All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Spoon to a gun fight

So if guns are for show and knives for a pro, what the hell is a spoon any good for in a fight? Alan Rickman, would claim it hurts more. Who though?

Sunday saw the 2014 running of the Gorrick 100, an annual race that is more challenge than a race, yeah right.  But it is great fun, the course always pretty good fun and all the category contestants appear to have fun.

Having felt off all week and not that interested in riding.  A Thursday night climbing session being the only exercise that seemed to lighten my ambivalence to training in the week, I was really struggling with the idea of racing. So I hatched a silly plan that I knew would put a smile on my face and be some good exposure for (you have to do your bit).  I decided to race the Fatboy in the Gorrick, a bad idea if there every wise one with the lack of mud, snow and/or sand.

So arriving at the race village, I got registered, chatted to a few folk as ya do, grabbed a spare tube off Big Al (who had come up a bit earlier than he need, top man and congrats on the 5 lap win!) and then I got myself sorted and readied the fatbike.

This was never going to be easy and frankly I still felt at odds with riding let alone racing, but I was on the start line and we were off.  A funny thing happens inside your head when you start a race, you take off like a loon and forget about most things, squeezing past riders on the first tight turn, I thought I would have a crack at seeing how well I can do.  But I was under no illusions, I was on a damn fatbike (the spoon from the Lock Stock-ish quote above) whilst everyone else was on 29er XC machines (the guns, no knives).

Surprisingly though as I pressed on, I made up places, scared people as the 4.6" tyres rumbled up behind them, took off camber lines in the inside of turns to overtake because I could due loads of fat tyre traction and generally had fun.  Lap five would prove to be the one that caused me issues and I decided to reign in a bit.  At this point a fell into a bit of company and shared some work with the eventual female winner Amanda Brooks, a fellow antipodean, but she soon rode me off her wheel and went on to the win. Congrats!

I rolled across the line in a surprising 19th on the tractor that is the Fatboy.  I was broken, the spoon hurt me more than someone else Alan. But as feeling returned, so did the fact that fatbikes are damn cool, but more importantly they are stupid fun.  Cycleworks thanks for getting the Fatboy in for me it really is too much fun. :)

Gorrick team, as always a great course and well organised event. To Chris Noble and Big Al, congrats on great rides and thanks for the heckling, always appreciated. ;)

Thanks to the usual suspect, Weldtite, WTC, Cycleworks and Alpkit.

Friday, 2 May 2014

K-Lite Bikepacker Pro

Right, if you are not into geekie bike focussed stuff or don't wish to be enlightened look away now.  Otherwise read on.

So my riding friends are probably fed up with me blabbering on about K-Lite technology, but I guess I have been excited about.  A while back I decided I was fed up with batteries, charging them, rides being dictated by them and having to conserve light when on a long ride or carry an extra battery.

So I started looking at the dynamo light options, weighing up the technology and costs, weight and output and even getting my head around the fact that I will have cables running all over my bikes again.  Something I had enjoyed not enduring for sometime now.

So with all my research in hand, I settled on K-Lite.  The tech stood up to my limited knowledge, the price seemed right, the units themselves tough and durable and the best bit, they are a small company which means they are more agile and innovative.  What's not to like there?  From what I have learned as well that Kerry, provides pretty damn fine customer service to a global customer base, from Australia, his adopted home from New Zealand.  So I am supporting the Aussie-New Zealander alliance as well.

So decision made and I wen ahead and ordered my Bikepacker Pro 1000/600lm light set. I even got to choose K-Lite orange as the colour.  Soon enough the lights arrived as shown below and I was immediately impressed with the size, weight and power. Not to mention the quality of light.

What's in the pack?
The Bikepacker Pro arrives with:
- Light, obviously,
- control box which provides the switch between 1000/600lm, On/Off and of course the standlite,
- an inline switch to be able to charge USB battery sets and compatible products when you are not using the light,
- associated cables (when your order you choose between SP/Shimano and Schimdt SON);
- a bar or riser stem mount (choose when you order or email K-Lite and I am sure they will help you out more),
- you even get a few zips tires to get you started.

 The control unit with On/Off and 1000/600lm switch and built in standlite.
Switches are extremely water proof as has been tested extensively.

One of the other points I like about K-Lite was there reuse policy.  K-Lite use a 3D printer to print up the control units, mounts, switch mounts (available for other options) and mount spacers.  They do their level best to use recycled plastics to do this. So combining this with the fact that they are dynamo lights, they are pretty damn environmentally friendly

As you can see below the light is quite small, yet omits a great deal of light and it is quality light a well. I have to admit when the light arrived I was a little concerned about the coverage and quality of light.  I can safely say after the first ride I was riding as quickly in the dark on technical trails with the 1000lm from the K-Lite as I did with any of my more powerful bright white battery powered lights.  Even in heavy fog, I found switching the light to 600lm mode and turning of my helmet light, the light was still excellent. The light is not a bright white light as many of the leading battery powered ones are and it doesn't need to be as bright as the light seems more natural.  By this I mean that it lets me pick up the detail on the ground better, it doesn't flatten the detail.  Which is pretty handy when riding on technical terrain.

Light pictured on the stem riser mount, which allows you to mount the light centrally.

The light housing is machined from a piece of aluminum and the heat sync directly contacts the housing so it does get a tiny bit warm, but it means you get the optimum performance from the light as the circuits can run at full capacity as the heat sync cools rapidly. So you get the option (if you choose to switch down) of true 1000/600lm when you are traveling at 15.7kph or higher (if memory serves on the specs).  The light naturally deeps on a curve as you speed decreases on climbs or when coming to a stop.  But I have found there is more than enough light when climbing slowly and the standlite when stop suitably bright for the riders use and certainly provides visibility to others if you are on the road for example.

Cables, like I said, I don't really like cables, but I made the sacrifice as I knew dynamo was the way forward for me. The cables K-Lite provide are suitable to get the maximum out of your hubs for running your lights and charging stuff. They are connected with XT60 connectors and constructed to be pretty damn waterproof.  I haven't note if K-Lite provide an IP standard themselves, but they plugs and cables have been well and truly tested by me and I have had no issues.

As mentioned there is even an inline switch to allow for charging compatible USB products and battery sets such as the tiny and brilliant Sinewave and KEMO. Then you can charge your phone, iPod etc... from the battery unit.

So the Bikepaker Pro is very versatile in what it does and how you configure it, so as a 24hr racer, a newbie bikepacker and perennial night time trainer, for me it is perfect. The only problem you have is how to mount it, where is it most out the way for you, yet the switches are accessible.  Well the picture above displays my preferred mounting configuration and allows for a clean set of bars for adding Alpkits stems cell pouches, fuel pod or Kanga, battery packs, GPS or even strapping gels and sports bars to the bars when you are going for that unsupported recorded 24hr ride.

Cons: What could I fault about the Bikepacker Pro light, well only one thing and that would be the same for any dynamo light.  It is not super stupid bright.

Pros: Reread above, come on folks. ;) It is small, light, tough, versatile and the light quality is perfect.  How tough? Well the light is so perfect that I found myself going way too fast down a slightly dodgy descent a little while back, I made a mistake and hit the ground very hard. The light unit was still shining bright when I got back to my feet.  It is very tough.

If you are after a dynamo light, I can certainly recommend these over the other leading brands, the build quality and price, just make them a market leader in my eyes.

The future of endurance riding is bright! 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Margam Madness 2014

I have heard of Margam Madness through the organiser Gareth Hayes, it is a newish 4 and 8 hour event on one of the most brutal, technical and brilliant courses I have ridden in the UK (it is a lot like racing some of the Adelaide, Mt Buller and Mt Beauty XC courses), trail riding with an XC format basically. My type of thing, although there should be a caveat there, something like the below.

"My type of thing, when I haven't spent two weeks recovering from hurling myself down a flint strewn chalk path at between 40-50kph."  But not to be one to make excuses, I put in what training/recovery I could because I was genuinely excited about these course.  It was a course for the complete rider, strong, technical, brave and fast up hill.  Something like XC use to be and again is becoming, thankfully!

So I packed the van and headed down, the day before, after sitting in some Easter traffic for a few hours I arrived, chatted to some familiar faces, did a lap to see what the course was like and sent Chris N the good news, it is brutal and technical.

 Bike prepped, big bugger hill we ascended each lap (from the left hand side)

But with the above it was also brilliant, fun and had amazing views.  The climbs where technical, loose and pain inducing.  Then you would tip over the top and head down either a sweeping twisty easy downhill track/natural trail or the infamous Black XC section (my favourite section) the section that in the race I somehow found a way passed to crashed riders and bikes. "Clive, I went for the gap, this time it was there"  :)

So race day arrived, it was sunny and I had slept very little, but hey, that has happened before, no matter.  I was in the Single Speed Cat, which would only have to riders, and I know Dave from the Gorricks. But as with everything, there is you Cat and then there is overall, I always push for good finishes in both.

So as more friends and familiar races arrived I prepared myself, stretch the known troublesome and bruised parts of my body and rolled to the start line.

Soon we were off and chaos would ensue at the first forest section, but from here things would sort themselves out and the racing was in general clean, fun and laid back, as was the feel with the whole event (this is a good thing), but that did not mean the racing wasn't fast.

I lapped consistently and in the lead for a few laps, but wasn't finding my normal power and fluidity on the climbs, so I dialed things back a touch, we had a long way to go. The race progress for another 1hr or so and I was joined by the other single speeder Dave, for a little bit.  But on the second flattest part of the course he opened a small gap, I closed this easily on the descent as he was running rigid forks (hats off to him) on the next small climb though, I could hold his wheel, in fact I had to jump off and run as I had no power to turn the pedals, but felt fine.

Over the next lap he would open a lead of about 5 minutes, but my problem wasn't getting any better of worse. As a couple of the Open guys lapped me, George Budd being the first and yelled encouragement, then would focus on taking it easy and hoping to recover, but I didn't. At the top of the hill before the Black XC trail, I stopped, chatted to the marshal and yelled encouragement at all those that passed, including Al and Chris.

Soon I duly finished my lap and knocked it on the head.  Being only two of us, I was assured a podium, but maybe not hugely proud of it.  But at least I did get out there and try.  I moved to to a support role for Chris after I had finished and cheerleader for Al, Jules and George, or was that heckler?  They can confirm which.  I also encourage Dave to keep turning that single speed as he decided to do one more lap even after I confirmed with him I was out (I am nice that way). :)

As the hours ticked by George more than confirmed 1st in Open, Chris' consistency and good riding gave him 2nd in Open, Al, cleaned up in the Vets and Jules had a solid ride (but not without its technical issues) for 4th in Vets.  I did indeed get 2nd in the 2 man Single Speed field.

 A cheeky 2nd place
(Photo: Al Fairbairn)

What an event though and as mentioned above, what an amazing course. Gareth and his team did and awesome job and I will be back next year, better prepared, rather than coming of an accident recovery, as I am guessing that is rubbish prep.

Congrats to everyone that lasted as long as they could, as the course was tough, but we all know what to expect next year, so lets train harder, work on our skills and lets hope that more XC courses follow this design.

Thanks Cycleworks, Weldtite, Wolf Tooth and Alpkit

Margam Madness 2015, get yourself there.