Wednesday night Riding

As I am working full time on this TV show it means daytime weekday rides aren’t happening so I have gotten into the habit of Wednesday Night Rides, Thursday and Friday a.m. swims and thursday pm 5-a-side footie. Then as much as i can cram into the other days of the weekend or nights.

So tonight out on the canal to Dumbarton and took a detour up the Kilpatrick hills

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there are some seriously steep hills – this one makes me use the bottom of my 1×11 SRAM gears – that 50chainring to 36tooth large cassette ….

i am not sure the mapping on Strava is accurate – it feels like a steady 18-20% hill – that false flat before the very steep isn’t there – it is just all steep.

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Went over the back to the reservoir – its over flint forestry road then suddenly the rear tyre felt softer. Sidewall had a slight tear and sealant was oozing out. Luckily with a shake it sealed again and I put some more air into the tyre.

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And then retraced my route. Pretty impressed with this bike and abilities so far. Sonder Camino ti gravel bike ….

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Running Dynamo hub driving USE Exposure Revo light – trying to link up battery recharge with the port out but not sure it works – more experimentation required.

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and the view looking down from the top of the wee hill is very pretty too

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Fork that was close

So I have been running Conti GP4000s tyres in 25mm size on my road bike and i am completely sold on the idea of this size tyre over my old 23mm. BUT and like my ex-wife it’s a big but …. the tyre picked up grit and stones and i could hear it grinding away at the fork. So finally pulled the plug on a larger fork (clearance) which had good reviews.

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and took to the bike shop to cut to size. I picked up and was going to donate my old fork to another rider in need but the bike shop mechanic showed me the old fork – really worn in the crown and the carbon on the stereo starting to delaminate ….eeek not a thought to have doing 75kmh down hills with.

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but fork in place and weight still the same 8kg ….

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the day the Contis let me down

I am a huge fan of the Continental GP4000s tyres on my road bike and earlier this year I went onto my third set-  this time in 25mm width. I love the tyres they are fast – quick rolling and pretty tough.

Yesterday I was reconsidering after a ride out involved a moment with a loud BANG. I stopped and was amused – this was the first puncture i have had on the road bike in 3000+miles (I am not counting the two punctures on the turbo when the inner overheated)

I changed tube and pumped when I saw the inner tube starting to bulge out of the seam on the tyre – I managed to deflate just in time – inspected and realised the seam had given way.

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I reinflated the tyre but this time to only around 30psi (as above – the seam bulged and stayed put) and then limped home at 20kmh.

Have emailed Conti UK to see what they have to say – it must have been a bad batch – the previous 4 have all been good.

seam parting
seam parting
nearly no wear on the tyre - wear indicators still perfect
nearly no wear on the tyre – wear indicators still perfect

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Challenge Strada Bianca 700C 30mm tyres

These tyres look great but might be a tight squeeze in the touring frame ….

Challenge Strada Bianca tyre You’ll never guess what this Challenge Strada Bianca tyre is designed for. The Strade Bianche race uses the white gravel roads of Tuscany and this 30mm racing tyre is just what you need for that kind of thing. It’s a brilliant all-rounder that’s fast enough for nearly any road use, but with hugely improved comfort.

You’ll need a particular kind of frame to fit the Strada Bianca. Most endurance road bikes top out at 28mm tyres so you’re really looking at gravel racers, ‘cross bikes and their ilk. Ours went on our on-test Kinesis Tripster ATR which will handle tyres up to 40mm, so there was plenty of room.

Like all Challenge tyres they’re lovingly made by hand. These tyres use a slightly lower thread count (260TPI) than the 300TPI racing tubulars but it’s still high-quality stuff; most road tyres are 60-120TPI. The herringbone tread is hand-glued to the carcass and the whole thing arrives flat-packed.

Getting them on the rim for the first time is a fairly sweary experience as they’re not tyre-shaped like a moulded machine-made tyre. I managed to blow out a tube by not getting them seated properly. The longer they’re fitted for, the more shape they get.

Out on the road they’re fantastic. You can run them at hitherto-untried low pressures with little or no danger of flatting them on the potholes. I’m over 100kg and I was running them at 70-80psi a lot of the time. They roll extremely well and at 358g they’re not heavyweights. It’s not like sticking a set of Marathons on. These feel like race tyres, they really do, except loads more comfortable. If you want comfort on long rides but still want to go fairly fast, there are not many better tyres I can name.

Grip from the herringbone tread is good, especially on loose climbs where the suppleness of the casing and the extra width means there’s more rubber in contact with the ground at any one time.

I’ve also tested Challenge’s Paris-Roubaix tyre, which was decent but suffered from punctures. This Strada Bianca has a beefed-up puncture strip and I haven’t flatted them once. Running at a lower pressure tends to result in fewer flats from thorns and flints penetrating the tyre carcass anyway, and you can go pretty low with these. That and the extra protection make these a much better all-round choice than the narrower Paris-Roubaix rubber, if your frame will take them.

They’re about 90g heavier per wheel but it’s a weight penalty worth paying. They don’t have the all-out protection of a full winter tyre but they’re hardy enough for more than the summer. They’re certainly not cheap at £48 a pop, but that’s the only downside, really.


Big, comfy all-conditions tyre that rolls like race rubber.

Strathpuffer 2013 – the 24hr race I failed at


It is always down to preparation. Rarely will you do well at  a race unless you are fully prepared.

For the Strathpuffer my intentions had been good but then some things came up that messed with my plans a bit.

1. I started work on a documentary series on Syria that saw me filming away from home. Istanbul life was hectic enough and although I tried to hit the gym – those horrible gym bikes never feel like real training.

2. I came back to do one last long ride – before my taper – but whether it was the 2 degree weather, my pathetic wet gloves and freezing feet. The bugs i probably breathed in flying in the day before … but I got man flu sick. I spent Tuesday,Wednesday and thursday going to bed at 8pm and trying to sleep it out and get healthy.

3. I had the equipment sorted. Great bike lights, new cleats on my winter boots, toasty Sealskin mtb gloves and spare discs for the bike.

I spent Friday driving up past Inverness to the race location at Strathpeffer. I was swigging calpol and cough medicine and downing cold and flu tablets and treating myself to throat lozenges …. I wasn’t pretty. But then out the front of the window the view was a tad scary.

drive up1

Got there and saw the accommodation for the night …. we were hardly roughing it.

how we slummed it

Race day rolled around and Dr Heart was going first – I had cycled 50m up the road from the camper to realise the whole fire road was iced. So after the bunch went past i started to put on the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro’s

ice spiker

I didn’t get them both on in time for my turn to lap – the tubeless was not going to work so Heart did a second lap and in the confusion so did I sans dibber …. Dr Heart said a few cross words (naughty C and F words) and headed out on the 3rd lap. The Ice Spikers were amazing I couldn’t stand on the trail but i could cycle it which I find quite mind-blowing.


switchback single track climbs in the middle
switchback single track climbs in the middle
tom rocks
Dr Heart on the rock single track

The course was great – fireroad climb technical rock section singletrack across the top then a sweet descent back to the start – all just 10km long

the sweep
me on that easy fast descent

… our camper was halfway up the fireroad so the laps on strava always include our off lap.

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Robbie and Huw were another team of pairs and they sped off on their laps – after a few laps they were running 4th and we were 15th …. out of 50 pair teams. Huw was bashing out laps of 37min within a few seconds of that (and all night stayed in the 45-47 mark) and Robbie was steady at 42min (which he did for the whole race) Da Automaton

My breathing was sketchy post cold and I had my HRM beep me if it went over 145bpm  so my laps were a slow 45min – 52min. After 6 laps i had to ask Tom to do a double as my coughing now had an iron after taste. Huw and Robbie were now tying for 2nd and we were up to 7th although 1.5 laps behind. Dr Heart, Huw and Robbie were also all on 29er’s which got me thinking …. (but for another post)

But after my 8th lap I said I couldn’t do anymore (well I couldn’t afford to get sick all week). My legs felt great and if it wasn’t for my cough I am sure I would have lasted. Dr Heart pulled on some more impressive distance but then got shut eye for 5.5 hours. When we were both up again Huw and Robbie were winning by 10min and we were back in 15th although Thom did a last lap flyer and he clawed us up to a 14th.

The winners won their prizes … then it was a 4hr drive home …. YAWN

huw and robbie won

There is a Strathpuffer LITE (in SUMMER) …. Mmmmmmm maybe

And YES of course there were FAT BIKES there