Friday, 28 October 2011

The Friday Video

Boy this week has rolled around quick!!

Plagued with internet problems again, but this time the DSL connection was only down for 6 days! Guess that's the kind of service you can expect when your choice of internet provider amounts to ONE! Really not good for getting things done on line. Ah well, just another thing I (probably) won't have to worry about after another week and a move back to my roots.

So.... I'm really thinking about switching up to big wheels....actually, been thinking about it for quite a while.

    Wagon Wheels

But down here in southern Thailand no chance of getting a hold of one to demo ride. Nearest place is Bangkok, only 700km away and at the moment about the only bike you'd want to be demoing up there is a water bike!

I know they have really taken off in the States and now starting to sweep across Europe, with Germany leading the way. Seem to be a bit slow catching on in the UK but I'm sure I will be able to find one to demo not too far from home.

So I was originally thinking about upgrading from a 26" Hard Tail to a "Full Squish". But after reading a lot of reviews the general consensus seems to be that the bigger wheels and higher volume tyres on the 29er are almost like having 2" of suspension. So in theory a 29HT could almost feel as smooth as a 26FS - well, that's the theory.

But more and more 29er FS are hitting the trails and even the All Mountain scene. Which nicely brings me round to this week's Friday Video.

A big argument that the 26er's use is "you just cannot 'flick' a 29er, they're too big and cumbersome".

Well, take a look at this video of the Transition Bikes - Bandit 29er Full Suss. in action and tell me what YOU think??

Bandit Two9 Product Video from Transition Bikes on Vimeo.

Keep following this blog and hopefully I'll soon be reporting back with some test impressions on a 29er.

And to all the people up in Bangkok; stay dry - stay safe!

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Friday Video(s)

That day of the week again....

A couple of vids this week; the first one is the just short of 4 minutes trailer for the soon to be released 'From the Inside Out' MTB feature movie.

Some pretty slick filming going on......

And the riding's not too bad either!

As the intro says 'Through the film you will be brought along on our adventures as we visit the locations that we've always wanted to ride and create the lines that express our vision of the sport. This will be a film from the riders themselves to show what true freeride mountain biking is. Everyone has a dream, and we do what it takes to live ours. Inside Out is set to be released Fall 2011'.

Can't wait to catch the full length movie.......

But wonder what the crew get up to when they're not filming MTB movies??

Beautiful BC.

Get more information and catch some of their other videos at the 2ndBase Films web site.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Friday Video

Who says there is no passion in mountain biking, it's not a spectator sport, just someone riding down a hill.....

This week we bring you some incredibly enthusiastic reporting, not to mention some incredible riding skill and total 'go for it' attitude from the World Championship Downhill event at Champery. Going into this Championship Aaron Gwin had comfortably taken out the World Cup series with five wins from seven. But the young guns have been making a show of things and nineteen year old English rider Danny Hart has been turning some heads with some exciting performances which included 2nd place on the podium at Fort William and Val di Sole.

Come the weekend of the Championship event the worst everyone feared happened, after a week of dry and dusty practice sessions the the rain that no one really wanted, with the exception of the wet weather specialists, finally showed up. This was lining up for a great finale, the young gun Hart getting the chance to show his experience in the wet and slippery conditions, Gwin aiming to prove that he could ride mud and technical.

Overnight rain eased for the junior session on the Sunday morning but by the time of the main event it was hosing down. After some variable runs with many riders slipping and making mistakes Spagnolo recorded a 3'  53" run to take the lead. As other riders continued to struggle Danny Hart was ready at the gate 4th last to ride. And boy did he put in the ride of his life. At the first timing point he was an incredible 4.6 secs ahead and an electric buzz went through the crowd as they sensed something special. By the second time split he was 10 secs up and the commentator and crowd were going wild. There was one moment where the boy from Redcar looked like he had lost it but after a miraculous save the rest of the run became a spectacle, with amazing jumps and leaps Danny was now playing to the enthralled crowd. Through the bottom gate he was 11.699 seconds up - what an incredible ride.

Could the already crowned World Cup holder Gwin do anything about it, did he have a response... Despite only being a second back from Danny on the first sector he went wide on a corner and caught the side netting. And that was it!

But words cannot do this ride justice. Watch the video, feel the energy, feel the passion..... And remember the name Danny Hart. This 19 year old kid is going places.

Check out the full report and pictures at; PinkBike News - Danny Hart

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mountain Bike Magazines

Being based in Thailand there is not a huge supply of mountain bike magazines available. Maybe in Bangkok, but down here in southern Thailand, in a small town like Don Sak it's pretty hard to even find an English newspaper. On visits to our nearest big city, Surat Thani I've scanned the bigger book stores and cannot even find a Thai MTB magazine; are there any? So it's great to be able to find an on-line magazine and even better still it's free of charge.

The magazine is International Mountain Bike Magazine or IMB for short.

The magazine is only available on-line and uses Flash Player by way of presentation. Produced in the UK the current issue, No.13 Aug-Sept 2011, marks the 2nd anniversary. Published bi-monthly it is feature packed with some excellent photography and video footage from around the world. Pretty much all types of MTB riding are covered from X-C, to down hill and dirt jump. The current issue is over 150 pages and it is certainly great value for money! What am I saying.... oh yes, it's free of charge ;) Of course, being FOC means that the costs associated with publishing must be covered by advertising, but even the adverts in this magazine are classy and full of great action shots.

There are in-depth bike, gear and apparel reviews as well as coverage of the latest trade shows and exhibitions. Event reporting is also comprehensive and truly global and the tips and tricks, skills training and DIY bike maintenance presentations make this probably the most comprehensive site where you can get everything on-line in a single location.

So what are you waiting for.... head on over to IMB and check them out!

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Friday Video

That time of the week again folks so here's another downhill MTB video.

This week we feature Fakawi Bikes team rider Adam running his Banshee Legend down the Cilegon DH Track in Indonesia. Clever mounting set up with the Go Pro HD camera and a very interesting point of view. Certainly gives you a good feel for how the rider has to be one with the bike for a successful and fast run ;)


Friday, 26 August 2011

The Friday Video

Well, it's that time of the week so here's another Downhill MTB video.

We again travel to France for the 17th running of the Megavalanche, held at Alpe d'Huez (yes, the same AdH made famous from the recent Tour de France). Qualifying took place on Friday 8th July where the large field of riders was whittled down to the best 38 from each of nine groups to narrow it down to 328 competitors at the mass start on Sunday. The race runs from the top of Pic Blanc (Altitude 3,300 mtr) down across the glacier to Allemont (Altitude 820 mtr) for a distance run of around 25km. 

This year's event was won by Remy Absalon - Commencal France. 2nd Jerome Clementz - Cannondale France. 3rd Rene Wildhaber - Trek Red Bull Switzerland.

Some stunning scenery, a pretty intense ride and real test of your biking skills......

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Friday Video

OK, it's been a while since we posted on Thailand Mountain Bike due to our local internet provider having to replace some stolen cable; stolen from the poles or the back of the truck?? Who knows! Anyhow, the down side was we had no DSL for over a week. But we are now back on line and back to posting.

So as it's Friday I guess it's time for another Friday Video. This week we've got some neat footage of the new White Brothers 'Loop' front suspension fork in action.

This fork is manufactured by MRP, Grand Junction, Colorado. The big update on this fork is the switch from separate machined lowers to a cast magnesium one piece unit. Available in 26" and 29" MTB versions with travel from 80mm through to 150mm this is a pretty versatile piece of kit. The White Brothers 'Loop' features compression, rebound and spring adjustments ensuring there is ample opportunity to fine tune for your type of riding. Oh, this fork also comes with a 15mm 'tool-free' quick fit axle.

Anyhow, enough waffle, enjoy the video.......

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A change in riding routine

So my general riding pattern has been Tues through Thursday; early morning, cross country MTB trail ride of around 33-38km prior to breakfast. Saturday and Sunday; late afternoon ride around 45-55km plus. Monday and Friday are normally rest days. The current westerly monsoon wind pattern tends to bring building afternoon clouds, which usually result in typically tropical down-pours. More often than not I cop a real drenching and even when it does not rain the weather tends to be sultry and oppressive. This weekend I decided to change things around and switch my weekend rides from afternoon to early morning, when the weather is generally cooler and the rain storms few and far between. So Saturday past saw me rise at my normal weekly time of 5.40am and after preparing the hydration pack and wolfing down Weetabix and milk I was ready for the off.

Well, as Rabbie said; the best laid plans of mice and men.... around 1/3rd into the ride the heavens opened!! But the downpour was not too long in duration, leaving behind however a muggy sky in no way suitable for the photographic opportunities I had in mind. Still, the ride was invigorating and I managed to cover the 53km, mostly off-road, at an average of 22.5 km/hr. Setting me up nicely for the day, the post ride breakfast of homemade strawberry and banana pancakes was washed down with lashings of fresh brewed Doi Chaang coffee.

Sunday morning dawned more promising as indeed it was to prove! I covered more or less the same route, but in reverse. The early morning low clouds made for some great vistas on the early stretch along the coast at Nang Kam as the sun fought its way through.

 The mid section, predominantly through the rubber plantations was refreshingly shaded and the 'hellos' of the rubber tappers and local children were genuinely welcoming. By now the early morning clouds had scattered and the background sky was a nice shade of mid blue, great light conditions for photography and soon I had reached the object of my photographic quest, Wat Donsak (Singhkon). 

I had skirted this temple on previous rides but had recently discovered a trail that led into and through the temple grounds.

The monks were friendly and asked me to join them for breakfast, but an alcove / small cave in the towering limestone karst, the central feature of the temple site, begged to be explored. Up the steep stone steps I climbed, to find a serene, reclining Buddha, dappled in light.

Truly a great way to start a Sunday; stimulating exercise, friendly faces and some photogenic opportunities.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Friday Video

A day early this week as I am off to Bangkok to go look at some bikes and gear :)

Courtesy of PinkBike and Banshee Bikes here's some great downhill action. Damn, these guys are FAST! But towards the end the old saying came to mind "sometimes I flick the Bike, other times the Bike flicks me!"


Friday, 8 July 2011

The Friday Video

For this week’s Mountain Biking video we decided to introduce a bit of International flavour. As the Tour de France is currently underway and serving up some exciting racing indeed, what better than a bit of Gallic fare?
Whilst most of the current crop of MTB and downhill videos now seem to be shot in photogenic, perfectly manicured forests or downhill slopes, this video illustrates the ‘grass roots ‘ side of downhill MTB’ing. The wet and muddy conditions certainly proved to be a challenge!

Brought to you via our friends at Zapiks and 26in France. Visit the Coupe de France Enduro web site for a write-up, race results and more photos.


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

50km X-C MTB Challenge – Part Two

Part 2; Down-Hill.

The time worn saying states ‘what goes up must surely come down’…… and so it does!

After the last climb at 24% incline the maximum elevation of 842 ft was reached at a distance of around 37 km. The plateau consisted of a short 840mt long flattish section that formed the pass between the higher hills to the east and west. At about this time the clouds from the south west monsoon began boiling up the steep valley and the heavens opened up with a torrential, tropical downpour. There was nothing for it, but to take shelter below a deserted rubber tapper’s wooden shack. This did allow me to grab a quick snack of fresh fruit and re-hydrate after the long climb up.

Shelter from the storm

Once off the plateau the trail started to descend, gradually at first but soon the down slope increased significantly. Knowing what lay ahead I had had the foresight to drop my seat post down by around 12cm to allow me to get my weight back and over the rear wheel. This was definitely a smart move, as the estimated 25% gradient proved to be a good test of technical down-hill riding. Pedals balanced level at mid stroke, back side behind the seat post and feather the brakes. The surface was similar to the uphill, with deep ruts, large intermittent rocks and boulders, loose stones and steep drop offs. The rain was still falling and riding into the prevalent wind direction it was driving straight into my eyes. One of the secrets to riding downhill is picking your line nice and early by scanning well ahead. The driving rain made this a challenge. Too hard on the brakes and a skid, easily induced by the slippery surface, could have me careening off the side if not careful. Riding alone, in the middle of nowhere, there was always the thought at the back of my mind – what if? But after the first adrenaline rush the pace, and nerves, steadied and the task became easier. Soon I was romping down the gradually decreasing slope and enjoying the gains of the hard earned ascent.

The view from the top

Once at the bottom of the slope the trail re-joined what passes for the ‘main’ road in these areas – a gravel wash board with rocks and ruts a plenty. The trail now passed through a spectacular canyon with towering limestone karsts on either side. However the continuing rain and low flying clouds did not allow for much of a view or the chance to shoot too many photos.

Now the trail branched off onto a very quiet side section and around one bend I was amazed to see a large water monitor ambling across the track. I slowed down to a quiet stop at which point the large lizard (about 1.5 mt. in length) did a slow u-turn and back tracked off the road. I approached quietly with my camera at the ready and peered into the bush to see a large pond and small river system. Although I had clearly heard the large reptile slide through the undergrowth it must surely now be hiding around the pond area. A short wait proved to be in vain and no further sighting was made. Ah well, maybe next time.

Back onto the trail, as the rain started to alternate between a constant drizzle and hard downpours. The trail surface had been recently re-laid after several flooding events in the area and consisted of a sand/red-soil undersurface covered with a thin layer of fine, small stones. A worse cycling surface you could not imagine! It acted like blotting paper, soaking up all the moisture and really sucked the tyres down deep. I remember my thoughts at the time ‘this must be how it feels trying to swim the breast-stroke in porridge!’

After a really fun roller coaster section skirting the mountains and through a double river ford the vista opened out onto rolling moors where sections of the rubber trees had been recently cleared allowing for some pleasant views, well, at least whilst the rain was not so heavy!

I was now getting back into familiar territory from my regular early morning rides and the rain was just getting heavier and heavier, but I knew the end was soon in sight. A final blast over Donsak Hill and it was a short road section back into home for a well deserved cold beer!

Fact File:
Total Distance covered; 54km
Total time taken (including stops); 4h 5min. Riding time; 3h 5min. Av. Speed 17.5km/hr
Max. incline +24% decline -25%
Max elevation; 842 ft.
Total height; gained 2,938 ft. lost 2,851 ft.

View Donsak 50km MTB Challenge in a larger map

Sunday, 3 July 2011

50km X-C MTB Challenge – The Reccy

Saturday 2nd July 2011

Ready for the Off

Headed off from home at Tong Ao, Donsak just after midday. The weather was partially overcast but pretty hot and humid. The first short section along the road brought a nice cooling breeze pedaling at around 24km/hr. But knowing this was going to be a reccy and not a race my head told me it would be wise to take it easy and conserve energy, who knew what lay ahead?

The first section over Donsak Hill, through Khao Kloy to Nam Chaa was all familiar territory on quiet backroads interspersed with a high percentage of gravel dirt roads and soily/rocky trails through the rubber tree plantations. As I pushed on the hills ahead ominously started appearing in clearer view, giving a foretaste of what was to come. Turning left into the ‘Hidden Valley’ at 17.5 km the size of the task became more apparent but the pace was good as was still the weather. A bit more cloud, but that meant a pleasant relief from the overhead midday sun. The trail got quieter, apart from the odd motorcycle, local croppers heading into town for Saturday afternoon shopping. From the looks and usual ‘farang’ comments it was clear that they had never encountered any cyclists in this neck of the woods. The scenery was beautiful, the small river running through the valley featured a number of fords and side trails – all good for future exploration.

At a fork in the junction, close to my previous end of the road assessment, I wondered whether the trail to the right might in fact be the correct route. Fortunately a couple of Thai ladies on a motorcycle were just leaving a house close by and I was able to quiz them. I knew the general name of the area I was aiming for as Pak Phraek. The normal way to get there is along the main 4142 highway via the junction at Ban Nai. At first the ladies tried to steer me back towards the main road citing a ‘Big Hill’ as an impediment to my progress. But a quick ‘Mai pen rai’ from my side and yes, they said, ‘pai dai’. I guess the concept of a ‘mountain bike’ was beyond them.

So, off on the left fork and past the Thai Sign on the side of the road, which I had been informed said ‘a road will be built here’, the extent of my previous trip. The trail started to climb and climb. Loose stones, gulleys from the recent rains, rocks and drop offs, quite a technical up-hill section. Unfortunately my front derailleur is on its last legs, which means I can only select the big ring from my most used centre, no access to the granny ring! But by now the slope was steep enough such that even if I was able to get in the granny ring it would probably still be quicker to push the bike and walk!

200 mt. to the summit?

A hundred metres or so and the incline crested. Back on the bike, along a leafy, wooded section the trail was double with tall grass growing in the centre. The weather was closing in, the humidity rising and the closeness of the jungle made it feel like a sauna. A bend in the road and here we go – the killer hill. Wow! Just up, up, up. Shortly after I dismounted a pretty young lady passed by on a motorbike, all dressed up for Saturday afternoon, gingerly making her way up the rutted loose gravel, over the rocks and channels. A long hard push up, what I hoped would be the steepest section, turned out to be around 300 mt. until the summit was finally crested. Relief at last, it would all be all downhill from here on.

Stay tuned for the next part.....

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Friday Video

Another great MTB video from Scotland, brought to you by Vimeo and  Follow the MTBcut Team riding Ben Lomond in Scotland before travelling to the Downhill World Cup Tour in South Africa.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Mountain Biking Holiday - Thailand

Thailand, commonly referred to as ‘The Land of Smiles’ is a great destination for a mountain biking holiday. From the lofty peaks of the northern mountain ranges, through the lower plains of Bangkok and the central/eastern region, down to the limestone formations and beautiful beaches of the south, this diverse Kingdom offers something for everyone.

The Northern mountains which surround Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai probably offer some of the longer established riding trails and adventure areas. With peaks rising to over 2,500 metres there are ample opportunities for uphill ‘grinding’ followed by serious downhill ‘grinning’. The trails vary from quiet, backwater blacktop and gravel/dirt roads to single track jungle trails and just about everything in between. The vistas are overwhelming and the friendliness of the local people and hill tribes are welcoming and sincere. Throw in some great Thai cuisine with its reputation for a fusion of flavours, and herbal delights with a liberal sprinkling of the famous Thai chilli pepper and every turn of the trail, lunch time and evening stop throws up another memory to savour.

You might think that an urban sprawl such as Bangkok (locally referred to as the Big Mango) would be a ‘wasteland’ for mountain bike riding but within an hour’s drive in most directions out of the city some excellent riding can be found. A few examples that spring to mind  are Phuttamonthon Park (30 mins west of the city centre), Khao I-to  (close to the Khao Yai National Park) and Tam Pratoon in Chon Buri Province, the latter being  around 1.5 to 2 hours east of Bangkok. These sites are a favourite weekend haunt for the city dwellers.

Heading south the coastal area from Cha Am to Hua Hin and Prachuap Kiri Khan offers some great riding trails, not least the trek from the nearby mountainous border with Myanmar and the Kaeng Krachan National Park. Continuing further we find Pranburi and the Sam Roi Yod National Park with its towering peaks and myriad caves.

Surat Thani, the gateway to the South of Thailand, offers a mix of stunning scenery and laid back beaches. From the National Park at  Khao Sok (reputed to be the oldest evergreen tropical forest in the world) to the amazing limestone karst formations of Phang Nga, Phuket and the Andaman coast down to Krabi, there are a variety of trails and riding options. Despite the intense heat and humidity of the summer and inter-monsoon seasons many of the trails in the south pass through vast rubber and palm oil plantations, which form a natural shaded, cool riding area. Meanwhile on the eastern, gulf side of the peninsula, you have the tourist islands of Samui and Koh Phangan, across to the Thai Riviera from Khanom down to Nakhon Si Tammarat where the coastal plains steadily gain altitude leading to some refreshing waterfalls and mountainous national parks with summits up to 1,800 mtr.

So whether your passion is bombing downhill, riding singletrack jungle trails, exploring the national parks and waterfalls, cruising the beaches and islands or just some excellent X-C, there is something for everyone in Thailand, where mountain biking is sure to ‘make you smile’.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Mountain Biking Holiday – Discover Asia

Whilst many people think of California and the US Rockies when a mountain biking holiday springs to mind more and more people are discovering the delights of Asia.
From the more well known and travelled areas such as the foothills of the Himalayas, Tibet and Nepal, South East Asia is now offering a host of new destinations. From the established areas such as Hong Kong, there are now more routes and operators opening up in mainland China. Heading South, Vietnam is one of the newer destinations offering more operators and varied trails. From the northern mountains such as the Tonkin Alps the countryside develops through the splendours of Halong Bay, the beaches and coastline from Hue via Da Nang to Nha Trang and on southwards to the paddy fields of the Mekong Delta. Or you can even cycle the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Another country that offers mountain and road biking holidays is Cambodia. From the lost city of Angkor in the north, via the waters of the Tonle Sap the trail leads to the Oudong mountain close to Pnomh Penh. Further south is Kirirom National Park and the coastal road from Kep to Sihanounkville in the shadow of the Bokor mountain.
Then to Laos, where the southern area offers a whole range of Bio-Diversity sites and National forests, the Pakse area of the Mekong river is dotted with 4,000 islands and the Bolevan Plateau is famous for its coffee growing. In the north the ride from Vientiane to the ancient capital at Luang Prabang gives an insight into the lives of the Hill Tribes along with some spectacular mountain scenery.
Then of course there is Thailand – the Land of Smiles. But we will save that for a future post. 

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Mountain Biking Holiday – Eco-Friendly alternative.

 The popularity of a Mountain Biking Holiday is on the increase. As more and more people turn their attention to the environment and try to do ‘their bit’ from a personal level many are turning to cycling as an eco-friendly alternative. The number of bike sales worldwide is rising at an increased level and not just on an individual basis, whole families are sharing and using it as a way to spend more quality time together.

Cycling can be split into many different disciplines; road, triathlon, mountain, commuting, BMX, downhill, tandem. Indeed, many variations to suit many different types of people and locations.
From a holiday point of view Mountain Biking and Road Cycling offer the widest choice.

Mountain; from gently rolling back country hills, to wilderness nature parks, the mountainous terrain of New Zealand’s South island, or the volcanic slopes of Hawaii. There is sure to be a tour and a terrain to suit everyone.

Road; follow the route of the famous races such as the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a Espana. Take in a tour of the Southern Cape Vineyards or cycle the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Again, there will be a tour and an area to suit everyone.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there, get some exercise, breathe the fresh air and help do your bit for the environment.