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)!


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!


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.

MS c

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 – 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!


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.


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.


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.


Thank-you to Damien Wells for the photos – you can also see his photos on the 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 – 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.


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!”


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 – He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer

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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.


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!


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 – 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.


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.


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 – 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


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].


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 – 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

[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.