My Cycleshow 2012

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!

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Moving v still

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…

Nice race

I spent last weekend in South West Wales. The Saturday was spent riding the high fells and slate piles of the Preseli Hills for a forthcoming route guide. You’ll be able to read all about that in March. Here’s a picture of some Preseli ponies to tide you over…

The Sunday was spent competing in the Brechfa Frostbite 40. A 40km mountain bike race in Brechfa Forest. The whole thing isn’t timed, just three stages: a downhill stage, an undulating stage and a climbing stage. It’s a unique format that the organisers dubbed an “Enduro”. Whatever your thoughts on what should – and should not – be called an “Enduro”, it’s clear that new race formats can be hard to categorise. Here’s a good blog about it from Ash (Transprovence chief).

Personally I think everyone should just stop using the word “Enduro”. Get rid.

I don’t typically do very many races. I guess I average about one a year. I can’t remember exactly why I entered the Frostbite 40. I think it was a combination of a relatively cheap entry fee (£20), a chance to see an old friend who lives down there now and a target date to have a ‘normal pedally bike’ sorted for myself by then.

I failed as regards the latter objective. I still haven’t got a pedally bike of my own. I seem to only have a hefty 140-160mm ‘burly bike’ and a light but twitchy singlespeed. My quest for a pedally bike is worthy of a blog entry in itself so I’ll not go into that now. So anyway, I used a 140mm full-sus trail bike on loan for the race.

The weather on the day of the race was pretty perfect. Quite cool. Clear and bright. The preceding days had seen some hefty rainfall so we were advised that the trails may be a bit squelchy in places. Especially the off-piste ones.

Most competitors seemed to be there with a friend or few. I knew a few of the organisers and marshalls but not anyone who was actually riding. It was a bit odd at first riding along amongst mini-peletons of pals but I soon settled into my thoughts and rhythm and zipped along.

The type of mountain bikes being used were relatively broad. Amidst the majority of short-to-mid travel full sussers there were a handful of optimistic burly bikes, a smattering of 29ers and quite a lot of sub-£1000 have-a-go hardtails. I got the impression that most people were there on their main/only mountain bike. Which is a great thing about these events. People don’t have to ride/buy a specific bike. Your regular ride will be fine.

The first stage (downhill) had a bit of traffic but that’s part and parcel of mixed-ability racing. It probably stopped me from trying too hard and crashing out! It was quite sketchy being back on normal tyres after a winter of mud spikes.

The second stage (undulating) was fun. Partly due to the novelty of racing an up-and-downy stage. I’d never done such a thing before. Having a dropper seatpost was a distinct advantage. The steep uphill switchbacks in the middle were a killer. The final jumpy fling was ace.

The third stage (climb) was hard work but not as bad as I feared. It was a middle-ring affair with frequent gear changes at the back. Being able to see the finish line marshals’ hi-viz vests towards the end was a nice incitement to keep cranking.

I acquitted myself alright in the end (33rd) and was generally pleased with my efforts and attitude. Like a lot of people, it’s tempting to think “if only I’d done this” or “if only that hadn’t happened”. But results are results at the end of the day.

My experience of the race was, in a word, nice. Nice weather, nice trails, nice atmosphere, nice bike, nice riders, nice marshalls, nice sponsors, nice charity cause, nice community vibe, nice cake, nice idea.

It’s a good race to do on your own but it’s a great race to do with friends. I’ll be back next year with some.

Train set

Last week I got to play in a proper photo studio. I’ve done a fair bit of studio stuff before but only in smaller, semi-improvised spaces. The job this time was shooting some new bikes. Classic side-on shots, 3/4 shots and close-up detail shots.

A photostudio can look a bit daunting at first with expensive stuff everywhere and lots of switches, tripods, softboxes and cables scattered about the place. In reality all of this paraphernalia is there to make life much simpler.

Once you’ve done a couple of studio shoots, you’ve learned 99% of it. And on the day, once the studio is set up, it stays put and provides a consistency that you can rely on. Nice, even, reliable light. This leaves you to get on with positioning the subject/product and working your way through your ticklist of ‘must get’ shots.

All of this multi-thousand pounds worth of kit can be undone by something small but important. Like forgetting to bring some fishing wire for doing the ‘balancing bike’ shots. Oops. We worked it out in the end though. Just about.

cotic simple

To see the rest of the pics in their rightful place go to http://www.cotic.co.uk/product/simple and http://www.cotic.co.uk/product/solaris

ANGLER UPDATE:

1 minute of mucky fun

Still experimenting with video from my dSLR. It’s fun. I’m pretty happy with how things are turning out.

This video turned out pretty well. Light heartedness in the darkness. I’m pleased with my composition and exposure of the shots on the whole. The white balance is a bit screwy on a couple of shots but other than that, good stuff.

Videoing downhill tracks seems to gel okay with riding downhill tracks too. The practice of sessioning sections over and over again, perfecting the line, getting smoother and faster, lends itself to getting multiple takes of riders without peeing them off too much by requesting “just once more please”.

I wasn’t even really intending to shoot any video (or stills) on this ride but I’m glad I stuck the camera in my backpack. We were only shooting the latter runs and it was a quick smash ‘n’ grab half an hour that was worth it I reckon. I’m more than happy with getting one minute of video from thirty minutes of shoot time.

Very much looking forward to returning to this shoot location both to ride it some more (there is a gap jump with mine and Ed’s name written on it, apparently) and maybe to video it some more.

The music is is a track called ‘5D‘ by Death Grips by the way.

Todcross video

A shortish film of a cyclocross race in Todmorden, January 2012.

Geeknote: Pleased with my use of sound in this.

It’s snow good

Yes, a blog about weather. I don’t believe I’ve blogged about the weather before. As a British Subject this needs to be addressed.

So, snow then. Are you a lover or a hater?

For the last two winters I’ve been absolutely a Snow Hater. Principally because it really fouled up my work. But most of that work was product testing.

If I had much product testing to do over this winter I’d be worrying/hating again. But I don’t. So I’m not.

Instead I’m doing what a normal ‘non-professional’ mountainbiker would be doing: planning some ill-advised adventures. In previous wintery escapades I’ve taken some of my best photos and had some of my more memorable rides.

The obvious place to go if the snow hits is the Lake District. I’m not going to go there. I have somewhere else in mind.

I’ve got assistants on standby. I’ve got spare camera batteries on charge. I’ve got massive gloves. I’ve got a flask. I’ve got handwarmer gels. I’ve got a massive Camelbak for carrying all this and more.

I need to get myself a new wooly hat.

Bring it on…