11/3/15

New Bike (not so new)

I have a new bike … well not actually new, it’s a 2010 Scott Genius. Yes, it is a 26” bike with no through axles front or rear, 3x9 transmission and no dropper post (this last thing has already been taken care of)
It’s amazing how bikes have evolved in 5 years. The Genius is a great bike; carbon fiber light full suspension frame with 150mm travel front and rear, twinlock to lock both the fork and the rear shock, rigid enough and fast both uphill and downhill.
But when I compare it to my newest bikes, 29” or 27.5”, is not only the wheel size that make the difference, it’s mainly the geometry. Bikes are now longer, stems are shorter, BBs are lower, handlebars are larger, angles are leaner nowadays … and you can feel it riding the same trails.
I have noticed how much more rigid new wheels are with through axles. The Scott has a Fox Talas fork with 32mm stanchions, QR and 150/125/110mm travel and you can feel it struggling on rocky singletracks.
The bike came with a 660mm handlebar and 100mm stem, at the time (only five years ago!) that was almost Enduro standard. Today even XC racers have wider bars. I switched immediately to a 60mm stem and 720mm bars, I thought more than that would be too much for 26” wheels.
Old (5 years!) as it may be, it’s also great fun. And it is also really funny thinking that if I had to exchange it for a new Genius I would have the choice of three wheel sizes (27.5”, 29”, 27.5+) and two travel options (Genius or Genius LT)

What we carry on our rides

Our rides around Barcelona never take us very far away from home. We are never going to get lost in the middle of nowhere, there is always somebody not very far away. We don’t carry with us the same things we would if we were going to the mountains.
For rides under 2 hours we don’t usually carry a backpack just a saddlebag with:
-          Spare tube and tyre levers
-          Multi tool with a chain breaker
-          10€ and a card with address and phone number

We also have a big bottle (750ml), a mini pump and a mobile phone. There are plenty of water sources around, even bars! So you don´t often need to carry on more water.


For longer rides, 3 or 4 hours we take a camelback with:
-          Spare tube, tyre levers and patches
-          Multi tool with chain breaker
-          Zip ties
-          Small bottle of chain lube (20ml)
-          Some food, a couple of bars or some candy
It’s important not to forget the money, there’s always a bar on the trail to have a coffee … or a beer!

6/10/15

What is All Mountain?

Mountain biking is full of labels, they come and go. Almost nobody talks any more about Freeride but not long ago the press was filled up with freeride bikes.

Today the key word is Enduro, everybody is talking Enduro, every month we see find in the press new enduro bikes with more and more travel and less and less gears.

Then you have XC bikes with fewer and fewer gears as well and very short travel.

Everything in between can be call Allmountain, All Mountain or Trail.

To me, these are the real bikes we should all be riding if you're not racing or if you don't live in a flat singletrackless country.

These are do it all mountain bikes; 120-150mm front and rear suspension, 20 speed (or 11 with a 28-30 ring), 2.20-2.40" tires and a telescopic seatpost.

The size of the wheels is up to you, I rather ride a 29" because it is pretty rocky around here and it makes me feel safer on the steep downhills we often ride.

All Mountain is what we used to call mountain biking, just get out there and ride everything that gets in the way and have fun doing it.
Of course I rather ride tight singletracks, specially going downhill!  


5/22/15

Transvésubienne: the Trails 1

It starts at La Colmiane ski resort, at 1500 msl. On race day they make go down the ski track and then up to about 1700m so the groups spread a little. When you get off the ski track you start a nice single, then a jeep road and then, after walking a little, you get to the crest line and you find yourself riding around 2000m surrounded by snowy peaks.


The trail is technical enough that you have to keep something to ride up a lot of steps. Little by little you get to the first big downhill where you cross the road coming down from the Granges de la Brasque. It is the first sample of whats to come, narrow, rocky and plenty of switchbacks. It is great if you're used to that kind of trail, but it can be a nightmare if you're scared of rocky steep singletracks. On race day there are people that walk down most of this trails!Just when you see on your GPS that you're going down to Utelle you have to carry your bike up a climb that would be tricky going down, imagine going up!
 
http://www.rastafari-riders.fr/

We are now at the top of the most famous downhill in the race, the Brec d'Utelle, some 5km and 800m of altitude loss with all the rocks in the world. This is what we came here for.
La Roue Libre Nice has a nice video of it, check it out:  Brec d'Utelle



5/18/15

Transvésubienne: Getting ready

The transvesubienne is without any doubt the best mountain bike race in France and probably one of the best in the world.
It starts in the Alps 80kms north of Nice near the Italian border and finishes in the Mediterranean Sea in downtown Nice.
It is about 90km long with over 2500m of altitude gain and 4000m of altitude lost.
It takes place every year at the end of May.
It takes the best riders 6h30 to complete the race but to end it under the maximum allowed time of 12h30 is already a challenge.

I don't like races but I love technical trails and they don't get any more challenging than these, so when my friends in the North of France ask me to go with them to do the recos the weekend before the race I didn't hesitate.

If, like I do, you're always searching for scary and technical singletracks you have to come ride these trails.

I rode my Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc. You need full suspension and you need travel, at least 130mm for my 29 wheels. You also need big wheels, there are thousands of rocky steps and you need to clear them even when you're dead tired. And of course I think it is impossible to do without a telescopic seatpost.
I rode strong wheels with 2.3 Maxxis Highrollers Exo TR. I only had one flat puncture but I consider myself lucky. Most of the downhills are really rocky and filled with loose slate. If it's also wet, as it usually is early morning facing north, the rocks are waiting to cut the sides of your tires.

We booked a hotel near the start of the race in the sky station of La Colmiane, but to do the recos it would be better to have your basecamp in the valley near Lantosque so you can do the whole trails in a couple of loops starting from your hotel. It will take you around 6h of mountain biking every day.

You need to take a lot of water with you as there is hardly any throughout the track and it can get very hot at this time of the year. And it better be hot, because if it rains the trails get very slippery.

Don't forget good gloves, the downhills are very long and demanding and it is easy to get blisters if your hands rub inside your gloves.

You also need good shoes, you'll be walking a lot uphill no matter how fit you are!

I don't wear protections for knees and elbows, it is not an Enduro race and I prefer to take it easy and (relatively) safe going downhill rather than carrying all the stuff uphill.

Now that we're ready let's go for the trails!








3/18/15

Paris Roubaix

RVV

Weekend in Flanders


My cycling friends in Barcelona dream about the Classics of the North.
They wanted to taste the cobbles in Flanders. It's not mountain biking, but within road racing it is probably the closest you can get to mountain biking.

My friends at cyclingpave.cc organised us a great weekend to ride the cobbles.

They provided the bikes, the guiding, the expertise, the food, the beers and somewhere to rest at night.
It doesn't get any better, even the weather was there to give us a real glimpse of the "hell of the North". It was cold, damp and windy, just like it should be!
The bikes are french made Cyfac, steel frame, geometry adapted to the cobbles and a Shimano Ultegra groupset.

For a road racer they are comfortable. For a mountain biker they aren't. As I don't ride Carbon or Aluminum road bikes I cannot tell whether there is a difference or not.
What I can say is that after many hours in the saddle and more than 50k of terrible cobbles, what hurt the most was the legs, and I cannot blame it on the bike!

3/9/15

Road Riding 1

I don't like to ride on the road, never have, and I think I never will.
I've been living for almost ten years near the border between Belgium and France in a Road Bike paradise. I've tried "pavés", "muurs", everything, but I don't like it.

So in a week I'm heading back to where I used to live to ride Paris-Roubaix and the RVV (Tour des Flanders).

The friends I ride with in Barcelona ride Road Bikes and love the Classics. I have friends in the North of France who organize "Discovery Rides": cyclingpave.cc so there we go.

To do so I have taken the dust out of my old road bike and I have been doing some short rides to get used to the position.

My old Titanium bike dates back to 2007, it has a full Dura Ace group 3x10.

I've been told it is pretty comfortable with the Titanium frame and the Carbon seatstays but so far I have not seen that "comfort".

And right, it has a triple, 30x40x52 and 11x23 at the rear. So, how come as soon as the road heads up a little I find myself stuck in the 30x23?

Climbs that you don't remember as difficult in MTB seem to last forever in Road.

I keep saying to myself that there are no climbs in Roubaix, but I cannot forget that we are doing the RVV as well and there we are going to find things like this:

 




1/23/15

Night Riding



We ride at night twice a week.

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 19:00 pm we go out in the woods for a couple of hours of fun, usually a group four or five riders.


As lights have become cheaper and more powerful we dare to ride even the trickiest and most treacherous singletracks.



These look easier at night as you focus only in what is in front of you and don't get distracted as much as in daylight. Often, you're looking for a certain section you know is challenging only to find out you've already passed it.

It also always surprises me that the uphills seem shorter at night (Strava is there to tell us that they might seem shorter but they aren't).






1/22/15

Just another fall

It happens every now and then.

You don't look for it but it is part of why we ride. We like to ride fast, we like to ride sketchy trails and we like to ride no matter the weather.
So it was not a surprise that I found myself on the ground in a slippery trail.

Winter is at its most this week in Barcelona. It rained on monday and the temperatures are way below 10º (I know, but for us, this is winter and this is cold). So the trails are really slippery. It is steep and rocky around here, so there is not a lot of mud, it doesn't hold on.

I hope everytime I fall down is like this one, just something to remember.

video

1/12/15

Testing GoPro around home

Got a new Go Pro for Xmas!!

I could't wait to go to Castellbisbal to test it in one of my favorite trails.
Enjoy it!



Early birds

Saturday we went for a ride in the Montseny mountains, 40 minutes north of Barcelona.
It was a planned excursion with the local club (Bici Muntany El Papiol) and we got up early (at least for me, I'm not use to ride that early in the morning, even less in the winter).
We arrived at Aiguafreda before 08:00, it was pitch black and the road where we parked was covered in ice.
The plan, in typical club way, was to ride up to a restaurant in Collformic, have a brunch, and come down looking for the GR5, a very nice and tricky singletrack.
The pace of the group was not very fast and it took us two hours to get to the restaurant; 16km and over a 1000 m climb.



The views were great, the Pyrenees were not far away and we could see the snow. Funny how the higher we got the warmer it was. We started at 0º at 400m and up top at 1300m we were at 15º. It's called thermal inversion and it often happens in the winter around here.

The food and the company was great, but the main dish was yet to come. The downhill through the GR5 was worth the early wake up call. More than 800m of elevation loss and over 3km of tricky but not scary singletrack.

Flat rocks wet enough to be careful, but surprisingly grippy, drops every now and then and tight single around the trees. We had to put our foot down a couple of times, but we are sure to come back soon and clear it all!