Friday, 13 December 2013

Buck Up For Buxton - Trailquest Round 3.

The third round of Dark and White's Trailquest, mtb orienteering season was held at Buxton, last Sunday morning. The email that came when the event was open for entry warned us to expect a challenge of the rockiest terrain and 'a test of navigational, mtb riding and endurance skills' - of the first order...and they weren't kidding!
            Dave's mtb'd, camped and bivvied all over this place, he knows what to expect, is he bovvered?                                           Nah...he's as cool as the proverbial cucumber!

Well, after the uber screw-up of the last round, which we all but missed completely, having arrived at an embarrassing time of 11:15(ish) when the last time for set-off is 10:30am. (Not entirely our fault, it being Remembrance Sunday all roads leading in and out of Bakewell town had been closed down by approximately 10am for the veteran service and march, our problem was that we weren't expecting and weren't prepared for this, had we been running a little bit earlier no doubt we could have still arrived in time- lesson 1 learnt-don't leave at the last min!). We threw ourselves upon the mercy of the organizers, poor guys trying to pack up for an hour in the warmth with a mug of hot choccy (until we rocked up, of course), and we were allowed to go out and see what we could do with the remaining 1 1/2hrs before the close of the event! It doesn't take a genius to work out that there was not much fun to be had on this day...unless you enjoy bickering and battling an ever growing feeling that you're wasting your time even bothering! But we did bother and I'm glad that we did because it drove us to promise that whatever happens in the future, we are still new at this, we are still learning and (this is the most important one) we are in it to have fun!
                             , head-in-hands-oops- I didn't actually get his name, but this fella was good enough to let me take a quick piccie of him just before he clambered about in his car to get changed and head home (all part of the fun, trying to get outa soggy tights and into clean nicks when parked up outside some very nice, respectable looking home with as much grace, speed and discretion that the front seat of a Renault Clio permits, in other words it's a bit like a baboon in the zoo trying to scratch his bum without anyone noticing - probably not easy)!

So, this Saturday night we were in bed by 10.30pm with clothes laid out, food/snacks/bag/car all ready - if it could be prepared the night before then it had been- I'd even filled the coffee pot, all we had to do was to get out of bed, drink our coffee and eat our breakfasts with ease and unrushed delight, brill! The difference that just a little bit of organised prep made was amazing, it set us up for the day, I'm sure. We left feeling unhampered, with our minds in the right place, ie; on the event, and feeling cool and calm enough to take whatever was thrown as us, oh yeah - bring it on!
          This is one that our buddy in the photo above was kind enough to take of the two of us. We had failed miserably to get any photos for ourselves so without the help of our mate above this page would be pretty damn plain. On that note; I hereby promise to do my utmost to find out our anonymous photographical benefactor's name and I will give him credit at some point in the this space. (The biking fraternity seems to be chokkablock with lovely people and it's just nice to give credit where due).

Well, waddaya know, Buxton brought it all, every rock, boulder and ankle deep cow turd that the ride could chuck at us it most definitely chucked (and chuckled whilst doing so). Check out the link if you have the time, it certainly backs me up. We were lucky in that Dave knows this place inside and out, in fact one of his oldest and most popular blog (cycleofaddiction) shots is from this route, of his own once beloved On One Inbred (sadly, it was stolen but isstill very much missed) taken on a bikepacking trip all the way back in 2010 (btw check the link esp. if you like Liz Hatch - and who doesn't really? - loadsa hot pics for the fellas)!

Anyway, never mind all of Dave's greatness, I just wanted to show how beautiful the Buxton scenery is, even when treacherous.
In fact, this time around I'm actually feeling a tad proud of my own little contribution. Unfortunately, I am far from being at a navigational stage, but I'm learning (I've forgotten more of what I'd originally learnt years ago than what I'm remembering as I learn a 2nd time time round, but it is slowly drip-feeding into my memory bank - better than nothing I suppose, and indeed hope). No...what I'm proud of is how far I've come physically in such a short time. I'm stronger and a little bit faster -I don't feel like the proverbial ball and chain, dragging like a dead weight behind Dave and only ever holding him back! I'd even decided to not come again and let Dave compete individually, to give him a fair chance. There's nothing worse than being well aware that the only impact that you've made on your partner's riding experiences is negative, right down to the fact that he has lost fitness and strength, due to constantly slowing and waiting for yours truly. It's a horrible feeling.

In the meantime I've monopolized the new trainer and tried dead hard to improve my stamina and strength and I've really pushed myself out on the bikes, road or mtb. I've noticed the improvement myself, but Dave says he can see the change in my body language and mental attitude - and Dave can be quite the task-master, he doesn't tell me any old crap just make me feel good. I think that as far I was concerned, me personally, I plateaued after I'd struggled with confidence following a few stumbles in summer. I knew myself, and I knew that if I could just get out for a few rides without falling that  my confidence would be restored, even if it meant giving the most technical parts a miss for a couple of rides. I knew that it would be enough to kid myself that I'd got my mojo back....and I honestly have gone from strength to strength since. We are all different, with our own particular foibles and I understand that the skills and techniques are the same for us all, but if you've got that mental block that is affecting your riding quality, then do whatever works for you. Fitness and strength are at the core of most sports, but if your head's not in it, then all the fitness and strength in the world isn't gonna give you the PMA (positive mental attitude) needed to be your driving force; the spark to your fuel!

With all the will in the world, until Sunday, I really didn't know what it meant to give it my all. I thought I had done on previous rides and former rounds. But, with a little bit of strength and an improved level of fitness, I was able to dig deeper than I had ever dug before and the best of it is...I just wanna keep digging and see what other surprises I've got inside me...and girls! Wow, the girls! There were loads, sisters doing it for themselves, by themselves or in all-female teams. I was so impressed, up there toe-to-toe almost against the guys - and some of them were positively flying! 

This terrain was not the worst I come across, but it was the trickiest that I managed to tackle without getting off the bike - result! Steep, steep ascents and very rocky descents...but that little bit of confidence (and a helping hand from Dave as we raced back to checkpoint, so as not to forfeit too many points - literally, with his hand pushing the back end of my saddle as we rode the final 28minute cat4 ascent - none stop) gave me the drive from within, I was really able to push myself in a way I didn't even know I was capable of! 

Unfortunately, despite all the pomp and prep we still missed out on 20points due to a silly rookie mistake, we didn't take note of our start time, only thinking about it about 10min into the event. So, in the end we came in 10minutes late and lost 20points for our misdemeanor, another incline to the learning curve that is moutain bike orienteering.... 

Check the link to Chris Mead Photography, he covered the day, this is a link to one of Dave and I, but there are hundreds more, muddy, ruddy and damn bloody goody!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

On One/Planet X? It's 6 of On One, Half a Dozen with the Other (Planet X)

I've not done a post for a while, I've been a busy little biking bee. What with the MTB orienteering, work and kids it's hard enough to fit time in for rides, let alone writing about it.

However, there is one itty-bitty thing that just has to be worth making the time for - a lovely new addition to my growing little family...

I know I've only been riding 6 months, but you know what it's like, the n+1 syndrome hits as soon as the bike bug bites and aside from slowly building a single-speed, I've been yearning after a nice road bike to keep the Rinky-Dinky Pink Panther (my mtb) company. Plus, I reckon she deserves the odd day off for a well-earned rest over the unforgiving winter months (a real meanie of a season to certain mtb components, as I am rapidly discovering).

Ever since Planet X added the Pro Carbon Ultegra to their stable, specially for us girlies, I have been mentally salivating over the thought of it (sorry ladies, it's now a SRAM Rival set up, we pounced when the Ultegra groupset was advertised on it, and had to pay up front then wait 7weeks for ours, so as not to miss out on the Ultegra)...
                                                                   Lady Penelope

Well, after a lot of hard work and hard saving, viola! Meet, bike number 2, my Lady Penelope. Yes, she's another one from the Planet X/On One family and if you have come across myself and the other half (cycleofaddiction) before then you won't be at all shocked by this. This one makes 6, with a single speed currently being built for yours truly which will make 7!

You just can't argue with a carbon complete build with full Ultegra all coming in at a penny short of a grand. They added my pink bar tape on request (no extra charge...and yeah, I had to get some pink on there) and Dave swapped out the standard Stratos stem and seatpost on the men's Pro Carbon for Dave (well it would have been mean if I got a nice new road bike and Dave didn't), for a rather nice looking Deda stem and seatpost that he'd spotted in store, all for no extra charge. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, it came with full carbon finishing kit and a Prologo Women's Nago Evo Dea saddle, rrp £119 (here's a link to Wiggle where you can get it for £76.79 at the mo)...lovely saddle, but it didn't suit my shape unfortunately and I've got myself another Selle Italia SLR Lady Flow, but in black and pink this time...why mess with something if it's what works for you? So I'll be selling my Prologo off towards the Crimbo fund!

The USP for Planet X/On One is their unmatched value for money, they really do make things possible for those of us with realistic budgets to consider (more's the pity).

I just have to give a mention to the Speedplay Light Action Chromoly pedals, I couldn't believe my luck when I saw that they came in pink. The Light Action, as opposed to Dave's Speedplay Zeros, are designed with the recreational rider, like myself, in mind. Ultimately, this just boils down to plenty of float and an easier engagement/disengagement, which suits me fine with the few little nervous foibles I have as a still-learning rider. The main difference between the Zero and the Light Action is all in the spring mechanism, housed in the cleat (whereas most clipless systems contain the spring within the pedal, Speedplay's is in the cleat). Both have a good level of float, however, the cleats to Dave's Zeros can be adjusted and set with the riders own desired level of float - from full, right down to zero, hence the name, Zeros! But, the best thing about all the Speedplays is the double-sided entry (not to mention the cute little lollypop look, fab in pink!)

Anyway, I've been out on her a few times (I've only just got her registered onto my Strava though so my road rides still read as mtb rides on there) and it's different from mtbing that's for sure, but I still love it. I was as nervous as hell at first, over-thinking the twitchiness of the 380mm bar, as opposed to the new, wider 700mm bar that I'd just swapped onto the mtb. However, no probs - it's all good! Perhaps the narrow bar that I'd had on my mtb for so long gave me a bit of practice with handling (I'm not the most graceful of riders, basically operating a philisophy of plough on and through - tough if anything gets in the way), but now I find certain skills from each bike help me a little on the other.

We've even invested in a turbo trainer (I might review that one next time, 'cause I know there are tons of them out there and it was a real difficult choice to make, especially if you buy online, like we do a lot of the time) and on those vile days when you really do not want to be out there, I've been fixing her up to the trainer and giving it some welly in front of the telly!

Finally, we made one last little investment, in a Shimano tubeless wheelset each, after spotting one on a road bike in the Planet X shop, we knew that after going tubeless on the mtbs and knowing the benefits, we just had to go for it...and we got two wheelsets and tyres etc for around £400 for the lot, not bad - plus we've already relegated one of the original wheels to a designated trainer wheel.

So, I'm off out on my nice new road bike, feeling mega-fit after the turbo-trainer...might whizz past you later!

Happy riding.