Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Olympic Park Riding

You might remember before my summer went a bit wrong I went and checked out the 2012 Olympic mountain bike track. Well, never one to miss out on a theme, I decided it was now time to look at the trails built in the Olympic Park as well.

These were nothing to do with the actual event, but were built after 2012 to replace the Eastway which used to sit on the site of the Olympics and offered urban mountain biking in East London. The trails sit in the shadow of the spectacular Velodrome, next to the BMX track and with the hockey and tennis centre on the other side. This is a weird and unusual mix of the sports I play in one place with the view into the hockey arena from the top of the rises.

So, what is it like to ride there? Well practically it’s one of the few mountain biking spots within real riding distance of my home, with the journey there a not-unpleasant cruise down the Lea towpath avoiding walkers and joggers. This is very much in its favour and means the £5 charge to ride seems worthwhile. Paying is a pleasant experience in the velodrome, with bike racks provided and the route into the trails is a celebration of cycling as part of the Olympic legacy.

The trails themselves are very reminiscent of the Eastway. It’s very much a brownfield set up with tight trails made more technical with what can only be described as embedded rubble. The blue trails are smooth and unchallenging and link the more technical stuff. Moving up to red the trails are reasonably flowing with smooth lightly bermed corners and rolling bumps that challenge you to pump through. To an extent these are the best of what’s there if you want some fast-moving fun. They are tight and narrow and make good use of the limited space. It’s this theme that takes the level up to black with tighter turns, and rougher rubble rock gardens. Early on the blacks offer genuinely sharp turns to negotiate on climbs and rumble-strip rocks. Later in the journey they add in some pretty testing drops onto uneven surfaces.

In one case at least this offered a rough and repeated challenge that I decided to leave for another day. The harsh urban landscape makes getting things wrong a scary proposition and, while the individual challenges in themselves aren’t too big, the tight combination of them is where the trails make their real mark.

So in summary the trails make the most of what’s there and are interesting and fun to ride. They mimic the Eastway trails that were there before in that way. The easiest comparison would be to the Redbridge trails that offered a semi-temporary replacement in the interim. They cost the same and are built for a similar reasons but the difference is marked. Redbridge is wider, more open and includes some jumps and big turns, but only really on half of the space that could be used. The Olympic Park trails are more cross country styled and perhaps more engaging, technical and hard to ride. I think together they offer a good selection of some urban riding in North and East London. They’ll never compete with the trail centres in areas with actual hills and trees but for a quick fix in the city they offer a chance to ride and to hone some skills.


Monday, 7 December 2015

Getting Back to Normal

I realise that I have somewhat neglected you in the last few months and left you wondering, I imagine, what became of my recovery?

Well, I’m pleased to say it continued. Gradually I’ve been working back to something like normal, and despite all the other exciting news in the world of cycling I’m going to talk all about me for a bit, in a nice little multimedia post.

Let’s start with this. This was me.

Anyway, a while after that the recovery was on. I talked about the first ride, and I ramped it up from there still hoping to be able to put a bag on and to ride BPW in mid-November.

I headed to Swinley:

And that went OK. I was reasonably fast and solid so I backed it up with a Hertfordshire ride to get some distance in.

Starting to build some fitness I was also back on the bike to work every day, with my new courier bag, and even surviving a minor fall on a painted access ramp. The target day was approaching and I was in two minds about it if I’m honest. However…

I did it.

It poured with rain and was decidedly chilly, and I barely saw my friends who were on the uplift there on the same day, but I rode four loops and acquitted myself reasonably well. I persuaded a BPW virgin to join me and he enjoyed the experience as well. It was a great feeling to be back on the bike properly. Buoyed by the success I stretched my tired shoulder muscles on the following day on the Cafall trail at Cwm Carn:

I also took advantage of the marginally better weather to get some film to prove it, as well as surviving a little off. I found a new programme to combine the video and GPS data so expect a lot more of this sort of thing…

Since then there has been more commuting, other stuff to keep me off the mountain bikes but a bit of getting stronger and more confident on the BMX. There is still work to do and improvement to make but it feels more optimistic than it did.


Monday, 26 October 2015

Don't Call It a Comeback

Well it’s a long road back to being on a bike after a crash like the one I had, and there have been a lot of hospital appointments and physio exercises. The end isn’t her yet but I’ve been back on bikes and somehow assume you’d like to know about it.

For months the only bike I’d been able to ride was the commuter, fitted to the turbo and with increasing difficulty staying motivated to ride, no matter how many Netflix shows I tried to get into. Eventually the time came to get out in the real world again and with considerable help to load and unload the car and, it turned out, to carry my bag I headed for the woods.

It wasn’t a long or tough ride but it put me back on a bike and back in the woods:

The ride left me with mixed feelings. I’d not been able to carry a rucksack on my damaged shoulder, which would still limit my adventures, but I had ridden and broadly been able to do so with no pain. There was work to do on the strength in my shoulder and any impacts were a teeth-gritting experience, but it was a start.

I followed this up with starting to ride to work again. This was nerve-wracking as it involved the same route that I’d crashed on, and I can’t remember ever being so scared riding the streets of London. However, the week went on and my shoulder strengthened up noticeably, while I continued to be unable to wear my usual bag, I invested in a courier-style one to save the tender bits but let me carry my work stuff.

A week in to riding I took the next step, this time to the local BMX track to see how everything would stand up to a bit more dynamic riding. Keeping the wheels on the ground I was able to ride the loop and felt like the extra shoulder movement had done no harm, and was probably even helping to build strength and flexibility.

No records were broken but progress was distinctly made. I followed it with another week of riding to work, punctuated by eminently sensible breaks when after-work drinking went over a level that I was comfortable with. I made it to the weekend and repeated the BMX ride, going a little bigger and faster.

No videos here as I was too scared of the kids throwing fireworks.

So, that brings us up to date, apart from today’s ride. I headed back to Swinley with the Process to see how I got on on a rougher ride. I’m pleased to say I rode it all, with some pain through the braking bumps and impacts, and in no sort of impressive time, but it was definitely doable. I still can’t wear the bag, but I feel like I’m 80% towards being back. This good news and makes me broadly happy. The target I set myself of riding Bike Park Wales in mid November still looks achievable.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Sunday Funday

As is now becoming traditional the last two road races that we’re interested in before the Worlds both ended on Sunday.

The Tour of Britain has been a fairly routine affair. There have been brave rides and the sprints on stages one and seven were so close, first between Viviani and Cavebndish and then between Greipel and Viviani, to require serious studying of the photo finish. By the time the race reached London on Sunday the GC was all but decided as Edvald Boassen Hagen had quietly finished so consistently that he was firmly in the yellow jersey. The London course was a tight loop in the centre, taking in many of the postcard highlights and giving a race that everyone expected.

An eight man break went out, including the Tinkoff-Saxo rider Sagan (but not THAT Sagan, confusingly). This dangled about 20 seconds off the front but in the later laps the combined effort of MTN Qubeka, Sky, Lotto-Soudal and eventually Wiggins, brought it in in the penultimate lap. This set up the predictable sprint between the remaining big sprint names. With Cavendish watching from home after hitting a parked car in previous days it was a duel between Viviani and Greipel.

Greipel crossed the line first but was deemed to have deviated from his line and the win was awarded to Viviani. Boasson Hagen took the Tour win making history by being the first rider to win it twice. He was ahead of Sky’s Woeter Poels and Owain Doull, expertly manoeuvred up to third by Team Wiggins and the highest placed Brit.

For those of you who like crashes, here is why Cavendish wasn’t contesting the sprint:

The Vuelta has been a much more exciting affair. Dogged by crashes early on and by the removal of favourites for one reason or another it became an opportunity for the lesser known parts of the Peloton. This resulted in a fascinating battle between Dutch rider Dumoulin who showed unusual form in the climbs, and more established GC contender Fabio Aru. The race went down to the last day of serious competition on Saturday where Aru closed a 6 second deficit then Dumoulin had opened in a time trial on Friday to all but guarantee the win in Madrid.

Fascinating as that was I do love a side story and here was an excellent one about a bike that appears to have been stolen from Orica Green-Edge.

On that note, there’s this.

As I write there should also be some good footage on the way from the Atherton’s Red Bull Hardline event that was going off over the weekend. It looks like Ruaridh Cunningham took the win for what it’s worth in this jam-style race, with Gee breakinghis bike again despite looking super smooth. Until we get the official video here’s some Vital MTB jumps.

Big Jumps, Bigger Cases - The Learning Curve at Red Bull Hardline - More Mountain Bike Videos


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Compatibility Problems

Evidently I am a little bored and entertaining myself by getting the bikes up to speed ready for when I’m allowed and able to ride again.

Compatibility across Shimano products had been my friend a week ago, but let me down this weekend as I discovered that my hope to simply swap in a new chainring to the hardtail was scuppered by a difference in bolt-hole placement between the worn out Deore Hollowtech ring coming off, and the Alivio Hollowtech II one I intended to put on.

Undeterred and with a slight wobble in the bottom bracket anyway I carried on, pulled the cranks and removed the bottom bracket. I find removing these parts of a bike strangely satisfying, especially when I reap the rewards of my previous sense. Last time I did this on this bike I’d had no end of trouble removing a seized bottom bracket, requiring serious leverage and bolts to remove it. When I fitted the new parts I’d been very diligent about greasing everything and it paid off this weekend as everything came off the bike beautifully.

The bike is ready for the new parts I ordered when they arrive and another bike ready to be ridden as soon as I am.