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Cyclocross

That time I made a bike.

April 21, 2016 | By | One Comment

This weekend, in Bristol, Bespoked happened.
The UK handmade bicycles show: a great confirmation that bicycles, the people who make them and those who ride them are awesome. And for me a great opportunity to look back on the 10 days spent learning how to build frames at Bicycle Academy earlier this month.

It takes quite a few different skills and knowledge to design and build a bespoke steel bicycle. It’s not just the brazing, it’s also the structure, the choice of tubes, the visual proportions, the fit, the mitering, etc. That crazy mixture of craft, mechanics and design attracts me like nothing else.

On the last Monday of March, as the team is still fast asleep (remember #5thegghunt), I left the training camp and headed to my first day of school. I had a ton of stinky kit in my bag, a brand new crankset poking in my back, a pair of forks mostly resting on my helmet and a huge grin from ear to ear. I’m going to make myself a bike.

 

Have you ever made something before ?

 

Before Bicycle Academy, I had never brazed anything and had spent a very limited amount of time in a workshop. I found it hard to believe I was going to design, fit and build myself a bike in the space of ten days. But I will what I want. And what I really want is to make myself a cross bike to race on. One that fits me perfectly, has all the clearance and none of the compromises smaller off-the-shelf frames always seem to have.

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Bicycle Academy is in Frome, Somerset. It’s a huge open space, with 4 work benches on the left, a fitting studio on the right, a kitchen, a bunch of giant power tools, a secret TIG welding spot, all sorts of frames in all sorts of states of making hanging from the ceiling and two dogs. It’s run and taught by the nicest – and some of the most skilled – human beings of the entire industry. Pretty much.

Tom, the man behind Sturdy Cycles, takes me through fitting -as he helps me get to the best position for a cross bike, concepts of structure and how to pick tubes. Soon we put it all into bikeCAD.
At the end of the day, it feels like I can already almost touch it.

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Paul from BTR Fabrications teaches me how to miter. He makes it look dead easy and, with his simple explanations and a bit of practice, my brain seems to soon get around where material needs to be removed each time for the tubes to join neatly together. By the end of the day, I count three blisters on my right hand. I’m exhausted but so happy. I can see, hold and weigh what one day of work can produce. And that feels incredible.
 

Getting down to the fillet brazing business was also pretty rad. Andrew – the founder or BA – much like everyone, is an amazing teacher. We go from understanding what fillet brazing is to brazing tubes by myself in what seems like no time at all.

 

Are you going to be emotional ? – Yeah, I reckon so.

 

Sometimes, you feel like every little thing, good or bad, that happened in your life was leading to the exact moment you are living right now. I’m not trying to be deep or philosophical, it just happens like that sometimes. And that’s how I felt on the last Thursday. In the afternoon, Paul and I get a stand and we put my tacked frame in. I pop my glasses on, turn on the flame, check it’s neutral. Make sure I’ve got rod nearby. Shake my shoulders a bit. And here we go.
I don’t know how long I spent brazing. Maybe ten minutes, maybe two hours ? I’ve rarely been that focused. The rod, the flame, the tube, the speed, the temperature, the puddle. Paul looks at my hands and how I’m doing my job. He gives me an advice every so often.
And when the last stretch of the last joint is finished, I can’t believe what I’ve just done.

Fuck, I made a bike.

And you know what, I think it’ll be the first one of many.

-Adeline

London X League – Team Champs

February 16, 2016 | By | No Comments

First of all, click there was no running in this race, generic so this report should be nowhere near as sour as the last one on CX Nationals, health so sorry if it disappoints.
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Rad CX snow play day in Epping

January 18, 2016 | By | No Comments

With round 13 of the London League CX cancelled, we had a race free weekend ahead of us and man it was looking chilly. Let’s go off-road into Epping Forest! All feeling super excited about some off-road adventures, we woke up to a snowy day. Excitement, heightened. We’d been praying for CX in the snow for so long, and it was here, and we were riding in it!

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The boys were planning on braving the roads, so we decided on a pre-ride meet at my flat for coffee, and homemade oat bars before setting off on our separate bike adventures. Rory the cat was hella confused with the invasion of the lycra clad. Feeling just a tiny bit reluctant to leave the cosiness, there was a fair bit of hallway bike tinkering.

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Eventually we were out, and hell it was crisp. I swear we must be the friendliest bunch on the road, shouting “morning” to everyone we passed. We flew down the canal, startling runners and walkers with our over excited greetings.

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A short bit of road and then bam, in the forest, trying to meander our way up a steep, snowy hill. Then mud, so much mud, some of it slippy some of it crunchy. And many a local log (in jokes). All I could hear was laughter and giggles, trying to make our way through whatever the elements threw at us. FUN, so much fun!

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Then we hit the “junction of dreams”. A junction with trails leading 6 different ways. And what was that? Two fat beagles. Adeline loses it. I think Clare eats a whole Soreen. Soph has spotted two more fat Beagles, coming from the other direction. It was too much for Petra and smash, man down.

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Following our route was getting a bit difficult so we took the sensible decision to get lost for a bit. Yessss, good move. We found some awesome trails that had barely been ridden, the ground was indecipherable which made it all the more fun. Is that solid ground? No it’s inches of sinky mud.

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A short stop at the tea hut. An icon of Epping, 95p for a proper builders brew and then we were heading back. Everyone on a high. Adeline with a broken front brake. We went down a hill, damn my brakes aren’t working. Uh oh, road barricade, I jammed my foot on the ground, not stopping fast enough, steered into the hedge, relief. Disaster avoided. With mechanicals we made our way slowly back.

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If that wasn’t enough of an awesome day we then went to meet the boys at Crate brewery for some top notch pizza and seriously good beer. Stories were exchange, excited talk about the 2016 race season and then we all reluctantly went our separate ways.

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Had to be one of my favourite days on the bike, thanks to new teammates and friends, beautiful Epping and the rare surprise of snow. What bike riding should be, pure fun. What a start to the year, can it get any better than this?

UK Cyclocross National Champs

January 12, 2016 | By | One Comment

I just got back from Cyclcross Nationals in Shrewsbury with The 5th Floor boys – Rudy, Alex and top don photographer, Jon. As I’m the new kid, I’ve got the honours of writing up what I thought of the weekend.
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Cyclocross Nationals are always a madness. You get the pre-national jitters through out the week – prepping bikes, yourself, staring at the weather forecast. I know many who get the pre nationals blocked nose and sore throat. I got the pre nats shits.

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CX Nationals were my first race of the Cyclocross season. It was pretty much my first proper race since snapping my Clavicle in September. So I basically had no expectations of myself, other than that I was probably going to suck. The best thing you can do in a situation like that is just chill out, have some jokes, and take notes on where you need to improve.
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I can’t speak for the rest of the boys, but I had a pretty jokes time on my first trip with a few of my new team mates. Good tunes, take away Nando’s, a trip to the cinema, playing in the mud. It’s pretty cool to be so welcomed into a team, I really appreciate how good they’ve been to me already. You can’t get much more love than someone offering to be your pit man. Cleaning your bike and handing you a fresh one every lap! It’s harder than racing sometimes I’m sure of it. Thanks a lot Rudy.

Come race day, the usual stuff – eat breakfast, talk about the bone heads making noise at 4am, question what makes someone allowed to call what they make ‘Artisan’? What the hell is Artisan water anyway? We eventually got to the course. Basically it was a bunch of people carrying their bikes around knee deep in mud. Then someone said to me – “don’t bother doing a lap, you won’t gain anything. There’s a lot of running too.” Great. I hate running, I’m crap at it, it was obvious the day was going to be hard.

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Not racing once in the 2015/16 season, I was gridded a few from last. I hoped it could only get better. My kit looked pretty rad, so that was a start. The whistle went and we were off. I’ve always loved Cyclocross starts, it’s a chance to get your elbows out and have some fun. First laps have always been something I’m quite good at, but I probably moved up more than I should of.

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After the first 2 sections of running, I was what only can be described as, fucked. Once back on the bike for more than 2 minutes, (which was rare on that course.) I would feel alright and move up a good few places, whilst having a great time doing so. Then we would start running again. Unfortunately my weaknesses in running, out weighed my strengths on the bike. My running really took a turn for the worse when the plate on my clavicle started getting compressed into the bone from the weight of the bike + mud. I basically ended up being a right noob running with my bike alongside me – it’s not efficient, it doesn’t look cool.

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As the race went on, more people ran past me. Very few rode past me though, especially not in the techy wood section, which is nice. I won’t lie, I cracked, I was fed up and thinking of the excuses to get myself off the course. Then I asked myself if my name was Barry, which it isn’t, so I kept going. The fact that the jet wash was broken and Rudy was still handing me up fresh bikes lap on lap was actually enough to keep me slogging away to get lapped. Thankfully with 2 laps to go the boys who a couple years ago I was battling for wins with, started to come past me to start their last lap. Before the race it was something I dreaded. But on that course and that day, it was a very welcomed site to pull over and watch them go past. No lies, I ran up the steps faster than Ian Field, even had to slow down for him. He had done them a whole 1 more time than I had to be fair. Over the line, off to the showers a couple laps early.

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I sound pessimistic as hell, but I just really hate running. In reality there’s a lot of positives to take from that race. That course and race was so hard, it really brings out who is the best prepared and ready for the challenge. Honestly, I’ve done everything I could possibly do to not be prepared for such an event, the results show that. But I did alright really. When I think about it, there’s a solid foundation (despite the running) to build a very fit and strong rider for the next season, and a top 10 at next years champs, really isn’t far fetched at all. But first of all there is a great summer of racing to do be done with the 5th floor boys. I’m really excited to be in a team of riders and friends, who are riding for the right reason – to enjoy. Going on rides and doing some so called training is going to be a lot easier with them. I really am honoured to be apart of such a great team.

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So after a burger kings and some jokes in the van on the way home, that’s pretty much it. I can not thank Rudy, Alex and Jon enough for such a great weekend. They were all brilliant. Alex rode wicked in his first ever nationals and learnt a massive amount I’m sure. Rudy out done himself in looking after us and bossing it in the pits. Jon took a brilliant collection of photographs that I’m sure you will all enjoy, I did.

Cheers,
Alec

Words: Alec Briggs
Images: Jon Baines

The Badlands

January 4, 2016 | By | No Comments

We’re in a rental van, nice and packed, full of bicycles and rucksacks. It’s pouring rain. We look at each other. Chuckle nervously.

– “It’s beginning, I’m starting to feel the nerves.”
– “You know what, I think that’s why we do it.”

For the round 12th of the London Cross League, BigFoot has organized an amazing event. They’ve got all the jazz, cowbells and sausage rolls; banks, hurdles and mud for days.

And we’re about to race all together for the first time. Proud and terrified. But mostly terribly excited.

We’re lined up, there won’t be any gridding. The girls are on the right, I’m on the left next to Stef and Mon, our Brixton club mates. My heart pinches. The guys are there, everyone is drenched, smiling, wishing each other luck. And within an eye blink, we’re at it. Not thinking about anything else than the mud, that drag, keeping on moving.

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Clare and I take on a great start, we squeeze past the first corner amongst the first 4 ladies. There are no nerves anymore. The mud is fast, it’s not one of these days where you can’t make any progress. But it’s also deadly slippery. I crash half way through the first lap. Chain is down. Shifters are off the grid. Without thinking about it, I just smack them back into place and jump back on. Clare’s taken a bit of distance, she’s smashing it.

The guys are all around the course. And man, they can heckle.

Andy and Jon are at the top of a ridge:

– “GO ON, HOP BACK ON!”

Ouch. Oh shit. That hurt.

– “YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR SKINSUIT”

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Double shit. I’ve ripped my skinsuit remounting. Massive whole, inner right thigh, it looks ridiculous. I might as well be naked. And it’s the bloody second lap.

I still find it incredible how quickly you take decisions when racing. The bike still works, I’m still in a good position. Stopping is just not an option.

Aoife catches up with me. I feel so happy to see her. We ride together for a bit, but I’m already pretty beaten up and she distances me  over the course of the 3rd lap. I’ve punctured my front tyre. It couldn’t be more flat than that. Gives me a pretty good anchor in the mud, but it’s not ideal for speed. Alex is on the side.

– “ALEX I’VE GOT A FLAT, AM I BREAKING MY BIKE OR WHAT ?!”
– “NAH YOU’RE GOOD !”

I’m pretty sure he had no idea what I just said. But he said I’m fine, so I’m probably fine.

The rest of the race is tough. I feel slow, I’m in pain, the rain won’t stop. I can see Clare on the return of a long straight and scream some encouragements at her.

The nerves are back. It hurts, I’d like to stop.

It’s the last lap, I quickly look back. Only men for at least 10 meters. There’s just the spiral to go. Then the hurdles. Then this long straight with all the headwind in the world. And then the two super sketchy descends. And then the place where I crashed. Then the return. Then the little path. And then the friendliest face in cyclocross, John Mullineaux the commissaire extraordinaire, screaming well done at everyone. It’s over.

We run to each other, it’s a mess, everyone’s face has disappeared in mud. The guys are smiling through the roof. Some highfives, some fist bumps, some hugs. All the helmets get mixed up, all the jackets get mixed up, everyone looks after each other, it’s the friendliest chaos in the world. Clare came 2nd, Aoife came 3rd, I’m 4th, Petra is 5th and Sophie’s 7th. That’s incredible.

We will spend the rest of the afternoon planning the year ahead, red cheeks and frozen feet. Excited that the racing’s started.

Today more than any other day, cross was boss.

But I think the #5THLDN women came very close second. Man, I’m excited for 2016.

Words by Adeline O’Moreau
Photos by Jon Baines

17 Dec

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Super Duper Cross 2015, Photos by Don

December 17, 2015 | By | No Comments

Super Cross is defined through the years by its weather, ‘remember that year when…’

This year was to be no different. After a dry and temperate season we were treated to the first truly muddy race of the year.

With late November cross fatigue setting in for many the sudden need to tune into a mud race was a shock to the system.
My own season feeling like it was just hitting some kind of Rhythm and the inclusion of a late in the day 3/4 race which often takes a back seat to the 2/3/4 I saw the opportunity to take away something.

Ryan was kind enough to wait around after his own race that was cut short by one too many hard slams on a challenging course that favored the initial brave and then became about attrition as those around succumbed to the mud.

My race however was to take on a rather different character, being a rather trim 26 minutes in the face of a dipping sun it was all out from the gun after leading for a portion I crossed the race in 5th with 1 upgrade point and the #davecave ensued.

After spending almost double the race time cleaning the bikes day 2 would see myself, Seth and Ryan in the 2/3/4 race under the scrutiny of Don’s lens. Ryan rounded out an incredible season with 9th.

None of us had planned for this to be the last race of our 2016 Cyclocross assault but the rigors of the weekend represented a natural bookend to collectively our most successful campaign thus far.

so….. #roadiscoming ?

2014, 2013 reports can be read here.

Thanks to Don for the images.

08 Dec

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#incrediblycross by Alex Blomeley

November 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

I started the day with a hangover so I went and raced cross in a field with my friends and gave myself another one. It was worth it though because Incredibly Cross.

Incredibly Cross is an unsanctioned cyclocross race where the secret location is revealed 2 days prior to the event. There is a ‘course’ (some spray paint and sporadic taping mark the 1.5km circuit), there are people (Evil Kinevel and Boris Johnson among them) and booze, a lot of booze. Entry is £2 on turning up or a 4pack of your favourite beer, most opted for the beer. I bought along a bottle of Fireball Whisky and regretted it later on in the race.

A photo posted by Robin Godden (@robin_godden) on

Cross is really accessible in England, its got that anyone can do it attitude. The Incredibly Cross crew take that to a whole new level actively encouraging anyone on any bike to the carnage. 62 racers in total showed up with a mix of bikes ranging from top end tub laden carbon crossers round to fixed gear street bikes on slicks to a boris bike.

Everyone races together, even the littlest of riders get 2 laps of the course before the beer comes out and it all gets a bit messy. Beer Handups, shots, megaphones and boomboxes are all just a part of it.

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A photo posted by Jehu Bikewear (@jehubikewear) on

Of course there are ‘winners’, male and female podiums all with prizes but also on the honours list are best costume and most inappropriate bike (the boris bike won a bottle of Lambrini). Which is going to keep it fresh and interesting for racers, organisers and spectators. I lapped Boris!

Hand made trophies (Thomas Slater) show the kind of imagination, effort and care is being taken but the event doesn’t feel forced, its a community thing made up by the riders and their friends who all got up early race day morning to dig berms and clear brambles.

It was only Incredibly Cross’s 2nd official unofficial race and something this good is going to draw a lot of attention. So much so that i’m not sure how long it can go on as an ‘unsanctioned’ bike race before logistics and the legal side of things take over. However it grows its definitely got a bright future and I’m excited to be a part of it now, to see how it progresses and what they think of next.

Mens Podium
1. Matt Nobel
2. Jonathan Dennis
3. Alex Blomeley

Womens Podium
1. Adeline O’Moreau
2. Aoife Doherty
3. Mon Zamojska

A photo posted by Sebastian Lloyd (@bashthebox) on

Most Inappropriate Bike – Andy Matthews

A photo posted by || COOPS || (@dan.coops) on

Best Costume – Ben Hawkins

03 Nov

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On The Bubblecross

November 3, 2015 | By | No Comments

Bubblecross was a bit of a turning point in the #5thnyc 2015 calendar. It marked the first ever race in the elites by Chris Pino and with another top step at Bubblecross saw Ryan (despite losing his saddle) join him on the receipt of a UCI license for next weekends Cycle Smart in Massachusetts.

Photos by Krys Blakemore of This Team Saves Lives.
Sand Pit Photo: Rich Soffar

Slide 5: Cycling Pictures

Rapha Super Cross Round 1 and 2

October 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

Click read more below for Rapha Super Cross words by Rudy Melo and photos by Jon Baines.

Up early and after a 4.5 hour drive, Jon and I arrived at the lovely location at this year’s UK Rapha Super Cross Round 1 and 2 that was held in the grounds of Shibden Hall, in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

With not much time to spare, I got myself ready, had a quick warm up with one practice lap to see what the course was like (HARD!!!) and then lined with with the other 110+ riders.

I am not the most experienced cross rider, but one thing I know is that having a good start is very important. I got a good place at the start line, but after a massive crash on the first straight, which I got caught behind, left me in the middle of the field. I ended up staying there throughout the whole race, I went back and forth with a few riders but maintained my position. The course was HARD, hilly, technical and long.

As I was going back the next day for round 2, I had a quick warm down on the rollers then we headed to the hotel. Little do the hotel staff know, after my shower I cleaned my bike in the bath.

After a cheeky Nando’s (safest option when not knowing where to eat) and the cheapest round of beer I have ever ordered, it was time to get ready for bed and mentally prepare for the next day.

Sunday.
The same course, same off camber corners, same long gravel climb, same stairs and much more mud were there waiting for me and my team mate Alex Blomeley.

I had a great start this time, sitting in the top 10, then after a shit mid race and a better end of the race I ended up 38th out of 88th. Meh! But I still had a blast. Thank you Rapha for putting up a great event! Gutted I cannot make the round 3 in London, but Alex will be there dropping hammers for me.

Photos by Jon Baines.
Words by Rudy Melo.