Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Racing shadows

I raced my shadow today. It seemed like we started on the east coast, as I left the office and turned the bike into the rain. But the rain was too cold and too spiteful and too thin, nipping at my shins in icy shards. This wasn’t Virginia, it didn’t sit right. So before I knew it we were in the Rockies. We’d raced straight over the plains of Kansas, flocks of black birds rising out of the corn as we whipped by, making the most of the glorious tailwind. I must have been going too fast to feel the damp heat of Missouri and Kentucky too, the languid pace of life lost in a quick rotation of the pedals. But I could feel the Rockies as the road grabbed at my tyres, forcing me to plunge the pedals downwards while the cold kissed my cheeks. The elevation was so high it took my breath away. We cycled softly and swiftly, dwarfed into silence by the landscape; the view too epic to comprehend with the small amount of time we had – you needed a lifetime. And then we were on again. We flew through Teton and Yellowstone, nervous on every bend lest we encountered some creature we couldn’t avoid. And then we backtracked through Wyoming when the headwind kicked in. But it was when we arrived at Lolo that we realised we had been here all along. The cold seeped through our Gore-Tex and set up home in our bones. The Lochsa never left our side, its raging water swollen by the rain. We called a truce there in Idaho, supping on tepid hot chocolate will a deep mist settled on the thick, knowing trees. A new day would dawn, a new race would end in a new truce.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Still need a post-Christmas ride?

Boxing Day may be done and dusted but here's a little piece I pulled together in case you need a post-Boxing Day ride. Lord knows I do.

Happy trails mean happy hols ...

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The ice age cometh

I wasn't here for the first ice age (I'm not THAT old) and the second one in the 1600's kind of got overlooked what with burning London to the ground and batting off the plague. And the snow in Feb this year? Nah wasn't here for that either. So in terms of riding on snow and ice I think it's fair to say I'm a newbie.

But I've never seen Dorking look so good. Beautiful. And sections that I usually took for granted, suddenly became a new adventure. First tracks were a bit touch and go - in most cases ending up ankle deep in snow when riding over a root you didn't see.

We headed to Barry Knows Best and it was the first time I'd ridden it since they changed the ending, swapping the gnarly DH rooty section for three or four swoopy berms. It's certainly easier to ride (but in the ice pretty committing) but I kind of miss the old end. A bit of old-school technical DH, something to work up to getting faster and faster on. A berms a berm you know?

Then we hit up Telegraph which was fun and I even managed to anticipate the tree stump halfway down even though it was covered in snow, keeping my pedals free and me not over the handlebars.

Then to top it all off, we even managed to reverse the van out of a snowdrift without having to push it manually. Now that's what I call a good day on the hill.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Freeride festival and other shenanigans

Make no absurd mistake: Howard Donald, DJ, is not a reason to visit Saalbach Hinterglemm, deep in the Austrian Alps near Zell am See where, by the way, no coffee shops open on a Sunday morning. Fact.

But this being Austria and taste in music questionable ( I know this from watching five days worth of MTV), it probably seemed fair to assume on their part that we would be impressed by an ex-Take Thatter (now reestablished Take Thatter) taking to the decks at the annual Rave on Snow. This event is massive. It is literally a big fat massive rave. On snow. And in a kindergarten. The music goes on for 48 hours and the outfits get wierder the longer people rave. Quality.

We were blessed too with fantastic snow. But you don't need to hear that. What you do need to hear is that Saalbach plays host to Europe's longest freeride MTB trail, plus 400km of MTB trails in total, including DH and a bike park. Dates have been released already for next year's Freeride Festival which is taking place from 9 to 11 July. The resort also has five big cable cars carrying bikes up the hill.

Here are some snapshots of the freeride route in the snow. Me likey. Is it time to ditch Morzine?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Let it snow, let it snow

Pedalfeet is in Austria. There is snow. And lots of skiing. But no cycling until summer. Boo. Sing it now: 'You can't always get what you waaaaaant, you can't always get what you waaaaaaant. But if you try sometimes, you might just find. You get what you neeeeeeeeed.'

Ah yes.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Wanted: garage space

I love my bikes. But bath time is really beginning to p**s me off.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Something for the weekend? Er ...

Who said mountain biking was sexist? Thank god for Cosmo magazine's hall of fame and one Mr Gee Atherton, ably putting paid to such thoughts and replacing them with something much more interesting. I know it's from February, but we all need something to brighten up those winter nights. Careful where you put that saddle love.

Friday, 27 November 2009

My goodies, oh my goodies!

So the big G are running a gallery today of things cyclists may want for Christmas. If you can spot the two I added in then you win, well nothing but hey ho. Life's a bummer sometimes.

Needless to say the two I did add in are the best of the bunch - I'm not sure when any self-respecting MTBer would need a red spotty cycle cover but it takes all sorts and hey, I'm not judging. But it has inspired me to create my own Christmas list which I shall add to over the next few weeks despite my mother's 'no pressies this year' plea. Silly lady.


Yes they have diamante on them and yes this will make me go faster. Obvs. Besides, can you show me a girl who doesn't want to sparkle while she hauls ass down a mountain? Thought not. 'Ace' gloves by Troy Lee


It's carbon, it's gold, it's £774.96 for the full set by my calculation. But it's also the SRAM XO drivetrain and as far as I'm concerned that's rad. Here's the bumpf from Sram: 'the X.0 system performs with distinction [as do I - natch]. Our superior 1:1 actuation ratio paired with a NEW super-tough carbon and aluminum cage design results in durability and performance.' Totally feeling that dude.


It's a new rave helmet! Wahoo! I have nothing more to add. Hex helmet by Giro £53.99


I am an absolute sucker for Park Tools. I know, I know, they are twice as expensive as any other brand. But I used to work in PR and I bow deeply to the people behind the brand who have somehow, against all odds, made bike tools cool. I mean, check this out: a bottle opener, that looks like some sort of spanner. Genius. I have lusted after their BBQ set for years but I reckon mum will sway with this bottle opener as it's compatible with all brands of beer and she loves an icy bottle of San Mig.
Park Tools bottle opener £7.99


Attack the pack goddammit! No seriously attack it. I can't I'm bonking. Bonkity bonk bonk. But still. It's a nice sentiment and if I wore this tee at least people would still see me when I cross the finish line after the sun has set. Morvelo t-shirt, £20

I'd also really like a Thermos flask and a Jamie Oliver in USA cook book.
What's on your list?

Friday, 20 November 2009

There's wisdom in them there hills

I go to college after work every Wednesday night (because I'm trying to improve myself, natch) and on Wednesday I was talking to my friend Nkone about Michael Foucault. I admit, I brought him into the conversation but I maintain it was valid. She was feeling really negative about stuff, nasty people having too much power over her life and making her miserable. I said: 'Hey Nkone, you ever heard of Foucault and his web of power?' and she said: 'No - enlighten me!' So I said: 'Essentially it's the idea that things were not always as they appear to you today and that they can be changed, even at the lowest level so that they will be something different tomorrow. You may not feel like you have the power to influence your life or situations but, dear friend, you do.'
Once she had got over my demonstration of immense intelligence (note the sarcasm), she gasped, awe-struck: 'But how do you regain power over situations where people are crowding you out and making you feel negative?'
And I said: ' I ride my bike.'

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Cyclocrossing the universe, on the starship enterprise ...

Well it's a Peugot Partner actually and I didn't exactly cyclo-cross the universe so much as cough up half a lung and withdraw after two and a half laps. Still, what a ride! The course at Stanmer Park near Brighton was really enjoyable - having been off a bike for so long, reaquainting myself with mud and corners while astride a bike with a very non-MTB standover height was interesting. As soon as I remembered not to use my brakes and approach each corner in the manner of a BMX bandit, things got better.

But eight weeks off the bike has taken its toll and I was cataclysmically unfit, despite the knee (touchwood) holding up and a nice new NS Bikes stem on Jake making him kinder on the back (and a lot stiffer, grrr). It's a nice project now though, slowly increasing the mileage back up to the start and then some. Going to race down in Penshurst on Sunday to keep things ticking over. And at least the storm had abated long enough to drink tea without being swept away. Well done to Phil and the boys at Morvelo who proved that skin suits are really quite special and make you go fast. Er ...

Bikes rock. I am super stoked to be back in the game. Even if I am last.

p.s. I would like to point out that EVERYONE was pushing their bikes up that incline in the photo, not just me. Fact.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A cycling round up - and not a lasso in sight

Look a picture! Me on White's Level by Tom Humpage

Here's the latest from me on cycling bits and bobs for the Guardian. Get in touch if there's stuff you think should be flagged up - all I need is a vague travel angle which let's face it isn't hard when the whole point about cycling is to moooooove.

And on a vain note - I have just taken delivery of two delicious tops and two gorgeous bottoms (natch) courtesy of which I shall be modelling at the Brighton round of the 'Cross series this weekend. Back and knee trouble? Pah! I laugh in your face. A review will obviously follow but I'm not sure I'll be able to say a lot more than simply: 'Mud. in. My. Eye.'

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Not a post for the boys ...

The only way I am sure I am a writer is because I am consistently and unfalliably wracked with doubt that I can't write. Or at least can't write half as well as pretty much everyone else. Take for example bike blogs. At the moment I'm enjoying one by a lady in Juneau, Alaska called Up in Alaska. Jill writes about her cycling in extreme weather conditions, climbing mountains after work and she takes beautiful pictures to go with them. You can absolutely feel the chill air, or the driving rain and ultimately every post leaves me feeling like for a brief five minutes I was staring at Denali and and not picking chewing gum off the sole of my Converse as I skid to Kings Cross through a sea of skank.

In comparison my blog has only intermittent pictures (I'm not good with anything that inolves eyes) and rarely deals so poetically with the art of living and cycling. But I can't help it. My mind doesn't work like that. I know I should be pursuing a pure life dedicated to the earth and riding it well but what I really want to talk about is: sweet fair Jesus do any women other than me really suffer traumas over the whole bikini wax/ getting on a saddle issue?!

No there will be no pictures to go with this post.

Seriously. I cannot believe the female cycling fraternity are moving around totally unpruned. But the chaffing involved in the alternative is really too much. It's almost getting to a stage with me now when I watch women competing in XC and I want to know what their secret is. Not the secret of their skill, endurance, fitness (I know that - ride lots) but how they can sit on a saddle for that long. Now that's impressive.

My sister has suggested a product called 'In-grow go' (genius I'm sure you'll agree) by the Skin Doctors (not to be confused with ther Spin Doctors who are in fact, legends) but my sister hasn't sat on a bike since her first child. Obviously she could take up DH or 4X and then she'd never have to sit down but she's a bit too skinny for that. God it's hard being a woman in cycling.

I have never read this issue being discussed anywhere before. Is that because us chicks are all so busy being totally rad and gnarly that we just pretend it doesn't happen? Or is it the more simple case of I'm the only one for who this is an issue?

I clearly have to get me to Alaska.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A little temperance ...

I was ever so gently chastised by Debbie last week over a post I made whereby I expressed vaguely negative views over this Bike Radar article. I insinuated the piece on how to start MTBing was a tad patronising. I must apologise - commuting by bike brings out the beast in me. If that's all I did on a bike I would probably devise an intricate way of killing myself using two spokes and some chain lube.

So in an effort to redress the karmic balance - and because I am writing this at 4am while listening to Radio 4's morning broadcast which so far has included child abuse in Zimbabwe, Venezuela declaring war on Colombia and a severed head being found in a suitcase (happy days people!) - I have here my own guide to beginning mountain biking:

1) Do not assume that because you are a beginner you are therefore female. It has been known to happen but this could cause havoc in the toilets at Dorking station.
2) Note the word, BAGGIES. The addition of lycra to your cycling wardrobe will not make riding a MTB easier. This is a fallacy perpetuated by Evans Cycles and Richard Mardle from Felt racing. Despite many wins, he also crumples in ditches for no apparent reason. In fact the reason is lack of blood to his legs from his shorts.
3) Do not under any circumstances buy a good quality 500 quid mountain bike. Hire for a few weeks until you can work out whether you would rather arrive at the top of a climb or the bottom of some singletrack with the bigger smile.
4) Go riding in the rain. This will make you hard and sturdy - essential MTB characteristics. Plus once you have established riding in appalling conditions, you will reconcile yourself to the basics of MTB in the UK - mud.
5) Be prepared to give up. One of the main joys of MTBing is cake, pies and beer. Oh and tea. The sooner you get to that part of the day, the better. No shame people.
6) Under no circumstances should you practise bunnyhopping in your mum's back garden while wearing slippers.
7) People will tell you it's all about having a great day out in the countryside with your mates. This is a lie. Firstly most of your mates won't MTB anyway. And secondly it's really about doing something gnarly to make your day job seem less depressing and you seem cooler. Thus if you are wearing a skinsuit while riding you have defeated this outcome completely.
8) Learn how to ride off-camber sections (bike away from slope, planting tyres into the lovely, solid earth.) Once this skill is sorted, your life will become a lot easier.
9) Learn how to rail a berm - WEIGHT SOLIDLY OVER BOTTOM BRACKET ON YOUR OUTSIDE FOOT, ELBOWS BENT, EYES LOOKING OUT THE CORNER. Charging a corner is completely rad, pretty simple to pick up and fun. There's only so many technical climbs a girl can handle.
10) Never ask of someone: 'Do you think I can ride that?' This will end with you jumping clear of some 12 foot North Shore into knee deep mud and losing a shoe. Chances are you can't ride it, yet. That's why we have cake and beer. Der.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

It can't be Britney, surely?

In a spate of Great News, the physio has requested I ride for at least 15 miles in one go this weekend in order to see whether my knee is getting better or will blow out again. I have been informed very strongly that five hours of continuous dirt jumping is not the same thing. Damn. It.

Did y'all hear the podcast yet we did a couple of weeks ago with courier Emily Chappell and Phil 'the horse' Moore? It went up yesterdat afternoon. It's here if you want to listen. I bray like a donkey in it but I'm hoping that can be endearing ... It was nice to hang out in the city on a bike and not be riding to work. I spend pretty much every weekend getting out of London to the hills so it was good to make the most of what was on my doorstep rather than whinge about how horrible all the concrete and rude people are. And I would like to point out that I recorded that podcast four hours after I got hit by the blubbing driver. Above and beyond people, above and freakin beyond.

In other news Glyncorrwg ponds have confirmed that Skyline Cycles will be taking over the running of the Drop Off. Whether that results in a name change and/or smaller portions is yet to be discerned as the press release explaining it all is languishing somwehere that isn't my inbox.

But the most cataclysmic thing which has occurred in the last few days is the realisation that of all the seven million songs on my iPod, the one that gets me the most psyched when riding is Britney Spears' 'Gimme More.' Now I know this skater chick Lucy Adams who used to ride for Rogue and she admitted on BBC radio that her favourite tune to skate to was one from Steps. Don't deny it Lucy! She also kicks ass on a skateboard so I figure if she can admit to riding to Steps, Britney is ok right? But it's not really is it? Can anyone help me out by admitting to a more embarrassing one?

Monday, 26 October 2009

Quality film ... Foot out Flat out 2

Fionn Griffiths, queen of DH oh yeah, sent me this link for 'Foot Out, Flat Out 2, which is out end of November. Her words: 'There is just so much passion and emotion within those two minutes!'

Nuff said. Mind you she is very good at sticking her foot out ...

And is it just me or does Sam Hill look a little bit evil? Just a touch.

More Mountain Biking >>

Getting Minxy with Jones and a Krank

Haven't been blogging for a bit because it's hard to blog about bikes when you aren't riding one and finding new trails, routes etc. However I am tentatively planning a Chicksands dirt jumping session next weekend, mainly because Tom said he was going riding and it got my back up.

But also my mood was darkend by this: I don't even know why it depressed me, it just did on many, many levels.

But hey, I'm not judging. Just one thing beginners: lycra is not necessary for learning to ride a bike. Nor is being female. But hey, I'm not judging.

Luckily for me I dragged my miserable ass off to Frome to hang out with Debbie from Minx-Girl. If you're having down time on a bike, Debbie will re-inspire you. Fact. She also gave me a pair of Swrve riding jeans. These are without a doubt the best freakin things ever! Look like jeans but softer, less chaffing, more comfortable and just rad. Hence why I'm suddenly psyched to go dirt jumping. You'll be able to get them on Minx when the new site is up any day now. But the best thing was, we took our singlespeeds out for a pootle and it was lovely riding my bike with mates again. Plus Debbie rides a super Jones singlespeed which is like a light tank. 29 inch wheels plough through anything and the front forks are rigid but with a twist:

The extra bar soaks up vibration so you can get down most things - not talking DH here, mainly rolling over small people etc. Jest! And the Mary Jane bars are super comfortable. It makes you feel invincible. Get one.

And then to top it all off I watched Kranked's Revolve movie which features a section with a blind MTBer on Santa Cruz. Kinda puts a gammy knee into perspective. Plus the movie has one of the best sections I've seen in a long time - four riders, one trail, awesome. The rest of the movie is pretty hey ho.

Kranked - REVOLVE Teaser from KRANKED/ReJeK+ on Vimeo.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Ups and downs

Gosh what a roller coaster of a weekend. Firstly Tom, photographer extraordinaire and I went down to Devon to go on a ghost hunt in Ilfracombe. I've noticed that now I'm off the bike for a few weeks my ed is giving me stranger and stanger assignments. Still. Makes a change and Tom loved getting pics of the spooky house. And I looked like a ghost after a five hour drive down on Friday night. One thing: 24 hour Tescos in Barnstaple - like an oasis of weird joy in the midst of something really quite baffling.

Then on the way back - oh and no we didn't find any ghosts although someone threw some stones and we all jumped - we saw this little baby:

Seriously - how good?! Like so good. It's my dream car although we worked out it would cost at least four times more than our Ford Transit Connect. Sigh.

So that was the up part. And the down part was finding out that the Drop Off cafe at Glyncorrwg will be closing on Christmas Eve! WTF?! I don't know the ins and outs and there's probably some massively scandalous reason but frankly it doesn't make sense to me. So instead of having a great cafe selling fantastic food really cheap, they are going to have a mountain of passed out MTBers who couldn't make it into Glyncorrwg before they collapsed of hunger. A great big pile of MTBers. A pyramid of twitching riders, all desperate for a chunky ham sandwich and carrot cake but no. Denied the only joy after Skyline by the Glyncorrwg Ponds Committee (he he) for some reason which clearly isn't the right one. Freaks. Anyway Ian is hosting a closing party of 5 December to coincide with the Kona Mash-up. Brilliant reason to get mashed.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Things you only find out when you're not riding your bike

As I am stranded without wheels and instead wallowing in a sea of needles (acupuncture people, acupuncture tsk, tsk) I've had a series of epiphanies which have rocked me to my core (a rather soft core as proved by two sessions of pilates.)I have decided to share these epiphanies with you in a series called: 'things you only find out when you're not riding your bike.' Hold tight to your pants as there are enough revelations contained in these blog posts as it is.

#1: You have no social life
Riding your bike makes you a very popular person. In essence this is because there is only really room for one person on your bike. You. Not only are you a great person making spending time with yourself a joy, but if you are an arse, noone has to know unless you give them a backie. Or sandbag them on the climb at White's Level. Natch. It also means you are always busy: 'Fancy a massive night out with all your non-bike mates tonight?' 'Aw dudes, I'd love to but I'm riding tomorrow, bit of an epic so I need to get to bed early yar? Soz.' 'Oh my god I am like, so busy at work! So much to do inbetween watching it's a nightmare! I'm just going to have to work late and eat pasta and margarine as I've no time to shop. Wow! My life is wild! No time to shop! Yeehar!'
Remove the bike from the equation and you are hilariously buggered. You get home at a decent hour and don't need to spend the two hours before CSI cleaning your bike. So instead you scratch your ass and stare at the ceiling. Suddenly the town you live in doubles, nay, quadruples in size full of places you have never been. How do you get there? Buggered if I know, I can't ride my bike. You could take the Tube. Dear God man are you insane??! Time Out suddenly becomes the paper reality of the Israel/Palestine conflict - you know you should get to grips with it but it's been so long you have no idea what's going on anymore. It's too late! You've missed out! It is so obvious that you don't know what the hell is cool anymore.
Then all your bike mates start tweeting you about rides they are doing or parties they have been to and suddenly the whole vacuous nature of your existence sans bike begins sucking at your soul like some all-encompassing Black Hole of doom. At which point you find yourself talking to your bike as if it's a human being. Which obviously it is but you can't ADMIT that in public.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The pros guide to coping with injury

I am starting my first week of physio this week due to a gammy knee and a back blow out a few weeks ago. It's getting me down. Understatement. Especially as we head into winter and I can stop swatting gnats as I cycle. Then this morning I got knocked off my bike cycling to work. Bust right arm. The driver cried though which was the only redeeming factor of the sorry affair.

But instead of whinging I decided to ask some people in the know how they cope with a long period of injury. Because injury is a pretty common occurence in our sport.

And frankly, the answers were inspiring. From DH legend Tracy Moseley to Bob Barber at Manchester Velodrome, these guys have offered their wisdom. Read on ...

Tracy Moseley, Trek World racing Team and 2nd in UCI World Cup, 2009
I think when you are doing sport and training everyday you have to expect that at some point you will get hurt and I think the first step is to realise that. So when it does happen you deal with it as if it was just another training block. You work hard at the physio the rehab etc and it becomes your priority for however long it takes. Sometimes I have felt that it has been a useful downtime, and you can often reflect and make plans for your return much better when you have a little more time and you can't do everything you normally would. I have taken injury time to catch up on reading, acquire some new skills, learn stuff and have a rest. Any time you have had off exercise and training only gives you more motivation to get back out there and the fun factor and pure pleasure of just being able to do your sport again is amazing.

Jo Petterson, DH racer on Commencal
Injuries are pretty common in our sport, but that doesn't always limit us. Sometimes if we are lucky enough we can push through scrapes and cuts and some, even the broken parts. For me I have been SO lucky and had two broken parts in my career. My ankle which was completely immobilizing and my wrist which was bad enough to stop any hope of working through it to race. With my ankle I just lay in bed thinking about all the sweet races I was missing, watched the WNBA playoffs, and took three online courses, biology, creative writing and women' s history.
All fascinating when you are stuck on crutches. I did a lot of water therapy and started riding road as soon as I could. I had surgery, a plate and six pretty screws put in so recovery was not rapid but it was worth it. Last year when I attempted to fell a tree with my head and broke my wrist I used the time I had left still at races and took photos of the events. Photography is an important part of my life, but took the back seat when I started racing. So naturally that was an awesome way to fill my days.
Then after a few weeks I got myself a water proof cast and went surfing. Naturally awesome!!
Basically I just try to do things I love that don't involve bikes, keep myself entertained and also have great people around me that make me smile and can share their lovely bike adventures.

Phil Moore, Morvelo team racer
After the initial sulking has taken place and the swearing i tend to try and focus on the thing in y life that slip by when i am out riding my bike, trivial matters such as house work, diy etc. Then when the appeal of house work have worn off i get down to the more interesting things: fixing my bikes/building up to new bikes ready for when i can ride again, ride vicariously through watching videos, drinking beer then due to the anesthetic properties of beer the injury stops hurting so you go riding, hurt yourself again and go back to square one!

As for motivation? Anytime spent not riding my bike is motivation to get fixed and get back onto my bike again.

Neven Steinmetz, 4X and DH racer
Unfortunately I've become a bit of a pro at being injured, although I'm not sure that's something to be proud of. For me, I go crazy when I can't exercise, so I generally try and find something that I can do that works around the injury. The usual suspects are swimming (I swam 10.5 km in that damn pool in Morzine this summer with my broken ass!), riding the trainer (not my favourite), and yoga (I do this all the time anyway, so this is the preference, for sure!). If you're on crutches you can play the balance between the crutches game (way easier with american style crutches), it's great for the abs!! It's definitely hard to stay positive, but I try to focus on other things that make me smile rather than focusing on the injury. Luckily, I love reading books, so I try and think about it as a good way to catch up on the pile of books I've been planning to read but never have time for when you're getting to ride all of the time!

Debbie Burton, cyclist and founder of
The first and most important thing to do when you get injured is to act like it never happened to anyone else before. Really, describing the event and resulting pain in every last detail will make you (if not your friends) feel so much better. The second thing to do is get a sports physio on speed dial – even if you need surgery, what happens in physio during the months after will make all the difference between
getting bike riding better and 'as long as you’re upright we really couldn’t give a damn' better. If you can find a sports physio that does acupuncture then so much the better. (Nope I didn’t believe it worked either – until it did.)

I'm lucky I've never had (crosses everything) a broken bone. My issue is bad knees, and coping with their injuries and subsequent downtime has made me big on the power of prevention. Doing the exercises that keep my knees strong, making time for the yoga or stretching in front of the telly that stops muscles piling on the tension that sets
everything up to go twang at the slightest excuse. It’s become a habit that's not even tedious any more – although the jokes about getting my ankles behind my ears are.

Bob Barber, cycling manager, Manchester velodrome
Firstly, make sure you have a GP that understands your sport. If you say to a GP 'my leg hurts when I cycle', you don't want to be advised: 'well don't ride your bike then'!

Your GP should be your first contact when injured, just in case there needs to be medical intervention or a prescription. Otherwise, if its musculature or skeletal, find yourself a renowned cycling masseur/osteopath. The best ones don't advertise - they are already very busy, and you only find out who they are by talking to elite cyclists in your area, who go to them each week for a massage. While they don't fix broken legs, they are very good for remedial work after a fracture has healed, and riders who have been told they won't ride a bike again by the medical profession, have achieved just that by these cycling Svengalis!

Chris Garrison, women's manager Trek
How do I cope? Beer.
I find that when I'm injured, my reaction goes through the five stages of grieving: denial (I crashed, but I'm fine really. Honest); anger (I can NOT believe I crashed! I'm such and idiot! Gah!); bargaining (alright look, if you just heal a bit quicker I promise not to take that corner so fast next time); depression (I'll never ride again); and finally, acceptance (Ok, I'm hurt now but I'll bounce back. I WILL ride again!).
Once I've accepted my fate, then I try and make sure that I do whatever I need to do to ensure proper healing. For motivation, I watch videos of people doing things I'll never do, but wish I could. I also read cycling magazines, and our Trek Life blogs and newsletter (, and look at photos taken by my friends from various rides.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Interview with Jess Stone

You know when you go and see a band in a scuzzy pub and you watch them thinking 'wow, these guys are really good,' then a year later they are massive? Jess Stone is like that in DH riding at the moment. Could she be the new face of women's DH next year? Read on ...

Woohoo! You won! It's a really exciting time for you at the moment. What does it feel like being at the beginning of something which could be really big?
It's really amazing you know! It's certainly an incredible feeling. I'm aware that I have a lot of work to do though. It's not easy and I lack experience, so I'm just taking it race by race and aim to continually push my limits every time.

Do you work towards specific goals or are you just riding and seeing where you end up? Do you feel any pressure at the moment?
Of course there's pressure, but only from myself to perform as I'm so competitive within myself. I have a few goals and I'm constantly setting myself little targets just so that I know and can measure how much I am improving. I always take each race as it comes so whatever happens, happens! The targets can range from getting within a certain time behind the leader at a World Cup (get within 22 seconds of Tracy Moseley) or being able to sprint that extra 10 seconds - something like that.

What does next year look like for you at the moment? What are your plans?
My plans are to do a full season of World Cups and get some top 10's so that I can compete at the World Championship. Compete at the British National Champs Series and hopefully win that. That's as far as I have got. It's still early days as the season has only just finished and decisions are still being made about the 2010 season.

On the podium in Rheola last month, winning the Nationals.

Nice Loeka pinstripe DH shorts ... If you could design/adapt any piece of DH race clothing, what would it be and why? I have a thing about DH jerseys - still haven't found a nice one.
To be honest, and without being biased - if I was to design a piece of DH clothing, I'd have designed the pinstripe shorts! Got beaten to it - damn! It's great I get to wear ladies stuff that fits well and that looks cool. The jerseys are difficult though, it's always about personal preference. You might think this weird but I'd love to have a jersey that has the picture of the head of a tiger in negative either on the sleeves or on the back and front. The colour scheme would be, black, white, pink and gold!

Where's your favourite DH track? Do you ever turn up there and think 'ah stuff it, I can't be bothered to ride today.'? What makes you not want to ride?
My favourite downhill track is Hopton. That place is like home to me! My usual ride over the winter is a place called Bringewood in Ludlow close to where I live. It's 20mins on the train then an hour's walk to the track. Then you have to push up all day. One time, it rained so hard you couldn't see, but I made myself go. I made the train journey and the push on my own, I was so cold and soaking wet through. Then I saw that the track was super, super muddy ... I was over it! So I walked back to the train. Nothing normally ever makes me not want to ride, I love it too much, hence why I still ride even if it's raining.

And conversely what gets you psyched for riding?
Imagining myself riding usually. But if it's a beautiful day, all I want to do is ride my bicycle!

Where is one place you haven't ridden but would love to/plan to?
I haven't ridden at Whistler bike park yet. Everyone raves at how awesome it is there. I can't afford to go there just yet, probably be a few years down the road 'till I can make the trip.

Is there any part of your riding you feel you need to work on at the moment?
Hmm … well everything to be honest. I'm very critica. Particularly though - I feel my jumping is not the best, my pumping technique needs some work and learning to carry my speed better.

Have you been star-struck recently?
Oh yes... But I couldn't possibly tell you who he is as if they read this I will get very embarrassed!

Do you ever look down a DH run and think 'are you insane?! no way!'? What freaks you out most in DH?
I've never thought that but I definately wonder sometimes how I'm going to make it. The biggest thing for me is jumping and drops - getting my head over trying to launch myself into mid air - it doesn't feel natural at all. But I'll give everything a go.

Can you tell us about your rig? Any quirky set-ups we could copy and use to get good?!
I ride on the most unique bike on the World Cup circuit at the moment. It basically has two air shocks instead of your average one coil shock. It's the '2Stage Elite9'. It's fantastic to ride and so good through corners and over small bumps - it's also really great and easy to jump. I hate to be boring and very unhelpful, but I have no special set ups! I just ride what is set up for the normal factory setting and that works perfect!

What skill/ technique/ event pushed your riding forward the most?
Definately, definately, the first two rounds of the Maxxis Cup Series. It was only the second time I had ever been abroad and this was my first international elite race - they had the biggest jumps and drops that I had ever done until then. They really pushed my mental ability, I had to do them to get a result. The tracks were unlike anything I had ever ridden. I came second in both races, not too far off Tracy Moseley. I believe they pushed me forward in my riding as when I did my first World Cup qualifying (which was only a couple of weeks after the Maxxis) I qualified 10th! I then came 17th in the finals.

Who's the coolest chick on the DH scene do you think? How would you describe the women's scene?
I don't know, I wouldn't say there's one cool chick. I will name a few names who I think are cool - Tracy Moseley, Helen 'Weapon' Gaskell, Fionn Griffiths and Katy Curd. They are all pretty damn cool!

Are you at Uni at the moment or are you riding full-time?
I wish I was riding full time but I've just started University at Worcester studying Sports and Exercise Science so I'm flat out. I've joined the cycling and boxing teams at Uni too - I'm keeping busy.

Jess racing at the World Cup in Bromont, Canada earlier this year.

I always ask this question: can you tell me a story? It can be any length, and about any subject, it just has to be a true story in your life.
Oh dear I'm rubbish at stories! I have a few pretty cool ones but I'll tell you this major one in my life:

I played football for as long as I can remember. When I was five or six, I used to watch the big kids play and all I wanted to do is to become a footballer. I moved up to Shropshire from Surrey when I was about eight. I started to play a bit of football and got pretty good, beating the boys and scoring goals. When I got to Church Stretton secondary school, things kicked off. I was asked to play for the school football team and I was put in goal (because I was so enthusiastic and no one else could be bothered). So from then on, I was to become a goalkeeper. I had no idea about goalkeeping, so I had a few tips then went for it.

I did my first national with the team that year. Looking back, I was a terrible goalkeeper! However, we got to play on Aston Villa's premiership ground, Watford's and Chelsea's Stamford Bridge pro ground where we won 6-1. That was such an amazing experience!! I was totally hyped and determined to be a better goalie! I worked really hard, went for trials and ended up playing for Shrewsbury's centre of excellence team. I got a little bit of coaching there. I also started to play for the county (Shropshire) and we were doing pretty well. I managed to get some specific training off Andy Mulliner who was a top goalkeeper coach.

When I was 16 (2007) I started to play for Crewe Alexandra Ladies team, who were a league below the premiership. It was hard, the standard was so high. At this time, I decided to have a go at downhill biking as well. My P.E teacher had inspired me to have a go so I went for it, now saving for my first DH bike.

That year, our school football team went for another national title. I was ready for it this time. We kicked butt in all the matches with a only couple of close games. Every game was so emotionally draining for me as I wanted our team to win so much. We did awesome and got to the finals which were at Manchester City's premiership ground! I was so nervous I felt sick. However, I had the best game of my life and only one goal got past me. We scored six! That feeling was amazing when we won. Like nothing I had ever felt. We were on TV, had interviews and everything!

Shortly after that, I received a letter saying that I had been selected to be on standby for England's Under 19's and Under23's training camp and I was so happy! However, things were getting rocky with Crewe, I did not like the players they were bringing into the team, so I wasn't motivated to play for them anymore. I wasn't enjoying the football and I couldn't transfer to another team as transport was a huge issue for me. I had also managed to save up for my DH bike and I was really getting into it. The biking was so different.

Two months after this, I did my first race and did well and decided Downhill was the way forward. It was the hardest decision I had ever made. A massive risk I know and I got a lot of stick off people - they couldn't understand why I was leaving football. I guess they thought I was giving up and lost ambition. I believed in what I could do, so nothing else mattered.

That first year in 2008, I won the Junior National Championship, the Junior English Championship and won two Series. (I had been both a National Champion at Football and Mountain biking before the age of 18!!) Then I moved into Elite this year (2009) and won myself my first International Series: The Maxxis Cup, I had 3rd place at the National Champs and Won the last National Round at Rheola ...

So I guess I'm not doing too bad for a young novice!! ;)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Morvelo online store now open

There is life after Twin 6 apparently. I am currently working with Phil 'the horse' Moore who races for Morvelo, on a podcast for next week. The lovely chap has just informed me that the Morvelo online store is now up and running.

If you've not checked out the apparel from the boys from Brighton yet then I'm afraid you are missing out on some really rather lovely cotton, loveliness. Everything this lot do, scream 'I love riding bikes' in a rather non-cliquey bollocks kind of way which makes refreshing change these days. The designs are nothing short of rad and coming in at £20 for a t-shirt, pretty affordable too.

At this juncture it's also worth pointing out that Phil once raced FIXED GEAR MOUNTAIN BIKES. The big, big freak.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Stop the madness!

I'm busy at the moment. Like, proper busy. I got back from Vegas on Monday - Interbike, radness but also involved quite a lot of cliquey bollocks which was weird. Best part? Leatt neck braces, in particular this one:

Yum, yum, yum. Vegas baby!

Anyway, I digress. So yep really busy, not getting any time on the bike due to business and busted back/ knee scenario, except to commute to work which frankly five times out of 10 just makes me angry. So when I'm busy and angry and contemplating the Cycle Show in a week, it doesn't help to get a press release about women and bikes which includes the line: 'In a first for the cycling industry, Cyclodelic's Girls Guide to Cycling will demystify many of the issues facing the growing number of women who cycle; by hosting specialist talks from celebrity experts about everything from nutrition, fashion, hair and make-up tips for cyclists training kits and how to get started in competitive cycling to the best routes around the ...' And it ends there. Which is probably good because it's hard to see where the patronising meter could have gone from there.


Could someone tell me how putting on make-up and doing my hair is a mystifying issue?

When it comes to cycling the issues I want demystifying are:
1) How the sweet bloody jesus can I clear that triple at Chicksands?
2) Seriously, does beer make me a better dirt jumper or is that in my head?
3) When will someone make a DH jersey that is cool?

I could go on. But I may go to the Cycle Show, visit Cyclodelic's stand and just have a big fat laugh. Women don't need to be patronised into cycling. Here's a news flash: maybe some women don't want to cycle! Who'd have thought it? Where are the campaign groups trying to get more women into yoga? Or snooker?

And perhaps if people started thinking of women riders as athletes rather then people who look pretty on bikes, Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke, Florianne Pugin and Tracy Moseley might actually get the recognition and sponsorship deals they deserve.

I'm ranting. Must go and stare at that Leatt neck brace for a bit.

But thoughts welcome.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Gooseberry Mesa: it's not Moab

'So you're going to Moab because everyone else does?' The woman behind reception at the Driftwood Lodge in Springdale was utterly unimpressed with our travel plans. And that, is how we came to abandon our trip to Moab in favour of hitting up the trails in Zion National Park, Utah last week.

Now, now. Don't look at me with that same disparaging glance as offered by Chipps at Singletrack when I relayed the tale. It's fair to say Zion is completely overlooked by most Brit-based MTBers in favour of its eastern cousin. But the lack of riders means you have slickrock to yourself, spectacular views and noone to hear you swear as you plunge back first into a cactus.

Tom (with a broken hand - respect) and I hired bikes from Bike Zion in Springdale which is the gateway town to the park. They were Kona Dawg Deluxes and it's fair to say they were tripe. Crap brakes, awful tires, sluggish handling - basically a bike with an epic hangover. We headed up to Gooseberry Mesa - seven miles away on a dirt road - which has a series of trails ranging from green to double diamond (or as Americans say - 'yeah, that's a double diamond dude!' with raised eyebrows and an intense stare which American double diamond blacks never really seem to warrant.)This, in the south western corner of Utah, is where they hold the Red Bull Rampage every other year, so it's not easy riding by any standards.

The Gooseberry trail was the hardest of the lot, kicking off with steep slickrock descents which turned into ascents quick enough to have you barreling over the handlebars in an instant. It rose gently uphill but you never really felt that until you popped out, about a foot from the edge of a huge cliff with the entire basin in front of you. Quality. It's not traditional cowboy scenery but it's still huge and close enough to have you exercising caution on otherwise simple obstacles.

The second half of the trail - the south rim - was a lot easier and leaves time for you to fill your pockets with petrified wood as you go along. But after four hours of ridng in 30 degrees we were feeling it somewhat so called it a day with the loop complete.

So no, not Moab but the riding in Zion lacks the tourist-trap feel of the Arches area and is worth checking out for that alone. Just drive very quickly through Colorado City ...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The 'Steve Peat for BBC Sports Personality of the Year' campaign begins

Billy Netherton with his hero Steve Peat

I got quite a few emails from people after the Guardian's post on Steve Peat last week. One of them said there was a rumour that he was being considered for the shortlist for the BBC's SPoftheY award.

The only way to stop something being a rumour is to make it happen, so ladies and gentlemen, let the campaign begin. Apparently, top sports editors across the UK have some sway in who makes the cut, so if you're feeling passionate drop them an email.

Meanwhile other than being a major, massive, huge asset to MTBing, why should Peat win? Here is Billy and Lance's story so he gets their vote for sure. How about you? Drop me a line (pedalfeet @ live . co . uk, without the spaces) or comment with your reasons and I'll forward them on to the Guardian's sports team.


Lance Netherton writes:

'I am into MTB because of my youngest son Billy, who we bought a bike for his 11th birthday in January last year.

Billy started watching biking stuff on youtube and by chance discovered the film ROAM with the fantastic Steve Peat. We found out he was British - sweet.

In the summer of last year MBUK advertised Steve Peat's Wharncliffe Weekender Charity Event and I booked to go because I wanted Billy to ride with Peaty on the Sunday. I cocked up the gift aid bit when I registered and as a result set up a justgiving website. Billy raised £500 (including gift aid) for the event.

One of Billy's sponsors posted a glib comment of 'see if you can get Peaty to pop down for a Racers Guild session', it got me thinking: 'why not, he's just a human being?'

On the day of the Wharncliffe Weekender when we saw Steve walking across the field on his own, I grabbed Billy ran up to him, shook his hand and asked a for a photo. Do you know what he said? 'Are you Billy? We're really stoked with what you've raised.' I took a great picture which is on Billy's Pinkbike site.

In the evening I bought Steve a beer and planted the idea of coming to Cannock for a low key event with grass roots riders. I told him we'd make it a charity event for any charity he wanted. He was very non committal but did not dismiss the idea.

Sunday came and Billy disappeared - turns out while we were sitting around drinking tea and thinking about packing up the tent Steve (with Billy's help) was picking up the rubbish and broken glass from the nights merriment. We came to do the Sunday ride and I was still packing the tent away and was running late. Steve waited for me to join the group before we started and then got Billy to ride alongside him all the way around. What a day.

Eventually, after much emailing back and forth, Steve said he would come to Cannock and the date was set for November 15th and 'Beat Steve Peat' was born. Steve nominated The Stephen Murray Family Fund as his charity. Stephen is a UK BMX rider who was paralysed in a freak biking accident.

I was nervous about the day and wasn't sure he would come. But he arrived from Sheffield bang on time, with a whole gang of mates including Max, Farmer Jack, Billy Matthews, Josh Lewis, Kevin Radical and Miami himself Josh Bryceland. Each and every one of them paid their entrance for the race and Steve even sponsored Billy $50.

Steve was amazing and took the day seriously putting on a fantastic show for everyone. There was not a moment when he didn't do a photo or autograph when asked. Billy had raised the most sponsorship by far and there was a prize. What people didn't know was that before the day even started Steve came to Billy and gave him a Royal racing jersey signed 'Go Fast Billy, Cheers! Steve Peat'(it's framed an on his bedroom wall). At the end of the day Steve presented Billy with another jersey for getting the top sponsorship. Miami also gave Billy a fully sponsored race jersey. I bought him some WetScreams from Si Paton, what a day he had.

Once all of the presentations were complete and most people had gone, Steve came to me and handed me a plastic wallet with a sponsor form and a load of cash. He had personally raised £600 for Stephen Murray (10% of the total.) So while I was worrying about whether he would come, he was out getting sponsors. He was one of the first to arrive and last to leave. The day will be remembered for a long time and is still talked about.

This is Billy's film of the day:

This is the official 'Beat Steve Peat video:

Got a feeling Billy's going to be up there with the MTB legends in his own right if these skills keep growing. He's 12. I hate him.

So what's your Steve Peat story and nomination? Let me know! (pedalfeet @ live . co . uk, without the spaces)

Billy Netherton at Cannock Chase

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Does Muc-Off have a rival?

I am violently hungover thanks to my non-cyclist friend Siobhan. ('Damn it I've buggered my knee and can't go riding' says me. 'Why don't you ride to the pub and drink with me?' says Siobhan. 'You just don't get it, do you love?' says I.)

Digression. Hangover. Wow. Anyway, this means I have no control over my lazy right eye nor the mental facility to paraphrase this press release other than add in hilarious bits in italics. You are getting it full. maybe I edit it tomorrow. Maybe not. Still, clean your bikes you dirty scoundrels.


Fisher Outdoor Leisure Limited have confirmed rumours that it is working with undercover Agent KaaBoom (Run with it peops, run with it ... )to help clean the streets of dirty bikes. With a killer range of biodegradable cleaning products and degreasers, KaaBoom cleaners blast away dirt, mud, oil and road grime in a flash.

Offering great-value effective cleaning everyday, the KaaBoom range is the serious grime-fighters choice. Leading the cleaning arsenal is a custom-made 1.1Litre trigger spray bottle of bike cleaner - offering 10% more cleaner than rivals (thems fighting words) with every purchase. Concentrated refills offer powerful repeat purchase options, with 200ml and 1.1L concentrates diluting to provide five times their volume in cleaner – saving space and money and leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

For tricky degreasing cases, there’s a 400ml spray with special nozzle to get solution into the tightest spots. Liquid degreaser, which can be applied neat to the area to be cleaned or diluted with water to make an effective soak bath for removed bike parts – is available in 75ml or 1L bottles.

Add a disk brake cleaner and an award winning Chain cleaning machine (which combined with the citrus degreaser, services chains so they’re rid of oil and dirt in seconds) and you begin to understand how KaaBoom is taking the fight to the streets. (make love, not war.)

Prices come in at £6.99 for a 1litre bottle of bike cleaner and £2.99 for a 75ml chain degreaser bottle.

Full details of the KaaBoom range can be found at

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Steve Peat interview!

Steve Peat on the podium in Canberra. Photographer: Kathy Sessler/Santa Cruz Syndicate

I admit it - speaking to Mr Peat floored me. legend. When I looked back at my notepad after 20 minutes, all I had recorded was the word 'fry-up.' Luckily I have a very good memory.

You can read the piece on the Guardian's bike blog here.

Or it's below. Whichever you prefer really. Bosh.

When it comes to the diets of gold medallists, fry ups and beer probably aren't the obvious choices. But Steve Peat, the newly crowned downhill cycling champion of the world, sounds rather put out when I suggest downhillers aren't fit.

"You need to be fit to be a downhiller even though it looks as if you don't do much work. You're pedalling out of corners, pedalling into your line, the terrain is rough, the bikes are heavy so you need to train and be fit definitely. My bike comes in at around 37lbs and that's on the lighter side." Peat is talking about the Santa Cruz V10 which he powered to victory in the downhill world championships in Canberra earlier this month, coming in a screamingly tense 0.05 seconds ahead of his team mate Greg Minnaar.

Aged 35, and with 15 years of racing – including no fewer than four world championship second places – how does it feel to finally have the title under his belt? "I'm still celebrating. It's a race I've never won. I can't describe how it feels, it's amazing. It's definitely a massive relief for me and a huge weight off my shoulders," he says.

There are legends in mountain biking and then there is Steve Peat. After trying his hand at cross-country racing, the Sheffield local switched to downhilling when he realised he was really rather good at it. As well as featuring in the highly acclaimed mountain bike film Seasons, his roster of podium places is impressive: two World Cup wins (a title awarded for a series of races over the course of the year), two European championship titles and seven British championships. But the world championship had remained out of reach, forcing Peat to watch younger riders like Australia's Sam Hill and fellow Brit Gee Atherton claim the glory.

"I don't feel that old," Peat insists. "People say: 'Is this the end, what are you going to do now?' but it's not like that for me. I'm keeping going. I can't see any end. I enjoy racing – it's my life. I love everything about it: dropping into the run, crossing the line and looking at my time, the whole atmosphere, everything. And I train hard. I just try to make it as fun as possible."

Downhill is an electrifying discipline within mountain biking. In Canberra riders were reaching average speeds of more than 31 mph over the entire length of the 1.3 mile course. It took Peat a mere two minutes and 33 seconds to complete his run. Courses are made up of a series of obstacles – tree roots, rock drops, tight, banked corners and very steep sections.

He says: "I think downhill is one of the hardest sports in terms of the mental preparation you need to do. It's you and your bike against the clock and that's a lot of pressure, you have to focus, it's a real test. The sport has changed a lot since I started. Everyone takes it a little more seriously now. It's fractions of a second you can win or lose by: a tree root, anything, can make or break your race so you have to stay focused."

He's certainly had his fair share of disappointing races. In 2005 he crashed out of the world championships in Les Gets with only 200 metres left to go. "But then in that year I also won the Fort William leg of the World Cup and that was probably one of my favourite races to date. I was the last man to race and as I came into the final stretch the crowd went wild – 20,000 people yelling my name. Awesome."

This coming weekend sees the final race in the World Cup calendar in Schladming, Austria. Peat is currently lying in third place and still has gold fever. "If I have a bit of luck on my side and I get it right, then I'm in with a chance of winning that too and to get the double in the same year would be amazing."

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

New Absolut SX from Commencal

Albert at Madison sent this attachment out with the subject heading: 'Discover our new slopestyle bike.'

Don't mind if I do ...

Check it out at

Monday, 14 September 2009

All-abilities day at Ae Forest

Sometimes words fail me (admittedly not often.) And sometimes, editorial decisions seem to me to be slightly suspect.

Here is a blog I did last week for the Guardian's bike blog which never made it onto the site in time and for this I am (breathes deeply) very sorry. It was about the all-abilities day held at Ae forest on Saturday. Had I known it wouldn't be published in time, I would have run it on Friday. Anyway, with a few ammendments it still reads ok. Plus Phil is a legend and is seriously fast.

'It's not a major undertaking,' says Phil Hall with some northern understatement. 'It's just a few tweaks.' The sentence could be applied to both the way he rides his bike and to his dogged campaign to adapt Forestry Commission mountain bike trails so he can use his £6,000 bike - one of only four in the country - on them. Phil runs Rough Riderz, a mountain bike club for wheelchair users which he started in 2007 after breaking his back in a motor bike accident. On Saturday the club joined up with Ae Forest – part of the 7Stanes mountain biking trails in Scotland – to host an all-abilities day, the first of its kind in the country. The aim is two-fold: to improve facilities for disabled riders thus encouraging more into the sport, and to boost investment from vehicle providers.

'We've been working with the Forestry Commission in Scotland and north England for two years and giving them feedback on trails,' says Phil. 'It doesn't usually take much to adapt them. For example step-offs are dangerous and challenging on a four wheel bike because it's much harder for use to lift the front end up. So on the Amoeba trail at Ae Forest, we've just levelled out the run around area past some obstacles – it doesn't really affect the more hardcore riders and in fact makes it more accessible for more nervous mountain bikers in general.
'The worst thing I could do is go to a nice piece of singletrack and change it. That would upset everyone, including me.'

Phil rides a four wheel bike custom-made in Canada by company R-One. It has 20 inch BMX wheels on the front and 26 inch mountain bike wheels on the rear with disc brakes and suspension as per a regular mountain bike. In fact the main difference is a lack of pedals. Riders roll onto the track using manual propulsion – from then on in, it's all about gauging speed and maintaining it as much as possible. This is a difficult skill which if you've ever tried to 'no pedal race' your mates on a track you will appreciate. But if skilled, like Phil, you can find yourself hurtling up to 30 miles and hour primarily fon downhill trails rather than more pedally cross-country routes. The major hurdle for most potential riders is the price – at £6,662 you've got to be pretty dedicated to invest.

'I was a motorbike rider before my accident, I love going fast. I went to the USA and tried the sport of four-cross (not to be confused with 4X racing) there. It's so much more established with disabled riders racing with able-bodied riders. There are very few sports that offer this level of adrenalin and danger to wheelchair users.'
Rough Riderz currently has a membership of 120. Phil's plan is raise enough money to purchase another R-One bike which can then be shared among members through a series of taster days.

Colin Williamson, the main behind the all-abilities day at Ae said: 'We got in touch with a range of vehicle providers for people to test their machines on the day, which ranged from hand cycles to rugged mobility scooters. We know Phil's type of bike is quite rare and very expensive but he is a great inspiration for people to get onto our trails and enjoy our forests.
'We hope vehicle providers can get a sense of the potential demand for their vehicles and it's a chance for us to encourage more disabled riders and to find out what they need from the trails. It certainly hasn't taken much to convert the downhill and green cross country route so far.'

Friday, 11 September 2009

The dilemmas of cycling

Oh sweet lord, what a week! I mean, seriously. First there's the video of me and other Tom (Robbins of the Observer) doing stage six of the Tour of Britain which had most people chanting one of two things: 'Taxi?!' or 'What the freakin hell is wrong with your eyes?'

Then there was Dr Peat's win in Australia, whoop whoop! I managed to pin him down for an interview and was so flabbergastedly (yes that is a word) awestruck that when I looked back at my notepad after 15 minutes, all I had written down was 'fry-up.' Expect a blog next week about Steve Peat's fry-up fetish.

And finally there is the mega massive dilemma which is this weekend. NPS 4X final at Chicksands. 423 DH race at Aston Hill. First cyclocross race of the season in Deal. All on the same day - Sunday. WHICH ONE DO I GO TO?????????????? Damn and blast it. It's now Friday night and two vodkas and ginger ales down I still can't decide.

Cycling is not a hobby. It is life. I get itchy if I don't ride. Maybe a quick blast around Dorking tomorrow will clear my head.

In the meantime I leave you with my new leopard print Converse because my Tom isn't here to give me any of his nice photos. Don't get me started.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Who said there were no hills in Finland?

Finnish national champs go off. Tom broke his hand in two places competing in it. Apparently it was the wet roots that threw him off. Yeah right.
Still. I am unspeakably proud of his new Rock Shox plaster cast ...

Sappee "sm" from Riku Lansio on Vimeo.

Jimbo Phillips vs Bell helmets

Tom and I were talking yesterday about the dire need for a bit of tongue-in-cheek trendiness in mountain biking fashion. Then bosh! What pops into the inbox this morning but just that from the boys at Madison.

Bell helmets have enlisted Californian graphic designer Jimbo Phillips who has been making skateboarding cool for like, ever to deface some of the head gear. And the result is: actually pretty good. That's a quote. From me. But here's a better one from Bell creative Director Eli Atkins: “Jimbo has worked closely with the Bell graphics team for years for years. It’s all been so well received, we worked with Jimbo to do a proper collection for this year.”

The Jimbo Phillips 2010 Collection includes two graphics on the new Sequence helmet, two on the Variant, two on the Faction skate-style lid and one on the Drop full face helmet. Included in the collection are a pair of coordinated graphics—one on the Faction and one on the Drop—that actually create a scene when viewed together.

“Generally, people are drawn to Jimbo’s work,” said Atkins. “But skeletons choking each other might be a little too in-your-face for some, so we had Jimbo do a few of illustrations in a little more abstract and subtle way. On the whole I think there’s something for everyone.”

Including peops who like a bit of funk on their mountain.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Chicksands and a surprising little Norco

So it was a pretty busy weekend all things considered. Tom went off to shoot the Red Bull X Fighters thing which turned out pretty good aparently. And when someone crashes they put big screens up so no one can see the rider being scraped off the floor.

Wish that had been the case at Chicksands on Sunday. We hot footed it up there to do a bike test for the Guardian's podcast and blog, securing a Norco, Commencal, Intense and Santa Cruz. major battle ensued for the Commencal Absolute - freakin lush bike on the 4X course there.

Pedalfeet loving the Norco. Focus.

But biggest surprise was the dainty little Norco Faze 2. Light as a feather but actually a bit of a bitch on the track, although sometimes a bit scary off the big jumps as it felt on landing as if it were going to explode.

The Commencal Meta 4X performed super good on the 4X course but also really nice on the dual slalom DH course and the dirt jumps. Tom took loads of great pictures, Pete from Madison was being super cool (in a very French kind of 'suuuper cooool' way even though he's not French)I caned myself trying to overtake my brother on the inside of the last corner and Stu was just lovin being out on some top quality bikes. Reviews and stuff to follow. Bosh.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Interview with Neven Steinmetz

I pinned down 4X racer and general good time gal Neven Steinmetz for an interview and here is the result. I was going to cut it but then you wouldn't be able to tell what a freakin charasmatic chick she is. How enthusiastic about riding bikes? VERY ...

Yo Neven! How's you're ass?! How did you do it?
Heya Susan! Ya, the broken ass incident. Ughh! I had a big get off on the first straight of the 4x track in Maribor, Slovenia during practice at the World Cup race there. I got a complimentary (well, not really, I got a bill!) trip to the hospital in a sweet ambulance - ok, ok, the ambulance wasn’t that sweet, but the paramedic driving it was HOT! Ha ha! Once I got there they did x-rays and a CT scan of my ass and decided I’d fractured my sacrum. I fainted after insisting that I could manage going to the toilet on my own, and then I started puking - quick way to “get” to spend the night! That was an adventure, for sure! Anyway, when I got back Stateside, my Doc said the sacrum wasn’t fractured, but the tailbone was dislocated! I got that all sorted, and I’m doing much better now.

You've been pretty accident prone recently haven't you? What happened
before 'assgate'?

Ya, last season and this season have seen their fair share of injuries for me. I broke my ankle at our Uni Champs last October, and that took all winter to heal up, unfortunately. Recently, I’ve become fond of hitting my head. HARD. I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s pretty crap for the short term memory!

Do you take injuries in your stride?
Ya, you gotta just role with the flow, I suppose. When the healthy time is few and far between the injuries, it starts getting old, but hopefully I’ve gotten all the big ones out of my system for the next couple of years! Sitting on the sidelines reminds you of why you LOVE riding, though, so getting back on the bike is always pretty great!

So. Honestly. What's the life like as a pro mountain biker? Best part?

The places I’ve gotten to travel to and the people I’ve met along the way are the best part.

Worst part?
Being POOR and getting injured!

Do you prefer DH or 4X?
I prefer 4X. I love the challenge of the jumps and turns as well as racing against three other people while trying to put the perfect run together! I love DH, too, but it’s a whole different game. You’ve got to be “on it”, straight pinned and flat out for much longer.

Do you like competing or is it kinda essential as a pro as a way of keeping
your profile up?

Oh, I think everyone who races would tell you that they love competing; otherwise you’d just ride. To be honest you get way more riding time in during a weekend of riding than you do racing, so yes, I’d have to say I LOVE competing!

In Morzine you, Jo and Fionn all hung out together. Don't you find it hard
being mates with people you then compete against?

I guess sometimes it’s hard to make the distinction between being friends and putting the racing game face on, but I think we all just know it’s worth it! Some of my best friends are the girls that I race against almost every weekend. There aren’t that many girls who understand why you would give up almost everything to ride and race your bikes all over the world, so we gotta stick togehter!.

What's the women's scene like?
Ah, the women’s race scene. Well, I’d love to say that it’s drama-free, but it’s not. When you put that many Type A personalities (generally, haha) and highly competitive people together, people will inevitably not get along. There are all kinds of personalities on the circuit, and for the most part, I think that everyone gets along fairly well, and if not, they’re all civil, because like I said, there aren’t that many girls who do it, and we all have to be around each other every weekend.

Can you describe your bikes for us?

I ride for a cool company called Ellsworth, and I have three of their bikes for racing and an XC bike for training. My three race bikes are all PINK, part of their Project Pink program, one of the socially responsible projects they have at Ellsworth. For every pink bike that is sold, they donate $50 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I’ve been really excited to be a part of the Project Pink program this year, and the bikes have been super popular all summer. They are amazing bikes to ride and are very beautiful.

Do they have names?
Yes, they all have names! The Dare (DH bike) is called Hubba Bubba. The Moment (4x full suspension) is called The Pink Panther. The most special of all to me, though, is the Specialist (4x hardtail), and it’s called Pauline. My Grandmother, who is a breast cancer survivor, is called Pauline, and Ellsworth decided to have her name anodized on my frame for me. It gave me chills when I pulled it out of the box!! Have I mentioned what an amazing company they are??

Are you in college? Do you think you'll always be involved with bikes?
Yes, I’m still at Uni working on my PhD in Tissue Engineering (NOT blow your nose type tissues!) I am doing research to try and regenerate cartilage and bone from stem cells that come out of bone marrow. I took the whole summer off from school to race, which has been awesome!

Ya, I will always be involved with bikes. I met a guy called Don, who was 69 at the time, whilst cycle touring in New Zealand, and he instantly became one of my heroes! To be that age and still loving riding bikes is awesome. I can only aspire to still love riding that much when I’m that old!

Favourite tune for riding to
No fav tune, just some mixes by one of my friends who spins some sweet techn - DJ EntropEE!

Now. You have a pink bike. Do you worry that's too girly for a DHer?! ha ha.
You know, at first I was a little nervous about having pink bikes, because I’m more of a red sort of girl, but the bikes are beautiful, and it’s an honour to ride them, plus being a little girly in a male dominated sport isn’t so bad sometimes!

What scares you most?
Snakes, full stop.

When was the last time you thought: 'Jesus wept, are you having a laugh?'!
Can’t say that I’ve thought that specific line before, but I’d have to say, thinking about it, that pretty much describes a lot of laughs that I’ve had. Is that bad?

Ok, final question and it's my favourite. Can you tell me a story? Can be any length and about anything.

K, here’s my story titled: “PT Cruisers and the Guys at One of the Small Border Crossings from Canada into Vermont, USA SUCK!!!”

This is the third time that I've gotten stuck with a PT cruiser for my race rental vehicle. I hate them! This time it was extra sucky! We came back from practice on Friday and realized we had a flat tyre. Booo. It was just an inconvenience that I didn't want to deal with. Well, we got on getting the spare put on. Melissa was working on getting the lug nuts off, and suddenly one of them sheared off (I mean she’s strong, but COME ON, that’s not normal!) Ugghhh. Someone had cross threaded it. At this point, some photog guy must have decided that we needed help, so he came over and finished off putting the spare on for us. He proceeded to shear off another lug nut, so at that point, we only had three left. Luckily, they were in a triangle pattern, so safer than all next to each other I guess.

Well, I spent a long time on Saturday morning trying to get Thrifty in Canada to give us a different car and or get the situation fixed for us. They were of no help. All of the garages around were only open until noon on Saturday, but as it turns out, it didn't matter, as the parts that we needed were only available from a dealer which are not open on Saturdays. Luckily, our friend that we were staying with fixed the flat for us, and we left the switching back process until Sunday morning.

Sunday morning comes along, and we're all super hung over from the after race party and certainly not looking forward to putting the newly repaired tyre back on. Luckily, our friends had another house guest, Sam, who was super psyched to help out. Sam took charge of getting the situation sorted. Well, turns out whoever the idiot was that put those wheels on before us had cross threaded most of the lug nuts. Sam sheared off another. Now we were down to 40% of them left. Not okay. Luckily (AGAIN) our friend Gab has a full on garage lift at their house. I came out of the house from getting packed and they had the whole PT Piece of Shit Cruiser up on the lift with the two front wheels completely dismantled. They were "borrowing" a stem/lug nut combo from the other wheel for the janky one. Well, lucky for us they're so car savvy, and they got it all sorted and we were on our way to Burlington, VT for our flight, fully prepared to have it out with Thrifty once we got there.

Unfortunately, we had a bit of an epic journey back to the States! When we got to the border crossing, they decided to harass the hell out of us and keep us there for 45 minutes asking all sorts of questions about what we were doing in Canada, how we were funding the trip, what we had to declare, etc... the ONLY things we had to declare were two chocolate bars that Melissa had bought, so we thought it was pretty strange that they were bugging us so much. They spent 15 minutes searching the car and then came in and asked loads of questions about what had happened to the car...the whole sheared off lug nuts/wheel problem.

I explained the whole situation to them and then they continued asking questions about whether the spare had been out of our possession, where we had gotten it fixed, etc. In fact, they asked the same questions several times (a little slow on the uptake, I guess!). In the end, they finally let us go after giving us a lecture about it being unsafe to drive like that. Thanks, we already know that! ha In the end we got to the airport pretty late, but our flights were delayed anyway, so it was ok!

We couldn't figure out why they were bothering us so much, but after we left we decided that they must have thought we were trying to smuggle drugs across the border. Idiots! Wouldn't they figure that if we were going to try and do that we wouldn't rock up with missing lug nuts, no hub cap on the wheel, a spare tyre that was a bit dangly, and me with a lost driver's license?!?