A Sort of Newsletter

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I thought I’d put a kind of update blog post out ahead of the weekend, covering a few different subjects of what I’m upto…

Bikes

It certainly has been a long wet Winter and I have to admit I’ve done far less riding than I should have.  I have wimped out on a few bike park visits (they aren’t as much fun in the driving rain or mud) and my local trails have become unrideable at times. So I’ve done more miles on my cyclocross bikes than I thought I would. Keeping the legs spinning but away from the  mud as much as possible.

My DJ has not seen the light of day for about 6 months!  I had so many plans to visit so many pump tracks but it just didn’t happen. This weekend I must – especially if I am to justify buying new forks for it!

My full suspension bike has been kept safe and clean (see the wimping out above) and my trusty hardtail has bore the brunt of the winter mud and elements.

Come on spring / summer I need you now more than ever!

Travel

I am a little bit ashamed of my lack of adventure the last few months. Putting the bike in the car to drive for a few hours only to get just as muddy and cold and wet as I can from home hasn’t been very appealing. The lack of a roof rack on my company car has probably been a slight barrier to this too as it is certainly better to stick a muddy bike on the roof rather than in the car that I do not technically own. New car coming next week and I will be getting a rack for it (and the Summer is coming!) so things should change in that department.

I have a trip planned next week (before I get a rack unfortunately) but I am so looking forward to it. Expect photos and videos on my return of a weekend riding with Tom Hutton MTB Guiding and the Dales Bike Centre.

Talking of Guiding

Talking of guiding, I finally put my British Cycling Leadership Award into action and set up a “business venture” doing some local rides. MTB Guide Wiltshire has so far run 3 rides (Jan, Feb and March) and I’ve brought a few riders out from hibernation, had a couple travel more than an hour to ride with me from Hampshire, and helped a few new comers to the sport get an introduction.

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Including a booking on my 4th ride this coming weekend, I have now had 4 return customers.  The photo for this blog post was taken last Sunday when a hardy group of 6 came out for a tough mudder of a ride, 2 were returning customers, and 3 traveled by car for more than an hour to ride with me!

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Showing some locals that there’s plenty of good riding in our little corner of Wiltshire and earning a bit of cash to keep the bikes maintained is very fulfilling. I’m making new contacts and friends, while networking and being “paid” to ride my bike – that’s the dream, the Holy Grail isn’t it?

My first ride outside of Wiltshire comes up in May and so far around 20 people are taking an interest in being guided around the amazing landscape near Blaenavon and Big Pit.

Tickets are on sale for the Ponds, The Pit and The Punchbowl now, and until 1st May they are reduced from £20 to £15 per person.

You can follow my guiding activities on Facebook or Instagram.

And finally…

No, that’s just about it..  Oh and if you’ve a story to share or subject to rant about please get in touch, I am very happy and eager to let some other voices be heard on my little blog…

Tim(FromWales)

 

The Chilterns with MTB Guiding

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Tom Hutton // MTB Guide // Map Geek // Photographer

Well I had a cracking day on Sunday. Seeing my good friend Tom Hutton had strayed out of the mountains of Snowdonia on MBR Magazine business (and not too far from where I live) I asked if I could tag along for the ride and so I joined him and Steph in the Chilterns. Continue reading “The Chilterns with MTB Guiding”

Y Slab at Coed Y Brenin

Y Slab at Coed Y Brenin
I had a brief visit to Coed Y Brenin while in North Wales recently and Tom Hutton of MTB Guiding accompanied me to the top of the Tarw Du trail to show me the new Y Slab section.

It was a really cold day; my Strava record says it was a -2 Celsius average temperature and my toes were numb for about an hour after riding.

 

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Does my thumb look big in this?
While I have been to Coed Y Brenin a few times I had never ridden the Tarw Du, so this and a newly opened trail section was a double treat.
The Tarw Du is a Black / Severe grade trail and certainly has some obstacles that require commitment but ultimately I think its more a “Red +” as I didn’t find this any where near as daunting as say Dai Hard or 5o Shades of Black at BikePark Wales.
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One of the “slabs” on the Y Slab section
Its well worth a trip and Tom was great company as he knows the centre and the trails really well. His business runs guided days and full weekends in Snowdonia as well as the Lake District, Scotland and other parts of the UK.
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Tom Hutton (LEFT) drinking another coffee!
Tom is probably best-known as a guidebook writer and the man behind MBR magazine’s pull-out route guides.  I have been on a few trips with MTB Guiding and highly recommend Tom and Steph as excellent guides and superb hosts check them out on Facebook and the web in the links below:

Plan B

Bike Packing
Luckily my NS Bikes Surge has a Bear Warning System

B is for BikePacking

We had booked the “Introduction to Bikepacking” trip with MTB Guiding a few months ago and three of us from the relatively flatlands of Wiltshire were really excited to be going on our first over night bike ride.

Meeting Tom Hutton at the Elan Valley Visitor Center at 10am on Saturday we discussed the plan. Along with the ins and outs of a guided ride we had the added complications that camping would bring to the ride and the extra gear and precautions we would need to take.

When bike packing in the mountains you have to carry all your usual gear that you would take on a long bike ride as well as a long list of other items to support an overnight stay.

Continue reading “Plan B”

Wildcat Gear – Bikepacking Kit

Wildcat Gear – Bikepacking Kit
Wildcat Gear - Lion, Tiger and Ocelot
Wildcat Gear L-R : Tiger, Ocelot and Lion

Good bikepacking and camping kit is not cheap. Lets get straight to it. To kit yourself out with enough gear to support you for even one night under the stars (or the drizzle!) can cost you £100s. Seriously this is not for the faint of heart or tight of pocket.

A good sleeping bag and by good I mean light, warm and one that can pack down to a manageable size can cost you £100 or more on its own. Ask around, hit the bike and bivi forums and you will get advice from regular bikepackers on where the best buys are – I recently looked at tents for instance and found that for a 1 man portable tent I could pay  anywhere from £50 to £200 – for a one man tent yes!

Don’t forget your sleeping mat, stove, food, change of clothes and all the usual paraphernalia that we carry on our backs for a long day in the mountains and on the bike. The shopping list is long…

MTB Guiding using Wildcat Gear
Tom Hutton of MTB Guiding

You can take your chances with weight, price and brand of all of this kit and do it on a budget, risking your night of comfort possibly and carrying some extra weight or you can go the other end of the scale and invest some money in good kit that is light. Which ever way you go you need to somehow fix all of this stuff to your bike.

Bar harness, seat post pouches, frame bags, etc – This is an area you should not compromise. Whatever you paid for your sleeping bag, you do not want it falling off the back of your bike in the mountains and getting wet and muddy or worse still it falls out and you don’t notice for a few hours!

And if you bought a super expensive tent or something that is maybe a bit on the heavy side you will want to make sure its fixed firmly to your handle bars (usually where it goes).

On a recent weekend bikepacking with MTB Guiding, myself and 2 friends were provided with a variety of different pieces of kit all securely fixed to our bikes using Wildcat Gear bikepacking harnesses. Once you have figured out the straps (this isn’t quite plug n play) its fantastic and the Lion bar mount and the Tiger for the seat post provide very sturdy platforms for your equipment.

We rode approx 90km through the Cambrian mountains in mid Wales and never lost an item and once secured the Lion in particular just seems to become part of the bike as it is fixed in 4 points to the fork and the bars.

The weekend with MTB Guiding was a taster as you can’t simply spend £100s and £100s on all this equipment to find that you don’t enjoy bikepacking and I certainly enjoyed it. I will be doing this again soon and at the top of my shopping list is this superb kit from Wildcat Gear.

You can buy in a few stores, or try the website:

Retailers – http://www.wildcatgear.co.uk/retail-stockists/

Web shop – http://www.wildcatgear.co.uk/shop/