Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bicicleta de Montaña Murcia

This week I am on holiday on the South East coast of Spain, approximatetly 20 minutes south of Murcia City Centre and am staying with my in-laws.  I had been in contact with one of there friends Neil about doing some Mountain Biking in the area, which features a number of rather large mountain (Sierra Carrascoy).  Neil lives close to my in-laws and is planning to ride a fantastic challange in the Alps taking in a lot of the Tour de France climbs.  Instead of bringing my bike with me, I was lucky enough to lend a bike which was a full susser from Decathalon (I will be doing a review of this bike later).

As I woke up at 7am the sun was shining and the temperatures were already getting up as i jumped on the Rockrider and headed to the meet point at 8am.  We set off and straight away I noticed that I wasn't feeling great.  One thing I know about this is that there is a lot of hills and using what I had learned at Roughride I wasn't going to give up on any of the climbs.  As we climbed up the service roads it became apparent that this ride was going to be tough, the temperature was rising, I was sweating and was drinking quite a lot. 

Once we got onto the mountain paths the scenariy was stunning and I can honestly say is some of the best sceneroy I have ever seen on a bike.  We carried on climbing and I started to feel worse, I seemed to have a large amount of phlem on my chest and was stopping me from breathing properly which was making climbing hard.  I stopped and started to cough and my breakfast decided to leave my body.  I was a bit dizzy and throwing up on this mountain path feeling like a complete idiot for eating breakfast too late.  Once I settled down I felt great and resumed the climbs and suprisingly climbed really well.  I must point out at this stage that while I was riding the hills ina  granny ring Neil, my tour gide, was climbing up in the middle ring very impressive. 

As we climbed to the very top of the mountain I felt great, the sense of achievement was there as I had ridden every step of the way.  Climbing up there were a number of local riders out on the same routes and seeing how the Spanish climb in this heat shows why they are successfull at this sport. 

Once up it must come down so we covered a large amount of distance on the decent before getting onto a road and climbing back up for a cafe stop.  A bit of cake, a can of coke and a lot of water and we ressumed the ride now onto my kind of surface - rocky and rough.  This gave me another boost of energy as I love riding on this kinda surface.  The trails upto now had been wide forest routes similiar to the surface at Llandegla's fire roads but now we were onto single track and I could really let loose on the trail.  It was undulating but was fantastic and flowing.  We then hit the road back to the villa's and I was enjoying the cool down but Neil had another idea as we started to climb back up the resort Neil decided he was going to push me to my limits and we climbed up really quickly.  As I climbed off the bike my legs hurt, my chest hurt and I wanted to climb into a freezing cold shower.  After thanking Neil for the ride I quickly got changed and dragged myself into the pool which acted like an ice bath.  Legs don't hurt today thank god as Im off to play 18 holes of golf shortly.

Stats from the ride:
25 miles;
2,000 feet of climbing
Temperature 8am - 25 degrees climbing to 33 by the end
2,500 Calories burned; and
Ride time 3 hours 28 minutes (we did take a lot of photos)

Below are some of my favourite photos from this ride:

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

1st Guest Blog - Review of Merida's Twenty-Nine Lite XT Edition 2011 RRP £1499

by Guest Blogger, Jason Shaw

Last week I was unfortunate enough to take my beloved steed – a Specialized Stumpjumper Expert EVO 2011 Custom Build – from the garage to find that my bottom bracket bearing had completely seized on the non-drive side, a symptom of the horrific weather conditions that myself, Geoff and two other clarionistas had endured at the 2011 Torq Rough Ride a couple of days before.
A trip to my local cycle mechanic, Nick Moores at Sixty-Nine Cycles in Chester confirmed that there would be no quick fix and that I'd be waiting for a new pressfit BB30 to be shipped and fitted. However,  fortunately for me, Nick had just got a brand new 29er in as a demo bike which he offered me for the ride I'd got planned the following morning - excellent service!

When looking at the specification of the Merida, I began to realise how good the kit is for the money. A full Shimano XT drivetrain which is the standard that I personally aim for when purchasing a bike. It has a Rockshox Recon fork  which is a great performer, it's a solo-air spring which is apparently not as good as the dual-air system on the Revelations on my Specialized, but I honestly wouldn't notice the difference. The brakes are Shimano stock items that do their job consistently brilliantly like most of Shimano's products, and the finishing kit is mainly FSA which looks good and functions well.

I thought that twenty-seven miles of bridleways, climbs, descents, singletrack and fireroads in the Clwydian range ought to put this bike through it's paces. So, after a little tinkering to get the bike set up to my liking, I set off with my ride buddy, Dave for our start point in Cilcain.
The first thing you notice about a 29er is the extra momentum that the big wheels give you, this is fantastic for keeping an effortlessly steady speed on the flatter bits of a ride, with the only price being the extra effort needed to get them turning to start with, this really is negligible though.

We got out of the car park and headed up the first road climb towards Moel Famau where I was astonished to look behind me and see Dave (who usually keeps up with my climbing pace) flagging! Was this Rough Ride paying off? Surely not! He's a Physio and all out fitness freak who works as a personal trainer for Pro Balance. It soon became clear on every single climb that this bike was a veritable mountain goat and a Dave beater! It really did climb like no bike I've ever ridden. Somewhere between the drivetrain and the larger wheel diameter the bike gives a feeling of being slightly higher geared than my 26er, which coupled with the extra momentum from the huge wheels made it rocket up ascents of anything up to around 30-40%. It was only on the very steepest, yet usually rideable climbs that my legs began to struggle. I noticed that I really had to work my legs up some of the climbs that my 26er breezes up without burning out my bottom half. This however, translates to a pleasant surprise when pointing the wheels down a hill. The higher feeling top gear gives you plenty more power when you want to add a dab more at 45mph+.

Another pleasant attribute of the big wheels is the fact that they roll over things more easily than a 26er. I've heard others report that it's like having 100mm of rear suspension. I think that that's overstating it somewhat, but with a slightly larger ground contact patch underneath each tyre it gives a very secure feeling of grip.

We arrived at the very top of Moel Famau and after briefly admiring the views pointed the bikes downhill towards Gelifor. I've not ridden a hardtail in anger since mine was stolen six months ago, and it was suddenly clear that my only bike of choice since the theft had produced a slightly lazy riding technique in me having let 146mm of rear suspension take a lot of the skill out of riding the descents recently.

The Moel Famau to Gelifor track is a particularly long grassy descent, one where I was left in Dave's dust! It is also one where my wrists usually feel battle fatigued half way down partly due to previous injuries. This time I had to have a short rest at the midpoint! This has happened once before, and this time for the same reason, that is that the handlebar grips are just too small for my (freakishly) large hands. This is the only change that I'd make to this bike out of the box.
The ride continued, and for the entire duration I would leave Dave standing on the climbs and have to sit around waiting for him at the top. Then he'd be increasing the distance between us on the descents and have to pause at the bottom for me.

To sum up, I reckon that this is the ultimate XC machine. If Dave and I had been in a race situation rather than on a sociable ride, I've no doubt that this bike would have propelled me over the finishing line a good deal sooner than his would have done for him. While it is worth noting that Dave was riding a Giant trail bike with five inches of rear suspension, we are usually very well matched in our fitness, pace and stamina. Which brings me to the conclusion that the Merida Twenty-Nine Lite XT was what gave me such a hidden advantage.

Buy this if like me, you're a committed ascender and you ride mainly XC. But if you're more of a Downhill and Dirtjumping fan I'd look at smaller wheeled models.

Cheers Nick! Fantastic bike! Just need to start saving now.....

Spec List

17-19-21-23" (Tested 19”)
29" Lite-D-Single
Rock Shox Recon Silver 29" 100 poplock
Derailleur F & R
Shimano Deore XT
Shimano XT Rapidfire / Rapidfire-10
Shimano M445 180/180 mm
Shimano XT-10 42-32-24
Shimano CN-HG74-10
Shimano M435 centerlock
Merida XCD Lite
Shimano CS-HG81-10 11-36
Black stainless
Maxxis Crossmark 29 2.1 Folding
FSA XC 282L OS R18 660
FSA OS-150 6°
FSA BB-410 Neck
Seat Post
FSA SL250 SB20 27.2  (Tested with a Thomson Elite Lay Back)
Shimano M520 (Tested with Shimano XT SPD)

Jason Shaw is an active member of North Cheshire Clarion Cycling Club, he primarily rides Mountain Bikes – mainly XC and Trail Centres, but also rides his road bike when the opportunity presents itself.
Jason, as a trained chef and former restaurateur, has his own blog at where he can usually be found writing about all things food and drink.

Nick Moores owns and manages Sixty-Nine Cycles. Font of all cycle knowledge and all-round top bloke.
Nick can be found at: SIXTY NINE CYCLES, Unit 4, Deva House, Lightfoot Street, Hoole, Chester, CH2 3AD.
Tel: 01244 347488

Sunday, 19 June 2011

First Coaching Session - Done

Back in May myself and another couple of riders from North Cheshire Clarion undertook Level 2 coaching course to set up the North Cheshire Clarion Kids Club through the British Cycling Go Ride initiative. Yesterday we took what we knew and applied it to our first ever Road Skills Session for adults. 

The sessions were around helping to develop riders confidence in following a wheel and rider close to each other, similar to what happens on club rides.  At the start of the session I was really nervous as I hadn't coached before and 25 members turned up.  We took our groups through three different training sessions before we brought everyone together for the first North Cheshire Clarion elimination Team Pursuit.  Seeing how the riders were pushing themselves and using the skills they learned was a very proud moment for me and I know the other guys felt the same.

Time to push on and get the Kids Club up and running .  We launch on the 2nd July and info can be found on the website or by emailing

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Rough Ride - DONE

Well I did it I completed my first ever Mountain Bike Event.  48km and 4000ft of climbing Done!

Myself and two other North Cheshire Clarion riders, Jason and Dom, camped over in in Herefordshire and although we took the scenic route to get there the weather was kind while we put up the tents and cracked open a couple of ales.  Jason had prepared a very tasty chili and we consumed this (carb loading) and headed the pub as it was cold.  A quick pint and brandy to keep the cold away and we headed back to over night accommodation.  I might add that Dom was very kind to lend me a tent but forgot to tell me that the last person to sleep in it was Freddie Kruger, it was full of holes which we fixed with trusty duck tape. 

4am it started. I woke up cold and heard the noise of rain lashing against the top of the tent.  I hoped it was a shower so I pulled the duvet over my head and went back to sleep.  7am I awoke to still hear the sound of rain hammering against the tent.  I popped my head out the tent and started the hour debate about if we were actually going to take part or not.  A quick phone call to another one of riders, Ian, confirmed we were doing it.  At this point I must point out that it was absolutely hammering down, it was cold but as Jason pointed out it was  not windy.

We finally geared up and headed to the ridge to start the ride.  We missed the start by 15 minutes due to not taking into account the climb up to the start but once there we just set off.  Jason's comment of no wind was then blown apart literally as on top of the moor it was very windy. 

The conditions were very wet and slippy with the ground having been churned up by mountain bike tyres.  The rain was torrential and Jason and Ian took off not to be seen until the end.  Myself and Dom plodded on, although I was holding Dom up badly so many thanks to him for sticking with me.  The climbs were horrendous very long and very steep and I am not going to lie i struggled.  I am convinced I just gave up and I need to work on the mental strength when climbing. 

Half way round the route, the food stop appeared and I have never been so glad to see flapjacks and bananas.  At this point there was an option to bail and avoid the climbs to come.  With Dom's gentle persuasion I decided to continue with the climbs and it wasn't long till I began to regret this.  The climbs were hard and fair play to Dom he climbed them all, where i walked the majority.  The descents were very very scary.  The wet muddy ground made it very hard to get traction and seeing someone getting first aid didn't help matters. 

As I crossed the line after 5hours 42 minutes of riding / walking i was dead.  I must say i hated it at the time but looking back now i loved it and will do it again next year.  The NCC riders were placed as follows:

Jason and Ian - 3hrs 58 minutes (well done guys)
Dom - 5hrs 33 minutes (this is because he sat with me most of the way round, thanks fella)
Geoff - 5hrs 42 minutes

What have I learned - I give up to easy on climbs the minute my legs hurt and I stop climbing.  If I see a rider in front of me I slow down thinking I cant catch them when I probably can.  I have to change my mental attitude to succeed and will be doing this during the rest of this year with the help of my fellow MTB riders. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Day Degla Bit Back

Helmets - There a funny old thing.  Some people wear them others don't.  In fact on Sunday morning two people came up to me and asked me if the trail centre at Llandegla made you where them.  This is while they were unpacking two brand new Cube hardtails, so they can clearly afford the best bikes but not the protection.  Personally if i'm on either the Mountain Bike or the Road Bike I wear one.  Its a personaly choice and Im not going to get into an argument about whether people should be made to wear them or not.  If I am on a mountain bike I know there is a risk that there are big hard objects usually in the way regardless if this is a tree or rock and knowing that these objects are usually harder than my head I will always wear one.

Well this weekend proved just how valubale they are.  I was lucky enough that my Mum bought me a new Met Parachute full face helmet (Met Helmets) for my 30th birthday and this weekend was the first time I had worn it in anger and wow how glad I was.  While messing about on the Skills section at Coed Llandegla on Sunday I was happily trying out the jump section and getting a little bit of air and then flicking the bike hard into a berm. 

I had done this a number of times with no issues other than a few dodgy landings but nothing was out of the ordinary.  This time I set off hit all three jumps and flicked the bike hard right onto a berm and thats all I remember.  The next thing I remember is lying on my back with my club mates surrounding me asking me if I was OK?  As any rider will tell you, as your lying there moving everything waiting for something to hurt it is a pretty anxious moment let alone having just knocked myself out.  I spent a good few minutes lying there waiting for my body to react before I got back to my feet.  A 6 hour trip to the Countess of Chester revealed nothing more than concussion and a few brusies (at this point I must say a big thank you to all my club mates especially Jason who spent his Sunday evening in the Hospital with me until 10pm Thank You guys).  

It appears that I had landed badly on the back of my head and the impact had knocked me out.  Now what damage would I have done without a hard shell surrounding my skull?  It doesnt bare thinking about, a cracked skull at the best?  Not only do you have to think about your own safety but of the guys and girls you ride with.  How would those guys feel if when they had got to me had they been witness to something a lot worse than what happened?  For me its a no brainer your skull needs protection use a lid!!!!!!!