Twinkly Dave – Mud splattered bicycle and pizza enthusiast Growing old disgracefully

August 3, 2010

Trans-Cambrian Way (take 2…)

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,lunacy - other peoples,rubbish weather — dgpowell @ 12:25 pm

Alarm is set for 3.55am. Not that it goes off, I’m already awake before that, having had one of those ‘got-to-get-to-sleep, got-to-get-up-soon-so-need-to-get-too-sleep’ nights, where you don’t get any sleep but stare at the clock counting down how little time tere is left before you have to get back up.
Crawl out of bed, stumble round getting dressed trying not to wake Angela. Fail. Go downstairs, try to eat some breakfast, give up after shovelling a few mouthfuls of museli down and throw some kit in the back of the car.

Drive. Really far. Wonder why I’m whizzing through tiny little Welsh villages in the middle of the night (OK, early morning now, it’s getting light, but no-one’s up yet, so it could still be classed as night). Stupid sat-nav, what’s wrong with the big main road that goes all the way to the meeting point at Machynlleth?
Arrive at the end of the ride. Wait for Jase to turn up, throw stuff into the back of his car, drive to the start of the ride. Throw up several times en route. Oh dear, this doesn’t bode well. Nearly take the passenger door off while desperately tring not to puke all over the inside of the car, woops!

Get to the start, kit up, apply massive amounts of chamois cream, feel grotty, ceremoniously stand on the platform of the train station then get going.

Roads, then tracks, walking up steep climbs then thundering over drovers roads right up on the tops. At least we know this bit from last time, so progress is swift. Arrive at the bridleway intersection we went wrong at a few months back, check where we are properly this time, go wrong less and stay pretty much on track. Ace. This bodes well.
Plummet down through the first village, splash through the first ford, then back up, down, up, down over and over. Navigation is simple as we’ve been here before. Hit Rhayader in 2hrs 49mins riding time. Excellent.

Start ‘Day 2’ feeling ‘just warmed up’. Bike paths, then gravel tracks, then every inlet round the massive reservoir. Pause to swop maps around. It’s a lot windier than last time, this bit isn’t as much fun. Plough on regardless into the emptiness of the Welsh desert, heading straight for where It All Went Wrong last time at full pelt. Nearly hit a landrover on singletrack road. Giggle about it.

transcambrian way

Fast riding through the Field That’s Alway’s Flooded. Hit puddle flat out, see bow wave arc up over front tyre, enclosing me in a wall of water briefly. Aah, this would be a big deep puddle then. Get soaked. Utterly drenched. Probably my fault for thinking “oh well, at least it’s not raining as much as last time” to myself. Hear Jase scream as he has no choice but to follow me into the plunge pool.

Right, lets get this bit spot on this time. Frequent navigation checks. Avoid Ystby Ystwyth. Pop out of the trees in the right place, hit the deserted road through Cwmystwyth on track and on time but ruunning low on water.
Plunder the water tap at a roadside campsite them get back to some serious climbing. Stop to chat to bloke about where we’re going. Ignore the “you’ve got a lot of hard going ahead of you” comment and plough on into another forest. Lots of yellow arrow waymarkers, then none make each turning a little more exciting. Frequent location checks are the order of the day. Probably be easier with some sort of bar mount. Bah! Cast out that thought until I’ve grown a beard. Maps stay in jersey pocket until needed. Hit the road. Rumble through some hamlets then back onto gate lined bridleways, with confusing margerine tubs strapped to them. Most odd. Are we on Day 3 yet?

Oops. Day 3 started back there <. Oh well. 3hrs 45min riding time for Day 2 including this bit of Day 3. Good stuff. Onward. Start wondering how far away the end is as massive birds of prey swoop from tree to tree above us. Gain height. Dare to mention how less rainy the weather is. Look left. See hills and valleys rapidly disappearing into grey nothingness of heavy rain. D'oh. No shelter, wind still ripping across, now joined by un-summer like heavy rain. Break out the waterproofs. Miss a turning and do U-turn. Minutes wasted. Bugger it. I'm very wet. Jackets keeping top half dry, everything else thinks it's in a cold, gritty bath. It kind of is. Rolling, easy riding suddenly replaced with steep, slippery when wet (it is) slate-y descents. Bums over the back of saddles. Rain drencedh glasses now helping with line choices. Oh, I remember that maker post from the IMBA website. More steepness. Then more steepness going upwards. I wonder if this is the end yet. Nope. Hills seem to have been brought in specially to entend the route. Up and over them. Navigation goes to pot. Three wrong turns in a row. Can't see anything. Why is there a waymaker pointing in completely the wrong direction to a deserted house. Many, many minutes lost stumbling round the countryside. Stalked by some sort of bird of prey. Imagination runs away, maybe I'll get swooped on and dragged off to a nest to become something's dinner? Getting dark now. Jase fits his lights. I refuse to accept that we won't be done by sun down. Mood getting dark now too, should have finished by now. Final wrong turn. Probably quicker to just clamber down the side of a hill and rejoin route. More time lost. It's dark now. Final descent. Through tightly packed trees. Oh good. Pitch blackness. Chase Jase 'cos he can see where he's going. Use The Force to avoid crashing. Last bit of road. Dovey Junction Station. Woo. 3hrs 16mins for Day 3. Sub 10hrs riding time for the whole route. Ace. Scary amount of time lost not riding. Been 12hrs 10mins since we left Knighton station. That'll do. Faster than anyone else even with 'limited' map reading skills. Go us! Back to car. Get changed in car park as drunks walk past on their Saturday Night Out. Hello. Drive back to start. Sat nav dies. Good. Part ways at Knighton and get back home from Knighton in less time than it took to get Mach earlier using obvious route. Stupid Sat Nav. Crawl back into bed. 3.32am. 24hrs to the minute since waking up. Big ride that. Proper big.

July 22, 2010

Never less alone

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - other peoples,Racing — dgpowell @ 9:58 am

Racing things like ’24hr solo’ events is probably the biggest misnomer in the world for me.
Even when I’m rolling though the start/finish arena in the early hours of the morning, when the only noise is the gentle thrum of the generator, powering lights that highlight just how deserted the usually-packed arena central is, I’m not alone.
It’s just me riding back up the first climb on the course – on any course, of any race – into the darkness, but i’m not alone. There’s no-one alongside me, feeling the chilling spray coming up from wet grass hit my shins, coated in hours worth of dust and dirt. But this is hardly a ‘solo’ attempt at the race.
Same goes for pretty much every ride I do. Tuesday afternoon of this week I went out for five hours, in the rain. No-one sat behind me getting a face full of spray off the rear wheel as the roads became boating lakes and the trails at Gisburn forest seemed to sink below the surface of a new inland sea, but it wasn’t just me doing it.

I wouldn’t be as far up the field as I am at the races, in the middle of the night and I wouldn’t be hurtling round the trails in the rain without the support of LOADS of people. People who seem happy with me using the fruits of their labour for reasons that, despite any claims of nobility, don’t amount to much more than “because I like riding bikes a lot”.

Take a look at this mid-race pic (no, it’s not just an excuse to display another pic of me on the way to winning something 😉 )

wet-bit

That bike’s practically designed to fit around me and the peeps at Ragley are happy for me to rag the tits off it. They keep coming up with products ‘That Just Work’ and send them over, giving me more opportunity to do well at races (and Daft Rides) than I would otherwise have a chance to do.
The bike’s working flawlessly, mainly because the drivechain’s in top notch condition, despite hours of flith being thrown at it, because the top blokes at Squirt give me stuff that keeps it that way.
I’m there, racing, (and not flashing my nipples…) because the aceness of the guys at JMC IT have taken the worry out of budgeting for races and coated me in kit.
I’m not curled up in a ball, under the Berlingo, shivering and unable to form coherant sentences because the hard working guys at 2Pure have kindly provided enough Clif energy food and drink to keep me fuelled right the way up to the point where someone organising the race steps out and tells me to stop as it’s all over.
Those same guys at 2Pure also take care of my ability to sit down while riding for long periods (I know I’m stood up in the pic, but I did sit down once I’d got round that corner and it didn’t hurt) by providing lashings of Chamois Butt’r. Which has been a bit of a revelation, far surpassing even the cleverest of potions I could come up with for long distance botty-happiness (and I’ve spent lots of time coming up with different arse-lard formulations…)

See; there’s only me in the pic, but I’m only there because shedloads of people have got behind me and Jase, supplied us to the hilt with stuff that (probably shouldn’t say this in case they’re reading) we’d just end up buying anyway…
I think that’s ace.
Properly ace.
Awesome even.

Of course, if you ever want to try out any of the stuff we’re cruising round on, looking smug, that’s half the reason its there – give us a shout…we might not apply the chammy cream for you, but if it means you’ll get to try something new that you might end up liking as much as we do, then that’s ace with us 🙂

You can keep up to date with what we’re up to – what races we’re doing, where we’re doing silly long rides and often just what cakes we’re eating, on Twitter: We’ve both got our own Twitter accounts and we both put stuff on the ‘team’ Twitter feed, @Team_JMC_Ragley

Team JMC Ragley

July 19, 2010

Hit the North – Measuring success

Filed under: lunacy - other peoples,Racing — dgpowell @ 1:22 pm

I thought I’d die on my arse at (the final, ever) Hit the North, what with not doing much in the way of riding since Mountain Mayhem. Not that I minded, I was looking forward to using it as training for the “big” races on the horizon and I knew it’d be a good laugh, so I turned up suitably unworried, planning on finding out what state I was in over the 8 hours and what my body would put up with.

After meeting up with Wayne and Jenny (first time endurance racer & pit crew), doing the sign on thing and instructing the ever helpful Angela in the fine art of mixing half a bottle of fruit juice with half a bottle of water I waited for my turn in the changing room pop-up tent I’d bought the day before – while Wayne discovered the delightful sensation of applying chammy cream before a long ride – before wandering over to the ‘le-mans on acid’ style start.

We ran down a ditch, up a slope, along some wooded paths, down a bigger ditch, back up a bigger ditch and (now thoroughly lost) back out onto the start/finish straight to grab the bikes and head out onto the course for the race-proper.

I set about finding a pace that was somewhere just below XC race, but well above 24hr, speed and got to grips with the slippery-in-the-rain course.
It was great fun; slipperly singletrack, followed by fast fireroad, followed by cyclocross style grovelling about up unrideable slopes, followed by purpose-built bermed-up trails, followed by more clambering, more fast bits, a looooong cobbled climb, some fast gravel tracks through a park and more groveling on foot meant there was something for everyone (to hate*) and kept the laps varied enough to remain interesting for the whole race.

The pit-crew-ettes of Angela and Jenny kept the supply of gels and chocolate buttons I needed to keep riding at a decent pace coming and even found time in their busy schedules…

pit-crew-hard-at-work

…to keep me updated on how I was doing, race wise. After a few laps I found myself in the lead and, obeying the HRM, rather than various people telling me I could slow down as I was riding away from everyone, I kept the pace about the same for around 6 hours before beginning to ease back a bit and enjoy the trails.

see-i-do-smile

The implosion I expected my legs would make didn’t happen and I finished the race (after a couple of minutes lurking with Wayne at the end) feeling pretty fresh, before having one of the best at-a-race showers ever, a top notch pint of ale from the beer tent and some tasty food from the caterers (who looked like they often sampled their own wares 😉 ).

After which it was podium time (because I won, y’see, in case you hadn’t figured that one out..), where I failed once again to look in the right direction while people took photos. Oh well. At last I was smiling and not covered in mud for once 🙂

mens-solo-podium

Apparently that’s the last Hit the North.
UPDATE: OR MAYBE IT’S NOT!
Ever. Excuses like “Our families don’t know what we look like ‘cos we’re never there” and “We’ve gone grey/bald/got wrinkles trying to get this event going” were bandied about, but between you and me I think they just want to have a go at racing rather than organising 😉 but whatever the reason – good effort chaps, it’s been Awesome!

*Joking! I didn’t hear a bad word about the course – or anything else about the event (except maybe the weather) – from anyone.

March 3, 2010

Another ride gets Daft

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,lunacy - other peoples,rubbish weather — dgpowell @ 11:26 am

The ubiquitous early start (for Jase, I hid under the covers until after 6 as he was driving over to mine…mmm, precious sleep :D), the drive along deserted motorways and still sleeping roads that get progressively wigglier and narrower and the arrival at another empty car park.
Easy.

The frantic fumbling to get kit together and overly enthusiastic sprint off up the first fireroad as the local wildlife started to scratch it’s head and begin hunting for breakfast.
Done.

The shock and delighted surprise as the fireroad ended in double quick time, firing us down the first, long, swooping, dropping, curling, berm railing, tree lined, step-down laden bit of singletrack of the day.
Railed. (Apart from the bit where I overcooked a drop-down into a corner and shoulder barged a soft, loamy, grass bank…it’s alright though, I don’t think anyone saw…)
Short bit of double track to catch your breath and regain some height then repeat the singletrack.
Awesome.

Continue the same theme for 10 miles before finding yourself back on the starting bit of fireroad, now convinced that bikes are utterly awesome and that trail centres can offer damn good riding.

OK, that’s the Newcastleton red route done. Now dive onto the Cross Border route and spin through wonderfully remote scenery for a few deserted miles, slowing only to pour food and drink in the general direction of your mouth and watch as herds of white-arsed deer glide across the path in front of you, before instantly vanishing. Let the rising sun start to warm your back as you make quick progress along well maintained tracks to the bridge that marks the boundary between Scotland and England.

From here on in, it should all start to go pear shaped.

Literally, the second you leave the confines of the bridge you should find yourself pushing through snowbanks that just didn’t exist on the other side of the border. Rideable sections should be interspersed with random wild flailing as hidden ice spits you off towards the trees at either side of the wide, pine tree lined track.
“Proper” sinuous singletrack should be notable by it’s absence, replaced with yet more pushing through deep snow on two foot wide, rubble paths that, after what seems like an eternity, bring you to long, wide sections of ‘north shore’ timber.
(OK, the timber bits were quite fun – lethally slippy, but nice and fast with some superb, brooding scenery)

jason-under-brooding-skies

What should be fast descents through darkened woods, no doubt designed to be like a rollercoaster, should be slow going as sporadic deep snow grabs at wheels. It could be fun, but what little excitement there is in these conditions feels forced as we (try to) plummet down to Kielder Castle.
From there, a hastily redesigned and shortened route leads us (after some “these trails aren’t as well waymarked as the Scottish ones” moments) right back the way we’ve come. Literally. Up the downs as we knew no-one else would be Daft enough to attempt the Bloody Bush and Lonesome Pine routes when they were under this much snow and straight into a full on blizzard as we reach high, exposed moors.
Nice…
Bravery takes over from sense as we decide not to retrace our steps any further and instead complete the loop back across to Scotland. Despite it being higher up, more open to the elements and, to us, suddenly very far from safety.
Mistake
The “trail” becomes unrideable, then invisible. I’m navigating by wading through what looks like a wide enough gap between the rows of trees, in the sprawling forest we’ve entered, for a man made path to have been built through. I’m also falling through great holes in the snow carpeted trail, up to my waist at regular enough intervals to keep Jason amused and me on the verge of screaming.
Occasional ‘boardwalk’ sections offer reassuarnce that we are still on the route and not meandering, totally lost, in circles, but that’s it. They’re unrideable too.

snow-on-the-northshore

The Bloody Bush memorial is trudged past and from this point on in the route more rideable sections appear. The tops of berms, tabletops and kickers built into the trail poke out from the snow and give you something to aim for. The loss of height gives you enough momentum to stay on top of the bike and after only a few more hike-a-bike sections and a pause to consider how far away from everything you are

td-1-in-the-snow

Wham! You’re suddenly back next to the red route at Newcastleton, a million miles away from the inhospitable, unpleasant trawl across the moors just an hour or so behind you.
Time to cheer yourself up with another couple of flat out laps. Chase the person in front/escape from the person behind. Regroup on the linking sections. Escape/chase again on the next narrow section. Get back to the once again deserted car park (with signs of other people having been and gone in the mean time) as the light finally fades.
Agree that a return to do the original plan should be on the cards when the weather improves. Eat.

We’re daft, we are.

January 19, 2010

Strathpuffer

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - mine,lunacy - other peoples,Racing — dgpowell @ 11:37 pm

I’ll throw myself into every single ditch on this god damn course. Every single one. I don’t care. Sure it hurts. My hands are burning cold, the snow piled deep to either side of the narrow groove cut into the winter has managed to work it’s way past several well thought out layers and is battling for supremacy against the blood in my fingers. My feet are long gone, just sodden lumps at the end of legs that are bearing the scarlet bruises from a thousand previous falls and the hours have torn away at my mental state to the point where even adding up how much time I’ve left to ride is beyond me.

I’m feeling good.
Damn good.

The back end kicks out as sheet ice, hidden under tyre-worn snow, tries to spit me into the undergrowth. No brakes. Hold the slide or bin it. Snap the front end into line and fight back. Duck down low over the bars, force the front end into the thin line of filthy brown slush so hard the earth itself should give way underneath.
Ice and grit burst up from the front tyre, arcing straight into my face. A barrage of sharp-cold pinpricks, each shocking as it hits. Exhilarating and focussing as I begin to lose the battle and suddenly rapidly run out of width in the singletrack.

My left foot slaps the ground as the course bends round and begins to drop, providing momentary balance, enough to stay safe and upright as I hit a rut narrow enough for the Racing Ralph up front to float right over the top of.

Got it.
One down. One small victory. One corner.

Dave Powell Strathpuffer 2010

A chance to pedal as the trail rises upwards gives a chance to, for at least the tenth time this lap, reassess how the race is going. A decent start, speedwise. Any thoughts of riding a smooth, clean race gone by the time the first technical section had been passed and in their place a sort of strange lack of self preservation. I’ve crashed, wiped out, overshot so many corners with one foot scraping across the rocks and entered so many snowbanks face first I’m defying the odds. Like standing tall in the face of a hurricane and giggling as Dorothy’s house comes hurtling towards me…I’m certainly not in Kansas right now.
This ‘strategy’ is both paying off and costing me dear. I’ve got somewhere in the region of 7hours left to go (like I said, I can’t do the maths at this point) and I’m sat in a ragged but dogged 2nd place, with enough fast lap times to look decent on any results board, but it’s taken it’s toll on the bikes.
I’ve punctured 3 times, luckily far enough into the lap each time to be able to nurse the bike back to the pits and fix it in the relative comfort of the main marquee. The rear wheel on the 2nd bike seems to be floating freely along the axle as the bearings give up the ghost, it’s bottom bracket isn’t fairing much better and I’m killing brake pads in the dirt at the rate of a set a lap.
Springs too, which is a more pressing problem – as the last of the brake pad gets torn apart by the gritty rotor the springs are getting dragged in as well and shredded. In fact I’m nearly out of them.

That’s ok though. Angela jokingly mentioned not braking as I left the pits on the Ragley. She wasn’t being totally serious, but she’s pretty much summed up the idea behind the next few laps. How much can I get away with. The course has battered me, torn at me, changed in character over and over again as deep snow turned to slush, turned to mud, dried to stodge and froze to gripless ice but it’s not finished me off.
It’s gone from pristine white, soft snow carpeted and stretching off for miles in every direction across vistas worthy of picture postcards, through low down dirty, dusk filtered dirt, jabbing at wheels from underneath grime filled puddles to uncaring and harsh darkness, spitting at you on every bend.
It’s been epic and, quite frankly, that’s what I’ve thrown back at it. I’ve given it no respect and it’s taken everything it can, but I’m still going and I’ll crash on every corner if I have to, throw myself into every ditch if that’s what it takes. I’m coming out on top. Even if I have to stay off the brakes.

sat1

Top of the last descent.
Three quick flicks of the finger on the shifter and haul legs round as the chain leaps across the cassette. Dive back into the saddle and flick the shifter again as the speed builds up. The course bucks and swoops. All you can see is what you’ve lit up, what your lights pierce into the darkness is what you get to work with. Shapes loom at you from either side as you drop into the trees, faster and faster. Branches feel like they’re inches from your face and rocks seem to leap out at your wheels.
Stop pedalling, skip the bike over the waterbar and start to drift the bike into the right hander. Nervously press on the bars as the tyres skitter across semi frozen mud. Hold the line, skip again over another waterbar, angling itself to bite deep at the front wheel if you’ve lost your nerve and tried to brake and throw yourself hard right to the edge of the trail, away from the ice but so close to the trunks of the trees you can smell the damp wood as you skim past each one.
The trail drops. Lean back and trace the line left by innumerable other tyres, flowing left and right in the light that never seems to stretch far enough into the distance. The tyres growl as infinitesimally small lapses in concentration have them scuffing the ridges of snow lining the route. Bright white guidelines to either side of the slush that snap and weave in front of you as the light hits them, occasionally broken where someone has lost the flow and slid out into the blackness.
Deep breath and wince as another waterbar, still partially hidden, hammers into the rims. Try not to over compensate as the front tyre loses grip and swerves off right. Aaah you little fuck, can’t hold it.
The snow seems to roar as the bike lurches into it, bars twisted as far as possible to regain some semblance of control, foot thrown out and dabbing furiously, vanishing into the powder each time as I grind to a near standstill before forcing myself back onto the clear line.
Crank back up to speed, little shake of the head and grin.

This is Daft.
I’ll get it next lap. Nail it.

P1010816_Large.jpg.scaled.1000

The results and lap times are up on ‘tinternet here so you can see, in detail, exactly where I buggered it up and let Alex Slavin get away (fair do’s to Alex – he rode a great race and thoroughly deserved the win…this time 😉 )

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