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: http://www.pinkbike.com/video/48464/

This is the official 'Beat Steve Peat video: http://www.pinkbike.com/video/48039/

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 www.kaa-boom.co.uk

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 commencal.com

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.