Saturday, 19 October 2013

Orienteer This! A Baptism of Fire Into MTB Orienteering

Last Sunday really was a day to remember...everything I'd been missing all my life...MTB orienteering! God, I love it!

When Dave (the bf) came across the British Mountain Bike orienteering website I was a little ridiculously excited, I'd been pestering about geocaching for a while but busy lives often means there just isn't time to go  mtbing and geocaching...time being at a premium, mtbing has to take precedence. So you see, this just has the bloody lot as far as I'm concerned, competitive orienteering and mtbiking - lemme at 'em!
First of all we had to join BMBO - British Mountain Bike Orienteering, for the bargain sum of £6/an (and if you grumble at that then you're tighter than,! Once you've got you're membership sorted you can register for events.
Being on the doorstep to the Peaks our obvious go-to choice was Dark and White. Dark and White Challenge Events organize a weekly summer league (which, alas, we missed) and a winter league running from October to March (which we were just in time for the start of...yay), held all over the Peak district. Their winter season consists of 6 events across the 6months, each 3hrs long. The aim is to navigate your way around as many checkpoints on the map provided as possible, there is an appendix on the reverse-side of the map which describes the physical positioning of each checkpoint so you know where to be looking, eg; finger point at wooden style. Your progress is recorded by electronic dibber attached to your wrist. Different check points are worth different points, ergo the point of the exercise is to allot as many points in the given time as possible.
My lovely assistant, Dave, demonstrates the 'dibber'

  If you are not back at the finish point within 3hrs you begin to lose points; roughly, so many per minute but once you go past 30 minutes over you lose the lot! Dave and I defo fluked it this time...coming in with 2 minutes to spare!
Wrap up well and expect to get dirty....very dirty!

Sunday's event was at Hayfield...what could be better than romping about all over t' hills 'n dales of t' Peaks? Bloody nowt! We even ran into Nick Craig, fresh on his return from the tropical climate of the Langkawi Mountain Bike Challenge, no pause for thought for this guy...he went straight from that into this, and boy did he shift! Chapeau to the blurry fella speeding past with a cheery hello -  what a guy!
Everyone involved seemed to have a great day, I would certainly recommend it to anyone that loves to xc mtbike. The cherry on the cake for me, however, came a couple of days later when the results came in and we received an email informing us that we actually placed 2nd in our group...I had to laugh, though - there were only 2 teams in our group! Ah well; we'll get 'em next time!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

On One...It's a rinky dink Pink Panther One Off!

MTB Upgraditis

This Upgraditis is a stubborn disease, I knew how contagious it can be having already fallen prey to it myself, but I wasn't quite prepared for how frequently it recurs - and it appears to return with added vigour each time. However, on the upside, my latest bout has resulted in some quality upgrades, if I do say so myself!
The boyfriend triggered the latest attack, bless him...for an early birthday prezzy he decided to treat me to the beautiful (pretty and strong) pink Chris King, Sotto Voce headset and ...
a rather tasty looking quick-release skewer, by A2Z (in pink - of course!) and...
this nifty Salsa flip-lock seat-post clamp (possibly the best quick-release & certainly the sexiest seat-post clamp on the market, with a nice and smooth cam-lock action).

The more observant among you will no doubt have noticed that this was no mild flare-up of upgraditis. In the top picture you will see that the old black gear cables have been replaced with Clarkes pink gear cable kit, with cable oilers to help keep the full-length outers running smoothly.
The real biggy for me, however, has to be the pretty-in-pink and just damn-well awesome, Hope Pro II hubs on Stan's Crest tubeless rims.
 To say that I've been lucky to get these upgrades is an understatement. Yeah, Dave, I am not worthy (how many girls get treated to Chris King?)...but the Hope hubs on Stan's Crest rims...well, that's another story. Dave and I found a site; On Yer Bike Cycles that offered Hope hubs in pink, on Stan's Crest tubeless rims, and for a very reasonable sum too. Well, I couldn't order them quick enough! Not only was I finally changing out clunky wheels for some light, tubeless ones, but they were gonna be real beauties in pink! Fast-forward one week and I'd heard no news at all about my lovely wheels so we called On Yer Bikes Cycles...and get this...turns out Hope don't do this particular wheel build...fight back tears...wait a mo...but...after a day of wrangling with the guys at Hope, these heroes of mine only flippin managed to persuade them to build the wheels! One very grateful email and a week later and my bike was donning the blingest of bling wheels that I could have ever dreamed of and I was feeling very special with my one-off wheel-build. I know that a lot of people are already riding tubeless, but this was my first time and the difference has been like changing from square wheels to round!
I love my bike...but I could not have it half as sweet as this without the guys at On Yer Bike Cycles...oh, and Dave - the thoughtful, bike-bonkers bf ...cheers guys, love ya!!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Osprey Review - Boys V Girls Hydration Packs

If you're anything like my boyfriend and I, and you like to go off the beaten track (or trail) for a few hours then no doubt you'll be needing a hydration pack. There are loads on the market at the mo, but Osprey are leading the way with the addition of a women-specific range. I've used the men's Osprey Viper 9 all summer, but now have the women's version of the same backpack; the Osprey Valkyrie 9.

So is it really worth buying the women's specific or is it just another marketing gimmick?

Left:  Osprey Viper 9 (mens)    £58.50 (reservoir included) with discount card at Go Outdoors
Right:  Osprey Valkyrie 9   £40.00 at Cotswold Outdoor (3L reservoir separate for £28)

Osprey Viper 9/ Valkyrie 9 features:
9 litres
Lidlock Helmet Attachment - this little bonus feature securely snags hold of your helmet, pull it through the helmet vent sideways and release, it will snap back into an upright position and no way will your helmet fly free from this little baby!
Top Stash Pocket - waterproof lined and perfect for phone, glasses, keys etc.
Shove-It/ Front Panel Pocket - adjustable clip straps fasten this open-top pocket on either side, perfect for a waterproof jacket/gilet etc. The adjustable side-straps mean you can pull the pocket tight around your stuff to hold it in safely, whilst the quick-release clips on the straps mean you can get in and out of the pocket quickly and easily.
The Viper 9 comes with the 3L reservoir inserted, I added an identical one to the Valkyrie 9 as well, the Osprey reservoir has the handy feature of a Magnetic Bite Valve, which I love, not only does it mean that the bite valve is always to hand whilst riding, but it keeps it helps prevent those awful (I've done it myself, so I know how awful they are) 'dropped in the mud/sheep-poo at butty-time, and then stuck it in my mouth for a drink after' woopsies! Eeuw!! And of course it's lockable.

Boys V. Girls
There isn't much difference between the women's and the men's version, but the subtle changes that have been made do make a difference. Especially to the smallest of the female species, like me!
Side by side you can see that the women's version is shorter and slightly wider in shape, when wearing this translates to a far comfier fit. I found that I needed to lengthen the shoulder and hip straps of the Viper 9 so that it sat lower than it probably ought, low-slung around my hips rather than my lower-back. Before making this adjustment the top of the rucksack hit the nape of my neck and when in riding position, the back of my head - not ideal! Furthermore, the narrower width of the Viper 9 meant that the shoulder straps rubbed either side of my neck, even after all the strap adjustments I could never get the top of the bag to hang quite low enough to avoid this.
To conclude...if you're a short-arse (like me) then the extra tenner for the women's specific version is worth the splurge. It sits at a nice comfy position on my back and it does not touch the back of my neck, head or rub at the sides of my neck.
However, if you are nice and tall, man or woman...then I don't really think you're gonna feel the benefit of the difference and you may as well save yourself a tenner. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Packed Out at the Big Shakeout!

Last weekend was the BIG weekend - the Alpkit Big Shakeout, to be precise. The sun was shining and judging by 500 smiling faces, a great time was had by all. As I said in my previous post Dave and I volunteered our services as 'Shaker Makers', Dave generally odd-jobbed it through the weekend as part of the 'Hit Squad', while I tended bar on Friday night and worked on the gate on Saturday morning. 

I've gotta say how nice it was to spend a whole weekend with a load of people, all into the same kinda stuff. There were bikes and cyclists of all shapes and sorts all over the place, plus tonnes of climbers, hikers, scramblers etc, etc. There were some really awesome people there - Joe Beaumont was camped across from us, along with the recumbent from his 'In The Frame' impressive guy - and whilst I was on the gate on Saturday morning, I met one of Dave's endurance mtb heroes, Aiden Harding ... super-human and basically, just a super-nice guy! It was a shame that Dave was off-site doing a navigation course for the day. Nevermind, the place was chocka with plenty more people to satisfy anyone's need for a cool fix...

 Lookout, lookout it's Alastair Humphreys at the Big Shakeout!

On Sunday I went on a MTB Core-Skills for Girls course. This should have been with Campbell Coaching, but, unfortunately Ally Campbell broke her arm so the guys from One Planet Adventure stepped in at the last minute. They were friendly, but they were men, which was a bit of a shame 'cause I'd looked forward to some teaching from a female perspective, I've had lots of male coaching from Dave. Dave's a great teacher, and god knows he's had to dig deep for patience at times, but sometimes the male and female psychology are just different. I had hoped to benefit from a bit of empathetic coaching, it was a small issue but it certainly wasn't a deal breaker, so I got stuck in to the course with PJ and Dan.

One Planet Adventure are based  at the Coed Llandegla Forest trail, Wales. If you're a trail centre mtber then these would be great guys for you. They had 4hrs to teach a small bunch of women how to pull a manual, work a pump track and do drop-offs. Our group consisted of 5 women, with a huge disparity of skill and experience. There was one woman that had years of trail centre experience and it showed. She got quite a lot out of the course; the guys filmed her and helped her until she was hitting the manual dead right every time. At the other end of the spectrum there was a woman who was literally getting on a mtb for the 1st time (it was nice not being the greenest of the bunch for a change). Unfortunately, her hire bike was a utter bust; oil leaking all over the sussys, which just did not work  and a quick release seat-post collar that would not release. I have to give her credit though, she really struggled with everything, but kept plugging away anyway. Until...disaster struck right at the end, when she tackled the rock garden, that in all honesty she was not ready for - hell, I wasn't ready for it! Unfortunately, she trundled off a drop and onto the rocks, with no momentum and no assistance from the bike's crappy suspension, inevitably she hit a rock badly and went straight over the handlebars - very nasty! Luckily she was okay but I don't think she'll be back on a mtb any time soon.

I was somewhere in the middle skills-wise and, along with the other 2 of a similar standard, we kinda fell to the wayside a bit while the best and the worst got the guys attention. I could see Dave watching us from over by the tent, trying to coach me in sign language and biting his tongue while PJ flipped my stem back from it's negative position to help with the manuals - great if you only do pump tracks and downhill trails, but for the hills that Dave and I climb, I'd be struggling to keep my front wheel down (which is what happened before we flipped it negatively).

Other than that, though, I now know how to achieve a manual - it's just a matter of practice - same with the pump track. So while this particular course may not have been right for me, I reckon it was for most of the others.

There were loads of other things going on all over the weekend...but despite watching a film about some pretty awesome climbers ascending El Capitan, Yosemite in a day and all the other cool stuff and people all around, I reckon the most impressive guys by far were two particular little dudes off bike-packing with their dad and the Bear Bones bike-packing guys on Friday. My little boy is 6 and I guess these two boys must have been only 6 and 7 years old, but I would never in a million years have pictured my little boy bike-packing with me and Dave. I was awestruck, chapeau little dudes! My heroes!