Back on the road bike, some new bits and a nice off-road MTB loop from Denmead

Ready to ride!
It's been a while, far too long actually, since I got out on the mountain bike and the gaps between road bike trips have also been getting longer with the rides themselves getting shorter and with the London-Surrey 100 looming in August this is something that I need to address quickly as it will be the difference between enjoying the ride and simply dragging myself round it.

Now over the last few months moving house, having a baby and rubbish weather have all played a part in me either not having the time or inclination to get out and ride as much but now that we're settled into the house, the weather has changed and "Izzy" has arrived there are no more excuses for lack of miles on the bike.

Thankfully fitness hasn't been completely left behind and my love of gadgets (and Garmin devices) gives me something to track my swimming and running as and when I get the chance, for me this is as much of a motivator as the drive to keep fit; being able to see where, when, how far and how fast gives me goals to beat and better - I've managed to clock up 21 miles of trail running and 19 miles in the swimming pool over the last few months so it's just the cycling that has ground to a halt - now is the time to step things up a bit!

Since November 2013 I've only really managed a couple of rides and its frightening how quickly my fitness level (on the bike) disappears through lack of miles on the bike - hills seem steeper and require lower gears and average speeds seem harder to obtain and maintain.  I know, from years of cycling, that this will come back but every time I have a prolonged spell off the bike that fitness level comes back more slowly - a not so subtle reminder that my age is only going one way!

Solo road ride - 30miles
(Link to ride from Garmin Edge 800 - here)
This was the first ride this year of any note, previous "spins" on the bike had been sub 20 miles and not really worth writing home about although they are all tracked and recorded on my Garmin Edge 800.

This was a lovely ride, found more by luck than anything else, taking in Bishops Waltham, Wickham and the surrounding woodlands and country roads. There are enough hills to keep the legs warm but not so many so as to punish them to hard.

Morning road ride with Phil - 20miles
(Link to ride from Garmin Edge 800 - here)
First ride with Phil and we made a point of missing some of the larger hills around Owslebury - for me this was one of those rides that gives you the kick needed to step up training as I wasn't keeping up on the hills and was barely maintaining speeds on the flatter sections.  All in all a nice 20 mile loop and something that I'll be able to use for evening rides from now on

But enough "road" for now, back to the mountain bike....

Mountain biking has been a passion of mine for longer that I can remember and in the last 5-10 years road biking, which started off as a way of keeping fit when MTB wasn't possible has overshadowed the mountain bike due to the easy of access to rides and ability to have a "quick spin" after work without the hassle of packing up the bike in the car to drive to a decent riding spot.

Having built and ridden more bikes than I care to remember the joy of buying new bits for my bike is still firmly a part of mountain biking and putting all these bits, and me, to the test on trails around the UK is something that keeps my love for mountain bikes alive.

The latest addition is something that I've been considering for some time now - the replacement of my XTR cranks with XT.  I've always ridden Shimano on both mountain and road bikes and have had very few issues on either set up - the exception is with Hope brakes; their hydraulic brakes, mini and M4, were amazing but the future revisions were un-inspiring so I made the move over to XT and have been very impressed with the ease of set-up and stopping power.

XT brakes - quite possibly the best I've used since the original Hope M4's
XTR cranks (and the corresponding group set) are the best you can get but they do require much more love and attention than their XT counterparts which are billed as All-Mountain rather than race-bred for XC.

So the new cranks arrived but it was only during the fitting process (and past the point of being able to return them) that I realised my years of looking at road bike bits had somewhat blinded me as I'd managed to order a "double" crankset not the "triple" usually found on mountain bikes (double/triple refers to the number of chain rings on the front cranks - while double is the defacto on road bikes three rings on a mountain bike allows for a much wider range of gears and ratio's).

XT double chainset - M785
Never one to admit defeat they were fitted and an off-road ride planned to put them to the test...

Denmead MTB loop with G - 15miles
(Link to ride from Garmin Edge 605 - here (start missed))
and so, inspired by the fair weather I planned a short circular on/off-road ride with my mate G starting from Denmead (Hampshire).

The ride started fairly poorly to be honest - the bridal paths were muddy and boggy, torn up by horses, and in a number of parts completely un-passable on bike.
After this initial section of about 2 miles things started looking up - decent sections of hard packed off-road trails and some quiet sections of road took us on a loop around the village of Clanfield taking in Hyder wood and up onto Teg Down.

The downhill section from Teg Down was probably the best part of the ride - on chalk bridal paths - but would have been fairly sketchy in the wet; riding on wet chalk is akin to riding over ice!

Social Hiking Map - recorded on my Nexus 5 with ViewRanger - the gpx file of the route for upload to GPS can be downloaded from the Social Hiking site


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