Tag Archives: king of the mountain

A Decadent Way to Travel

A Decadent Way to Travel

The rain stopped long enough for me to change my mind about venturing over to Hillsborough for our weekly night ride. With the hole in the elbow of my expensive waterproof cleverly stitched up by my talented wife I headed out the door and into the fleeting sunshine.

I opted for a new route that took me in a straight line down a steep path through the woods that border Bingham Park. This got pretty gnarly almost immediately with the combination of gravity assisted speed and large blocks of granite embedded in the trail making for an unexpected early doors adrenaline rush, I paused briefly to asses the rideability of ancient set of steps at the bottom of this path before deciding it was doable.

The ride over to Hillborough was uneventful and we met Dan at the Rivelin Valley “Big Steps”. While he’d been waiting for us he’d taken the opportunity to have a go at this intimidating hurdle for the first time. Always scary, but oh so rewarding and easier without the pressure of an audience.

After a brisk pedal up the Rivelin Valley we met Jim at the Lodge Lane car park for a bit of Wyming Brook downhill. On the climb up from the brook we decided to do the climb to Stannage Pole, despite the wind and rain vigorously trying to dissuade us.

Standing in the wind and rain on this exposed peak I asked the night “Who thought this was a good idea?”. The night threw back a line from The Motivativators Guide to Outdoor Pursuits, “You’ve got to go up to get down!” I told the night to stop quoting James Brown at me and we turned tail and headed back the way we had come. I had no intention of setting a time down this trail not least because I don’t know it that well and I was wearing my glasses as I’d run out of contact lenses, didn’t see that coming. The first section down to the gate went smooth and Lambo and I were neck and neck down the second section.

Egged on by this unexpected dual we found ourselves doing 25 miles an hour down the stoney fire road. I was aware that there was a barrier at the bottom of this road but it loomed out of the darkness earlier than expected. Pulling on the brakes at this speed didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, the wheels locked up and I hit a fist sized rock. This had the effect of turning the bike into something akin to a fairground broncho ride, minus the disappointed looking, tattooed operator and the squashy, padded landing area.

I was flipped from the bike landing on my shoulder and sliding to a halt on my back about 10 metres further down the trail. Despite the high speed nature of this event I escaped with relatively minor injuries. The same cannot be said for my bag or my coat. I expect it would appear to the casual observer that I’d been dragged behind a car down a rocky fire road for 10 metres at approximately 25 miles an hour, or that my left arm had be mauled by a hungry beast with a taste for Gore Tex.

broken-coat

Here’s a stat extracted (after a bit of zooming in) from Strava:

From 47.8 km/hr – 0 km/hr

in 3.5 seconds

over a distance of 10 metres

=  5th place overall

 

 

 

 

Troy Lee Moto Shorts Product Review

This feels like a fitting time to write a review of the Troy Lee Moto Shorts that I’ve been wearing for the last year. Despite being exposed to a significant number of crashes they show no signs of wear and tear and their tough but comfortable material has saved my thighs on a number of occasions, even with the velcro hip padding removed.

They have a rachet style buckle fastening that copes very well with fluctuations in waistline and the rubbery coating on the inside of the waist clings to lycra undershorts helping to keep them in place. They have two zip up cargo pockets on either leg that are perfect for soft items like wallets or gels, I wouldn’t stick your keys or phone in there. In short, these things appear to be bomb proof, or at the very least me proof.

Strava became the reason to cut your hair short or trim your fingernails

Strava became the reason to cut your hair short or trim your fingernails

The sun hasn’t really shone since my last blog back in May but the rides continue through the perpetual summer rain. On fathers day I took advantage of a sunny morning and headed out of the  door at 5am, a peaceful and secret time of the day reserved for those who stoically over come their reluctance to relinquish the Sunday eiderdown. I returned three hours later with a broken spoke, a perfect opportunity to use my new truing stand.

Since then the truing stand has seen some action as I deal with the fallout of using one’s rear wheel to chew off one’s rear derailleur. I may have found all the damaged spokes but the large dink in the rim is also preventing alignment. Sick of  hoovering up sealant from my tubeless tyres every time I removed them they now stay on the rims during this exercise.

Another new addition to my toolkit is my Samsung Galaxy S3. As my first new phone in 5 years it is busy reminding me what a technophile I am and what I’ve been missing. This thing is what might have once been quaintly called a palm top, but this technology is actually worthy of the name.

So why would I label this device a tool? Quite simply it has revolutionised the way I see my rides and interact with my biking buddies, to say it is like adding another dimension, a missing component, would not be overstating it. I am talking about an app called Strava.

Strava uses the GPS functionality of your phone to map your ride. What’s so special about that? I hear you mutter. Once the ride is over you hit the save ride button on the app and Strava uploads the data to your account. It then breaks your ride down into segments that other people with Strava enabled devices have ridden, compares the results and generates leader boards for those segments. This essentially means that every time you ride you’re racing against an online community and your friends whether they’re with you or not.

If you’re as old as me you’ll remember a time before home computing when playing computer games meant pumping coins into a large box and trying to get a high enough score to enter your initials on the leader board upon your character’s inevitable demise. On successfully achieving this ambition you would dutifully come up with a swear word that could be phonetically spelt using three letters, unless you were serious about posterity, in which case you would put something personal, like your initials.

Strava have managed to take this rather geeky pleasure from my past and bring it to my new hobby, which is not entirely free from geekory itself. Yes, Call of Duty has a leader board but do I have the hours or inclination to chase the leaders, and would any of my friends care if I reached the upper echelons? No, because my mates aren’t impressed by my ability to efficiently despatch the  avatars of obnoxious, American teenage boys on a virtual battle field.

They are however impressed by my ability to ride the Rocky Clough Lane downhill segment of one of our
regular routes in 1.03 and claim the title of King of the Mountain over this segment. This means that out of the 71 people to ride it I am the joint fastest (at time of writing). And if they’re following me on Strava they can tell me by giving me Kudos (similar to a facebook like) and  comment on the relevant segment, and I can do the same to them. The chat in the pub after the ride is a very different affair in this post Strava landscape.

There is a downside to this new toy, it’s got me riding every downhill section like a crash proof nutter on a divine wind. As a man in my mid thirties I don’t have that many high-speed crashes left in me. For this reason I do find my internal monologue having a quiet word during a luck pushing descent of something like the Devil’s Elbow. “Mark” it will whisper, “who do you think you are eh? Steve Peat? Nah, you’re a middle aged bloke on a homemade bike and you’re about to run out of talent” I’d like to ignore him but he’s right and I rein Katie in. The final time is three seconds off the fastest girl, Lambo and I call it a wet lap in fading light and start to negotiate the fallen tree blocking our exit.

So a new dimension to my riding means a new dimension to this blog, if you’d like to follow my adventures follow Mark Tyler on Strava, and say you found me through my blog.