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Showing posts from October, 2016

Running the OMM Original Mountain Marathon 2016

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'Running' perhaps isn't the only adjective that should be used to describe taking on last weekend's OMM in the Galloway Mountains, Scotland. You should also add 'Climbing', 'Scrambling', 'Hiking' and most definitely 'Bog Bashing' to the list; it is a running orienteering event of pretty extreme proportions...

Friday saw us drive from Portsmouth to the Galloway peninsula in South West Scotland; a casual 15 hour journey by minibus. We picked up my running partner Ben in Penrith enroute, and completed our four man team from Wiggle. Welcomed at midnight by the cheery OMM team, we settled down for a few hours sleep, not sure what to anticipate from the next day's race.

The OMM is a running orienteering event series, with events in the U.K., France and even Japan. The events all hold the same format: on the start line, teams are given a list of checkpoints out in the mountain wilderness - each one is worth a different number of 'point…

Review - Swrve _BLK POLARTEC heritage fleece pullover

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Winter is coming; and with it the long rides, café stops, cross-training, and foul weather training gear that accompanies the season. I love winter... it is a special season; not only for the challenging conditions found on rides like those during the Festive 500; but also because there is no better feeling than jumping in a warm bath, and then pulling on a warm jumper, after a long ride in the cold crisp air.

The Swrve Black Label Polartec Heritage Fleece Pullover has fast become a favourite of mine for the 2016 winter season. Smart, yet comfortable; this is a jumper that will keep you warm on those cold days, but also look the part in the office or around town.

The lining of the Heritage pullover is made from POLARTEC® Thermal Pro fabric, which is lightweight, yet insulates superbly for its bulk. It breathes well too, staying comfortable even when the sun comes out. Then, because it's synthetic fleece, it is fast drying as well. It's worth mentioning that despite being synt…

Review - Timber! Mountain Bike Bell

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I always fit a bell to any bike that I'm using on shared pathways - be that bridleways or cycle paths; it is essential to alert other path users to your presence. However, over the last year I've managed to ding-to-death a number of cheap unbranded bike bells (the ones that come free on most bikes), and as a result I've been on the hunt for something better... I think I might have found it with the 'Timber!' MTB bell!

This little clanger looks and sounds like a traditional cowbell - 'singing' rather than 'dinging' to alert other trail users to your presence. The crucial difference from most other bike bells though, is that it effectively has an on-off switch, rather than a spring-loaded hammer.

To activate the 'Timber!' bell, you simply release the clutch and it begins singing; you can then leave it happily in that mode to politely signal your presence for as long as you need. Then, to deactivate the bell, you just flick the clutch back on…

Five Top Tips for Road Cycling on the Isle of Wight

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The Isle of Wight offers a lot for a road cyclist. Not only is it blessed with being the sunniest place in Britain (always a good start), it also holds one of the most varied and versatile mixture of roads of perhaps anywhere in the UK. Whether you're looking for a challenging hilly route, with 25% gradients and swooping descents; or you're planning a gentle spin on traffic-free riverside cycle paths - you'll find both in these 235 square miles.

I have been riding a road bike on the Island (amongst many other places) for the last ten years, and in that time I reckon I've covered pretty much every road on offer. I can't say that I've ever once grown tired of the area though - there really are a huge variety of routes to choose from; whilst the constantly changing coastal landscape offers a superb backdrop to any ride.

In the last five years or so, road cycling has really taken off on the Isle of Wight. The Island now hosts several sportive events, as well as th…

Review: Michelin TransWorld Sprint Touring Tyres

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I was lucky to complete my 'Coasts and Cols' Tour without too many mechanical issues at all. The one problem I did have, was on Day 9: 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' - when both of my tyres developed sidewall explosions!

The Michelin TransWorld Sprint Tyres were what I replaced my blown-out tyres with, thanks to a local French bike shop. The tyres have impressed me greatly, especially considering their low cost; so I thought I would write a quick review/recommendation on the blog.

The Michelin TransWorld Sprint is pitched as a "go-anywhere" touring tyre, from the French brand. It features a grippy semi-slick centre section, with added knobs on the sides, for corning confidence.

Confidence and continued good performance is exactly what these tyres have provided. Whether it was for the remainder of the 'Coasts and Cols' tour, or for subsequent commuting duty back in the UK (they've stayed on the bike); they have provided hassle-free riding, wit…

Weekend Watch: Beulah by Brother Cycles

This is one of the best 'short films' I've seen in a long time.

The edit portrays perfectly the joys of Bikepacking - the exploration, the unexpected, and the adventure. After my recent 'Coasts and Cols' tour, this makes me want to get out exploring again, even more than I already did...

Top Tips for Wild Camping

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Wild camping and bicycle touring (or bikepacking) go hand in hand. Camping in random fields, on beaches and in remote rural locations, means you can choose your camping spot; allowing you far more freedom in terms of route planning, and far more scope to account for adverse (or favourable) riding conditions.

Wild camping is also an incredible way to get closer to nature. It will let you experience sunsets and sunrises in secluded places, and let you truly escape from civilisation on your bicycle touring adventures. There is also the fact that wild camping is free… and it's quite often the only option for back-and-beyond touring!

In this blog post, I thought I would provide ten of my 'Top Tips for Wild Camping'; gathered from my experiences on hiking trips, bicycle touring adventures, and most recently my 'Coasts and Cols' tour.

Camping in the wild is an unforgettable activity, and one that should be enjoyed by all; hopefully this 'do's and don'ts of w…

Review - Sportful Fiandre WS LRR Short Sleeve Jacket

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There is something particularly special about cycling in autumn. It's those cold crisp mornings and stunning sunrises and sunsets; it's those deserted roads and still dusty trails; it's the change in the season, and the atmosphere.

Autumn also provides one of the most challenging times for kit selection though; from storms to searing sunshine, the season can provide it all. The new AW16 range from Sportful, is designed to be superbly versatile; capable of keeping even the most enthusiastic all-weather rider in comfort.

The new Sportful Fiandre WS LRR Short Sleeve Jacket is a highlight from the range. The piece utilises Gore's Windstopper Light Rain Resistant fabric, coupled with a waterproof zip, to provide an 'element-beating' shield layer - capable of warding off the worst September storm. Even with this protection though, the top's short sleeve (it comes down to just above the elbow) design, and the full length zip (as well as the highly breathable fabr…

Book Review - 'The Racer' by David Millar

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David Millar is one rider I have always respected within the pro peloton. Yes, he's had dark moments within his career; but anyone that has read his previous book 'Racing Through The Dark' (read my book review here), will know that he has done just that - he's "raced through" the shadowy days; coming out the other side a more experienced, wise and informed athlete and personality.

David Millar is a veteran of the peloton, in more ways than one. He has experienced it all - from the depressing days of the 1990's, to the '100% clean teams' like Garmin and Team Sky. He has raced 'The Classics'; he has raced in over 20 Grand Tours; he has seen the world of professional cycling from more angles than most. It is this educated personality, which makes 'The Racer' a great read.

The book follows David Millar's final year in the professional peloton - the 2014 season. This is far from an easy ride for the Scottish born rider though, and …

Review - Unior Tools Pro Home Mechanic Tool Kit

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When I see 'newbie' cyclists out on the roads and trails, I sometimes have to stop myself from wincing at their creaking bike or squeaky chain. I force myself to smile instead, because at least they're out there, enjoying the ride.

I also have to remind myself that I was once the same… when I started getting into mountain biking, at the age of 12, I remember having no end of problems with skipping gears, squeaking brakes and sticky cables; those maintenance tasks that now take a few minutes in the bike stand at home, used to have to require a trip to the local bike shop to resolve.

Trips to the local bike shop are in fact a key part of many cyclists' development; however, it's often not long before time constraints, frustration and purse strings push budding cyclists into doing their own mechanic work, at home. For me, I bought a copy of Leonard Zinn's legendary 'Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance', along with a budget LifeLine Essential Too…

Top Tips for Bikepacking

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The next in my series of posts on Bikepacking, looks at some Top Tips for a good trip. These insights mostly originate from experiences enjoyed or endured on the 'Coasts and Cols' tour; everything from packing, to clothing and food. I hope you find them useful for your next tour...

​Pack light, but be prepared - The key to effective packing, is effective planning. You need to plan for possible scenarios; but weigh up the possibilities of those eventualities occurring, against the weight and bulk of the additional kit you'd require to deal with them. For example, cold or inclement weather when touring in the mountains, is a distinct possibility; the added weight and bulk of waterproof arm and leg warmers, and a proper GoreTex jacket, are well worth it. By contrast, you have to question whether you really need to take a full cutlery set to eat your dinner; or could you get away with just a spoon? Do you need to take a mug; or could you just drink from your stove pot? It is a…