Rider Report: Builth Wells Spring MTB Festival 2014

Last week Matt Jones took part in the Builth Wells Spring MTB Festival in Wales, and he’s put together a report for us on his experience of the racing. Sounds like fun!

Matt Jones with his swag.

Words: Matt Jones
The Builth-Wells MTB Festival lured a mass of mountain bikers (500+!) to the ‘home of MTB marathon’ to partake in races spanning Saturday day time, night and Sunday. Although entering just one of these races would be enough for some, for others, including myself, it seemed like a good idea to get some early season miles under my belt and do a mini stage race by taking on the Exposure Lights Big Night Out followed by the first round of the MTB-Marathon series. Some nutters even took on the triple, entering the Welsh XC race on Saturday as well (and placing more than respectably at each!).
With the Welsh XC race out of the way it was time for the Big Night Out. Exposure lights were then on hand, sorting out many a punter with super bright setups which were required for the wide open 30mph grassy descents that awaited them that evening. The guys hooked me up with a new Maxx D, which was an upgrade from my old faithful model. I found that the advantage of the newer lights was the ability to set lots of different programme modes depending on how long you are going to be riding for. The guys set me up with a mode that would be best for the evening activities. A 2hr High and 6hr mode was the perfect setup for the scheduled 2hour or so night time adventure in the hills, and come to think of it probably perfect for the mid week night rides as well. The space age lights on the back also showed the battery level indicator in increments, simple but very handy. Me likey.
With most of those at the sharp end of the field booked in for the marathon the next day, some might have expected that the pace on the Saturday night might go off a bit steadier than the usual 100mph red line starts of shorter endurance races. That went straight out the window as the lead vehicles accelerated up what turned out to be an absolute monster of a first climb. Neil Crampton set the early pace with Nick Craig close behind (some might say he was there just to have someone to capture on his go pro!) with the seasoned endurance riders of Matt Page and Ant White amongst those forming a small group in pursuit. I was in the next bunch formed of myself and the Clee Cycles boys. Nick Craig inevitably cracked the field and was first back in.
I was enjoying being out in the big hills and glad that my last minute swap out of a seized bottom bracket bearing for a random one that I found in the tool box actually worked! The silence and surrounding darkness was amazing and clear skies made it a spectacular outing. The course was full of big moorland climbs followed by super fast grassy descents with time to be made up by the brave. Mostly following narrow and at times hard to find lines through sheep tracks. Although my lights meant I could see really far ahead (did I mention that I quite liked the lights?), shadows are always a risk (real or imagined) and a hidden ditch could certainly make things interesting, thankfully one didn’t appear.
My race went pretty well after recovering from some fairly serious fatigue in the last month or so. Unfortunately the Clee boys pulled ahead on one of the last climbs and not having my bike computer on meant that the end came around before I had time to realise that a last ditch effort might have got me back on term (perhaps). Still pleased with a top 10 finish though.
Rolling back in to the event area, I quickly realised that getting food and a shower quickly then heading off to bed to rest up for the next day would be key to making a decent effort out of Sunday’s event. However the great atmosphere fuelled by the awesome band kept me chatting to fellow riders, sharing stories and generally having a good time so I got to bed later than someone heading out there to do it all again the next day should have.

Ah, the wonders of compression tights

Ah, the wonders of compression tights, the next morning the legs didn’t feel too bad. Perhaps not realising the finish was nearer than I thought the previous night meant I didn’t have to put in the usual red line end of race effort so the legs weren’t pushed too hard, maybe a blessing in disguise.
Blue skies ahoy, it was booming sunshine all day, brilliant. Smiles all round for those entering the three different distance courses of mini, half and full (68km) marathons. Again a serious climb from the off strung out the field. I was keen to not get too carried away too early so tried to keep smooth and steady. The course was classic mountain biking, big open moorland, a little lumpy at times making it a real physical challenge. Climbs were rewarded with more of the fast open descents featured in the exposure big night out. They guys at USE1 had hooked me up with an Atom 710mm flatty bar. It’s wider than what I’d previously used for xc but the stability on the downs was very welcome and also being super light at 169g perfect for the weight weenies amongst us.
The course included some sections of singletrack to mix things up and was mostly dry and fast. Some pretty epic/hairy fast and narrow off camber traverses kept you on your toes. The climbs were cramp inducing and towards the end required some walking. Their sharpness was relentless in the spring sun. Parts of the course were repeats of the previous night but somehow things seemed a lot faster and fun in the dark, well certainly more terrifying. Just when you thought the last of the big climbs were done, round the corner was another beast ready to punish you
Lee Williams put in an impressive ride but the story of the weekend would be the endurance of the ‘old guard’, old in the sense of age but the top 10 was host to both Ant White and Matt Page who had both already done two races that weekend, fair play.
My race went pretty well. Many of those around me during the race hadn’t ridden the night before so it was satisfying to be keeping pace with those guys. The fatigue started to kick in hard at the 3 hour mark with the sheer length of the climbs and little rest possible on the downs due to the concentration and full throttle required to make up some time that I had lost to the quicker and fresher climbers out there. I was in a group that took a couple of temporary wrong turns through not looking far enough in to the distance so a few minutes were lost there, a little bit frustrating but the standing around was a welcome, if not short, rest. The food stations were always a pleasant sight and all the event staff were super friendly. Coming in to the last few km I could see another rider closing in making me inevitably want to hold my position but to my surprise I found I still had a little bit of kick in the legs which felt good. I finished inside the top 30 out of around 250 riders doing the full marathon. Need to start some interval training now to get some higher end speed going.

The fatigue started to kick in hard at the 3 hour mark with the sheer length of the climbs and little rest possible on the downs due to the concentration and full throttle required

All in all a fantastic weekends riding. Massive thanks to all the support crew and especially use/exposure lights for hooking people up with lights and other shiny kit over the weekend.

Man charged after bike-part thefts

Man charged with stealing bike parts from Skyline Plaza
8:00pm Monday 14th April 2014 in News

Man charged after bike-part thefts

A MAN has been charged with four counts of burglary following a series of bike-part thefts from the landmark Skyline Plaza flats in Basingstoke.
David Sims, 39, of Regent Court, Oakridge, has also been charged with one count of going equipped to steal, and has been bailed to appear at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court on April 22.
A 16-year-old boy who was also arrested over the thefts, has not been charged but has been released on bail until the same date.
The charges relate to thefts of bike parts from up to 50 bikes parked securely in the underground car park of the block of flats, in Alencon Link, in the early hours of Tuesday and Wednesday last week.

Some of the bikes targeted were high-value mountain bikes and parts taken included bike levers, gears and frames.

5 Favorite Spots for Mountain Biking in South-central Idaho

TWIN FALLS • Looking for an outdoor thrill? Maybe a peaceful outing with the family, or a way to blow off some steam in solitude?
Mountain biking can inject adventure into your outdoor excursion, and south-central Idaho is home to ideal trails for cyclists of all skill levels. Check out some of the best local trail systems, as suggested by members of south-central Idaho’s robust cycling community:
1: Auger Falls
Dive into the Snake River Canyon just below Twin Falls to find this day-tripper’s oasis. Trails fit for riders of varied skill levels snake around boulders and over pop-up hills, striping the rims of sheer cliffs that plummet into the Snake River.
Plenty of overlooks along the way let riders take in the white, churning waterfall that gives the area its name.
First-time riders can get their feet wet on this trail system, but that doesn’t mean it’s all easy. Twin Falls’ Epic Ride Cyclery owner Lee Greer said some trails closer to the north side of the canyon offer real technical challenges, so beginners beware.
Work on the wastewater treatment plant will cause access issues during summer 2014. The road west of the plant to Auger Falls will be closed 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
How to get there: In Twin Falls, turn west onto Canyon Springs Road from Blue Lakes Boulevard North. Follow the grade down into the Snake River Canyon and continue toward your left as you pass the Centennial Waterfront Park entrance.
Continue on Canyon Springs Road past where the pavement ends and along the river. The road ends at the parking lot for Auger Falls.
2: Indian Spring
A favorite of local mountain bike enthusiasts, parts of this trail system offer more technical challenges. The trails are mostly out in the open through sagebrush country, but inclines and rocky rides make navigating them interesting.
Greer said night riding is a favorite thrill at Indian Spring. He said strapping on a headlamp and following a familiar trail can be fun as long as riders use common sense and caution.
The higher you climb, though, the more advanced the trails become, said Nathan Fuller, Southern Idaho Mountain Biking Association president.
“If you’re just out there just learning, I would stay on the lower trails,” Fuller said.
Fuller suggests Sweet ’n Low or Brennan for starters.
Also, beware of horseback riders. Alert them as you approach so you won’t spook the horses.
How to get there: From Twin Falls, take Kimberly Road east to Kimberly. Veer south on 3500 East, and continue on after the pavement ends to reach Indian Spring. Click here for a map.
3: South Hills
All right, this sounds like a repeat. Indian Spring is part of the South Hills. However, a deeper trip into the forest, heading south to the area around Magic Mountain Ski Resort, will give you an entirely different experience.
When the summer heat rears up and Indian Spring starts getting dry and dusty, Greer said, getting out of the desert sun is definitely the way to go. Greer heads farther into the South Hills, careening through the woods and taking on some steep climbs.
A relatively short drive from Twin Falls, this is a scenic trip you could knock out in a weekend afternoon.
How to get there: Take Rock Creek Road south from Hansen and through the South Hills to get to Magic Mountain Ski Resort.
4: Sun Valley
Another warm-weather favorite, Wood River Valley-area trails also will get you out of the sun and into the mountains for a scenic ride.
Some of the trails in the area share access with motor vehicles, so some issues can arise, Greer said. Watch out for deep tire ruts in the trails, which could send a biker flying if he or she isn’t careful. But, Greer said, all parties get along fine, so visitors should just be prepared and respectful.
How to get there: From Twin Falls, take U.S. 93 north to Idaho 75. Head toward Ketchum. Pick out a trail at bcrd.org and stop along the way.
5: Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route
If you’re looking for a longer adventure with just a bit of luxury mixed in, this route along multiple central Idaho trail systems might be for you. Winding through forests and the Boulder-White Clouds area and covering more than 500 miles at its longest loop, as mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association, this route might not be fit for the day-tripper.
Setting aside the heart-stopping scenery and the long-distance challenges, this trip has perks. Take breaks in the ride to soothe your stressed muscles in the hot springs along the way.
How to get there: South-central Idaho riders can pick up the route in Ketchum and head north toward Stanley. Click here for a map.

First Look: Rocky Mountain Blizzard

The Blizzard comes with RockShox’s new 100mm travel Bluto fat bike fork.

Wade Simmons points the Bizzard down the steeps.

A New Class of Fat Bike
With suspension-specific design, agile trail-bike geometry, and a truly capable parts spec, the Blizzard delivers legendary Rocky Mountain ride quality on snow, sand, and anything else you get yourself into. Ride out the storm!

Gully getting sideways in the snow.

How RTC™ is Applied to the Blizzard
The overall goal was simple: create a true “mountain bike” feeling fat bike for fun in soft conditions.
It was no easy task to design a frame that clears the huge 4.7” tires while maintaining the playful geometry that Rocky Mountain is legendary for. With a suspension-corrected 68.5° head tube angle, neutral chainstays, and shorter-than-average top tube, we were able to make this goal a reality.
Our signature FORM ™ aluminum was applied from the Vertex for rugged, lightweight construction.

Key Features
• Wide 4.7” tires provide optimized traction and stability across snow, sand, and soft trails, giving rider the opportunity to climb steep terrain and navigate Mother Nature’s natural terrain park• Agile geometry keeps the Blizzard feeling like a true mountain bike, following the legendary ride quality Rocky Mountain is famous for• Frame Bag (sold separately) designed specifically for the Blizzard by Porcelain Rocket, Strapless system helps keep all your gear safe and dry with water resistant fabric and waterproof zippers. Main compartment allows for jacket or food, with expandable pocket for tools and other needed items• RockShox Bluto RL 100mm suspension fork with 15x150mm thru axle• 2 x Anything Cage mounts + extra bosses allowing additional custom frame bag options.• Custom designed Race Face 24T narrow wide single ring, featuring drive-side offset for optimal shifting performance while maximizing climbing ability• Custom designed Race Face bash guard mounted outboard provides ultimate protection while allowing for easy 2x conversions to expand versatility• Front derailleur mount allows for rider conversion (optional)• Sealed bearing 6-pawl heavy duty freehub system handles increased torque on steep climbs in soft conditions• Internally routed full length housing• Internally router dropper post compatible

PricingCANADA:Bike: $2,849.99 CADFrame/Susp. Fork/Hubs: $1,599.99 CAD
US:Bike: $2,6699.99 USDFrame/Susp. Fork/Hubs: $1,399.99 USD*Bag sold separately (MSRP): $149.99 USD/CAD


Mountain bike park takes back land once know for drug deals

Published: Sunday, April 6, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Thomas Soerenes / The News Tribune
Marcus Pitts of Tacoma races down the more advanced parts of Swan Creek Park’s new mountain bike trails Wednesday.

By Craig Hill, The News Tribune
TACOMA — Deep in Swan Creek Park’s Douglas fir forest is a new mountain bike trail with a meaningful name.

Braking Bad.

There are two ways to interpret the name, and both are right.

First, a good mountain biker on a good trail rarely bothers with the brakes. Second, it’s a reminder that not so long ago these woods could have been a set for the popular AMC drug drama “Breaking Bad.”

“The name represents that we’re kicking that kind of activity out of here,” said Joe Brady, natural resources manager for Metro Parks Tacoma.

In its place is Tacoma’s first official mountain bike trail system.

“It’s nice to finally have an area in the South Sound we can rally around,” said Silas Smith, a Tacoma mountain biker and trail volunteer. “And it’s not going anywhere.”

With the first of two phases complete on the 50-acre forest, Swan Creek Mountain Bike Trails consist of 1.5 miles of beginner trail, a half-mile of intermediate trail and a technical skill-building area.

“There is something there for everybody from little kids to full-grown rippers,” said Glenn Glover, director of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.

The way it was

Before Swan Creek, when Tacoma-area mountain bikers wanted to hit the trails, first they had to hit the road.

They’d travel to Olympia’s Capitol State Forest, to trails near Port Orchard or to Tiger Mountain on state Route 18.

Sure, they found places to ride in town. There were unofficial trails near Salmon Beach, China Lake and even Swan Creek Park. But they built features only to find them bulldozed or destroyed.

“We always wanted a legitimate place, but there was nothing,” Smith said.

Unorganized and saddled with a reputation in some circles for being dangerous and environmentally unfriendly, the mountain bikers faced a long, uphill pedal.

But during the last decade, things started to change, thanks, in large part, to a nonprofit group known as the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.

Founded in 1989, the group for many years mostly helped maintain local trails, paying its dues and waiting for a day when landowners saw the benefit of their efforts.

In 2007, the organization still had just 1.5 employees.

In 2008, it finished its first bike park, Colonnade, a small patch of technical terrain under Interstate 5 between Seattle’s Eastlake and Capital Hill communities.

Colonnade started to change the way some people thought about mountain bikers as the sport displaced the drug deals and prostitution that used to frequent the area.

“It doesn’t solve the social ill,” Glover said, “But it returns the area to the community as a place where they can go and have fun safely.”

Colonnade was used in the 2011 documentary “Pedal-Driven” to illustrate the positive impact of building mountain bike parks. The documentary also highlighted the organization’s next big project, Issaquah’s Duthie Hill Bike Park, and showed how sustainable bike trails could blend nicely into a forest.

“Mountain bikers are environmentalists,” said Jeff Ostenson, a Wenatchee resident who produced the documentary. “They are about sustainability. They want to build trails that are still there after the storms. And I think that provides a huge environmental education for kids.”

Evergreen’s success stems not just from lobbying for, designing and building trails, Glover said, but remaining involved once the trails open.

Today, Evergreen has seven permanent employees and hires as many as three seasonal workers each year. It coordinates more than 7,000 volunteer hours from more than 500 people annually.

So, in 2011 when Metro Parks started drafting its master plan for Swan Creek, Brady knew exactly who he needed to call.

The project

At 373 acres, Swan Creek is Tacoma’s second-largest park. The land around Swan Creek Canyon is co-owned by Metro Parks and Pierce County.

“300 acres near downtown in good ecological shape,” Brady said. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”

The park includes hiking trails and a community garden, but it was the 50-acre forest that showed potential for becoming Tacoma’s first mountain bike park.

And for all the work that’s been done to build the trails there in recent years, it seems more pristine than it used to be.

“Four years ago you could park out there and, almost like clockwork, you could see people going into the woods and doing transactions for what looked like drugs and who knows what else,” Brady said.

There were portable meth labs, signs of campfires, encampments and motorized vehicle use, he said.

Cleaning up the park would require an army of volunteers and thousands of hours of work.

Starved for a place to play, the local mountain bike community was happy to get its hands dirty.

The volunteers

Smith is one of an estimated 300 volunteers who worked on the Swan Creek Trails. He logged more than 1,000 hours, Brady said.

While he was initially intrigued by the project as a place to ride, he’s stayed motivated by a deeper purpose. There are schools— Lister Elementary School to the north and First Creek Middle School to the south— packed with kids he wants to give a safe place to play.

“The kids on the South Side need their own Point Defiance,” Smith said.

“Silas has my vote for volunteer of the year,” Brady said. “He’s not doing this for himself. He’s doing it for his kids and his grandkids and the kids (in the area). . He’s a classic Tacoma guy.”

The trails, designed by Evergreen’s Mike Westra, keep those kids in mind, Smith said.

“It’s not just for old men on $6,000 bikes,” Smith said. “It’s for kids on $100 Walmart bikes.”

The idea that the trails are for future generation of mountain bikers is also woven into the trail names. An intermediate technical trail was christened Joyride.

It’s named for Smith’s 8-year-old daughter, Joy.

The future

If all goes well at Swan Creek, Metro Parks and Evergreen hope they can soon start building more trails in the forest.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” Brady said.

Westra said continuing to build is important to reach a critical mass where mountain bikers feel they have enough terrain at Swan Creek to keep them satisfied.

“We need to offer them a reason to keep coming back,” Brady said. “Otherwise it will slowly die on the vine.”

Smith said he and other Evergreen volunteers are ready to get working on the second phase.

“A lot of sweat equity has gone into getting to this point,” Smith said. “And we’re ready to keep pushing forward.”

Story tags »  • Biking

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Clitheroe’s Rachel to take on world on her mountain bike!

Clitheroe’s Rachael Walker is out to take on the world as she flies out to South Africa at the weekend for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 1.

The former Clitheroe Royal Grammar School pupil works and races for the bicycle component manufacturer Hope, based in Barnoldswick, and hopes to qualify for the final of the first World Cup of the season on April 13th in Pietermaritzburg, near Durban.
Rachael flies out on Sunday to begin her preparations.
She competed at the World Cup in Canada last year, finishing 18th after qualifying in 15th, and is aiming to finish in the top 20 to reach the final, which would be a big achievement against full-time riders.
Rachael studied at Durham University and was in London as a corporate lawyer with Addleshaw Goddard LLP, before returning home to follow her dream.
She said: “I liked the job but had a moment when I realised I had a few years to pursue my interests, and wouldn’t have a chance again.
“I was told by people I was riding with that I should have a go at downhill.
“I did a few races and I was hooked! I still do legal work at Hope, managing teams and marketing, but I get to ride more now.
“I’m not a full-time professional, so I’m up against elite girls in South Africa, so to qualify for the final would be amazing.”
Daredevil Rachael admits the sport is a big thrill: “It’s like downhill skiing – you’re up against the clock.
“But training for it is difficult – the nearest tracks are in Newcastle, Scotland and Wales.”
The World Cup series continues to come thick and fast, with Rachael set for the second stage in Cairns, Australia between April 24-27th, before the event moves to Fort William, Scotland on June 7-8th.
Leogang, Austria is the next venue the following week, and from July 31st to August 3rd, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada is the host of stage five.
Stage six is between August 7-10th at Windham, USA, before coming to an end between August 21st-24th at Méribel, France.
She was on the podium last weekend ahead of her trip toSouth Africa.
Rachael, 29, was competing in Scotland in round one of the Scottish Downhill Association at Innerleithen, where she finished in second place.
While Rachael competes around the globe, back home it is a big year for Hope – the second-most successful British manufacturing company in the cycling world – as they celebrate their 25th anniversary, and hope to win planning permission for a 200m Velodrome at the site in Barnoldswick, a shorter track for sprinters to match ones in Manchester, London, Glasgow and Newport.
There is also a Tour de Lancashire planned in the area to coincide with the Tour de France, which begins in Yorkshire and will skim parts of East Lancashire.

Arrests made after bike part thefts at Skyline Plaza

1:23pm Friday 4th April 2014 in News By Chris Gregory, Senior Reporter

Arrests made after bike part thefts at Skyline Plaza

A MAN and a boy were arrested early this morning after a series of bike thefts from Skyline Plaza.
The 39-year-old man and 16-year-old boy, both from Basingstoke, were arrested by plain-clothes officers in the underground car park of the Alencon Link flat complex, at around 2am today, The Gazette understands.
It follows thefts of bike parts from up to 50 bikes parked securely in the same car park, in the early hours of both Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
Some of the bikes targeted were high-value mountain bikes and parts taken included bike levers, gears and frames.

The man and the boy were arrested on suspicion of burglary and going equipped to steal and are currently in police custody.

Why aren’t there more seniors mountain biking? Part 3: Fear of injuries | Mountain Bike Geezer

In the online discussion threads (see the list in part 2), many people mentioned the fear of injuries from falling as a reason for not considering mountain biking.

I touched on it in that post, arguing that beginners should not have to accept falling as a necessary part of recreational mountain biking on flat, wide, smooth, obstacle-free dirt trails like the dirt double track trail along the MN River Bottoms between the Mendota and Cedar Avenue bridges.
But what if you’re wondering if mountain biking could become a sport for you?  What if you’re curious about what it’s like to ride on some singletrack, especially trails with some of that ‘flow’ that you keep hearing about?  What if you’re tempted to engage in a little skill development, either on your own or with some coaching?
  I took these photos of a woman riding the big berms section on the Lebanon Hills advanced beginner trail when it opened in August of 2011. I yelled to her, “Are you having fun?” and she yelled back with a big smile, “I’m scared to death!” Given her casual clothes, I’d say she was a recreational mountain biker at the time, right up against the limits of her skills.
It’s cool that she was out there, testing her limits. If I was her instructor that day,  I might have pulled her aside to ask her if she was having fun and if so, was she willing to accept that there was going to be some falling in her near future.  Why?
If she got a taste of the pleasurable physical sensations going around the lowest part of those berms, her brain was likely to be screaming “Let’s do that again!” as it released a variety of chemicals that contributed to those feelings of euphoria.  From there, it’s a short step to go a little higher on those berms the next time through, a little faster on the rollers, or find slightly bigger rocks or logs to ride over.  And at some point, she’ll exceed her skill level and fall.
Falling is something we increasingly don’t experience regularly as we age, and when we do, it’s rarely in the context of a helpful learning experience like when you see kids falling constantly when they’re learning to ski or snowboard.
I’m not an instructor but it seems to me that adult beginners, including seniors, who want to graduate from recreational mountain biking need to be reminded of this.  Falling is part of learning when you want to mountain bike as a sport. It can be a good thing.
The good news is that spills by beginning mountain bikers are rarely severe. Tim Walsh, who I met yesterday, added a comment in the MORC forum about mountain biking injuries:

Griff, I was looking for a link on an article regarding the comparison of injuries due to mountain bicycling to other cardio action sports. Sorry that I can’t find it, (I believe the article was in Bicycling).
The message was that the incidence and severity of injury compared to other sports such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, XC skiing, running and road bicycling was fairly low. The author used data comparing industry provided estimates on number of participants and emergency room incidences resulting from sports participation as part of his rational.
The writer speculated that the reasons mountain bicycling was not as high a risk sport as other cardio action sports included the ideas that most riders rarely sustain speeds over 10 miles per hour so not a lot of broken bones and it’s not an impact sport so not a significant risk of overuse injuries. This may suggest that safety equipment promoting comfort, safety and balance would be the order of the day. Helmets, gloves, and long sleeve shirts would provide most of the protection needed for new riders. Bottom line, my experience is that if wearing the above listed items, other than some abrasions, poison ivy rashes and bug bites, XC mountain bicycling is a fairly safe sport. I will keep looking for the link. 

And I’d argue that if you’re willing to also wear elbow and knee pads in addition to the gloves and long-sleeve shirts that Tim suggests, you can avoid many of those small bruises and scrapes associated with falling over and low-speed crashes.  
I’ve found that wearing protective gear has some psychological benefits for me in my quest to keep improving my skills. I’m much more willing to keep trying stuff that’s just a bit beyond my ability level because I’m not overly concerned about getting hurt. I tell myself, If I don’t make it, it’s not a big deal because I’m pretty well protected.  I’d argue that this mental mindset means I ride more relaxed, with more concentration on the challenge, and thus I’m even less likely to fall.
I found an article with the slightly misleading title Most Dangerous Sports that included mountain biking in its ranking:

What qualifies as the most dangerous sport is a matter of opinion, as it can be measured in a variety of ways.  The approach taken in this case was to generally look at sports most people play and compare them against each other in terms of number of injuries, body parts injuries, ages of those injured, and what types of injuries occurred using the Consumer Product and Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database…
If one defines ‘most dangerous’ as the sport with the greatest number of injuries per number of participants then football, skateboarding, and basketball could be considered the most dangerous… Mountain biking, tennis, and golf where those that scored lowest in terms of injuries per participant.

For all you seniors out there who golf regularly, note that mountain biking was last on the list at #11 (safest) and golf was #9. I’m guessing that not that many golfers get injured crashing their golf carts or get hit in the head with golf balls. Rather, as this article states,

 … golf is fairly demanding on the ankles, elbows, spine, knees, hips and wrists, which, without practicing necessary precautions, can result in an injury occurring in one, or even several of these areas.

Those are the injuries that are probably triggering all those hospital visits tallied by the NEISS database.
The moral of the story is not to quit golf and take up mountain biking, since the injuries in both sports can be minimized with proper preventive conditioning.   It’s really a perception thing. Mountain biking at the beginner and intermediate level is safer than most people think.
Mountain biking has other ‘perception’ problems, too. More on that next.
Update 10 PM:  The photo at the top of the blog shows John Seery and Michael Knoll from Michael’s Cycles in Prior Lake  attending to an injured buddy’s leg. They were tackling the narrow and rocky upper section of Timber Shaft in the Yawkey Unit of  the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System when he fell and sliced his leg on, you’ll never guess, a sharp rock. Shred the Red became Shed the Red. Michael had a first aid kit, patched him up, and he promptly got back on his bike and cleaned the section where he’d fallen. Off they went to the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby to get him stitched up.  Just another way that mountain bikers bring economic development to the area.  Full details of that day in May, 2012 in this blog post.

To keep tabs on my blog, you can subscribe to my free weekly e-newsletter and/or  follow @MTBikeGeezer on Twitter.

Cycling Trends & Upgrades 2014, Part 2

Move up Move down

Top Bicycle Trends & Upgrades For 2014 Larry Olmsted Contributor

Best Holiday Gifts For Cyclists 2013 Larry Olmsted Contributor

2013 Bicycle Buyers Guide: New Trends & Technology Larry Olmsted Contributor

2013 Bicycle Buyers Guide Part 2: Choosing A Road Bike Larry Olmsted Contributor

This is direct continuation of a feature that began yesterday and I urge you to start there or this may not make as much sense to you.
Wheels & Tires & (No) Tubes (UPGRADE) – Continued: Yesterday I discussed the big trend of road bike wheels moving to a wider standard, up to 22 or 23mm from the longtime norm of 19mm. That is hardly the only big change going on in road bike wheels and tires.
For as long as most of us have ridden bikes, inner tubes have been a part of life. But tubeless tires are spreading like wildfire and have already converted most serious off-road enthusiasts. If you are an avid mountain biker reading this, there is a good chance you already have tubeless, or at least have thought about switching, and the concept is widely accepted. However, it is still novel in road riding.
“Tubeless technology has already taken over mountain biking, and is quickly spreading to road riding,” said Mike McCormack, a longtime race and bike event organizer. Professional road racers and some hard-core amateurs have long ridden road bikes with tubulars, which are a tube and tire in one, glued to the rim and difficult enough to change that the vast majority of the road biking community has eschewed them, despite their performance benefits. But the new option is a tubeless version of the same road tire (aka clincher) most of us are used to, with the added bonus that in the event of a flat, rather than replacing and re-gluing the tire roadside, you simply stick a tube in just like you always did – and already know how to do.

Most quality new road wheels are now tubeless compatible, like Shimano’s popular RS81.

“Road tubeless is the middle ground between a traditional clincher and a tubular,” said cycling industry consultant Eric Doyne. “Tubular is the bomb, with lighter wheels and better handling, but they are a pain, not at all user friendly, very expensive, and you have to glue them on. Road tubeless offers much of the same handling benefits, and they are supple and more flat resistant. In mountain biking I wouldn’t ride anything but tubeless, it’s the biggest advent since suspension. I also ride road tubeless, but in road biking it is still new school stuff.”
Most quality wheels now come tubeless compatible, meaning you can choose to use either a traditional clincher or tubeless tire. More than the wheel, it’s the tires that make the difference, and tubeless offer pros and cons, which are still being debated within the industry. On the plus side, they are more flat resistant than regular clinchers, and because they also have a liquid sealant inside, are to a degree self-healing on smaller punctures. They require less air pressure, which has several benefits: better comfort and ride quality, better cornering and better braking. Those are the big advantages, while on the other hand, negatives have little to do with performance: the tires are appreciably more expensive (I ride Hutchinson tires now and both of this company’s more popular tubeless tires are a hundred bucks each or more, double what I’ve paid for clinchers) and there are far fewer choices on the market. They typically need to be installed with messy sealant and a compressor, as a standard pump can’t get air into them fast enough to create a seal, meaning many recreational cyclists have to go to a shop to have tires mounted. On the other hand, in the typical season many road riders don’t get a single flat, flats are even less common with tubeless, and as a stop gap tires can simply be ridden with a tube until you decide to make the effort to go to a shop and replace the tire.
Not everyone agrees the advantages are notable enough to be worth the extra cost and hassle, and at this point road tubeless remains an early adopter’s technology, but since most new wheels accept it anyway, it’s one of the simplest upgrades, and one you can choose at any time. “Road tubeless has been ‘the next big thing’ for the past 7-10 years, and people are doing it, but it’s nothing like in mountain biking,” said Rolf Prima’s Brian Roddy. “Tubeless is an interesting technology and there are benefits, but they aren’t nearly as great as in mountain biking – if it’s a trend, it’s a slow growing trend.”

Disc brakes on road bikes are a hot trend, but mostly on new bikes as they are difficult or impossible to retrofit onto most existing models.

Road Bike Disc Brakes (TREND): Just last year when I rounded up bike trends, this was futuristic – now it is coming standard on a lot more bikes straight off the showroom floor and adoption is faster than many in the industry expected. For example, Specialized, one of the largest manufacturers, is now offering disc brakes on several road bikes from its entry-level Secteur ($1,400) to the top tier S-Works Roubaix SL4, the same model that won the 2012 Paris-Roubaix classic ($8,500). The main difference here is that less expensive bikes are using mechanical disc brakes, while pricier ones use the better hydraulic systems, though across the market most road bikes still use traditional caliper brakes.
For years disc brakes have been standard issue for mountain bikes, because they offer greatly increased stopping power and also because they work much better in wet or muddy conditions. For this same reason (plus important changes in competition rules) disc brakes have flooded the cyclocross market. But the argument for disc brakes on road bikes, similar to tubeless tires, is more tenuous, because most people don’t ride road bikes in mud, snow or downpours.
“Do road bikes need disc brakes? No. Are they better? Hell yes,” said Doyne, who works with Shimano, the industry’s leading supplier of quality components. It’s rare to buy a complete bike from any major company that does not use some Shimano parts, and the company just introduced the high-end R785 hydraulic disc system for road bikes in its top DuraAce and Ultegra lines, where the brake levers are coupled with its Di2 electronic shifting. “The drawback has always been weight, but now Shimano has made a lighter, better hydraulic disc brake and it’s the hot thing. The R785 has quickly become the standard for off the shelf road bikes from leading manufacturers including Trek and Colnago. Disc is better, especially for wet weather riding and commuting or training in snow or rain. For more serious riders another advantage is that you can brake later in the turn and optimize performance. There are a limited number of bikes available with disc brakes, but riders who try them tend to be instantly converted.”
Like the new 27.5 inch wheel standard for mountain bikes I discussed yesterday, this is not an upgrade but rather part of a new bike buy or a new frame build-up, since everything including the wheels and frame needs to be redesigned to accommodate disc brakes and very few bikes that aren’t extremely recent can be retrofitted to disc. Nonetheless, this is one of the hottest trends in cycling right now. “A lot of people have asked ‘why don’t we have this yet?’ because the technology is proven, cheap and reliable,” said McCormack. “I think more and more bikes will have them standard, and some already do.”
Rolf Prima’s Roddy confirms the rapid adoption: “We are an after-market company, and all of our wheels are hand built in Eugene, Oregon, while almost all bikes are made in Asia, so we are not original equipment on any of these bikes. We are an upgrade, and as such, we don’t usually see new trends until 6-8 months later, when people start upgrading their factory parts. It took us a while to see the demand for 27.5 inch mountain bike wheels, but with road disc we saw it right away.” His company already offers its most popular road wheels in disc compatible versions.
But you don’t need to go to disc brakes to get better stopping power on road bikes. Shimano has launched a new style of traditional (caliper) brakes with dual pivots across its top two component groups, DuraAce and Ultegra, that while not quite as powerful as discs are significantly better than previous caliper brakes. “The level of braking power is so good that for most riders it enough,” said Doyne. “Braking is the new industry frontier, not just for disc brakes but across the board.” Unlike disc brakes, the new Ultegra and DuraAce dual pivot caliper components can be retrofitted as an upgrade to your existing road bike. This especially make sense if you are already considering last year’s hottest upgrade, electronic shifting, since it is more cost efficient to do them together.
Most cyclists, including myself, don’t go for a road ride and come home wishing we had better brakes. Like the change from standard to power brakes in automobiles decades ago, you don’t realize how good it is until you try it. It has only been when I have ridden road bikes with better brakes than my bike has that I’ve noticed, and that’s when I wish mine were better. For anyone who has ever thought more stopping power would be better, this is a banner year in cycling.
So to recap quickly from the past two days, this year’s major trends in new bikes are 27.5 inch wheeled mountain bikes and road bikes with disc brakes.
This year’s major upgrade items are better, wider wheels; tubeless road bike tires; and better brakes on road bikes, while last year’s big road trend, electronic shifting, remains at the top of many cyclists’ wish list. You can read more about electronic shifting and last year’s other hot trends here.
One more thing: ultra-fat tire “Snow Bikes” or “Adventure bikes” have proven a much hotter segment than almost anyone in the industry expected, and in terms of percentage growth, is probably the single fastest growing category. However, these bikes, while good for very sloppy weather and the beach, are still mainly winter oriented products, so they don’t really fit this seasonal round up. However, I did write about them in my winter gift guide, and I expect they will still be a hot topic worth revisiting later this year when cold weather returns, especially since they keep getting more affordable. When introduced they were custom and niche products that could easily run north of five grand, but UK manufacturer On-One sells a ready to roll model for $1,500 and Specialized offers the Fatboy for $2,000.
Have fun out there!
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How it is: Expanding one’s horizons on a mountain bike

By Joe DysonSpecial to the IJ

I SAID GOODBYE to an old friend yesterday. I donated my original bike to charity.
On Christmas in 1987 my wife gave me a Rockhopper mountain bike. Even though I was 35 at the time, I was so excited as I unwrapped this giant package to find a fully assembled, state-of-the-art bicycle. Over the months, I learned how to ride it and got into shape while going farther and farther each time.
The round trip to Stafford Lake was 10 miles. If I continued to the Cheese Factory, the total was 18 miles. If I rode on to Petaluma, it was 36 miles. As the years rolled one, we rode farther north together until the day I stood on the Memorial Beach Bridge in Healdsburg with the odometer on 50 miles. The return trip would complete my first “century ride.”
The road continued to call; so on one Labor Day weekend, me, the Rockhopper and my credit card rode took our first multiday trek. A 74-mile ride to a motel in Cloverdale, then down to a room in Healdsburg and back home again. I had proven to myself that it was possible, so the next year I attached panniers to the bike, loaded on my tent and started taking multiple day camping trips until I convinced myself that the Rockhopper and I could go anywhere.
It was the summer of 1997 when I decided to use my two-week vacation to ride as far north as I could. Eight days later the fully loaded Rockhopper and I were riding past the “Welcome to Oregon” sign and ended up camping at Gold Beach. Convinced that the sky was the limit, I made my next plan: Ride from the Canadian border back home again.
I took the Rockhopper to the bike shop for its tune up and described my plans, only to watch the mechanic pull his face.
“Joe, this bike is falling apart and it’s hard to find new parts for it,” he said.
He guided me to the front of the shop and introduced me to a red and white Bontrager mountain bike. One ride around the parking lot, and I was sold. The Bontrager and I proceeded to spend three weeks riding 1,425 miles from Blaine, Wash., back to Novato while the Rockhopper moved to the garage and became the “other bike.”
Since then, I’ve ridden the Bontrager 50,000 miles, at which point my wife found the exact same bike on Craigslist with only 50 miles on it. Purchasing the used bike, the old Bontrager became “the other bike,” making the Rockhopper expendable.
Last Sunday, I took it for a final ride out to Gnoss field (our favorite loop together) and reminisced about our glorious past: riding up Mount St. Helena, cruising around Death Valley, the journey to Oregon, the loop around Lake Tahoe.
Someday, another person will be riding the Rockhopper with no idea where it’s been or what stories it has to tell.
Joe Dyson is a Novato resident. The IJ has been asking readers to share their stories of love, dating, parenting, marriage, friendship and other experiences for our How It Is column. All stories must not have been published in part or in its entirety previously. Send your stories of no more than 500 words to relating@marinij.com. Please write How It Is in the subject line. The IJ reserves the right to edit them for publication. Please include your full name, address and a daytime phone number.