Author: ianbarrington


Climbing Off


Relief, so I’ve discovered, is a very temporary feeling.

At around 3am on Sunday morning I took my helmet off and slumped into a camping chair in the pits. I’d just come to the end of my 12th lap at Mountain Mayhem, the last two of which were particularly painful. I felt I’d started quite well, not too hard on the run but far enough towards the front to not get caught in traffic, and settling into a good rhythm which I kept up into the darkness. I had the usual difficulties of not fancying most of the food I’d brought with me, but Beth managed to find the right combinations of things to keep me going.

Once the dew settled the mud (which had been drying out nicely) became very sticky. My lap times slowed, the singletrack descents that followed the tough climbs on the second half of the course became a slog. In a way it was challenging to keep upright and surf the mud, but at the same time you couldn’t help but feel slightly cheated to have to work so hard to get back to the bottom.

That was it for me at that point. The last lap was through a fine rain that was just beginning to get harder, and the prospect of another 11 hours of riding seemed beyond what I felt I could manage, both mentally and physically.

The relief of climbing off faded quite quickly. What I’m left with is an enduring feeling of disappointment while I try and work out why it all went wrong…

Bikes, Races

Hill Climbs

No Comments

The Llangynidr hill climb featured as Round 4 of the Magic Dragon Series of time trials. The strategy was simple: stomp on the pedals as hard as possible and try not to blow up before reaching the top. With an average gradient of 8%, it climbs 280m in 3.5km. It doesn’t sound steep on paper, but believe me you know when you’ve done it. The top came after 13 minutes and 28 seconds, putting me 8th in the seniors. I was pretty pleased with my power output too – 4.74 watts/kg. The race was won by the last man up the hill – local lad, and our postie Ryan Bevis, who smashed the course record by 43 seconds with an impressive time of 11 minutes 5 seconds.

After a winter tucked away in the dry the Nicolai has been stripped down, restickered and rebuilt. After waiting for the lunchtime showers to clear, I headed out on its Inaugural Ride with a trip over The Gap. Starting in Talybont on Usk at 125m, and topping out at some 599m the route involved a climb at the other end of the scale to one I did earlier in the day. There are many variations of the Gap route, but whichever way you do it the best (and most technical) descent is off the north side back towards the Brecon. Late in the afternoon all the walkers had gone home, so I had the hills virtually to myself.

 Rebuilt Looking south from the top of the Gap Looking north down the Gap descent

The bike? Well, of course Im going to say its wonderful. No, really, it is πŸ™‚ I’d made a tentative transition away from Pace forks (I’ve owned 6 pairs in all, since 1994). The Rock Shox Revelations that now grace the front of the bike were amazingly supple – they soaked up all the rocks I pointed them at both large and small in a smooth controlled action that I never found with my Pace’s. The brakes aren’t bedded in just yet, but I’m getting to like the new Hope Mono M4’s already – the larger rotors are quite confidence inspiring.

The route I did can be downloaded from the widget on the right. I’ll gradually add more files as time goes by.


The Story Concludes


The showers at Selkirk Rugby Club are highly recommended. To get the maximum amount of pleasure, I’d suggest a good weeks worth of riding before hand though – one that takes a twisting and challenging route over high hill tops, along stoney drovers roads, forest tracks, through bogs and in and out of winding singletrack.

So, to pick up where I left off mid-week, it was all to play for in the lower ranks of the top 10 solo’s:

Special Stage #3 – Heavy rain over night had made the trails really quite slippy at Mabie. With the times quite tight between me and Charlie (Eustace), we’d been quietly psyching each other up (or out) in advance of this one. I didn’t feel too bad and was confident of being able to close the gap of 20 seconds between us. The reality was different. The legs were heavy after special stage the previous day, and although I could see Charlie in the far distance at one point, he stretched his lead (rather smugly) by 16 seconds. The 4th night time special stage at Glentress on Friday was going to be the last opportunity for me to close the gap.

The link stage for the remainder of Day 5 saw us return to the Forest of Ae and then over to Moffat. An uneventful link stage really, though I did enjoy the descent down The Face again in Ae.

Day 6 – The route map for Stage 6 looked tough – A 65km route from Moffat to Peebles topped over 1900m of ascent with hardly any road. As if that wasn’t enough, we also had the 4th special stage in the evening. To make matters worse, the time cut off was only 6 hours for the day. The Southern Upland Way formed the majority of the days route, and I took an easy pace on the steady climbs in the morning. When I reached the half way lunch stop after 3 hours, I realised I was going to need to get a move on if I was going to make it back in time. The climbs were endless, and as the minutes constantly ticked by I was forced to ride just a little bit faster than I was comfortable with. The up side of the endless climb was a scorching descent off Kirkhope Law into Peebles. A short loop through Glentress Forest saw me arrive at the campsite with 30 mins to spare against the cut off. I was attentive to the fact that Charlie was behind me, and with the risk of time penalties affecting his position, he must have had to work hard too to come in just 10 minutes before the cut off.

Dave Piper on the Southern Upland Way

At the beginning of the week I said to a few people “Oh, this is just training for Mountain Mayhem”. Who was I trying to kid? Its a race. There are places at stake and I don’t yield easily. The place that mattered tonight was 8th – only 35 seconds away from my 9th position. I looked at the starting line up – Charlie was starting off 30 seconds ahead of me. I needed to not only catch him, but pass him too, which wouldn’t be easy. I studied the course profile carefully – two notable climbs, the biggest being 2.5km long, 4km into the stage. I checked the time gap between me and Charlie again, and then looked at the guys just behind me. Crikey, I couldn’t afford to make a mistake either as there was three guys within 75 seconds of me. Well, there’s nothing like a bit of pressure I suppose…

Special Stage #4 – The first section of the course flowed fast – I railed into the berms and was on the power straight out of the other end and on to the first fire road climb. As I rounded the bottom corner and saw the hill stretch out before me I could see Charlie in the distance. My legs felt good, all things considered, but I was careful not to red line things too much. The first piece of hand-cut singletrack was tight, rooty and required a high degree of precision to get down in one piece. I came out at the bottom of the 2.5km climb, Charlie still visible but no closer in the distance. The singletrack hairpin climb that followed were where I made up the time. I took several yards out of Charlie on each one and by the time we topped out on the fireroad I was on his tail. Pausing to catch my breath a bit I tried to overtake, but Charlie cut me off, so I hung back a few metres and launched a short sprint down his opposite side. I’d got a gap and pushed it as hard as I could manage through the next section. Once at the top all I had to do was get down without any mistakes. I had a couple of close calls on the descent, but looking behind me I couldn’t see any lights. This was good. A short sharp climb off the fireroad saw me catch my 1 minute man, an RAF rider, who I followed at considerable pace right to the finish. I was buzzing when I got over the line. Forty seconds later Charlie rolled in, and we shook hands briefly. I’d posted the 7th fastest solo time, and come within 4 seconds of the very fast Andy Cathcart. More importantly, I’d bagged 8th place.

Matt and Shaggy

Stage 7 – A straightforward stage back to Selkirk via Glentress’s and Innerleithen’s finest trails was all that was required today. A fast group of riders went out on the singletrack and I soon found myself riding mostly on my own, except for the passing and re-passing of Matt and Shaggy on their singlespeeds. Shaggy churned his (seemingly) massive gear up the Minch Moor climb in an impressive fashion, shortly followed by Matt. We continued to exchange places and hold gates for each other most of the way back to Selkirk. Crossing the line after 4 hours and 7 minutes for the 52km, I’d racked up a total of 525km in 34 hours and 37 minutes in the past 7 days.

At a local level, Matt Scrase placed a very respectable 3rd in the Solo Vets, and Alan Gardner flew the Brecon Wheelers flag from a well earned (and well defended) 16th place. Al’s night lap nearly went badly wrong when his light bracket failed and he finished on just a head torch. His time of 35:13 still beating a lot of people with a much better view of the trail.

The atmosphere at the event was brilliant, and all the competition (especially between me and Charlie) was friendly at heart (though he insisted we have a rematch at Newham Park in July). I’ve met lots of new people who I hope I see again at future races. I’ve hopefully got a bit fitter (if you’re reading this, Dave πŸ˜‰ ), and certainly better at racing on very technical trails. I’ve got lots of pictures posted up here which hopefully reflects well on the type of riding we did.



No Comments

If I’m honest, my performance on Tuesday’s club time trial was a bit ropey. First time back on the bike after being ill, everything felt hard work. My legs went up and down ok, but my HR was high and the power ouput some 15w lower than it should have been. I was more than a little worried that 2 weeks off had done more damage than I reliased. That was two days ago.


Tonight, in total contrast I turned the cranks for over 2 hours at a strong tempo pace and felt great. The cobwebs well and truely blown away as 62km blustery and undulating kilometers were dispatched in just under 2 hours.
Feels good to be back into the groove πŸ™‚


My Turn

No Comments

I managed to negociate most of the winter without getting ill. Somehow I steered a course between people with a variety of ailments for the past 6 months without getting so much as a slight sniffle. Until a week last Monday that is. The toll of the Nightrider 12 was evident the very next day with a sore throat, followed later that week with a proper cold. It threatened to turn into a cough by the weekend before changing its mind, but lingered through most of last week. I don’t actually recall suffering with something for that long, and certainly can’t recall not riding my bike for 2 weeks. I was consequently disappointed to miss out on round 2 of the Trek Marathon champs at Sherwood 😦

Still, looking on the bright side I didn’t miss any decent riding weather last week, and I’m now fully rested for a packed week of training that I’m properly rested for.

Roll on TransScotland…


Nightrider 12


I’d never been to Newnham Park before. Its very well established as one of the UK’s best XC race venues, and last weekend it played host to a new event – Nightrider 12, where I was racing in the pairs category with fellow Torq rider James D’arcy. The 11km course was fast and flowing – the wooded singletrack lined with bluebells weaved in and out of the trees and the open climbs glowed beneath a waxing moon. It was a good course that offered several challenges at race pace in the darkness.

Racing as a pair requires a completely different approach to what I am used to from solo racing. With 50% of the time spent resting, the other 50% sees you riding much closer to your threshold. Our early laps were fast paced and we soon established ourselves in 3rd place. The two leading teams were locked in battle for more than half the race with barely minutes between them. As I became more familiar with the course I was able to flow much more smoothly on the singletrack sections which compensated for the natural fatigue that accumulates at 3am when you’ve not had any sleep.

My knowledge of the course was tested when I misjudged the burn time on my Exposure Race Turbo light. Its clean white light gave excellent coverage of the trail, but when the battery gets low it goes into a flashing mode which provides just enough light to see where you are going for about a third of the time. The strobe effect on the undergrowth was almost hypnotising. Fortunately I was able to hand over to James at the end of that lap, but it was a mistake that cost us five minutes.

Dawn emerged around 5:15am, with sunrise following at 6:30am. With the end in sight now and third place nearly assured (we were a lap up on 4th), I took the opportunity to try and enjoy the course in the daylight, where I found different lines and tried to nail some sections I’d been cautious of in the dark. We’d both worked hard through the night to successfully hold our third place, and it was a relief to cross the line just after 8am with 22 laps under our belt – mission accomplished.

Nightrider 12 - Men’s Pairs Slightly Dirty Kona Washing!

I was really pleased with the Kona – the handling through the singletrack was excellent, and the short-travel suspension gave good comfort and control over the rougher terrain and the firmness I needed for the climbs. The simplicity of Exposure lights also takes some beating. Having previous been used to HID light systems, I found the trail easier to read with the Exposures. Lightweight and bright, I was able to ride full-tilt into the deep pool of white light they cast in front of me at a speed I was hardly able to match even in the daylight!


Catch up

No Comments

I seem to have spent most of my time catching up lately. Its been a busy month, and one that seen my first two races of the season.

The first round of the National Marathon Champs was on April 7th at Thetford. A week of good weather leading up to the event produced a super-fast course through Thetfords not-particularly-technical-but-nice-and-flowing singletrack. Crucially for me, my rib was more or less better, and although I was still getting some discomfort I could propel myself along at race pace without too much pain (from the rib at least). The previous 10 days off the bike while the ribs mended meant I was well rested for the event, though at the expense of doing any speed work. Speed? Well, there was plenty of that. The starting pace was really fast – elites, expert and sport riders are all in the same category in marathon racing, so while the elites powered away at the front, everyone did their best to keep up behind. A puncture on the very first lap saw me loose touch with a nice fast bunch of guys, and I never managed to catch up the 2.5 mins I lost fixing it. The first 2 hours was full on XC race pace for me, but despite that I felt pretty comfortable. I worked well with Alex Pettett (Leeds Uni/Torq) for a three laps before I lost touch with him on a pitstop. I kept a solid pace going on my own to the end to finish 35th overall with a time of 4:41 for 96km (according to my GPS). An average heart rate of 165 bpm gives an indication of the unrelenting pace and flat nature of the riding at Thetford that offers little in the way of respite anywhere on the course.

The following week was the first round of the Merida enduro series in Builth. A highly uncharacteristic spell of warm and sunny weather produced another fast and dry course that was a delight to ride. The new forest sections in Llaneglwys are really beginning to bed in now, and in the dry were riding as well as I ever seen them. Another puncture on a road section saw me loose touch yet again with a fast group of 4 guys, which results in more time lost that it took to fix a puncture. The course was tweaked slightly over last year, with a new section east of the Wye over Llandeilo Hill. A spectacular 2 mile descent off the top was the reward for a long gruelling climb in a mid-20’s heat that was a shock to the system.Β  I finished 34th, with a time of 3:18 for the 61km course that produced 1400m of ascent.

Overall, I’ve been pleased with the first two events this season. Disappointed not to have finished higher at both, but the underlying efforts have been pretty solid, so it provides a good platform for the rest of the season. Its the Niterider 12 at the end of the month, where I’m pairing up with James D’Arcy.

That’s it, I think I’ve caught up now.

Not Bikes

All Change…

No Comments

…up at the top of the page. Early spring – Sgwd Yr Eira near Ystradfellte.

I’ll try and change the header as the seasons change, so you’ll need to tune in at least four times a year to catch them all πŸ˜‰

Bikes, Not Bikes


No Comments

The sun was shining beautifully yesterday – it felt like Spring was finally here, despite last weeks attempt by Winter to hold on for a few more days. Beth and I went walking down at the Waterfalls near Ystradfellte, as we’d both decided to have a few days off work. You may well ask why weren’t we out on the bikes on such a nice day?

Well, last Saturday I went riding at Afan. I parked down at the lower carpark and got in a quick lap of Pen Hydd. The Wall was closed, so I rode up to do the Skyline trail. The return down the valley was to be via White’s Level. Everything was going nicely, and I was on my second ascent of the White’s/ Skyline climb when it all went wrong. I was riding at a brisk pace when my front wheel glanced off an inocuous looking rock on a short steep section and slammed into the bank at the edge of the trail. All 130mm of fork travel was taken up instantly as I came to a very abrupt halt. The forks rebounded, I overbalanced backwards and sideways, departed from my bike, bounced off a tree then fell onto some sharp pointy rocks and rolled some distance down the bank below. A general body check revealed a grazed arm, bashed knee and a broken rib.

Walking is a nice safe activity, and one that is generally suitable for people with broken ribs. To dispell that concept I slipped on some wet rocks and bashed my left knee quite badly.

The third thing hasn’t happened yet…