Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Short Stem

Shortcrust, Short Selling, Short Stuff, Short Stem

My Cube Analog 29er "Herman" is a fairly basic MTB with a geometry (e.g. 70 degree head angle) that suggests it is aimed at cross country (XC) and easier trails. With a 700mm bar and a 90mm stem as stock it is a very stable bike to ride. I've had it (slowly) round the red trail at Gisburn and, with the seat dropped down a bit, it's quite capable of handling terrain I wouldn't have expected it to. Indeed, the fat fleshy bit pushing the pedals is often the limiting factor.

A lot has been written about running a short stem and wide bars on a mountain bike. The idea being that it improves the steering speed and allows the rider's weight to be moved back further when descending. It should also make lifting the front wheel on trails easier, something I've struggled with in the past.

I thought I'd make a large enough change to the geometry that even a lump like me might stand a chance of noticing a difference. So the 90mm Cube stem has been swapped for a 50mm On-One "Hot Box" part cos it was the cheapest 50mm stem available at the time.

First Thoughts

This isn't a scientific A-B comparison as I haven't ridden Herman for a couple of weeks as I've been commuting on the Croix. However the bike seems to feel lighter of steering and I amused myself by slaloming between the gaps in the white lines whilst going up the road.

Along the track to the golf course it seemed to feel a bit more composed on the rougher sections and on the Golf Course Flyer segment on Strava it felt quite stable, even going straight down the middle of the rocky bit. Perhaps this is due to my hands being more in line with the line of the shocks rather than being offset.

Slightly more precise of steering perhaps?

Front wheel lifts seem a bit easier judging by my experiments on a flat road.

I'm looking forward to doing some of the usual routes with this change and seeing if there really is a difference.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Eating and excercise

Hitting the Wall

"I do like James," said Ron, my father-out-law-soon-to-be-in-law, "but I've never met anyone who eats as much as he does!".

I'm not sure if I have a fast metabolism. Maybe I burn off more calories than I estimate. Perhaps pretending to be clever at work takes more energy than I think. Whatever. Nevertheless, there have been several occasions where I've wanted to go for a run after coming home from work but I've just been too tired. Then I've proceeded to eat half of the house. Thinking about it, on these tired days I've generally not eaten enough. Yesterday was a good example that got me thinking about this.

  • Breakfast: muesli, no banana (fell out of my bag on way to work!)
  • Lunch: small sandwich, sausage roll. Forgot other fruit :(
  • Emergency wobbly legs late afternoon snack: Mars bar from Max's tuck shop
  • Made it home with no energy. Not going for a run. Can just about say "whrrrrrrttttt"
  • Tea: inhaled a large bowl of mushroom + pesto pasta
  • Followed by Hula Hoops, two chocolate brioche rolls I'd been saving for running snacks, a bit of dark chocolate and two crumpets with Marmite.

Felt much better!

Energy Out vs Energy In

Every day I ride to work and back which, according to various estimates, burns around 200-350 calories each way. This means 400-700 calories on commuting a day. Not bad. However the body isn't an infinite store of energy (who knew?!) so I've got to put it in too!

So today was an experiment to consciously eat plenty.

  • Breakfast 1: Crumpet and butter
  • Cycle to work (247 Strava calories estimate)
  • Breakfast 2: Muesli and banana large portion
  • Lunch: Egg sandwich on brown seeded bread, tiny bit of mayo, cup of Heinz mushroom soup and a steak pasty from the butty shop
  • PM snack: Another egg sandwich as above, orange, apple
  • Cycle home (215 Strava calories estimate)
  • Tea 1: Chicken sandwich, marmalade sandwich, crumpet with Marmite
  • Running club 4.5 miles, 846 calories
  • Tea 2: Pint of ale, toad in the hole (4 sausages)

And I feel great! Turned in a good day at work, good concentration levels, plenty of energy for running and such.


I think I need to look at my diet a bit to make sure I'm eating enough but also make sure it's good stuff. I do tend to eat lots of carbs (bread!) and perhaps not enough lean protein. However I generally get my five a day. I'm not fat by any stretch of the imagination, so I know I can eat this much and exercise it off.

Now, where's my pie?

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Goals for 2016

New year, new goals

Get married
I'm looking forward to June!

See friends more
Very easy to get into a routine and not spend time with your friends. Spend quality time with marvellous people at least once a month.

Winter mountaineering
Climb at least one grade IV, Green Gully, Comb Gully or North East Buttress on Ben Nevis are top of the list. Accompany Louise up her first Grade I climb.

General milage targets
Try and beat last 2015's Strava stats - 2512 miles cycling, 327 miles running.

Try and get an entry into this years 3 Peaks Cyclocross race.

100 mile bike ride
Time to crack out a century ride.

I enjoyed my October Friday night bikepacking adventure and I'd like to something similar again. The odd after work MTB trip or a multi-day Coast-to-Coast ride. To be decided

Dales MTB
More riding the MTB in the Yorkshire Dales - so much choice!

As ever, tick off some more Wainwrights. Perhaps a weekend trip to the Northern Fells?

Hardmoors 26.2
My good pal Vix speaks very highly of the Hardmoors races. Time to try one.

Unspecified long distance walk
Maybe something in the 50 mile region, perhaps the 3 Rings of Shap or similar.

OMM / Saunders / LAMM
Will have to see what my availability looks like but I still want to try and do a 2 day mountain marathon. I need a willing partner!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

That were t' year that was.

At the end of 2014 I set myself a few goals for 2015. Goals are good, I work better with them. Otherwise I have a tendency to just potter around and not push myself. How did I get on?

Main goal: Ask Louise to marry me. Thankfully she said yes. The ring was of my own design and making.

Sub 24 hour Fellsman - 22 hours including some atrocious weather, sausage rolls and hypothermia

Adventure racing - after the first two in the Open 5 series I didn't manage to take part in any more due to other trips and kids weekends. However I did the first one in the new series and met my top 15 goal; a good start. The way my weekends are looking I think I'll only get chance to do one or two more this year.

Winter mountaineering - we had a great trip up to Fort William with friends from the climbing club. The weather wasn't great and with several new winter climbers amongst us we went for realistic targets rather than pushing any grades. Psyche was high! Also managed a cheeky Lakes trip with Ben to Brown Cove Crags.

2 x grade I (both descents)
6 x grade II

2500 miles of cycling - ticked over the magic number on the last proper ride of the year.

500 miles of running - a bit short this year, lost a bit of motivation over the summer. Must try harder next year :)

Mountain marathon - So which one for my first MM? Rab? Saunders? OMM? Er... neither. Emma and I went cold and dark instead. We "enjoyed" it so much (translation: we've forgotten how hard it was) that we are going to enter this year's Dark Mountains again.

More blogging - the internet has been diluted by my regular ramblings.

Camping with the kids - We managed one good camping trip to Borrowdale. It rained a lot. Everyone loved it.

Wainwrights - Ben and Suzy did their first three Wainwrights and had both fun and wet feet. I'm up to 16% complete after only ticking a measly 4 tops this year.

Ukulele - a break over summer but I can still play OK. More regular practice required!

Not bad overall, especially with the cycling. Given that I'm busy having fun with my kids every other weekend meaning my free time is limited. Now, what to aim for this year?