onesevenfifteen – part 2. going the distance

Speed equals distance/time…

The idea is to meet in a specified place on Saturday morning, with your bike and just enough stuff to bivvy for the night. You won’t know where you’re going next until you get to the checkpoint. If you arrive early to the checkpoints you get sent the long way and if you’re running behind you get told about the shortcuts. The ride isn’t timed and isn’t a race, but obviously most riders will compare distances and times at the end of the first day – the second day is a much more relaxed ride back to the beginning…

50 of us turned up to Colvend for the first ever running of The Distance, which with the forecast weather was actually a pretty big turnout – but the event is aimed at people that like being out in the sticks in all weathers and personally I don’t mind a bit of Scottish drizzle, we’re not made of sugar after all. Immediately upon leaving the village we were onto prime FC gravel roads (or fireroad as we called it before everyone got over excitable about “Gravel”). These trails would take us through the first of the 7stanes trail centres – a great network of mountain bike trails in the south of Scotland and well worth a trip.

 

The first checkpoint was 44km into the ride which was now well broken up – Kirkcudbright was the last chance to stock up on water and have a coffee before heading out into the hills. We headed out in much smaller groups now on the tiny backroads and farmtracks – my legs were nicely warmed up now, it was still a bit foggy, but I loved the riding and the adventure of not knowing what was coming next. After the fireroads of Laurieston Forest we went through a marshal point and my GPS threw its toys out of the pram. Luckily I’d caught the pair of riders that were leading the event and cheekily stuck with them whist it was sorting itself out. It failed for about 5km and if I’d been on my own I’d have had real trouble so I’m really thankful to the guys for letting me tag on.

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The next bit of moorland would test anyone’s rig but my massive mountain bike tyres took the soggy bogs and streams in their stride – I was really thankful for having swapped to the 650b carbon Reynolds wheels at the last moment as they weren’t much slower on the tarmac, but made everything so easy off-road. Flying down to the next checkpoint, to pick up the next map was ace and then we got stuck into the 3rd of the five sections.

Along the banks of the Clatteringshaws Loch and up to Loch Dee I was now in the lead, but I couldn’t resist taking some photos too before descending into Glentrool for a couple of killer climbs back to the road. None of us knew but the overnight camp was really close to the last checkpoint and not that far away from the current one which we were now at, but we were being sent on loop after loop of the local hills and valleys – it’s amazing how much wild land can be explored in a relatively small space.

 

From Newton Stewart I headed out on my own now for the first of the last two loops and the last bit of proper wilderness. The fireroads above Kirroughtree made for a great end to the day and again we really got into the middle of nowhere – now the sun was out too so the final few descents were ace and I even managed to squeeze in a cheeky section of the red trail that brought me back down to the final checkpoint. Now the final section would beast up a couple of insanely steep access roads before plunging down the final section of blue trail to Kirroughtree trail centre for the overnight.

 

Recovery Gin in hand and freshly showered it was hard to see this as proper bikepacking, but in reality having toured all over the world if you can have a bit of luxury you almost always take it, so I wasn’t complaining! It was great sitting around the fire in the evening chatting to everyone about their own rides and experiences from the day. I’d covered 165km in 9.5 hours whilst my girlfriend who was bikepacking for the first time had done only a small distance less in just a while longer having also had map/GPS issues – but the best thing was that she’d really enjoyed it and at the same time learnt that you don’t need to panic, you’re never that far away from being back on track and she’ll take that new found confidence with her next time. It’s a great event for first timers and racers alike, as it’s so well organised and hopefully the event goes from strength to strength. I’ve met friends that I genuinely want to ride with again and properly tested my new bike!

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Cheers to Pannier CC, Focal Events, Reynolds Cycling and Kinesis Bikes UK for all the photos, jokes, riding and fun.

 

Video by Kinesis, photos by Pannier CC and Glen Whittington.  

Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – glen@thevelohouse.com. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer

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onesevenfifteen/aeighttech – part 1. building the distance bike (CX-Disco)

Bike-Packing, Off-Road-Touring, All-Terrain, Road-Plus, Beyond-Gravel, I’m completely confused about what it is that we’re building here! But what I do know is what the bike is supposed to do and that is a. Carry enough stuff to sleep outside for a few nights, or maybe more, b. Be capable of travelling across all terrain and, c. Travel across said terrain at speed. So I built my own and it went rather well…

I’ve built a few frames now from scratch with some help from some brilliant folks, but this was the second frame that I’ve made completely on my own. It’s a pretty rewarding process to take raw tubing and lugs and create a working frame from nothing to my own spec and especially for this bike, it’s given me the chance to try some new things out – that said, I don’t want to get carried away with calling myself a framebuilder though, because I definitely don’t know enough to say that and I don’t want to be like all those other guys that do one frame-building-course and then tell the world they know everything about building bikes. To borrow a Guy Martin phrase, I’m, “not a messer”, so if anyone asks, I’m a frame-building apprentice.

The “distance bike” came about at the same time as the guys at Kinesis UK first suggested the idea of the race/ride/event which ran for the first time this weekend in Galloway, Scotland. The plan was to build a bike that can race a local ‘cross race, but can also be easily converted to ride/race an event like The Distance or Grinduro. Basically it has to be capable of taking different wheel sizes and a range of gearing options and be tough enough to handle the rough stuff. For this reason I decided to build my frame with mountain bike axles – this would mean that I could borrow the 29er wheels from my XC race bike and fit them with any kind of ‘cross tyre, and also I could experiment with fitting a 650b mountain bike wheel complete with “gravel” tyre or a full on mountain-bike tyre. I opted for 142×12 and 100×15 axles, as that’s what I’ve got on my current mountain bike.

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So I started by ordering some Paragon Polydrops and some Columbus Zona and SL tubing. The Polydrops are great as I won’t have to stress about lining up the break calliper mounts and they allow me to use the newer Shimano direct mount rear mechs. The mountain-bike rear stays should allow me plenty of clearance and the mix of Zona and SL helps keep the weight down. For this build I’m sticking to a 1 1/8th headtube and lugs as I’m more confident with making this strong, but I think a lugless headtube would be a good idea next time. I’ve also decided to stick to a factory rigid mountain bike fork for the build so I started by setting the jig up for the fork, adjusted to a nice slack 71 degrees. For me I’ve gone for a more common 73 degree seat angle which will give me a nice short toptube, crucial for my long legs and short torso.

The brazing is all pretty standard stuff except for the drop-outs which need to be left un-painted and therefore can’t be made out of normal steel. Because of this I’ve slotted and silver-soldered the Paragon drop-outs in place. Previously I’ve only brazed standard drop-outs onto my frames which is pretty easy as theirs lots of adjustment right up to the final weld, but with slotted dropouts it’s a lot more difficult as you have to be perfectly accurate with alignment and tracking from the start with only a slight chance to tweak things as you go. My mate Sam, who knows a bit (and isn’t a messer either) suggested how best to do the job and for a first attempt he reckons my work cut the mustard. I’ve since ridden the frame off some fairly big drops and I’ve not had to remove the seatstays from my behind so I must have done something right.

The great thing about using lugs is there’s a bit less clean-up to do after brazing everything, but it still takes some time to make everything look good – I probably ended up using too much brass, but my thinking was that I’d better make sure everything was strong rather than fancy which left me with a fair bit of tidying up to do, but I don’t mind a bit of work with the files as long as everything ends up staying in one piece. Once that was sorted I got the guys at Enigma Paintworks to lay some camo down on the tubes – on the last bike we used a wrap, but this one is all painted and they reckon it’s about 20-25 hours work to get just right – I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was going to strap bags to it and throw it across rocky beaches, but it looked mint when we started!

I then built the bike up with a tried-and-tested Shimano groupset from last year’s race bike – a mix of Ultegra Di2, XT Di2, a Wolftooth ring and some Shimano hydraulic brakes. On the 29er/700c wheels I used a 11-32 cassete, but for The Distance I’ll use an 11-40. I stuck a custom Fizik saddle and tape on the bike to match the camo paint and initially my old 29er mountain bike race wheels, shod with the excellent Schwalbe X-One Bite tubeless tyres. This set-up would be perfect as a safety set-up as everything would work well in anything from mixed to really muddy conditions. I also experimented with another favourite of mine – the G-One Speed All-round in a 35mm and I think the 38mm version would be a great tyre for this year’s winter training.

But the big thing for this bike was to try the 650b wheels and the guys at Reynolds really stepped up to the plate here by loaning me a set of their carbon Black Label Wheels. Not only are the wheels wider than normal, they’re also lighter and with a wheel that makes a big difference – people always joke that rather than losing weight on the bike they should lose weight on their body but this is plain daft. If you understand anything about how a bike works you’ll know that wheels are “rotational weight” rather than fixed or “sprung weight” and this means that as the wheel rotates faster it effectively becomes heavier and creates more gyroscopic effect, making it harder to brake or turn the bike. Lots of other interesting things happen too but basically if you build a wheel with a light rim and then stick a light tyre on it’ll behave much better than a basic, heavy version and that’s why wheels and tyres are so important. This is true for road and off-road bikes and is one of the reasons we’ll all be riding with disc brakes eventually.

In the short-term I had pretty much the best set of wheels that you could want and they really helped when the going got rough. I stuck a set of tubeless Schwalbe Nobbie Nic’s on for The Distance as the new Addix version wasn’t quite ready – The normal version was a squeeze at 2.25 inches, but it just fitted and I can’t wait to get my hands on the newer version of the Rocket Ron Addix. Using the Nic at Dalbeattie in Scotland after The Distance I’m still in awe of how well it works on wet rock – with a rigid fork I was worried that I’d be a bit under-biked on a proper Scottish Red Trail but the Nic’s set at a nice low pressure really got me out of trouble a couple of times – big thank-you to Reynolds and Schwalbe for the help.

The finishing touch and other really special thing about my bike were the standard and custom bags that Alpkit made me. I used the Koala, Kanga and Enduro Pod that they make but they also sorted me out a fully custom Stingray framebag – you basically make a cardboard template of the main triangle of the bike that you want the bag to strap into and then they stitch everything in the UK to your spec. I decided to ditch bottles so I had them fit a divider into the bag so I can store a hydration bladder in the top section and drink through a tube/straw which comes out of the front of the bag. In the rest of my bag I have my overnight warm clothes. On the bars I have my sleeping bag as its light so it won’t affect the steering and on the back I have my one-man tent and inflatable bedroll plus room for a cooker.

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Now it’s time to test the frame, the build and the set-up by riding/racing The Distance (it’s not a race, but we all know it really kind of is, so it’s probably safest to just describe it as who can do the longest distance in the shortest time – it all takes place on public land so you do have to make sure you obey the rules and don’t take anything too silly)! One thing’s for sure, I’ve got all the best kit I could hope for!…

 

…to be continued…

#aeightmanufactory #sussexsteel #aeightracer #aeighttech

Photos by Glen Whittington.  

 

Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – glen@thevelohouse.com. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer

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onesevenfourteen – sunshine

What a day to try Mountain biking for the first time…

Okay, so it’s not my first Mountain-bike race, nor was it Pip’s, but up until now she’s had to suffer the odd race on a crappy old hand-me-down bike and the weather has been grim. This time all the stars seemed to line up; she’d managed to blag a ride on a very nearly new Scott Scale 710 and the sun had got his hat on[1], so it was kind of like her first real mountain bike race.

I got us there ludicrously early as usual, but rather than huddling in a freezing cold Land Rover like we do at ‘cross races it was nice to sit out on the grass drinking coffee and checking tyre pressures. The Scott MTB Marathon Series had brought us to Wantage in the beautiful rolling hills around the Ridgeway and as 700 of us rolled out of the town we all jostled for position, three abreast on the narrow farm tracks. I was on Paul Oldham’s wheel, keeping out of trouble when I noticed Pip come up the outside of pretty much everyone, in the field to our right, smiling at me!

The next few proper downhills were sketchy and loose, but lots of punctures were thinning out the field rapidly and then, just when I was feeling comfortable I fell foul of one too – it hadn’t completely deflated so I jabbed it with an Effetto Mariposa Zot! Nano syringe which helps the tyre sealant seal the hole properly. I got some air in there and it did the trick so I only really wasted about two minutes I reckon.

Back on course the next few hours were really great – nothing but rolling pasture after rolling arable with a few gallops thrown in, it was a stunning day in Oxfordshire! My Scale was working perfectly and the Schwalbe Thunder Burts were now behaving themselves – I had my Fox fork custom valved by Mojo in the Spring and I still can’t believe what a massive difference it makes – I service them myself but I really rate the custom tuning bit of what the boys at Mojo offer.

The 60km course that Pip was doing splits from the 80km bit that I did, giving them a shortcut that we eventually join up with so I expected to catch Pip up again after that, but coming back into the town of Wantage I still hadn’t seen her so I guessed I was in front and that I’d have quite a long wait. I rode into the finishing pen and had a natter with the announcer about my number board which I’d decorated with a Nicky Hayden #69 in memory Nicky[2].

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So I rode out expecting to go and sunbathe for a while whilst waiting and guess who’d beaten me back? Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Pip was standing there waiting for me, after having made it in with the leaders in my race. She’d made it home in 3rd place in the Women’s 60km race (and 15th overall in the 60km cat.) behind Sally Bigham – twice a silver medallist at the marathon world championships. My result was lacklustre in comparison, but I felt strong and my training is starting to get better after a couple of months that haven’t really worked. I felt great in Wales six weeks ago, but since then I’ve felt constantly tired and down, so it’s really nice to start feeling stronger and more confident again. Bring on the rest of the Summer and next time Pip, no beating your Team mate!

#rideforcharlie #aeightracer

Women’s 60km Results;

  1. Sally Bigham 02:32:32
  2. Ruby Miller 02:45:17
  3. Pip Jenkins 02:47:05

 Men’s 80km Results;

  1. Richard Jones 02:46:51
  2. Joe Griffiths 02:46:51
  3. Paul Oldham 02:46:51
  4. Nick Craig 02:47:49

30. Glen Whittington 03:06:34

 

Photos by Rob Barker and Glen Whittington.  

Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – glen@thevelohouse.com. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer

t h e . æ i g h t . b i c y c l e . c ø l l e c t i v e

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[1] This phrase has always made me wonder; if the sun did have his hat on, how would that affect the amount of light that was shinning on us? Surely the phrase should be something like – the sun has taken all his clothes off,…full frontal sunshine!…hip, hip, hip, hooray,…

[2] Nicky Hayden always raced with the number 69 on his motorbike and when I got into watching Moto GP in the early 2000’s he was pretty much the first guy that came along and was able to beat Rossi – not all the time, but he was consistant and I really loved watching him race. He won the Moto GP World Championship in 2006 and I met him the following year. He was a real proper motorbike racer and a really nice bloke who had a lot of time for his fans. He was killed in May this year when out training on his push bike which is what he loved to do away from the motorbikes. I’ll miss watching him race.

oneseventhirteen/aeighttech – R9100 (Derek’s C60)

Di2 is all well and good but Shimano’s latest version of Dura-Ace is also available as a cable operated groupset too – I fitted the first one to Derek’s Colnago C60 recently…

First things first, have you ever seen a C60 frame that you don’t want to own?[1] If the answer’s yes then you may want to get your eyes, or maybe even your heart, checked out – William’s red C60 with the R9150 (Di2) group was a beautiful bike to build and this version with gloss black lugs and matt carbon tubing is just stunning.

Based upon bike fit details that have already been decided I start by cutting the fork to length. I always use one 5mm spacer on top of the stem height so that the stem clamps firstly onto the strongest part of the carbon fork steerer and then also onto the strongest part of the steerer bung (the metal bung that sits inside the steerer). The steerer is first cut to size, then filed smooth and then polished with emery cloth. When the Fizik stem is mounted I use a little carbon prep on the steerer to ensure a good strong clamp.

Then I mount the Dura-Ace mechanical brakes which are a thing of beauty and function – pretty much the strongest most positive feeling brake out there. Shimano have now moved the QR around to make the brake more aero. Next I mount up the shifters on the bar away from the bike, setting one in place first before matching up the second one – I do this by placing the bar and shifters on a flat surface and rocking the second lever until it sits in an identical position on the bar. When I’m happy with this I stick a little more carbon prep on the bar clamp and fit the handlebar to the bike.

The new wheels that Shimano have brought out have changed very little since last year, but thats no bad thing as the C24 carbon laminate versions that we are using for this build were already spot on. A slight redesign on the graphics has brought them up to date. One in, I take the bike out of the stand, fit the clients saddle and check the bikefit measurements. Often when you build a bike like this there will need to be tweaks and this time I’ve found that I can get the saddle in the perfect position straight away, but I decided to change the stem to correct the reach of the bike for the measurement that we were looking for – that’s why it’s important that a mechanic has a basic understanding of bikefitting, because if I’d persisted with the wrong size stem all of the cables would be wrong when we realised further down the road that the stem was too short.

Bikefit nailed it’s time to fit cables – Shimano have brought out a whole array of cable ends recently. Whilst many mechanics chuck these and build perfectly good bikes, I’ve noticed that if you use all the correct parts and employ a little fuel pipe in some crucial gunk traps, the shifting and braking will stay much more precise for a lot longer. These fittings along with Shimano’s polymer cables have kept my mountain bike and spare cross bike running sweetly all last season so I always make sure I use the best bits on a build like this. The brakes are easy to set up and clamp the same way as before but the mechs have changed slightly.

The rear mech bolts onto the frame via a small “direct mount” link – Shimano obviously hope that frame manufacturers will adopt the direct mount like they have on most new mountain bikes. This allows for a tighter chain line and helps protect the mech in the event of a knock or crash, but for now most frames will need the link plate in place. I clamp the cable up and put some tension on the mech to help stretch the cable. The front mech has a very unusual cable pull and clamp which again is designed to help tuck a bigger tyre in closer to the frame and also do away with the old inline cable adjuster. Like the rear mech I put some tension on the cable and then fit the BB and crank whilst the cables are stretching.

The BB’s are unchanged but the chainsets are completely new. Look out for an inbuilt powermeter version due in August, but for now you’ll just have to gaze in awe at the standard unit with its massive offset cranks. Another client of mine who’s traded up from Cannondale’s SISL cranks say that the difference in the positivity of the shift and the stiffness of the pedal stroke is the biggest single upgrade he’s ever made to any of his bikes.Once the crank and BB are fitted with plenty of Park grease I set the height and the yaw of the front mech. A lot of people miss the yaw adjuster when setting up 11 speed Shimano mechs but it’s very important and completely changes the feeling of the shift.

The front mech now features four adjusters and so I get the yaw correct first, then roughly adjust the lower bump stop which stops the chain falling off the frame side (I don’t always like using a chain catcher as the chain can get stuck underneath it in a crash, but I figured it would be best not to crash this bike in the first place and as Colnago supplies a nice branded catcher I’ve fitted it this time). Then I pull any excess cable through the front mech and clamp it tight – the new R9100 features a cable tidy which hides the bolt, clamp and excess cable. Likewise with the rear mech I remove any last stretch, wind the b-tension bolt all the way in, roughly set the bump stops and re clamp the cable in the highest gear position.

Now the chain can be fitted which I do first in the small/small combination before checking that the big/big combination of chainring and sprocket works too before cutting and joining the chain – this is important in this instance as we’re hoping to use a very slightly larger 11-32 cassette which Shimano claims isn’t recommended. I’ve always found that this is very much down to where the mech hanger sits on the bike and 50% of the time you can get away with a wider range than Shimano admits to – in this instance once the gears were fully set up I still had plenty of adjustment to play with. Once the chains on I stick the rear mech in the lowest gear and adjust the b-tension so that the pulley sits in the correct position away from the sprocket and then I adjust the low bump stops on both the front and rear mechs. Now I set the tension adjusters of both so that the chain moves from one gear to the next smoothly, until they are in the highest gears, where I set the high bump stops again front and back.

The final touch is to fit the bar tape and for a bike as beautiful as this I always try and add a little flare here. I’ll run through the gear and brake adjustments once more after the tape is fitted because this can sometimes alter the tension of the cables. A short test ride will then ensure that everything works as it should, before signing it off, taking some photos and then hanging the bike up somewhere safe to await its proud owner. Where possible I try and ride a few km’s with the client upon collection to make any final adjustments to position and it’s always lovely to see that first moment when a rider bonds with a new bicycle.

#aeightracer #aeighttech

Photos by Glen Whittington.  

 

Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – glen@thevelohouse.com. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer

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[1] ….or marry!

oneseventwelve/aeighttech – EWWU111 Del and Chris’ Di2 wireless upgrade

A whole host of useful new Di2 accessories have recently arrived on the scene that allow you to get even more out of your new R9150 Dura-Ace groupset – the good news is that pretty much all the updates are available to anyone currently using the 9070 or 6870 versions of Dura-Ace and Ultegra too. So here’s a couple of bits I’ve done recently…

Pretty much everyone with Di2 wants the new Handlebar mounted Junction box (EW-RS910) which really tidies the whole cockpit area up – You can read about how I fitted one of the first ones to a Bianchi by clicking on this text. Since then a client (and friend) of mine has bought the 9150 group and asked me to fit it to his Parlee. Interestingly he was running ENVE carbon bars and there’s two problems with that – the end of the bar isn’t open, it has a chamfered end with a fixed rubber bung and secondly I reckon that ENVE probably fit strengthening into the STi clamp area meaning I couldn’t fit a SD-50 wire through the center of the bar like I did with the Bianchi’s alloy bars.

The solution is to find a carbon bar that is pre-drilled for internal routing and then in this way you can run the wire through the stem clamp area and then under the tape everywhere else. With a little gel you can barely notice the wires. We had a bit of a run-around when Chris told me he was going on holiday with his bike the following day, but all’s well that ends well as they say and the Parlee came out looking amazing in the Majorcan sun (and the Sussex drizzle)!

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If you fit one of the new BT-DN110 batteries like I have done with Del’s Boardman SlR 9.8, you will now have the ability to Syncro Shift your gears. Basically Syncro Shift is a system that has been used by mountain bikers for two years that allows the bike to choose when to shift the front mech based on pre-written firmware. This allows the rider to simply focus on making the gears “easier” or “harder” and completely removes the cross-over gears from the system. In any system (Di2 or cabled) several of the chainring/cassette combinations are so similar that they are rendered useless, meaning that a 22 speed bike (2x11speed) is in truth only really a 15 or 16 speed bike – the clever bit with Syncro Shift is it basically avoids all of those pointless cross-over gears.

There is also Semi-Syncro which gives the rider back more control – it only cuts in when you shift the front mech and basically adjusts the rear gears to maintain cadence at the time of the shift… I find myself doing this naturally when I’m out riding so I think it’s my favorite setting as it replicates how we’d normally shift whilst giving the rider more manual control. These three modes (Syncro, Semi and Manual) are controlled and selected from the junction box but need to be set up via the e-Tube app on your computer, unless;

Unless you also want to fit the new EW-WU111 inline wireless sending unit (which you do). This allows you to change modes via your Phone or Garmin and gives you full Wireless, ANT+ and Bluetooth connectability. I’ve fitted three now and they all seem relatively straight forward to set-up and then adjust. They’re much neater than the older units and actually make the job of fitting the handlebar mounted junction much simpler. You can save multiple shift modes on your phone and swap between them as much as you’d like. Del’s been playing with several different set-ups and talking to him I think the Semi Syncro System works best. I would imagine the full Syncro Shift is great for new riders getting into the sport. Both bikes are looking fantastic and feedback so far has been excellent.

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#aeightracer #aeighttech

Photos by Glen Whittington.  

 

Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – glen@thevelohouse.com. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer

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oneseveneleven – mayday

If Europe is the heartland of cycle racing then surely the hills in Flanders must be the beating heart itself. A friend of mine has guided riders up and over the bergs for years and is now well known for finding the most interesting back roads to ride on. Now that his partner and he have started a one-stop shop for cyclists, a day trip to Belgium might become an even more regular occurrence!…

The first time I rode with Henk, it was about zero degrees, sleeting and we ended up riding our road bikes off-road to a bakery in Ellezelles for fresh coffee and waffles – I immediately knew we were on the same wavelength!

A year later our club returned, the weather had improved and another route was just as much fun as the one I fell in love with. I’ve been to Flanders many times and have some family there too, so I’m well used to the classic routes and must-ride-cobbled-bergs, but Henk’s routes always seem to have that little bit extra that most tourists will miss – I always try and set similar routes back in Sussex, so when we turn off onto a little used footpath across a field I get out of the saddle and start smiling!

Henk’s partner, Sylvie has put together a brilliant package in a small village just up the road from Oudenaarde and now the pair of them are able to offer everything the cyclist could want – a morning coffee and home-made breakfast, a guided ride through the real best bits of Flanders, a recovery lunch and more freshly brewed coffee, a chance to buy some souvenirs and even a treatment or leg massage. That’s just about all bases covered I reckon! They’re set up for day trips but it’s easy to find accommodation in Flanders so multi-day trips are possible too. We organised our own trip and met up with Henk and Sylvie in April, so when we heard about their official open day on May the 1st we knew we had to be a part of it!

Leaving Sussex at 4:45 for the 6:15 train (car shuttle) to Calais (for before 8am local time) it’s an easy 90 minute drive to breakfast at Ride On Coffee. We’d then be ready to ride at 10am normally. On May the 1st we then headed out for a 90km blast on real Belgian roads and being the only two non-Belgians (and Pip being the only lady) we were being treated to the full local experience. Henk (Flanders On Bike) will tweak the ride to just about any ability and to those individuals taste, but the ride we were on was a proper Flemish Club Ride.

We had some great battles over the short sharp hills and it’s always a blast when the locals start to accept you into the group – the conversation was flowing firstly in my terrible rendition of Flemish, and soon after in their perfect English! I chatted to a couple of guys that raced locally who both looked about seven foot tall – proper Belgian hardmen. Another rider was sponsored by the local BMC Concept store to race Gran-Fondo’s and stage races across Europe and yet another was studying at school and currently in a dilemma about which port to choose to try and go pro in – football or cycling. He was currently fighting with the rest of us up the climbs whilst keeping one eye on his watch as he had a game he needed to get back to play in!

Three hours later we’d made it back to the Ride On Coffee HQ to a brilliant home-made recovery lunch. Drinks, rolls, cakes and coffee were consumed by everyone whilst the conversations continued to flow. Pip and I then wandered around the shop and bought half of it! A great selection of socks, hats and jerseys will be added to throughout the next few months. Another few Flemish coffees later Pip and I said our goodbyes and made our way back down to the Schelde for our afternoon ride along the canal, before heading into Oudenarrde for a look around the Tour of Flanders museum.

Legs now thoroughly worn out we were back in the car at 17:30 and headed back to the coast for a quick steak and frites dinner and then onto the Shuttle for 8pm local time. It’s then an easy drive back home for about 9pm – kind of just like a big day out in the UK for a sportive or race and well worth it in my opinion. All told the cost must have been about £60 to £65 per person including all fuel, trains, guiding, food and drinks – £100 each when you buy a few goodies!

You can get in touch with Henk and Sylvie by visiting the Ride On Coffee Facebook page and/or the Flanders On Bike Facebook page. Also visit flandersonbike and rideoncoffee on Instagram.

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Photos by Henk Ballet and Glen Whittington.  

Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – glen@thevelohouse.com. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer

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oneseventen – le tran bleu

I’m lucky enough to have some great people around to support me in the racing that I love and the way I live, so for once it was nice to give something back, as well as getting some practice at fixing bikes on the road…

A friend of mine who I know through work had asked if I’d be interested in helping get some bikes ready for his London-to-Paris ride – before I knew it, I was packing up my tools and snacks ready to look after six mates for five days on the road. One of the lads had trusted me with his VW van, which I’d packed to the rafters with as many different forms of sugar as I could find – each morning and night the van was loaded and unloaded with all of the guys kit bags and whilst they were on the road they had access whenever they’d like to they’re day bag and food. I also had all the tools and spares I could think of ready to hand in case the bikes needed attention.

A night in The Farmers Club in London was the perfect start to a Gentleman’s weekend away and seeing the guys off into the sunlit London chill of Thursday morning was the perfect hangover cure! But before I could get too stuck in, I had an emergency job to do; it turned out that one of the riders had precisely all of the documents he’d need to get as far as Dover, so my first job was to meet up with his apprentice at Clacket Lane Services and pick-up a small maroon book with his picture inside it! That done I headed on to meet the guys at the 85km mark for some elevenses. After a late breakfast at The Barrow House it was good to finally get on the road with the guys.

Through the wilds of Kent the sun really shone and the hop gardens and oast houses were a beautiful backdrop for some photos, before the steep climb out of Folkston and the smooth roll into Dover, just on time for our ferry. A glass of champagne on board toasted the end of the first section and the start of the French part of the adventure. The chalky downland of East Kent was replaced by the chalky downland of Northern France and the hills were no less severe. By this point of the afternoon and with nearly 100 miles in the legs the guys came up against a strong hot headwind – the final miles into Wimereux tested everybody and I think the guys were pleased to hand over bike-washing duties to me in return for a beer or two!

Sore legs at breakfast were usurped by strong heads and hearts and after an amazing 8 course feast the night before at Hotel Atlantic everyone was fresh and ready for action. The bikes had a few tweaks to get them into shape for day 2 and the van was now the height of luxury for any weary rider, stocked up to the gunwales with water, coke, bars, gels, fruit, sweets and everything else the individual riders had asked for – no BC jiffy bags though! Off we set into a slightly colder France. As we headed slightly inland we rolled through typical beautiful French towns and plenty of wide open agriculture, again proving for some great backdrops for my lens. The guys were now working much better together and were riding impressively tightly after getting a little strung out the day before.

As we headed for a lunch stop the road began to get a little more lumpy and I raced ahead to find somewhere suitable – I judge French lunch stops based on three things; does the owner speak exclusively French and nothing else, is the bar full of French workermen at 5-to-noon and is the restaurant also inhabited by stuffed wild animals,… if the answer to these three things is yes, then it’s safe to eat there. Having found such a place I ordered some wine, reserved a table and headed back to the road to wave the riders down. 3 courses later we were ready for action again!

France had now become decidedly hilly and the guys made their way over 13 climbs throughout the day – the noise of the six riders flying down the descents in tight formation was great and I was able to leapfrog them all afternoon with snacks and clothing whenever they needed. The sun came out, but one rider was now feeling a little under the weather – everyone has a low patch on a ride like this and the amazing thing on these trips is seeing how the other guys look after whoever it is that’s having a hard time – one thing’s for sure, everyone takes a turn and it always comes around when you least expect it. Watching the individual riders become a team in front of me, I really yearned to be there on my bike in the action – watching it from the van reminded me how lucky I am to be a part of such a great sport. The achievement of pushing through and finishing the day off was such a reward for everyone.

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Before the final day I gave each of the bikes a proper wash down and service – everything nice and shiny for the run in to Paris and all in good working order. It’s amazing how much tweaking a bike needs after a couple of long days and everyone seemed a bit more relaxed without having to worry about their machines. All the water bottles had a clean and a final restock of all the goodies in the van made sure there were no excuses before another fine French dinner.

Day 3 was sunnier and flatter than day 2, which had to be a blessing! The guys were working well together and keeping each other motivated. The narrow French roads were playing havoc with my Garmin but I still managed to find a decent few coffee stops and photo opportunities, before quite possible the finest impromptu lunch stop ever – I was getting a reputation for sniffing out fine French cuisine – Vignes Rouges was a bit like and English tearoom in a tiny French village, that served the most amazing local dishes you could ever taste. France must be packed with these kind of hidden gems and it’ well worth stopping somewhere real rather than the big out-of-town commercial places that serve the same as everyone else. The Charolais steak certainly set me up for the drive into Paris and in true French style my “medium” steak came out nice and bloody – perfect!

What wasn’t perfect was the Saturday afternoon Parisian traffic, but we battled our now separate ways into the capital. I headed straight to the hotel to deposit bags and bike boxes before grabbing the champagne (French champagne that we’d brought from England) and heading up to meet the guys at the Arc de Triomph. I got there just in time and amazingly found them in the crowded chaos – my only strict instruction of the trip was to make sure that the champers was cold so I’d had to barter at the hotel for some ice, ice bucket and glasses! That done I could relax – just the simple task of boxing up six bikes, finding space for them and six bags in the van and then driving the whole lot home, but before that it was time for more food and drink in Paris’ beautiful Tran Bleu, followed by a night out to celebrate.

 

Photos by Glen Whittington.  

Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – glen@thevelohouse.com. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer

t h e . æ i g h t . b i c y c l e . c ø l l e c t i v e

t h e . æ i g h t . r a c e r . i n s t a g r a m