Monthly Archives: May 2012

This Is Swinny: Scottish Excursion – Fort Bill

Packed up and away we go again.

I’ve been on the road a fair bit these past few weeks, travelling, riding and racing. But this was the one I was perhaps most looking forward to, the infamous Fort William.

Its track I’ve ridden once before, but many years ago and not on a downhill bike, so the excitement to race this legendary track was building weeks before the event.

In the build up to the event bad news was circling that it may be cancelled due to bad weather, this was the case last year because of high winds which actually never really arrived, so I was a little anxious. ‘An 8 hour drive to find out it may be cancelled the next morning?’, wasn’t looking to appealing, but i made light of the situation. ‘I either stare at the wind and rain in Sheffield, or stare at the wind and rain in Scotland, it’s practically the same!’. So off we went.

The drive was instantly hampered by a police road block and diversion, which caused quite a bit of backed up traffic, but never the less we eventually got on our way and cruised up. I slept for pretty much the whole journey (as i do as a passenger) but from what i gather things ran smoothly.

We arrived pretty late on Friday evening, around 8:30, so not quite early enough for a track walk which was what i had intended, never mind! I’ll just blind run it in the morning! Great idea.

And what a track to ride!! Everything was running sweet on the Saturday, the SPS pit was up and looking well, Jamie (our mechanic) was up and doing a banging job of everything and the wind was pretty low, a bit overcast but not cold, just right for riding. So off into the queue I headed for first runs. Taking a Gondola to the top was amazing, no worrying about bikes getting owned by the Tractor & Trailer method, just smooth and pleasant with a nice view looking down to Finish/Pit area.

It was an incredible feeling standing inside that big wooden eye start hut thing waiting to head down this amazing track. Like I said earlier, Blind run, so this really added to the excitement coming over some of the blind crests and into back to back switchbacks. I had an idea of where I was going thanks to watching the World Cup round on’t computer, but it doesn’t really prepare you for the ride ahead.

It’s such a fast flowy track up top mixed with intense rock sections, then back to fast turns and big rock faces. Bouncing around, railing turns and rattling through sections I was having a great time. Dropping into the middle section I was struggling with a couple of the flat, rocky wooded spots, mainly because I didn’t want to slow down and I forgot I had to in order to make the tight turn before the tough rock sections. I managed to cock this section up pretty much every time bar one, but still, I was having a laugh! Then in to the pedal to the finish. Coming over that Jump, sat on top of the fade away and swooping down, building up Speed was incredible. Over the last couple of jumps and over the line. This definitely has to be the best finish area I have ever experienced on a race track. Other tracks just seem to fizzle out a bit coming to the line but this one builds excitement with both racers and the crowd.

I managed to crush in 4 practice runs on the day before seeding which had been moved forward in case Sunday where to be cancelled, which it was, so seeding became race runs which started around 3:00 ish.

Onto race runs then and I was feeling pretty good, I still didn’t exactly know where I was going in places but never mind! I was enjoying myself all the same. Railing the top turns feeling fast and flowy all felt good, then I took a tumble washing out on one of the loose left handers. I tried not to let it bother me too much and carry on having fun but the damage had been done. I instantly went offline for a large part of the track, in-siding corners, not hoping rocks, just generally being off line until the deer gate. Once past that I felt a little more relaxed and began to pick up momentum, then bang! For some reason coming off a rock drop I just rode into the banking on the left hand side of the track and went down again. Bugger. All was over really but I carried on in search of a clean bottom section. This was Not to be. One more off on the left handed wooden wall ride. I just didn’t commit enough to the line and slid out, hitting my head and neck pretty hard on a tree. Possible my worst race run ever?! On returning back up to pace I heard the whistle of someone behind me, I knew fellow SPS rider Donny was the next man in the gate so thought I’d move over, then a brain wave! Team tactics, I’ll tow him in on the motor way section, allowing him to draft me! Genius. Not too sure how much this actually helped him but if it did, then so be it. Over the finish line and that was that.

So, a great day, an awful race run. But it’s forgotten now and on to the next, no point dwelling on the negatives but try to take the positives with me through the season.

Cheers to all!

(Sorry for the lack of photos, Duncan had exams so was unable to make the trip)

On Board – Sheffield’s New Skate Park

On Board – Sheffield’s New Skate Park


Through the magic of twitter we were recently made aware of a new bike friendly skate park opening up in Sheffield. Boom!  After a little confusion we realised that there were actually two new skate parks opening up in Sheffield. One in Shalesmoor and the one we visited on Little London road. The Sheffield bike scene just continues to go from strength to strength.


Dunc and I popped down to meet with the owners, Amy and Jan, who are already a good way through the massive build that will become On Board. Walking through the roller shutter doors you’re immediately stuck by the size of the operation. They’ve got a lot of space to play with and the modular system they are proposing should make the most of it.


Talking to Amy and Jan in quickly became clear that this is not your average skate park. They both have a background in education and the sense of community and  the involvement of it is paramount to the development of the parks features. They’ve consulted as many of the potential users as possible to ensure they’re all catered for. The floor plan looks very impressive with a huge bowl at one end, next to a big half pipe then a foam pit at the other end with much more in between.


With a Cafe and Shop on site  for Bikes, Boards and Scooters all users will be well supplied. Both of these have been put out to tender and will be run by external parties keeping the running of the park most important. There are plans to have onsite training and coaching to make sure all users can progress and interact harmoniously.


They are planning to have the park open for the weekend of the 4 th June for an opening but keep more up to date through the website, facebook and twitter feed.






All photos by the mighty Duncan Philpott

Rapeseed, ragging and rozzers

Rapeseed, ragging and rozzers

Wednesday morning me and my mate John got up at daft O’clock to go in search of Rape… Seed oil plants. John had had this idea for a shot for a while but we hadn’t been able to find the time and sun to get out and play. Oh what a spring we’ve been having eh. John had scoped out the ideal field last year and when we arrived this week it was great to see it beautiful and green… with grass. No Yellow. A short drive later we’d located the last remaining oil seed rape in the Peak and chucked the kit over the wall.

After 20 minutes of playing about we heard a shout from the road and this lady asked us if she could have a word. We wandered down to say hello before realised she was actually a Copper… Oooops. Thankfully, we weren’t in trouble and it was just the John’s car had been reported abandoned. However, giving over you name and address to the law is never good. The look of ‘shouldn’t you know better’ when we gave our dates of birth was priceless.

An hour of riding, playing and learning later and John had cracked off a few good shots. He maybe no PhilPOD but it was great to get out and muck about.


Photo by John Alexander

See more of Johns work here

Strava Smashing – May Update

Back at the end of April we set a Strava challenge initiated by a bit of TiS back room banter and segment bagging. Swinny, on a borrowed Cotic Rocket and dressed up (more of this soon) with a go faster cape smashed my KOM on a local bridleway descent, The Devils Elbow. So with the popularity of Strava we thought we’d open up the challenge to all comers.

Half way through the month, here’s where we’re at.

Rank Pos Name Date Speed Time
1 B1 james swinden Apr 07, 2012 35.0km/h 01:03
2 B2 Steve Wager May 13, 2012 33.4km/h 01:06
3 B3 Dave Woods May 13, 2012 30.6km/h 01:12
4 B4 Nick Hamilton May 07, 2012 30.2km/h 01:13
5 B5 joe bowman May 09, 2012 29.0km/h 01:16
6 A2 Nick Hamilton Mar 26,
28.6km/h 01:17
7 B6 Simon Chatten May 13, 2012 27.2km/h 01:21
8 A3 jordan gould Apr 02, 2012 25.6km/h 01:26
9 A4 Duncan Philpott Apr 02, 2012 25.4km/h 01:27
10 A4 Henry Norman Apr 24,
25.4km/h 01:27

Swinny is still holding on to the top spot having not tried the segment again (too busy trying to bag UCI points instead). Steve Wager and Dave Woods have smashed out the segment which caused Cy Turner from Cotic to comment:

I’ve had another crack in the last month and improved my time despite the track being water logged in places. Joe’s had a go as well but chain issues held him back. Si Chatten’s posted up the 7th fastest time pushing Gordon, Dunc and Henry Norman down the top 10.

So, keep at it, can anyone take Swindogs time by the end of the month? But remember, don’t let it spoil the fun!

This Is Swinny: On The Hunt For UCI Points

Bulgaria was the destination, Shambhala Open was the event, so off i went.

Heading out Wednesday morning after a midnight finish at work, with the flight landing us in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. The Passport control were not convinced i was me.. so came looking for more ID. To be fair my passport looks nothing like me, and i possibly made this worse by handing them my driving license, which again looks nothing like me nor looks anything similar to my passport photo.. So i got asked a few questions about my visit and with my charm convinced the authorities I was actually me. So, onto baggage claim.. all good. Then onto the task of finding our driver,  i had no idea who he was. But all was good. A few more Brits were on the same flight; fellow SPS rider Dale Russel, along with Adam Brayton and Reece Langhorn so surely they knew who we were looking for… Turns out they didn’t have a clue either! So we all sort of wandered around whilst constantly being asked if we needed a taxi! “i do you good deal for all of you”, “no tar mate” was said a lot!. I then get an arm wrapped around my shoulder, first thought was ‘oh crap, more police and authorities to take me away because they still don’t believe i’m me’, but fortunately no, it was a Bulganeez (made that up) chap by the name of Kamen (probably spelt very wrong) who whisked us away to meet up with Nikolay and his big Sprinter van.
Nikolay runs RAM bikes and did an amazing job of looking after us Brits, with out him and his team the whole experience would not have been what it was.

Off we drove, and how we drove. The Bulganeez are nuts when it comes to driving, ragged, flat out and weaving through traffic like nothing i’ve seen before! An amazing experience in its self.
We made a short Pit stop at RAM bike HQ while we waited for another plane of Brits to land, then once all together we headed off to Sopot, approx. 2+ hours of interesting driving. At one point the road literally ended and were on a rough dirt track that seemed to waltz through some farmers field. We arrived safely however and once we found our rooms in the hotel, prepped for dinner, which was a very reasonable price for what we got!

Anyway, onto the track, and what a track! Long, dusty, drifty, fast, flowing. Just a good laugh. It was a track where not too much pedalling was needed, speed was picked up by how much you dare let off the brakes. The chairlift was pretty sketchy. With no slow down mechanism the chair seemed to come flying at you while you were trying to hold onto your bike and guide it off the launch pad while hooking the pedal onto the seat. That was about all that held the bike on!

I went up with 4X and BMX legend Martin Ogden, who was kind enough to look after me and show me how to mount the chairlift as well as give me a riding partner for the day. Oggy had been here a fair few times so was accustomed to the whole situation.

Onto the riding. Things started well, with the idea to slowly build up the speed over the next 3 days i was feeling good, riding bikes in the sun on a track i didn’t need to pedal on, what could be better. All was going well, I was enjoying the place, having a laugh and enjoying being on my bike. Then I tried an inside line and ended on my back in some awful pain! I must of hit a rock or something, but either way I didn’t see it coming and I went down hard, folding my front wheel pretty bad in the process! Only the 3rd run in as well! So that put an end to day 1.

Team Ram were good to me and sourced me a new rim from the local shop, which got built up for me that evening. With being in a lot of pain in the lower back region i asked Kamen to sort me out with some Bulganeez painkillers. I got a box of pills where i could only have 2 a day, sounds good!!

They seemed to do the job too and the next day I was back up riding again. A couple more runs and into Quali.
With an idea! Ill roll the whole track, no pedaling, that way, I’m guaranteed to make up loads of time in finals. Genius I thought! However, It turns out that everyone else had the same idea. But still, i rolled over the line and ended 5th. With a strong British contingent, we soundly rounded out the top 5 with a few more in the top 10 and more a little further down the field.

All was going well. I was happy and ready for finals. Off we went, a couple more runs under my belt and I was ready for finals. Then the rain came, and the wind and the thunder storms. It was pretty intense for a while and the organizers had to call off the finals. Fortunately, due to past experiences, they had scheduled a spare day just in case of bad weather, so finals were rolled over to Sunday.

Quali results

And onto Sunday.

Again, a couple more runs, and ready!!
All was going swimmingly, I felt good on the bike and was cranking out of turns, letting off the brakes and flowing. A small error up top caused me to slip my pedals but not too much drama. Then a small wash out in a slow section again resulted in not too much drama, and on into the final section. I was enjoying myself and was carrying speed well. I cranked into the final section and pumped the ground for more speed, coming into the final turn and getting ready for the sprint to the line. Suddenly, disaster struck! My rear wheel seemed to kick up, maybe off a root, and pointed me straight towards a tree. I tried for all it was worth to wiggle around but no luck, I ploughed the tree with my shoulder and got taken off the bike and ended up in a tangle. I bounced back up and tried to get to the line as quick as possible, but the damage was done. 5th place was the aim but 10th the result.
So not what i was looking for but not a complete loss. 10 points picked up and an experience well worth taking away.

Finals results

A huge thanks to Nikolay, Kamen and the rest of the RAM bikes team, they put on a cracking event and took care of us Brits well, without them, it wouldn’t have been the same.

Only one more ‘experience’, the drive back to Sofia.. I don’t really need to go into to much detail about that ;)


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