Tyre Armageddon.

24 04 2016

At the end of the world, I wonder if the new Maxxis Minion 29+ will stand alone on the field of battle?

This picture, lifted from Vitalmtb, will serve as evidence to back my conjecture.


On the right, as you look at it, is a 27.5×2.4 Minion. Not a small tyre, by any normal standards. The other tyre is a 29×3 Minion.

Now *thats* what I’m talking about.

Fluctuating strength and difficult miles.

23 04 2016

Today was a good day.

Two hours of high intensity, hard, stabby climbing and woodsy singletrack. I made every single techy climb I tried on my local trails, including one I have never made on a singlespeed before.

Yeah, it has been dry and that helps, no doubt, but for the first time in 6 months I felt like I could get on top of my 33:18 gear and make the hard efforts, recover and go again.

That is some real progress and I was stoked to feel some power returning. I have been back at the kettle bells a bit, mostly alternate leg squats with a 16 and a 20kg bell. I need to feel like I can produce more watts – the atrophy over those few months of poor effort is astounding.

This is a pretty good turnaround for me. A couple of weeks ago I headed up to Brig O’Turk to take on the Mell loop. I haven’t done this loop for many years, but my memory suggested that it had a pretty good amount of climbing and some difficult miles are what my legs need at present.

To add just a wee bit of effort and distance, I started at Braeval and headed over through Queen Elizabeth forest on the Three Lochs drive (why on earth folk drive round forests I have no idea).

Instead of the usual anti-clockwise direction, I decided to take the loop backwards.


The climbing was at times more than I could make on Maul with the 32:36 low gear. I didn’t feel great all day but it was useful to just grind out the climb.

I also wanted to see the continuation of the Mell path towards Lochearnhead. This might be useful for a future ride, but even on a relatively fine day, the grass land it crossed looked very boggy. One for the fat bike, I suspect.

So. Progress. Now I need a hard 10-11 hour loop to consolidate things. We will see.

I was also at Bespoked. A great show and I will come back to it soon and a photo gallery will be on my flickr once Singletrack (who also have some reportage on the show) have used my pics.

Ok for now.

Über light shelter?

6 04 2016

In a previous post, I explored the (then) current state of play with SUL and UL shelters. Needless to say, things have moved on.

I purchased and have had great success using a Mountain Laurel Designs Cricket. The purpose of this is essentially a small, light shelter, that can be easily stowed as part of a light weight and un-encumbering, bikepacking set up. In Scotland, the midge are a concern for three seasons. To be able to sit up, behind a midge net, is a very useful thing indeed. To do this with a wafer of sil-ny that weighs less than my old Rab bivi is wonderful.

Easy to pitch (using one Z packs carbon pole, some ti pegs – varied depending on the terrain from traditional round to ‘v’ style – and a wheel or the handlebars of my bike as the second pole, or even a stick) it offers plenty of shelter from the weather and the vestibule is roomy enough to cook in. This is highly recommended.

Sometimes, however, you want to go even lighter and when you stop pedaling, you are going straight to sleep – more or less – and in this instance, a bivi sack makes much more sense.

I have used my old Rab bivi for a number of years, but the Fastest Known Time kit arriving from Mountain Laurel Designs got my brain’s gears whirling. The bivi is made from cuben for the ‘bucket’ base, with a new fabric – cuben eVent – for the top. This is lighter and as breathable as the eVent which has been very successful for the Rab I have, but the weight reduction is astonishing. If you are interested, some information is here (although this refers to a slightly older fabric mix), here and here (more up to date).

I opted for the large bivi sack, basically because I could. The weight means that the extra girth is a tiny price to pay for more wiggle room (I am a non-static sleeper!).

In addition, I decided to alter my overnight stowage. One thing you quickly learn about when picking a site to bivi is humidity management. Don’t aim for ‘cold air sumps’, and consider the breeze and ground conditions. Even though the eVent is amazing at allowing fluid to shift from inside the bivi to outside, if you also introduce wet shoes from river crossings and sweaty clothes into your bivi bag, the system is going to be overwhelmed. That being said, leaving stuff lying unprotected outside overnight is not a great option: there is nothing quite as miserable as donning cold, wet shoes and lid in the morning.

My plan is to keep any bags worn on my body, my helmet, gloves and shoes in separate cuben bags *outside* my bivi sack. They won’t stay as warm, but they won’t leave me soggy overnight.

At 250g, this bivi bag is giving me ideas. I suspect I will be able to get ALL my über light overnight kit into just a bar roll, frame pack or rucksack. This lack of bulk opens up S24O options that include the roughest and most technical terrain imaginable. It is exciting to start making plans for summer.