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

August 24, 2009

entering a period of event-overload happily

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 11:10 am

Yes, it’s true, since SITS I’ve hardly been out on the bike doing any sort of training. I’ve hit the trails for a few short rides on the CX bike to get a bit used to riding it off road again (it’s main use over the summer has been as a commuting machine) but haven’t done much else. I am still officially rubbish at riding it – and infinitely worse at shouldering it up the climbs, as Sunday’s ride over Rivi/Darwen tower proved (scrambling straight up the terraced gardens to get used to silly steep slopes must have looked hilarious to the watching sheep and the gasping noises I was making while trying to trot up the steps to the pike itself sounded pretty terminal, judging from the expressions on other walkers faces). Still I’m enjoying it and that has to count for something, right?

view from the bars

That pic was from Friday night’s ride over Longridge Fell.

Anyway, as my fitness drains away by the second so a nice period with many, many events rolls up – hopefully I’ll be able to get a bit fitter again while racing:

  • In just a few days the Open Adventure Coast to Coast event kicks off – 4 days of kayaking, riding, running, swimming and (hopefully not too much) getting lost. Can’t wait. Nervous, but can’t wait!
  • The week after sees the return of the Brownbacks XC races at Lee Quarry, a nice short but intense blast around the trails there should be fun
  • The week after that bring with it the Mary Towneley Loop challenge – fair enough it’s not too much of a challenge for me on it’s own (not being cocky or owt), but I’m intending to ride out to it from home via the 3 Towers ride (darwen, rivington pike, peel tower), do the challenge then ride home again, which should boost the mileage by lots.
  • The weekend after that is all about the next Daft Ride Jase and I are planning. Not giving anything away about it yet – but you can assume it will be both Daft and Awesome 😉
  • Then, the week after that, its the 3 Peaks cyclocross. Eeek! Hopefully I’ll be able to beat last year’s time (erm, I think it was 4hrs23min…I should probably check!) and not mince down the descents quite so much. I’ll still be crap at carrying the bike up the silly steep slopes and won’t be running unless some sort of man-eating tiger or something is chasing me
  • Then I get a week off…ish, it will be one last week of training followed the next Saturday by Relentless24 up in Scotland – my last 24hr race of the year and one last chance to actually finish another 24hr race (the last one I finished solo was the Strathpuffer!). Should be good – racing on a proper course 🙂
  • Followed, the week after by the last in the series of the Brownbacks XC races at Lee Quarry. More lungs-out thrashing, yay!

Then I’ll have a sit down

August 21, 2009

They’re getting shorter…

Filed under: Uncategorized — dgpowell @ 9:14 am

A 1 hour ride? It hardly seemed worth it as I set off from the car (after delivering Matt his tea) at Rivington. Luckily, Rivi is quite a lot of fun and you can get a decent blast from the trails round there if you’ve an hour to spare, so after riding past the scary fallen tree I threw myself up a few climbs and chased everyone I saw down (including the roadie riding up the road from Belmont, raar) until it started to get dark. An enjoyable blast that loosened my headset a bit.

IMG_0441

Yes, I paused briefly to take a picture, though the camera wouldn’t focus due to having so little battery power it just died straight after taking that pic, so there’s a lot of photoshop filtering going on…still, you get the idea – countryside, sunset, nice bike and so on.

Hopefully the driver’s seat of the berlingo has dried out now; I forgot to take a change of clothes, so i had to drive home sat in what felt like a puddle (of WATER, before you start…from the earlier RAIN, jeez).

August 20, 2009

Escape from New York Work / I Blame Matt

Filed under: bikes,lunacy - other peoples — dgpowell @ 9:04 am

One of the many reasons bikes are ace: escapism. After yet another harder-than-it-should-have-been day at work jamming a bottle full of nuun into the bottle cage of the cross bike and a quick change of clothes was all it took to run (well, ride actually) far far away from the office of headaches, demented car drivers, sulking dog walkers and all other general human misery. Within an hour I was here:

IMG_0436
(clicky for biggie)

surrounded by…well, you can see what I was surrounded by. It was most definitely a warm, dry, sunny summer evening designed for best use in the countryside. The people I rode past were out enjoying themselves and cheery because of it. More were on bikes that walking which was a bit surprising but nice and the number of funny looks I got for riding a cross bike along the same tracks they were, on their big full sussers made for Smug Overload.
Scarily, I actually felt quite fast on a few of the descents, which isn’t like me on a cross bike at all normally. I didn’t feel fast on the climbs, but that didn’t stop me eeking out the limits of traction from a 35c semi slick over the dusty ground and pouring bucket loads of sweat out of myself, which must count for something, right?

Jason’s bought himself a new GPS thingy, which I’m kind of jealous of, so now I’m thinking of getting one so I can actually log all these rides – then you can have a go at them and feel smug too 😀

In other news: New Theme for the site! If you haven’t noticed, you’re presumably blind…or have images turned off…erm or are just reading the rss feeds…actually there’s loads of reasons you might not have noticed, but there’s still a new theme here anyway. Matt did it, in between riding too much and drinking red bull, so kudos to him (and blame him if it all falls over). Yay matt.

I’m back in work now, with little to show for yesterday evening’s ride, save a lingering sense of fulfillment and stinging arms and legs from the hyper-nettles that seem to have sprung up everywhere, so I gues I’ll have to get on with some work…
…oh look, 196 tweets to read 🙂

August 17, 2009

Ragley impresses again

Filed under: bikes — dgpowell @ 11:47 am

Finished work early on Friday to give me enough time to ride over to Gisburn Forest to have another go on the new trails over there. My previous exploration of them, a couple of weeks ago with Wayne had been done on a big, heavy full suss bike that didn’t seem to fit with the newly created route at all, so I was eager to give them another go on a more suitable bike.

Riding out of the office into a heavy drizzle that wasn’t forecast by the weathermen and women of the BBC it dawned on me that I hadn’t checked the bike over properly since racing it at SITS – it was very clean, but I had no idea if any of the newly fitted cables had bedded in and needed readjusting, or whether the headset was still properly tensioned. Never mind, I thought as I wiped the fog off my glasses for the first time before getting to the end of the first road, it’ll be reet.
The route over to the forest was all on road and took a couple of hours, I did have to stop briefly to fettled the headset but didn’t seem to drag. Riding out in a pretty straight line took me past a lot of the hills I use when out on the road bike on big all day rides, without having to grovel over them meant I could enjoy the scenery (or what was visible of it through the low cloud and general rainy misery) and I arrived at the car park where the trails start soaked through but nicely relaxed after a crappy day at work.

More of the waymarkers on the new red route had been put up since my last visit and, after following a long standing section of bike trail in the opposite direction to what I was used to, I arrived at the first volunteer-built section of new singletrack without getting lost. I remembered from a sneak preview that it was seriously tight and twisty through the trees as I ducked off the fireroad into the dark, claustrophobia of the forest itself and immediately set about gliding the bike around as smoothly as I could with little daylight filtering through canopy and fogged up glasses reducing my view drastically. The trail contoured, climbed, briefly popped out into a bright, open section and threw up some cheeky little rocky sections as I built up speed, tyres growling over the hardpack surface and frame zinging from root to rock to root. As the narrow path dived back into the trees and the gloom I became totally immersed in the flow of the trail, constantly moving around the top tube, dipping shoulders, knees in, knees out, tuck yourself in to squeeze through the impossibly tight gap between trees as you force the front wheel down into the corner, exhale in relief as you skim past the wood and suck in the fresh, pine scented air. Still a blur of movement on the bike I hit a series of mini-bermed corners, snapping left and right with the frame singing over a carpet of roots and rough gravel, lulling me into speeding up before suddenly leaving me, still half blind in the darkness with rain coated glasses, at the top of a steeper, super slippery rock garden.
If I’d spotted it early enough I would have stopped and had a look at it before rolling down it, but I didn’t. My front wheel was dropping down before I realised it was there and as the back end slithered over the rough edges and despite lurching up onto the front wheel for what felt like an eternity I got to the bottom in one wide-eyed piece.

I’d caught and passed seven or eight other riders on that section, all just as focussed as I was and despite not working on riding fast as I dropped out of the treeline onto another fireroad all around me was utter silcence, I’d glided so far ahead I couldn’t even make out the sounds of bikes being thrown around the singletrack minutes back behind me. Fast without even trying, ace!

The trails further round the new red route that Wayne and I had ridden previously seemed to make much more sense this time – the exposed moorland crossing was engaging and didn’t seem to take anywhere near as long, partly because of the faster bike but also partly because the lack of suspension made the trails that bit more interesting and the first real downhill section was so smooth that no squidge at either end didn’t seem to be any sort of issue…in fact it would probably be just as nice on a BMX.

I dared myself to ride the ‘black’ graded section that includes the Monster Berms From Hell and must admit I did become acutely aware, as I rounded the first of the massive turns at a near horizontal angle to the ground, that I was on a lightweight xc bike and not a freeride rig. In fact I nearly convinced myself that I would be bucked off, over the suddenly-very-low-feeling bars as I slid the rear wheel round and up above my head (or so it felt, you’ll have to excuse the artistic licence here) across the sodden hardpack at the apex of the berm to leave me pointing almost vertically downwards facing a set of pretty deep braking ruts.
I needn’t have worried, the combination of shorter stem and wonderfully supple frame meant I was far enough back and the hits through the rear wheel were muted enough for me to roll through the section without death or destruction occurring. For me to roll through quite quickly in fact. Not DH speed by any means, but fast enough to get that ‘roller coaster’ feeling going a bit. In fact it was probably quick enough for a “Whoop” to have been acceptable – I didn’t utter one, but I felt like one would have been justified.

I picked up my speed to finish off the rest of the route as time seemed to have ticked by quite a lot, which seemed to please the bike as it positively skimmed over everything the trailbuilders put in front of it, and headed home along the same roads that I had cruised out along earlier to see the clouds finally break and some evening sun burst through.

Sunday this week meant play day, a chance to mess about up at Lee Quarry with Wayne, Jason and Mike with no heart rate monitor or bike computer measuring and analysing things, just some nice trails and a few hours to rag round them in.
We did rag round them, I did a few race-pace laps throughout the day just to see if I could…I’m presuming the whole race day experience contributes a bit to my performance as I definitely wasn’t going as fast as I was last time I raced there, but it was nice to open up the lungs a bit in between bouts of playing on the jumps and mincing down the black runs.
We nearly got some glamour shots of the Ragelys being washed at a bikini car wash taking place just down the road too, but the standard of bikini-car-washer was, shall we say a little sub par, for what we felt the bikes were worth…

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Jason rags his ragley down the rock garden

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Mike thunders down

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Wayne rips it up off the berm

August 11, 2009

Hurtling backwards, on fire, with gritted teeth – Ragley’s first ride

Filed under: bikes — dgpowell @ 9:33 am

The run’s going well, fewer people are overtaking me than are being overtaken and, when I’m on foot, that’s a rare thing. The flailing limbs of hundreds of mountain bikers charging down a fireroad towards the massive metal cage that makes up the main arena seems to be thinning out as I realise I’m right up at the front of the pack, in amongst the keener teams and specialist runners. This is awesome.
There is a reason I’m at full pelt in the Le Mans style start of SITS, rather than just keeping mid pack and aiming to miss the worst of the ubiquitous first-lap bottlenecks on the singletrack sections of the race course: the bike leant against the barriers waiting for me. A bike completed only a few hours ago in a semi frantic state, with decals so freshly applied the backing paper is still scrumpled up in my pocket and a wonderful glint coming from the newly unwrapped frame in the afternoon sun that I spot from well before I enter the arena central.

Ragley TD-1

I grab at the bars and wrestle it free of the fence it’s been leant up against as Wayne crams my jersey pockets full of energy gels and a spare tube, uttering “…kin ell mate!” as I charge off under the start/finish barrier. A full on cyclocross mount and three big powerful stomps on the pedals and I’m rounding the first corner of the course, with the commentator calling me out as the first soloist on the course. Deep breaths, stick it in the big ring and it’s time to do what I intended. Fly. Ring the bike’s neck and see what it can put up with, for as long as I can. Brant’s been harping on about just how different the geometry of the new Ragley being flung around underneath me is compared to my old bikes and I’m going to put that to the test in a full on baptism of fire!
First test; hauling uphill in the big ring. This seems to work. Well. I’m connected to the ground but not bogged down in it and I’m passing team riders as the course takes us away from the campsite. “You alright Dave? That’s way too fast a pace for a soloist!” is called out from behind me as I pass another group, head down, eyes fixed on the narrow track in the grass that offers less rolling resistance. Don’t blame me blame the bike! I think to myself as I grind through a steeper corner with no discernable flex in the chainstays taking anything away from what my legs are directing towards the wheels. Bang Bang Bang through my thighs and I’m at the top with shocked lungs singing in protest as I sit down and spin towards the first wooded section.
Second test; fast, swoopy woodland stuff. This is going to be good, 29ers rule on this sort of terrain – sorry but they do, the ability to just rail it right into the swooping corners and let the extra grip of the tyres fire you back out the other side is one of their biggest selling points, get yourself leant over and shift your weight further over than you think should be possible and grin as you come out of the corner still on the bike and travelling a hell of a lot faster than you expected. It is good. Momentary concern about the shorter-than-I’m-used-to stem and possible wash out of the front wheel in the root infested loam is banished from my head as I hold a tighter line than I expected. Under the canopy of trees I’m up to the back of another gaggle of riders and as we approach the next corner I dip my shoulder and let the tyres drift me round the outside as they fight for grip on the inside of the corner – a full on 2 wheeled drift, perfectly controlled after riding the bike for a sum total of about 5 minutes. Christ this could be a very good bike actually!

More fireroads and field edges seem to equal more big ring spinning and a chance to pour as much energy drink as I can down my neck as the heat of the sun burns down on my neck. I try not to think about how dehydrating racing flat out can be as the course fires me off into the trees and I to snap the frame left and right through the narrow, sapling lined singletrack climbs halfway round the lap.
Third test; tight, twisty stuff. “Big wheels can’t get round tight corners and accelerate. They’ll never be as good at the tech stuff”. Well no-one seems to have told the Ragley this. My weight distribution is roughly the same as it was on the old ScandAL, but where I’d be ‘rolling’ that bike around to get it through tight hairpins I feel like I’m darting the Ragley through them in a wonderfully natural feeling way. I’m holding speed up the ascents despite the mud and climbing up to more riders whose bikes seem to be consciously trying to fire them off into the undergrowth. It’s great fun and I’m kind of glad I didn’t bother putting a heart rate monitor on for the race as I know it would be screaming at me to slow down. The slowly drying mud between the trees is horribly tacky, like plasticine, making every pedal turn harder as the tyres sink into it and by the time I start to descend I can barely hear the rasping breaths of other riders around me over the blood pounding through my head. Maybe I’ll slow down in a few laps or something, but this is too much fun.
Dropping down through more of the tight, twisty stuff is almost a revelation; a couple of pedal strokes, rise up out of the saddle, let the back end flick over the greasy roots with a wonderfully muted kick and somehow I continually find myself in the perfect position to fire the bike around the next kink in the trail so fast I either need to seriously to concentrate and be thinking three corners ahead or chill out and touch the brakes to just keep the speed constant. Suffice to say I launch out of the trees in front of yet more riders, grinning like a loon. 29ers are moving on. Fast.

Dave SITS
pic coutesy of quertyphoto

The field edges that draw me towards the final wooded section allow me to finish the first one litre bottle of energy drink and down a gel pack and somewhere deep inside I know my body won’t take this sort of riding for 24 hours in this heat. Fuck it, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it will. I throw the bike down the newly surfaced last ‘proper’ descent with gritted teeth and tyres scrabbling for grip over the loose stones between the trees. “He’s ragging his Ragley! Yeah!” cry out some spectators as I thunder across the already appearing braking ruts with a smoothness that belies the effort I’m putting in. They’re right. I am.

I cross the finish line for the first time and glance up at the commentary box as the spectators are told I am the leading soloist, riding a prototype Ti 29er, fully rigid save the inherent flex in the frame material. Oohs and Aahs and claps send me back out of the arena.
Another lap passes in much the same way, only even faster as I start to ‘learn’ the bike a bit more and as I roll under the start/finish arch for a second time with the commentary booming out over the campsite “He’s still leading, I hope he’s not set off too quickly, this could be a brilliant race over the next 22 hours”. A wry grin spreads across my face as I roll out onto the course. So far the pace has been set by the mixture of new-bike speed (you know how it feels, how much faster you can suddenly go, how much easier everything seems on the first ride of a new bike) combined with the adrenaline of a big race and an almost bizarre lack of concern about my wellbeing. All bristling and arrogance. I know I’ve not trained as much as I would really need to be sure of keeping this pace up, so maybe I’ll blow up. Whatever, I’m racing until that happens, you want me? Come and get me.

By the 4th lap I’ve dropped down to second place after having a couple of minor offs as I push the bike just a little too far in search of it’s limits. I’ve also drunk four litres of sickly energy drink and failed to eat anything other than energy gels as the sun continues to leach the moisture out of my body up the hills and the thick stodge that makes up the surface of most of the course tears at my legs as I climb. I ignore the ‘vague’ feeling that’s beginning inside as I spin up yet another field edge track and hear “That’s Brant’s new bike isn’t it” from just behind me. I glance round as I confirm that it is and spot another rider on a carbon 29er rolling up beside me. He’s a soloist too, I can tell from his number board and as he passes me, while we exchange pleasantries, my mind goes into overdrive: I want to leap on his rear wheel and chase him into the singletrack but the more experienced and ingrained 24 hour racer part of my head takes control and tells me to sit at the pace I already had and not get caught up in every little tustle that happens on the course. He opens up a lead of about three or four minutes over the next lap as I wrestle with sitting at an easier pace.

waynes

This doesn’t feel right. As I round out another lap and get more encouragement from Wayne, calling out how the race is unfolding around me from trackside and replenishing more spent drinks bottles, the fire that drove me round the first few laps starts to return. Being overtaken while riding starts to feel like a bit of a body blow and I consciously pick my pace up again. Within a lap I spot the rider again ahead of me on the course and keep the pressure on to get back onto his wheel. He’s a glimpsed shadow at first, flitting about behind the trees on the singletrack ahead of me as I put more and more faith in the Ragley to haul me back towards him. At points we seem almost synchronised, flowing through the twists as I begin to draw level. More pleasantries are exchanged as I pass – his name’s Rob, he knows my name, we’re both on nice looking bikes. He’s grinning. So am I. My pace feels good – mildly uncomfortable and demanding a lot of my legs and reactions on the narrower sections of the course. I begin to open up a gap as we roll over the next few little climbs that dot the course.

Fourth test; enjoying riding it even when in no fit state. Another big positive tick for the Ragley here. It’s about 9 hours into the race now and the efforts of racing hard in the heat is beginning to take it’s toll. I know I should drop my speed back and try to avert disaster, but I’m not giving up second place like that. Not today. There’s a sense that the top three or four riders are riding each other into the ground to see who’ll crack first. I push on as waves of nausea wash over me.
I manage to down half an energy gel without gagging on it halfway round my 12th lap, but the second half comes back up within an instant of drinking it. Bugger it. The sneaking suspicion that I’d go down in flames – Death or Glory and all that – grows stronger and as I wind my way through the trees halfway round the lap I start to imagine Death himself stood outside the solo tent waving a bottle of recovery drink at me while cracking me over the head with his scythe. Well that’s just fine, if my body’s going to implode I’m not slowing down. I’m going to crash into him, at full pelt, flat out, riding so fast I’m on fire, sliding backwards with gritted teeth.

I do.

I headed back out onto the course for a last couple of laps the next morning, after spending the remainder of the night underneath my sleeping bag, still in full riding kit, clutching a cheeseburger I couldn’t eat, to chat to people still riding and to show the bike off a bit. It had made a hell of an impression on me and I was keen to wave it at anyone who seemed interested. That took a slightly more leisurely couple of hours to do, after which I drop off the course for the last time and take up residence with Wayne near the catering tent to see how the race was progressing. A couple more of the ‘big names’ and some of the early pace setters had dropped out but ‘our Jase’, riding the other Ragley was still hammering round the course and had pulled himself right back up from just outside the top ten to 3rd place! Awesome stuff that required much cheering on from trackside and a fair bit of shouting “MTFU”, just to keep his feet on the ground a bit as he stomped out his final laps 😉

jase

A group of us watched him roll over the line for the final time to take his podium finish, as ever more excited texts from Brant started to flood in and as we cheered all the finishers across the line Rob, who I’d been sparring with earlier in the race wandered over and thanked me for making the first half of the event so flat out. It turned out he’d enjoyed or to-ing and fro-ing as much as I had and the pace we’d been setting had a similar effect on him, though he’d been able to regain use of his stomach after a couple of hours and was able to get back out on the course and continue (albeit at a slightly slower speed!) and ride on to the win. We agreed that there’d be future races – both 24 hour and shorter, even more intense ones – to continue the battle and that flat out racing was, most definitely, the way forward.

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