oneseventwentytwo – late starters

oneseventwentytwo – late starters

After a proper break I finished building my ‘cross bikes and headed up to Herne Hill for Round 5 of the London X League…

The London Cross League is where you go to keep some fitness through the Winter – Herne Hill is where you go to prove to yourself if you’ve still got what it takes. I started coming here years ago and loved it straight away – the league has swelled in proportions since then and this is the first weekend I can think of where the numbers have been capped and the field maxed out. Good times? Bad times? I’m not sure, but I made sure I stayed near the front and shouted clearly when we got to the lapped riders – the last time I was here a wavering backmarker broke my ribs so I was keen that there wouldn’t be a repeat performance!

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The gridding seemed good and I got a fairly quick start, following Wilf around the outside of the first corner – he managed to pull his foot out of the pedal, but it didn’t seem to slow either of us down much. Into the woods for the first time I was well placed near enough in the top ten to get on with business.

Senior Video by John MX;

A lap in and suddenly no drive! – I’ve tested my disc brake bike for about six-months in all conditions and never dropped a chain, but it would seem that the rough brick laden surface of Herne Hill is something that wasn’t ever encountered in the wilds of Scotland or the local Sussex trails, so off my chain came! This close to the start [looking at the video] I lost 10 places in the process of getting it back on – bugger.

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The next three laps or so were spent reclaiming the places that I lost which I managed to do, but at a heavy cost. I was now seriously in the red, but my bunnyhops were getting slightly better over the hurdles and I was saving a fraction of time over each set. Not having to get off the bike made such a difference, but unfortunately on the big run-up at the back of the circuit I never really had enough space to ride it – too many riders around and too many memories of my last race at the Velodrome!

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My aim for my first race back was to finish in the top twenty and hold off being lapped – whilst I achieved the first part, the second part was to be scuppered by Jon Dennis who is just simply on fire at the moment. Very few riders in the whole race managed to stay un-lapped and that’s made more impressive by the large field – I can remember anyone lapping such a high percentage of the race. I managed to hold off everyone else and actually started to get into the swing of things by the end. My last lap felt god in terms of line choice and fitness – I just need to add the strength in now.

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Still waiting for my Junior Team-mate’s result but here’s the video of Cameron’s race;

Results;

1st Jon Dennis – 11 laps in 59:33

15th Glen Whittington – 01:00:23 at plus 1 lap – out of 103 riders

#aeightracer

Video’s be John MX. Photos by Glen Whittington, Cameron Preece, @samholdenphotos and John MX. 

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, Wildside Cycles and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany.

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oneseventwentyone/aeighttech – Red eTap (Demo C60)

Colnago’s C60 is the perfect showcase for the latest equipment – a racing bike that’s comfortable enough for the road and climbs like a demon – fitting it with the latest SRAM Red eTap WiFli, Zipp 303 NSW wheels and the brand-new Pirelli P-Zero Velo road tyres makes for quite an inspiring demo bike…

The eTap sales box proudly proclaims that, “there is a level where your equipment matches your dedication”, which sounds like a bold mission statement. With that kind of intent SRAM have set the tone, but can they deliver? Last year I built a project bike up with standard 303 wheels and the first version of eTap – the result was a usable bike that weighed less than the magic 6.8 kg’s. Since then the boffins at SRAM/ZIPP have tweaked the wheels and the group to allow an even lighter bike to go up even steeper hills!

The wheels have a new textured braking surface, which helps with both water shedding and heat dissipation – in both areas the Zipps were already market leaders, but the new surface treatment is even better. The freehub body also features a retention system which removes most of the friction when the wheel is freewheeling, which saves another few watts. I’m also experimenting with a Ceramic Speed cage at the moment and possibly bearings to follow, but more of that to come in future blogs,…

What I can talk about is the all-new Pirelli P-Zero Velo road tyre, which straight out of the box feels amazing – I’m usually not one to jump on the-next-big-thing hype, but I’m into tyres and this one felt completely different as soon as you pick it up – paper thin but of a reassuringly good quality. On the demo bike I’ve fitted them with standard Zipp rubber tubes, but I’m also trying a pair out with some latex tubes. Initially I felt right at home trusting the front to grip and nothing has put me off yet – the real test will be how the tyre performs in the rain, but for the time being it feels fast. Oddly I’ve observed not much difference to my normal tyres on rough roads but vastly less rolling resistance on smooth tarmac, perhaps is unsurprising when you think about the Italian brand’s motorbike racing technology and development. More testing to follow!

The Specialized Power Saddle is a great piece of kit and I got on well with it straight away. Some customers fit this for comfort reasons, but for me it’s all about fit. The conventional rear section gives way to a short stumpy nose which allows the rider to get much further forward if desired, or by adjusting the tilt allows the rider to open his/her hip joint much more than most standard saddles therefore curing all kinds of discomfort. It doesn’t seem to work for everybody but it’s definitely worth trying, along with a BG fit or something similar.

Colnago’s C60 frameset is truly a work of art – I honestly never tire of waxing lyrical about the beauty, design and technology of the Italian brand’s flagship frameset. With countless lug and tube options Colnago make an enormous range of sizes and colours and everything is produced in house in Italy – they really are one of the very few brands that can truly do everything from the start of the design to the finished frameset and it’s an absolute pleasure of mine to be able to finish that process by bringing the bike to life! Riding this one was a-dream-come true and despite the purist in me wishing for Campag, you have to accept that at the moment the best groupset technology is coming from Japan and the US.

eTap just feels so connected (which is an odd thing to say about a wireless groupset) – my way of explaining this is that it feels like a track bike in every gear. I’m not sure if this is because the mech is under more tension or that the combination of materials works better, but I think the underlying reason is just a very high build quality. The levers are just the right shape, uncluttered and have just the right feel – the mechs look clean and functional – the cranks almost disappear into the C60 frame, but on closer inspection the carbon layup is beautiful – and the brakes are subtle in appearance, but like anchors on the road! I’m a Shimano fan and a Campag fan, but I really don’t have a bad word to say about eTap and after a-years-worth of testing and fitting it, the groupset has proven itself to be up to the job of being mounted on even the finest frames.

The Wildside Demo Bike is available to test ride for 2-3 days at a time including weekends. There’s a small charge for wear-and-tear which (when you fall in love with the frame and order one) is taken off the cost of owning your own bike/groupset/wheels. For more info contact me (glen@wildside-online.co.uk) or the shop and book your ride now, to find out for yourself what all the fuss is about!

#aeighttech #aeightracer

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, Wildside Cycles and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany.

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oneseventwenty/aeighttech – Eurothrash

Forget racing, if you want to thoroughly thrash yourself, a trip to Eurobike is guaranteed to leave you completely frazzled. Here’s my top bits from three days at the show…

I’ve never been a massive Zipp fanboy – somehow the big white logos didn’t do it for me, but I started to look at them when Wout Van Aert and Anna Van Der Breggen started using them. Recently I’ve built more bikes up with the brand and I’ve really started to fall for them. The 302’s I used on a fully custom bespoke-build started me thinking about the brand and then I got to demo the 303 NSW wheels on a Wildside Cycles bespoke-build that I built. Now the brand has added tubeless compatibility, their own tubeless tyres, more disc options and a very exciting 650 wheelset to cover pretty much all usage.

The Dura-Ace Powermeter looks super clean and tidy, as does the Stages double sided powermeter. Time will tell which one works best, but we’ll get them on some bikes and see over the next few months.

Ceramic Speed is a brand that I’ve worked with before along with Lightweight wheels. Testing the systems out I think that the Oversized Pulley System seems to work really well – rider feedback has been very positive and the Danish brand has released a new chain treatment to help further reduce friction. Lightweight have developed a disc brake wheel which looks like it’ll do the business for high-end builds and they’ve also widened the rim width in their new lines, which was well overdue.

Lots of exciting things are going on in the bearing world (obviously that’s my definition of the word “exciting”) and I managed to get my hands on a fairly new product, which will be on my bike by tomorrow evening, so keep your eyes peeled for some fresh #aeighttech in the next few weeks!

DMR’s SLED looks amazing in the flesh and their friends at Praxis Works were showing off some real surprises. A new Girder Carbon and Zayante Carbon crank help support the top of the line options and they seem to tick all the right boxes. The great thing for me is the readily available options in terms of ring choices – doubles, singles, boost, sub compacts, etc all fit on the same crankset which is compatible with just about all frames! I’m looking forward to testing out the new Zayante M30 Carbon X which is claiming some impressive stats!

Chris King have a new colour out! Matte Candy Pink – just buy it all.

On the Colnago stand where do you start? I found myself wanting one of everything. The Prestige is really sorted and now comes with a really smart paintjob, as does the V2r which is especially beautiful in the black/gold art-deco paintwork. The Arabesque and Master both continue to stun, but of course the C60 is the bike that gets everyone drooling. If I could I’d have one of each colour – the painted lugs are such a simple touch which won’t ever look tired, unlike me after trying to take everything in!

The best thing though has been catching up with everyone and sharing so much knowledge and ideas with different people – I’ve really learned a lot and got some great new tricks up my sleeve for bikes to come – now to get back to the workshop!

#aeighttech #aeightracer

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, Wildside Cycles and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany.

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onesevennineteen/aeightbikeco – 260

12 hours – that’s longer than a day’s work, longer than you sleep for, longer than you’d want to sit still in one place, but the same amount of time that Pip (and plenty others including her SDW club-mate Kieran Fitzpatrick) chose to race a TT bike for – a bike which is entirely focused upon speed and aerodynamics: comfort is not even an afterthought…

So the idea is that TT racers start at 6am, separated by one minute gaps as in a normal TT from the tiny Norfolk village of Hingham. From here (on the B12/2 course) the riders set out for a 55 mile start circuit, taking in some beautifully quiet country straights with only the other racers and support vehicles to break the morning stillness. The silence is broken at about the 40 minute mark as the riders, one by one, move onto the A11 heading North for another 10 miles to the “top turn around”, before heading all the way down South for 20 miles to the “bottom turn” near Thetford. Once the riders have ridden back up to where they joined the dual carriageway they will have completed the start loop.

Most of the riders have a support vehicle – it’s up to each team how to make use of this to help the riders feed and hydrate as well as being prepared for any bike issues. You’re not allowed to follow the riders for any substantial amount of time and you’re only permitted to pass the riders once every 10 miles. Pip and I decided to pick a couple of decent lay-bys on our recon of the route on the Saturday to feed from and settled on driving between the ones that we knew had both a good run in where Pip didn’t have to worry about gravel, etc and then also a good exit with a big enough hard shoulder to get up to speed on.

Once the riders were done with the start loop they moved onto a 20 mile circuit of the lower half of the course and I took up my position halfway along at the five/fifteen mile mark, which gave me a great chance to start scribbling down lap times – crucial to keep Pip’s morale up even if she was doing all the same maths on her GPS anyway!

So far all of this had been raced on her Scott Plasma 3 TT bike, which I built up using Reynolds wheels, a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, a Four4th Scorpion Light and a Deda bar. The bike has been used to set the Club 10-mile and 30-mile records, 2 Open Course records and has won 8 Open TT races under Pip within the last 18 months. By the third time around this “No.1” circuit Pip was on 117.5 miles which she’d covered in 5 hours and 7 minutes.

From 11:00 (11:20 in Pip’s case) the riders were directed onto the “No.2” (quite apt after the local Norfolk muck spreading and broken surface) Circuit, which took place on the 20 mile northern half of the loop. I moved up to a lay by we’d spotted the day before, for a half-way-(ish)-point bike change after Pip had completed the first lap of the northern loop. Pip had covered 137 miles at 12:30 (6 hours and 21 minutes) and we were just over the halfway point!

We’d been kindly lent a bike which I’d built for a friend of mine – the Trek Speed Concept features a full on custom Mercedes Black and Lambo Orange paint job by another friend of mine. Onto this frame is hung a beautiful set of Lightweight wheels, Ceramic Speed bearings and a SRAM eTap groupset. The bike is stunning but the most important thing for Pip was to make everything feel fresh – the new bike cured any twinges and got her head back in the game. Of course everything was hurting but it’s amazing what a fresh bike, clean chain and new saddle can do for your morale!

Kieran was flying too and was relishing the windy conditions that the northern course was being treated to! He’d initially lost a little time to Pip but had now eked out a couple of minutes of advantage – both were looking super composed. The traffic on the southern loop had been a problem and now all the riders were going faster on the northern loop, but by the middle of the afternoon riders were tired and drivers were becoming an issue again. I moved up to a different lay-by and was surprised at just how dangerous the traffic was being – Moving up the course and over the flyover at the northern-turn-around I followed Pip and one other rider who was correctly positioned to the right whilst an BMW tried it’s best to overtake the pair just yards from the roundabout on the grass (which sounds insane, but actually happened – and that was just in the 2 minutes that I could see – imagine what was happening for the rest of the day)!

Unfortunately the finishing course wasn’t yet ready so Pip ended up having to do five circuits of the Northern loop before a 15:30 cut-off. Therefore she finished her 5th circuit after 9 hours and 54 minutes of racing having covered 215 miles. In 1962 Pam Wells set the SDW Club Ladies 12-hour record at 218.505 miles, so 55 years later at approximately 219 miles on the way to the “Finishing Circuit” I was waiting for Pip in yet another lay-by to give her a celebratory (but very sweaty) kiss and a bottle of flat coke! With just under 2 hours to go she was rewriting the history books!

All the riders thankfully meandered their way away from the A11 and to the finishing circuit – an 11 mile out-and-back between Watton and the HQ at Hingham Green, which began at 16:40 (mile 225) for Pip. The trek over had been slightly slower than the A11, but now on the smooth tarmac Pip had the end in sight and the bit between her teeth, once again raising her average speed to over 22mph. At 17:43 (11 hours and 34 minutes) Pip was starting her last circuit and had clocked 250 miles.

When it came time for the final push you could see the suffering but also the determination in her eyes – it was no holds barred attacking – full gas. Riders are clocked at each mile marker on the finish circuit and so at 12 hours (18:09 for Pip) they must ride on to the next marker so that an exact distance can be worked out. After 12 hours she’d completed an amazing 260 miles, improving the Club Ladies record by over 40 miles (almost a mile a year)! In fact Pip and Kieran (263 miles) ended up not far off the Club Men’s record of 267 miles on their first attempt (he said, hinting at what could be done in the future)!

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I really enjoyed supporting Pip and preparing all the bikes and keeping an eye out for all the other riders too. We’ve got to say a massive thank-you to Paul for the loan of the 2nd bike. Also to Del at Four4th Lights for not only making the best lights out there, but for also going the extra mile to deliver them at a moment’s notice. Reynolds has looked after us with wheels and they continue to work faultlessly. Cheers to all the young and old guys in various clubs for their time and advice to both Pip and me which really made the whole thing a lot easier to plan and execute. And thankyou to all the CC Breckland organisers, marshals, other riders and helpers who clapped, cheered and smiled at everyone on their way through 12 hours of TT racing!… oh, and well done to Pip – smashed it out of the park!

#aeightbikeco

Photos and video 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 , VeeTireCo, Four4th Lights and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany.

Pip rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. She races  road bikes and TT at local and national level. She receives personal support from the.æight.bicycle.cømpany.

@eightbikeco #aeightbikeco #aeightracer

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oneseveneighteen – the top step

Local racing is still the best…

Missing the first two rounds of the XC racing at Bedgebury was frustrating, but coming second in the six hour was even worse, so for round 3 of the XC racing I had to get my head back in the game! So much about racing is a mental battle and I think that if you get this right, the physical side of things is a lot more simple.

So a few days before the Bedgebury race I started to approach it like I would do had it been a much bigger race. This in itself would be good training for the ‘cross season and I was determined that no matter who showed up I was going to take them on in my best form possible.

Quite rightly, after missing two races I wasn’t gridded which left me three rows back at the start – a fast start was critical to getting on terms! I clipped in pretty quick and made my way up the outside of seven or eight riders on the long drag up to the first singletrack, a few elbows from other riders saw me in 5th for the time being, but I was relaxed and was keeping my eye on the leader.

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I moved up to 4th before the end of the first lap so I could stay out of trouble when people started making mistakes. It was interesting to watch everybody’s lines through the corners and how they were approaching different problems – one rider was wearing baggies and was super comfy on the downhills whilst another was all in black and smashing up the hills. I decided to move up to 2nd wheel so I could cover any moves that riders were making 20 minutes in.

Halfway through the lead rider waved me through to set the pace so I obliged, but when I found myself with no one to chase I couldn’t stop myself from attacking – my plan had been to go one lap later, but I got a small gap on the first downhill without really trying and decided to just keep going. There’s one climb at Bedgebury where you can see a decent distance and once you’re out of sight there you know you’ve done the job.

The last lap was fun – I knew the race was in the bag and I was back to winning so I had the space to pull a few wheelies. After the pressure I’d put on myself I was enjoying the pay-off and even though it’s only a local race, I think that’s important mentally. You train your body out of season for racing, but you have to learn to train your head in the racing season and I’m still learning how to get that spot-on.

Library Photos from BFCC.  

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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onesevenseventeen/aeighttech – road tubeless tyres

Tubeless tyres have been big in the mountain bike game for more than a decade now, but it’s been a tricky and slow transition on the road bikes – now that the technology is finally strong enough here’s the best way [I think] to set the tyres up…

Tubeless can be tricky but I believe that, after a few years of covering myself in sealant, I’ve finally nailed my technique thanks to some useful tech and a bit of experience. Just like painting the house, setting tyres up tubeless, is all about preparation. Laying out all the kit you need and being ready to do the whole thing in one smooth job makes the difference between that beautiful (yet concerning) “ping ping” of success and the unsatisfying “shhhhh” of failure!

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My kit includes a clean wheel, a clean unfolded tyre, tubeless tape, a straight pick, 60ml of sealant in an injector, clean valves (ideally the “Milkit” valve system), a valve tool, a sponge (with soapy water), an airshot with 200psi of air and a tubeless pump with another 200psi of air.

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First check everything is clean from old sealant, if using new or used tyres set the tyre out unfolded overnight if possible. Mount the tubeless tape onto the rim starting opposite the valve hole – I tend to use 2 layers of tape to begin with (more of that later). Select a tape that’s the same width as the spoke bed, often the best bet is the manufacturers own tubeless tape but if in doubt Effetto Mariposa and Stans both make plenty of widths of their excellent tape. Pull the tape tight as you fit it (a bit like bartape) and make sure it’s centered. Once two layers are on cut the tape neatly and then grab the pick to make the valve hole. I tend to heat the pick slightly to cauterize the hole as you make it – this has the benefit of making the hole beautifully round and avoids any splits that air could leak from once the valve is tight. Then fit the valve and hand tighten the valve nut.

 

Now fit the first bead of the tyre just as you would with a normal clincher, starting at the valve, and then fit the other bead straight away. At this point if the tyre feels excessively loose (or easy to fit), remove the tyre and the valve and add a third layer of tape. The tyre should be tight to fit but not impossible, to ensure a good seal. Once the fit feels good work the soapy sponge around both tyre beads and then double check that the tyre is sitting nicely over the valve – remove the core of the valve, before attaching a charged Airshot (or “Tire Booster”) – lift the wheel away from the ground and rotate it whilst you open the valve of the Airshot. The 200psi in the Airshot should inflate the tyre properly without sealant and the soapy water should help the tyre’s beads seat properly on the rim with 2 or more harsh “ping” noises – the missing valve core helps the air rush in, but remember to carefully remove the Airshot when the core is not in place as the air will rush out!

(The beauty of the Milkit system and especially the valves is that the coreless valve still features a one-way gasket and therefore you can release the pressure in a very controlled way – this also allows you to reduce the pressure to such a point that sealant can be added without the tyre unseating itself in the meantime, so once seated with the Airshot you will only need a basic pump rather than a high pressure tubeless pump – this helps keep everything clean. The valves also have the advantage of being able to have a syringe pushed through them to measure the amount of sealant left in the tyre after a few months of use, taking the guesswork and mess out of tubeless!)

Once you’ve removed the Airshot and decreased the tyre pressure fit the injector to/through the valve and fill the tyre with 60ml of sealant – different manufacturers recommend different amounts of sealant, but I prefer to have slightly too much rather than not enough! I rate the Stans Race/Doc Blue Sealant, but if you’re having problems, Effetto Mariposa Caffe Latex or Orange Seal can help as they provides a much thicker coverage which almost forms a sticky layer on the inside of the tyre rather than staying completely fluid. Whatever sealant you use make sure you shake it every single time you use it and even between tyres to ensure that all the particles are properly mixed.

Now attach the pre-charged tubeless pump, pick the wheel off the ground again and rotate while you release the second 200psi into the tyre (these pumps have a release valve which will avoid overloading your tyre once it gets to about 100psi so don’t worry about blowing it off the rim). Top up the tyre to 100psi, remove the pump and spin the wheel, moving the wheel from fully tilted over to the left to the right side to fully cover the inside of the tyre with sealant. Now give the tyre a clean with a rag to remove any excess sealant. Mount the wheel in the bike and test ride the wheel as soon as possible to help seat the tyre. Weave and brake on the bike to ensure that the tyre is behaving correctly. In an ideal world use a tire gauge to then set the pressure of the tyre prior to proper use.

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There are quicker ways of setting a tyre up tubeless but this is the routine that I find provides the best, most consistent, results and once completed usually provides worry free use.

#aeighttech

Thank-you to Damien Wells for the photos – you can also see his photos on the girodilento.com blog which is written by Scott Purchas.  

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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onesevensixeen – 30 hours

20 years of Mayhem came to an end this June, but endurance mountain bike racing seems to be stronger than ever…

Mountain Mayhem has become a part of the Summer over the years – like Wimbledon or the British Grand Prix, the annual 24 hour mountain bike race known fondly as Mayhem has had its magnetic effect upon the Summer rain for 20 years now and looking back at old result sheets I appear six times over the years.

2004 was my first attempt at solo 24 hour racing in the red and yellow of the original Evans Cycles Race Team – We had four teams that year and I was hooked from the start – I’d read about the original Red Bull sponsored race in Mountain Biking UK and I had to have a crack at it, managing a 41st position on what I thought at the time was training, but in actual fact was not nearly enough pre-race miles. My abiding memory of the event was finding a rider sitting down in the woods, in the dark, crying and when I asked if she was okay, she said, “I don’t even know why I’m crying” – brutal weather may have had something to do with it!

So then in 2006 in the new green and gold  kit I made my return to the solo category and completed twice the amount of laps of the Eastnor Castle venue but bizarrely finished in a lower position overall due to the races booming popularity. It was then four years before I returned to race at Eastnor, this time in the Open Team category with Cotswold Outdoor sponsoring us. In 2011 I went solo again, this time with some help from Kona (my Rohloff equipped Kona A full sus is still one of my favourite ever bikes) and managed a much better result in the now 200 strong category.

2012 saw me racing again for a team – this time with my Kona bikes from the year before but with the support of the local bike shop (Wildside). Onto 2017 and the last ever Mayhem which I reckoned really had to be raced solo. I decided that in the spirit of Mayhem I’d do no training and spend the week before riding hundreds of miles and eating pub dinners. This seemed like a great idea until about 48 hours before the race when you start to remember just how hard a 24 solo really is and began to force as much pasta as I could find down my neck.

Race day came and I busied myself with some last minute tyre and cassette changes before another ton of pasta and the customary riders briefing which I spent on a sofa in the Leyzyne tent trying to stay cool in the 30 degree heat. Mayhem always starts with a LeMans style run to the bikes, which you can’t avoid as a solo – my running isn’t terrible but I won’t miss the run starts! Once I was on the bike I started attacking the first 5 laps – it’s easy to go too fast but at the same time it’s nice to put time into your competitors whilst you’re fresh. I was second for a while before settling into third position but the top ten (which was my goal for the event) was really pretty close for the first six hours.

After a change of shorts and as much food as I could force down whilst changing I was back out and working hard. The temperature had been intense (even more so for the helpers, stuck in the full sun in the pits), but I’d been really good at keeping on top of my hydration so I was feeling good. As the Four4th Lights went on the heat finally dropped enough to comfortably ride through the night. At midnight I stopped for a bowl of pasta and a stretch – it was all of 20 minutes but put me down from 2nd to fifth or sixth, however it helped my morale and the next five laps went by in a breeze. Previously I’ve struggled in the 2nd part of the night but this year as the sun rose again through the mist I was feeling relatively okay.

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At about 7am I had my final stop for breakfast and another pair of shorts and then started doing the maths about where it may be possible to finish – I was pretty sure I had a couple of riders close behind and my helper was telling me I could still catch 3rd so it was all a bit tight in the top ten – I just decided to get on with riding! Now looking at the lap times I think Pip and the Leyzyne guys were being a bit optimistic about me catching 3rd, but it did get me working hard and as the day started to warm up I was riding faster and faster laps whilst forcing pretty much as many Torq gels down as I could! Eventually, my last lap was my second fastest of the whole race, but annoyingly I missed the chance to go out for one more lap by 12 minutes, therefore ending the race on the same number of laps as the 3rd placed rider! It would have been mega to get on the podium at the last ever Mayhem, but I’d started out hoping for a top ten with no training and so I guess it worked out well in the end!

Six days later I was racing again at Bedgebury – this time a six hour race in the tight and twisty BFCC race course. The lap is about 3km long so ironically we’d be fitting in about the same amount of laps that I managed at the Mayhem 24 race! I was hanging from the week before and knew I’d suffer as the race went on so I decided to attack early on and try and break the competition which included a rider I know quite well from ‘Cross in the winter. I also knew that he would know just how tired I was from the week before so a battle of mind games began.

The first three hours went to plan and I slowly turned the screw on Jon, taking a handful of seconds per lap, but I was focusing too much on racing and not enough on drinking and eating. I’d been about two or three minutes ahead at one point but by the halfway point this was down to less than a minute. The next hour was cat and mouse between the two of us and Jon was playing it well, changing the pace and forcing me to work – with two hours to go he’d played me like a fish, as he rode past we silently looked at one another and settled in for the final stretch.

It wasn’t the time to be despondent as I still had to beat the teams and also defend 2nd place in the solos! Over the next two hours I re-learned lessons I’ve learned again and again in racing and also just how much further you can push your body than you’ imagine – everything was hurting now; legs, forearms, shoulders, back, feet – but somehow you always find a way to push on through the pain. I guess my fear of stopping is bigger than my fear of hurting and that’s when you really know what makes you tick. I caught the 3rd placed rider for a lap on the final lap and stayed within a couple of minutes of Jon who controlled the race beautifully – a well deserved win for him and a happy podium for me.

Cheers to Pat for 20 years of Mayhem, Rory and the guys at Leyzyne/Reynolds for all the help and support, Del at Four4th for the spare batteries and the best lights on the market, BFCC for a brilliant race in our backyard at Bedgebury, all the competition, but most of all to Pip for standing in basically an oven for 24 hours and then basically a shower for another 6 handing me food and drink whilst I described various pain to her on a lap by lap basis! As Rory pointed out, “solo racing is a team sport!”

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Photos by Glen Whittington, Pip Jenkins, Rory Hitchins and Ben Stewart.  

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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