I’ve had a self induced few weeks off the bike while doing a mini challenge and some intense training for a half marathon that I completed last week. Yes, I ran 13.1 miles on the road in just under 1 hour 59 minutes. I may be a little hooked on the idea of doing more of this, but more on that another day. For now though…
Yes its on, the heating is on. Winter is here! I have caved and let her put the central heating on (but I will be checking the thermostat everyday) and as every bike ride is likely to include a mud bath, its nice to know I can come home to a warm house and a hot shower!
Its the season to “make the most of it”. Getting out on those cold and damp days, rather than when its chucking it down with rain, and get out and do some “Winter miles” for those “Summer smiles”.
The trails on my doorstep are muddy from about mid November through to March. We pray for the frost and stick to the ones with rocks, roots and less clay content. There is no winter/mud tyre that can cope with clay!
This limits our options so its time to get some longer rides in. So I got my Winter Season off to a good start on Sunday with about 35 miles of pedaling.
It was just me on Sunday; though I did make plans to meet a few others from MB Swindon for a coffee stop in Marlborough. However that didn’t happen due to the other group of riders having some mechanicals and running over an hour late.
So I did what I like to do and rode, explored, made it up as I went along and stopped to take a few photos.
I had my own “mechanical” that involved forgetting my keys and the rest of the family had gone out. Luckily like a good Boy Scout (I was never in the Scouts), I was prepared.
I was wet and beginning to get cold, so armed only with the contactless paying capabilities of my iPhone I somehow found sustenance and warmth by way of a visit to my local Costa for a cup of tea and cheese toastie. I changed my wet socks, broke out my spare gloves too… I survived Bear Grylls eat your heart out!
Not a very exciting blog post, but with so many photos taken on Sunday I had to write something and share them…
Its about the simplest and one of cheapest add on you will buy for your mountain bike. So why has it taken me 3 years to get one!?
The Rapid Racer Products NeoGuard is simple and effective. As your wheel spins forward, the muck and water that doesn’t get sprayed straight up between your legs gets flung forward and upwards in front of you. That’s OK I hear you say. Well yes it is if you are pootling along at a snails pace, but anything other than this and the spray of mud and water, dirt or even tiny stones will be presented neatly in front of you fo you to ride straight into!
For around £15.00 this is a must buy especially here in the UK.
They come is different sizes to allow for different fork travel and can be fitted in a few minutes by a some velcro fastenings. Don’t even think about this any longer, if you haven’t fitted on to your bike yet go and order one online or pop into your LBS right away. I need to get one for my second bike and one for my son.
We all sat impatiently glued to our iPads and computer screens in mid October waiting for the clouds to part and the wind to drop in Virgin, Utah as we wanted to see what Cam Zink and Kyle Strait had up thier sleeves for their second run in the 2013 RedBull Rampage. We waited and didn’t happen. The winds were to strong which made the riding too dangerous and the last few riders didn’t get a second go. While it was enough for Strait to claim the prize and for Zink and Mcgarry to show some of the most amazing tricks ever performed, many were disappointed and typed on various social media forums “why didn’t they just get on with it” – they have obviously never ridden bikes in high winds.
I have seen gusts blow riders off a trail in front of me and have been knocked to the ground myself while being caught unawares coming out of shelter into a high wind. Its serious stuff and a wind in any direction could have resulted in major casualties or worse at the Rampage.
That was the dramatic and enticing start to my blog post, now I’m going to have a moan about how hard it was riding in the wind this weekend!
We set off at about 9.30am knowing we had around 50km to cover and maybe around 600m of climbing. This sort of distance (maybe not the climb) is often classed as an Epic if it was billed as a MTB or XC event and its a big ride by our local standards. Our local terrain isn’t too tough but at this time of the year the puddles get deeper and the rutts get softer and muddier. Winter/mud tyres help to cut through the quagmire but long grassy tracks feel like sponge and suck the speed out of the bike and energy out of you as you have to push harder into the pedals.
Add to this the wind. Yes the same wind I waxed lyrically about at the beginning of this post that prevented us seeing more spectacular stunts in Utah in October. This same wind made our ride really tough yesterday. Cross winds drove rain into us at right angles to the track and obscured our goal as we climbed the ridge line to Barbury Castle yesterday. We had to lean into the wind to stay upright and combined with the boggy ground and wet blasts made it one of the slowest rides of the year. (I may be over egging this but it was hardwork.)
Going along the flat was an effort and even going downhill required a few turns of the pedals to keep the momentum up. By the time we finished the ride we figured we were about 40 mins behind the expected finish time. Was the ride bigger than expected? Was the average speed ambitious? Was it the wind? It was without doubt the wind. Significantly adding to the required effort we figured we lost a fair bit of time not due to punctures or waiting for riders to regroup – simply put it was the wind.
So here are some Gear Factor tips for riding in the wind:
1. Keep you chin up. Well down is better really, but what I mean here is be positive and try not to let it beat you mentally. Consider it a challenge or a training aid. If you can beat that climb or Strava segment in these conditions imagine what you can do on a still day!
2. Keep your chin down! Minimise the wind resistance by making yourself as aerodynamic as possible. We are all mountain bikers here aren’t we? Therefore at this time of the year you are probably wearing a coat and baggies with multiple layers etc – you might as well be a kite! If you know you are going out in high winds try to wear clothing with less flap!
3. Treat the wind like a hill. You wouldn’t push hard up a hill in too high a gear – the same should go for the wind.
4. Trust the gust. (I just thought of that!) Lean into a cross wind, trust its power and rather than use up extra energy trying to stay upright let the wind hold you up. Just remember to stop leaning when the wind stops!
5. Find shelter. If your route lends itself to a sheltered detour then take it. Ride within the shelter of bushes and tree lines when possible and you will find this so much easier.
6. Pedal downhill. You might find you have no choice if the wind is blowing straight into your face, but pedalling will give you some added stability. The added traction and power delivered to the bike will keep you on course and prevent the wind taking you off your line.
I am sure this may seem obvious to you but honestly the ride was a tough ride… I tried to search for some science and find calculations as to the effects of high winds on your speed and found so many different accounts and variations I gave up. I am pretty convinced that the wind at least doubled the effort at some points and my legs today agree!
Most winter tread tyres look pretty similar these days. The technology behind the decision making and design of the tread is mostly the same no matter if you are Specialized, Schwalbe, Continental or Bontrager so I kind of knew what to expect though this was the first time I had put a proper mud/winter tyre on the Giant.
The Maxxis Beaver at 2.0 is the skinniest I have ridden on my 26″ full sus bike and at first they looked a bit weird when I fitted them this weekend. I had just taken off 2.4 Ardents so they did look a bit like their baby brother!
However it was clear instantly that these were going to be good for the ride. The Trance has a great suspension set up but not a great deal of mud clearance, suddenly there was more room and I didn’t get any clogging up or collections of twigs.
The tread is similar to that of the Storm Control I run on the 29er but the compound is a little softer. The sidewalls thinner and its altogether a lighter tyre. This felt great at speed and the bike was a lot more nimble than with the big old Ardents on.
I had heard that I should keep the pressure up to avoid rolling and tearing the tyre so I pumped them up quite hard. The result was a great fast ride considering the conditions.
This was a sort of dry run of the set up I want to use at the SPAM Winter Challenge and I think I am convinced.
After last Sunday’s rapid dumping of the bike in the shed to go and get dry and warm I was greeted with possibly the dirtiest bike I have ever seen this morning. Cleaning the bike moments before embarking on a muddy ride seems a little counter intuitive but believe me it was a state.
It was so disgusting that I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo to share with you. It was embarrassing to say the least. However, its amazing what a little motivation and Muc-off can do. Within 10 mins or so the bike was in an acceptable condition to be seen in public. The chain, cassette and dérailleur were looking reasonably clean and some wet lube meant they would soon be clicking and running smoothly. A quick start, 8am out of bed and 9am on the bike, meant that initially pedalling was a struggle but I soon warmed up.
Meeting some local riders for a muddy 30km was the last thing on my mind when I opened my eyes at 7.59am, but I had agreed to meet up and didn’t want to let the other guys down.
There were only 3 of us and we soon set about making it up as we went along. Shall we do this bit? What about going over there? Have we got time for that? You know the sort of thing. This is the beauty of a local ride on familiar trails – its easy to freestyle a little and add and take away from your plan (or lack of) as you go along. Some of the slower riders weren’t present so instead of hanging about and pacing the ride we were able to do a little more than is usual.
The conditions were atrocious. Mud tyres can only give you so much and in this part of Wiltshire we have a lot of clay that becomes treacherous in the wet. We dug in and climbed and slid around the local country side with a few sketchy moments and one off.
My Storm Control tyres have suffered from some inappropriate use over the summer – I should have taken them off – and have finally had their day. This didn’t help with grip and mud shedding. Though I found that even the most mud packed tyre, clogged gears and tired legs can still sprint up a hill when pursued by some rather interested cows.
Again I ended up with cold feet – not wet as I had the longer socks on. I put this down to the summer Specialized SPD shoes I have been wearing. They are of leather and mostly suede construction and just soak up the water, and in this weather cold water retained in shoes and socks doesn’t help.
We stopped for a tea and some chocolate brownies at The Divine Cafe in Cherhill and I decided that I will buy some over shoes rather than buying some new shoes just yet. As well as some new mud tyres.
Back at home I gave the bike a thorough clean and lube which made me feel good and the bike is ready for my next ride…