Worthing – a driving utopia

Grove Lodge roundabout

Grove Lodge roundabout

Worthing is a wonderful town in a beautiful county. Or should I say it was. In 2006 James Brathewaite, the head of SEEDA (South East Economic Development Association) addressed most of our borough councillors and prominent local business owners in a packed Pier Pavilion. His opening statement shook the pier to its rusted iron foundations.  “This town is crap!” were his first words followed by “Thirty years ago, when I first moved here, Worthing was the jewel in the crown of West Sussex. But look at it now. What have you done?” He was referring to the town’s passion for living in the past and the detrimental effect that such nostalgia has had for local business and the community.

At the time Worthing Borough Council presented the “Master Plan” this was a vision for the future and it made Worthing look like a wonderful place to live. It still embraced the car but put people, and businesses first. The town plan was people friendly with obvious benefits for pedestrians and cyclists. Despite a cost of hundreds of thousands of our money the report appears to have been shelved.

One reason why the report may have been ignored is that, unlike many other towns, we have not had the need to restructure to accommodate excessive traffic chaos. In fact, despite changes around the rest of the country, Worthing and West Sussex residents have been able to enjoy almost total freedom to drive. Some will moan about delays but in our county they are not long enough to warrant any change. There has been no move to the trains, buses, bicycles nor has the County Council encouraged any social or infrastructure changes to improve road use for those that actually need to drive. We live in a driving utopia. It’s the resident’s choice and in West Sussex the politicians think that their voters prefer to prioritise the car over any long term changes to our infrastructure. It does seem a bit selfish when you consider the change to an increasingly younger demographic in the region.

This, however, will not go on forever. West Sussex and Worthing are due for a big wakeup call and if there is no plan in place it will struggle to catch up and adapt. We could do with someone of James Braithwaite’s stature to remind the town and county that its transport policies are crap.

Just think of the hundreds of millions of pounds that Yorkshire enjoys through cycle tourism. That is easy to measure but there are also the savings to the community because of cycle commuting and the benefits to the health service with a more active population. West Sussex is one of the most beautiful counties in the country to cycle through but it also is one of the most dangerous. It has one of the highest KSIs (Killed or Seriously Injured) for cyclist statistics for any county in the country. Did you know that Worthing has the same number of KSIs for cyclists as Brighton and yet Brighton has five times the population and a far higher percentage of cyclists.

West Sussex County Council has produced and excellent Walking and Cycling Strategy (the Government compelled it to). And now Adur and Worthing are one the way to completing its own LCWIP (Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan). In fact, indications are that the Worthing LCWIP will be the best in the county. The question is: will it go the same way as the towns “Master Plan”.

Let us imagine a future, not too distant, where West Sussex County Council decides that in order to bring the County in to the modern era it would use Worthing as a beacon for change and so allocate enough funds to realise every part of the Borough’s Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan. Would it make a difference? Would accidents and injuries be reduced? Would young children cycle to school? Would non cyclists take to the bike? Would short journeys now be cycled or walked?

The answer is an absolute NO. Why? Cycling and walking infrastructure would only affect a few roads and junctions. The rest of the town would remain as it was with same West Sussex drivers who cause all those KSIs. The roads would still be the most dangerous in the county. Drivers don’t care. Local politicians have never stood up and said that drivers need to be more considerate, more cautious. If fact, some local residents still think that speed cameras are there to gain income. Go elsewhere in the country and see how attitudes are different. Go across the channel and you’ll be amazed. No amount of cycling infrastructure will help without a change in driver attitudes.

In Worthing and West Sussex we are still living in the past and, for the time being, no amount of money will change that so for now enjoy the fact that Worthing is for cars and, to reuse and previous quote, “Worthing (and we should include the County) is crap”.  Enjoy your drive!

 

 

Posted in 20s Plenty or Worthing, A27 traffic scheme, Cycling in Worthing, Road Traffic Accidents | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Enthusiasm

What is enthusiasm? Some may see it as being over the top or crazy. For some it is an essential part of living. You may just go through the motions of life and I certainly feel like that a lot of the time. In extreme cases that means ticking the days off, one by one, until the end! Now that is sad but it can happen to any of us overwhelmed by the daily grind. Such drudgery can be put aside if you find something that enthuses you. Really, if you think about your life it should be full of enthusiasm.

Last week I could barely control my enthusiasm. I was getting a new bit for my bike, a handlebar. I had ordered a Scott frameset for a friend and they come with almost  everything, fork, headset, seat post, dropouts, lockout lever and the handle bar. Scott have made two new one piece stem and bars, the Hixon for trail and enduro riding and the Fraser for cross country. Daz’s Spark RC 900 World Cup frameset comes with the Fraser. He is a great rider, not as great as N1NO but nevertheless, a damn good XC racer and like N1NO he wants the Fraser I.C. Limited Edition (-25⁰). That is why I have his unwanted Fraser handle bar.

Sometimes new kit is necessary (you’ve worn something out or broken it), often it is to increase confidence * and sometimes its main purpose is to rekindle your enthusiasm for either the bike or riding it. I didn’t need any of those although I have long felt that an 80mm stem would be 10mm better than my current set up. However, once I saw the new bar I immediately justified its purchase on all counts and my enthusiasm for riding went through the roof.

I couldn’t wait to fit it and ride with it. I sent a message out to the troops: 6:30 am start and it would raining, surprisingly, I had no takers so I would be riding on my own. Such was my enthusiasm and passion that it did not matter. It might have been raining and blowing a gale but it was warm enough for shorts and that made a big difference. I had a great time.

You need enthusiasm and passion if you want to live a good life. A willingness to learn and a desire to better yourself helps too. You don’t want to set limits. Self belief and confidence are as important as regular exercise and a good diet. I have a long term plan to be skiing when I am in my eighties so I need all the help, even if it is self generated, that I can get. So if a new handle bar fires me up and gives me the enthusiasm the ride three hours in the rain then it is worth it.

How was the Syncros Fraser bar?

It looks stunning and that is why I went for it. The effective stem length is 80mm but is actually just 50mm. The sweep and rise of the handle bar is 6mm and 9⁰ sweep the same as the Ritchey WCS bar  that I had before. It comes in at 720mm but I cut it down to 700mm. That may have been a mistake although I have been using 690mm for the last two years. It weighed in at 232g whilst the Ritchey WSC set up was 293g so I have saved 61g!!! Another justification. The bar is noticeably much stiffer than the Ritchey bar which might be fine for a world cup racer but may not necessarily be a benefit for me.  We will have to see how I get on with it.

*One of the most common confidence purchaces

Here is the ride on Strava

What was I riding?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bad weather, Mountain bike rides, Scott Spark | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Confusion, crashing and cramping…… Orbea Oiz M10-TR 19 mini review

Orbea-OizOrbea lent us an Oiz M10-TR 19 to try, the TR, I presume, is the trail version of their XC racing machine. That TR badge means it comes with 120mm Fox 34 and a degree slacker head angle at 68°. The extra degree was a little lost on me with the 90mm stem. I needed shorter but I should not criticise as it was a large and I am definitely a medium. According their size chart the large will fit up to 190cm (6’3”). Testing a new bike is always fun, especially when it is a category that I like.

Modern cross country race bikes are always fun as they are quick and designed to cope with World Cup courses which are gnarlier than anything that we ride around here. This version is perhaps designed for the world cup rider less skilled or for a guy like me that wants all the speed but can ride around calling it a “trail” bike. The Orbea had a lot to live up to bearing in mind that I ride, probably, the best world cup bike on the market, my trusty Scott Spark 900 RC World Cup. To be fair, Orbea’s roots are firmly planted in the cross country race scene just like Scott.

I set the Oiz up with plenty of sag and the tyres soft but, as it turned out, not soft enough. I have ridden with a Maxxis Forekaster several times now and every time have had to let more air out. The Oiz ended up with 15psi in the front wheel. Once adjusted the bike did everything well and my confidence increased with each kilometre despite the wet and greasy conditions. It was so fast that it was only my legs and a slipping seat post that held me back.

The Oiz is equipped with Sram GX Eagle transmission and Shimano XT brakes. The Sram drive train and Shimano brake combo is pretty much standard these days as the Yanks  really have left the Japanese floundering in the dirt with their transmission although, to be fair, the Japs are still winning with price and weight with their brakes. The bike is light at 11.68kgs (25.12lbs), Wheels are Mavic Crossmax Elite with Maxxis Forekaster 2.35 front and Ardent Race 2.2 rear.

The fun started when we got to Whiteways. I don’t have a dropper on my bike but as I was taking a lesson from Phil I thought I had better lower the seat post. The forks and shock immediately locked out and as I fumbled to get them active again my mentor disappeared from sight. Hence my confusion over the design not just of having both dropper and shock lock out less than a thumbs width apart but the “off” position of the shock lever is full lock out! Bizarre! This is not a feature limited just to Orbea.

And then I crashed! Blame the bike, the tyres, the mind I don’t care, it didn’t matter, I was glad. On the last drop of the Three Amigos I aimed the front wheel at the V join of those rising roots expecting to have enough speed to keep me on the straight and narrow. Not so, a full on, flying wipe out ensued. I screamed with joy as my mates rushed in fearing the worse. I was fine. As you know most crashes, especially steep ones in winter, are not normally a problem. I needed that to allay any fears lingering after my accident last summer. The rehab and strength work helped too (thanks: Infinity Fitness Journey).

Running out of time I had to power up to get home as promised. I was gagging for a drink. I didn’t mention this before but my Camelbak bag leaked as I left home. My back was soaked and I had lost over half before I realised that I hadn’t tightened the cap properly. I was riding back, dressed for winter, in summer sunshine but with power still in my legs I began to cramp. I had to stop and walk. I was pretty pissed at getting cramp after 6 hours in the saddle on the South Downs way in the summer but, in February!!! I really did wonder what was going on. Drink more, eat more…….

In conclusion

The Downs were wetter than expected, Whiteways was running much drier than expected, Orbea Oiz M10-TR 19 performed as well as expected. Weather way better than expected. It’s February for crying out……!

No trail pictures, enjoy riding too much to stop. Here’s the ride on Strava.

Quest Adventure

Posted in 29ers, Whiteways, Winter rides | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Riding frozen trails

Frozen-ride-19-5Yesterday’s ride was one of those special ones. If you are a skier you might understand. The excitement began earlier in the week with the cold and predicted deep freeze. By Saturday I had put my plan in place and advised the crew. Meet at mine, 7 am. It was still dark.

On the day I woke with that tingle that I get in the mountains when you are going out at the crack of dawn to make first tracks. I’d set the bike up the night before and was ready for the fun to commence. Unlike skiing, the excitement on a freezing ride begins immediately. The extra grip is incredible and encourages daring lines even on the first climb.

The reason for my enthusiasm is the grip and consequent ease of riding on the frozen ground but added to that, when the sky is clear, the sheer beauty of the place is stunning. The sun rose as we arrived at Chantry Hill. It was a moment to behold.

Sights like this are transitory with every second being different and unique. In a flash one view is over and another begins. The changing nature of the vista is also true of the trails. We were aiming to be back before that rising sun melted the ground. I mean, who wants to have to clean their bike when they get home. On days like this, if you get it wrong and are caught out in the thaw, the bike cleaning takes on epic proportions. And that is if you make it back at all.

The perils of riding thawing trails.

If you do leave it too late and it thaws, you cannot ride. If you try you may well wreck your bike. The average cost for any bike failure is around £120 depending on the specification. Why? The melting mud wraps around your wheel in ever increasing layers until it overflows onto the drive train. Most riders think that all you have to do is “man-up” and power through. That is when things go wrong and your derailleur wraps itself around your cassette and rips off the hanger.

Thanks to global warming the need for me to issue this warning is getting later and later. In years past I have written advice like this as early as October. However, as the daffodils are beginning to rise, my winter riding advice has not been needed until February.

Below I have listed some previous words on this topic (I have been posting them the last 13 winters). I rave about the trail conditions, views and the perils of thawing mud.

November ’17

January ’16

November ’16

December ’15

Here’s the ride

Posted in Freezing rides, Uncategorized, Winter rides | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A lost love…..

I have just sold my road bike! I own a bike shop and I love bikes. However, it’s not always about the bike. It’s the riding that is more important to me. In fact my passion for riding is more a need for speed and physical exertion. All I need is a good bike and I want it set up to perfection, tuned to me and the way that I ride. And that was what my bike was like. I have never climbed off it and felt relief. It was always comfortable. Of course many a time I have ridden myself into the ground and felt incredible fatigue and pain but never pain from the bike or the set up. My bike(s) is(are) a perfect fit and set up.

Wilier Cento 1 SRNow perfection does not mean that it is the most expensive. It is right for my riding. The bike is light enough; with pedals and bottle cages is not much above the UCI weight limit. It is made from the highest grade carbon. Yes, there is a difference! The pros ride bikes with frames costing twice the price of an Ultegra equipped bicycle. The difference is massive and once you’ve ridden at this level you can never go back.  The wheels were as good as I needed, aluminium, but light and the bearings were ceramic. I have my priorities right. The transmission was fast and faultless, the shifting so good that it could not be improved even by electronic wizardry. As a bike shop proprietor you’d expect me to be riding and promoting the ultimate that money can buy but that is not me. I just want to ride.  I don’t think that my bike could be improved. I could spend more money but what would the benefit be to me? I’m not a tester, I just ride for fun! I could get fitter, stronger and improve my technique and then the bike would be better.

I had raced this bike and taken it on adventures. Three stand out. The 10 day 1,600k ride from St Malo to Santander. What made this exceptional was that the team were all equally matched so we rode together, as a team, the whole way, just like our Sunday rides only longer, much longer. The second was half the time and distance but twice as hard, Biarritz to Barcelona. If we weren’t climbing it was full gas, thru ‘n off. It was really tough. Again, though less evenly matched, we rode as a team. And finally, an epic ride, last years The Dragon Ride – 190km at full tilt followed by 40km of exhausted misery.

Back to the bike, I loved it. Each and every time that I climbed on, it flew. Sometimes I could barely hang on. Every ride was as exciting as the first.  I have not found an equal. Actually there is another, its predecessor, which I am using now.  They make me feel free. They make me ride fast. I think they look beautiful, have style, history and racing pedigree. I once wrote that while I am still fit and strong enough to ride a pros bike then why shouldn’t I?

But now it has gone. I got it in Italy at a special price for dealers.  The cost of bikes of that ilk has risen substantially since the UK voted to destroy its economy. What can I replace it with? I am running a business and so, when offered the asking price, I had to accept. I gave it a final spin on our Tuesday Night Thrash and it was gone by the Saturday. Au revoir, adios, adéu, addio, auf wiedersehen.

The old bike has been around a bit too, I suppose its a bit like going out with the older sister. They are both lovelly.

 

 

 

Posted in Raid Pyrenees, Road rides, Wilier Cento Uno | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Whyte Gisburn review

Gisburn-manWhyte bikes were created to produce full suspension mountain bikes back in the nineties. Of course the staff and designers ride all sorts of bikes and the head designer has raced road and cyclo-cross so he does know what is going on. When he produced Whyte’s first “cross” bike it was criticised for falling outside of the UCI rules for a race bike. It even had a long top tube and short stem! I expect you’ve heard that before with Whyte bikes. What people missed was that it wasn’t a cyclo-cross race bike but a go- anywhere-fun bike. That was a few years ago and well before the super cool and of the moment term “Gravel bike” was coined.

The Whyte Gisburn is, if you want, a “Gravel” bike. We all need categories these days. For me it is a fun machine that I can take anywhere. You can find me on the Downs Link, on the Promenade, jumping logs on singletrack or cruising the lanes of Sussex. And if I retire: “Bike Packing”! Call it Gravel if you want. It is the closest that you can get to combining road and mountain biking.

Maybe I should explain what a gravel bike is, as far as we are concerned. It will have 700c or 650b rims, it will take 40mm or bigger tyres, it will be tubeless, it will have a head angle of 71° or less and will have drop bars which will be wider than a road bikes. It will usually have the mountings for attaching bags and racks. It may even have a dropper seat post.

The Whyte Gisburn ticks all of the boxes. In fact with the new riser 50cm drop handle bar it is a close as you can get to mountain biking without actually being on a mountain bike. This feeling extends to the handling too. The top tube is long, stem short and head  a slack 70° so whilst riding on technical terrain without suspension and with a narrow tyre might not be everyone’s cup of tea, for those that enjoy the challenge, the Gisburn is surefooted and confidence inspiring. I am sure that you have heard that said countless times about Whyte bikes. It is true. There is even a dropper seat post should the going get really tough.

My previous Gisburn was the 2017 version and the new 2019 has gone back to the same 38 tooth front chainring which I feel is better suited to the off road capabilities of the bike. I have never needed more top end hammering on the flat.  In 2018 it had a 40T. It is still using Sram Force 1 x 11 which is all you need and far more efficient and positive than anything that Shimano has available. The Sram Force brakes require the lightest of touches to slow the bike down and the levers have efficient reach adjusters which are needed as you want your hands closed when bouncing down a rough trail without front suspension. The rims are WTB ST i25 TCS, nice and wide. The tyres are WTB Resolute 42mm front and WTB Riddler 37mm. These have been great this autumn but will probably be changed to WTB Nano 40mm to match the slippery conditions of the South Downs. I did a might of sliding yesterday.

If you are looking for all the performance but a lower price you can get the Whyte Friston £1,699 or even opt for the Whyte Glencoe £1,299. The Glencoe has 650b rims with a 47mm tyre and has been aimed at urban riders but I am sure many will be excited by its off road and touring possibilities.

What would I change? I would put a flat drop bar on. The riser is to give you a more upright and comfortable position but I want space for lights (I swap frequently when testing them), a computer and, believe it or not a bell. I need the bell as I often find myself in shared spaces with the Gisburn.

These Whyte bikes come up quite big to size so if you ride a 56cm road bike you may need the 54cm. You can try our demo (54cm) to be sure.

See more about Whyte on our website, Quest Adventure. The Glencoe that we have is last years and so is on offer!

 

Posted in Autumn riding, Cyclocross, Gravel bikes, Whyte BIkes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whyte S 120 C RS Review

Whyte-S-120-side

Surpassing all expectations!

Whyte, as you may or may not know, have been at the forefront of trail bike development over the last few years, in fact for over a decade. They have followed (or lead) the demands of UK riders one of which was the desire for 27.5” bikes and that brought about the demise of one of their true all rounder trail bikes: the T-129. Great though it was the sales figures told a different story. The bike was axed along with the M109.

The M-109 was another story deserving another write up but it was ahead of its time and has been replaced by the Scott Spark RC which now carries the mantle of being the ultimate lightweight XC race bike with all the trail handling capabilities that you could ever want.

Whyte have deservedly gained many accolades for the T-130s and hard tail 900 series trail bikes. Not many brands even have bikes like this let alone ones that are better. In the excitement for these trail 27.5 bikes the 29er all rounder got forgotten. In the last couple of years whilst the market lapped up the ever fatter tyred trail 650b models there was a growing demand for a faster bike that can only come from the bigger wheel. Technologies have helped designs improve so that now a 29er can be as nimble and lively its smaller wheel rival. This has been proved by the demand for the 29 inch Scott Spark. When I challenged Whyte on this they gave me a very sensible response. They agreed with me and said that they were much smaller than some of the other brands and had less resource to develop all the models that they knew they needed. To be fair, they said that they would rather do 5 things excellently rather than 10 things averagely. Hats off to Whyte! And that is why we love them so much.

They did, though, design the S-150 and in doing so shook up the mountain bike world with such a lively, easy to ride 29er 150mm travel enduro bike. The S-120 is more than just a reworked T-129, it’s a mini S-150. It is fast, super stable and really confidence inspiring with its 65.6⁰ head angle. You’d never know that it only had 120mm of travel. I love it. Watch out Scott! For the record there’s new Scott Spark with the same price and NX Eagle. A shoot out beckons.

The carbon main frame is, like most carbon bikes, super strong and aesthetically beautiful.  The rear linkage and stays are chunky enough to withstand a huge amount of abuse. They are workman like and look indestructible.

The Whyte S 120 ticks all the boxes. The geometry is spot on and enhanced by the custom shorter 44mm fork offset (like the S-150) it is incredibly stable at speed. The design is boost giving clearance and increased cornering stability. As it is an all rounder the climbing position is good too with no compromises when the trail goes down and turns nasty.

 

Our demo is a large and is seems to fit like glove so, like the T-130, the S-120 comes up quite small to size. The S-150 is pretty average in that the medium fits a medium rider whatever that means. The suspension is provided by Fox Float DPS rear shock with rebound control and 3 position compression lever. On our ride with some really tough hills I seemed to climb well without the need to stiffen the suspension despite running 30% / 17mm of sag. The fork is a Float Performance SC34. Transmission is Sram’s GX Eagle, what can I say? “Perfect”. My bike has X0 Eagle with the cassette costing virtually 50% of the entire GX package and, as I am not known for carrying a set of scales on a ride, I never noticed the difference. The brakes are Sram Guide RS. They stop and have excellent modulation. The Bike Yoke dropper seat post was a revalation. It is the best I have ever used. Is it is super smooth, the lever is in the right place and needs the lightest of caresses to drop the post. There seems to be a slight sag when set up so you may need your seat post set 5mm higher. The wheels are Race Face AR27 tubeless and the tyres Maxxis Forekaster TR 29″ x 2.3 EXO Sidewall Protection, Front, and Maxxis Crossmark II TR 29″ x 2.25 EXO Sidewall Protection, Rear. Now what would it be like with a wider rim/tyre? I had trouble with tyre pressures. My pump did not give an accurate reading so I needed to drop the air several times on the ride. Nothing to do with the bike design – user error. Checking this morning I ended up with 11.5 psi rear and 11 front.

The argument over  whether a 29er is better than a 27.5 with a 2.5 or 6 or even 2.8 inch tyre will the subject of pub debate for decades but for me the speed over distance advantage of a 29er will always win out over the, questionable, better grip of 27.5 plus tyre. On our ride it was fast which is a necessity here as there is often a fair distance between each single track section. My legs were tired from a heavy week so I was slower climbing than my colleagues with their 11kg XC hardtails.

The only let down was that it didn’t take me over the jump that I wanted it to do. I couldn’t find the autopilot button. Whatever the design, you still have to get your head in the right place. I even got some advice from a local trail vixen but despite her words I still bottled it despite going big on all the preceding jumps.

How could it be improved? I would prefer it to be lighter, but this is the budget option (£3,499 – you get a lot of performance for your money) and there is always the Works model. That is the one me. That is really good value! Don’t forget that my own bike is 3.5kg lighter but £2.2k more. Hopefully the Works has that all elusive autopilot button.

Quest Adventure, Whyte S 120 C RS, More on Whyte

 

 

Posted in 27.5ers, 29ers, Autumn riding, Whyte BIkes, Whyte reviews | Tagged , , | 2 Comments