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
I don’t read a monthly magazine but I take in mountain biking information weekly, no daily! And I do this by creating my own virtual magazine from a multitude of sources mostly on line via my smart phone, TV or computer screen.
The internet with free magazines and websites such as PinkBike, BikeRadar, IMB, RedBullTv, MPora, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube etc allow me to create my own content where I can chose to ignore the subjects I am not interested in (ebikes, fatbikes, downhill bikes) and concentrate on the ones I am and at no perceived (I have to pay for my internet access of course) or extra cost.
Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it. Vincent Van Gogh
We demand so much for free these days and many find digital and electronic ways around paying for stuff that isn’t free such as movies etc via file sharing and not so legal streaming services. Advertisers know this and they put their money where we are putting our eyes (online) and they help fund such great resources as GMBN and PinkBike, which means we now get so much more and don’t have to pay £5-10 a month for it.
Today GMBN launched a new channel proving (I think) that you have to separate the types of content for different types of users. This channel will attract a large selection of GMBN subscribers and I am sure it will attract new viewers too.
Last weekend a group of us headed off to Carmarthenshire West Wales and spent a very long day riding around the Brechfa Forest trails – Gorlech (Red) and Raven (Black).
Trails designed by Rowan Sorrel, a forest of beautiful fir trees and plenty of mud – what more do you want?
Well there wasn’t too much mud, though I am sure parts of these trails are never dry!
The weather gods were on our side even though we were deep in to Wales in October!
We had a wicked day and here are a couple POV GoPro edits to give you a feel for whats in store if you decide to pay Brechfa a visit.
First up the Red graded Gorlech. fast and flowy in places, a few climbs and last weekend, a few wet leaves!
The Raven is Black graded trail but shouldn’t scare you. There are some great features on the trail and a few techy switch backs, but its not a Black trail in my opinion and equivalent to a Red at Bike Park Wales.
More info on the trails and links to find out about any forestry work below:
Banter, racing, taking photos, stopping at the cafe, motivating each other up the hill, egging each other over the drops, laughing and joking. But its also great to go out and do stuff on your own.
Your pace might be faster or slower than the group you ride with; your ideal choice of ride might be different also; or you might just like the solitude from time to time. If you are like me, with a busy family life and commitments, there are also times when your diary just doesn’t line up.
I use this time to explore and often find stuff even on my door step that’s fun, either for riding or for photos. I love that I can do this at my pace without everyone waiting for me. It means I can change plans or direction when I want, cut the ride short or extend it without the gang having to vote on it. I can also do silly things like talk to the camera and take endless selfies !
So the next time you miss the group ride or can go out Saturday and not Sunday, don’t sit at home being sad that they will be having fun without you – go out and have fun on your own…
Here’s two videos 6 months apart of me doing a little solo spin on my local trails. Note the bridge in the first video…. This the same spot where I got some water and made a brew 6 months earlier in the second video.
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