Friday, 20 September 2013

The day gets nearer!!

With just a few days left to go before we embark on our epic challenge, we thought it would be a great idea to pull together our training and preparation efforts over the last few weeks and months and what the ride means to us. Doing any form of distance cycling is difficult, but doing long distances over several days, or even a full week, is even harder and is not something many can just walk into. We've pushed ourselves to get fitter, get used to the conditions and mileage we'll be riding and having fun along the way too! Along with the training there was always going to be the matter of the equipment we'd be using, and how best to adapt our steeds to the rough and challenging terrain we will be encountering. Above all else though we are all doing the ride in Aid of Cancer Research UK, but there are many reasons, differing between each member of the group, as to how and why our humble little group assembled to do this fantastic challenge. Here's a few of our stories from our training and how we came to be where we are now!


My training started rather late on in the summer. Commitments to university assignments meant very little riding over the end spring as we headed into summer. Once the riding commenced, it turns out we actually had a decent summer and there were rides aplenty. Before University I rode at least twice a week and considered myself pretty fit; I could cover long distances without too much trouble or go for a quick blast and have fun. However the sheer workload and lifestyle that goes with University had a big impact on my fitness. Despite having incredible welsh trails such as Nant Y Arian and Coed Y Brenin on my doorstep, my riding plummeted and with it a lot of my confidence and fitness. After my dad was diagnosed with Cancer last summer, I strived to get fitter and follow his example; nothing should stop you from enjoying yourself or achieving your goals. I started to ride more again and with it came back my fitness and my confidence to push hard on the trails. Once I'd signed onto the challenge, this became even more important, as even at my fittest, this was not going to be a walk in the park. After a weekend in Betws Y Coed riding Coed Y Brenin and an uplift at Antor Stiniog with a few of the others on the challenge, I really started to pick up the pace with my riding and training.

My local trails are not the gnarliest by any stretch, or the steepest, but they are still demanding on fitness and technical skills. It's an almost ideal playground to get the miles in, and it's quite easy to cover 30 miles in a little over 3 hours. I recently did a week of pretty intense training, attempting to replicate the sort of mileage we'll be covering on the challenge. A weekends riding Cannock Chase's Monkey Trail and some of the off-piste trails with Mark was great, being a similar fitness and technical riding level we know when we can push each other and when to slow the pace if need be, but that's a rare occurrence! I spent the following week riding my local trails at a steady pace, with a few sections allowing myself  to let it rip, the lure of chasing a KoM on Strava is often to strong to ignore! Alas the week didn't turn out quite as planned, the mileage wasn't as high as I'd hoped over the week, but it was still a great workout and I now feel pretty comfortable. Whether I feel this way on the challenge is another story all together!

One thing I can feel comfortable on is my bike. I've had my Ibis Mojo HD for just over 2 years, and it's without doubt a brilliant bit of kit, that is equally happy slogging up steep climbs as it shredding it down the trails. The only modifications I've made for the challenge are adding a double chainset and the associated parts. I'm an avid single ring, 1x10 rider, preferring to stick with a rear shifter and leave the front alone, having no bailout gear leaves you no alternative but to push it harder! In view of the literal mountain of climbing we'll be doing, a smaller gear will allow to spin the legs and cruise to the top (well in theory!!).  Now the start of the ride is so close I cannot wait to get started!



Being more of a gravity rider (read: lazy), I initially found it difficult to get out and find some hills to climb.
I can usually be found pushing my 38lb freeride bike up a hill or riding uplift bus, so it was always going to be a bit of a challenge for me to get into the cross-country groove.However, with this being for such a great cause and with all the support and donations we've had, it’s been really easy to get focused.

I had started out on a lovely 853 steel Merlin Rock Lobster hardtail, but as I was racking up the miles it was soon clear that the frame was slightly too small and it would be murder on my sensitive bits over such a long distance. I had a lucky break on a forum and picked up a hardly used 2008 Specialized Epic full suspension frame for a bargain price. Since swapping out the frames, training has been much easier and more enjoyable. I've been riding trail centres, but also found some good long routes from home that take I some pretty decent climbs so hopefully I've done enough to prepare myself.

Climbs are going to be the most difficult thing for me and I’m probably the slowest climber out of the group, but hopefully I can just keep the cranks spinning and the speed constant. Either that or I’ll be hanging on to the back of Stu’s trail pack! Day 4 has around 2200ft of climbing, so I’m for some amazing views to keep me occupied.

I’ve suffered with slow recovery after long rides, but recently I’ve changed my diet and added a recovery supplement and it definitely seems to have helped. I’ve packed a huge tube of deep heat so I’ll be stinking out the hostel every night doing my best to keep feeling fresh.

I think we have a great group of people involved in the ride, so I’m sure we’ll spur each other on when the going gets tough.



Every time one of those charity fundraisers tries to stop me in the street, I smile and mutter a ‘No thanks,’ as I keep on walking. I can’t help but ponder what goes through people’s minds as they happily hand over their bank details and send their £3 a month to support a good cause and have nothing to show for it apart from a mention on the bank statement.

I remember that day the topic appeared on Bikeradar. I instantly wanted to reply but had to think about it, was this something I could really do? It didn't take long for me to decide. Which leads us to the here and now.

I knew that for me to do this and come out the other side it would take a change in lifestyle. I couldn't do it just on the brief time I escaped work each week to get out for a ride. I joined a gym. I commuted the brief six mile round trip to work (until I apparently broke a rib or two playing rounders at a work sports day.)

Do I feel ready? No, I'm bricking it. That is what makes it so exciting. Do I think I can complete the challenge that lays before us? Hopefully. That’s what makes this so important. We are just ordinary people, with ordinary lives. We have things that get in the way, not enough time in the day. As I always say, nothing’s ever fun if it’s easy.



After agreeing to take part in the CC2CC, I realised that I didn’t have the correct bike to undertake this mammoth ride. Yes, I own three mountain bikes, but neither of them, in their current build would have been suitable.

First there is my 2004 Coiler Dee-Lux. This was my first full suspension bike. Very sturdy, but also quite heavy. No matter what I’d adjusted, changed or moved, I’m yet to find a riding position that’s comfortable to ride all day on this bike. I’d rebuilt it as a sort of race bike last year, but it would still be too heavy to ride for 40 miles each day.

Then there’s my 2004 Giant XTC. My original XC race bike. Rebuilt from ‘spare’ parts a couple of years ago, it now acts as my 2nd commuter bike, shod with slick tyres. Not sure if my “gentleman’s area” would cope with riding a hard tail MTB for 40 miles of off-road each day. Also, not sure the very old skool RockShox Sid forks would take that sort of abuse.

And finally there’s my 2000 Giant NRS/XTC. This was a ‘no expense spared’ to make as light as possible build. Every nut/bolt/screw has been replaced by either alloy (for non load bearing) or titanium (for load bearing). Most of the parts were sourced from KCNC with weight saving being the main focus. In its final build, it weighed 20.1LBS. Which, for a 27spd, disk braked, full suspension bike was quite impressive. However, this bike was not built for the rigours of the CCC2CC. Light? Yes, very. Robust? Not really.

So, what to do? I had 3 mountain bikes, but neither was suitable. My good lady wife would have buried me under the patio if I’d purchased yet another bike (My N+1 currently equals 8 me also having a road bike a TT bike a CX bike and a BMX). So, I decided to build just the one bike, using the most appropriate parts off all three:

From the Coiler – I took the wheels. Mavic X319’s on Hope Pro II Hubs. Built to be strong and reliable.

From the XTC – I took the drive-train - crankset, front and rear mechs, all Shimano XT. Very reliable, spares readily available and easy to service.

From the NRS – I took basically everything else – the frame, brakes and cockpit.
In June, I started to put the bike together and everything was completed for the first training ride at Afan in July (see earlier blog “Did I say it was hot…”). The bike weighed in at a shade over 24 LBS. Not too heavy, but also not too light and more importantly, not too fragile.

Although the NRS coped reasonably well with the Afan trails, I’ve had to change a few of things:
The KCNC seat-post, whilst extraordinarily light, didn’t hold my saddle in place, which is sort of what it’s supposed to do (note the angle in the picture above).  Granted, its okay for lighter XC type riding – which is what it’s designed for, just not hard-core trail bashing. This has now been replaced with a much sturdier one from Superstar Components.

I’ve also replaced the uber-lightweight KCNC seat-post clamp with a Hope quick release one. You never know, I may need to lower my saddle at some stage.

I had installed the Alligator I-Link gear cables onto the NRS. Again, very light, but in an effort to reduce weight, I’d made the joint between the frame triangle and rear stay too short. This created a fair amount of “ghost shifting” when the suspension moved. So, I ordered a new liner and cable (they are specific to this set-up) and made the joining piece about an inch longer. This has alleviated the problem. I’ll ensure that I’m carrying a couple of spare cables in my back-pack during the ride as ‘normal’ cables don’t fit.

And finally, I’ve added the carbon bottle cage I won in a competition from Matrix Cycles. This is one seriously light piece of kit (I’ve done sneezes that weighted more…). Having run out of energy drink during the Afan training ride, I realised that I may have to have a back-up. As a Type 1 Diabetic, I need to keep my sugar levels topped up during any riding that I do. This is done through the energy drink I consume. For the CC2CC I’ll have a drinks bottle with a very high sugar content drink in this cage as my emergency back-up.

As for lights, (just in case we’re delayed out on the trails) I’ll be using my Lezyne Micro Drives. These are my commuter lights. They’re reasonably light, very bright and can be recharged from a USB socket.

I’m still undecided as to which tyres to fit for the actual ride. I’m currently using Maxxis High Rollers. These are okay on the current dry and dusty trails, but I’m considering switching back to Panracer XC Fire Pros. I’ve ridden and raced these over the years and they’re quite predictable in all conditions except gloopy mud. I think this decision will be made closer to the ride, when we have an idea of what the weather will be doing. I’m sure there will be a few other changes prior to the Challenge. Again, depending on what the weather has been doing prior to setting off from Llandudno, I may fit mud-guards. I’m considering changing the bar-ends for the ones of the XTC, which are a bit more comfortable. The more I ride the bike, the more I have an idea as to which components will work better for the Challenge. 


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