No, really, I’m not. But this year’s bike has got me all in a fluster. It’s just really interesting and widgety like.
It’s a Specialised Marathon Epic and well, we all have a honeymoon period with a nice new bike but I get the feeling this one is going to be a keeper. It’s so much fun to ride. I loved my Trek Superfly, (which I will be sad to say goodbye to) but it was a pure race bike and had to be handled with a little TLC in my favourite type of riding (the big rocky passes of the Lake District for example). My Epic feels like just the right balance between ‘race’ and ‘everyday fun’. I sketched and skidded down the Watendlath descent way faster than I did the last time I visited it on my Trek (which was road bike light and climbed superbly). Is it faster between two points up AND down? We’ll see how it goes at the National Marathon Champs in Selkirk in just under 3 weeks. However the main reason for choosing this bike was because I think it will be ideal for my two big targets of the year; the European 24hr solo championships at the end of May and of course the World 24hr championships in October. I reckon this is pretty much the perfect bike for rough and rocky long haul racing. Why? Here’s some of the geeky stuff if you don’t already know:
- Both the fork and the rear shock have ‘Brain’ inertia valves which differentiate between rider generated forces (which you don’t want to activate the shock with) and ground generated forces, (which you do). So no need for a lock out. This is a big plus for 24hr racing because you want to think about as little as possible. At 3am it’s very easy to forget to unlock your fork / shock. With Magura / XO brakes and gears on a Matchmaker clamp, it also makes for a very tidy handlebar set up. In previous years I had considered an Epic but the earlier versions didn’t quite seem to have the valving right and I could never set them up to give a seamless transition; it gave a slight ‘dunk’ sensation that I found slightly unnerving. This year’s version seems bang on, (For my weight? My riding style?) and the only problem I had initially was psychological; flinging along a smooth section headlong into some rocks and telling myself it would work!
- Carbon Roval wheels. Superlight. Feel plenty stiff and have already taken a few big rim hits without flinching.
- The SWAT storage system thing. For Marathon racing, you want to travel light. Having tools integrated into the bike is great idea. There is a small plastic box that you can bolt below the downtube water bottle which neatly holds an inner tube, tyre lever and CO2 canister. There is also a chain tool intergated into the fork steerer. However, most useful by far is the small multi tool which clips into the frame, just above the shock. Genius! Already there have been loads of times when I’ve started to dig in a back pocket / bag and then remembered there is every emergency tool I need already on the bike and accessible in seconds. The frame can also hold two 600ml bottles which few full suss bikes can do. Again, perfect for Marathon racing.
So there you go. A bit more time bedding everything in / tweaking here and there and this unique bike is definitely going to become a firm favourite. Massive thanks to M Steels Cycles for supplying the bike and their enthusiastic continued support.
Other stuff: over winter and alongside JMC rider and all round good egg (seasonal) Phil Simcock we won the pairs race at Strathpuffer. The race was soooo much more fun than I had anticipated! A superb course and a brilliant atmosphere. If, like me your reaction to racing 24hrs in the Scottish Highlands in January was one of dismissive laughter, I urge you to think again. It’s a classic and I hate to say I will probably be back. Jason Miles and Dave Powell better halves / pit crew did an amazing job of keeping us all going through the loooong night with Puffer know how born from years of sitting in a freezing, wet and cold forest. Jason also did an amazing job of winning the race and holding off a very determined Keith Forsyth and Guy Martin.
I raced the Whinlatter Challenge recently (now an annual calendar fixture). I love this race! Long story short; it was a stacked field. It was bloody fast. I came 8th overal and won the vets. A decent result and a thoroughly enjoyable and social day, as it always is.
Other stuff: did a typically northern (but great fun) MBR photo-shoot / story with super chipper Andy McCandlish around the southern fells of Northumberland a few weeks back. We were also joined by Keswick Mountain Bike riders Andy Wrigley and Adam Nolan which basically made the day into a fun social ride. Hopefully there was enough good material to make press following the deluge of the first half of the ride!
Don’t do this often enough; I’ve got some great support which means that I get to ride, tweak, and race with a great variety of bikes and equipment. So thanks once again to:
M Steel Cycles www.msteelcycles.co.uk
Exposure / USE www.use1com
Mt Zoom www.mtzoom.com
Bertie Maffoons Bicycle Company www.bertiemaffoons.com
Schwalbe Tyres www.schwalbe.co.uk
And Union Room (who set up my blog) www.unionroom.com