Return of the Ladybower Lungbuster!

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Bank holiday! Been a bit of an action packed one. Had a trip up mac woods, a ramble round thors cave, a trip to yorkshire sculpture park. All good stuff, and mint weather to boot. To cap it off (some would say put the nail in the coffin as ive still got two sore fingers, a dodgy knee and a stiff calf from falling off the other day), theres been this ride up down and around ladybower reservoir. First did it years ago with some good mates (some of whom have given up riding now, some who have settled down with families, others who have fallen by the wayside for whatever other reason) so its been nice to revisit it after a good amount of time and see just how much slower those of us left standing (pedalling?) have got as middle age (and its inevitable spread) gets to us…

After being picked up by M in his new ‘beast’ van and having a picnic in the lounge with a maccy ds breakfast and a flask of coffee (you know how good your hospitality is when mates bring a flask with them), and then spending far too long stuck behind quarry wagons, we eventually made the trail head.

Simple enough route. Up win hill, down the (ledgendary) beast, up hag farm (still some bluebells out here!), down lockerbrook, up the ladybower lungbuster itself and then down past hurkling stones. It was great to retrace our steps from previous years, and holy rattlesnakes batman, those hills definitely havent got any smaller… To be fair, the beast did seem a lot shorter than before, but thats probably more to do with modern bike and brake technology, and you can betcha i like my brakes going down there… One place modern bike technology is actually a bit shit is on the climbs. My legs wont push a 30/42 gear up some of em, i swear it was easier on the hills ten years ago with a proper granny ring up front, but maybe thats ten years of beer and pizza taking its toll…

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Another big revelation this trip was that they actually serve not too rough coffee at fairholmes visitor centre. Nice surpise, as last time i was there it tasted more like bisto than coffee. Other things ive learned include: I need a bigger rucksack since ive discovered an ace shop (bottle lab in leek) up the road that sells all sorts of nice ales in 330ml cans, so the perfect size for a mid-ride refresher. Im also seriously considering getting some knee pads after last weeks tumble. The penalties for bouncing into (rather than off) a rock up here are far greater than when nearer to civilisation, and even without that, im thinking my owd mon joints would thank me for a bit of extra padding when my bicycling aspirations outweigh my abilities.

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Vital Stats for todays trundle: About fifteen miles. 2500 feet of up n down. Couple of stumbles, but no falls and no submissions. Two ham wraps, one coffee, one caramel shortbread, and half a packet of liqourice allsorts (the trail snack of the 21st century). And a big hop hit from one marstons EPA (free), and one black flag fang (rather expensive all things considered). Tune of the day was the mighty bob marley yet again. Im still not totally sure about riding round blasting tunes from a bluetooth speaker, but ive gotta admit, swooping down past hurkling stones as the sun broke through for us, chasing M and listening to these sounds, was a pretty cool moment.

Skids are for Kids yo!

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Nipping round Ted Heaths for Mini-Cheddars!

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Summers evenings! Doncherjuslovem!?

Im not totally sure which trail is Ted Heath and which is Mini Cheddars, but theyre both ace. Kudos to the folks over cheddleton way for cramming so much stuff into such a small space, the jump farmers up there are busy and skilled folk. None of us is totally convinced that anyone actually rides the big jumps up there though, which is fair enough even if so cos they stand in their own right as works of earthy art. I really should try and get a piccy.

To be fair, most of this ride just kinda vanished beneath a haze of Red Rum… Im stepping up my hip flask game for wednesday night rides, so it was red rum (in a shiiiining hip flask) this week. Next week im bringing out the big guns and packing the absinthe. Should be interesting after a couple of snifters!

So, yeah. We pedalled some. We did some skids. Some drops off the sides of the locks along the canal. I was dead stoked (i believe thats whats the kids call it) after legitimately stringing together a series of jumps one after the other and getting both wheels off the ground at the same time. The jumps were only about a foot high but ive got a massive mental block with jumping ever since really hurting myself at cannock years ago so i reckon thats pretty good progression for an owd un!

Couple of dead tasty ales were consumed at the hollybush inn for post ride rehydration. No idea what they were now, thats all a Red Rum haze now too, but i do know its still one of my favourite pubs at the minute. Vital stats for the ride? About 18 miles, a thousand foot or so of up n down, one free beer, one very late night!

The Bluetooth Speaker made another appearance tonight and i think this was my musical moment of the ride. Summers evening in the trees, smell of bluebells in the air, three bikes razzing round, this blasting out of one of the bikes bottle cages, and the bemused looks of passers by. Good Times 🙂

Happy Trails! Dusty bikes for happy bikers!

Three Shires Hoardes.

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who says horizons always have to be level?

Just a route from the Cat n Fiddle pub, over the moor, then bouncing round the rocks on the various bridleways thereabouts. T’was an absolute SunStonker of a day, and i was already a bit sunburnt from a big ole ramble round Kinder Scout the day before, seems like it was the first PROPER hot weekend of the year. Shorts and t-shirt weather ahoy! Trouble is, when the sun comes out, so do the Hordes. I’d already been through three shires itself twice prior to the above pic,and this was the first time that there was space enough to have a sit down.

As befits my middle aged cantankerous persona, this leaves me in somewhat of a quandry. I think its ace that theres so many people out there wanting to enjoy the open spaces, but sometimes i cant help but think it would be better if a few folks just stayed at home…

Things that confounded on this trip were the still smouldering disposable BBQ placed on a peat moor up by the cat and fiddle. I melted a finger on my glove putting it on some less flammable rocks, but thats better than the moor burning isnt it i suppose? Even better would be to not have a bloody BBQ on a peat moor. I saw two dogs not on leads chasing sheep and lambs, despite loads of notices telling people what a bad idea that is. A bit further up the trail there was a freshly dead sheep right on the path. A product of another dog chase perhaps? Oh, and a big thank you to the couple that stood motionless in the middle of the trail as i rang my bell and called hello and politely asked if i could squeeze past. Shit people, how quickly would you have been writing a letter to the local paper or ringing up jeremy vine if you had been mown down by a push bike? A bit of consideration cuts both ways doncherknow.

Its never all bad though is it. Had a  nice chat with an old boy out for a ramble about how he never used to see any one round there years ago. Makes me wonder what it will be like in another twenty years or so. Hopefully i’ll still be out exploring round and about, hopefully others will be too, im sure theres enough space for us all. But the more pressure there is on our open spaces then the more ‘we’ (as a population) need to be showing a bit more respect and love for our surroundings and fellow beings. Is the countryside code still a thing these days?

Righty, vital stats. About 13 mile, couple of thousand foot of up and down. No free beers consumed (WHUT), and i had this running round my head. Dunt matter what the upset is, theres usually a J Mascis song to make it better.

Be cool to each other out there people.

Fox 34 Mini Review.

Ok, so i splashed out and bought a new bike last year. It came with Fox 34’s on it, not the ctd ones that everyone slated, but the 2016 ones. Thought id just do a quick real world use mini review, just to log my own experiences as much as anything.

Initial impressions were very “Oooo!”. Nice damping, easy to set up, worked a tonne better than my old 32’s on the hardtail. But in the back of my mind i still wasn’t sure if i should have spent the extra and had the Rockshox Pikes. Id test ridden them and loved em, but then all the mainstream reviews said the 34 was a contender so i plumped for them seeing as if they were a bit cheaper and also just as good (if not better), then what was there to lose?

And I was chuffed with my purchase. For a while. It was only as i started using them more and in different places that i began to have my doubts. Did they need more or less low speed compression? Rebound? Volume adjusters mebbe? I tinkered, pumped, clicked and tweaked. They felt great on woodsy singletrack type stuff, but if i took the bike they were fitted to (an Orange Five) somewhere more near its more intended arena of use (ie, steeper, rockier, faster, the sort of trails like in the peak district), they just felt a bit sort of vague and i just couldnt get em feeling how i wanted.

Then i had a go on a mates Rockshox Yari. Holy Moly. The damping and springing was way off, but it was like a light went on in my suspension brain. In a quick experiment, we grabbed the front wheel of each bike and tried to waggle the bars. The fox were wangy like a plastic drain pipe (about an inch of wang at the ends of 780mm bars!), yet the Rockshox were solid like a scaffold tube. The suspicion was it wasn’t my numpty set up after all, it was just the nature of the fork, and the ‘vagueness’ might have been coming from the wanginess rather than the way the fork was set up.

So i mortgaged yet another kidney and splashed out on some Pikes (from ubyk, good price and ace service). Im over the moon and havent looked back. You hit a rock garden with these and all they do is go up and down. No wanderiness, no vagueness. Im still not convinced the pikes ‘feel’ as nice as the 34’s, but its still early days yet and they definitely have a massive advantage when it comes to steering precision. And when your as crap a rider as me, you need all the help you can get! Its not really a case of ones good and ones bad, cos they’re each better than the other in different ways. So heres my conclusions.

Fox 34 win on weight. A couple of hundred grams lighter if i remember rightly? They have longer service intervals. I think the damping feels ‘nicer’ or ‘plusher’ on these than the pike too. But the Rockshox absolutely totally and utterly clean up in regards to steering precision. You get volume adjusters in the box, and a service kit too, which is a nice touch. But what makes it a better fork to my mind is that it has so much more steering precision. It doesnt get knocked off line, it never wanders through rock gardens. “Yay, though i may ride through the shadow of the downhill of the valley of death, i shall fear no evil, for i have pikes bolted to my bike”. They kinda remind me of a Fox 36 i used to have (before it got nicked after about three rides) back in the days of inch-eighth steerers and 26″ wheels. I’ve not traditionally been a massive fan of SRAM and Rockshox but these are a brilliant piece of kit, i now understand why everyone goes nuts for the pike!

So to sum up my experiences. For a good all round fork, try the 34. It makes for a great hard riding xc fork, and i reckon it would be well suited on a nice 27.5 trail hardtail type thingy. Its civilised. If it was a car it would probably be something like a four wheel drive audi. But for more composure on bigger rocks and as a confidence booster when at the edge of your skill set, the pike is more like a V8 bowler. Not as civilised, but great for a confidence boost when the going really gets rough.

Now quit yer yappin and get out brappin!