14 04 2014

The 44 arrived today and before too long it was time to get building…


it is good to take some time to build a bike so you know it is done *right*


axles were swapped and the drive chain and brakes messed with…


the wheels fitted, initially without tyres…


so, more to do, but it is looking sweet as…

TNT – I’m dirty, mean and mighty unclean, I’m a wanted man, Public enemy number one


more soon…or see more [URL]=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/drj0n/”%5Dhere%5B/URL%5D…

A loop around the Cairngorm.

27 03 2014

It is time to get some proper miles in the legs. Weather and circumstance kissed opportunity and the bike and bags were made ready. Some new kit to check out with the promise of a good few river crossings and a cold night on the proposed route.

Leaving Blair Atholl, I rolled up Glen Tilt. Still early, but the sun was out and it was entirely pleasant. As I neared the north eastern end, it was clear that there was going to be a fair amount of low snow to navigate.

Sure enough, as I passed above the Allt Garbh Buidhe gingerly placed feet were a necessity whilst manoeuvring the bike along the vague impression of the trail left in the snow on the steep sided glen. After a few challenging route choices to avoid the often hidden, crusted over frigid waters, the trail dropped to the ruins of Bynack Lodge and it was here that the first major obstacle was to be found: fording the swollen Geldie Burn.

I have learned that I am a softie when it comes to going barefoot in rivers, so I removed my socks and insoles, rebuckled my shoes and plunged in. Thinking about it too much was just going to lead to stalling. The water was cold enough to take my breath away, but it was keeping my bike out of the mid thigh deep water that became the real test as I scrabbled for purchase on the slippery boulders in the river bed. Glad to have made it, I drained my shoes, rubbed life back into my toes and donned the shoes whilst munching on some much needed calories. Onwards.

The Lairig Ghru was barely visible in the low cloud and precipitation: I was glad I had opted for a loop around rather than passage through. I passed Braemar and Mar Lodge after a brief flurry of snow reminded me spring didn’t yet have a solid grip on this land.

From here, I could drop into the gorgeous woodland of the Balmoral Estate. I had originally planned to take the trail up towards Lochnagar and then drop down to Loch Muick before heading out towards Aboyne and north, but given the amount of snow low down in Glen Tilt I decided to miss this part out and keep pedaling alongside the Dee. Before too long I passed the majesty of the castle itself and after pressing a curious button the gates opened to allow my exit.

Steady as she goes. I could tell some of the warmth was beginning to drain from the sun, but I knew I had a few hours of light yet. The aim was to get as far round my proposed loop towards Tomintoul as I could before bedding down.

Candycraig, then Aboyne, follow the off road trail to Tarland, then up, up, up.

After an age of climbing, then following the River Don, and with the light fading fast, I made it to Cock Bridge and Corgarff Castle. Here, I ducked over towards Glen Avon. The temperature was plummeting and I was in no doubt that my energy was going. Twice I rode off trail. As soon as I found a likely looking grove of trees, I unrolled the bivi. Shivering became uncontrollable so it was straight into the sleeping bag once divested of my cycling shorts and my wool longs were in place. I didn’t even crack open the can of Torpedo – or my hip flask.

The lights went out at 8.30pm…

…and came on again at 5.30am after lazing around in my bag for an hour. Rapidly, I danced around to get blood back into my limbs, making coffee and packing the bike.

The moon was still visible in the clear, blue sky as I rolled out of the woods down towards the River Avon and day 2.

As the sun rose more fully, I could strip a layer and really appreciate the landscape. Beautiful.

Unfortunately, as I dropped down towards the river, I dropped into shadow also. This meant it was colder. However, it did keep me honest and my speed up.

After Tomintoul, there was the usual hop-scotch down the Burn of Brown, before climbing up and over to Dorback Lodge. I knew the trail over to the Braes of Abernethy was vague, having failed to find it previously. But this time, I had a gps!

Let’s just say it is no wonder I couldnt find the trail…

A bit of grumpy tussock bashing led to the Eag Mhòr and after a couple of fairly deep river crossings that left my toes numb for the next 2 days, I popped out near Aviemore.

The route I had originally decided to try was through the Gaick, but again, the low snow led me to believe it would be a nightmare, so I opted for the national cycle route 7 alongside the A9 back to Blair Atholl. Of course, this also meant I had to grit my teeth into a fairly fierce headwind for about 50 miles. Ouch.

Once home and defrosted, it was time to make some notes.

Total distance 175 miles. 22.5 hours riding time. Well, there was 2 hours on day one and 1 hour on day 2 of pushing through snow.

The VBL I used as a liner in the sleeping bag was interesting. I did get warm quickly, but I didn’t particularly appreciate the soggy feeling in the morning. I need easier access to several small things whilst riding: I didn’t use the front pocket on the Revelate designs sweetroll for the fist time, which made for less rattling around on rough ground, but if I couldn’t reach something easily, I tended to ignore it. My life would have been made easier with easier access to certain bits of kit. The PHD sleeping bag is great, my riding kit was great, the GPS was worth it’s weight in gold. As my friend chris pointed out, it did randomly jettison. Glad I made a wee elastic leash for it.

I easily carried enough food for 2 days riding and although I refilled with water, this is never an issue in Scotland. I don’t know how much my kit weighed, I had very little on my back – thanks to the new revelate frame bag from Backcountry biking. Otherwise all my kit was as good as ever. My legs, however, were a little weak and I wouldn’t have complained if my overall set up had been a wee bit lighter. Always picky.

Vertigo fat bike.

15 03 2014

For the most part, I’m going to hang fire on words about this project and just post some of Sean’s pictures. Suffice to say that this time, I asked a lot of Sean and it is beginning to come together. He is a ti-construction wizard, no doubt. These pictures detail the tooling he is making to construct a ti, fat truss fork (he is making a couple at the same time, in point of fact) for the fat bike. This is very involving, but I’m glad he agreed to do this for me – it will be über sweet!


15 03 2014

I finally got around to wiring up the Sinewave Revolution to the SON front hub. It was not difficult at all and within a few minutes of the shrink wrap cooling I had power from the rotating wheel to my iPhone.

Interestingly the dynamo seems to click on and off depending on speed. I have no idea if this is an accurate appraisal of what is going on, but as speed of rotation builds you can almost feel a clicking – which I assume is the mechanism that generates the power coming into effect.

So, here are some photos of the process.


27 02 2014

Photo’s are from Kris flickr, again. There are some more there as well.

I built up the front wheel. I was a little trepidatious regarding this build as the flange of the SON 28 front hub is 58mm and it is nearly symmetrical. This means that it is ideally built offset at the rim, side-to-side. The rabbit hole drilling is 7mm offset from center. this means there is not a great deal of triangulation on the spokes. Good, even tension will be critical for longevity.

It went ok though…good tension around 90kgf with 10% variation and <0.1mm lateral and radial. Fine for the rabbit hole rim.

Next step for me is to wire up the Sinewave Revolution to the hub and get all 1.21 giga watts…more soon.

And another thing: what on earth are folk using as a jig for building 190mm or wider rear hubs? answers on a postcard, please.


22 02 2014

So, the 29+ from Kris at 44 bikes is coming along nicely. The next few pics are from his flickr account, which I would suggest checking out…my build is going to be super sweet, but there’s plenty more to see there.

Probably time to fill in a few gaps about this bike. It will be a short stay, super fun, tech-able, long-haul-happy, bikepackable beast. The fork is coming from Drew at Engin, with a Paragon tapered steerer, and a bottle cage mount on each leg.

The wheels will be a SON 28 front hub dynamo, 100mm OLD, built into a Rabbit Hole rim (DT comps, alu nips) and the rear is a DT Swiss 350 150mm wide hub, laced again to a Rabbit Hole with comps and alu nips. I like the whole enchilada of the 3″ tyres and the 50mm rims. The rear wheel is over with Kris to allow final checking of clearances – getting a 29+ bike with the rear end this short is far from straightforward – I think this route is the best having ridden extensively on an 83mm bb bike. There is some discussion of this issue over on MTBR, here, with some good points and thoughts from Walt of Waltworks.

Why the SON hub? well, the dynamo will work with the Revolution I very gratefully received from David Dean at Sinewave to test. This tiny, clever unit allows any electronic device that charges with a USB plug to be run from the dynamo. So my iPhone and iPod, my steripen, my niterider and headtorch can all last the distance when going for extended, backcountry rides. Sweet, eh?

The rear spacing on this frame is 150mm, but it will use Paragon sliders. Initially it have 150mmx10mm normal vertical drops, with a direct mount hanger for a shimano rear mech. However, the beauty of the sliders is that they are replaceable. In the future, this bike may well be converted to 157mm thru, either with a shimano QR skewer or a DT rws – ideally, still with the direct mount for the mech. Ti 12 point bolts natch.

Moving on, the bb is an 83mm shell to help keep the stays down to 425mm, and a Zee crank will be plugged in, mounted with a wolftooth drop stop ring.

Old favourites such as the wide Jones loop bars, ESI grips, XT brakes and shifters, selle san marco zoncolan and modified trail XT pedals and either a thomson post and stem or perhaps an Eriksen post, maybe a Syntace stem. King cages to finish it off. Oh, Chris king inset 7 and bb.

This bike has been in my mind since I first got the Krampus. I believe it is the perfect evolution of the 29+ platform. I think it’s going to really thread the needle of super fun trail bike and bikepacking beast of burden. Kris has been great to work with – I really recommend him, as do other considerably more well known clientele.

Character building.

17 02 2014

The F.B.R.O.T.Y is always a hard one, regardless of terrain or weather. For us, the ‘first big ride of the year’ came into being many moons ago and represented the transition from the limitations of winter to the promise of spring and summer. Over the years, more often than not, the F.B.R.O.T.Y has involved a route in the Trossachs and so it was yesterday.

It would be fair to say I am a little nervous of being fit and tough enough to do some of the things I am aiming to do this year, on the bike. The reason is that it seems very difficult for me to coordinate the time and effort to plug in long enough rides to gain the endurance in the legs, the far sightedness in the eyes, the resetting of the passage of time in the mind and the resistance to friction of the nether regions.

Others seem to manage this by heading out very, very early in the morning or in all weathers. I seem incapable of this.

Perhaps earlier than other years, with the sun shining, I took the bull by the horns and headed out for a long-ish ride yesterday. The aim was the ‘mangrunt’ loop. Named by Chris, if i rememeber correctly because of the amount of grunting required the first time we rode the route, it consists of a loop up and over Conic Hill, then Loch Lomond side, to the rather spooky Inversnaid Hotel, origin of the worst chips in Scotland. Next, it tracks around Loch Arklet into the Queen Elizabeth forest park and takes the ‘mustard’ loop into the forest plantations before finishing somewhere near Conic Hill again. The whole is ~63 miles/100km (100.9km according to my gps) and usually takes 6-6.30 hours.

The aim yesterday was to slip in under 6 hours, thus proving to myself I can still ride a bike and acting as an early season confidence booster.

Fo me, riding up to 4 hours or so is manageable at all times of the year. The first ride of the season that extends beyond this is usually fairly tough, but then I find it possible to gradually extend this to the 10-12 hour rides that will allow me to take on the slightly more daunting routes up north and indeed, the H.T.R.

Having started at Garadbhan, I made it up the improved Conic Hill track and then along Loch Lomond side in quick time, staring in awe at the super-charged waterfall next to the Inversnaid within 3 hours. As I wound round Loch Arklet, the temperature fell and with it my energy levels. Re-fuelling became almost constant, the cold draining energy from my limbs as fast as I could replenish it.

Then the long, winding climbs began and it was with a grim determination that I followed wandering vehicle tracks in the snow.

For the development of strength, I had brought the Krampus. It is by far my heaviest bike. Fortunately, the fat tyres gave me some reasonable purchase, at least initially and I made good progress.

Unfortunately this was not to last. The high route around the mustard loop was covered in 4-6″ of snow. Normally this would be somewhat rideable, however, the surface had frozen into a delicate crust that shattered immediately any weight was brought to bear.

This made for around and hour of on/off post holing and lifting the bike. I tried at times to ride in the drainage ditch alongside the forestry access road, but the frequent sink holes were frustrating. Occasionally, with a roar, I would charge the bike into the deeper snow, clicking up a few gears and using a slight downward gradient to aid my passage.

As with all things, the sun set and the worst of it was over and as I pedaled the last miles on tarmac, I breathed a sigh of relief: the clock showed 5.50hrs.

Tired, but content.

Now – for the rest of the year…


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