Bear Bones 200 – 2014

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Ingredients:

  • Pick a few¬†points on a map, a variable¬†distance¬†apart, say 20-40km.
  • Highlight any good rideable off road trails you know between these points. You’ll need about three¬†fifths of these.
  • Highlight any of the unrideable trails you know between these points. Don’t use any more than one fifth¬†of these, or your route will have a slightly¬†sour taste.
  • At this stage, you may notice that not all your trails join up.¬†Link as many of these sections as you can¬†with bits of¬†road, yellow ones if you have them, or any that have those small black arrows on.
  • You might still have a few loose ends, but don’t worry, these can be linked up using¬†arbitrary¬†rights of way over the top of bleak mountain tops. Again, don’t over do these, as it¬†will affect the bitterness afterwards.
  • Once prepared, keep your route in a dark place for a couple of months to mature and don’t tell anyone where it is.

While your route is maturing, you will need to source¬†approximately 70 mountain bike riders (bikepacking variety) who will ride your route. They don’t need to know where it goes at this stage, they just need to think they want to do it. Continue reading

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The Shindig

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This post continues from my previous entry for the Lakeland 200.

I woke up at 9:35 AM. For¬†only two hours sleep, I didn’t feel too bad. I finished the rest of my olives and got dressed into some normal clothes. Rummaging around the van, I found some more food and began the process of replacing the thousands of calories consumed over the last 27 hours of riding.

The other objective for the weekend was to ride The Shindig, a social bikepacking event organised by by Bryan Dawson for Shand Cycles. The grand depart was from Milngavie (pronounced mull-guy),¬†north of Glasgow at 2:00 PM. There was a strong likelihood I wasn’t going to make it in time, but I wasn’t coming this far north and giving up on it entirely. Continue reading

Highland Trail – Video Kit Breakdown – Part 1

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Following the Highland Trail video posted last week, I thought I’d provide some insight into how I approached the filming, what kit I took, what settings I used and so on.

A few people asked me before the race:

Why would you want to waste time filming when you should be racing?

While the Highland Trail appealed to my competitive instincts, I felt I wasn’t quite on the same form as last year, and¬†the challenge of creating¬†a¬†short film appealed to me. The event had proven popular for non-riders too, and this was a chance to show everyone not racing what the Highland Trail was really like. Besides that, it was a suitable distraction from the sharp and committing end of the¬†race. That said, I deliberately didn’t want to spend ages setting up off-bike sequences. I¬†recognised the benefit of including some in the film, but I still wanted to get in a good distance each day, take a short sleep strategy and portray the impact that has on the rider.

The Camera

Up until last month, all my films have been shot using a Contour +2 HD video camera; either helmet ¬†or bar mounted, or off-bike on a tripod. When I first acquired a video camera last year, it was a toss up between the Contour and the GoPro Hero3. Comparisons between footage of both cameras seemed to show next to no difference in quality and on finding the Contour at a good price (bearing in mind the Hero3 was still quite new and suffering from some early firmware glitches), that’s what I went for. Whilst I’ve enjoyed using it – and there are some areas where the Contour is better than the GoPro in my opinion – it does have one limitation in that you can’t chest-mount it like you can with a GoPro. Unless I do my helmet strap up so tight I can’t open my mouth, I’ve never managed to get consistently good POV footage from the Contour due to excessive shake off the helmet.

For the Highland Trail, I knew that for speed of gathering footage the vast majority of filming needed to be made on the bike. I think is where the main win for the GoPro is Рthe chest-mount. It so happened, that the Hero3 recently got a refresh to the Hero3+  with a new lens, new waterproof case, longer battery life, better low light performance and crisper image quality.  Continue reading

Highland Trail Race 550

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After last year’s Highland Trail Race, one of my overriding feelings after completing it was that once was enough – I was not going to go through all that again. It was by far the hardest thing I’d ever done on a bike, and it pushed my¬†physical and mental limits far beyond those I’d encountered in a “normal” 24 hr solo race.

Time is a good healer, it seems. My mind had shuffled all the gruelling bits to the back, and¬†memories of good trails and heroic efforts combined to¬†form¬†a comparatively enjoyable experience, albeit one that didn’t involve a lot of sleep. The addition of another 120 miles for the route this year in the form of a northern loop around the Assynt placed it well and truly into the realms of Epic (a much overused words, but in this context it most definitely deserves the capitalisation), and¬†this tantalisingly difficult section on top of what I already knew to be a tough route made it difficult to resist.

My final preparation was less than perfect, and nearly didn’t happen at all if it weren’t for the support of Shand Cycles. High drama even continued up to the day before the race when my bike came loose on the bike rack while driving to the train station, ruining a Jones H-Bar in the process. I boarded the train anyway, and set about trying to source a replacement while en route. Keep Pedalling in Manchester came up trumps¬†with a ¬†new bar, even going as far as meeting me at the train station to hand it over so I could continue my journey north to Scotland with as little disruption as possible.

Approaching Devil's Staircase

Approaching Devil’s Staircase

Race day dawned cloudy with a cool breeze from the North-east. It looked like a good day for getting the miles down, and with the 1 hour earlier start this year we would have a little less pressure to get to Fort Augustus before everything shut. I settled into a rhythm reasonably well on the opening section, but clearly not able to match the pace of some of the front runners. This was a long race, and I wasn’t about to blow up on the first day. Continue reading

Shand Cycles

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It was¬†at Bespoked Bristol Bike Show in 2013 that I first met¬†Steven Shand, owner of Shand Cycles. Wildcat Gear supplied Steven with some bags to display at the show, and that marked the beginning of¬†the two companies working together to unite¬†Shand’s superbly crafted frames with the high quality bikepacking luggage creations from Wildcat Gear.

When I first looked at the bikes in their range at the show, two things stood out to me; thoughtful, elegant design that instantly portrayed the true purpose behind each frames intended use and, secondly, a level of craftsmanship in the brazing and quality in the final finish that is best seen in the metal to be fully appreciated.  Continue reading

Not the Cairngorms Loop

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It was never meant to be like this.

A fraught week gathering kit together in preparation for the Cairngorms Loop 300km ITT suddenly got a whole lot worse when on Wednesday night I discovered a problem with my “race bike” that I wasn’t going to be able to get fixed. Casting an eye around the garage revealed a cyclocross bike with 8 gears and a fat bike with one gear. I dusted off the 10sp clutch mech I bought last year, but had not got round to using and stripped the 8sp cassette off the cyclocross bike, mated the bar-end shifter to a Paul Components clamp and set about fitting it all to the fat-bike.¬†If only it was that simple. Continue reading