Monday, 8 December 2014

Polo in Geneva?- don't mind if I do- Hells Bells Ladies European Polo Tournament,

It's been almost 3 weeks since I came back from Geneva where I took part in the 4th edition of Hells Belles European all female bike polo tournament and all this time I have been dreading the moment I will finally have to sit down and try to word my experience. How do you give justice to the best tournament you have been to and probably one of the best weekends of your life??!!

It was Friday late evening when my team mate Vicky, Gabriela  (teams official cheerleader!) and I arrived at the airport in Geneva. Our initial feel of luck to see our bikes intact after forgetting to deflate the tires has been dismissed by the endless round trips dragging the bike bags around the airport, waiting on trains that mysteriously don't depart and looking for phantom bus stops. Drained and hungry we eventually arrived at our hosts flat in Vernier. Tina and her boyfriend were most gracious about the fact we dropped on them like a bomb so late at night and fed us delicious soup with hazelnut bread! At about 2 am we finally settled for sleep.. our bikes half built, bags half packed, route directions half remembered and us - half dead. But we were      TEAM DEATH PROOF and nothing could lower our excitement for the next days games of some polo with the coolest  ladies in Europe! 
 8 am (it would be a faux pas to be late in Switzerland!) we were at the courts, united with our 3rd team mate Lizzy, we signed our forms, got the bikes checked, received goody bags from the organizers, and got a free coffee and croissant for breakfast from the bar. There.. was.. a bar. This was getting better by the minute.  The courts looked good. Shared space with a skate park sheltered under the motorway where no rain could get to us seemed  like a perfect location to hold the tournament. It slowly started to fill up with bikes and everyone we met seemed to be as excited to be there as we were. It felt like the right place to be.  

The games came as a rush..butterflies in the stomach despite playing for over 2 years and this probably being the 15th tournament I've done so far. I don't remember the scores, don't know how many times we lost or won. At the end it didn't matter. We were there to have fun and it seemed like we hit the jackpot. Relaxed, friendly and just pure awesome the atmosphere couldn't get any better!  Our original plan was to see a bit of the city after our morning session games but we just couldn't stay away from watching the rest of the competition! Besides it was raining.. so we stayed and savoured the vibe.

 After the games have finished the party and throw-ins commenced while the organizers focused on the scores and bracket placement for the next day. A couple of beers later and I really put our team name to the test by smacking my face hard on the concrete going for a joust. Sat on a side thankfully with no concussion and Arnica being applied to my cheek bone (thank you Elodie!) I got told that our team actually managed to get into the winners bracket! After receiving mixed signals my brain finally concluded that the pounding headache and a blooming black eye was not important and it was time to celebrate! And celebrate we did. Few hours of dancing, laughter, beers and other 'medicinal' supplements later we decided it's time for a classy kebab then bed. 

  Sunday morning was a haze. 10 am start only sounded reasonable in theory. We needed adjustment period and coffee.. a lot of coffee. We played our best but at the end we dropped out to eventually end up 8th out of 16. There were some pretty damn good teams out there and being in a winners bracket meant we got to hassle for the ball with them. My goal for the tournament was reached - play with the best, at their best.  Later on in the day 'you win or you're out' single elimination format of the games bred some nervousness on the court and you could feel it. With each team dropping out stakes were getting higher and the crowd of spectators fuelled by beers and music was getting louder reaching the zenith when the well deserved winners of the 4th Hell's Belles title came to the team Sisters! All joy, mallets thrown in the air, bikes dropped to the side, hugs, congrats and what nots we all joined the celebrations! It was a long weekend of games and we were all finally ready to put our guards down.. literally.  Then came the prizes, thanks and free beer! We stayed at the courts for few more hours drinking, dancing, admiring what a cracking job organizers did putting the event together, rehashing the games and making drunken promises to come to local tournaments around Europe and talking how we all love polo for being this kind of a crazy sport that turns absolute strangers into best friends. We were all winners.

Kegs of beer finished, bar cleared, equipment being put away it was time to hit the town for the big party! We set off on our bikes howling like mad people through Geneva's city centre stopping at another classy kebab place. 2 hours and 30 fed people later we headed for the club! Even more beers and even more dancing it was a great night with great people and I don't think I could shake the drunken smile off till I finally crashed at 4am. 
 We had a flight back to Manchester in the early afternoon.

What a weekend. What a tournament. What a place. I love to compete, in any sport really, but it's the passion and energy of the people that play this badass game that keeps me coming back for more.  


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Wonderful Wheels

A varied wheel selection for your inspiration...

Left to right;

SP dynamo laced to H Plus Son Archetype rim
Alfine 8-speed re-laced into a single speed Surly CrossCheck back wheel
a wheelset for a Surly Ogre - Rohloff Speedhub and Son dynamo both laced to Velocity Blunt 35's for multi surface touring in Europe and Asia.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bog Trotting the Bearbones 200

So this year the BB200 was to be a different beast. After 30 people managed to get black badges last year it was time for the bar to be raised the course made tougher.
And it was...

67 people set off from the start- and 3 seconds in we were off and pushing.

The first 40 miles to Barmouth were 'undulating' with some amazing tracks and spectacular views.


A quick stop in Barmouth for refueling on pastie and chips and we were off again pushing up more hills and heading off into the Hidden Valley.It was at this point we began to realise just how much rain there had been as bridleways began to resemble small (and not so small) streams. 

 A mixture of trails, fire roads and farmtracks took us around the side of the Rhinogs as daylight started to drop and we started to encounter the tussocky hell we would spend the next few hours dragging our bikes through. It was at this point I was very glad we decided to adopt a lightweight approach to the event and jettisoned any extra kit in favour of just a seatpack. 

A long night followed of warm hilltops and freezing descents as we dropped in and out of cloud filled valleys. More freezing water tussocky hell, nameless roads, pathless woods (there's a path there somewhere) and at least one sense of humour failure. A quick nap in a small copse of trees and then off to ride the last 40km back to the finish. 

I was almost desperate enough to eat this banana!

The last 40km didn't get any easier, more pushing a fast road descent to Dinas Mawddwy (top speed of the ride!), more climbing, more pushing, a final frustrating WTF does this trail go moment in some fields and eventually the last few km's on the road back to the start. 

Best thing about the BB200 is the breakfast (or lunch in our case) on your return. Large mugs of tea and Dee and Stu making lots to eat for many people sporting the same faraway look. 

Anyway- 27hours out in mid Wales, not many better ways to spend a weekend.

Kit List

1 x Surly Karate Monkey ss 32/20
 1 X Surly Krampus ss 36/21
 2 x Apidura seat packs
2 x feed pouches

2 x Alpkit Hunka Bivvy Bags
2 x PHD Minimus Sleeping bags
2 x Multitool, Tube, chain links, pump 
2 x USE Maxx D's
1 x Garmin Edge
1 x Phone using ViewRanger
Spare battery cache carried in case needed
Waterproof jacket (nice for early hours)
Various snacks, flapjacks, Mule bars

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Jones Bikes - new stuff coming

Some of you may have seen Jeff's blog post about his up and coming new stuff. If you haven't check it out here - Jeff's Blog   

We've just got off the phone with the UK importer and we're chuffed to say that the Jones Plus framesets and carbon Loop bars are on their way, slowly...  Framesets will be here in the early 2015, this will be a small initial run with a lot of interest so get in early! Hopefully we can persuade Jeff that there is enough demand for a second run sooner rather than later, though they are a small operation with finite resources.

There's no firm costs yet but expect the frameset to be more than a Diamond frame and Truss fork but less than a Spaceframe. There is no swapability between this and older models, there was some expensive tooling modification to produce the new Truss forks so costs are higher. There are two sizes, most will be fine on the 24"  If you are a big rider ie 6' 3" or over consider the 25". You can make the 25" fit down to a 24" size if you really need a huge frame for load carrying adventures.

We're expecting the new ultralight carbon H-bars sooner, though still no firm date or costs. You'll know if you want some and they'll be cheaper than the titanium models too. Details here - Jeff's Carbon Bars

We'll keep you updated as we get more info.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Trolls in Scotland

After a tough few months at the Keep Pedalling Headquarters we all (well, the 3 of us, or 4 if you count Olive the terrier) decided that we needed a break. Olive was packed off to a relative for her own special quality time and Sylwia took herself off to Glasgow for some bike polo followed by a trip up the West Highland Way. We'll send you a link to her story once she's told it.

If you've been paying attention lately you'll know that we've just built up a rather tasty back country touring Surly Troll. Also we've got a trip to Morocco coming up and we needed to brush down our touring pants. There were some grand plans of huge loops in the Highlands but these evaporated quicker than you can say Bog Trotting Hell Biking. We actually decided to have a relatively relaxing week, y'know like a real holiday - ice creams, beer and everything.

We threw the Surly Trolls in the little black van and headed North from Manchester on Saturday afternoon. Too many motorway hours later we were in Tyndrum, about an hour North of Glasgow at the top of Loch Lomond.

We'd planned a route following the middle section of the West Highland Way from Tyndrum over the Devils Staircase section to Kinlochleven. After that we'd turn off and head over towards Laggan and over the Corrieyairack Pass. Fort Augustus and all the touristy stuff that supplies followed by a lazy spin down the canal to Fort William and pick up the WHW again to take us back to the start. Easy.

We'd originally planned to attempt this route on our tandem. Seriously? Neither of us would have lived to tell the tale...

Leaving Tyndrum is a gentle roll along the valley to the  Bridge of Orchy. We enjoyed a random chat with the stationmaster and passed on the average fare in the pub. A bit of a climb along an estate road over to the ski station, past the cafe (very good there, we stopped on the way back) and along the valley to the start of the climb over the Devils Staircase. Get your head down and it's all over quick enough with a much more rideable descent into Kinlochleven. Head for the friendly folk at the chippy if it's open, if not then the cafe at the Ice Factor is good - huge cakes and good coffee! After that the climb out of the valley was tough. Here is where we left the WHW and started to head over in a roundabout way to Laggan.

Fair climb that out of Kinlochleven and on some crappy surfaces too, un-co-operative stoney tracks. Dropping down to the river crossing it was time to get our feet wet. In a particularly indecisive few minutes we finally opted for stopping the night in the deserted bothy at Meannanach. We were consistently surprised by the lack of people out and about, it was August and great weather after all.

Next morning really was glorious.   Only little clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky.  Pity the track was mostly unrideable. Short sections of loveliness with frequent stops to get our feet wet in streams. Still we marvelled at how remote it felt, here particularly. It got better though passing by some lovely waterfalls and soon we popped out near Loch Treig. Here the estate has a project underway to harness  all that water and the upshot is that the climb away from the loch is more big gravel for construction traffic.

After passing alongside Loch Ossian we enjoyed a long stretch of fast tracks all the way over to Laggan. A small section of tarmac downhill into the little village and we stumbled on the temporary shop and cafe. Across the road the shop that closed 2 years ago was getting a refurb by its new owner. We had a good natter with him and consumed mugs of hot chocolate before starting off towards the pass. The old military road follows the electricity pylons up the River Spey and before it started to climb too drastically we installed ourselves in a disused sheep pen. Out of the wind and flat it was a pretty good find. Another early night ready for the pass in the morning.

As we spun up the loose gravel towards the top of the pass our minds wandered to a couple of years ago when we rode this route the other way around. Heavy rains had washed the trail away and left it unrideable. We'd had to push down the pass. Now the trail would be unrideable in sections, moreso on a single speed, as it's currently repeated water bars with loose gravel to allow access to construction traffic as they are now replacing all the pylons. Over soon enough though and we were storming down the other side into Fort Augustus via the troll bridge...

Once down in Fort Augustus we feasted on (more) macaroni cheese, what had turned into our favourite veggie staple in Scotland. Sat around for a bit, drank coffee and ate ice cream, watched the tourists go by. There was that woman with the banana, but that's for another time.

We found a deserted campspot further down the Caladonian Canal, then we went back 6 miles for supplies! It was along the canal bank so no great hardship. Early evening exploration, late night musings over beer and a lazy morning start - we saw the early morning mist and crawled back into the tent!

Gently trundling down the canal bank in fine weather, there were of course a few more people to chat to along the way as we neared Fort William. A spot of lunch in the high street chippy and we were all set for the climb out of town. Up and along the WHW it was fairly crowded with walkers coming the other way, finishing off their day in good weather and downhill into town. Some parts of this path are almost too groomed, encouraging a fair pace by bike forgetting that there's probably a European tourist just behind that tree!

Just after cresting the hill and surrounded by eight and nine hundred metre hills we took shelter from the unrelenting headwind barrelling through the valley and popped the tent up. This was the night we found the drawbacks of a single hooped lightweight tent. It rained heavily all night and blew an absolute hooley. There was never really any fear of the tent failing, it just felt like it.

We woke to some light drizzle but thankfully the wind had died down. Dropping down into Kinlochleven was midge hell as we did a fair bit of hanging around in the woods waiting as hikers started their day on the hill. Another visit to the Ice Factor cafe for a late breakfast and we headed for the climb up the more rideable side of the Devils Staircase. We can confirm that riding down the sharp side is also a lot more fun that pushing up! After this we were basically reversing our route back to Tyndrum. Didn't take long at all especially with the almost never ending descent back to the Bridge of Orchy.

We beat the bad weather as the next day we woke to rain battering down, phew...  Apparently this only lasted a day or two - we didn't stay around to find out and headed for more hills in Wales.

Kit List...

2 x Surly Trolls.
One 2 x 10, one Rohloff (36:16), both with dynamo front hubs powering Exposure Revo lights. One also wired up to a Cinq Plug 3 to charge gps, phone, etc. All of it worked flawlessly.

We used soft luggage from Apidura. Plenty of room for a change of clothes and tent, sleeping bags, stove, etc. Really impressed with the handlebar bag. Roll up entry points at each end are really useful for stashing that mid ride windproof or accessing an emergency waterproof.

Tent - Nordisc Telemark 2   Less than 1 Kg. Easy and quick to put up with plenty of room for 2 + kit. Not as stable as multi hoop designs but a lot lighter! We used lightweight down sleeping bags from local company PHD.

Stove - MSR Pocket Rocket and a couple of Ti mugs. Just for soup, noodles and brews. Boils quick and is small and light.

Water purification - we used the Travel Tap water bottle system. After looking at some of the water we scooped up into these little beauties it was reassuring to be able to rely of this bottle to filter out all those nasties. Not having to worry about where to get clean water is a real boon.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Surly Travellin' Trolloff

So we decided to build the ultimate on/off road tourer. With an off road excursion in Morocco in December planned it was time to build up the bike for a shakedown trip in Scotland. 

We chose to use a Surly Troll as the foundation for the build, when the cockroaches rule the Earth there will still be the Surly Troll
- the apocalypse frameset. 

We sent the frame off to Bob Jacksons in Leeds to have some S&S couplings fitted, next followed a desert sand powdercoat, a fitting colour for it's intended destination 
(cheers Armortex)

The wheelset was built using a Rohloff hub laced into Velocity Blunt 35's with an SP Dynamo front hub for lighting and charging duties. 

This was also an excuse to try out the new Cinq 5 Rohloff trigger shifters with the
 rather neat click box. 

For charging electronics we've been using the Plug III which is a neat solution for mounting a USB charger, this coupled with the SP Dynamo front hub and USE Revo light seem to fulfil all our requirements.

Other finishing kit was a mixture of tried and tested components including Middleburn chainset, Thomson seatpost, Jones Loop bars and a rather comfy Brooks Cambium C15 saddle. 

Final touches were some custom stickers from Gil naming it the Travellin' Trolloff and some Apidura luggage for carrying all our gear. 

We'll post some pictures from it's shakedown trip to Scotland. 
Look out for long term reports of the Cinq shifters and Plug III too.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Bristol Bikefest

We're back from tandemeering at this Sundays event. Battered, cut, bruised and broken. After bending our front timing chainring for the second time on the second lap we called it a day and grabbed a fat bike instead. Way to go is a smaller 32 chainring for better clearance and probably a heavy duty bash guard to help against the cack handed pilot. Apart from that we had great fun swooping in and out of the trees, we don't have them in the North West.

Thanks to all the other participants for putting up with us.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Fatties on the beach

It's always good to get out and ride our bikes and catch up with some customers at the same time.
So a ride organised by John (one of said customers) on Sunday proved to be the ideal opportunity.

We left Oldham and headed out to the coast and to clearer skies with the Fat bikes for a day of riding on beaches, playing in the dunes and hooning through the woods.

Empty beaches, it was pretty windy.

Obligatory bikes in a row shot. 

There are some pretty big dunes round Formby.

Rich making it look easy.

Me, relieved I didn't face plant in front of everyone. 

To finish off we did some loops of Formby woods, ate doughnuts saw some red squirrels and got a good exfoliation from the wind and sand on the way back.

All in all a grand day out!

Big thanks to John for organising and whose photos I have shamelessly nicked :-)

Friday, 9 May 2014

Riding the Welsh Ride Thing

So we decided to take a well earned break last bank holiday and get out and ride our bikes for more than a day. At fairly short notice we decided we'd go and do the Welsh Ride Thing. The WRT isn't a race it's more of a challenge that can be a easy or hard as you like. A month or so before Stuart who organises the event gives out a list of grid references, you then throw all your maps on the floor and attempt to plot a route to ride between them all (or not if you prefer a more relaxed approach). 

This years references covered areas of mid Wales and the Shropshire Borders both areas we hadn't done a lot of riding in so it was a good opportunity to find some new trails and put our latest bike through it's paces. Yes it's a mid fat 29r off road tandem.
 The event starts on the Saturday afternoon and finishes on the Monday so we'd be carrying all our gear on the bike for 2 nights bivying out on the hills.
The weather was good and over the course of the two days we rode on the Kerry Ridgeway, Offas Dyke and Gwyndyrs Way and even though 132 people set off at the start we saw only a handful as everyone's routes took a different path. 
Riding a 70lb laden tandem does have some advantages in that you can eat a lot and not feel too guilty about it!

 View from the bivvy spot before riding the last 40 miles in. 

Over the couple of days we rode some amazing trails, slept in some beautiful spots, hit speeds of over 50mph on the tandem (going downhill!) and pushed it over some very steep hills. 
If you fancy an introduction to bike packing the WRT is a relaxed and friendly event to give it a  go at.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Riding new bikes in the sunshine

It was the begining of April again and time for a little celebration. It was around this time 3 years ago that we opened our little shop. For the second year running we've invited a few customers and a couple of guys from Surly Bicycle Corporation have come over to play. This year they insisted on going for a ride in the sunshine and the Northern Weather Gods smiled down on us.

Surly Trevor
Surly Tyler
A Big Red Bus

Our friends at URBED provided a Routmaste bus into which we shoe-horned 20 or so fat bikes, mid-fat bikes and some other stuff, mostly people. Fuelled by sweeties we headed out towards Marsden Moor.  Marvelling at the great weather we were looking forward to getting out for a ride.
And ride we did, whooping and swooping - little people in a big Pennine landscape.

Ice Cream Truck meet Ice Cream Van

Mid ride fuel stop before we headed for the canal to make our way back to the big city.

Once back we tucked into a few slices of Pizza and Beer. A few people who couldn't make the ride due to having to work for a living popped by during the evening and once the pizza ran out we made short work of the fantastic Clown Cake provided by Karen

We moved on to the Castle pub to wash that down with one or two halves of shandy :o)
See y'all next year...

in case you missed it this much fun couldn't have been accomplished without the help of;
Surly Bikes
Ison Distribution
Slice Pizza
Karens Baking Room
and the fine Big Red Bus driving skills of Charlie from URBED

also the lenses of;
Steve Makin
Andy Kirkland
John Moore