Showing posts from October, 2016

Running the OMM Original Mountain Marathon 2016

'Running' perhaps isn't the only adjective that should be used to describe taking on last weekend's OMM in the Galloway Mountains, Scotland. You should also add 'Climbing', 'Scrambling', 'Hiking' and most definitely 'Bog Bashing' to the list; it is a running orienteering event of pretty extreme proportions... Friday saw us drive from Portsmouth to the Galloway peninsula in South West Scotland; a casual 15 hour journey by minibus. We picked up my running partner Ben in Penrith enroute, and completed our four man team from Wiggle. Welcomed at midnight by the cheery OMM team, we settled down for a few hours sleep, not sure what to anticipate from the next day's race. The OMM is a running orienteering event series, with events in the U.K., France and even Japan. The events all hold the same format: on the start line, teams are given a list of checkpoints out in the mountain wilderness - each one is worth a different number of 'p

Review - Swrve _BLK POLARTEC heritage fleece pullover

Winter is coming; and with it the long rides, café stops, cross-training, and foul weather training gear that accompanies the season. I love winter... it is a special season; not only for the challenging conditions found on rides like those during the Festive 500 ; but also because there is no better feeling than jumping in a warm bath, and then pulling on a warm jumper, after a long ride in the cold crisp air. The Swrve Black Label Polartec Heritage Fleece Pullover has fast become a favourite of mine for the 2016 winter season. Smart, yet comfortable; this is a jumper that will keep you warm on those cold days, but also look the part in the office or around town. The lining of the Heritage pullover is made from POLARTEC® Thermal Pro fabric, which is lightweight, yet insulates superbly for its bulk. It breathes well too, staying comfortable even when the sun comes out. Then, because it's synthetic fleece, it is fast drying as well. It's worth mentioning that despite being

Review - Timber! Mountain Bike Bell

I always fit a bell to any bike that I'm using on shared pathways - be that bridleways or cycle paths; it is essential to alert other path users to your presence. However, over the last year I've managed to ding-to-death a number of cheap unbranded bike bells (the ones that come free on most bikes), and as a result I've been on the hunt for something better... I think I might have found it with the 'Timber!' MTB bell! This little clanger looks and sounds like a traditional cowbell - 'singing' rather than 'dinging' to alert other trail users to your presence. The crucial difference from most other bike bells though, is that it effectively has an on-off switch, rather than a spring-loaded hammer. To activate the 'Timber!' bell, you simply release the clutch and it begins singing; you can then leave it happily in that mode to politely signal your presence for as long as you need. Then, to deactivate the bell, you just flick the clutch bac

5 Top Tips for Road Cycling on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight offers a lot for a road cyclist. Not only is it blessed with being the sunniest place in Britain (always a good start), it also holds one of the most varied and versatile mixture of roads of perhaps anywhere in the UK. Whether you're looking for a challenging hilly route, with 25% gradients and swooping descents; or you are planning a gentle spin on traffic-free riverside cycle paths - you will find both in these 235 square miles. I have been riding a road bike on the Island (amongst many other places) for the last ten years, and in that time I reckon I have covered pretty much every road on offer. I can't say that I have ever grown tired of the area though; there really are a huge variety of routes to choose from. The constantly changing coastal landscape also offers a superb backdrop to any ride. Road cycling on the Isle of Wight In the last five years or so, road cycling has really taken off on the Isle of Wight. The Island now hosts several

Review: Michelin TransWorld Sprint Touring Tyres

I was lucky to complete my 'Coasts and Cols' Tour without too many mechanical issues at all. The one problem I did have, was on Day 9: 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' - when both of my tyres developed sidewall explosions! The Michelin TransWorld Sprint Tyres were what I replaced my blown-out tyres with, thanks to a local French bike shop. The tyres have impressed me greatly, especially considering their low cost; so I thought I would write a quick review/recommendation on the blog. The Michelin TransWorld Sprint is pitched as a "go-anywhere" touring tyre, from the French brand. It features a grippy semi-slick centre section, with added knobs on the sides, for corning confidence. Confidence and continued good performance is exactly what these tyres have provided. Whether it was for the remainder of the 'Coasts and Cols' tour , or for subsequent commuting duty back in the UK (they've stayed on the bike); they have provided hassle-free rid

Weekend Watch: Beulah by Brother Cycles

This is one of the best 'short films' I've seen in a long time. The edit portrays perfectly the joys of Bikepacking  - the exploration, the unexpected, and the adventure. After my recent ' Coasts and Cols ' tour, this makes me want to get out exploring again, even more than I already did...

Review - Sportful Fiandre WS LRR Short Sleeve Jacket

There is something particularly special about cycling in autumn. It's those cold crisp mornings and stunning sunrises and sunsets; it's those deserted roads and still dusty trails; it's the change in the season, and the atmosphere. Autumn also provides one of the most challenging times for kit selection though; from storms to searing sunshine, the season can provide it all. The new AW16 range from Sportful, is designed to be superbly versatile; capable of keeping even the most enthusiastic all-weather rider in comfort. The new Sportful Fiandre WS LRR Short Sleeve Jacket is a highlight from the range. The piece utilises Gore's Windstopper Light Rain Resistant fabric, coupled with a waterproof zip, to provide an 'element-beating' shield layer - capable of warding off the worst September storm. Even with this protection though, the top's short sleeve (it comes down to just above the elbow) design, and the full length zip (as well as the highly breathable

Book Review - 'The Racer' by David Millar

David Millar is one rider I have always respected within the pro peloton. Yes, he's had dark moments within his career; but anyone that has read his previous book 'Racing Through The Dark' ( read my book review here ), will know that he has done just that - he's "raced through" the shadowy days; coming out the other side a more experienced, wise and informed athlete and personality. David Millar is a veteran of the peloton, in more ways than one. He has experienced it all - from the depressing days of the 1990's, to the '100% clean teams' like Garmin and Team Sky. He has raced 'The Classics'; he has raced in over 20 Grand Tours; he has seen the world of professional cycling from more angles than most. It is this educated personality, which makes 'The Racer' a great read. The book follows David Millar's final year in the professional peloton - the 2014 season. This is far from an easy ride for the Scottish born rider though

Review - Unior Tools Pro Home Mechanic Tool Kit

When I see 'newbie' cyclists out on the roads and trails, I sometimes have to stop myself from wincing at their creaking bike or squeaky chain. I force myself to smile instead, because at least they're out there, enjoying the ride. I also have to remind myself that I was once the same… when I started getting into mountain biking, at the age of 12, I remember having no end of problems with skipping gears, squeaking brakes and sticky cables; those maintenance tasks that now take a few minutes in the bike stand at home, used to have to require a trip to the local bike shop to resolve. Trips to the local bike shop are in fact a key part of many cyclists' development; however, it's often not long before time constraints, frustration and purse strings push budding cyclists into doing their own mechanic work, at home. For me, I bought a copy of Leonard Zinn's legendary 'Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance', along with a budget LifeLine Essential

Top Tips for Bikepacking

The next in my series of posts on Bikepacking , looks at some Top Tips for a good trip. These insights mostly originate from experiences enjoyed or endured on the ' Coasts and Cols ' tour; everything from packing, to clothing and food. I hope you find them useful for your next tour... ​ Pack light, but be prepared - The key to effective packing, is effective planning. You need to plan for possible scenarios; but weigh up the possibilities of those eventualities occurring, against the weight and bulk of the additional kit you'd require to deal with them. For example, cold or inclement weather when touring in the mountains, is a distinct possibility; the added weight and bulk of waterproof arm and leg warmers, and a proper GoreTex jacket, are well worth it. By contrast, you have to question whether you really need to take a full cutlery set to eat your dinner; or could you get away with just a spoon? Do you need to take a mug; or could you just drink from your stove pot

Review - Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

I'm generally moving away from using sports drinks; their high sugar content, acidic nature and synthetic feel, no longer have an appeal for my style of endurance riding (read my blog post on ' Fuelling on Fat and Protein '). This said, hydration remains a priority for me; and we all know that water alone is not enough to hydrate your body properly. As a result, I'm always on the lookout for hydration solutions; mixes that offer a low-sugar, natural and electrolyte supplementing drink, but without the sugary calories of most. Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix seems to tick all of these boxes, and so I was keen to test it out… Skratch Labs are an American company, founded on the principals of simple, natural and effective sports nutrition. Their products are made using real, natural ingredients; with no artificial colours or preservatives. There are no E-numbers or 15 letter word ingredients in their product; just the essentials, to keep your body firing on all cyl

Optimum Nutrition - The Complete Nutrition Strategy

This year, Optimum Nutrition turned 30 years old. They are celebrating three decades of delivering 'Gold Standard' nutrition, including the famous Gold Standard 100% Whey - the most popular whey protein product out there today. Within the ON range, there are numerous other 'Gold Standard' products though; which can create a complete 'optimal nutrition strategy', whether you're a gym goer or endurance cyclist. In this blog post, I thought I'd look through my favourites… Gold Standard Pre-Workout To kick things off, quite literally, there is the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout. This product is designed to ignite your body before you commence vigorous activity. It contains 175mg of caffeine, from natural sources, to help increase alertness and focus. It also contains creatine, for added power output; then vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6 and B12, which all contribute to energy yielding metabolism. Additional ingredients include Beta-Alanine, Ci