel Brennan and Jo Cardwell. Full results here.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday soul revival

Friday soul revival.

Well it has to be said that the last 2 months have probably been the hardest of my life. Been a lot going on in the Williamson house with new baby arrivals and the problems that it has brought. (story too long to tell and most of you probably know it) With all that has been going on it has very little time for all things bicycle until this morning.


This morning I managed to get 2 hours to myself so headed out for wee spin around the Pit. The air was cold and my head was saying what that the hell are you doing, But I climbed slowly out of Moulin and over to a lovley wee single track decent down through Black spout, It was ace to feel the dirt beneath my wheels again, it had been far too long.

As you will see from a few of the photos I am now sporting a lovely second chin for my non efforts on the bike and and have re entered the 17 stone club again. My Le Grande Roulier status in the club has really taken on a different perspective!!!


From Black Spout my Friday Morning get away takes me through a very quiet high street of the Pit and down through Faskally Wood and along the the river towards Killiecrankie. As I pedelled along the single track I could feel my woes of the past few weeks lifting and the smile began to reach across my face. I'm always amazed how somthing so simple as a piece of single track can take away any blues or troubles you might have and just let you live in the moment. For that hour and half my soul was re-vitalised and I can now smile again. I've been a right grump lately.


Like most of the team I carry a wee hipper on most rides, even on a Friday morning a wee nip just ads to the moment and gives time for reflection on the trail that you have just left behind. Or you could just have a nip for the sake of having a nip, either reason is good enough in my book!

From Killiecrankie The trail takes me up and under the A9 viaduct which hangs off the side of Craigower which just leaves a nice pedal through the forest along tarmac smooth landrover paths behind the Pitlochry golf club and down to the Moulin Hotel, our sacred club house.
Fingers crossed I will be at the Pub for the start of PBP, as for any racing this year I have resigned myself to the team car at the back of the pelaton for 09 but am very much looking forward to our monthly epics be it on the tarmac or on the dirt.





Good luck to all the team this year and welcome to all of our new signings for 09

Keep it upright

Mark

LGR

Thursday, 12 March 2009

night fairies



Had our first ever night time trailfairy session last night - doing some fettling on the Pie Run at Glentress.

Was quite surreal. Can highly recommend it!





Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Mallorca dreaming

Didn't make it out to Mallorca this year but i'm there in spirit following things on my good friend Don's blog


I thought about doing similar length rides to what they'll be doing here in Scotland for the two weeks they are out there but broken bikes/work and other things have seen to that not happening. I get frustrated when work creeps up and starts to takes over. Guess that's the problem when doing a job that is closely related to your main passion.


Still got out for an ace ride this afternoon with Ros (on her new mtb, a very pretty white Commencal Normal - prettier than any of my bicycles) and our dentist Chris. No tan lines this March but a fine set of 'mud' lines instead!





The Three Moulineers

Three is the Magic number. Yes it is, it's the magic number¹.
And three was the number of Moulineers who ventured out to fly the faux Belgian Flag at last weekend's Gorrick race at Crowthorne.

It was a splendid Southern Spring Sunday and the near perfect conditions had certainly encouraged a few extra folk out of their winter hibernation. In fact, entries to this series are up 50% over last year's entries. The slick organisation coupled with the courses' fun factor makes for a very popular compact series.

After having dislodged Singular Sam's van from a hole, The Three Moulineers, Deano, Phil and Anja, met in the vicinity of the chip van. Phil and Anja were racing at the more gentlemanly hour of 2pm, whereas Deano had fronted up to the far earlier Master's race. Cups of tea were
ordered to take the edge off the cool air, and Deano hoovered down a post race bacon buttie and a portion of well salted chips², his brazen racing efforts earning him a solid top twentyfive placing and a good appetite. Post-race reports and quick practice lap confirmed the two other Moulineer's suspicions... it was going to be dry, fun and fast.


Leaving Deano to digest, Phil and Anja went and found their spots on the start grid and waited for the start gun. Phil swigged from a hip flask charged with fine Single Malt and willed his legs to be strong while Anja, a few rows back, fretted that the combination of a too-tall gear and an uphill start line would have her running to the crest of the hill (a very undignified way to start a race).

The gun went and the race proceeded like clockwork. Phil's legs were strong enough to earn him 5th spot and Anja didn't suffer the indignity of running the first hundred meters. The course was the perfect mix of tight twisty³ bits, straight pedally bits, the odd spot to replenish fluids and a sharp, short eye-ball shaking downhill. Some enthusiastic heckling supplied by Deano spurred on the intrepid riders and at the finish line, there were more swigs of whisky all round and a lavishly decorated celebratory cupcake to be consumed⁴.

Post-race cupcake endorsed by Anja, photo by Deano

All in all, the VC Moulin was proudly represented and a thoroughly enjoyable
day was had by all.

Footnotes.
1. Pasta Nous of hip hop legends De La Soul
2. Clinically proven to replace electrolytes faster than shite tasting recovery drink
3. A affectionately known as the 'Corkscrew'
4. Also known to replace electrolytes


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Innerleithen winter series round 2



The course was an Innerleithen classic, taped by Steve from I-cycles and Matt from Alpine Bikes. Saturday was practice day and I was having fun with the steep and rooty top section cutting into the fast flowing 39 steps course. After 5 smooth runs I was feeling good and looking forward to my timed run on Sunday.

Unfortunately it rained all Saturday night/Sunday morning making bits of the course a bit greasy and the roots even slidier which I found to my peril in the first practice run Sunday morning. I was on and off Williamson style! Only joking Mark.


The sun showed in the afternoon, not enough to dry the course, but I managed to convince myself it had (its all about PMA after all) so when it came to the timed run I managed to get my race head on and with a couple of mistakes on the way down, I was happy to finish fifth with a time not too far off the leaders. So it's back to the gym for more training to help get that elusive podium.

Blairadam Blast.

It was time to see if the winter of chopping logs and dragging ice blocks was going to pay off.
The Blairadam Blast is a new event organised by Bike Blairadam and is the season opener. The course - described by some as Belgian New Style, or by others as a short track race - centred on a rooty, rocky winding track that had only 2 short fire road sections. A large bomb hole with kicker exit and ladder bridge into an off camber drop-off meant early season skills would be tested. The short, but steep climbs are a test for the legs.
65 riders lined up for the start. With lap times expected to be around 15 minutes, the spectators were vocal.



  • VC Moulin were well represented with JohnMac, Marty, ChrisM, Jac, and myself all in attendance. As the gun sounded, the nervous shivers were transformed into pedal strokes and the pace for the day was set. Fast. An hour and a half duration with no real recovery on the lap meant that the blistering start was going to send some into the red zone. Fighting for a good position into the first singletrack is critical if you are aiming for a good finish but it is early in the season to be testing the heart rate recovery so viciously.



  • Nevertheless, the Moulin crew settled in the upper half of the field and kept it tight but loose through the first 3 laps. Chris was having trouble with a seized EBB that meant his chain was dropping as he hit the stuttery sections over roots, and martin's seat had slipped giving his prostate a prod every time he sat down. Jac powered through the women's field on her singlespeed and maintained fine form through the mid laps. John showed that despite lacking saddle time recently he could still remember how to apply the torque.



  • As the laps counted by James Fraser-Moodie, Douglas Shearer and Andy Cathcart flexed their muscles and applied the pressure. Down in 7th place I felt I had more to give and tried to ride sensibly on the steep ups and use the technical flowing sections to reel in those in front.



  • Support from the crowd raised spirits despite Chris eventually having to pull. Jac expanded her lead and I managed to catch the 2 riders in front with some wily tactics and chest opening hard efforts on the last lap to bring it home.



  • Jac: first lady, first singlespeed lady
    Me: 5th overall, first singlespeed man
    John Mac: 12th overall
    Marty: 17th and second singlespeed male
    Chris: 53rd

    Thank you Susan, Janet & Trina for support and photos.

  • Sunday, 1 March 2009

    More stuff to read and forget!

    Hi peeps,

    Just dropped by say I've got one of those blog things now..

    The PixelMer©hant

    I will talk about all sorts of nonsense that wouldn't make it to my website news page. If you fancy dropping in just to leave a comment so I don't feel lonely that would be ace.

    Until later

    Umcle G