Thursday, January 25, 2018

2018 Strathpuffer 24 hour Mountain Bike Race.

Pic courtesy of - Rachel Sokal

Above, lining up for Tom's fourth solo Strathpuffer.

We love this race. It may be billed as one of the toughest 24 hour races, though Tom has only done one other to compare it with. So as far as he is concerned Strathpuffer is the standard.

The weather is always a major factor at this event. Happening in winter, it is always going to be some degree of cold, though in our experience in previous editions, at least for some of the race the temperature is above freezing. This year though things would be different.

The weather the week before had left a layer of ice on most of the route, which had since been covered by a fresh fall of snow. It was below freezing when we arrived on Friday, and that is how it stayed for the weekend.

Pic courtesy of Keith Bremner

Sunshine greeted the 10 am start. We rode initially on the Sonder Transmitters with 27.5+ tyres. History says that ice spike tyres are not needed for more than the odd lap at this event. But having the choice, after 5 or so laps we switched over to our Sonder Frontiers with Spikes, and for us the extra control was immediately noticeable.

Pic courtesy of Keith Bremner
There were approximately 3 water splashes unlike the usual mud, so for the most part we stayed clean.

Pic courtesy of Norman Agnew

On most parts of the course eventually a rideable line appeared. Though there was some pushing for most people at least a couple of times a lap. One slip, and you were off.

Blue sky in a winter wonderland. Yes, and then around 6 hours after the start it was dark.

If you like night riding, you'll love the Strathpuffer, as there are 17 hours of darkness.

With our Exposure Toro lights fired up, we keep on rolling. The plan for this 24 hour race unlike any that Tom has done before was to not stop. Sure we'd pause between laps for food and drink, but this time we planned on no sleep.

"No sleep 'til Sunday"


As the night progressed it got colder. Our Rapha merino layers were now up to three topped with a hard shell to keep the freezing air at bay.

Every lap we'd stop for a cup of tea and a bite to eat. Then back up the snow covered fire road where we'd shiver for a few minutes before we warmed up again.

Tom's sleep monsters arrived about 10pm. We'd learned that chatting about something interesting would keep him awake. So for the next few hours we chatted about all sorts. I was really interested to hear that he'd been reading Whymper's account of climbing the Matterhorn. By contrast he was also explaining to me about what to look for when buying a second hand Datsun 240Z drift car.

Over night our lap times dropped off a bit for various reasons including that we we were both unsurprisingly tired.

We tried putting our usual pick up Coca Cola in a water bottle to drink on the way round. Even though it was in my pocket it froze near solid.

Just after 5:30am we decided there would be time for another leisurely two laps if we were going to keep riding until 10am.

Not long after this, unusually for me, the sleepmonsters came. Tom returned the favour of geeing me up, and soon the near overwhelming desire to sleep passed.

Photo courtesy of Gary Williamson

At almost exactly 10am we rolled over the finish line. Tom's total was 13 laps. We'd ridden a smidge under 100 miles together. Finishing 40th of 103 riders.

He was happiest though, that he'd managed to keep riding for the whole of the 24 hours without stopping to sleep.

A true 24 hour soloist.

Below, two very happy, but tired boys (and Dave).


Thanks to Ann for feeding us and staying up all night to help with all the other things that we needed. Hmm, and apologies to Ann, Cat, Dean and anyone else who had the misfortune to assist in the saga that was "just swap these tyres over please"

Alpkit's Sonder bikes didn't miss a beat. Thanks to Karl for bringing them North. Use-Exposure Toro lights as always were just the job for the long hours of darkness.

To the marshalls with their fires jelly babies and garibaldi biscuits, thanks.

Finally thanks to the organisers of the 'puffer. It was great this year to see so many more youngsters taking part, boys and girls. The youngest soloist was 10. This can only be a good thing for endurance cycling in the future.

Look out for the BBC Adventure Show program in March.

Pic Courtesy of Keith Bremner

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Rapha Festive 500 2017.

Tom and I have done the Rapha Festive 500 a number of times now. This year though my daughter Skye wanted to have a go at the challenge.


Skye doesn't generally do bikes, so it was great that she wanted to come along.

Like last year we had come to Mallorca. Unlike last year though, there was now a Rapha clubhouse to come and drink coffee and ask advice as to where would be some good flat riding.


The first day we headed out along the coast and Skye was loving it. Tom made it his job to look after Skye, and make sure she was having a good time.


The next day Skye's legs were feeling the 89km we'd done the day previously, but she was back on the bike nonetheless.


Our half way for the day was Andratx, and by then Skye's legs were not happy. By the time we'd got back, Skye had cycled 166 km in two days. Quite an achievement for a non cyclist, and that was enough for her.


The next day Tom and I headed into the hills in somewhat changeable weather.


It was good to come across some of our Instagram buddies Brigitte and John who we'd not met before.

Day 4 and we met up at the Rapha store for a guided ride. An international peloton made up of we two Brits, 2 Dutch and a Finn.


Day 5 and we rode out again with some guys from the Rapha shop, before peeling off after 50Km to do some exploring.

It wasn't really ice cream weather but that didn't mean it didn't go down well.


Day 6 was the day before we were flying home, and there were less than 40km left to ride. We ambled along the coast, then back to the Rapha shop for coffee.

Our Festive 500 was done.


Back home, the following weekend, we picked up our badges from the Rapha store in Manchester.

Festive 500 number 5.


A big thank you to the staff at Rapha Mallorca for showing us round, and being so welcoming.

See you next year!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Some Lakeland Hills.

We always try and do something at Autumn half term holidays. The days are getting shorter, but there is still enough daylight to get some decent days on the bikes in.

In the summer, Alan Goldsmith had mentioned some possible changes to his original Lakeland 200 route. Whilst the variations make a route roughly the same length, they add in a couple of significant hills which make the ascent greater, around 7000 metres. So that was the plan, the new Lakeland 200 route. Rather than start from Staveley, we opted to start from near Keswick.

A couple of pints with some friends in the Coledale Inn the evening before, a good night's sleep in the back of the car, and just after 6:30 am, in the darkness, we are away towards our first hill, Skiddaw.


Tom and I had been up here not long ago so no surprises. A push up the first bit, then a mix of riding and pushing up to the top.


We knew that this route was going to have a lot of pushing, so instead of the usual bags on bikes set up, we carried everything on our backs.

By the time we got to Threlked we were in need of coffee and cake. Oh and some cardboard to sit on so we didn't soak their seats. It wasn't raining but the trails were certainly wet.


After some quiet valley roads and bridleways we find ourselves at the foot of Sticks Pass which heads up towards our next main hill, Helvellyn.


We'd ridden down here before, so knew it was steep. There wasn't much riding until we made the pass.


Over Raise, White Side, then a bite to eat near Helvellyn Summit.


Some nice easy riding towards Dollywagon Pike, followed by some real tech stuff down to Grisedale Tarn. We then follow the valley pictured below down to Patterdale.


In Patterdale we stopped to refuel again. It would be dark in a couple of hours, but we certainly weren't done for the day.

From Patterdale we ride towards Hartsop, where once again we commence hauling bikes up a steep grassy hill. Our goal is High Street. We do make the summit ridge before dark, but it still takes the best part of an hour to get to the trig point.

At Thornthwaite Crag a piccy. Before the tricky descent down to Troutbeck Park.


I only say it was tricky as it is justification for the spectacular over the bars thing I did half way down.

Above Limefitt Park we stop to eat some delaminated sausage rolls before the last climb of the day.


Garburn pass again is a familiar, and is not really a thing after the day's previous climbs. The descent as ever is testing though.

By the time we make Kentmere 16 hours in, we've both had enough and set up camp on Green Quarter Fell.

We both had a rubbish nights sleep, it was much colder than had been forecast. We woke up feeling more tired than we had been the night before. So instead of the planned 5:30 am start we opted for the 8:30 start followed by breakfast at Wilf's in Staveley. Below, on our way to breakfast.



It was a stunning day, so we were still going to ride back to Braithwaite where we had started, but day 2 was now, not going to be a tough one.

After a top breakfast we followed cyclepaths mostly to Ambleside where we popped into the Alpkit shop for a cup of tea (thanks Chris).

Bridleways round Rydal Water to Grasmere then over Dunmail raise.


We then followed the West road round Thirlmere, before heading up over Long Moss to Watendlath.


Here, Tom catching the last of the afternoon's Sun.


Bogtastic up there, but beautiful with a sweet little last drop down to Watendlath.

Back on the road to Keswick for some chips, and back to the car before dark.

A great couple of days in the Lake District. With day 1 being a strong contender for the toughest bikepacking day we've done.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Everesting Stwlan Dam.

Rested up after our Tour de France trip, we were looking for a late season challenge to put our fitness to use.

 Initially we'd planned to head up to the Lakes and do a big ride on our mountain bikes, the Lakeland 200. Reports though said that the ground was very wet after recent rain, so we were after a plan B.

James had mentioned the other week that a 14 year old had become the youngest to complete the Everesting challenge. Back in 2015 as part of the Rapha Rising challenge Tom had a go at Everesting Holme Moss, but at the half way mark on an undergeared bike he called it a day.

Tom fancied giving the challenge another go. After all nobody is getting younger.

I had a chat with James about suitable hills that hadn't yet been everested, and he suggested the gem that is the road to Stwlan Dam.

It's a gem for a number of reasons. Firstly it is a gated road, so no motor vehicles, except for access for dam maintenance. Secondly it is a fairly consistent 10% gradient. Finally it is a really pretty place to ride a bike, the scenery is stunning.

The weather forecast for the weekend looks OK, there's less than 1mm of rain forecast, so we decide on a 2am Saturday start. James kindly offers to meet us down there and support our everesting attempt.

Tom and I drive down on Friday evening. As we arrive just after 10pm it starts raining. We recline the car seats, and I set the alarm for 1:30am. The alarm goes off, but I've not slept, the rain has kept me awake. I message James to say that I am resetting the alarm for 6am. I awake and it is still raining, now though with added hailstones.


James says that the nearby Lakeside cafe opens at 9, and he retreats to his car. Just after 7am and I can see the cloud is starting to break, and the rain is now just showers. Tom wakes up and starts putting his cycling gear on. So I do likewise. A couple of laps before breakfast at the cafe is the plan.

Once we've started and the weather improves though, there is no time for a proper cafe stop, we are committed to giving this a proper go. Instead James goes to the cafe and grabs us a sausage sandwich and a coffee.


The weather is a mix, one minute it is fine, then the next we have our waterproofs on again. Though as the day progresses, the rain lessens.


The above picture was taken just after the 10th climb, and we were both feeling great. All those cols in the Alps and Pyrenees with laden bikes had made us strong.

 What a pretty place to ride a bike.





James kept us fed and watered. Here he's prepared one of our faves a Firepot Orzo Pasta Bolognese , fuel for another few laps.


More pictures.





James as well as catering for us, rode a good number of ascents with us.

By the time darkness had come, we'd done 20 ascents, only 14 left to do. We were well over halfway, though it certainly wasn't a done deal. We were both slowing down a little. Needless to say as the night progressed we both felt more and more tired.

We talked all the time on the way up the hill. If you are talking to someone your focus is on the conversation, not the blister on your bottom, or the fact that you'd rather be pushing your bike than pedaling it.

I notice a  mechanical as I'm grinding up the hill, I've lost 2 of my 5 chainring bolts. No worries James sorts that out back at the car by pinching one of Tom's and checking and tightening all the others.

Wow, a clear sky, and that meant a bazillion stars in the sky. We'd stop for a few moments at the top of the climb, and try and take some of that in.

The descents at night were cautious, there are lots of sheep on this hillside, many of which apparently like sleeping on the road.

We were riding slower, it was getting colder so we tried to minimise stopping time at the car. We wanted this done inside 24 hours.

One last stop at the end of rep 33. We turned off our Exposure lights for the last time grabbed a handful of Haribo washed down with some Coca Cola and headed back up the hill in the dawn light.


At the Dam we hugged each other then a "summit" picture.

James was waiting back at base camp for us to take the obligatory finish line photo..


Tom Seipp the youngest person to complete an #everesting age 12 years 7 months 22 days. 8954 metres climbed in 23 hours 21 minutes.

His Strava is a bit wonky as his batteries died a couple of times mid segment, the GPS chewed through batteries in the cold, but unusually we took two GPS units and my Strava is here.

Now to rest up for a couple of weeks before commencing the build up to Strathpuffer.

A big thanks to James for his help in catering for us, fettling bikes, and the use of his pictures.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tour de France 1955 - A story to tell.


We've been back from France for two days now. Our ride a homage to the 1955 Tour de France finished.

Some figures for those that like to quantify numerically. 34 days riding. 1 rest day. 4744 km ridden. 54,310 metres climbed. 11 days where we rode in excess of 160 km. Average 139 km.

A friend said recently at a talk we did, "you make it all sound so easy". This ride wasn't easy. There was pain, illness, though in the main it was a real pleasure.

This trip rather than a blog or a series of blog posts deserves some words printed on paper along with some accompanying pictures.

When the kids are back at school expect a crowdfunding campaign. ;)




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tour De France BikePacking Gear List


On the 24th of August, Tom and I will set out on our 4500 kilometre ride inspired by the 1955 Tour de France route.

Below is what we'll be taking.

Luggage -

Rich - Alpkit Big Papa, Stingray Frame Bag, Medium Fuel Pod.

Tom - Alpkit Stingray Frame Bag, Koala Seat pack.

Sleeping -

Force Ten Helium 2 tent.

Rich - Enlightened Equipment down quilt, Sea to Summit mat.

Tom - Adult Pied Elephant down bag. Klymit mat.

Clothes - All Rapha - Merino base layers, Lightweight/Aero Tops, Bib shorts, Arm Warmers, Leg Warmers, Gilets. Magic Rock Caps.

Extra clothes - Primaloft jackets, Waterproof tops, Merino beanies, undies, socks.


Tools etc. Pump, 3 tubes, puncture repair kit, tyre lever, multitool, chain breaker, spare links, pliers, cable ties.

Personal care - Factor 30 suncream, Assos chamois cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste, tea tree cream, wipes.

Electrics - Rich - Garmin Oregon GPS, SP PD-8 dynamo. Igaro AC power into 5V USB power convertor. Anker PowerCore 20100 battery, leads. Fujifilm X30 camera, spare lithiums for the SPOT.
Both - USE Exposure Toro front lights with Exposure RedEye Rear Lights

Water - Both 2 bottles. 

Luxury item, a roll on deodorant.

SPOT Tracker - Click for our location.

Oh, and Tom's Stingray frame bag is empty, he'll be carrying our food.

Some close up photos below.