Rothrock-er

25 07 2018

I have ridden in Rothrock Forest , State College a number of times since the single speed worlds in 2005.

The riding here is rocky, intense and generally awesome.

I made good friends with some of the guys who live here and have met others over the years of visiting, or passing through en route to Harrisonburg, VA or elsewhere.

On day 2 or 3 I destroyed a maxxis Ikon but lets be serious, I was under-tyred for following a talented local into the chundery rock gardens. The replacement, a maxxis DHR has been amazing and not too draggy when I have needed to use dirt or sealed roads.

I purchased the tyre from Freeze Thaw Cycles, a superb shop filled with a knowledgeable and helpful team of staff and mechanics.

It also has a Grove Innovations museum! well worth a visit!

The Police bike lacked the doughnut holder that came with it – apparently they were thrown away by the non-plussed bike cops who used the bikes!

The bike has been a delight to pilot through these trails. Plus tyres are a real boon for rocky riding if you want to go hardtail or even rigid. A year on, and I wouldn’t change a thing on this bike. It is unreal.

So, a few scuffs have been added along with a bunch of smiles, brews and memories.

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Chainline versus cinch.

9 05 2018

A few years ago, I started running Race Face Next SL, SIXC and then Turbine cranks. The weight and low ‘Q’ factor of the Next are pretty awesome, but I (like others) have had a crank axle insert come loose. Others have had pedal inserts come loose: but, I do have 3 sets on the go which have been fine so far. I am always messing around with things and the shared axle crank interface between Cannondale Hollowgram and Race Face Cinch has had my attention recently. The Hollowgram SI are within grams of the Next SL and may be a reasonable alternative whilst retaining the unbelievable versatility of the Cinch.

A case in point.

The Turbine has a few millimetres greater ‘arm’ offset than the Next SL and I had a use for this. My 44 Bikes ~TNT~ had a Saint crank. The reason was the 83mm BSA shell (mated to a 150mmx10mm thru QR rear hub). There were only so many cranks that were available in this width and this width works well to get short stays and good ring clearance with 3″ tyres. It is a sturdy crank to say the least and the arms are quite bulky. I had been getting some medial knee pain on riding the 44 and I had isolated it to the crank.

On my Vertigo Cycles Kraken, Sean machined a SIXC 83mm crank axle so that the Next SL cranks would fit and work with the 177mm rear end. This used a flipped ring and thus gets a great chainline despite the ‘snow bike’ width rear hub.

A quick note – most geared bike set ups are biased to the smaller rear cogs. This is essentially to get stay/ring/tyre clearances in the manageable bracket. However, there is an argument that the ring should be more inboard at the front for todays gear spreads. Some manufacturers had started to address this when 1x systems became popular, offering aftermarket rings that were spaced to be slightly more inboard than usual.

Then, of course, rear hubs started getting wider and ‘boost’ then ‘super boost’ happened. Sean has been guiding me for years on this sort of thing and the bikes he has built for himself, others and me have often used 150 mm DH rear hubs with either flipped rings on 73mm shells, or ‘normal’ ring position on 83mm shells and as time has progressed and ‘plus’ tyres happened, moved even wider with flipped rings on the 83mm shell equivalent widths and 177mm rear hubs.

Phew.

I had been wondering about converting the 44 to the Cinch system. Interestingly, Race Face – perhaps due to the proliferation of 157mm “super boost” rear hub selection by several manufacturers (very sensibly, I might add – I have been advocate since 2010) – had quietly released a 143.5mm crank axle and also a 149.5mm axle for Next SL. The latter is equivalent to an 83mm BSA shell – the usual standard for a 150/157mm rear end – and had previously only been available in the DH orientated SIXC. The ring would normally be mounted in the inboard biased traditional position.

But you will know that often, direct mount rings can be flipped, if they are round, and there are different offsets of rings. The ‘normal’ is 5 ish mm towards the bike midline. Flipped, it is 5 ish mm outwards Why ‘ish’ ? well, different brands – a list would take too long – use a different offset – from Race Face’s 4.5mm to Absolute Black, Wolftooth and IIRC One Up using 6mm. There are others, but these are probably the major players.

Then there is Boost offset – usually around 3mm less. Soooooo….

If I took the BSA 83mm shell, which utilises the three 2.5mm spacer rings, which normally uses a 149.5mm axle equivalent, bought a 143.5mm axle (designed, most likely, for 148mm rear hubs?), removed 2 of the spacers (take away 5mm of the 6mm difference) and fitted BSA 30mm bb cups, a boost ring (add 2mm back to the chainline which with the shorter axle was 1mm more inboard) and the larger offset Turbines, I reckoned I would get great chainline and get the stay clearance and a slimmer, lighter and therefore more flexible crank on the bike.

In short, it worked.

This stuff is a minefield. I have another bike I want to do something somewhat similar with – my Vertigo Maul. It has a normal 73mm BSA shell, and I am going to use Cannondale Hollowgram cranks with (I hope at least!) a Wolftooth FAT CAAD (listed as -1mm but it seems to be more like +1mm) CAMO spider so that again, I can get a great chainline biased more inboard for the 150mm rear end on the bike.

I have been collecting data on all the different spiders and DM rings around, but the listed offsets are often either hard to find or seem wrong on measuring and thrown together with the different ring mount positions on different brands of cranks, different crank arm offsets and requirement for spacers etc, you need an obsessional trait to try and make it work. My advice? have the bits in hand, measure and then work out if it will fit. The downside is simple – cost.

But, with all the interplay between Cinch kit, Hollowgram and SRAM cranks (which have even more standards for where the ring mounts) you can make an über sweet, bespoke crank work on most bikes and get great chainline.

The bummer is giving myself a reason to pull King BB’s out of frames. Chris King deserve an award for making a bb that is seemingly impervious to scottish weather – no small feat!

Ok – this was probably as hard to type as it was to read and digest. If I have made any mistakes, I will correct them and fire away with questions if you are interested.





Bulk.

18 11 2017

So this is a B-Rad 3 from Wolftooth components. They offer a range of adaptors to refit bottle cages in such a way that you can carry more on your bike. More bottle cages, straps and stuff.

Why am I interested in it?

Well, I don’t generally like carrying stuff on my person while riding if I can avoid it, but with the arrival of the Alpacka Yak and my plans to bike-raft and bike-pack-raft, I am going to have to deal with carrying more stuff somehow. This adaptor has slots which house the bolts to attach it to the frame and allows some movement fore and aft. The bolt holes on the adaptor itself can then be used for other things.

Most of my bikes have provision for an under-the-downtube bottle cage. The B-Rad is stiff enough to allow 3 bolt items to be added – with the proviso I don’t overload the 2 bolts into the frame. I will alter it to only have 3 bolt holes: 4 is overkill.

What that means is that my King Cage Manything cage (buy them from jelle at Justpedal.nl in EU) can be utilised with straps and a dry bag, or an Oveja Negra Bootlegger, which should be with me in around 4 weeks can be fitted.

This bag has an integral aluminium skeleton to give support and allow it to be bolted on to the frame (or fork). It is sized for Nalgene bottle, but because I am going to use it with 2 bottle cage bolts, I will use it to stow food or soft items, such as puffy jackets and/or wool longs.

It all adds up when you are bike packing and creative space and volume use is essential to a good experience. My Porcelain Rocket Charlene will work with a dropper post – utlising the Wolftooth Valais – and this should give me a highly versatile and all-mountain competent bike/packrafting set up with lots of well distributed bag-space. Porcelain Rocket kit is available from Ride Auburn in the UK

On account of the Bootlegger not being with me just yet (I am awaiting stock of the Classic multicam DPM version) I have used Oveja Negra’s own pics: visit their site and consider some of their kit – it is very well thought out.





Following rivers to the sea: part 2

23 04 2017

The night brought high winds that whip-cracked my tarp about my head as I fought to sleep, cocooned in my kip sack. I was experimenting with a new pole set up for my Mountain Laurel Designs Cricket tarp and I was a little nervous that it would not hold up, but I had no need to worry – it was bomber.

The morning was cold. Very cold. Getting into damp wool was pretty nasty but I was stoked about my Endura PrimaLoft gilet, a new product from the masters of Scotland-ready cycling kit, that allowed me to warm up with a bit of jigging and jumping as I packed up my kit.

I had around 112km to ride until I reached my destination, Montrose, on the coast of the North Sea. Normally, I do not have any time anxieties, but in this instance I had been required to book myself on a specific train to return home, to the south of Scotland. I knew the trains following the one I had booked had no space for bikes, so my target was fixed. That meant working backwards from this end point and estimating how long the ride wold take me.

I had planned the trip in a kind of disaster style: in other words, I had quickly looked at the map online and gone point to point on a macro scale, leading me to believe that I had around 90km to ride. I gave myself an arbitrary amount of time to make it, based loosely on a vague and unverified report of another’s adventure. Twenty km is not a huge difference and in my defence I allowed two extra hours for the journey, but it was a mistake that was going to make life interesting for me.

The major obstacle for the day was Mount Keen, Scotland’s most easterly Munro. This is accessed from the north by Glen Tanar. I knew the trails alongside the River Dee and love the impressive scenery and remnant Caledonian pine forest along side the gorgeous river corridor.

The Deeside Way allowed rapid progress in the morning once I had packed up and powered by bacon rolls from a cozy cafe in Ballater, I made quick work of the first section of the journey.

As I turned south into Glen Tanar, following one of the region’s premier spring salmon fishing rivers, I enjoyed the company of the winding, babbling, crystal clear water as I climbed the gentle grades, past the Half Way Hut and out of the tree line towards the great lump of Mount Keen.

I have never climbed this mountain and had no idea how rideable the trail would be. From the south, Glen Mark, it is well known as one of the most rideable Munro trails. However, it was clear that the gradient on the North side would make riding very difficult.

Indeed, as I got closer and closer, the trail deteriorated into broken rock garden that required prolonged hike-a-bike.

I had mixed feelings about going over the top. Geograph had shown me a singletrack that circled the summit ‘cone’ and rejoined the trail on the south side of the peak and given the terrible surface on the ascent I settled on finding this rather than continuing to the top: no Munro bagging on this day! The Mounth Road I was following is a historical droving route: I am amazed anyone would try and get over it with animals in tow.

Carrying water is always a balancing act when bike-packing. In Scotland, there are any number of water sources – often straight from the ground – that offer clear, clean water to refill the bottles without having to resort to sterilisation. I do carry a SteriPen and occasionally use it if I am concerned about contamination from animals. This was my first bike-pack where I had completely eschewed a back pack or bladder. As a result, I only had the option of refilling my two bottles. Perhaps because of the morning’s cold temperatures, I had not filled them when I could in Glen Tanar, but had concluded that Mount Keen would offer streams or perhaps even snow to recharge them. No such luck! By the time I finished the steep descent I was parched and stopped to drink several bottles of water from the Ladder Burn.

As I sat beside the Water of Mark, admiring the water falls and shear faces of Craig of Doune, it became clear to me that I was pushing it time wise. The tiny screen of my eTrex does not help judging terrain over large distances but I knew I had a fair old ride to get to Montrose and the hours were ticking by.

The report I had vaguely read of riding the Phil McKane coast to coast route, which I had joined at Braemar, suggested that the section I was doing that day took just over seven hours. There was no way I was going to make it in that time.

I sped down Glen Mark then around the Monument Hill of Rowan with a welcome tail wind, but after another stop to see if any detours would afford me a little advantage in attaining my goal with less chance of missing the train, I realised I had to start shifting a bit faster. Unfortunately, the route up the Clash of Wirren initially gave me more poor track then steep climbing.

The descent to Tillybardine, as described by Phil McKane in his guide to the c-2-c, is a singletrack classic. It starts thusly, but as it continues, it is a fairly broken sheep track – requiring some dismounting to clear some particularly broken, tussocky and boggy sections. I refilled again with water at a small stream and admit to being a bit dejected. I was pretty sure I was going to miss my train and that meant some complications to return home.

Soon after this point, the route becomes primarily sealed road – albeit narrow and pleasant. Fat bike tyres don’t roll with ease on tarmac, though, and I had to push very hard indeed in order to make it in time. The Mike n’ Ikes yet again saved the day, offering a boost of energy at the critical moment, seeing me into Montrose and the bitterly cold on-shore wind. I made the train and finally could let myself relax fully. The legs were shot – but the route had been a good one.

Whether I would bookend a bike-pack with train journeys again is a contentious point, but it had allowed me to do a point to point route along side the southern Cairngorm’s waterways and experience a diverse and beautiful landscape.





Under a canopy of trees: part 3

6 04 2017

With some miles in the legs, the next ride leaned towards technical riding. The forecast suggested 45 mph winds on the plateau, so I needed to plan accordingly. An obvious choice was the Creag a’ Chalamain Gap to the Lairig Ghru and then down to Rothiemurchas.

It has been many years since I first went through the Chalamain Gap and my memory of it was incomplete. I remembered the extreme sloppy, peaty crap on the far side – descending down to the Lairig Ghru path. I also remembered a sense of foreboding, which was separate from the concern the large and often mobile rocks cause as you try to climb up through the gap with a bike in tow.

Pedaling out through Rothiemurchas was as beautiful as ever. Transferring to the side of the Allt Mor I climbed then crossed the ski road, mindful of some potential damage to the trail from a previous flood. Climbing out of the Allt Mor gully towards Airgiod- meall, the views of the northern corries were stunning but it was also clear – as the cloud skipped across the peaks – that it was the right choice to stay low.

Soon enough, the Gap came into view. The trail to it is in very good order – perhaps as the Gap itself is quite difficult, it may not get the same foot fall as other trails in the area.

It was exactly as I remembered it: the almost Khazad-Dûm like entrance led to a rideable section and then into the rock fall itself.

Loose, large rocks scrape and click as you exert physically and project mental calm and climb though the sheer Gap.

Soon enough, I was through and the full strength of the wind could finally be felt. The trail has been hugely improved down to the Lairig Ghru but some of the rock step jumps were a little iffy due to the wind taking me as I left the ground.

A snack (very nice, actually – more on Fori later) whilst staring into the great pass of the Lairig Ghru behind the shelter of a large rock, then it was time to drop back to the tree canopy one last time.

The B-fat tyre made this rocky, narrow gauge trail an absolute blast and I felt a real flow before letting my breath out and pedaling home, through the Caledonian pine and heather.

It has been a fun few rides: I’ll be back soon.





Under a canopy of trees: part 2

5 04 2017

A good breakfast is essential if you intend to ride trails all day long and so I stuffed as many calorific things as I could into a croissant and got some coffee on the go. It had been cold through the night and I had stayed in my sleeping bag well after sun up. This meant that I would have to hustle to get to the planned objective for the day: the River Findhorn.

Findhorn salmon and trout are prized by the fishermen who have made trails along the side of the river. The bench cut sections on the steep gorge sides above the classic grade 2-4 white water were my objective after a blog post by Huw Oliver planted the seed in my mind.

Rolling through Rothiemurchas after fuelling up I couldnt help but smile. I had no where else to be and nothing else to do but pedal. Climbing through the Ryvoan pass, into Abernethy forest the speed was high. Calm weather and high pressure meant a crisp but sunny day with a hint of a tail wind.

Following the River Spey to Grantown, I then joined the Dava Way and spun the cranks northwards. The Dava Way is a relatively recent walking/cycling path that stretches from Grantown, 38km to Forres, near the Moray Firth. It follows the foundation of the old Highland Railway and as such is of mellow gradient and good surface for the most part. Some sections are ‘rafted’ on boggier ground and it made a sharp contrast with the rocky, steep trails of the Northern Cairngorm start.

On reaching the River Divie, I digressed from the route and went in search of the fabled Findhorn singletrack.

It didn’t disappoint.

I had hoped to be back in Aviemore in time for dinner and given that it was a sunday, this meant keeping total ride time to 8-9 hours ideally. It became clear that if I continued on the river side, I might have to dine at ‘Mountain House‘.

I couldn’t resist a little more, crossing the worlds most rickety bridge and taking in the surroundings as I munched on a snack or two.

Eventually I decided that there was more exploring to be done in the area and a future trip focussing on this would be required. With a rueful smile, I turned tail and headed back, south towards the mountains, away from the sea.

The ride was around 115km but the climbing was easy due to the rail grade – about 1000m. Mike and his friend Ike – washed down with Irn Bru – gave me wings…





Under a canopy of trees: part 1.

4 04 2017

Drive, north, pitch tent, revel in the cold, clear Cairngorm air and look at a cerulean blue sky between the red branches of the trees. Saddle up and hit the trail, bound for a relic of a time gone by, Utsi’s hut. The Swedish herder reintroduced reindeer to the area in the mid 1950’s. They are spectacular animals – I love seeing them and they are well established now.

Take some of the lesser travelled trails, grinning despite the growing wind, then drizzle, then hail and finally persistent rain.

Shivering, the smile remains and after some warming food, a wee dram and the maps are broken out to plan for the next day.