I lost a friend recently. We used to go out on adventures together all around the South East and occasionally to the foreign climes of Wales. We climbed mountains, explored valleys, crossed rivers and shared good times and bad but now my Nomad has gone. Continue reading
With my trusty secateurs at the ready I plunged into the overgrown bridleway trying to find the remnants of a trail. Unpassable at present by bike or horse a few evenings work will open it once more.
This seems to be my primary training program this year as everything seems to be growing at a huge rate. While being stung and scratched it gives you a little mind wandering time, a bit like ‘walking promoting thinking’ with more sharp interuptions.
Just like everyone else I would like to ride faster and easier without earning the benefit from serious training so I have been comparing other bikes to my 33lb Nomad. Obviously a Blur is lighter, but not that much, so the key area for me is the fork. A Fox Vanilla 36 is great, but weighs about 2.5kg, whereas a Pace Fighter is nearer 1.5kg. In between at 2kg seems to be the compromise level for many others.
Other bikes, other forks and other people’s opinions all help but there is no clear consensus as we all ride differently on different trails with different skills. So the best choice has to be ‘fit for purpose’ as although I might bounce off the odd lip or hang on down a washed out track I do not hurl myself off anything that would test a Nomad or a Vanilla 36.
Any big fork seems to be able to withstand large drops and heavy impacts and as a result tends to give a very soft ride on most trails with no handlebar buzz. A shorter travel fork tends to have a firmer edge but should stall less in a rooty hole or a ditch at low speed and be easier to manhandle due to its lower weight.
After a bit of changing of bikes and forks I find that the all mountain tag seems to combine lots of little details that suit a steeper fall line angle and a change of fork does not transform it into an xc whippet nor does a big fork change a singletrack designed hardtail into a hardcore trail dropper.
So the answer seems to be more than one bike or horses for courses.
And as I drop my secateurs into my backpack and turn to climb onto my saddle it seems I have been mistaken and at least one horse has passed through this particular bridleway and left some pungent proof on my front tyre.
I ride my bike up the bridleway from Lewes prison frequently and although I may not fly up on a 33lb Nomad, I trundle up easily enough.
I did borrow a Blur LT recently and found it lighter, but all that means is that you go a bit quicker and are just as tired at the top. Continue reading
Some people agonise for ages over materials, frames, suspension and colour but the main consideration is usually budget. Continue reading
This was the first mtb race of my season, in fact, it was the first mtb race of my life, and it may well be my last. I had spent the previous week on bike choice and foolishly harboured the idea that an orange Nomad would give me an advantage on a technical course. In case this was unfounded, I had tried my 2003 Marin East Peak and although this was lighter on the climbs the Rockshox Pilot fork was the main weakness. A generous offer of a Blur LT seemed the sensible option and a comparison run or two over bridleways and a little off-piste illuminated the advantages of the VPP counter rotating links over a standard four bar configuration.
On this spring day, it seemed lovely and warm arriving at 10 a.m. and after a change of tyres and a puncture repair, I set ready for a practice lap.
Unfortunately, time was against me so I rolled around the field for a warm up before heading to the start line. A familiarity lap was probably unnecessary as the course would be clearly marked and I could take the first lap easy before powering through the last three laps finishing with a sprint to the line. Good plan that.
At the line, Mike was waiting on his Orange. Prudence said start slow and try to ride evenly paced and then the gun went and so did Mike. I had never seen that Orange go so fast and it was the last I saw of him for quite some time.
Using a heart monitor to ensure I would last four laps, I had determined an upper limit of 170 as a maximum so I immediately went to 180. I was in last place and I do not mean just behind a line of riders I mean ten metres behind after only one hundred metres. Unless Lance Armstrong’s old Motorola team were in disguise as a bunch of middle-aged men then it seemed a few people had started too quickly.
After a few minutes, I began to catch a few riders and as their adrenaline surge ended, the pace in front began to fade. I made progress through a few riders until a few of us missed a turn and we went the wrong way. At the road, we turned around and retraced out steps. We were last and a long way back now. Our race was over for the day and in the first lap so maybe a familiarity lap would have been better or even a few signs that said “Stop, not race route” for us race novices.
I spoke to several people on the way around and rode along with one of my fellow detourers who had the best encouragement of the day when several little people called “come on Grandad!” on every lap.
I also tagged along with one of the Southdown girls for a bit before she eventually pulled away as youth exerted its advantage.
My favourite bike of the day was not any of the lightweight carbon race machines but a Specialized in bright orange. Can’t think why exactly…
I was still running at 9mph according to my Garmin Gps readout and was remaining within my 170 heart rate limit but I could feel the hills and the heat were beginning to pay.
A few cheers at the start/finish line helped immeasurably but my legs had no zing after lap two.
So overall, would I recommend it to you? Perhaps, but only if you like racing your riding friends and you do not mind it hurting a bit.
I did learn that the advantage of a lightweight hardtail on the climbs offsets the lack of suspension in other areas; that weather conditions may be the most important factor as although the heat punished everyone the older and the least fit seemed to suffer disproportionately.
As for times and positions Alec’s 2:41 was the best race time. Samantha Bryant who rode with some of us in Whiteways last year won the girl’s race and was second in the boys! However, the best point made to me was by Kim Bang Sorensen riding in his Sussex-mtb jersey when he said that Ian Petherbridge had won his group easily, with an improved margin from last year, in 2:12. Kim’s own 2:38 put him in second place again but the fact he pointed out his rival’s achievement rather than his own was a generous touch.
As for my own lowly 16th, I learned that Father Time has caught and well and truly passed me.