Friday, 16 March 2012

New Steel


Over the last few years, I have been moving further & further away from the mainstream riding that the mountainbike magazines here in the UK, tell us we should aspire to.
In the past, a lot of my cycling purchases have been driven by the image, rather than practical decisions. As a result, I have often found disappointment in a lot of the bikes I have owned, because they were simply the wrong tool for the area that I live in. I don't live in Whistler, so why did I buy a 6" FR bike for example?

The decision to  buy a fatbike was driven by the realisation that I no longer had the absolute luxury of time to drive around the country in search of cycling nirvana, due to the commitment I had to make to our baby daughter.
Cycling for the time being, would start & finish at the back door. Living in a coastal area, the fat bike has been a revelation on the sandy trails, but once I started heading inland I soon discovered that my other bikes were pretty poor in comparison. Too much travel, too heavy, geometry was wrong & compared to the fatty, the 26" wheels just didn't roll very well, sometime it was harder work on the regular HT, than the fatty on the same trails.

I began the process of selling off my other bikes to fund a second fatbike. The theory was, the 9:zero:7 would become my trail bike & I would be a proud owner of a Surly moonlander for beachriding. Everything was going well until 2 things happened.

Firstly, I began using the 9:zero:7 for more & more trail riding in the hills. I knew the extra weight of the fatty would be noticeable on the ups, but I'm a slow rider anyway, so I just considered this an extra workout. The thing I did not consider was the lack of suspension on the rocky Speyside hills. Coming down was a nightmare!  The lack of suspension & rocky descents did not make for an enjoyable experience. The realisation dawned that maybe a fatty might not fit the role of trail bike after all. Hmmm

Secondly, I began reading some comments about the Moonlander online regarding reliability & component suitability for beachriding. I soon realised to get the bike to my spec for beachriding I would have to replace the hubs, cassette, rings, seat, grips, bars...the list goes on & on....

Time for a dad chat with myself

I made the decision that my current fatty is more that suitable for 99% of the coastal riding I do. Sure, A moonlander would be awesome for beach riding, but whatever way you look at it, £1800 is a whole load of cash, for a bike too similar to what I have already.

So...with a fist full of cash & an empty bike shed, it was time to find a new fleet to reflect the riding I am doing  today  & likely to pursue in the future. One thing that became apparent, was big wheels are my mountain bike future. I tend to do long rides, so a machine that is comfortable, rolled really well & a great all rounder, with an emphasis on XC was paramount.
After the usual days of research on the internet, I finally bought on of these as my trail bike....




Nice isn't it? I managed to find a really good deal on the 2011 X9 model online. First impressions are really good, but so far I haven't been too far on it, as I am recovering from man flu...
This bike just feels right as soon as you get on it. Nice roomy fit & feels a lot like the fatty in the comfort stakes. As soon as I get some trail miles on the bike, I will post a proper review

So that's trail riding & beach riding covered, what about the road? Cue build No.2........





Not quite your usual touring spec bike, but built just the way I like it! This thing is like a tank, but man, it feels so solid when out on the road & the weight is not an issue at all. It is running a 48/36/26 crank  & 11-34 cassette, so it can tackle any hill in it's path. I built it slightly "meaty" so that it can cope with light offroad too, XT mechs, flat pedals , flat bars & 38c Scwalbe Marathon Plus tyres giving a bit more cushioning than the regular road rubber.
Only been on a test run so far, but again, I will post up once the bike has done some real distance, but I can say this bike feels really good to ride & I am really looking forward to heading out on some spring all day trips with this bike.

Finally, the last of our American all star line up... 



Old fateful will be staying as No.1 fatty. Yes, I lust a Moonlander, but after playing around with tyre pressures, I think I can cope with the "narrow" tyre footprint in the above photo. Well, most of the time ;o)

I think I am done with bikes for the moment, I have all my riding styles covered now

Coastal riding = 9:zero7
trail riding = Salsa El Mariachi
Road & touring = Surly Long Hault Trucker

I forgot...I Just need to build a cargo bike for the kids, but that is a story for another day!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Culbin Revisited

During the summer I did an overnight bivi trip to Culbin, however, I only managed to cover the eastern edge of the reserve, so I made a return trip to explore the Western side, especially the sand bar that heads out for nearly 3 miles into the Moray Firth.

To get some perspective of the scale of Culbin Sands, take a look at the link below for some amazing photography of the area, taken from a paramotor. Click the photo to begin the excellent slideshow.



Any trip to Culbin needs to be planned around  the low tide to get the most from the experience. As you can see from these photos, If you were caught by the incoming tide when on the bar, getting back to the mainland could be a little interesting!  



If you watched the slideshow, you will appreciate how big the beaches are here, but with very little elevation, it soon becomes an island during the highest tides.


All great adventures start like this. 7am, coffee & map. Time to ride...


Good example of why the forest at Culbin exists, the trees provide structure to the dunes & prevent the sand from blowing further inland.


Some of the lovely singletrack through the dunes


The Eastern edge of the mud flatknow as "the gut"


One of the many anti-glider poles


Sections are carpeted by Mussels shells


Some sections of the flats are very slick, It was (just) manageable with 80mm rims & Larry run backwards, but a moonlander with a Nate on the rear would be the best tool for exploring out here.


Finally made it to the other side, granny gears all the way

A bothy for wee folk


I like how the fire is stocked & ready to light for the next user...who fancies a cuppa?


Some treasure for Daniels nursery beach project! 


Struck gold! Crossing over the dunes onto the north side of the sand bar. Miles & miles of pristine beach. I was here for 4 hrs & never seen anyone. Looking West towards Nairn & Inverness


And East towards Findhorn




Great mix of coastal terrain to play on


Guess who forgot spare lube, oops!



Looks a lot like the East beach back home in Lossie






Nairn in the distance


The end of the road. This is the very Western tip of the bar. On the other side of that channel lies Nairn Beach


From easy riding, to super soft in 10 feet


I found a handy soft seat to grab a coffee


I like this shot. From left to right...Moray Firth, sandy beach, shingle, marsh, mudflat & forest. No, can see a trail centre anywhere!






Good fun, but stinking


Some easy riding  for tired legs



Pitstop at the viewing tower on the Hill 99 trail



So true


Final push back to the van, downhill hall the way...on sand of course!


Quick transformation to the chopper look to get the bike on the rack. Cheap solution to easy transportation.

Another fantastic visit to a very special place. I will be coming back here many time during the summer.