Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Highland Trail 550 Preparations.

Just over a year ago I took part in the Highland Trail 550 Race.

After the race, my summary of this unsupported bikepacking trip was -

"The route devised by Alan Goldsmith, starts at Tyndrum and visits the Mamores, Corrieyairack, Oykel Bridge, Assynt, Foinaven, Glen Canisp, Torridon, Kintail and Glen Affric, before returning to Tyndrum.

The terrain is varied, but can overall be described as tough. There are extended sections where pushing or carrying the bike is the only option. The rewards though are some magnificent riding on deserted and varied trails."

36 riders started, and I finished in 10th place out of 12 finishers. On day 5 I considered retiring. The thought that spurred me on though was "What would Minipips do in this situation?"

Well we're going to find out. The two of us are going to leave Tyndrum, the day before the faster riders with the intention of riding the routes 550+ miles.

All our bikepacking luggage has kindly been supplied by Alpkit , some of which is on its second HT550 trip.

A big thanks also to Use Exposure for our Toro lights and a Vybe suspension seatpost to keep Tom's bottom comfy.

When we're done I'll post a full kit list. Some other highlights though.
Accommodation - Alpkit Ordos 2 tent - rain and midge protection for 2 weighing in at 1.2Kg.
Down sleeping bags, with Tom's being an adults pied d'elephant bag, which is a full length bag for him!
Rapha classic jerseys, bibshorts and rain jackets for us both.
We'll obviously save a bit of weight with some shared bits, though I'll add an extra warm layer over what we'd take somewhere less remote. We'll also be taking a GoPro and a stills camera, so we'll have a video and some pictures to show you at the end.

Via our Spot GPS Tracker you can follow our progress live at the Trackleaders website link (Rich and Tom S.....)

There's a twitter feed for HTR news here

We leave Tyndrum early on Friday morning, and if the weather is kind, the bikes don't have a mechanical and we don't pick up an injury we hope to be done inside 10 days.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Kinder #microadventure.

We've been getting some kit together for a big ride in a couple of weeks time. On Friday we received an Alpkit Ordos 2 tent which we are intending to use on that trip.

Experience tells me that putting a tent up in daylight on the lawn is no substitute for having your son putting the same tent up in the dark. So up  Kinder we went for a #microadventure to test it out.

We had a bit of fun shooting some video to tell a story of sorts.

Note to self, buy some extra camera batteries, as they don't last very long (hence the lack of a return journey).

We had a good nights sleep, and Tom made it to school in plenty of time on Monday.

We hope you enjoy the video.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Darley Moor U10 Circuit Race

Whilst Tom does lots of cycling, he's not done any racing on a road bike until now.

A friend, James had mentioned that there were some races for kids on the windswept Darley Moor circuit, that Tom might be interested in. Tom thought it would be good to give it a go.

So with a few weeks notice we went out and did a bit of training. Nothing that would overnight turn him into a superfast cyclist, but enough for him to see that the efforts required to average 15+mph for 20 minutes on an undulating course were very different to those needed to ride all day at a steadier pace.

We arrived with some time in hand. Whilst Tom got his kit on I joined the queue to get his gear measured. Under 10s have a limit of 5.4 metres development, which meant that his 18 speed bike was now an 8 speed.

Once he'd signed on he did a couple of loops of the circuit to warm up, and declared the course "Ace!"

After his warm up, he didn't have to wait long for the start, and then they were off.

As they took the first corner Tom had made the front, and looked like he might pull away. He hadn't accounted for the hill and the wind which was coming head on though as he turned the corner.

A wrong gear selection, and he was soon overtaken. By the end of the first lap he had dropped down into 7th place. He wasn't settling for that though.

As the race progressed he pulled himself up to 6th, and by the lap after had pulled closer to the rider in 4th. The next lap he shared the work with the rider in 4th place.

As he came of the last bend on the final lap he sprinted for the line to take 4th place.

A good result. He averaged 16mph for the race.

Tom's hoping we can make the next one in a couple of weeks time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Strathpuffer Adventure Show on iplayer

Tom is one of the featured riders on this month's Adventure Show filmed at the Strathpuffer 24 hour mountain bike race back in January.

You can watch it on iPlayer for the next 29 days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Wee Man rides 24 hours at Strathpuffer.

Strathpuffer is billed as one of the hardest mountain bike races in the world. Winter, Scotland, 17 hours of darkness. So what better introduction to the world of endurance mountain biking for a boy who is 9 years old?

I've done the race before solo, and to be honest, I had absolutely no intention of taking place in it ever again. It's a hard race for a grown up. I'd exaggerated how awful it would be, but Tom would not be dissuaded. Every parent gets pestered by their kids, and Tom pestered me to get him a solo entry for Strathpuffer.
We arrived as darkness fell on Friday night. There was snow on the ground, and it was snowing. Tom was disappointed that the snow didn't make good snowballs, it was too cold. Some hardy souls were camping, not us though we were staying in a nice warm travelodge.

Saturday, we were up early.  There was no time for apprehension though, we had to get everything ready. In fact we only just made the start line in time.

A short run to our bikes, and we were off up the long climb.

The encouragement from the spectators and fellow riders was brilliant. "GO Wee Man"

Our plan was to ride at a steady pace, and not to crash. The sun was out, the course was ace, we were having fun.

Less than 6 hours in, and it was dark. No problems there though, we had our awesome Exposure lights to light our way.

All went well until just after midnight. Then on one of the descents my rear tyre blew off the rim. This coincided with Tom getting a pinch flat. It was dark, it was cold, and it was snowing. No worries though my tools and tubes were easy to access in my Alpkit Possum frame bag. I fixed Tom's flat quickly. My tyre though, even with the help of Markus who stopped to help would not stay on the rim. So my only option was to walk/run the 1.5 miles back to our pits. Tom waited for me until the last descent, then nipped ahead to get a tyre and tube ready for me.

I put the new tyre and tube on, we were good to go. Debbie who was pitting for us, sensibly enquired as to when we might stop for a rest. One more lap I said.

Two thirds of the way up the climb, Tom wanted a rest, he was tired. When the temperature is sub zero, standing about does not aid recovery. I remembered though some lads who were camped a little further up the hill had said if we needed anything, to call in. We rode on.

The lads from Hawick welcomed us in to their tent. I say tent, but think marquee. Proper settees, and a woodburner that was near 6 feet tall. Tom sat down ate a ham sandwich, and was soon fast asleep. That's not a dummy on his wrist, it's his dibber.

Ideally, we would have stopped there for a while. I knew though if we stayed there too long, that Debbie, and maybe the race organisers would be concerned as to our whereabouts. An hours sleep, a cup of strong coffee, and we were back on our bikes.

We did one more night lap, and then Tom had a few hours sleep in front of the gas heater in the event HQ marquee.

As dawn was breaking we set off for our last lap. I was faffing and told Tom to head off up the climb. It took me most of the 2.5 miles to catch him up. That sleep had obviously done him good.

We had to stop for a picture with the Strathpuffer celebrity Bill on our way back.

Once back the BBC Adventure Show whisked Tom off for an interview, then it was time for sausage butties and tea.

The stats for Tom's ride 10 laps, 64.9 miles, 8000 feet of climbing. 61st out of 92 solo riders.

Smiles, lots. Tears, none.

Tom won the Doug Stewart memorial award for youth performance which is awarded to the best under 19 rider. The applause as he stood on the podium was amazing. I may have had a tear in my eye.

Thanks to Debbie for looking after us in the pits, Team JMC, Exposure Lights and Alpkit for their support.

A massive thanks to the organisers of the Strathpuffer race for putting on such an amazing event, and letting my son take part.

See you next year.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Lights and Bag for Strathpuffer.

Tom and I have recovered from the Xmas lurgy. Our bags are packed, and the bikes are ready for Strathpuffer. We are both really looking forward to it.

We have been fortunate to gain some sponsorship for this year.

Alpkit have sent us an Alpkit Possum frame bag which arrived today. I'll use this at the weekend to carry our spare tubes, pump etc, and some jelly babies, so there is no need to ride with a rucksack.

We have also been given some lights by Exposure. The Toro Mk6 along with a piggyback battery will provide all the light we need for the 17 hours of darkness.

If you want to follow our progress live tracking can be found here. I think Tom's number is going to be 75. If that isn't the case look for Tom S.... in the solo category.

Monday, December 29, 2014

#Festive500 abandoned.

I am writing this with two days left of the 2015 Rapha #festive500. For us though the challenge is over.

Before the challenge started we both had a cold. I'd hoped we'd shake it off, but if anything for both if us the cold was getting worse.

I was concerned that with weakened immune systems we might pick up something else, so made the decision that our time would be better spent regaining our good health than riding our bikes.

We're still coughing and spluttering, but I'm hopeful we'll be back on our bikes soon.

Best wishes for 2015 from us both.