Friday, October 09, 2009

Racing News
Recent weekends have seen the last couple of outings for Team Singular in mountain bike guise before we delve into the depths of winter, and along with it 'cross. First I had the honour and pleasure of attending Singlespeed Italy in Finale Ligure, which I have to leave for another post the report is so big. Then last weekend was the 2009 running of traditional season closing cold and often wet 12 hour night race Dusk 'til Dawn.

Grant congratulates Steve on a fantastic 2nd place at Dusk 'til Dawn 2009 - Picture ©Andy Armstrong

Thankfully this year's was not wet at all, and only cold in the wee small hours. A bone dry week prior raised everyone's hopes for a dry D2D, in fact there was some concern about excessive dust. Racing for Team Singular were Steve Webb and Grant Taylor - both in the solo men's category. Steve, to the extent he does such things, had mentioned this was one he'd 'like to do quite well in'. He certainly didn't disappoint himself or anyone else on that front.

A wonderful set of photos from Andy Armstrong

We arrived mid-afternoon in an endeavour to be early enough to secure a trackside position for ease of pit-stops and on course heckling. Unfortunately we were nearly early enough and though Grant had arrived a little before use our compound was still not quite trackside. We were also seemingly surrounded by folks who like power so much they need to keep generators running the whole night...

A brief thunderstorm from around 6 lowered spirits and raised worry it would continue all night. It lasted but half an hour, just enough to dampen down the dust and keep things fast and firm. By the time 8pm came around I was ready for bed; and Steve, Grant and around 1000 other people were ready to ride for 12 hours through the night. Thetford is quite flat, but unrelentingly winding. A few roots to keep you on your toes in the middle of the night but nothing too technical. Steve was on a rigid Swift with Reynolds carbon wheels and Dugast tubs, Grant was on a Pegasus also rigid running tubeless Maxxis Crossmark tyres. Both ran a bit bigger gear than normal at 34-16 on the flatter terrain.

After the first few laps Steve came in for his first stop ('stop' meaning quickly guzzling a couple of gels and me cleaning and lubing chain) in fifth position overall and in his words 'not really feeling it'. A quick pep talk from the DS got him back out there but i wasn't sure whether he'd make it through the night.

A while later Grant came back in, and had been doing well up until that point holding down 21st position from 150 solo men. He managed to hide his fury at my mechanical oversight (not having tightened crank bolts sufficiently during my hasty bike build....) and maintained he'd had just about enough after his four laps anyhow.

Steve kept his head down and thankfully no mechanical mishaps were to befall him. Among the soloists Andrew Cockburn and Matt Page had gone out very fast indeed. by mid-way through the eventthey had near on a half hour on Steve, with another two competitors still keeping him in 5th. As is his usual style, he ground out the laps at a relentless tempo. Page was unable to maintain his early blistering speed, and Steve overhauled another two by dawn locking him in a battle for the podium. He kept it on - heading out for his 18th lap a little before 8am. Second place was a well deserved and excellent result. A huge thanks to USE Exposure lights, the Maxx-D and Joystick combination was just perfect.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kite 'cross protypes are here

Just before I flew out to Italy for SSIT (more on that later) the Kite prototype frames arrived. Out of the box they looked lovely. No decals as I want to play around with some different colour options They are essentially a lightweight steel 'cross race bike. Canti only, no rack mount, mudguard mounts or other such nonsense - if you want a tourer or commuter buy a Peregrine ;-)
There are a couple of different little touches which set this aside from many 'cross bikes. First, it's singlespeedable by virtue of the old-style semi-horizontal dropouts. Though this one doesn't, some of the prototypes have downtube cable stops, the type which take a threaded barrel adjuster, as well as a stop under the chainstay for the derailleur cable. Most likely production frames will have a similar arrangement.

The rear cantilever brake bosses are also a little different. They are shot through the seat stays to keep the brake arm lower to the stays and thus reduce torsional flex on the stays and therefore improve braking. Plus they are nice and low profile and look good.

The finishing is pretty close to what I envisage for production frames. The main frame colour could be a shade darker grey, and the downtube panel I think should be closer to black with a stronger pink logo. And of course it will get it's own Kite headtube badge, a left-over Peregrine is shown here.

I've only had a short spin on mine and intitial impressions are very good. Stiff, light and fast. Steering is very responsive without being twitchy, and it still feels good at speed. We have four of these in the UK and two in the US (Wisconsin and San Francisco) which will be getting to various 'cross races and rides over the winter. Testing all being well it's then likely we'll have these ready for production next year.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brighton Big Dog 6 hour

Photo thanks to Brighton MBC via picasa

The Brighton Big Dog is a new race for 2009, held through the sumptuous singletrack of Stanmer Park in Brighton on the south coast. A group of friends saw a gap for something like this in the area and pulled it off like seasoned event organising pros. The only thing they didn't quite manage was the weather, though it did remain dry.

I got down on Friday evening to the designated camping area (unfortunately a few miles distant from the race venue) to find the usual suspects already well settled with the mandatory pre-race barbeque and a few cold ones. My very quick camp setup which consisted basically of getting the esky out and clearing enough crawlspace in the van to sleep in. Relatively early night around midnight. A fitful, contorted night's sleep in the van ensued, wishing I'd dragged the box of seven half Peregrines (don't ask...) outside as well. I eventually did that at around 6am. Tasty bacon and egg roll in the morning along with fresh espresso, voltarol ideal race preparation. Got to the course around 10 to get ready for a midday start, PhillyD kindly assisting in setting up the stand. Had a good number of nice looking bikes there, three Swift SS's, two Hummingbirds (one SS 69er rigid, one geared and suspended) and my Gryphon. Quite a bit of interest in the bikes though we weren't in quite the ideal spot.

My expectations for the race itself were low as I'd not been feeling brilliant over the week - back not great, Dave the Ringer was an unknown quantity, and we had no Steve. We were to take on the open trio class, no singlespeed specific category. Issues with the PA system meant the race kicked off at 12.30 rather than the intended 12, handy in the end to have another half hour to get ready. It had been a little cool all morning, overcast though thankfully rain didn't look likely. Dom struck out for a blazing first lap, coming through probably top 15 overall in a 38 minute lap. His pace caught me on the hop as I had no gloves or helmet on, so just grabbed everything without thinking and headed off. Forgetting someone had taken my Swift for a spin and had dropped the saddle a good couple of inches. Due to my hasty depart, I'd not got a multitool with me either. So I did quite a bit of standing up over the course of the lap.

Out of the start area after a bit of flattish field you were straight into a pretty monster climb, long drag which then became singletrack climbing, eased off for a little bit then a short flat section of tighter stuff, then more climbing. It was a tough start to a lap. Then there was some really brilliant singletrack (well all of it on the course was great) nice fast downhills, a few roots to keep you on your toes, but most of it just perfectly packed sticky loamy soil that you could really just rail around, brilliant. The course ended up needing to be diverted due to wasps (many people stung on first lap) and made for a savage little climb virtually unrideable on a SS. Everything else was doable if you were feeling good. I was feeling only OK so walked a few sections. Back was pretty sore for the first one. It was around the 43 minute mark, well off Dom's pace... Hand over to Dave who'd never ridden big wheels previously and is at best an occasional singlespeeder so this was new territory for him. Didn't hold him back from putting in a 40 minute lap though.

Dom flew around for another and before you know it I'm out on the course again. Back felt much better second time out. Seat at correct height felt much better as well... We managed to avoid any flats or mechanicals and kept putting in steady laps without thinking of the overall race at all. Just enjoying the fantastic trails, great atmosphere, and friendly competition. My last lap I was feeling much better, the painkillers had really kicked in now and I had a strange sensation that my legs were really tired but I couldn't hurt them, back was not sore either. So I grunted up a few climbs I hadn't expected to, and was hoping to get back in enough time for us to get another lap in, but I was still a few minutes slow for that. Fortunate really as neither Dom or Dave were ready to go out anyhow.

In the end Dom and I did three, Dave two - all going a pretty solid pace and no major mishaps. Having not been paying any attention at all to where we were placed, so very pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in fourth at the wrap up. Seeing in the results that we were only 1 minute off third made me really rue that muffed first change and seat height mishap. The prize-giving ceremony was good fun, I was surprised to be called to the mtb style five placing podium, which I had to take to myself Dom and Dave already having headed off to attend to familial duties. I'd donated a frame as a prize for the event which was originally intended to be for the fastest singlespeed lap, though as there was no SS category it ended up a random prize draw. This was lucky really as Dom probably would have won it. Instead it went to a most deserving Nicky Hughes who'd placed third in the women's solo category and we'll be sorting a new Hummingbird frame for her shortly.

As a rarity among many events which are organised now by profit making companies, the Big Dog crew took the very generous and enlightened step of taking any profit they'd cleared from the event and sticking it behind the bar at a beach-front pub in Brighton. Unfortunately we had to head back to the campsite before going in to town so missed much of the free beer. In hindsight I shouldn't have been surprised how quickly thirsty mountain bikers can drink £1100 worth of booze, but I was at the time and only got one beer from it. Still, one free beer is better than no free beer.

Many thanks to Rory, Oli and all the other orgnisers and helpers in putting on what was the standout event of the year for me - and I've been to a few this summer.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Large Singular Peregrine frame which I built up for myself to tour on. This is really my dream touring build, but it's something I just don't get the chance to do enough of to justify a bike like this. It is in essentially mint condition, been ridden no more than 200 miles in total. Couple of very minor scratches to paintwork, nothing drastic. Viewing/test riding possible, I'm in Hertfordshire near Hemel Hempstead. Spent well over two grand, looking for £1400. Bags not included. If you don't want the dyno hub and lights that'd drop off a bit of money and we can sort something else out with front wheel.

This is the build list;
frameset Singular Peregrine Large

headset Velo Orange
bottom bracket Campagnolo chorus
cranks Campagnolo Record 180mm 39-50
rear hub White Industries
front hub Schmidt SON dyno
spokes DT Swiss 14/15 Competition
rims Mavic A317 disc silver
tyres Schwalbe Stelvio 700x28
cassette Shimano XT 8speed 12-28
chain SRAM PC 78
brake/gr lvrs Campagnolo Centaur
brake calipers Avid BB7 road
rear derailleur Shimano Dura Ace
front derailleurShimano 105
Seatpost Nitto
seat Brooks B17 Champion special
stem Velo Orange
bars Nitto Randonneur 48cm
bar tape Brooks leather
mudguards Gilles Berthoud Stainless
mudflap Gilles Berthoud leather
lights Supernova E3 front and rear
bell Japanese brass on HS spacer
rear rack Velo orange steel
front rack Nitto

More pics here

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bontrager Twentyfour12

Racebike - seemed like a good idea at the time...

As a teenager obsessed with mountain bikes growing up in rural Australia my exposure to the wider world of mountain biking was for some time almost entirely through magazines, predominantly British ones. Names like Newnham Park therefore carry for me more than a hint of glory, now faded much like those old pages of Mountain Biker International. I'd never been to the Bontrager 24/12 before though had heard good things. So I was glad things worked in order to make it down this year. In so far as I have such things pertaining to racing, I had 24/12 in mind as something of a goal for this season, racing with Steve as a pair in the 12 hour race. Team racer Grant Taylor and friend from Velo Club Moulin Dean Taylor (unrelated in most respects) were facing off against us.

Due to motorway blockages and other annoyances Grant and I ended up travelling down together, and I was glad for the company. Plus I could get in some early heckling and try to undermine his confidence. When we arrived a little after nine we were glad to see Steve and Lorraine had already snagged us a nice little area adjacent to the course. Quickly threw up the easy up and settled in for a few quiet ones before sleep. We heard loud music just up the way, thought we should investigate. Of course it was the Trek 69er boys, which immediately meant any hope of starting with a clear head had been dashed.

Bikes at the ready

We were treated to what felt like a pleasant spring day, which given recent conditions was considered pretty good despite this being midsummer. The plan was to start off doing double laps and see how it went from there, with the underlying assumption Steve would probably need to pick up some of my considerable slack somwhere along the way. I was on a rigid Swift SS with the ultra fancy new Reynolds carbon rimmed Dugast tubular shod wheels. Steve was on the Pegasus with a suspension fork and Maxxis Crossmarksrunning tubeless.

As ever, Mr Webb got us off to a flying start, coming in around top 15 overall and I think second in our category after his two laps. I was feeling pretty good on my first lap and was getting along strongly on the second when the inevitable happened on one of the fast descents and I punctured. Thankfully it went down slowly and I could continue riding a little, but eventually went completely flat. I was prepared for this eventuality by way of a sealing CO2 cannister. Unfortunately unloading this only resulted in the valve extender coming apart and blowing off with sealant spraying everywhere... I wasn't prepared to sacrifice a £300 rim and €100 tyre to carry on, so I walked enough of the course until I was close to camp, went and grabbed another front wheel and off I went. The course was good fun (though perhaps not the most singlespeed friendly) and the whole venue and organisation was top notch.

An unwelcome grind after the road climb - Photo thanks to Raluca

I finished the lap but was feeling quite dejected by the end of it - the wind had left my sails a bit as well as my tyres. Steve of course was still up for it though and cranked out three solid laps in a row. Off I went again and by the end of the first lap I was already feeling a bit flat, I stopped for a bit of a breather and something to eat, it was a struggle to make myself go back out again, I really wasn't on great form. Nevertheless I headed out for one more, though it wasn't a quick one. I knew when I got back I didn't really want to go out again - after all we do this for fun and I wasn't having any... Steve got a couple more in then retired for some barbeque and beer at about 9pm. In retrospect you think 'only' three hours to go, but at the time there was just no way. It's been a busy season and just a fun race hanging out with friends and yelling at those still riding was perhaps what we needed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Big Update

Many people have been waiting for the arrival of the latest batch of production Swifts and Hummingbirds. I'm glad to say that finally they are here. Unfortunately they arrived at 4.30pm the afternoon before the inaugural Singletrack Classic Weekender which we were sponsoring, and was the start of 8 days away riding then racing again the following weekend at 10 at Kirroughtree for Steve and me. That meant I was unable to ship anything prior to the trip, however this week has been manic with getting frames prepped and out - I've nearly cleared the back log. So to cram all of these happenings in to one blog update...

Picture thanks to Trev.

The Singletrack Classic Weekender

This was probably the event I'd been looking forward to most for the whole season, I wasn't disappointed. Going back to the old days where racing would consist of competition across a variety of mountain bike disciplines, riders were required to complete 'classic' trials, downhill, and cross country to be considered for the overall. The format obviously appealed to many as the first running saw over 200 people entered. It seemed many more were intrigued but a little put off by mention of trials and downhill - they need not have been - it was nothing to concern anyone used to regular mountain biking. That's not to say it wasn't a challenge. I cleared four of the five trials sections and lost 20-something seconds in the DH meaning I would start with a 3 minute handicap in the XC. Steve unfortunately punctured in the downhill early on, though incredibly still ran the course in under 2.30 meaning a 5 minute penalty in the XC. There was a wonderful friendly atmosphere, great barbequing, more than a few beers, and an enormous bonfire - what more could you want? The XC was not easy - both because of the toughness of the course and the state of most of the competitors' heads. Through the first lap I wasn't sure I was going to make it for three, but somehow managed to grit it out and held on for 21st overall (3rd in the 'industry challenge'. Steve (as expected) did significantly better. He pulled back 3 minutes of his 5 handicap, finishing up just off the podium in fourth. A decent DH would have almost certainly got him the win, but that's racing. Thanks to the Singletrack team and all the volunteers who made it all happen.

A week away

Our kindly friends the Forresters (Kirsty had taken the women's category at the Weekender) put us up for a couple of nights to rest, recouperate, and sample some of the riding delights Calderdale has to offer. After going to visit the boys at Singletrack HQ, the impressively hirsute Ed Oxley of Great Rock generously offered to show us around some trails out of Hebden Bridge. We had a lovely few hours out, managing to time our pub stop perfectly with a deluge - thanks Ed! On the way back into Hebden Ed, Steve and Dom took on the steps of death, I was happy to take on filming duties...

The next day we'd planned a big long one heading out from Bingley. It wasn't quite so big as intended due to cumulative tiredness and general ennui, but we still managed 30 miles or so interspersed with pub stops more or less coinciding with intermittent downpours.

Wednesday we headed yet further north, about as north as you can go and still be in England. We stopped in at Rothbury to meet with Tim at Northumberland Bike Breaks and get some guidance and maps to our planned overnight stop at a rescue hut in the wilds a long way from anywhere. We didn't head off until about 6pm, but a few hours riding got us to our target just before sunset. Really wonderful to be such a long way from civilisation, it's been a long time since I've felt that.

10 at Kirroughtree
Thanks to further hospitality from friends we came back to civilisation in Edinburgh where we were able to shower and sort ourselves out before 10 hours of racing at Kirroughtree. Well, 10 hours between three of us - Dom was making the trip up with Dean for some Bongo loving. We didn't really know what to expect in terms of course or competition, so Steve and I headed out for a feel out lap. I also wanted to try out my intended race bike with the new ultra-flash carbon wheels and Dugast tubular tyres (more thoughts on that here) to see if I thought they were up to what was reputed to be a quite rocky course - I decided they were.

Despite predictions of rain beginning anywhere between 10am and 4pm, it dawned bright and sunny and stayed that way the whole day. The organisation was low key but efficient, and there was a good turnout with over 500 competitors. Continuing with our established fastest to slowest running order Steve headed out first. He led proceedings for much of the first lap but unfortunately derailed a chain on the final descent. Nevertheless he came through the first transition in first place in around 45 minutes. Dom then went out and came back 50 minutes later, and I did much the same (something of a surprise as Dom is usually a few minutes quicker than me - the wheels worked! :-) Having the EZ up set up close to the transition area made handovers a breeze, and we kept on churning out quick laps. I unfortunately broke a chain (first time that's happened for years) 2/3rds of the way through my second lap which cost a few minutes, but we were still well placed in third overall (no SS cat) mid-way through the race, less than 10 minutes down on the leaders. Dean and Dr Jon of Velo Club Moulin plus our host of earlier in the week Craig were all riding solo and each put in a fine performance - 5th, 9th, and 15th respectively I believe.

Hummingbird takes 650b

Marty our new North American dealer at The Prairie Peddler being the inquisitive chap he is thought the clearances on the Hummingbird looked quite generous so thought he'd try fitting in some 650b wheels. It's tight but they fit!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Team Singular wins Mountain Mayhem singlespeed category

This year we really wanted it, the '08 running saw us edged out by the Trek 69er squad and some muffed handovers through a wet and mucky night. Adam's expecting wife meant he was replaced by Grant in our highest profile race of the season. We had some (quite literally) brilliant custom lights from USE Exposure, and fantastic Maxxis tyres courtesy of the folks at MMA sports - many thanks to Rory and Andy respectively. Steve was clearly on fantastic form, Dom always goes fast, and Grant and I would give it our all.

The lights all ready to go from USE

Our local man on the ground Jason went over during the week to secure us a nice spot alongside the course which gave us a good vantage point and also allowed us to know when we needed to head up to the changeover area. The team all arrived in good time on Friday evening which gave us the chance to barbeque, have a few beers and catch up a bit.

Having endured the quagmire of the past two Mayhems everyone was wishing for a dry one and indeed the days prior seemed to promise that. So it was with a little trepidation we retired on Friday night with raindrops pattering on our rooves. Thankfully rising proved it wasn't too heavy and strong wind plus intermittent sunshine and 2,500 riders going over the course conspired to dry things out quite quickly.

The bikes are ready

Steve being our fastest rider and best and most enthusiastic runner took on the Le Mans start and did us more than proud by finishing the run in seventh place - then following it up with a blistering 41 minute lap to put us in the top 20 overall from the start.

We swapped off riders every lap until it got dark when we kicked off the doubles, meaning we'd already done three each by that point. As expected, Steve kept churning them out, the fantastic USE lights turning night into day meaning he was still running around 47 minutes for his night laps. Unfortunately Dom then got the worst of a bit of a shower which quickly made certain sections of the course very slimy indeed. It was still pretty slick when I head out for my doubles at about 3.30am. I'd only managed about an hour's sleep, but felt OK for around 1 & 2/3 laps. I felt lucky at that point - glad to be out on the course during that magical time as the sun comes up.

Felix (Dom's son) gives the bikes a final check over

However coming up the final long climb I suddenly had no power left and the slightest incline forced my off the bike and walking. People I'd passed suddenly went zooming past. I was reduced to asking passersby if they had any gels or even water left as by that point my stores were depleted externally as well as internally. For a moment I even contemplated the prospect of the shortest route back to camp or at least a brief lie-down in the grass trackside. Thankfully Rory from USE came past and provided the motivation for me to push on to the top - from where it was more or less dowhill all the way to the end. Then handing over to Grant (who'd said prior 'I'm your man just to keep churning out the night laps when the going gets nasty') said, "I don't think I should do a double, it might take ages like yours did, tell Steve to be ready in an hour

And of course he was. I thankfully got a little more sleep, Steve and Dom kept flying around, Grant and I kept plodding, and when we we'd all had enough Steve even put in a double to finish - none of his having taken more than 50 minutes

In the end Steve did nine, Dom seven, Grant and I six each - 28 total. We were over a lap up on the next singlespeed team, and finished 8th overall in the sport teams category. Thanks to all those who gave us shouts of encouragement along the way.





Monday, June 15, 2009

Steve Webb wins Bristol Bikefest 12hr Solo SS
Steve splattered and shattered after 12 gruelling hours at Bristol - photo Steve Makin
Last weekend was a big one racing for the Singular crew. A split in the ranks saw Grant and I head to North Yorkshire for this year's running of SSUK, while Steve and Dom were supposed to be racing at the Bristol Bikefest 12 as a pair. Last minute family illness meant Dom couldn't make it, so Steve stepped up and rode the solo category. Churning out consistent 30-35 minute laps saw him take the SS category win by nearly half an hour with 18 laps. His effort effectively put him third amongst all solo competitors as well. At least I know if I fall apart at Mayhem next weekend Steve can just keep going...
Grant and I didn't do quite so well in Dalby, but being at the front of the pack is not really what SSUK is all about. We had a great time, met up with some old friends, made some new, and just enjoyed a wonderfully put together weekend. As usual I put up a frame in the gift-giving ceremony, this one for the kids. Under 15's were invited to put their drinking skills to the test by downing 500ml of vitamin water as quickly as they could. Niall narrowly eeked out the win and though close to being ill after it was delighted with his new Hummingbird frame.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lotts Wood Round 1 to Singular
Summit MTB, a club local to us, puts on a series of races over the summer every third Wednesday evening. Last night saw the running of the first in that series. They make excellent use of a small piece of forestry comission land with a tight and winding course which gets more technical the faster you ride it. Steve Webb rode it at a fearsome pace and in doing so became the first singlespeed rider ever to take the overall win in these races. Incredibly the next two places were also on singlespeeds, Phil Moore and Dean Taylor of Velo Club Moulin. The boys were really flying at the front, though Steve ultimately put nearly two minutes into Phil over the course of the 55 minute race. I was sitting in fourth when one of the local flinty rocks made its way through my sidewall ending my day. We'll certainly be there for the rest of this great little series, if you want to make it along and perhaps even borrow a bike for a spin just drop us a line.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

For those who really can't get enough Singular news, I've begun a Twitter account. While my ramblings here at least make some attempt at coherent prose, in keeping with this new wave of communicative development my twitter will offer you short vignettes of whatever I might happen to be up to at the time (bike related of course, I won't be posting what I had for breakfast...).