Friday, 20 December 2013


I've updated my photography website. I've added some pictures from this year's location trips to Paris, Chicago and Hong Kong. Enjoy!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Gert Lush!

It's that time of year again when I make the pilgrimage to the mothership and dust off the Rose hardtail for some cold, soggy shredding. This year, same as last, saw me Jim and Mikey hitting the trail system at Ashton Court and Leigh Woods in Bristol. Purpose built, twisty and flowey, what the trails lack in elevation gain and descent they make up for in bermed corners and nice techy features. We also went off piste and explored a few steep and loose trails that the local downhill kids had carved through the trees. All good stuff.

Ahead of this year's fun Xmas ride I fitted the Rose with chunkier tires and some sweet Race Face riser bars. Nothing crazy wide, but definitely on the wrong side of XC. My annual shred on the Rose makes me appreciate the simple joys of riding a hardtail 26er. The new upgrades definitely made an already sweet ride even more responsive and aggressive. Awesome stuff.

I do love this Christmas ride tradition. We're whittled down to the hardcore now, but we've still kept it going for 6 years. Hard to believe I've been stateside for so long. I am looking forward to heading back across the pond and enjoying another year in the dirt and sun.... But one thing is for sure, I'll be happy to dust off the Rose and head to Briz' once next year draws to a close. Cheers then!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Who's this?

Who is this cheeky looking fella pulling up the rear behind Eric? It's none other than Jason Spangles! After a near two year hiatus, Jase decided to blow the dust mites off his superlite Stumpy and swap it for some lovely trail dirt instead. About bloody time! And just in time too as I feck off back to England for the Christmas holidays very soon and I didnt want to miss the rare sight of Jason riding mountain.

The trails around San Francisco are stunning at this time of the year. Cold, clear air, hero dirt and stunning views make for some pretty epic rides, even when we're just visiting the usual loops. I love it. Makes me appreciate how lucky we are to have so much beauty on our doorstep.  And it was great to see Spangles out on two wheels again. Even better to see him get his mojo back, especially on the flow trail. Here's hoping the Stumpy will be getting dirty on a more regular schedule next year! Oh, and here's a video of me and Eric hitting the Serpentine drop...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Pumpkin Pie....

..Is my favourite thing about Thanksgiving. My second favourite is sweet potato pie. After THAT, its probably having four whole days off work to get some quality riding in before my xmas trip back to Blighty. So, in keeping with tradition, that's what I did. Thanksgiving day saw me and a few hundred others meet in Fairfax for the annual Appetite Seminar ride. This year I met up with Rosson and Adam and hitched a ride with the Zeitgeist boys. They're a great group of fellas and they always make me feel very welcome. They're super strong on the climbs though so I was somewhat worried about keeping up. I haven't put in any big rides recently. Certainly nothing like the Pine Mountain to Porcupine route that the 'Seminar takes. Roughly 25 miles and over 3600ft of rocky climbs awaited as we set out into the fresh Winter cold. As it turns out I did just fine. The climbs were tough and the descents felt few and far between, but the lack of heavy rain meant the usual mud slop nightmare was avoided. So a cracking time was had by all. There's really no better to kick off the long weekend than with a hearty long ride in the birthplace of our sport.

The following day I hit Santa Cruz. My first and only trip to the Nomad's spiritual home this year, I made up for it by hitting some outstanding trails. Fellow Santa Cruz (bikes) fan Nic took me to Pogonip State Park which connected us to the university trails. I remember riding here years ago with Spangles. He'd just bought his Stumpy and I still used my Orange hardtail. Things have changed a lot since then. Not so much with the trails, but with my perception of them and my riding abilities. We hit Magic Carpet, an insanely wild roller coaster of loamey flowey singletrack peppered with drops and jumps and rooty tech sections. We also rode the short but steep Happy Ending. Typical of the trails in this area, it was burly and unforgiving. But great fun on the Nomad. We eventually looped back and finished with a flurry down the beautifully bermed Emma McCrary trail. I need to make a resolution to ride in Santa Cruz more often next year. The trails are beautiful and designed to be ridden hard. Its easy to get out of your league down there, but stay on the edge of your abilities and the riding is simply epic.

Saturday I took it easy and reaquainted myself with the Jackal. Its been a while since I've taken the lovely blue beast out so it felt good to cruise around and pop some bunny hops around the Marina. To round off another awesome Thanksgiving weekend, Sunday I met Jaime at Annadel. We rode our usuals ; Lawndale, Ridge, South and North Burma. Trail conditions were some of the best I've ever seen. Beautiful singletrack carpeted in lush green loamey goodness. Annadel brings out the best in my riding and (according to Strava) today was no exception. Great stuff. Now, I have one more weekend to enjoy the gorgeous NorCal sun and trail conditions before I bugger off back home and meet up with the Brizzul lot for our annual Christmas ride.

Monday, 18 November 2013


This time of year is probably my favourite. The bike parks are closed and the riding days are much shorter meaning our riding is limited to XC loops around the usual haunts. But I never get complacent. I still feel a bubble of joy burst in my heart whenever we saddle up to hit Rancho or China Camp or wherever. There's a refreshing chill in the air which signifies Winter, with its rain and mud is on the way. But its not here yet. Just glorious golden sunshine bathing dusty singletrack, beckoning me and a few other grinning fools to keep shredding until the shitty weather takes hold and we have to slogg it through the slop.

Anyways. Enough wanking lyrical. Check out this seasonal-coloured beauty! Rosson has decided to park his mental belt driven 29er hardtail in favour of something a little special. A Santa Cruz 5010. Full suspension, 27.5inch wheels and a cracking orange carbon frame. Light as a feather and built like a tank. I think I've found my new favourite bike!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Clown Hoops

One last weekend to enjoy beautiful Cali' warm sunshine before I feck off overseas for a couple of weeks and the Autumn chill kicks in. Alas, the Nomad was having brake issues (read - I tried to "adjust" them which of course lead to an immediate trip to the bike shop.) So with my main steed out of action and a potential weekend of no riding, I had the bright idea of renting a bike from Sports Basement. My intention was to get a 6 inch travel all mountain bike and crack on, but then I saw a nice looking Yeti SB95 and decided to give it a spin instead. If I was to ride a different bike, might as well make it something completely different.

The SB95 is Yeti's 29er version of the SB66 (a ride that Chris owns and lights the trails up with each week.) I'd always had a slightly dim view of 29ers. I'm not sure why. To me, they always felt one step away from road bikes.... The guys who ride them are usually lanky, insanely fit and lycra clad and the bikes always looked so stiff and ungainly. Not agile and bombproof like 26er all mountain rigs. I wanted to be proved wrong as the Yeti did look sweet and poised.

Trails of choice were China Camp. I wanted somewhere with some tech, but lots of flow. So me and Eric set out for what ended up being a near four hour epic. We decided to extend the ride a little and take the fireroad out to Hummingbird trail. Along the way we met some sprightly old dudes still shredding well into their 60's. They knew China Camp like the backs of their gnarled hands and took us down the Q trails and Cross Over trail. Narrow, steep, twisty and full of tight switchbacks, these new trails were fun, if not fast. But they tested my skills on the new bike and it felt good to be challenged.

The SB95 felt, for the most part, not a lot unlike a regular full susser 26 XC bike. Easy to boost and only slightly harder to coax into the corners. The ride felt smooth and supple. On steep, techy, slow descents the bike (or at least I) suffered. Adding precise steering into the mixture of big wheels and lots of braking force led to the front wheel becoming skittish very quickly. Bigger knobblies on the rubber would've helped, but I still felt the bane of the wheel's size whenever we hit the steep, narrow dirt. But on the open trails, the thing would FLY like nothing I've ever experienced. A few short cranks would get those big gyros up to speed and the bike would pull like a train. Such a great feeling! But, after a long, dusty afternoon in the saddle, I was happy to give the Yeti back to the fellas at Sports Basement. I missed my Nomad, which is exactly what I hoped would happen.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Whistler Clinic

The coaching sessions taken by me and Dave with coach Oscar covered 3 half days and focused on the basics of downhill mountain biking (most of which is applicable to regular riding.) Because the weather was shite and the trails muddy, we got some bonus "bad weather" tips too. But over the course of three days, fundamental principles were demonstrated and hammered home time and again. Lift rides were spent quizzing Oscar further and making fervent notes. Here they are :

Body Position
  • Keep a 80/20 weight distribution between feet and hands. Try and keep this weighting, especially when growing tired as we tend to add weight to the arms.
  • Keep your head and chest up. This opens up your vision and keeps the weight in your legs. 
  • Keep feet level and don't change the leading foot (definitely something more applicable to downhill trails where the corners are bermed.)
  • Drop the heels on steeper terrain to retain traction (this also stops you from weighting into the arms as the terrain gets steeper and your weight is sent forward.) Dropping the heels has a visible effect on the rear tire and squashes it into the dirt.
The biggest revelation for me was how much I tend to hunker down and lean forward on the bike. It took a lot of work to force myself to basically stand more upright (which is how it felt) and open my chest up. But I felt the difference. Suddenly I could see more, which inspires confidence but more importantly I could keep the weight distribution to the 80/20 ratio. It also made me realise just how often my weight would shift to my arms due to incorrect body position.

  • Drop the heels and brake aggressively. Scrub speed in quick, deliberate motions. Dropping the heels is important as it keeps your body position neutral and stops your weight moving into the arms.
The heels down thing is something I've done before but not trained myself to do by default. The result is a constant weight shift forward which keeps me in a badly weighted neutral position.

  • Keep a correct neutral position. The body will drop into the corner a little, this is natural. But keep the weight 80/20 to make steering easier (Oscar demonstrated how just a little too much weight over the front hindered the rotation of the handlebars.) Keep the chest up! Don't drop the chest down to the bars.
  • Drop the heels a little, not as much as braking, but enough to keep you from weighting forward onto the arms.
  • Twist the hips through the corner and point your belly button to the exit.
  • Lean the bike... this is extremely important. The bike won't corner without lean. Feel the bike hit the inside thigh and open that leg out to allow for more leaning of the bike.
  • Use the outside knee on the downtube to weight the tires into the ground (I found this extremely awkward to do.)
  • Look through the turn and once you see the exit and are lined up, pump the legs. This forces the rear wheel into the ground for traction and gains you speed. It also returns you to a correct neutral body position.
  • Remember : Brake before the corner, lean the bike, look through to the exit.
The important things I found here (for any corner, although we spent much of our time on berms) was to keep from weighting forward. I soon realised just how much I'd lurch forward and overweight my arms. A combination of keeping my chest open and a more upright stance, plus dropping the heels helped to keep my weight more neutral. This allowed me to play with getting more lean on the bike and really trying to corkscrew my hips towards the exit. Achieving the final pump and squelching out of a tight berm felt awesome! But I approached every corner with a laundry list of instructions to process. It'll take a while to get everything into muscle memory.

Technical Trails
  • On technical trails, always lean the bike to steer. Leaning the bike ensures the front wheel takes the smoothest line possible and won't jar against rocks and roots.
  • Keep the heels down and brake less. Don't drag the brakes, instead pump them aggressively and deliberately on areas where grip can be found.
  • Pump the bike, don't rely on pedaling to keep momentum. Pumping also helps you remain balanced on the bike.
  • On muddy, wet descents, keep the knees in a little more than normal. This will control the rear of the bike and stop it from fishtailing around so much.
Oscar had us ride one of Whistler's technical blue runs with no pedaling. Conditions were slick so the challenge was even greater, but I was amazed at how my brain switched to seeing opportunities to squeeze out momentum instead of rough trail features. It definitely kept us sharp and picking smoother lines.

  • Keep the normal 80/20 attack position.
  • Commit to the jump, but keep the index finger covering the brakes.
  • Preload the suspension at the last second into the face of the take off ramp. You should be pushing the bike into the lip of the jump just before take off. If you're pushing down (vertically) you're pumping too early. Instead, catch the edge of the lip (on a steep lip the pump should feel like you're pushing horizontally almost.)
  • If you preload too early you'll get bucked by the bike and end up dead sailoring once airborne (something I do often and had no idea how it was happening. Having Oscar explain what I was doing wrong helped my confidence enormously.)
  • Keep your chest up and out once you're airborne. Don't hunch!
  • Pull the bars towards your chest and roll your feet forward. Rolling the feet seemed odd, but it allows you to keep friction with the pedal and prevents your foot from leaving it.
  • Focus on good take off. A good landing will always follow a good take off.
Although I still shied away from the biggest of the A Line jumps, employing Oscar's techniques pushed my jumping forward (and upward!) enormously. Knowing why I'd previously buckaroo'd on certain jumps and felt utterly helpless in the air meant I could prevent it and not worry about it. Also, giving a quick pump at the last second on the very tip of the jump's lip felt amazing! I immediately rode Crank It Up and cleared jumps with very little effort or speed, but with way more height and pop than before. I started to feel good about my jumping!

I did confide in Oscar about the A Line (and other black diamond route) jumps thwarting my confidence. He reassured me that it takes time to get comfortable in the air and that those jumps are in fact very advanced and I shouldn't feel bad about not clearing them. He also explained that, psychologically speaking, not being able to see past a big jump's face will always wilt the confidence until you know what to expect from them. This made sense. I couldn't understand why jumps on Crank' were such good fun and I enjoyed hitting them but the slightly bigger A Line jumps messed with my head. Now I knew why. The key to unlocking my confidence will be to master a consistently successful launch and feel comfortable in the air. Once I'm able to do that, bigger jumps will be fun. I did have a few Eureka moments where I was able to play with the bike midair and gain some good height and it felt amazing. I just need to keep that positive feeling in my head the next time I hit the bigger stuff.

  • Approach in a neutral position.
  • Don't try to pop off the drop, no need to prejump or launch off.
  • Push the bike out in front of you. Jockey it back into position as you hit the downslope.
  • Roll the feet forward a little to help guide the bike into the correct angle for the transition.
I've always felt pretty good about drops so was pleased that I had no real issues during the clinic. I was suprised at how many people would do a little lift before the drop. Its always made more sense to me to let the bike drop first and melt into the open space. The rolling of the feet felt good although its easy to overdo it and pitch the bike forward too much. But when done correctly the landing feels buttery smooth.

Writing up the notes feels good. It's allowed me to process them a little more clearly. Lots of bullet points, but my biggest revelations were jumping (demystifying where I was going wrong when I'd sometimes dead sailor has helped me a lot) and body position. If the only thing I work on between now and next season is fixing my attack position, I'll be in much better shape next year. But I'm determined to take everything on board and up my game. I want to feel silky smooth, flowey goodness the next time I ride the Glory down some steep, gnarly black diamond shit!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Whistler 2013

Its been a few weeks since we returned from this year's Whistler jaunt. In those weeks I've had some time to reflect on what was an extremely challenging week's riding. I've also had time to let my poor battered hands recover from a crash that was an almost exact copy of the spill I took last year. Hopefully now I'll actually learn my lesson(s) and keep my digits out of harm's way. Fortunately the Glory escaped pretty much unscathed. A little battle scarred and worn, she did me proud on the cold, wet trails of downhill mountain biking's very own mecca.

We've been lucky for the past couple of years, it would seem. Trail conditions and the weather have been balmy and beautiful. This year started out with an awesome day of sunshine, tacky dirt and grins all around as myself, Chris and Dave warmed up and settled into a week of solid shred. However mother nature had other ideas and we were soon greeted by sleeting rain and withering cold each day. The trails held up, for the most part, but after a couple of days the upper mountain soon became a sloppy mess. Still, we had lots of mid mountain trails to hit. Old favourites like A Line and Crank it Up, plus some technical blue runs and the ever challenging Dirt Merchant kept us busy and entertained. For the most part I felt good about my riding but still felt niggled somewhat by bigger jumps and finding flow on certain trails so when Dave had the idea of doing some coaching sessions I signed up too, keen to iron out my issues and make some progress - despite the less than ideal trail conditions.

We ended up doing three half day sessions with resident coach, Oscar. An amazing and calmly confident dude who has coached most of the top riders in the sport. Clearly at ease on two wheels, we were in good hands and by the end of the first session my head was spinning with new info. I couldn't wait to put his advice and tips into practice. By the end of the third session I felt convinced I had been taught some solid riding fundamentals that would help me to achieve my goals. But I was also painfully aware that I needed to change some core aspects of my riding to get there.

I've always enjoyed and responded well to being coached. However I have a tendency to try and implement everything all at once. So for the rest of the trip, every corner, every jump and every tech section.... even just riding fireroad, everything was being analyzed and processed as I mentally ran through a laundry list of things to do, positions to fall into, things to avoid. It felt like I did more things wrong than correct. My body position has been slightly, but significantly wrong, the way I weight into corners - also wrong. Wrong because I've hindered speed and flow by not moving correctly. But now I had the theory rattling around my head and could, at least, work on fixing it.

Over the course of the week I made decent progress. Oscar taught me some great tips for jumping and hitting drops, in addition to foundation skills like body position and weighting the bike and trail. But doing the clinic did change the tone of the trip for me. It felt more like doing homework than shredding with my mates and having fun. But that pressure was put on me by me.... I can't relax and go with it if I feel like I'm missing something. Not quite getting it.  So I came away feeling like I hadn't had as much fun or rode as hard as I'd hoped. But on reflection, it was a good process to go through. Better to know my weaknesses and continue the hard slog of progress than be ignorant and ride slower than I could be. I have some new goals and lots to work on between now and next season. But for now its back to our usual XC haunts and the Glory gets mothballed for the winter. In the meantime I'll write up Oscar's pearls of wisdom and post them on here. A reminder to myself of what I learned and what I need to keep working at.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Chasing The Stoke

Not much in the way of scribble recently. Not because I haven't been riding, because there's been plenty, but more because my attitude changed a bit this summer. Well, it kinda mellowed. Not that I was ever highly strung - biking has always been calming for me. But I was always focused on a goal of some sort. Either it was the races, new trails and techniques or simply getting some decent snaps.  This year I decided to give the racing a miss completely, left the camera at home and just decided to play. I needed to step back and enjoy the sport for what it is, and for what it means to me at a core level - hitting beautiful trails with good friends and being lost in the flow. Melding with the bike to eek as much conscious joy out of the land as possible. So that's what I've done. Less picture taking, less self analysis over technique, less race pace training. Just flow and fun around our usual haunts.

Buying the Glory was the catalyst. More than just hitting Northstar and enjoying the thrill of riding the big brute, it changed my outlook somewhat overall. The Glory, and downhill riding, is all about pushing your boundaries and feeling the sheer exhilaration of being in the moment, even when that moment scares the hell out of you. Its all part of the fun. No time to obsess over how much I'm dropping my outside foot in corners or worrying about pacing out my lactic acid levels to complete a race in a decent time. Just grinning fun on fantastic, big trails whilst being fused to an amazing machine.

And the result? I feel I'm riding better now than ever. Smoother and faster, not quite as fit maybe, but each ride is another satisfying moment crystalized in sweat and dirt. With each Northstar trip and Rancho loop I gain better understanding of what riding means to me on all its wonderful levels.

Next week we make our pilgrimage to Whistler. I can't wait to see how the Glory and I perform there. I'm getting it dialed in... albeit slowly and surely. I have some gnarly features to tick off the Whistler bucket list. Whatever happens, I'll have the camera close by so I can stick some moments on here.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Staycation's End

Today was the last day of a week long staycation. Well deserved, even if I do say so myself. A breather in between working long hours on summer blockbusters and going to far flung places to photograph stuff for movies. All good fun, but its nice being able to take a week off, enjoy the sunshine and spend some quality time on two wheels.

After hitting the local haunts, China Camp, Rancho, the Flow Trail and Annadel I took the Jackal out for some urban cruising. I love that little blue fecker. So agile and fun, I find it hard to discipline myself and try to learn trials tricks on it. Instead I end up regressing into a child like state of play, always on the look out for a curb to hop.

I'm off somewhere foreign next week. When I return, Northstar should be in full swing and it'll be time to christen the Glory on it's rocky, dusty chutes. I can't wait!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Snake-o De Mayo

I love seeing fellas like this when out on a ride. Minding his own business, happy to let me grab a shot. Makes me realise that I'm out in the great outdoors, with all her majesty and creatures, AND I'm also in California where it's quite possible you'll stumble across a 4ft fucking snake once in a while! Love it!

Friday, 3 May 2013


When I first heard of downhill riding, I didn't think it was for me. Too extreme. Too dangerous. I was too old. I didn't see the point of riding stuff THAT steep or sketchy. But after giving it a go, warming up on some blue runs and then liking a few black runs, I started to get it. And regular riding was never the same again.... For a start, I was faster and more aggressive. I liked it! But I could never justify getting a downhill bike of my own... could I?

Fuck it. I did. And here she is. Perfect, shiny and ready. I'm taking her out tomorrow for a break in ride (at China Camp) along with Chris and his lovely new Santa Cruz Syndicate V10. It's going to be a fantastic season. Whistler is already booked and Northstar opens in 5 weeks time. We have our sleighs ready. Now we just need to get the feckers dirty!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Bike Geeks Big Day Out

.....Or, Sea Otter - as some people call it. Having lived here for over four years and never been, I was extremely excited to head south to Monterey with Chris for, what would be, a massively indulgent day of bike p0rn. A vast racetrack filled with row upon row of vendor tents, lovely bikes, toys, anodized bits and pieces, plus the chance to watch the best exponents of the sport perform right under our sunblocked noses - and all for less than 10 quid. Awesome stuff. There are races to be done at the 'Otter. XC and downhill both had sports categories. But we elected to pass on physical exertion and, instead, just mooch around and look at all the lovely goodies on display.... and grab as much free shit as we could. Anyhow. Here are some snaps from the day's adventure :

Stunning emerald green V10 with amazing inverted forks.

New Santa Cruz Bronson. Early 90's colours seem to be all the rage with the kids these days. Every bike manufacturer there had some garish dayglo fucking green or pink or yellow frame on display.

Sam Hill's Nukeproof.

Very striking Ellsworth DH rig.

Me and Chris both took a massive shine to this fat tired mo-chine. Perfect for sand, but probably great fun in the mud too. If I ever end up back in Blighty, I'll get myself one of these beautiful bastards.

Ryan Leech gave a solid, hugely entertaining trials demo. An amazing talent and a real gent to boot. Me and Chris both drew a lot of inspiration for our week night urban shenanigans. 

360 Nose Hop. Executed whist talking the crowd through what he's doing in an impossibly calm voice.

Boom! A nice bit of pedal kick high-jump action.

Riders face off in the speed and style event. A tight pump track with berms and one huge ramp gave the riders the opportunity to woo the crowd with impressive air tricks and beat eachother with wicked speed. Great stuff. 

Dual Slalom. Literally every top downhill rider was there to represent and race one on one down the awesome twisty course. Definitely some inspiration for how to tackle Tamarancho's lovely new flow trail....

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Beauty in the Beast

This. This, right here, is why this summer is going to be feckin' amazing. A 2013, size large, polished ali' Giant Glory, covered in all sorts of goodies. Eight inches of Rockshox plush, Shimano Saint hubs and brakes, Zee running gear and some Deity bling all add up to one hell of a stunning, burly-fucking-brute of a bike. Long, slack and built like a Russian tank. Right now she's at Big Swingin' waiting on a few finishing touches. Once the fellas there are done with her, I'll be able to get it dirty. I can't wait!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Lucas Lads

Look at those grinning fools! That's about as many smiles that can be mustered after climbing heart attack hill at China Camp. A mixture of exhaustion, relief and polite tolerance of me feckin' around getting everyone to pose when all they wanna do is rest their weary arses and Gu up for the coming descent.

This Saturday me and few fellow workers decided to meet outside of school hours and lay down some shred. Rosson and Adam, gnarled veterans of China', myself, Simon and Ale, Erich and MTB newbie - Andy Wong. I always love riding China Camp with the uninitiated. With lovely flowey goodness around every corner, plus a few techy treats, it has plenty to excite new riders without scaring them away from this awesome sport. Andy did a cracking job on his borrowed Stumpy, and its always a pleasure to try and keep up with Rosson and Adam. Butcher's dogs don't have much on these fellas.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Touching the Ceiling

The past few weeks have seen me getting in some decent riding at Annadel with Jaime, a few fun loops around the local haunts and our first night ride of the year. The Nomad has also been primped with a nice set of Deity D30 bars for added width and my fitness is recovering from the Christmas splurge. All good foundations for the year's riding that stretches out before me. My nice new Giant Glory is yet to be birthed but I can't wait to get it, dial it in and use it as the perfect tool to nudge my progression upwards. To kick start this progress, I decided to put a few demons to rest from last year's downhill season. Namely... jumps and berms. I made some great progress at Northstar and Whistler with the techie riding, but my jumping prowess felt somewhat impotent and I felt speed sapping frustration instead of flow on the berms. So I took the downhill costume out of hibernation and called upon trusted mentor Mike Brill to help me out and get me feeling good about these fundamental aspects of gravity riding.

Mike took me back to the Boyscout trail in Pacifica - the same place I did my first jump clinic with him and Celia about 18 months ago. We spent the first hour dialing me back to a place where I felt good about hitting the gapped jumps and a decent step down. Following Mike's nuggets of advice, and his lines, I started to feel confident about hitting the front face of the jump with speed, manipulating the bike in the air and landing smoothly. After playing around in my comfort zone long enough for me to feel like I was having too much fun, it was time to push the ceiling and take things up a notch.

After concentrating on berms for a while we sized up a steep step up jump. Perfect practice as it's exactly the kind of take off that intimidates me and really hampered my flow at Whistler last year. Mike emphasized pumping into the face of the jump. In fact, pumping all the way up to the jump not only readies you and the bike, but it helps gain the necessary speed for a clean boost, airborne control and smooth landing. My instincts kept squealing at me to hit the brakes, but the more I let go, carried speed and put faith in pumping, the better (and safer) the results. I felt the bike come up into me allowing for a controlled, deliberate landing - as opposed to the bike launching it's own trajectory and me going along for the ride. 

After a couple more hours and a few more tricky jump situations (including two gapped jumps in quick succession) we called it a day. I'd taken a few spills and pushed past my comfort zone. But more importantly by feeling the control gained from using solid techniques I'd de-mistified some of the unknowns that held me back last year. I'm looking forward to hitting Boyscout again on a regular basis to really solidify some confidence and make this year the best one yet for downhill mountain biking.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Filthy Gorgeous

Look at this for a line up : five fine steeds absolutely plastered in fine NorCal mud. A complete ball-ache to clean off and brutal on delicate components.... But I can't think of a better way to spend a crisp, crystal clear, beautiful sunny Sunday than riding with the fellas and getting covered in the stuff.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Building Turns

I'm sitting here almost dozing off. Sheer tiredness is almost masking the dull ache in my frame that is bound to mature into crippling pain when I wake. Why? Because I've done the first proper (half) day of hard work in my life. Physical. Manual. Labour. And I didn't even get paid. T'was all voluntary. But the rewards.... Oh the rewards will be sweet and I'll gladly use more weekend time to get them. Soon, I hope.

What am I blathering on about? Well, today I did my first bit of trail work. Me and a few other like minded souls turned up to Tamarancho after answering the call to help build the new flow trail there. Starting at the top of the B17 extension, the flow trail snakes down to the bottom of Dead Heifer. Much of it is still a muddy mess, but the bones are there and man, it looks epic! Just what Marin needs ; something fast and groomed with each steep berm connected by whoops and jumps. Everything designed and sculpted just right to ensure one hell of a grin inducing shred!

Having never done trail work before I was happy to grab a shovel and pitch in where told. Our team soon fell into line and began carving and packing until we'd turned some rough looking dirt into buffed trail. Back breaking but extremely satisfying, I'll definitely be back to pitch in my efforts. The sooner this trail opens the better!!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Something Awesome This Way Comes...

Custom Steve Peat grips and a set of lovely DMR Vault pedals. All colour co-ordinated and fancy looking. All they're missing is a nice, shiny bike to accessorise....... ;o)