Monday, 21 January 2013

Bamboo Cross: The genesis

You may remember last January I was lucky enough to be lent a bike constructed from bamboo to use during the Tod 'Cross race. You may also remember I was rather taken with the performance of said bike.

Shortly afterwards, I was contacted by Rachel from Bamboo Bikes UK asking if I would like to help her in the development of a new model: a bamboo cyclocross bike. What self-confessed bike geek wouldn't want to jump at a chance like that? Naturally, I said yes.

What followed was a succession of e-mail conversations as we talked about geometries and build kits. Spending hours over spreadsheets spending play money to a price point was both an interesting game to play and eye-openingly difficult. Finally, at the end of November, I got to see the fruits of the discussions as the first shot of a complete Bamboo CX bike, hand built in Scarborough, was forwarded to me.

Fast forward to last Friday night, and the Look Mum No Hands! cycling cafe in London. Bamboo Bikes launched their 2013 range, and one of the three new models was the cyclocross bike. Exciting times - and I can now share some photos of the machine.

I've not yet ridden the resulting bike, but I can't wait to get the chance. And I'll let you know just how it is.

Bikes available to view at Look Mum No Hands! until Sunday 28th January 2013, and to test at Blue Door Bicycles in Crystal Palace or at Dalby Trail Centre, Yorkshire.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Olympic Spirit

No matter what happens in the second week of London 2012, the defining moment for me will remain Kirani James seeking out Oscar Pistorius after the 400m semi-final to exchange name bibs with him.

This is the true olympic spirit.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Reduction and purpose

This blog has been static for too long due to a raft of reasons. Among them is the fact that, except going over old ground there would have been little to report. Another trip to Coniston gave me a PB over that course, and a trip to the Greater Manchester Marathon ended in near hypothermia at the finish line.
However, putting together some thoughts on my personal take on cyclocross for article not to be of this parish has given me space to think, and a couple of ideas follow.

1. Reduction

I've posted before about my love of the one geared bike. One of my reasons for a lack of posting has been spending time with my young daughter. And because of this the bike which needs next to zero maintenance has become as invaluable as it is loved. As Matt Chester had pointed out on 5mod, there is more probably waffle than truth written about how riders of old road heroic distances and gradients on their fixed machines. However, this doesn't detract from the fact that a 1-by-X drive train is simpler, and less prone to break down than an Y-by-X drive train. And as X is reduced to one, there's even less to go wrong. I think this form equipment reductionism kicks against the current trend in cycling for Formula 1 frames and ever more complex equipment choices. Choice is, of course, the buzzword of society in the 21st Century Western world. But when it boils down to it, what is it that you need from your bike and what is it that you desire based on it being ridden by the latest incarnation of your favourite pro team or the glossiest of adverts in the latest magazine?

I appreciate that this line of thinking won't be followed by everyone, but it is how I have got to where I am today, with "as little bike as possible". And even the biggest of corporations are remembering the original state of the art: witness SRAM's XX1 groupset officially launched last week. 

While I was out cyclocross training with some club mates yesterday I was asked if riding singlespeed doesn't just make it harder. Harder may not be the right word. Different is probably right. But it does bring me to my second point.

2. Purpose

Back with Matt Chester, and his Redux article on offroad drop bar setup. I've now forgotten the reason I was re-reading this article, but one phrase reached out and struck me as I did. "This is all important, but there's really no substitute for getting yourself in shape". Now, I like to think of myself as being reasonably fit through running regularly and riding a little less so. I'm also a reasonable rider uphill on tarmac. However, I have been looking to find a bit more in my climbing on grass and dirt and in particular I have been trying to climb in the drops on these surfaces rather than on the hoods or tops of my bars. Following Matt Chester's advice I have begun trying to add some core strength training into my day. Who knows if it was psychosomatic or not, but yesterday I did feel like I was getting up some grassy slopes much better than before.

But I'd go further as well. If you want to be fit for whatever reason, a real lifestyle choice needs to be made. What's your killer? For me, it's the chocolates and sweets that people bring back from work trips to share with the office; for you it might be the extra pint or pie. The decision to be made is to spend your way to a possible improvement or to live your way to a definite gain. Jez Hastings and I have talked about this several times in conversation: most of us just need to live more like athletes in order to fulfil our sporting dreams and ambitions and spend less on glamorous kit, which while lovely offers little to no actual benefit.

And so, reduction and purpose have become intertwined in my mind. There may be too much thought behind this. It may be overblown. But I sincerely hope not.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Crossing Tod

As the saying goes, "there's a first time for everything" and Monday was a day of three firsts for me:

  1. Riding in a cyclocross race
  2. Riding a bike with disc brakes
  3. Riding a bike with a bamboo frame
For two autumns/winters I'd been trying to actually get to a race and continually failing for one reason or another. But this year I finally made it to Tod Cross, which happens to be right next to my wife's parents' house. After several days of continuous rain in Calderdale I was beginning to wonder what on earth I'd let myself in for, a feeling which was compounded by watching the veterans race (see excellent reports from Dave Haygarth and Alan Dorrington).

However, there was no chickening out to be had as I'd been very kindly lent a lovely bamboo framed mountain bike for the day by Rachel Hammond. A quick recce lap of the course around Centre Vale Park left me in no doubt that I'd be somewhere towards the back of the field after an autumn pretty much out of cycling with the arrival of our baby in September. Rachel has very kindly published a few words that I wrote about her bike, so I'll spare the details here.

The race for me was a massive learning curve. My first lesson was that the tyres the bike was shod with had something close to zero grip which was a bit of an issue in the gloopy mud sections on the lower half of the course. Tyre choice, which I've read so much about, really is a big deal in CX.

The second lesson was that disc brakes are pretty amazing, especially compared with cantilevers where the grinding noise of pads on rims could be heard all afternoon long.

And the final thing I learned - I'm going to be back for much more fun in the mud. Roll on Hit The North hopefully with a few more cycling miles in my legs...

Splatterfest picture thanks to Eleanor Leadbetter.

Friday, 1 July 2011

There's a black and pink moon on the rise

The performance roadwear specialists of the cycling world, Rapha, have launched their second challenge of the last six or seven months to riders. The initial test was to ride 500km in a December week between Christmas and New Year's Eve 2010 to keep the winter blues and kilos away. Now, in honour of the categorised hills and mountains of the 2011 Tour de France, Rapha Rising asks us mere mortals to climb like the grimpeurs of the WorldTour peloton and ascend 21,125 metres during La Grande Boucle. Progress is to be posted on the internet and linked to from Rapha's facebook page, and there're some tasty prizes from their product range for the best documented attempt.

My main problem is living on the flatlands of Cheshire - maybe I'll manage 2,000 metres of vertical riding in July.

Rapha Rising