Random musings about mountain bikes…


Essex Yeti Tribe Meet 2013

Decided to have a bit of fun with my fellow Yeti owners and make a little film.

We shot this over a couple of lovely weekends in Danbury, Essex.

Big thanks to John for turning up without any advanced warning and wearing the Yeti outfit.
















Turn to the Dark Side

Well I have been pondering this for quite some time.  During the past few months I have been venturing further afield and getting greater mileage in.  The Gryphon was great fun but often left me wondering if I should actually get a road bike to get the benefit of the weight, gears and faster speeds.

So I have taken the plunge.  I have got hold of a second Hand Cannondale Synapse Carbon 5.  Shimano 105 groupset , FSA crank and brand new Shimano RS10 wheels. 

I didnt test ride many bikes, had a go on a Wilier, CAAD 8 and a cheapy B-Twin but noticed the comfort and positioning of the Synapse from the moment I got on it.  The bike is designed for crunching the miles and this appeals.  Probably not the stiffest or fastest bike on the market but great for my first venture into road riding.

It has always been a joke amongst my mountain bike friends that buying  a road bike is moving to the Dark Side.  I have already started to receive the ‘Roadie Scum’ comments but I will just have to try to cope with the abuse.

Will see how it goes and how often I reach for the bike when I go to make the choice.  It could be on e-Bay shortly.  It will at least speed up my commute.

Will keep you posted.  Some pics below of the new steed!





Eveing Ride

Great ride out last night, with  a quick blast over to Discovery hill and then a few pints in the Square & Compass on the way home.  So nice to sit in a beer garden after a great ride and waffle on about bikes until it goes dark.

Local fields are looking amazing at the moment.

Summer Evening Ride

Summer Singular Ride

Went for a cheeky pint with a friend last week and on my short cut home stopped off and shot a few clips.

Put this little edit together of me enjoying the dusty trails on my Gryphon.

A few pics at the end of the build and some shots of me out and about enjoying the bike.

Conti Lightning Run – What A Scorcher…

Took part in the Continental Lightning Run last weekend.

A team of four of us did the 12 hour relay race in very high tempertures.  Out of the four of us, 3 of us have not really been training due to illness etc.  This meant we had a relaxed attitude to the event, drinking wine the evening before whilst everyone else was scoffing pasta and energy drinks.

We did well considering our lack of training.  We did 10 laps during the 12 hours (10km per lap) and I managed to get around three times.

First lap being 54 minutes and last being 1 hour and 4 minutes.

A very well organized event with a great goodie bag – T-shirt, water bottle and buff!  Although it was £45 to enter!

Impressively the individual mens results was 14 laps in 12 hours and his lap times ranged from 49 – 54 minutes.  Bloody good going!

Even got a cracking medal……

Conti Lightning Run Medal

Maybe sign up for the 24 hour Thunder run next year…. Ha ha!

Singular Gryphon Build

Well its been a while now since I built up the Gryphon so thought I would give a quick update.

Over the last few months it has appeared to be my go to bike unless we were heading to somewhere with big hills and big descents.  I believe it has also made me enjoy riding by myself more as well as I have found myself heading out on my own for a bit of introverted alone time (not a bad thing!).

Its not a light bike by any means but the position is comfortable and it rolls well.  I have done some reasonable distances on it and still feel good afterwards. Ive even had some off road fun with it and I must admit it is great fun thrashing around the singletrack.  Riding in the drops feels right and adds to that illusion of speed.  I think it also makes me more conscious of line choice and hopefully a better rider?

I have made some tweaks since the first build. The main change being the wheels.  I had a set of hefty Bontrager SSR’s and they felt harsh.  On rides over 30 miles my hands started to feel numb for a good 24 hours.  I decided to invest in some carbon rims (chinese – that’s a whole different story) but finally they felt good and made the ride a lot nicer and less harsh.  The carbon rims seemed to remove a lot of the chatter of the road/trail and the weight reduction helped loads.

I also changed the gear ratio so I am now running 34:16.  This is a nice cruising speed on the road (approx. 15 mph) but is still ok for some offroad exploring.

I originally fitted a 70mm stem and that is still on there but I do want to experiment with longer stems as this may help.

I have also run it with Conti X-Kings 2.2 (wouldn’t recommend going any bigger as there is not much room left) and Conti Cyclocross tyres which were great.

Other than that the ride is great.

Attached some pictures below of the bike in various forms and on various ride, Like I have said it is a joy to ride and looking forward to getting out some more this summer!

Singular Gryphon - Church 2

Angel & Gryphon 2

Gryphon - Headbadge

Gryphon - Flitch 1

Singular Gryphon - Crank

Thaxted church. Nice cobbles.

Hangover Blast Ride

River Ride to the Shops.

Urban Ride

Sea Wall Ride on the Gryphon

Maiden Voyage of the Singular Gryphon

Welsh Ride Thing 2013 (It was sunny!)

Had been looking forward to this for some time.  I have been slowly acquiring some kit for bikepacking and wanted a bit of a challenge so signed up for the WRT.  Found it whilst perusing the Bear Bones forum.

The basic concept is to arrive in a field with other like minded people and then head off into the wilds of Wales.  We had been supplied with 14 checkpoints with the idea you do as many as you like and pick whichever route you please.  Its not a race, just the opportunity to get out and ride your bike and sleep under the stars.

I asked a friend Andrew if he was interested, he is currently training for Ironman competitions but is keen on doing an endurance race next year and he will have multiple days of supporting himself on the bike.  He was up for it so it would be good company for me.

For the last few years the weather had been horrible so I had set my mind to the fact it was going to be horrendous.  It was Wales and the odds were stacked against us.

As the weekend approached we got the maps out and had a look at routes.  We wanted to get all the checkpoints in but Stu at Bear Bones had chucked a couple of awkward checkpoints in  that were out of the way.  Looking at our route it would be approx. 90 miles to get them in.  Not bad over 2 days but remember this is Wales!

The weekend arrived and we set off at 5am to get to Wales for the lunchtime start.  The weather just got better as the day went on.  As we packed our kit the sky was cloudless.  At check in we had to weigh our bikes and kit.  I came in at a not so slight 55.5 lbs.  Andrew came in at an impressive 43 lbs.  The winner had a claimed 36 lbs…

We set off just after lunch and after 1 mile I got a puncture.  Well not precisely but the valve on my tubeless set up was leaking and would not seal.  After messing around with it for 20 minutes I stuck a tube in and forgot about it.

Within 30 minutes of setting off we were hike a biking up some steep sections (welcome to Wales).  We made some good progress and started hitting the checkpoints.  Day 1 had some serious hills but at least we bumped into some other guys doing the same route so it was not just our poor route planning.

We hit checkpoint 5 by the end of the day then freewheeled down to a little village and found a pub for an evening meal.  We then headed back up to a reservoir we had spotted and pitched right next to the water  with a great view.

Using the wheels off my bike as end supports I erected my tarp set up, slipped into my sleeping bag and had a great nights sleep.  We awoke at 5 am to frost on the ground but the start of another beautiful day.  Porridge and a brew and we were off.

Today was going to be a long day of riding.  We set off for our 6th checkpoint and hit it before 9 am.  We then carried on following the bridleway to realize it vanished after another 20 minutes.  We searched and double checked our position but had no choice but to turn back.  We bumped into an old boy heading for the 6th checkpoint and told him not to head that way as the bridleway vanished.  He just advised ‘hey this is Wales, you cant trust the maps’!  This was a lesson we would learn a few more times in that day.

The day went by in a blur with a stop at Devils bridge for a spot of lunch and then a quick blast down an old train line (flat!) to Aberystwyth.

Fish and Chips on the seafront and then we climbed out and hit some back roads to start heading back to the start.  We made some good time finally finishing riding at 9 pm at night.  13 hours of riding.  66.7 miles completed that day and over 3000 metres of climbing.

Needless to say I slept like a log.

Final day and I awoke at 5:30 am.  Breakfast was consumed and we hit the trails by 7am.  We found a lovely trail back to the start weaving its way through the valleys with minimal climbing and some great riding.  A quick blast down the final desent and we arrived back at Pennant by 11 am.  Cakes and coffee greeted us.  A slice of lemon drizzle and a cuppa and a chat to some other fellow riders and then we headed for the car for the 5 hour drive back to Essex.

All in we covered 117 miles with just over 6000 metres of climbing.  We hit all the checkpoints but 1 and we got within 0.5 km of that but a moto enduro event stopped us from getting to it at the Sweet Lamb so I am including it!  The weather was fantastic and it was a great event.

Would definitely be up for taking part again but would change some things for the next trip:

  • Get fitter if you are going to do it with someone training for an Ironman.  The second day ruined me and was one of the hardest days of riding I have ever done.
  • Take more than a 9 speed bike.  What was I thinking!!!! Definitely need a granny ring!
  • Take more time, stop more and have a tearoom stop etc.
  • Load the route into a GPS.  I reckon we spent 20% of our time looking at maps.
  • Pack less.  I didnt use quite a bit of equipment.  Although saying that if the weather had been bad then I would of been thankfully of some of it.
  • A 20 litre drybag on the front is too much.  It kept catching on my suspenison and affected the ride quality.  Nothing more than a 13 litre in future.

Got some snaps from the trip…..Enjoy!

Lat minute route checking.

Last minute route checking

Ready to start - WRT 2013

Getting ready for the off.

Andrew after first hike a bike section.

Andrew after first decent hike a bike section.

There's a reason I go to Wales to ride my bike.

Wales – Great views

My accommodation for the evening.

Gimme Shelter.

First morning of WRT 2013

Not a bad view to wake too!

Breakfast with a view...

Porridge – Breakfast of champions.

Treat stop off leaving Aber...

Stop off for supplies – Mainly choccy!

Ruined Aplkit Drybag... Stupid suspension...

Suspension ruined my drybag on the front.  Put extra air in but still caught on wheel.  20 litres is too big up front!


Exmoor Adventure

Just had a great week in Exmoor riding my bike with my friends.

Weather awesome, trails great.  It was just amazing.

As always used the Vertebrate Publishing guide books by Nick Cotton.  They had some great routes in them and made the most out of the area.  The only point I can comment on is the ascent stated in the book is generally not accurate and was always more in real life.

I did not expect the steepness of the hills in the area and can say that it is probably the hardest weeks riding I have ever done.  The Sunday when we took in Porlock, Minehead and back over Dunkery Beacon was probably the hardest days riding ever and finished me off…

As always took a few pictures of the trip, see below:

Great views out from Withypool...

Phil R on the Moors...

Stu on Tarr Steps.

I decided not to ride the steps!

Following the river to Withypool.

Great days riding.

Phil loving the Exmoor bridges...

Another day, another hill...

Sometimes the trail wasn't so obvious.

Stu - Calm and composed.

Plenty of river crossing to cool the feet...

Lynmouth Front... Nice ride to a view...

What a great week!!!!!

Trip to Pop’s…

My dad has recently moved so thought I would pop over and see him and check out his new pad.

Decided to use the Singular Gryphon for the job.  I’ve really been enjoying it and feels comfortable on the long rides I have tried on it so far.  I knew this would be the longest ride I have done on it though to date and the fact it is single speed would add more to the challenge.

I had a rough idea of the route but wanted to piece up some nice riding through the little villages of Essex.  I calculated that it would be approximately 70 miles in total for the round trip.

Got up early on Saturday, there was a nip in the air but the sun was shining so after our recent horrible weather I was more than happy.  A cup of java, a big bowl of porridge and I was ready.  I had packed up my recently acquired Wildcat Tiger seatpost bag with bike spares, waterproofs and lunch which fit very neatly in my 8 litre drybag.  I have been enjoying packless riding lately and thought I may as well let the bike do the carrying.

Setting off for a reasonable ride...

Set off and followed my usual roue over to Braintree, picked up the flitch way (old railway line) for a while and then pieced up through quiet country lanes to ‘The Bardfields’.  This is were my knowledge ran out but knew which direction I needed to be heading and important towns/villages to look for.

Stopped in Little Bardfield for a banana and to check the map.  Essex has its fair share of churches as you will see from the pic’s so had a rest for 5 minutes.

Little Bardfield Church...

Next I weaved my way to Thaxted where I stopped off for a quick photo opportunity at the church again.  I also found a nice Windmill which I never knew existed.

Thaxted church. Nice cobbles.

Thaxted Windmill...

Set off again and finished my trip to my Dad’s.  He lives in a little village on the Cambridge/Essex border.  I had completed 32.6 miles in 2 hours 20  minutes.  A catch up chat and a few cuppas and decided to head back.

The trip back was not as pleasant.  The sun had been replaced by cloud and the wind had really gotten up.  The first climb out of the village was in a head wind which is never good when you are trying to get the legs warmed up.  Little did I know at that stage that the head wind would last all the way home!

As I got tot he 40 mile marker I noticed another church in Debden and decided it was lunch.  You can always rely on a church for a nice bench to eat your sarnies.  A nice old ladie came over and chatted whilst I ate, we discussed Boudicca of all subjects but its nice to meet new people and discuss ancient war mongers.

Lunch stop at Debden Church.

As I finished lunch I felt the familiar stinging on my face of the start of rain.  I made the foolish decision to not mput on my waterproof as it would nto be anything serious.  You guessed it, the next 25 miles involved a constant drizzle (and head wind) all the way home.  The drizzle was not enought for me to contemplate my jacket until I realised I was actually soaked and by that point I coudlnt be bothered to stop and put it on.

Home was a welcome site.  65 miles completed.  I could feel I had done some distance, especially on the singlespeed with its 29 inch 2.2 tyres.

Really enjoyed the longer ride and a bit of site seeing, and think I have found another tea room to try near Thaxted, I will be back…

Testing the Bikepacking Kit…

Had a bit of free time on Sunday afternoon so decided to have a trial packing and tarp session with the bikepacking kit.

It is my first night out on Saturday so thought I would have a quick play.

Packing the drybags is an art in its self.  As you can see from the pictures below I still need to rethink some of my packing.

Bikepacking Systems...

Bikepacking bag tests...

The seatpost drybag is not fully inside the harness.  I had packed it with quite solid kit so it would not stretch or mould to the harness so therefore will not be as stable.

The dryabg on the handlebars worked well but was a 20 litre drybag.  I think in reality this is too large but will be ok for starters.  I think really I can get away with a 13 litre one.  20 litres will just make me pack more stuff if there is room.

Kit List:

Handlebar Drybag:

  • Alpkit Pipedream 600 (Quite a big and heavy sleeping bag but is what I haev and dont want to spend any more money at the moment).
  • Gore Tex Bivvy Bag (eBay special – Ex military.  Again I can look at something better if I do more and into winter).

Seatpost Drybag:

  • Tarp (Alpkit Rig 7 – new purchase for the bikepacking).
  • Rollmat (Old one – not the smallest again but is comfy, takes a bit of space up though).
  • Spare guide lines and tent pegs (again nothing special or light).
  • Lightweight Primaloft jacket for sitting around.

Backpack (Not pictured) – Osprey Talon 22:

  • Trekmates Flameless cooking System (Uses chemical reactions to cook food – Works well on basic food).  Generally used dried food.
  • Couple of packs of dehyrated food.
  • Ipod Nano (need some entertainment).
  • Head torch
  • Spork
  • Small wash kit
  • Bit of loo roll.
  • Extra Water – 500ml water bottle.
  • Bike spares kit – Tubes, repair kit, pump, multi-tool, leatherman.

Also on bike:  Water Bottle, GPS, Use Exposure Maxx D light.

Also had a dabble with the tarp build.  Had a go at using the bike to support the tarp.  Some success but needs more work.  The best effort was using the wheel off the bike at the bottom and then a couple of sticks at the entrance.  Was nice and stable but not much head room and it did have a flat spot on the top which coudl allow water to collect if the weather turns ugly.

Tarp Testing

Further work is required on this but that is why I’m having a night out this weekend.  I think over time I should come up with a better system.

Bring on the weekend, and hopefully some nice weather…  Fingers crossed…