This gallery contains 23 photos.
Yesterday I went for a surprisingly long mountain bike ride with Ed. I was on a very normal ‘trail bike’. Sub-30lb 140mm full suspension with 26in wheels type of thing. Ed was riding a prototype-y On-One fatbike… thing.
Fatbikes haven’t really done anything for me. Well, occasionally they’ve annoyed me I suppose.
They’re the new singlespeed. The new 29er. The new bike for people to buy who have run out of riding mojo.
Yesterday it was very interesting to go on a normal ride alongside someone on a Fatbike. Much simpler – and hugely less embarassingly look-at-me – than having to ride one myself.
One basic revelation during the ride was fatbikes are traction machines. This appeared to be both good and bad.
They certainly don’t seem to glide over mud or soft ground, as I thought they might what with that oversize footprint of 4in tyres. They actually seem much harder work than a normal bike on squidgy stuff.
Ed was getting huge levels of grip on off-camber trails where I was flailing – and in one circumstance, falling.
One reassuring thing was that it was abundantly clear that 4in of rubber tyre is absolutely not like (good) suspension at all.
Ed was seemingly having a bit of trouble readjusting to life without a suspension fork up front.
Big ass tyres don’t seem to deal with hitting rocks at speed very well. And they also seem to be rather prone to ‘bobbing’ when pedalling along firm surfaces.
But the overwhelming revelation I had about fatbikes is that they’re different. That’s the ‘point’ of them (if you must find a point to everything).
There’s no denying the occasional flashes of 100% glee that their riders have on certain sections of trail. It’s a type of glee that you don’t ever really achieve (as an adult) on any other type of bike.
So yes they are attention seeking. Yes they are functionally woeful in terms of suspension. Yes they are going to bought by people who spend more time buying bikes than they do riding them.
But they offer a new kind of experience unattainable on any other bicycle. So fair do’s.
Yesterday I spent exploring, riding, photographing and wooping around some hills along the north coast of Wales.
I’d been wanting to see what was up there for many a year. I’ve driven past the coastal hills numerous times on my way to Snowdonia or Anglesey or the Llyn Peninsula.
You could say that the hills have been calling me for quite some time.
Finally there arose a job for a magazine feature that could be executed in these hills. And it coincided with the first azure blue sky day for quite some time. Bonus.
As is often the way with riding-for-mag-photo-features the route we followed wasn’t your regular loop-type of thing. It was mostly a day of linking up half a dozen different key spots that looked (on the map and Google Earth) like they’d have some good photographic potential.
As it happened this anti-route turned out to be a great ride. Stone circles, big views, ridgelines, bigger views, phenomenal singletrack, hike-a-bike sweat-fests, golden light, damp backs and hot brakes.
The photographic aspect of the mag feature is now no problem. I’ve got more than enough good shots to go in there.
The wordy aspect of the feature is not so straightforward. Somewhat typically I now want to stray from the brief. Which is frequently possible and editors don’t generally mind so long as the original general intent is still in there somewhere.
We shall see what comes through the keyboard in a couple of days when it comes to writing it up.
My intention was to get some photos – and a story to go with them – for a magazine route guide based around Blaenau Ffestiniog.
It can sometimes be difficult finding willing rider-models to come along on these things. Especially if it’s something that’s best done during the week, when proper people are at work.
I eventually found a willing rider-model (Dave). And booked in with the Antur Stiniog uplift service to sort us out with riding the new trails there.
With it being November, and North Wales, there was a high chance that the weather would be horrible. As it turned out, the weather was pretty manageable. Yes okay, it sleeted at the start of the first run but after that we had our fair share of brightish weather.
The weather didn’t actually matter. I’d planned, and packed my photo stuff, accordingly.
It started out well. The uplift service was swift and easy. The trails were fun. The setting was amazingly ugly-beautiful. I decided not to get the camera out until we’d be sampled all the different runs down the hill. Things were going well.
Until our second run. Whereupon Dave hit the deck on something of a ‘nothing’ corner. The sort of silly crash that happens to us all now and then. He was winded for a few minutes and holding his ribs.
We went back up for a third run but from the moment I noticed Dave struggling to lift his bike out of the uplift trailer I knew it was going to be a write-off of a day, workwise anyway.
I took a couple of pics on an early section just for the sake of it more than anything else.
Dave called it a day. We went for a warming cup of tea and a chinwag in the cafe.
After the cafe, I headed back on to the uplift service (sans camera) and just rode my bike. It was great. The trails there are quite a piece of work.
Although I didn’t get any useful work content from the day’s trip, I’m not sad about having to go back and try it all out again soon.
Myself and Ed Oxley went bikepacking last week. Three days in the Lake District, including an overnight stay in a mountain hut.
Bikepacking is like backpacking but on bikes. You carry everything you need for the multiday trip on your person and/or bike.
We’d both been talking about doing such a thing for quite some time but we wanted to do it differently to all the other bikepacking things you see online and in magazines.
Basically we wanted to do some bikepacking on our ‘normal’ All Mountainy kinda bikes. And ride the same sort of technically demanding tracks that we do normally.
Most of the bikepacking you see is (understandably) wide wilderness tracks being ridden on fully rigid 29ers.
Which is ace. But we wondered if you could take the bikepacking ethos and combine with modern full suspension bikes and some big flip-off gnarly mountains.
So that’s what we attempted.
You can read all about our (mis)adventures in an upcoming issue of Singletrack Mountain Bike Magazine.
I went to the Cycleshow down at the NEC. There was no overt work reason to go at all but I found a cheap train ticket and a free entry to the show so I though what-the-hey.
It turns out the show didn’t have an awful lot of interesting things from the mountain bike side of cycling but there was just about enough stuff in general there to occupy half a day’s mooching around.
See the gallery below for my Top Ten (ish).
As hoped, the main result I got from visiting the show was meeting bike industry people. Most of whom I’d met before but it’s still always nice and useful to catch up in person as chat about what we’re all up to.
Ideas are born. Opportunities are seized. Bollocks is talked.
Enthusiasm is somehow renewed.
Strangely looking forward to the London Bike Show next January now!
A film inspired by a mountain bike photography course that I’m running this March with Ed from Great Rock. The film was shot during a day out scouting for trails.
Video is ace. Photography is ace. They each do a different job.
For the purposes on the photography course myself and Ed need to find a location, and a route, that tick all the required boxes. It needs to be somewhere with decent, varied trails and big scenery that’s er… scenic in all weathers.
We don’t want somewhere overly ‘epic’ or technically demanding as it’ll be a mixed ability group who are principally there to learn about photography. Having said that, we don’t just want to spend the entire day sessioning one section of trail over and over again for the cameras. A modest but rewarding and enjoyable ride will be the icing on the cake. I want to impart ‘real world’ photography techniques, tips and tricks that clients can use when heading out on regular rides.
It looks like we’ve found our location. And worked out a suitable route. Hopefully we’ll not be needing to deal with snow and ice next time.
For more info on this photography course go to:- great-rock.co.uk/courses/stop-taking-crap-photos/
Music: ‘It’s This I am’ by Evie Sands.
More from the excellent, Dusty Springfield’s favourite singer, still-touring, still-amazing Evie Sands…