Hang on, let me explain…

I know I profess to be a mountain biker but you do see me on something different from time to time, so I thought I’d so a little post about me and my flirtations with the curly bars.

Firstly let me put this out there LOUD and CLEAR – I hate riding on the road!

It’s my least favourite place to ride and I just hope I am a more considerate driver than most of the drivers that seem to pass me on my local roads.  So why do I ride such a bike?


So this is a cyclocross (or CX) or gravel bike, not a road bike. That means I can (and do) ride it in places that are not suitable for your average road bike.

Someone told me a road bike would be good for fitness and winter riding. I’m not sure I ever really believed that but I first got interested in something like this when I saw pictures of bikes being ridden on the Tour Divide. Ok they are not cyclocross bikes, they are adventure bikes, rigid 29ers and basically sturdy mile munching cart horses. I liked the idea of this and as I explored and Googled around the topic I started to come across what I considered to be cool looking bikes with drop / curly bars but in muddy and dusty places.  I was hooked!


So now what?

Well I often get the cyclocross bike out when I want a quick blast and don’t want to get too dirty, so I take in a few quite roads, have an urban explore and hit some tracks.  Occasionally I go full off road and take it up the local hill, but mostly its road and gravel tracks.

I really honestly don’t enjoy the road bits. I’m not against the concept of road riding and I actually enjoy the speed and covering the distance – but I really hate being buzzed by inconsiderate motorists. Its pretty scary when a car passes within 2 feet of you at 40 miles an hour!  But its a means to an end sometimes.


Connecting up some trail and gravel tracks with road is a necessity around where I live and is certainly easier on a cyclocross bike that a mountain bike.

But why the cyclocross bike? What’s so good about riding a cyclocross bike? Why not just ride your mountain bike?

  • For starters it gets me off the road a little quicker! Making light work of the road sections.
  • I don’t take a pack, travel light which is refreshing and simplifies my ride.
  • It makes you very aware of where your wheels are going – line choice becomes very important when your wheel is only an inch wide instead of 2-3 inches!
  • The bike is not forgiving off road so I think improves your bike handling skills
  • Variety is the spice of life isn’t it?




We’ve come a long long way together… (Vitus Escarpe VRX Long Term Review)

Cadair Idris

Its been two years since I decided it was time to change my full sus bike (Giant Trance X2) and after much research I decided on the Vitus Escarpe VRX.

Longer and beefier forks. Wider bars. Bigger wheels (650b). I was excited! Continue reading “We’ve come a long long way together… (Vitus Escarpe VRX Long Term Review)”

Different types of skills for use on the hills

Map reading compass skills
Location Location Navigation

I have been suffering with a bit of a cold so decided to take it easy this weekend but still get outdoors and hit the local hills.

Ahead of my upcoming British Cycling Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Award course with Wye MTB and in the absence of logging an actual ride, I decided to get out and practice some navigation skills.


Its pretty tough to test your own navigation skills in your own “back yard” but it doesn’t hurt to grab a compass and a local map and practice some navigation and compass bearing skills.

mans best friend
Little helper


I try to use OS Explorer maps (the orange ones). They  are at 1:25,000 scale, which basically means every 4 cm on the map equals 1 km. As the name suggests these are great maps for exploring the outdoors as they show such details as footpaths, rights of way, open access land and the vegetation on the land.

Black and White Mountain Biking

Do or Do not

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda said this to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back

The whole Dagobah sequence in Episode V is full of great lines and is a favourite part of the whole franchise for many fans, as we watch Luke struggle with his powers and see him fail and refuse to believe he can do it.  Yoda is a harsh but calm teacher who watches him make his mistakes, shakes his head when he refuses to listen and eventually lets him learn the hard way that he isn’t ready. #SpoilerAlert (really after all these years?) he duels his Dad who is actually Darth Vader, and has his hand chopped off. Sorry if this was news to you!

Anyway I went to Dagobah this weekend and found some cool jumps! Or was it Endor?

Black and White

There was a point to this (and thanks Jonathan for the pics btw), and that is that some times is just like that in mountain biking. You can’t try to ride down that hill, or go off that drop, or ride that skinny line; you simply have to do it or not do it. Ok , so the amount of success or pain or mud that ends up on your face at the end depends on some luck and hopefully some learned skills, but basically you have to do it.  What I mean here is the “doing it” part doesn’t necessarily mean you get it right, it simply means you have had a good go at it.

But there are some  gap jumps and large drop offs for instance that allow for almost no margin for error and I use the qualifier jump on Dai Hard at Bike Park Wales as the example here. Its a proper gap, not too wide really, but wide enough to get in your head and the landing is either on the transition, or well, not! These you simply have to do – 100%. Because 90% might mean a new wheel. 75% a cracked frame and 50% a visit to A&E.

How do you learn to jump something that has such a consequence if you get it wrong? You can go and see Tony Doyle at UK Bike Skills, this will help loads trust me!  Then once you have done this, you must go and practice, practice and practice what you have learnt some more until you are so confident you can do it that when you approach that jump at BPW you know you are going to clear it before you even start rolling towards it. There can’t be any doubt.

But while some jumps require a simple black or white approach (watch Red Bull Rampage this weekend and you will know what I mean) there are in reality plenty of places where you can get a little bit grey. A table top is a perfect example.

Find one you’d like to clear and practice.  If you don’t make it you’ll land on the top, you can roll it slowly or you can hit it at speed.

Find or even build a jump in your local woods. Now you have control over the height, control over the landing and everything that happens in between.

I only wrote this post so you could see some pics of me in the air!  However the jump in the picture was a jump with a lot of grey. You could jump 4 foot or 14 foot and so long as you landed up right you did it.  The aim is to land on the transition of course (around 9-10 feet from the take off), but in between is ok too.