Monthly Archives: July 2012

Strava Smashing

Strava Smashing

Back in May we came up with the idea of Strava Smashing. Following a bit of internal rivalry and one-up-man-ship at TiS towers over supremacy on a certain Strava segment we decided to open up our mate’s race to anyone. This seemed to go down very well and got a positive response from everyone that took part.

While doing a bit of research in to such things I came across stravatrailracing.co.uk a site set up by Dan Nisbet doing exactly what we were only automatically and oh so slickly. Based further up north and using segments from trail centres Dan was doing what I wanted to do, only he wasn’t pouring over a spreadsheet and producing dodgy looking tables. He’d got the skills to do it properly. Wondering if Dan would be interested in a collaboration I dropped him an email and low and behold he had heard of TiS and was keen to get involved. Amazing!

A few months later, here we are, ready to Smash Strava Properly! Dan has been kind enough to develop us our own version of his Strava race system. It’s so good. We set a monthly segment and Dans code does the rest. It even has a monthly series so we can keep a tally on who’s been performing best over the year.

To introduce the main man himself, Dan Nisbet, he was kind enough to answer some of my inane questions.

Name: Dan Nisbet
Age: 31
Star Sign: Aries

You are responsible for the development of StravaTrailRacing.co.uk, which is a bloody brilliant idea, how long have you been Stravaing?

I started to play around with Strava at the end of last year, after racing my first segment there was no looking back. I was hooked.

Have you found that it has changed your riding? Has this been a good or a bad?

It’s certainly made me push myself that little bit more both on the ups and the downs. Ultimately, I ride because it’s fun. A big part of that is trying to get that little bit better, that little bit faster. Anything that helps keep me on my toes is a good thing.

Some of our mates have started taking things a bit seriously and now never ride without a GPS or a segment in mind. Have you found a similar effect?

Yeah, especially with riding in the STR series. As casual as it is, I’ve found that it’s really focused my riding. It’s amazing what a common goal and little competition can do. Sometimes though, you need to forget the virtual leaderboards and just have a good old blast out in the hills.

What inspired you to develop this application and what is your day job that’s given you the skills.

I love the idea of mates races and after gunning for KOM bragging rights against a friend of mine, it struck me. Would it be possible to combine the two? Armed with some local knowledge we’ve cherry picked the best segments, given you specific time window in which to race and weaved it all into a regional point based series.

The skillz… I’ve been designing and building websites for around 10 years.  By day I’m an Art Director for a digital agency based in Newcastle. By night… well, that’s probably best left unsaid.

What do you think the future of Strava and mountain biking is?

Strava seems to have really set alight a competitive spark within MTB riders. Whether you race regularly or would just have never considered it, we all want to get a little higher on the leaderboard.

I don’t think the connection between real trails and the online world has ever been done so well, if at all competitively. With the explosion we’re seeing in cycling at the moment they seem to have struck gold. You never know, this may yet prove to be a major catalyst in getting people interested in organized racing.

For the future. With personal GPS devices getting ever more accurate, could we see something slightly larger in scale? gpsenduroracing.com over in the States looks to be a pretty interesting format.

Do you know how Strava works and why its not very reliable on some segments which means my mate has beaten me when I’m sooo much faster than him????

Ha! I know what you mean. I have a friend who has a habit of leaving his fastest run till the very, very end of the month, managing to just edge ahead every time. Infuriating!

Strava takes a GPS file which you can record using their smartphone app or Garmin. It then tries to match your GPS tracks to any number of nearby ‘segments’. A segment is a section of pre-defined trail from someone else’s ride. If your GPS tracks fall within a reasonable tight threshold, your time is taken and you’re automatically placed into a leaderboard. If your GPS is inaccurate or you stray too far from the trail, it fails to match and doesn’t count.

Some segments are better suited for racing on then others. One of the benefits of the STR Series is that we nominate trails that help keep everyone playing the same game. Given the amount of different devices people use, Strava is never going to replace a professionally timed event. It is however, as close as you’ll get without taping out the course.

Thanks very much Dan! You can get in touch with Dan direct here: str@dannisbet.co.uk

This all kicks off on Tuesday 1st August right here at:

http://thisisheffield.stravatrailracing.co.uk/

You’ve got until the 31st August to put in your best times and you can have as many goes as you like. All we ask is that you do so responsibly. Be respectful to other trail users, the trail itself and yourself. Don’t piss anyone off, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you dude. Simple.  There’s not prizes, only bragging rights. You race completely at your own risk. We take absolutely no responsiblity for your actions or any injuries sustained.

We’re kicking off with a bit of a different trail to last time; it’s got up and down. You’re going to have to pedal. Racing around the well used trails of Blackamoor we hope you have some fun. Have a look on the map and figure it out where it goes, it makes in to a good loop.

We’ll be offering a new segment to race on each month and that’s where we will need your help. If you have a good segment you think we’d like to use, drop me a line at StravaSmashing@gmail.com.

See you out on the trails!

Nick

Turns out the French don’t always surrender…

Turns out the French don’t always surrender…

4:48am is not a time to be getting up, especially to ride bikes with 700 others, all intent on beating you to the line.

It’s a similair feeling to the Sunday at the Megavalanche, with an early lift ride, wrapped up to the nines, heading up to 3000+ with skiers in tow.

One huge gondola ride later and we were out huddling in the cold, looking for somewhere warm to wait before the last train to the top. An old kitchen was spot on at the time, before we got upgraded to a pretty swanky restaurant, which had everything you could ask for… Coffee,bagels, croissant all sitting there looking at us. Awesome, apart from no-one had their wallet, as we were about to do the Mtn of Hell, duh.

I drank some warm water from the taps (yum) and headed out onto the snow to get a glimpse at the start piste, the section which definitely makes this race famous. It’s roughly 200m in length, completely straight and hard as ice. Luckily conditions were prime today and the grip was there for the taking… Not going to lie, this bit shit me up just looking at it. Coming over the last brow onto the steepest part looked brutal from below and that’s before you slam or tram into the next left/right chicane around the restaurant. Scary stuff.

We got a quick run round the corner on the way down to the last tram to the top… Wise words from Obi Wan, Sven Martin, who for a tog, is pinned on a bicycle. “Stay out of the carnage and keep it lit to the first fireroad” 10/4 Sven.

The tram up top lurked through a cave for a good 5 minutes before leaving you at 3400m, crammed in a room full of sweaty, nervous people, who all either needed or were queuing for the toilet.

Walking out into a near 360 view was pretty cool, even more spectacular than the Mega… with some decent weather to top it off. Saying that though, with wind chill thrown in, it was -10 when we were laying our bikes down, no temperature to be dressing down to a jersey in.

We had a good hour or so spare, waiting for the rest to fill up the huge starting field, of around 700, including women. To calm the nerves, the organisers had obviously got in touch with Corp and borrowed their playlist, because after 10 minutes of discothequing (new word) with Sambo and Al Stock, we could have been in the main room sweating it out to Rage back home.

“10 minute to go” oh shit, we’ve got to ride down that thing now. Nerves, turtle heads, dizzyness and thoughts of loose bolts rush through your head like normal, but keeping calm and getting tucked in was the only way down.

Psyched to go, the heli is circling with Gee Milner dangling his skinny little white legs high above, adrenaline buzzing, people shouting and then….. Nickelback comes on.

But only for a second… thank god. ACDC Highway to Hell comes blaring on, Linford Christie stance commences and BOOM the horn goes. Sprint like a duck to your bike, pick her up, hop on and pedal until you spin out.

Now I had a pretty sweet spot tucked away on the right hand side of the piste. By halfway down nearly every had picked left or right, due to  a huge ice patch in the middle… Those lefties, turned out to be my biggest enemy later on…

Being fully tucked, heading towards 80k+ down snow on a bicycle is insane. Literally whichever way you or on-lookers look at it, it’s just plain mental. Nico Vink who started behind me, came past and made me think twice about being stood still, rumour has it he hit 124KMPH further down….

So on we trucked… I grabbed a bit of brake probably half way down and watch a few people pull away. It’s amazing at that speed how the slightest dab drops you metres behind. After manning up and letting off, I remembered Obi Wans words from earlier about getting left for the chicane…

Looking for it, I dabbed some speed and started to peel over left, looking good for the moment, aiming to avoid a huge crash/bunch on the inside. Then BOOM.

Out of nowhere, at the last second I heard shouting, coming closer, really fast. A quick glance and BOOM, some French dude, who had either lost his brakes or brain t-boned me full tilt. It was mental… he literally can’t have touched his brakes and if it wasn’t for my body and bike, he would have plowed straight up the rocky bank and took off into oblivion. At first once I got my shit together, I thought ‘kill him’ but he’d long gone… without even a ‘sorry’, ah well, i’m sure he didn’t intend to do anything like that anyway… But then recovery mode and a wave of pain kicked in…Time to get off the slopes.

It was the biggest/hardest hit I’ve ever took on a bike for sure and it knocked the crap out of me. Feeling like a tool, dizzy, breathless and battered, i crawled off to the side to lie down and later got a helping hand down the chair by an English couple, who seemed mortified by everything they’d witnessed over the last 10 minutes, haha!

So things didn’t go quite to plan this year… But would I do it all again? Yep. It’s completely bonkers and has some of the best terrain/trails ever.

Get it done.

In the mean time, check out my Go-Pro view of the carnage:

Boom.

Mountain Of Hell so far…

Mountain Of Hell so far…

They pretty much hit the nail on the head with the title of this one…

After a couple of months off the bike, it was off to the Alps to find the missus, do some editing in the sun and take part in Crankworx Europe.

14 hours later, with a few near misses, a high-speed cop bi-pass, 3 large coffees, 2 cans of red bull and 3 Lucozades, I arrived in Les Deux Alpes at 11pm. I’m pretty sure with that diet on the road, I exceeded my daily sugar and caffeine amount by 10x. Come 4am I was still twitching and sleep wasn’t on the cards, this meant Wednesday was a bit of a write off, with only a couple of runs in the afternoon.

Like most people in the Uk scene, 5-6 inch travel bikes seem to be taking over, getting the most use out of anyones stable. I was fortunate to borrow a rather shiny Santa Cruz Carbon Nomad for this trip and holy shit, what a bike. Carbon wheels both ends (not pictured) plus carbon frame,bars and stem means a seriously stiff bike, which rolls like a train. It’s amazing what you can get done on these types of bikes… This one as pictured weighed in at 29lbs on the dot, with dual ply tyres, coil Lyriks, big tubes and dropper post.

Compared to the Mega, you don’t hear much about the Mtn of Hell. I’m not sure if that’s down to Marketing, luck of the draw or because of how dam full on it is.

First practice run from near the top of finals was a cold affair. -3 with wind chill… Sambo was still psyched though!

Les Deux Alpes has a glacier, which is open nearly all summer for skiing and other winter activities. It was literally rammed with them up top, even in the white-out conditions. With the mornings rain, the snow was slushy and tough to work with, fingers crossed that things freeze for finals. At 2700, you kind of forget how high you are, compared to back home for most of us. I heard that Mick Hannah lives at roughly 1600m over in Colorado and was seen doing sprints up top for training… animal.

As you can’t hit the real start/top section until race day, via train access, we checked in a little way down on a flat out fire-road section, leading into the first huge boulder field, stacked with lines.

The picture doesn’t do it any justice, but basically it’s a blank canvas, with tonnes of options to chose from. We hit it 3 different ways, all with their own pros and cons… Picking and choosing lines the entire way down a mountain is what makes these style of events so awesome and unique.

After this, there was a similar theme for the next 5-10 minutes… Real tech, wideopen boulder fields, interspersed with flat out fire-road segments. Very French and very cool to ride.

Speaking of French things, check this blokes attire out. Royal 2013 leak?

Watching the top boys scope and walk lines is funny, as none of them are too keen to show their cards too early on. A few passes up top can make life a lot easier further down the line, especially if your off the back.

So things had been pretty tech, but fun so far… nothing out of the ordinary, until we came across this beast…

It doesn’t look like much here, but A, it wobbles and B, when it’s wet and your tired… it’s deep enough that you’ll be swimming across that’s for sure. The organisers have cleverly made sure that if you don’t take the higher/skinnier right hand line, you have to take a de-tour once you’ve disembarked, losing vital seconds. One good point someone made though… If you get off and walk, no-one will pass you and you can’t fall in! Bonus.

By now, this should have split people up nicely, leaving with some flat out singletrack down to the mid-station, with a few mega steep scree slopes and switchbacks thrown in for good fortune.

After all this descending, your probably starting to perk up again, but oh no, here comes the big one. See those tiny poles in the distance? That’s nearly the top… smooth fireroad it may be, but after 20 minutes of high altitude descending, this will suck major balls.

So you’ve done the big climb… breather? No… your heading into the ENTIRE Air Dh track from earlier in the week…. The only thing they’ve made easier, is the jumps have been taken out. Thank god. Sambo hit them all bar 2 on his little bike though.

Check out the Parkins coverage of the Air Dh to get a taster of the carnage, HERE

The bit you don’t see on most coverage is the tight, steep turns halfway down in the trees that will wreak havoc on your tired little arms. No places to pass too, unless you’ve got big balls… Cross the old finish line and your back into town, where you’ll take a left, head through a FOAM FILLED PUB, and down a hikers path to the valley bottom, which is stricly off limits for practice. So it’s even blind for the last 10-15mins…. Hardcore stuff.

Quali went well today for me, with a top 10ish finish in my heat (I think) and a 6th row start line for tomorrow.

The whole thing was captured on Go-Pro, so if you want to get a feel for things and have a spare 15mins, check back tomorrow!

It’s a 5am start … to be up the top ready for 7:20am sharp. Predicted -10 temperture with a 9am kick off… can’t wait.

Boom.

This Is Swinny: Taking 1 for the team

A couple of weeks back i popped over the hill to Farmer John’s in Stockport to compete at the North West Champs.
A small hill with a flat-ish pedal section up top, a couple of jumps and wooden structures, before dropping into a short technical section before the finish at the bottom of the hill.
With there being no uplifts, we decided to skip Saturday practice and just crack out a couple of runs on the Sunday morning before finals.
This nearly backfired as we were unable to string a full run together due to nature of the short track mixed with bad weather and the tricky tech lower section of the track. A steep chute the crossed a rocky platform before tackling a tough rooty section. This part of the track was key as momentum was easily lost if you got it wrong and as the track went back up hill slightly, meant you stopped dead if you made an error.

Official NUmber board for the day?...

Despite being unable to get a full run in a was feeling strong on the V10, I had cranked my suspension to the hardest setting and pedaled my heart out! A good mid-week xc ride with Jolley set me up nicely for the weekend. I was feeling confident on the bike and was enjoying trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

I’ve had a few mixed results here in the past, because its such a short track, any mistake made can’t really be brought back further down the track. You have to get up to speed as quick as possible and the first couple of corners can be tricky if you over cook them and miss your turning point, pushing you off line for the following corners and just sapping your speed.

Another muddy UK summer race

Fortunately, on my first timed run, I rode smooth out of the gate and was able to crank hard throughout the whole top section. From there we dropped into the switchbacks, which I’ve always ridden pretty strongly, and committed to the lower rooted section. Here I got very lucky, a rock caught my front wheel at the bottom of the chute and forced me to dab a foot, which stayed off for main part of the root section, getting pushed offline I somehow cleaned the bottom corner and carried good speed out. Just a bit of time to regain composure before backing off to make sure I cleaned the final section to the line.
All went well and I crossed the line 5 secs clear, not bad on a 1 min 30 sec track!

I was feeling pretty confident no one would beat that time so was buzzing going up for my second run, thinking where I could push on a bit to make more time. However, this run didnt start so cleanly. A mistake in the first corner set me up poorly for the next couple and I lost all my flow.
As this run wasnt going to plan, I had a brain wave and tried to no break the rooted section. This did not work in any way, straight down trying to turn that treacherous corner. Oh well, I plodded onto the finish and crossed the line.
My first run was good enough for the win and also to take the fastest time of the day, which i was rate happy with!
A good platform and confidence booster before the next round of the BDS.

Cheers everyone for the support!

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