22 October 2007

Paradise winter hibernation

So this weekend my paradise closes for the winter. Nearly 5 weeks ago marked my last Winterberg visit for 2007 and I've been really pleased with my progression since I fell in love in April this year. Every visit I've stepped up my game and tried a new line, bigger or faster challenge but my last visit was not quite as valiant an effort.

I met Tanja there again who brought along a Winterberg virgin - Lars, a hardcore marathon XC rider keen to try out a bigger bike and see what all the fuss is about. I arrived a little earlier and managed a few warm up runs but as soon as Lars was charging I found myself working hard to keep up. That dented my pride a bit and I was a little off my game.

looking mean

We soon hit the more challenging downhill run and I was avoiding many of the more technical lines that I had taken before. Probably something to do with watching Tanja slam in front of me but I just wasn't feeling it. The park was also too busy for me to build myself up into my zone so I felt a little off for the rest of the day. It's always a pleasure to ride with Tanja tho, she's got some good skills, patience for others and not too crazy that I'd break a leg trying to follow her.

scream if you wanna go faster

I felt a little better once the camera came out for a photo session in the afternoon. The Karousel was one piece of shore that got my heart pounding the first few times I rode it. But it's surprisingly easy and Tanja snapped the following photo of me whizzing around:

round and round we go

It was great to big up Lars and watch him rail the Karousel too. As a reward I created the following sequence shot of him all the way round:

Winterberg Karousel Sequence

Just around the corner there is a nice step down and much more shore. Here's Tanja tweaking it out and myself launching:


leap of faith

I was feeling it a bit more by now and my confidence was pumped so I attacked the large seesaw for the first time. It's pretty tall but also quite wide so not really too bad. Tanja snapped me making it look easy poking my tongue out:

HUGE seesaw

Finally we sessioned the bottom drops, sending Lars off too. I'm fully confident with these drops now and have been running them blind for the last couple of visits. Something I enjoy running early to get ready for bigger things later in the day.

1st time



I walked the road gap next to the above drops and have to say it'll be a long time before I'm running that. Never say never but wow do you have to hit it with speed. I watched the following group of lads hit it pretty hard and Tanja spotted they were all on rental bikes. Nutters!

physco road gap

nice helmet

making it look easy

Then it was time for the last run, with the cameras back in the cars it was time to unleash the fury. We hit the downhill run hard and I don't know what clicked but something had or someone put a firework up my jacksie! I had my best run down the track ever and was loving it. So much so that I stormed past the halfway point where we normally catch a breather and nailed the next line that I normally take the chicken shoot. It's a fairly nerving drop into a left hand berm that I've struggled having the courage for. I normally go wide of the kicker and plop into the berm like a lemming. But this time I held the front wheel up and went for the kicker. Whilst in the air you have to tweak the bike out a tad sidewards to enter the berm at a safe angle to rail rather than shoot off the back. My line felt

spot on and gave me a real buzz. I had so much speed out of the berm that I glided over the next rock garden. I'm always too slow through that section and often have to steer my front wheel precisely between two unforgiving boulders. This time I was nowhere near and it felt like I was floating. Well OK maybe some exageration there but it did feel awesome!

My heart was pounding and my lungs were bursting but I tried a different line on the penulitmate corner hoping to be setup faster for the last berm. It worked and I was able to get an extra pedal stroke for the final table top. Exhausted but over the moon, we loaded on the chair lift anxiously wondering if there was time for "one more run". It was borderline and by the time we were at the top of the lift, our hearts had returned to a normal pace and our brains were engaged - best to end on the high we had than a low that could've been.

Thanks to Tanja for the photos and Lars for the company. The rest of my photos can be found here or in slideshow format here

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17 October 2007

Slippery when wet

This summer I've managed to go wakeboarding a few times to the local cable tow.  Back in Nottingham there is also a cable tow but I never really got on with it as you start from sitting on the jetty and I've always been rubbish at that.  Here you start in the water and I've been up and running full laps on my 2nd/3rd attempt everytime I've been.

me next

I took my camera for the first time a couple of weeks back so I thought I'd put a few snaps up here.  Emma, Kerry and Victor waterskied whilst Nic and I wakeboarded.  About 2 thirds into the session I spanked my head on my board during a crash.  It was only a small bleeder but I was a little dazed so I called it quits to take some pictures from the shore.  Helmet next time for sure!

the long walk back

It was Emma's second visit and despite the following facial expression she was again very close to completing full laps.

face shot!

got there

It was Kerry and Victors first time - both also made it to the first corner.  Here is Victor hanging on for dear life and heading into the distance.

got that sinking feeling

into the distance

Nic was styling it on his kiteboard, but I never saw him attempt a 180 like I landed.  But then I was the one bleeding at the end of the day so I suppose he wins!

speed spray

going for a jump

I have a few more photos here or in slideshow format here

15 October 2007

Groningen Bikepark

So I'm slowly catching up on all my recent adventures now I have the Scotland photos out of the way.  The last weekend of my holiday coincided with the Dutch 4X championships which if I was in Amsterdam, I would've gone to watch.

clear it

The 4X track is a couple of hours drive from Amsterdam so that's why I'd never been before.  I prefer the Filthy trails in the opposite direction, but fancied something new so I went to check it out on Sunday 2nd September.

Stripey zoom

It's a pretty big fast track on quite a steep hill in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands.  There's whoops, a step down, big fast walled berms, a step up, some monster tables and a nice hip at the end.  All of which I was soon to realise too large for me!  I am certainly no racer but enjoyed watching some locals style it up.

Groningen Jump Sequence2


Groningen Jump Sequence1

As much as I tried I did not have the bottle to fully open up and go for it.  Speed is key here and I think I left that at home that day.  So I concentrated on the short slopestyle section that was recently built.  At the top is a choice of 3 lines as shown below:


Two ladders and one piece of shore.  Both ladders also were droppable and I comfortably nailed the smaller of the two drops on the right.  The middle drop was above my comfort zone on that day.  The picture below should give you an idea of the size:

they look bigger up close

The shore line on the left looked awesome.  It's two small gaps, followed by the ladder berm which cuts short then you have to jump off an into the dirt berm.  I was intregued as this is the riding I love.  I prefer a nice challenging line, man made or natural, to hurling yourself as fast as possible at a 20 foot jump!  So I watched the locals make it look easy:

Groningen Shore Sequence2

piece of cake

Groningen Shore Sequence1

After they left I gave it a go myself and was surprised how easy it was. The difficult part was letting it all go in the beginning so you were fast enough to clear the two small gaps but then easing on a smidging of brakes so you were able to land safely in the dirt berm and not in the bushes!  I was pretty chuffed so got the camera out to capture some footage.  I only managed two recordings before it started to drizzle but here you go anyway:

The rain put me right off the shore but I'd had a good session so it was a good time to hit the road home.  I have a few more photos here or view them in slideshow format here

11 October 2007


Watch out if you type my web address wrong!


10 October 2007

Bonnie wee Scotland

So I finally had time to upload my photos from our trip around Scotland this summer.  Asides from a drunken millenium weekend and a few relatives visits when I was a nipper I have not spent as much time in Scotland as I'd like to.  So it was a nice change to spend a week or so there this summer with Emma.  We were not alone as we met Emma's sister Nic, husband Dave and newborn Sam.  Also this fella decided to hitch a ride for some of the way:


1st stop was a short rainy no camera session in the Bike Park at Glentress and then onto my folks for my birthday.  Mmmm


Then we speed up the road to Fort William to setup camp for the week.  First up was a short walk along Glen Nevis following the river which soon turned into a bog as I chose the wrong side of the river to follow.  Fine for me to scramble the tiny slippy cliff path, not so fine for Sam in his rucsac!

this can't be right

keep going mummy

he aint heavy

mummy and aunty

Next up was a bike ride along the Caledonian Canal and Neptune's Staircase. Not exactly the marvel we were expecting as you can see from the faces of the girls.  I think it would've been better as an aerial view.

are you done taking photos yet?!

But we did managed to find an old rocking horse playground thingy.  Think we had more fun on that than Sam!

room for one more?

Unimpressed with Neptunes Staircase we decided to do a quick fly-by Loch Ness for some monster spotting.  All we found was a rainbow leading to a closed Urquart castle.

just peeking

too late to be any closer

The next day was a highlight for me.  Dave and I headed to the Fort William downhill mountain bike track to strutt our stuff.  Dave headed off to investigate the XC routes whilst I attacked the downhill run.  On my first lift up I was with the Aussie junior team including the psycho that cleared the GLC drops to flat at this years Crankworks.  Out the window I could also see the Brits training and soon realised I was a little out of place!  I managed 3 runs before meeting Dave for lunch and was glad of a short break.  On my first run I struggled with two sections, both steep drop off come boulder gardens.  Dropping say 5-6 feet with half wheel size rocks littered about the place.  You can tell the good guys just fly over the whole lot but at my speed I could not (read did not want to) hold the front wheel up that long for that high.  So I had to pick a line where to plant my front wheel which would've been easy if the line was not blind due to the steepness!  I could never see the line on approach and it took me till my third run before I ran both sections without dismounting and realigning.  But that third run was awesome, I really felt like I was gliding over the rest of the terrain rather than weaving around rocks.

After lunch and some voices of encouragement from myself, Dave was kited up in Emma's pads and buying a lift ticket.  I kept the bit about the pro's practising on the track quiet but he'd already spotted the team trucks.  Fortunately the bubble up doesn't really make the track look that bad.  It's only when your riding do you actually realise how rocky it is and how big those rocks are!  We managed one run down with Dave and full credit to him on a trusty GT Zaskar with V brakes.  A few tumbles and some walkies but he was stoked when we got to the end.  There's a huge steep roller and it looks like a drop from above.  On my first run I scrubbed off all my speed in case it was a drop, but subsequent runs I gave it all I got.  Because of this I told Dave to do the same and follow me.  He was beaming at the bottom, good on the fella :-)

There are 4 specific points on the course where I am goosed and just have to stop to catch a breather.  A round trip, including a 10 minute uplift would take me about 40 minutes.  Full credit to the pros who at this years World Championships where going down the track in under 5 mins - IN THE WET?!!!

Sorry no pictures of the track as I was too busy getting as many runs in as possible.  But you can check out the highlight video footage of the World Champs here.  It's worth watching the 4X footage as well cos the length of the 4 whoops that Lopes clears going into the final left hand berm was huge - a sweet line.  Also watch for the two step downs at the end of the 4X/downhill run entering the finish gate/arena.  At the end of my first run I dropped both of these and needed new underwear - I skirted them after that!

The next day we encountered the delights of Scottish weather.  But that was easily made up by eating Haggis and some excellent fish and chips.  The rain also filled the Nevis river and provided a worthwhile sight.  Emma and I trooped off and whilst I got all geeky about the river playing spot the sieve or the chicken shoot, Emma kept dry under the umbrella.

quick, I'm getting wet

grey fog

distant roar

The sun came back the following day and Emma and I headed to Glencoe.  Quite a beautiful place if it wasn't for the coaches full of Japanese tourists.  But we escaped them by talking a walk up to a hidden valley inbetween two peaks.  A nice little walk once away from the midges by the river and a surprisingly flat open sight at the top.

need a hand?

pose to say we made it

better head back now

where did I park?

A quick zoom back north in the car and we caught Loch Ness at Fort Augustus.  I took this panorama shot - looks a bit cold doesn't it for swimming?!

Loch Ness Panorama

Our final day in Fort William was one of the best days for weather which was lucky as it was the day we walked up Ben Nevis.  I've walked up Snowdon and a few other peaks in Wales but Ben Nevis was a surprinsgly long slog.  OK so Emma and I were not exactly running up it but we only had the one break for lunch and it still took us a solid 4 hours to get to the top.  Even more surprising was the walk down which also took us 3 hours with next to no stops.  Emma's nursing talents and my old stuffy triangular bandage came to the rescue when we saw one mother who had fallen.  It looked like she had broken her wrist so Emma patched her up and we left them to poddle down  That was pretty close to the top, poor lass - she must've been down after dark :-(

The weather was great for photos.  The one below is where we stopped for lunch:

Ben Nevis Panorama 1

Then a nice one of Emma leading McDuff:

around the corner

Below is the view from about halfway:

miles and miles

Below is the final neverendingness:

looking back up at the last struggle

But we got there in the end.  I love the photo immediately below of Emma and the two after that are of us both on the trig point at the very top:

Emma on top of the world

the very top

we made it

But my favourite photo of the whole trip is the one below peering through a window in the ruins of the observatory.  Great view :-)

an interesting view

No rest for the wicked though cos as soon as we were down it was back in the car to my parents for a brief evening visit.  Then up early to meet Dave again at Glentress for a quick loop of the red route.  Wow I do love Spooky Wood - makes the pain of the ride up easily forgotten.  And the rest is history, Leeds festival history to be precise...

So visit Scotland as the advert says.

All my photos can be found here or viewed in full screen slideshow here but I'd put the kettle on, you may be a while ;-)