Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Did I mention, it was HOT!

Big thanks goes to Stuart for the CCC2CC training ride write up!

So, Gaz, Alex and myself tackled the W2 route at Afan Argoed. We arranged to meet at the Afan trail centre, which would mean we could have lunch midway, at the Glyncorwyg trail centre (with the better cafe).

For me, this was the first time out on "proper" off-road trails for the best part of 18 months. I'd been ill last year, but to be honest, this was no excuse really, I'd just prefered to ride on the road. I'd rebuilt the NRS for the CCC2CC ride, fitting more robust components, meaning it now weighs in at 24lbs. I'd been getting used to the MTB riding position by comuting on the XTC, taking in a few off-road short-cuts.

So with everything prepared, we set off... 

Now, as I said, I'd not ridden at Afan for quite a while. There were a few additional "novice" detours along the side of the trail, which just had to be explored and ridden. Nothing too difficult, although the dry, dusty gravel on some of the sections had to be treated with respect. 

We followed the trail to the start of the climb of the Wall trail, the start of the W2 route. The first section is fire-road so we rode up this at a fairly quick pace (6mph). By the time we got to the top of the Wall trail and the link to the W2/White's Level route, we had averaged just under 8mph. Not bad going considering the conditions, which were hot. Very hot. 

Due to building work and repairs to the trails, we missed the turn down to the cafe at Glyncorwyg. We ended up doing an extra 2.5 mile route and heading down towards the cafe on the fire roads. We found the trail eventually and headed to the cafe for a well earned lunch. 
During lunch, I had a large coffee and also a can of diet coke, worried that I may dehydrate during the afternoon's ride. The weather was getting hotter. Gaz and Alex also restocked their fluids. 

Also during the lunch break, I took the opportunity to adjust my saddle angle. The KCNC seat-post I had fitted is light, but can't take the abuse of serious trail riding (probably due to my weight as well). After sorting my seat-post out, we set off back out on the trail, occasionally being re-routed due to trail work. 
The frustrating thing was that when we got to where we should have turned off originally, we realised that we'd have to do two very steep climbs again. At the top of these, I stopped to admire the view (Okay, so I had to wait for the other two, but its probably inappropriate to say that...). 
If I squeezed my mits, the sweat would literally drip out of them! It was seriously hot.

We continued onwards and upwards and occasionally downwards. Unfortunately, we took another wrong turn once we'd crossed the W2 high-level link and ended up doing another loop and another steep climb. These climbs were starting to take it out of me.
We finally found the correct trail and continued to hit the downward sections of the Wall trail. By this time, I had run out of energy drink in my Camelbak - I'd taken 3 litres with me.

It was during one of these sections that catastrophe happened..

From what we could figure out, Alex managed to hit his pedal on a sawn off tree stump and crashed pretty badly. By the time I arrived on the scene (I don't ride down-hill very quickly), Gaz was sorting out his First-Aid kit to patch Alex up. 
Both of his knees had taken the impact, the right one needing hospital treatment and stitches. 

With Alex patched up as best as could be done under the circumstances, we continued down the trail, very carefully, only to stop after a few yards after it became apparent that Alex's front brake had broken. 
We walked the rest of that trail section at a pace Alex could manage, until we came to Bryn Betts Lodge. We left Alex there and headed off quickly and carefully back down the trails, to join the fire-road trail back to the car park. 
Gaz then went off to collect Alex from Bryn Bettw Lodge and take him to Bridgend hospital. 

In total we had ridden/walked 37.2 miles in just under 5 hours, climbed 3,800ft, averaging 7.6 mph. Pretty much what we anticipate the daily rides will be during the CCC2CC ride.

We learned a few valuable lessons during this ride: 

1. Take plenty of fluids. Okay, granted it was a very warm day, I got through 3 litres of energy drink, a large latte and a can of diet coke. I’d run out of drink 5 miles from the end of the ride!

2. First Aid! Thankfully Gaz had a first aid kit with him. We'll all be carrying them during the CCC2CC ride. 

3. Knee pads – I think these may be essential gear. 

4. Get used to riding with your back pack. 

5. Test your bike out – I had a couple of technical issues which were preventable – ghost shifting, need to lengthen the cable between the seat tube and seat stay and my seatpost won’t take the abuse of off-road riding, leaving my saddle tipped up and me with a bad back. 

Despite all of the issues that happened on the ride, it was a very enjoyable day. Further training rides have been planned and I'll be doing a lot more training on the NRS!

Monday, 29 July 2013

You are the Wind Beneath my Wheels

The Crudcatcher Coast to Coast challenge received a major boost today with a generous donation of equipment from MTB North Wales.


The guys at MTB North Wales contacted us following a post on our Twitter feed asking for help and contributions to the logistical side of the challenge and were keen to find out how they could help. Once they were aware of the sort of items that we were short of for the ride they suggested that they could provide us with a quick inflation pump and C02 canisters to carry in our trail pack, meaning that any punctures we suffer can be dealt with much faster.


One of the problems we have found whilst training is that a lot of time can be lost with mechanical issues especially given the number of us riding, the potential for problems is much increased and can really impact on our progress.  Punctures are a major source of disruption as they are easy to pick up and quite fiddly and time consuming to put right, especially with the tight fit of modern tubeless bike tyres and with small trail pumps. The C02 inflators will allow a much quicker turn around in repair time and help us to complete each day.


The team at MTB North Wales were aware of the sorts of terrain we would be coming up against as they are the "go to guys" for all things about riding in North Wales and Snowdonia.  They are the official mountain biking organisation of North Wales and work in partnership with Snowdonia National Park to promote respectful  mountain biking in the area.  Their page on Facebook, is a font of knowledge and posts from bikers in the area and look out for their tweets on @mtbnorthwales carrying the hashtag #MTBRespect.


As a mark of our respect for their kind donation, we will be carrying their logo on our vests and bikes, so people are aware of the contribution they have made to help us in our challenge, not only to ride from coast to coast across Wales, but to raise much needed money for Cancer Research UK.


There is still an opportunity to help us, we are desperately in need of the following items

Small bike parts such as cables and chain links

Energy gels/drinks and recovery products

Bottled water

High energy trail food such as cakes/chocolate/flapjacks

Local and National media coverage

If you think you can help with any of these, or know anyone that may be able to, please drop us an email at and help us to make a difference to the fight against cancer.


Once again, a massive thank you to the guys at MTB North Wales for all their help and support, its much appreciated by all of us.  

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Mynd over Matter

6 am and the alarm is chiming, sunlight streaming through the curtains making it even harder to open my eyes.  I hadn't finished work until gone midnight the night before and today was my only day off that week.  My girlfriend had just broken up from work for 6 weeks, the sun was shining and our new puppy was bounding around the kitchen, his big eyes looking at me, begging to go walkies,  I could quite easily have crawled back into bed and had a lie in like most normal people but preparing for a challenge like ours means sometimes you have to dig deep and push yourself when it seems that bit too tough. Besides, how could I back out of today, I had Ben relying on me for a lift and I had arranged for our contact from our mapping sponsors, ViewRanger,  to come and join us and see how tough the challenge really was and he was driving from Sussex up to Shropshire.


An hour later and I'm loading Ben into the car and we make the first important decision of the day.....breakfast. You can't ride 35 miles in a day on an empty stomach so a good base is needed to see you through and bacon must be a part of that. We decided not to eat too early and not just before the ride, so from looking at the map, Leominster seemed like a good location to stop off to fuel up, especially as I knew there was an American Style diner there.  Two hours into our day we were getting the first reward for dragging ourselves out of bed and our plates of eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes and syrup were placed in front of us, we knew it was going to be a good day.


We finished up and got back on the road and an hour later we arrived at Church Stretton and unloaded the car. One by one the others started at arrive, some delayed a little by an accident on the a5 but all made it safely and myself (Gaz), Ben E, Nick, Richie, Mark, Ste, Tom were soon briefing Ben Howard from ViewRanger as to what to expect. This was going to be one of our bigger group training rides and a perfect opportunity to assess how out individual training had left us in comparison to the others and the route we had chosen would be a great reflection of the kind of riding we would be doing in September.  It had a bit of everything in it, natural tracks, road sections, climbs, descents, mountain bike trails, fire roads, all the kind of terrain we would encounter every single day of the Crudcatcher Challenge.

No sooner had we got into the swing of things, I heard an "oh bugger" from Tom, he knew exactly which way we were going, haven ridden at the Long Mynd before. The first climb is a long, steep, on road climb that in 25 degree heat soon warms you up  but we stayed  together fairly well, some warming up a bit better than the others but we progressed at a decent pace, pausing to regroup now and again. on the top we hit our first bit of off road trail, dry and loose, we kicked up quite the dust storm as we thundered down it before turning off to the right onto a steep downhill road, by the bottom, the burning smell of brake pads lingered in the air, Tom's actually visibly smoking.

Descent soon turned into climb again as we ventured through farmland and up a rocky, technical climb heading  around Golden Valley , past a farm with a disused Army tank and towards the Stiperstones Country park .  The track evened off again for a while and we picked up the pace on a stony piece of trail, but this led to our first mechanical fail of the day as Ben E picked up a pinch puncture on a rock, whilst Richie did his best to lose his glasses after coming face to face with a bumblebee. Ben H was starting to feel the burn at this point too, it's not easy to come in to a group with a lot less training and long rides under your belt, so whilst he was keeping up with us, he was also needing to rest up for longer too and matters weren't helped when a final push of the legs up a gravelly hill track saw his chain snap. As we stopped to fashion a repair and take on some food, we checked our progress, 3 hours in and less than an hour and a half of actual riding time done, stoppages were taking their toll on the day so we would need to start pressing on.


Once we were going again we were greeted by another ascent, this time, grassy and potholed, making it hard to keep momentum, but with the Stiperstones looking down from the distance, we spun our legs and kept climbing. We were soon rewarded with a fun rocky descent followed by a quick section of road towards the mountain bike trails at Eastridge Woods.

One by one, we arrived at the car park at the start of the trails but after a while realised that there was no sign of Nick or the two Bens. This became a few minutes, which was concerning so a couple of us decided to head back to see where they were but just as we were about to go, Nick arrived with the two Bens behind. It transpired that Ben H had not seen a low hanging branch on the fast road descent, which had struck him a glancing blow, knocking him off balance and causing him to go straight on at a bend at some speed, straight over a fence and head first into a field.  Ben H was clearly shaken up by this so we gave him a while to compose himself and check that he was ok before we tackled the trails at Eastridge.

Eastridge is known for its gnarly and narrow riding and was a first for all of us so we were pleasantly surprised by the technical nature of the trail which made us really concentrate on getting our line and weight on the bike right in order to stay upright. Narrow and twisty tree-lined corridors of track rose and fell before us, each rooty descent being met by a snaking steep burst of climb. It wasn't long before the toughness of the trail hit Ben H, who was feeling the effects of his fall and was struggling with swelling and cramp at the back of the group, he soldiered on bravely but was needing to stop and recover quite regularly so we stopped and took stock of the situation.

With the route we had planned we would never have nursed an ailing Ben H around before darkness, and none of us fancied being stuck out on a big hill in the pitch black, so we decided that the quicker riders of the group would finish off the Eastridge trails, whilst the rest of us would head down the fire roads  and wait at the bottom for them, to give Ben a decent breather and to plot an easier route back.  Back at the bottom we broke out the old fashioned OS map and found, not only had we ridden off the edge of it, but we were at about the furthest point we could have been from the car park and there was no easy way back we would either have to go straight back over the Long Mynd, or ride considerably further to go around it. 

Deciding it was best for the group to wait at the crossroads in Habberley, I headed back up to the trail centre car park to wait for Richie, Tom and Mark. Being trail whippets, they soon arrived, faces beaming following a fun blast of riding and we headed back down the road to the village. Near to where I had left the rest of them a large dust cloud erupted and as I neared I saw two figures tangled on the floor. They had caught sight of the group at the last minute and Tom had not been able to stop as quick as Richie, careering into the back of him and knocking them both to the ground. They were both fine, both sporting nothing worse a couple of grazes and a look of embarrassment on their faces. We decided the best way back would be to follow the roads that ran alongside the way we had came, some tough climbs, but the terrain would be easier on Ben H's now quite swollen legs. He pressed on admirably and within an hour or so, we had spun our way back to the top of the Long Mynd, the finish and the chip shop in sight.

 The only decision left to make was which way to get back down, we could ride down the single track road we had rode up, but that would be dangerous in itself riding at speed against oncoming traffic, or we could head straight down Carding Mill Valley which has been a graveyard for many a wheel and inner tube over the years. In the end we plumped for the steep and stony track down Carding Mill and as we picked our way down,  bouncing rocks around like marbles in a playground and hopping water courses we soon knew this had been the right decision, even one last puncture for the day for Richie didn't take the smile off our faces.  By the time we hit the chippy in Church Stretton, we had still racked up around 30 miles.

On looking back, we took a lot out of this ride, probably more than if it had gone smoothly, it had tested our ability to deal with unforeseen circumstances and sort them out efficiently. We had worked as a team and there had been no issues making tough decisions. It was clear that all of us doing the challenge itself were all within the same ball park fitness wise, but above all, we had fun in each other's company. September will see some long day's riding for us all so the feeling of camaraderie that ran through the group gave me the biggest smile of the day, as I know, however tough the challenge is and whatever it throws at us, we will face it head on, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a pained grimace, but all the time knowing we are all there for each other, willing each other on with a comment, a joke, a hug or even a nod, very much in the way Cancer Research UK are there for those people suffering the toughest challenge of their life.

 So please, be part of the team, for us and Cancer Research UK and go and visit our fundraising page and pop a couple of quid in the kitty. You may not be riding with us, but every donation we receive gives all of us that drive to push a little harder or keep turning the legs when we think we have no more to give as it allows us to support those undergoing Cancer treatment and hopefully give them that bit of help that they need to keep pushing too.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Helping to Lead the Way

230 miles is a long way and a lot or Ordnance survey maps to carry, so how were we planning on making sure we don't get lost in September. Fortunately for us, help was at hand when Cambridge based technology stepped in to become our first corporate sponsor and offered us free GPS software for smartphones and ordnance survey mapping for the whole of Wales. 

The software they have donated will help us to pinpoint our exact location at all times whilst guiding us along the preloaded route in very much the same way a sat nav would work in your car. At the same time we can use the Viewranger app to log data such as our distance travelled and speed which will give us useful and interesting data to reflect on after a hard days riding.

ViewRanger is used by over 100 search and rescue teams across Europe and North America and over 85% of Search and rescue teams across the UK and Ireland use ViewRanger, so it really is top notch software, which should keep us pointing in the right direction at all times.

The team at Viewranger have been so keen to help us get to grips with how to use the software, and App Marketing and Sales manager has even offered to come out on one of our training rides to meet the team and show us all the tricks of the gadget. They have been very supportive too by assisting us with webtools to display the route on this website and a write up on their own blog to maximise the coverage the Crudcatcher Coast to Coast Challenge gets in order to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research UK. 

The app itself is free to download using your phone's app service, but more detailed maps such as the ones provided by Viewranger to the challenge, cost extra. For more details about Viewranger go to

To donate to the Crudcatcher Challenge please use the links on this website and go to our just giving page where we would be most grateful for your contribution to help fight cancer.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Push Home Starts Here.

Not literally pushing, well we hope not anyway, but there's two and a half months left until our challenge begins so this is where the real hard work begins.

The website may have been quiet for a while, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy behind the scenes with training, planning and gathering support for the event. All this backroom activity has left us ready to really push on now and spread the word of The Crudcatcher Coast to Coast Challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK.

So how are we pushing on? Well for a start, we are now upping our training in order to be at the peak of physical fitness come September and some of the training rides have left us under no illusions how hard a challenge this will be, however experienced on the bike we are. We have a large group ride planned in a couple of weeks time over the full distance and climb of an average challenge day as well as our own individual training.

We are also pushing forward with our support but this is where we need your help. We really need our supporters to spread the word via social media and mouth. We can be followed on Twitter on @crudcatcherc2cc or using #cc2cc, or follow us on facebook at We have already seen how this helps with new followers who have heard about us from new followers, and donations from those followers to help us raise that all-important money for Cancer Research UK.

 So expect new blogs and new news as it happens, because for the next couple of months we want everyone talking about the Crudcatcher Coast to Coast Challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK. 

Thank You