Last year I rode a Specialized FSR Pro, with 4 inches of travel at both ends. It was a great bike, and just the job for the Marathon type stuff I was doing. I sold it at the end of the year because it was too nice to ride through the winter, and I planned on getting an 05 bike for this season. I spent the winter on either my Kona Unit, or my old steel Stumpjumper. When Spesh announced the new FSR 120 I thought that it would be just the bike for me, and could not wait to test one. Anyway, the test bike arrived at Pearce Cycles, and today was the day to test it.
First impression was that it was a bigger bike, pretty obvious really, with more travel it was bound to be higher off the ground. There was a good group out today, and as we climbed up to the Forestry offices all was well. I experimented with the lockout and damping controls on the forks, and shock to familiarise myself with their action. We headed out along the middle road, and the bike rolled along nicely, I commented on how comfortable it was. We joined the cross-country course, and I climbed over the tricky roots with ease due to the superb traction that only a full susser can offer. I arrived at the top of the course feeling good, and ready for some downhill singletrack action….. Continue reading
Despite having a late night of pre-birthday celebrations we were still up early, and out on our bikes before the cock crowed. Well, pretty early. Conditions were excellent and we zipped along the towpath shouting cheerie salutations to all we met. Carla was in the driving seat, and just after the Stewponey lock we caught up with a couple of bloaters on full sussers. Carla stepped the pace up as we passed them to deter them from jumping on, but hearing her cheerie “hello” as we wooshed past must have affronted their machismo because jump on they did. Yeah, but not for long. I reckon they lasted less than half a mile. Carla was in wicked birthday mood, and anyway big groups on the towpath is naff for all.After stopping for a birthday piss we climbed into the Million and tested our skills on a new bit of singletrack we have found. It felt good, especially as I was riding a thoroughbred Stumpjumper Hardtail. Compared to the slug I had ridden yesterday the Stumpy was like a rocketship. We dropped out of the woods, and as there were some horse riders coming in the opposite direction we joined the road about 200 metres before we would normally. This was to have an important consequence. I caught a glimpse of something lying in the wet grass, a Â£20 note! We looked around to see who might have dropped it. We asked horse riders if they had lost anything. We asked a group of ramblers if they were short. No takers. Being the one that found it, and it being Carla’s birthday I gave it to her. Someone obviously wanted her to have it.
We followed our usual route home, pausing to take a couple of birthday pictures. I let Carla win the final sprint and congratulated her on an excellent ride. We spent the rest of the day bike washing, car washing, and building up an appetite. I made a special evening meal (with a little help), for the official birthday tea. It had been a great day. In fact it had been a great weekend, over 9 hours of bike time. Happy birthday.
The weather was good, the trails were dry, and we had a great night ride on thursday. The usual route with a few variations to celebrate the dryness of the trails. Got a very close look at badgers three times. The first time was on Kinver Edge, badger coming down the trail, Carla and I going up. Face to face meeting. Luckily for us the badger turned round and shot off into the bushes. In the second encounter, along Kinver lane, the badger ran across the road just in front of us. It’s no wonder they get killed by cars. No road sense at all!!! Our final badger encounter was along the lane that runs down toward Cookley. The badger was running along the road in the same direction that we were going. As we approached it was looking for an exit, but with high banks on either side there was none. Anyway, in panic the badger turned around and headed in our direction. We were sorry to have caused it stress, but thanks to all the badgers who made our ride so interesting. Finally we stopped for a second on the track through the equestrian centre. A quiet still night, the silence shattered by a horse nearby breaking wind. Made us jump. Can horses fart or what?
Having not been on my bike for four days I was like a dog off a leash, pedalling until my legs hurt just for fun. I singlespeeded along the towpath like a man possessed, then up through the Million, down through Enville, and back along Kinver Edge.The trails were in perfect condition and I felt fantastic, fresh and full of energy. Great for me, but not so great for Carla, who wasn’t feeling so good. However, she never complained, not a word, even when I swung onto the permissive bridleway for an extra loop. She knows that her turn will come.
I’ve fitted some RockShox SIDs with a handlebar lockout to my Singlespeed. These are great because it means I can run them really soft to accommodate my dodgy shoulder, them firm them up when I want to get out of the saddle on a climb. The only problem with them is that the control mechanism fouls the frame if I turn the bars too far. I worried that a crash could put a serious crease in my frame. Thing is I’m enjoying them too much to do anything about it at the moment.
The second of the training rides from Pearce Cycles, and with the weather looking good Bircher Common was on the menu. Only four riders this week, Carla on her S-works Stumpjumper hard tail, Gibbo on his singlespeed, and Matt and I on vintage steel Stumjumpers. We set of just after 10:00am, it was very chilly, but with the first hour and a half mostly climbing we soon warmed up, and by the time we rode across the top of the common we had a good sweat on.After stopping to admire the view, and negotiating a huge fallen tree we headed into the forest, and down toward the pools. What was so far a clean ride now turned into a very mucky one as we slipped and slid along the tracks.
Eventually we left the forest behind to return to Ludlow along the lanes. We had two and a half hours hard riding under our belts and I was starting to feel a little weary. Luckily for me, it was Carla who was cooked first, and we eased a little on the climbs so that she could hang on. Just under three hours saw us back at the start, tired, dirty, and hungry. Cannot wait until next week.
Last weekend I went along as a helper at the first round of the Specialized Winter Series downhill mountain bike race, held at Hopton Castle. Close on 250 riders took part. The skill and daring of some of the young guns has to be seen to be believed. On a muddy track, latticed with slippery tree roots, and greasy rocks the speed at which the top riders go is incredible. They appear totally fearless, as if their life depended on saving every second. Look into their eyes as they go past and you’ll see extreme concentration.They fly through the air for yards, and land with the softest kiss of the ground. They’re so smooth. Contrast that with some of the novice riders who land with a thud, and you know that it’s only the suspension of the bike that has saved them. As the top riders approach the finish line they sprint, out of the saddle, head down, legs a blur. After just over three minutes it’s all over, some of them fall to the ground gasping for air having given their all. With a timing system that can time them to the nearest 100th of a second giving everything is the only way.
At the end of the day there was one cut lip, one suspected broken collar bone (which turned out to be OK), and two broken ribs owned by a spectator who had decided to get too close to the action, ouch!!!
We did a night ride last night. Yes, you guessed it, out along the towpath, and back over Kinver. It was our first ever night ride together, and Carla’s first night ride ever, so we learnt as we rode. One thing that we found was that when we rode one behind the other ‘roadie’ style that the lights of the rider behind casts a shadow of the rider in front right where that rider in front is going. Not a full-on blind spot, but enough for the sub-conscious brain to tell you to move to one side slightly to try and avoid it. A bit weird because the ingrained roadie in us wants to follow the wheel in front thereby putting the shadow back.Anyway, all was going well, it was a star lit, frosty night, we’d seen a couple of owls, and three other night riders, when my light failed. First time I’d ever used it! I had read the instructions that stressed how important it was to store the battery fully charged. I had made the assumption that because it actually worked when I bought it that it was fully charged, with a run time of 2hrs. However, after 40 minutes it went dim very fast. We continued the ride with me looking over Carla’s shoulder to see where I was going. This was actually quite good fun!
In one way it felt like we were going really fast as we raced into the pool of light in front of us, but in another way it felt slow, as if we were standing still, and pedaling the ride past us, cocooned in our own little world (yeah, I know, I live in a little dreamworld most of the time!).
We arrived safely back at home with an hour and a half under our belts. It had been an excellent ride, on a route that we know well. We wondered what it would be like to night ride on a route that we didn’t know. We have plans for more night rides, but we’ll probably stick to the familiar until we get a little more confident. I’ll bet Wyre Forest would be good at night.
Carla used bar mounted Smart Lights, with a 4w flood, and a 10w spot. I used a Marwi Nightpro head mounted light with a 12w flood. Both gave good light to ride by. I can’t decide whether helmet mount is better than bar mount. One thing you have to remember when you use a helmet mounted light is not to look your friends in the eye!
How many women do you know that could do a good 2 hours plus off road ride with the boys, and still have the energy and enthusiasm for organising Christmas, not to mention feeding hungry biking visitors, driving drunken bums home from rock gigs (after organising the tickets, and map reading on the way there), coordinating bike and kit washing, car cleaning, cooking, massaging, being my sexy lover?And, what’s the best way to show them how much you appreciate them, love them, couldn’t do without them?