Sunday brought yet another gorgeous spring morning. It was Midlands Mountain Bike Orienteering‘s turn to hold a national series event just down the road from me near Burton on Trent. I took advantage of the weather and took the Spitfire again which was lovely but I did end up greeting friends with very cold hands when I got there! The area was completely new to me, which was a nice challenge. It is a proper British rolling countryside of meadows, woodlands, pastures and little lanes with a couple of large old country estates and rape seed in full bloom dotting the landscape. I think with my #pichampion kit on with the floro highlights on I matched well with the terrain!
I started out fairy scrappily finding it difficult to pick a good order through the well-planned course and missed a control I really would have taken no extra time to get. There was a good mix of offroad trails and fine navigation needed on an accurate map.
Mid-course we had been given permission to ride the wrong way up a 5km or so long estate road. It was fairly busy with the public arriving to enjoy the estate but I managed to keep on the edge of the Tarmac just edging into the grass for big vehicles. I did, however, have to swerve onto the grass when an older gentleman in a 4×4 started shaking his fist as he came towards me gesticulating I was going the wrong way. He then deliberately drove at me forcing me off the road!!!!!
My legs were in bits towards the end and they were finished off by a recently ploughed field which had destroyed the bridleway. Off and running, dragging the bike – thank goodness it wasn’t raining or it would have been a quagmire!
Sunday dawned as warm and sunny as Saturday and I decided it was the perfect day for not just some mountain bike orienteering but also a lengthy trip in my Triumph Spitfire, fresh from a service and recent MOT. I’ve had the spitfire since I was 18 and this year it is 40 years young! With the bike on the back, it really shows how small it is compared to a modern car!
The venue, Hayfield is brutal, nestled in a valley near Manchester there are hills in what seems every direction. With my #pearlizumi #pichampion kit on I decided to not try and avoid them, just get on with it and soon I was off and pushing up rocky tracks towards the top of Chinley Churn. I then headed in a clockwise direction through New Mills before climbing seemingly never ending hills ending up to the North of Hayfield at ‘Robin Hood’s Picking Rods’, whatever they are, and Crown Edge Rocks.
I was a little early and ended up a slightly disappointing mid-table but I can feel my fitness slowly returning. Afterwards, there was a great atmosphere for the Winter Series prize giving – the man of titanium, Killian Lomas, again scooping the overall win.
On the way home the sun baking down on my bonce had me stopping in Buxton for some sun tan cream – spring must finally be here then!
Proudly standing in full Pearl Izumi Champion Team gear on the start line in Ampleforth, North York Moors, of my first open 5 I was full of trepidation. This would be the longest event by 2 hours I have done since my 2011 injury and I wondered if I had perhaps bitten off more that I could chew – 5 hours of running and mountain bike score orienteering! My running shoes had my PI Champion team straplines on the laces – Endure on the left foot, Enjoy on the right!
The atmosphere in registration was friendly and it was very well organised. I had decided to run first, for a few reasons, I need to tape my ankle at the moment for support, I wasn’t sure how my legs would work trying to run after 3 hours of biking and I also thought I’d be able to plan and strategize more easily for both disciplines whilst running.
I went off a little too quick on the run, enjoying the morning sunshine and had to keep reminding myself I was going to be out a looong time. It was a mix of footpaths, forest roads and straightlines across fields to the south before crossing the main road and heading up into Wass forest.
I started to really struggle after about 1 hour 45, having to walk short sections of flat and the slight rise of the road through Ampleforth back towards transition had me really struggling……
Into transition, feeling broken after just over 2 and ¼ hours I wondered how an earth I could now go out and do another 2 and ½ on the bike, particularly knowing straight away I was going to have to attack a 100m climb (vertical). I shoved some food down me (a jam sandwich), treated myself to clean socks for some reason, donned my cycling gear and headed back out 6 mins after coming in.
The climb out of Ampleforth was brutal and I was really struggling but I soon found my pace at tre top and started to enjoy the riding. Wizzing down across the fields of Scawton Moor was fun but more brutal climbs and gluppy mud to the north end of the map were horrible.
With 55 mins to go I was at the north end of the map, I was knackered and had a long way to go! I had two options – pootle in, enjoying the sunshine, the views and not worry about points or bury myself. I noticed my headset cap – #endureandenjoy365, my back felt OK, realised I was actually doing ok and went for the make it hurt a lot option.
The last two climbs were really painful, I was seeing stars but knew I needed to nail it else I’d be late and then lose all my hard earned points. I skidded into the finish after 5 hours 2 mins and 16 seconds (losing 6 points) completely exhausted. At download a surprised organiser said good effort, you should stay around for the prise giving. Turned out I’d done much better than I thought – 5th on Male Solos!
Overall a great event in a lovely part of the country with a fantastic atmosphere. Might have to do the whole series next year!
Since 2011 when I last bought a new bike, the mountain biking world has gone a bit bonkers. New wheel sizes, new component standards from rear hubs to headsets and bottom brackets and the rise of the enduro and trail bike and different riding positions.
At some point in the not too distant future I am going to have to bite the bullet and replace my bike so decided I’d better test one to find out what all these new fangled standards are all about.
I’d like another British bike so with Cotic offering informal test days every weekend and one this weekend on Cannock Chase I went along. Sam turns up with a van full of bikes and after a little fettling coaxes the group around well known trails.
I opted to test a medium Cotic flare, a 130mm travel ‘trail’ bike but apparently built to be light and lively. Also interesting as per all Cotic’s is the steel front end to the frame. The Cotic website is here.
Mountain biking has changed in the last 5 years, all the other testers were wearing peaked helmets and most were wearing kneepads. Nearly all were also on flat pedals so I know this new stuff is not just about the bike……
The new fangled stuff I’d be trying for the first time included the following with my thoughts below!
Me wearing baggie shorts
Wide handlebar, Short stem
27.5 wheels and 2.3 aggressive tyres
Dropper seat post
1×12 drive train
Super slack head angles
My Pearl Izumi Champion Kit came with a pair of baggie mountain biking shorts. First off they are not that baggy and are lightweight and tailored to fit you ‘on’ the bike not off. They were comfy but with #PIChampion lycra on underneath, to be honest, I didn’t really see the point – round one to old man
I’ll start off being really honest – even in the car park before heading out I hated the Flare, but a lot of it was that it was simply too small for me and the geometry of a medium had me bum in the air and very cramped up with the short stem (see photo). I tried a 29inch 120mm Flare Max, large, on one section of the Monkey trail and immediately felt better really enjoying throwing it about but could feel the big wheels and I now know I definitely want to stay with the smaller wheel size (now 27.5).
Positives on the Flare though – quite light given the steel frame – the rear suspension (drop link) was amazing – almost like not noticing it was there. The X fusion shock and fork were also very good. It also looks great, much better than the big aluminium sections of my current Marin frame.
The wide bar – 785mm and short stem (well no stem) – an absolute no – hated it, really don’t get the point at all. I had to stop 3 times on the Monkey trail simply to feed the bars through some tight spots between the trees and bashed the bar a couple more times. On the tight corners, I was almost hitting my knee. The large Flaremax I tried had a 40mmish stem and slightly narrower bars and I found this much more to my liking! – round two to the old man.
27.5 wheels and big fat tyres were fine. The tyres were a little heavy but as a standard, the difference to the 26inch wheels is only just noticeable. – round three to the new brave world.
1 X 11 drive chain was Shimano XT with a 11-42 on the back and a 30 teeth up front. I have been concerned for a while I would not be fit enough to ride a single front ring which would be big enough for tonking road sections on Mountain Bike Orienteering races but this setup round the Monkey Trail was spot on, including a stiff climb up to the top of Lower Cliff where I rode the whole of it without any problems. People always say it is simpler not having to worry about a front mech and to be honest I would agree blasting around a trail centre but Id like to test 1X11 on a MBO score in the Peak District before committing.
Round four – Brave new world.
Dropper seat posts – this again is easy. If there is anything gnarly enough for me to put my seat down as I used to back in the early 90s that I can’t ride with my seat up I am not doing it – I don’t bounce like I used too, I am too chicken. The weight penalty alone is not worth it for me.
Round five to the old man.
Super slack head angles are difficult to explain. Old XC racers have head angles of between 71 and 72 degrees, making them twitchy and very direct, with a penchant for putting you over the handlebars if you get it wrong. The slacker head angles of modern trail bikes at 67 and 68 degrees make them easier to ride but less responsive. Fighting the short stem, wide bar and with the bike too small for me I couldn’t properly feel the effects of the slack head angle so the jury is still out on that one.
Round six – a draw.
All in all a really useful test and I would like at some point to try a large Cotic Flare with a lightweight xc type wheelset some narrower bars and short stem and no dropper before I make a final decision but at this point I am leaning towards a 27.5 inch XC short travel full suspension bike – trouble his hardly anyone makes one anymore 🙁
I’ve been meaning to do an Open 5 for years, however there has always been something else on or some other excuse. One of the perks as part of my Pearl Izumi Champion Team is an entry to an event and the Open 5 seemed to fit the bill as something a bit different.
The event concept is you have 5 hours to visit as many checkpoints (all worth different scores) as you can on bike and by foot – navigating !
Alan Hartley, a friend who has done loads of open5’s has given me lots of tips about kit, transitions and strategies and the bike is ready – time to drive up to North Yorkshire !
One of the great things about the #pichampion team is the diverse range of riders, age, gender, accent, background, shape, size, fitness and discipline… There are inspirational stories about recovering from illness, losing weight, racing, riding, enjoying, encouraging.
Below is a list of a few of their blogs, Ill perhaps try and get some guest blog posts over the next few months as the team shares its stories.
At the end of last year I applied to be part of a new venture in the UK for Pearl Izumi. Pearl is one of the largest cycling clothing brands in the world and based in Boulder, Colarado. Last year Pearl Izumi sponsored the UK Tour Series but this year distributor Madison, based in Milton Keynes has decided to take a different approach and sponsor 50 grassroots cyclists as part of a PI Champion Team instead.
The selection process apparently had to whittle over 300 applicants down to us lucky 50, all from a diverse range of backgrounds and cycling disciplines! We were all invited for the launch day at Madison’s headquarters in MK last weekend and from the moment we got there we felt like superstars, signing in on a massive glass panel, TDF style. We had a series of presentations about the brand, some nutrition advice from Secret Training and then the grand handout of lots of sponsored kit including some very bright and comfy cycling shoes.
After a quick lunch getting to know everyone and lots of fettling of shoe cleats and bikes we split into a couple of groups, roadies and mountain bikers. The roadies said afterwards they felt amazing with a Shimano team car following them around, us mountain bikers got a emergency response medic who looked a little disappointed when we all came back in one piece from our ride around Woburn Sands.
To be honest I had felt a little bit apprehensive before the ride out, everyone else’s facebook profiles seemed to show them a couple of feet off the ground and gathering before the off I seemed to be very much the odd one out in lycra shorts rather than baggies, no knee pads and no dropper seat post. I decided to promote Mountain Bike Orienteering by leaving my Orifix map board on too!
Luckily for me the jumps area of Woburn was closed for felling so I was spared any embarrassment and the riding suited me fine, lots of swoopy decents in and out of the trees and fast narrow singletrack which needed the power on all the time.
A particularly big drop off was a challenge and on my own I probably would have bottled it but I it was fine.
Back at Madison base we were treated to tea and cake and another excited natter before we all headed home to catchup again with all our new cycling #pichampion friends on social media!
This Saturday I will be travelling to Milton Keynes to Maddison to spend the day with the 2017 Pearl Izumi Champion Team.
Drawn from all walks of cycling life, age and ability we have been chosen as brand advocates for the year, all enthusiasts, bloggers and social media addicts. After the inevitable team kit photos and briefing, we will be riding out in our different disciplines for a few hours, the mountain bikers heading for Woburn trails.
I will be riding and competing in Champion Team kit this year – looks bright so you should see me coming !!!!