Archive for May, 2007

XXXtracycle…

As part of our ongoing exploration into car free living, I’ve been trying out an Xtracycle (thanks to UK importers Loads Better), for a C+ feature on ‘Getting More From Your Bike’. It’s a beautifully simple yet effective contraption, that basically shunts back your bike’s rear wheel to give it a boot. Got a retired mtb in the shed? Breathe new life back into it and transform it into a utility machine.

Mine’s on an old Spesh Rockhopper with an Orange p7 rigid fork, with a Sun Rhyno touring wheel at the back and an Avid BB7 up front. It’s a whole different thing to riding with a trailer. More compact in traffic, but not easily detachable. I can see the pros and cons of the two systems, and so far I’m really enjoying the differences. It’s certainly very user friendly, with a modular loading system that’s proved incredibly versatile.

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Riding in India: a question of tyres…

Tyres are always a tricky choice. There’s innevitably compromises, and no one tyre will do everything brilliantly. Bear in mind that we’re miles from anywhere up in the Indian Himalayas, so don’t bring anything skimpy – best to err on the side of caution. Here’s some tyres that have worked for us – please add some comments if you have any ideas so everyone can have a look.

In the past, we’ve recommended Schwalbe Marathon XRs for laden, mixed terrain, puncture-free, reliable riding. There’s simply nothing to match them for all round touring duties, and it’s why they crop up on 90% of bikes in the Himalayas. However, they’re very heavy (up to 900g or so). While they roll relatively well on tarmac and can easily handle rough terrain too, people do complain they lack ‘bite’ at the front and can slide out. Although they’re really designed for heavily laden riding, this would be a good, no-nonsense, hassle-free tyre for both Manali to Leh and Sach Pass jeep supported trips.

But if you want something a little lighter or were planning to try out some of those linking singletrack goat trails (this is more for Manali to Leh), then more grip would be better, at the expense of some rolling resistance – a tyre like the Schwalbe Smart Sam or Bontrager XR. Of course, this means you need to be a little more careful, or bring a folding spare tyre if you’re worried.

The Spiti trip has the most challenging trails and is more off road, so mtb tyres are best here. In the past, we’ve run a mix by using a faster rolling tyre at the back with a shallower tread, and something more agressive at the front, to handle those slidey switchbacks and loose corners. But as much of this ride is on jeep tracks with a few smooth tarmac sections, there’s no need for anything too agressive and slow. 1.95 to 2.2in tyres or so would be good.

Here’s what some of these tyres look like:

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They don’t get tougher than the XR. But you pay for this in weight. Make sure you get the Marathon XR – not the Plus or the Supreme. The 2in one is fine. Although, theoretically, it doesn’t roll as well as the 2.25, it’s a fair amount lighter and is perfectly comfortable off road.

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The Big Albert is a chunkier tyre that works well up front on the Spiti ride… The Panaracer Trailblaster has been popular in the past too. Anything that can dig in on the sides.

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Diamox and acclimatisation

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People worry about acclimatisation, given the relatively short time of the trips and the altitude we’re riding at. We’ve tried not to make our itineraries too tight, so they should allow everyone to acclimatise as we ride – but we all respond differently to these unknown conditions.

Diamox (Acetazolamide) is increasingly being used by travellers to high altitude destinations. It’s a well established drug that’s commonly used to treat glaucoma and other medical conditions. It acts to reduce the amount of bicarbonate that the body produces and also causes some water to be lost. It’s a weak diuretic and it alters the balance of chemicals in the blood. These changes stimulate the respiratory system to breathe more rapidly and therefore get more oxygen into the bloodstream. As such, it has been shown to have a positive impact in acclimatization for some people.

We learn things every year from running these tours, and last year a few riders found it to be a real benefit, while others didn’t get on so well with taking it. But it’s certainly worth thinking about, and discussing Diamox with your physician.

How to make household chores much more interesting.

My dad came to visit, and directed a serious pruning/weeding/cutting back session in the garden. Although it’s lost some of its overgrown junglyness (seems it was all ivy and weeds), suddenly there’s a whole load more light and little plants I’d never seen before. We cleared some room to put in a herb garden, grow some veg… (in case you’re wondering, yes, our neighbours are buried)

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But despite the bijoux size of the garden, in his wake he left a small mountain of foliage that couldn’t go in the composter. The van’s without an MOT (and anyway, the recycling guys don’t let it in).

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So we put aside some time to shuttle a dozen bags down in the trailers. Much more fun (-:

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Racks and panniers are great, but it’s at times like these that you realised quite how versatile trailers are. As you can see, 1 BOB = two big bins worth.

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Dyfi Enduro 2007

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We’re back from the Howies Dyfi Enduro. And what a great weekend we had too, not least as it was a chance to catch up with past and future OTBikers: the Brit half the Spiti 07 contingent, Sach Pass Christian, Jim and Sue from Bikefax, ‘old school’ Simon A, crazy Annie from The Holey Trail, and Simon and Sarah. The tough course was broadly the same as last year. The epic, slaty rockfest descents were both as thrilling and demanding as I remember them but, for some reason, the climbs felt that bit longer! Must be my impending old age (-; Luckily, we bolstered the day at either end with fine dinners at the curry house and the pizzeria.

This year, an R&B band grooved us to the top of the first monster climb, while cheerleaders put a smile on everyone’s faces. The forecasted rain held back during the ride, saving itself for a nightly deluge. As usual, the atmosphere was fantastic, with a wild variety of bikes to tempt the eye – more unusual offerings included a very cool but wacky balloon-tyred Surly Pugsley, a classic Ibis softtail (with super flat chainstays), mtb unicycles (inexplicable), a couple of lovely Mathers, various 29ers (fully rigid and singlespeed!) and a bulldozing Cannondale tandem.

There’s little to beat Mach’s bike-friendly vibe. If you haven’t been, it’s well worth spending on a long weekend there – whether with a road bike or mtb. It’s all good stuff.

Or, thinking ahead a bit here, even heading over for next year’s enduro – just be sure to sign up early, as the limited places get snapped up quickly.
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Mac – Take 2

So what was supposed to be our epic, low carbon journey from Bristol to the Dyfi Enduro turned out a little different. First, we were running late with work, cutting the trip down by a day – so we hopped on the train to Abergavenny. Then, while we out minding our own business, having a great day toiling with trailers up and down the Brecon Beacons, my freehub body broke. A freak manufacturing defect, it seems. The thread, into which the locking plate screws to hold the cassette in place, literally snapped off. Hm. Then, as a result of the cassette bouncing around, the mech hanger somehow twisted. Cue jumping, skipping gears and a train home )-:

So, tomorrow, we’re catching a lift with Sarah and Simon. We should be in Mac in time to fit the new hanger (thanks Brant for posting it), before catching a ride in the afternoon and meeting up with some OTB folks in the evening. Seeing as we were robbed of our hard graft, we plan to get a good day’s riding on Sunday’s Enduro, and sneak in an early morning spin on Monday morning.

Just to prove that at least we tried, here’s some pics…

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This was supposed to be tarmac back road. So either our map reading skills were out, or (more likely) it had got a little overgrown…

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The bridleways were great – and reminded us what superb riding there is in S Wales. A mixture of skinny, grassy singletrack and rocky, rooty trails. Through the trees and out onto the open moorland.

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Weekend at the Dyfi Enduro

We’re getting set to head off to Machynlleth for the Dyfi Enduro this weekend, 6th May. We plan to take 3 days to ride there and reach Mach sometime Saturday afternoon. We hope to set up camp in the early evening at Bro Dyfi Leisure Centre. Our mobile numbers are Cara: 07985 957 821 and Cass: 07711 864 311. As we’re still working out what route to take from Bristol, that’s about as detailed an arrival time as we’ve got!! Just give us a ring and we can arrange to go out for a drink.

Please let us know if you’ve managed to secure a spot in the event so we can look out for you there. We’d love to meet up and have a chat. When not riding the event we’ll likely be at the camping fields or visiting some mates at The Holey Trail bike shop in town.

Look forward to seeing you (-:


Please check out our main website for details on our bike trips to the Indian Himalayas.

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