Monday, September 14, 2009


Hooray for things beginning with "Max". Not "Maxed out! Stoked!" like some sort of Californian, but Max for Maxxis, Maxim, and Maxx Exposure.

First there were tyres. I've been running Racing Ralphs for the last few months. They're light, fast-rolling, and all-round grippy. But they're expensive and fragile in rocky environments. So with one set of them shredded beyond use, it was time to get another set (for racing, duh!) and something for everyday riding. Being a magazine-skeptic and a cheapskate (and stealing the idea from Tim B), I went for Maxxis High Rollers. By picking them up in an actual shop, I was able to get my hands on their zillion different versions and go for 2.35, 60a, wire. Big, cheap, not too sticky.

Now until I read an article in the one good magazine, Dirt, I thought tyre were somewhat simple. Then, I saw a WTB tyre designer saying that their Weirwolf tyres weren't very popular because there's a big gap between the central knobs and the side ones. So as you lean over, you get grip at the vertical, slip in-between, and then more grip when you get leaned all the way over. With my old (lesser) skills, I hated that tyre. High Rollers look kind of similar and ride as he described. They brake and accelerate with gobs of traction in a straight line. They carve amazingly if you give it some. But if you only lean a bit, then they drift. Since I've been working my skills upwards recently, the aggressive carve has come into force and I love it. I jammed my weight down so hard in one corner this weekend that the bike hopped itself out of the exit. The weight shift had given me the grip to snap around the corner and a giggle-inducing jump/acceleration out of it. Fantastic.

On your left, High Rollers. Big aggressive middle bit, big aggressive sides, big gap in between.  (the picture must be from a small size, it's more noticable on the real tyre). On your right, Racing Ralphs. Lots of little knobs mean similar traction the whole way round and not much drag.

Then there was Maxim. I've been riding on a diet of Malt Loaf, Oat Cakes, nuts, potatoes, and water. It has worked and I've been able to feel smug about not putting expensive sports-crap in my body. But I've also been comprehensively out-ridden by top riders who do use all that stuff. So I did a little experiment. Convention among these sport drink sellers seems to be that you need 1 g of carbs per kilo of body weight per hour. Looking at the back of my Malt Loaf, that's 1.5 loaves per hour. Crikey! I usually eat 1 loaf over about 4 hours. Since Emily has a big tub of Maxim from her swims, I used some on my big weekend ride. 3 scoops (180 g of carbs) per bottle with some lemon squash for taste. I rode for 2 hours with 1/4 bottle per half hour. Then two hours with 1/2 a malt loaf per hour. Then two more hours on the carbs. Then 1 more hour with nothing (should have planned that better). Now, I know that it's dry around here at the moment and that I'm getting back into training so feeling pretty good, but that was the longest time that I've ever felt that powerful on a bike. It was unbelievable, 6 hours in and I was still playing around. Still smiling. And still making more than 10 mph average in hilly terrain. The bonk when I ran out of food was pretty gruelling but, if I take plenty with me, this could be a new source of speed and freshness.

And finally, there's Maxx Exposure. Named after Exposure Lights (which often seem to have Maxx in the name but aren't as nice as Ay Ups), it's an 85 mile night race along the South Downs way. You get to see the white cliffs of the South Coast at sunset and then the night is yours in a big point-to-point race with fairy-lit, sofa-equipped checkpoints. I haven't done this one in a while, but I'm planning a South Downs Double, so it seems like a fun way to ride the route in the meantime. Ordinarily, you set up your tent at the end, they bus you to the start, and you ride back to the campsite. With my eyes on an upcoming double, I'm going to drop my tent at the end, and drive to the start. I'll ride the race, sleep a bit, then turn round and ride 85 miles back to the car again. Or something like that. It'll be silly fun.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Flip flops and big drops

Some photos that summarise the summer.

Bike-wise it's been about progression, taking it easy on the training front, fiddling with different bikes and set-ups, and lots of riding with flats. The pedal choice was first brought on by frostbite making my toes too big for cycling shoes, but I enjoyed it so much that I've stuck with them. I like the bigger platform, the extra control (when I twist, the bike comes with me rather than rotating in the cleats), and the changed attitude. For fast XC, I'm back on SPDs now but it's nice to appreciate both.

Welsh Ride Thing: Spread across 3 days and mid-Wales, it was the chance for some wild camping and epic riding. Our first choice of camping spot wasn't that wild, but it was chosen with darkness well and truly falling (photo from the next morning).
Welsh Ride Thing: Some good views!
Welsh Ride Thing: We're not obsessed by cows (honest).
Welsh Ride Thing: Not a bad view from your canvas bedroom.
Just before the start of Emily's swim of Lake Zurich:
During the Lake Zurich swim:

Northern France in a The Mystery Machine (unknown cyclist):
Bringing gourmet cooking (and tea) to le froggies. Mmm... beanfeast:
Cow pretending not to be interested in farmer carrying food near campervan parking spot number 2 (not obsessed by cows, remember):
Monet's garden in Giverny:
For some people the hippy van may have caused them to wear flowers in their hair, not me:
The aforementioned flip flops. Not performance footwear, not a performance summer:
Faux free-rider contemplation (while Adam finds his focus with the camera):
The aforementioned big drop:

So that's some of it. Fingers crossed for an Indian summer, but the one we've had so far hasn't been too bad.