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.

Monday, 14 April 2014

WTC long term review

Some time back I promise the guys at Wolf Tooth Components a long term review, if you're not into bikes or bike gear freak, look away now.

Back in June 2013 I took delivery of my first WTC chain rings, 32t 104 BCD (one picture below), only a month before a 24hr race.  I mounted these as soon as I had them in my hands as I was completely over chain guides, the noise, the faff and the lack of reliability, unless you went for a free-ride style device.  Plus they always look rubbish on an XC bike.

Running a single non-drop ring like the WTC one however looks great! As above. Is a whole lot quieter than the alternative and the WTC ones work a treat.

So as mentioned I installed the first two WTC chain rings in June 2013, since then between them they have done close to 3500kms off road in some very grim conditions for far too many of those kilometres.  The area I live in, in the UK is a mixed of sand, clay, soil and chalk.  The sand is obviously nasty to any drive train and those who know chalk, know it turns into a gritty paste when wet and gets every where.  So it does its fair share of damage as well, so to see that after around 2000kms (there has been a bias towards one bike with a WTC fitted) with a fair majority done in the conditions mentioned above, that I will soon need a new chain ring.  Speaks volumes about the hardiest of these rings.  As with everything lightweight, you will lose some usage life, but the WTC rings have lasted longer than the Rhental rings I use to run.

So do they every drop the chain? No, I have tried, trust me I have.  At present I am running 32t in the following configuration. 1x10 on my 29er hard tail pictured above and my fat bike.  I immediately changed to WTC ring before I even rode the fat bike, due to the reliability and no fuss.  I also have a single speed configured with a 32t/18t and I am running the chain a little slacker than how I use to run my Renthal rings.  However, this means a little less wear and the chain still stays in place even on some of the roughest terrain.

The chain rings are more than light weight and durable enough, to be used for both training and racing, in all conditions.  Although they can be a bit noisy when wet sand gets in the mix, they do tend to run very quite in all other conditions, which certainly can't be said about chain devices and some other chain rings.

 Simple design that works.
Although the snow flake chain ring is pretty fancy.

Wolf Tooth keep the design on all the different chain rings they make simple and very functional.  The change rings come in a range of direct mount options SRAM, S-WORKS and a range of BCDs (that will even suit you CX bike) and colours. They have had so much success that the small Minnesotan firm, has been expanding it range to include GC 42t and 40t (coming soon) cogs for Shimano and SRAM, has a bash guard, chain ring bolts and a truing tool (which also happens to be a bottle opener).

Without trying to sound like a broken record or a salesmen, I have to say I have been very impressed with what a small firm has been able to produce and the way they keep expanding their product line with the same care and precision I have seen in the several rings I have in use at present.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A quick trip to The Peak

The other weekend I headed up to Claire and Ant, for a spot of grit action.  It had been a very long time since I had been on the grit and long time since I had climbed any rock in anger.  So I had not expectations.

On the Saturday at High Neb in pretty good conditions I soloed a few routes whilst Claire and Ant, climbed together. After a little Mike joined us and in pairs we started climbing a bit harder.  Whilst I managed Jeepers Creepers and another HVS to the right of The Logic book. Ant made short work of Quietus and then after some yoyoing he also got King Kong clean.

Not a bad day at all considering.  Routine service at The Travelers Rest for a feed and few beers in the evening catching up with friends and then it was time to zip up the sleeping bag.

Sunday we head to Curbar to the Apollo and Moon buttress sectors, with a few things in mind, but the weather was a bit warmer so route plans changed. Once again Claire and Ant jumped on a few routes, Claire starting with a certainly harder than Severe, but climbed it is good style. I went off and soloed a few little routes including a great route called Twin Crack done in the HVS style.

However, soon I was feeling a little wobbly, so I eased off ate and drunk and then, spotted/belayed Ant on Black Nix Wall, a nails slabby E1.  This is about the point things went a bit crap, on one attempt Any popped of low before the gear and I did my best to pull him away from a small boulder.  However he clipped this with his left ankle and gave it a good knock.  Although he did have a couple more attempts before sacking it off.

Next I bit off more than I could chew on a E2 called Soyuz, running out of steam due to bugger all climbing lately I soon popped off and took a decent lob.  Another attempt saw the same scenario and that was me done with routes for the day.

During my failed attempts Brian had turned up and I offered the rope to him and he made short work of the route and Ant on a sore ankle followed easily too.

For the rest of the day I joined Brian bouldering and even managed a couple of thin strong problems.

Despite being a bit rubbish on Sunday, it was a pretty good weekend and has given me some motivation to get back on the rock.  Now life just needs to give me a few openings to do so.

A few pics from the weekend are below.

 Ant take a rest on Quietus before the assault

Up he goes

 In the thick of it

Claire on the more than tricky Severe

First attempt on Soyuz, oops!
(Photo: Claire D)

Second attempt started stylish, ended the same way.
(Photo: Claire D)

Brian showing me how it's done on Soyuz
(Photo: Claire D)

Monday, 24 March 2014

Battle on the Beach - the race

Saturday 15th March, Nik and I packed the van, picked up Phil M and his fat bike. Swung past Shaggy and Mel's house to pick up a loan fatbike for me and headed to Pembrey Country Park in Camarthenshire.

After a few hours of driving and a slight detour to the golf club, we arrived at the country park and the event village, the sun was still shinning bright.  After say "Hi" to a few familiar faces we pitched camp, registered (at which point Dan and Verity arrived), got our crap together and headed out for a recce loop of the course.

 Personalised plate, always a nice touch.

 Fatbikes ready to go. Phil's tyres looking mint.

Heading out with Nik, Dan and Phil, I was the only one without a light (not normal for me, but this was meant to be a day race right). As we pottered around the course chatting and looking at the great scenery we knew the course was going to provide a great race.  Soon the light started to go and some ninja riding saw me return with the others to the campsite.  Some food, some beer (pro diet), a good chat and a visit to the unusually quiet onsite bar and it was bed time.

Race day arrived and the sun remained, which was great as the course did have some massive puddles (see below). Also, it was going to be nice to race in the sun for the first time in a number of races.  There was a lot of milling around as I had very little to do compared to a 24hr race, so I enjoyed the sun, chatted to the others and poked and prodded the fatbike.

Puddle of Doom

Soon enough we would be lining up, but here began my indecision. My first proper ride on a fatbike was the night before. I had no idea how fast, hard and long I could push the fatbike around a course?  So I mad a choice to not get at the front of the grid which I normally would do.  In hindsight, I could push the fatbike pretty damn quick and starting where I did meant that as the race started, I was working my way through the field from damn near the back.

Hitting the beach I flew across the soft sand as I knew I would passed the high water line on the harder sand and group formed that was working well together into the headwind on the 3.5km stretch of beach.  We could see 2 large groups in front and the bottle neck of the ramp off the beach we would soon be behind.  Valuable time lost here on the leaders and the fight back started.

In the single track and sand climbs the fatbike excelled and accelerated, every segment I passed still more riders, getting stuck behind slow CX riders on the twist trails and others slowly carrying their bikes up tight single track climbs.  But with every opportunity I would slip past another one or two riders. Nabbing another fatbike here and there.

This would be the routine for the last two laps, including the long drag on the beach.  Although this would see me get in a group, get on the front for my bit wave the next rider through, no one would come through so I would drop the group so as to remove their advantage (no wheel sucking today gents).

 Dropping a group on the beach

The laps played out the same and I pressed on, a couple of interesting overtaking lines, getting the fatbike sideways a few times and soon the finish line was in sight.  Crossing the line, I could help but do so with a smile, this smile had been there on most of the track other than the beach.  So many others were beaming big smiles as well.

I congratulated the Fatbike Cat winner, George, soon found Dan and congratulated him on second in the Fatbike Cat, I finished 8th fatbike (pretty happy with that). Phil soon arrived back with a smile on his face and Nik, quite happy that she had got some great shots (she did!).

What can I say, one of the most enjoyable races I have every done, the weather was great and Matt and the crew from ACycling did a great job with the organisation, the course and making it a fun event.  Even the idea and detail in the trophies make this a stand out event on the race calendar and I will certainly be back.  Good work to Howies and so many others getting behind a new event with such gusto.

Massive thanks to Shaggy at Automatic Cycles (give him a follow of twitter) for the loan fatbike and for Phil arranging it.

Thanks to Nik for getting some great pics.
And as always to:
Cycleworks - fueling me and keeping the wheels turning on my bikes.
Weldtite - for keeping things lube and corrosion free.
and, Alpkit for keeping me warm.

Watch out for a little vid of the race action from the rider perspective. :)