Basque Revisited

My riding buddy Matt and I made a short trip to the Basque area in September to sample some of Doug’s regular trails. It was my first chance to show Matt the trails I had been guiding on in 2012.

We were joined for 2 of the rides by Doug’s buddy and local shredder Carlos who guided us onto some new trails as well.

The weather wasn’t great all the time but I don’t think we actually got rained on and the trails were in great condition :)

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Anyway, no point typing about it – we made a short amateurish video of our days there which you can see here 

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TransProvence 2013

Well, as promised, I went back to Ash’s amazing trails and did the TP guided week last week. What can I say? It was an absolutely superb week. Great trails and a great group. It was tough riding 6 long days in a row, but not exhausting and absolutely worth it!

The trails varied from flowy woodland, to steep rocky, to super exposed and everything in between. There’s a fair amount of uplift, but don’t kid yourself – there’s a lot of climbing too (and pushing and carrying!)

Treat yourself – go! You wont regret it!

www.trans-provence.com

I have cobbled together some random GoPro footage here to give you a small idea of what the trails are like, but to be honest it really doesn’t do the experience justice…: https://vimeo.com/68647505

You can see my amateurish photos here

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JBazuin_TP2013_13juni2013_17-36-34_

So how was it?

I guess this is the final chapter of ‘The Trainee MTB Guide’. I’m back home, unpacked and wondering where the last 5 months went. The weather here is ‘disappointing’ and I can’t see any mountains.

“So how was it?” I’m sure to be asked.

Well bloody amazing. I have to first of all say a massive “thank you” to Doug who made all this possible – by being foolish enough to let me loose on his guests. It hasn’t all been plane sailing and I’m sure I’ve been a pain in the arse at times (especially when I smashed my thumb up 3 weeks into the season), but Doug has always been a gracious and understanding ‘boss’. He has taught me so much about riding, guiding, bikes and being a good host. My heartfelt thanks Doug.

So yes – bloody amazing… It’s hard to sum up very easily why it was so amazing, but add together the ingredients of consistently great weather, a beautiful coastline, a breathtakingly scenic ocean, stunning mountains, an endless variety of deserted, fun & challenging trails, commuting between 2 countries past the beach towards the mountains every day, amazing vistas, giving people an unforgettable holiday, riding as often as anyone could want, living 300m from the beach, experiencing Basque culture, and making people say ‘wow’ on a regular basis and you can start to see where I’m coming from…

If you have time to kill, I’ve uploaded my favourite photos from the trip here My Flickr Pics Be warned. There’s lots.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of what the Basque country has to offer, but I feel if I ever went back I’d now be in a good position to genuinely help Doug guide. I know quite a few of the trails now without squinting at my Garmin, I can get to most of the trailheads without a TomTom and can ride most of the techie bits with confidence. I can fix most bike problems from my pack and can answer most of the questions thrown at guides. Maybe my training is over. Shame I’m unlikely to ever get to use it unless I really pack it all in…

So I thought I’d compile my Top 10 Moments from the last 6 months; mainly as a reminder to myself… These are the stories I am going to bore you with when I see you…

1     Unloading the bikes with Doug, Carlos and Ash at the summit above the Col de Turini early in the morning with the most incredible view over the clouds down to the Mediterranean; then the track Pharoahs by Tears for Fears came on the van stereo. A haunting track at just the right moment. I felt I was actually *in* a very good MTB video. One of those moments that feels very special as it happens.

2     My first ride of the the Transition TR250 down Jaizkibel. I was nervous having never ridden a DH bike before. Within minutes I was giggling out loud like a lunatic. A game changing moment in my riding.

Gulp! Here goes nothing!

3      The week with Jamie and Roops – what a fun week! It was great to have 2 of my riding buddies out and show them our best trails. They stayed around the corner from my digs in Guethary so we were able to ‘socialise’ as well. So many laughs that week! Thanks for coming guys!

The 3 Pendejos, roughing it at the Guethary beach bar

4     The ride down from the summit above Ainsa during the Backcountry (née South) Pyrenees Tour. An amazing uplift in the back of a 4×4 VW Transporter followed by an all day descent including roots, shale, rocks, donkeys, sausages, chips, a natural jump park and an amazing variety of perfect singletrack all in one ride. And a beer at the end.

Me in the Badlands section of the descent

5      Riding 2 stages of the TransProvence race and Sospel DH tracks. I must go back.

Sospel

6     The Fetes de Bayonne – Europe’s biggest street party. Everyone wears white and red, hundreds of thousands of people. Bands, street bars, carnival, processions. Amazing. Enough said!

7     Riding to San Sebastian once a week with guests along stunning trails and being treated with this view at the end of every ride (and usually an ‘Oh Wow’).

A ‘wow’ moment

8     Getting back to Guethary on the day of the big stack and broken thumb. Tom did an exceptional job, getting me off the mountain, to various hospitals and then a couple of hours drive in the dark back from Pamplona to Guethary. Thanks Tom. I was very happy to be ‘home’.

Looking very happy, considering.

9     Riding Spanish Utah – available only to a very select few. An amazing place. Part of the Backcountry Pyrenees Tour with Ed and Doug.

10     The Gramondo ride with Ash and the Norwegian journalists. Hike a bike to the summit, recover, plummet to the Italian Riviera. Coffee.

Gramondo

Of course there have been many more highlights – my first solo guiding, the ascent and descent of the big mountain Erlo in Basque, going for a swim in the sea every Saturday, visits from my folks and Michelle, learning better French, popping into Biarritz for coffee occasionally, coaching people to conquer challenges, using my first aid training, making many new friends, etc etc etc…

Any bad points?

Having my thumb reset hurt like buggery.

So did banging my head in Molini. And rib. And arse. And thigh. And ankle.

The road trip from Bilbao to Ainsa was somewhat tricky, over the mountain in the floods and darkness!

But no, not really!

Thanks for reading :)  I hope you’ve found these blogs at least mildly interesting and maybe someone will be inspired to do something similar. At the very least I hope it encourages some of you to visit BasqueMTB and sample some of this for yourself. You won’t regret it!

All the best,

Ian

theformertraineemtbguide

A busman’s holiday

Q: So what do mountain bike guides do at the end of the season when they’re worn out from riding bikes for months?

A: They go on a mountain bike holiday!

And so boss Doug, sometime guide Carlos and I set off for a week’s R&R in north west Italy and SE France, biking. It was to be a 2 base holiday, the first part with Riviera Freeride in Molini di Triora (purveyors of fine uplifted DH focused holidays) and secondly with the Trans-Provence team in Sospel. Trans-Provence is one of the world’s greatest mountain bike races, and owner Ash guides on the same trails when not organising and running the race.

We set off from the Basque country early (ish) on Saturday morning, intending to drive the whole 1,000 km in a oner, and so we did, passing Carcassonne, Toulouse, Montpellier, Marseille, Monaco and Nice on the way. We met our traditional road-trip biblical rainstorm around Marseille which dragged the journey out a bit getting us to our hotel in San Remo about 7.30pm…

Doug taking his turn at the wheel of the Vito

Unloading in the remarkably bike friendly hotel

We elected to stay in the city of San Remo rather in Molini itself as the mountain village can be a little ‘quiet’ in November. We were booked by Riviera owner Ady into a really rather comfortable hotel. Soon after arrival, we were sampling its excellent food and wine. The hotel also had a heated lock-up for storing bikes and drying gear, which was going to be needed after the first day’s riding!

Dinner in San Remo

An early night was had ahead of the first day’s riding. Ady and Rich collected us from the hotel in the morning and gave us a solid day of shuttling the trails above the city. These trails were sandy, super steep, super rocky, super wet (and a LOT of fun) and many formed part of the local SuperEnduro scene. I was riding (some of the time) my TR250, but was crashing a lot (I mean a LOT). Having said that, despite the bruises to body and ego, it was an amazing day’s riding with a real sense of achievement from having conquered some real challenges. We sessioned all the trails twice and ended by riding from the top of the hill, through all the singletrack and then onwards for some urban DH through the old city of San Remo all the way to the hotel. A really memorable ride! This video shows what some of the trails are like (when ridden by a pro in the dry!) http://www.pinkbike.com/video/285858/ or check out the Marco Bugnone section of the MTB movie VAST.

A soaking wet trio retired to the hotel for hot showers and more local food and wine…

A chilled Carlos as we wait for the fun-bus outside the hotel

Let’s do it!

Guide Rich, Carlos and Doug about to drop into more Italian steep rockiness

Day 2 and we headed up into the mountains and  Molini to ride Ady’s ‘local’ trails around the village. An ‘interesting’ busy commute through back street San Remo and 30 minutes later we were having another storming Italian coffee in Molini ahead of the day’s ride. For the next 2 days we were joined by 2 French DH riders, and the group of 5 got on really well. I crashed even more today, even after changing to the trusty Nicolai. The trails were still slippy  after Saturday’s downpour, which combined with the steepness and technical challenges made for a tough day for me, but again at the end of the day we’d all had a great time. The trails were really variable, some rocky, some rooty, some super fast and some super techy, but none demanded any less than your full attention. My crash count was again the highest, but everyone had their offs!

The highlight trail was Bellender, apparently one of Dirt magazine’s favourites. A long trail with stunning views and superb singletrack.

One of the stunning viewpoints from Bellender

High above Molini

Day 3 at Molini was again centred around the village with some new trails and some repeat trails. By now though the ground was drying out and I was able to stay on the bike a lot more. Finally able to hit the the hills with more confidence I thoroughly enjoyed hitting ‘Fantasy’ a second time with decent speed. A memorable run!

Midway through the afternoon, we were all exhausted and needed to pack up to move on to Sospel – only an hour away. So having said our farewells and heartfelt thank-yous to Ady, Jo and Rich (as well as our new French friends) we treated ourselves to one last Italian macchiato and got on the road.

Sospel may only be an hour away but it feels very different to Molini and San Remo. Both spots are very beautiful in their own way, but there’s no confusing the two. Mr. Trans-Provence, Ash Smith had booked us into a local auberge run by a British couple. It’s a bit ‘basic’ but more than adequate and we were treated to more Italian cuisine on the first night. Home made lasagne and chips – UK styley!

View from my auberge bedroom of the town of Sospel

Day 4 in Sospel started in bed for me. My battered and bruised body needed a break, so I had a lie in, while Ash took Carlos and Doug for a pedally ride in the morning. I joined the guys after lunch for some uplifted runs down the super fun tracks that lead down off the hill into Sospel. Very different in character to the Molini trails, these were less technical but just as much fun. Super fast in places but featuring the staple of the Trans-Provence – lots of switchbacks! The hills have a split personality in the area. The North facing hills (to quote Ash) have lush green surroundings, loam and hero dirt; the South faces: scrub and loose rock giving that unmistakeable Mediterranean feel.

Day 5 was  to be a big day. We were to drive up the famous Col de Turini and take in 2 special stages from the Trans-Provence race and end up back in Sospel. For this ride and the next day we were to be joined by a team of Norwegian journalists out here testing a bunch of 29er and 650b bikes. (A short video of their riding with us is here: https://vimeo.com/54142340 ). It was a memorable drive in the trusty Vito up to the top of Turini. Monte Carlo rally roads combined with epic views. At one point we had to stop and get out just to look at the majestic views down the valley over the clouds towards the Mediterranean. Ash put it best – “That’s the most amazing view I’ve ever seen, not in an aeroplane!”

I think Ash got it right!

A ride as stunning as the views followed. Some climbing, but a LOT of descending. All I can say is, do yourself a favour and get out there and ride the area. There are some difficult sections, notably the trail named “Death-tech” but the majority is challenging but great fun. I’m sure I won’t be entering the race though. As Ed Oxley put it, the trails are fun to ride but tough to race.

Yet another coffee – this time at the top of Turini

How’s this for a trailhead?

Let’s go!

Sublime singletrack

Unsteady UK rider

Norwegian Pro

One of the trickier sections

Ash had planned another ride from Sospel in the afternoon after the morning’s 2 stages but with time pressing us after a delayed start, we called it a day in preparation of yet another big day to follow…

Day 6 was probably the most memorable of the holiday. It started with a 45 minute drive up a rough firetrack in the Vito, followed by an hour’s climbing on the bikes to the summit of Gramondo which is perched on the French/Italian border. From there we rode all the way down from the 1600m summit to the coast in Ventimigllia. Another day of unbelievably stunning views and equally unbelievably stunning natural deserted singletrack

Unloading at the top of the uplift – Carlos the silverback gorilla!

Another amazing trailhead

Norwegian pro photographer – Kris

Ash and Doug (and Carlos)

En route to the summit

Summit of Gramondo

We had to carry our bikes on our backs to the summit. I was tempted to leave my bike 100m below the summit and walk the final (very steep and rocky) part. Thankfully Doug and Ash put me straight on that one and I took it all the way! Riding from the very top was special.

Which way to the sea?

Ash on the summit

Doug modelling some stylish singletrack

Kris snapping away

Nearing the bottom. Doug leads Carlos.

Reward for all that carrying

Happy mountain bikers

Dinner at the auberge. Curry! Red hot too :)

The final day 7 was spent with a pedally ride in the morning up and over into the next valley with a train ride back. My legs were pretty much gone by now and the climb took me a lot longer than it should and we so nearly missed the train back. In the afternoon Doug volunteered to shuttle Carlos and me up the hill in Sospel to have a final couple of runs. The last run of the day was a super high speed blast down on my beloved TR250, using the famous trail where Fabien Barel had his nasty accident a few years back. Needless to say I took the chicken run around the big drop where he crashed, but it was still a highlight of the holiday to session the run a couple of times.

A final meal in Sospel on Saturday night at a Sicilian restaurant where we were joined by Ash marked the end of a memorable week. Tiring and exhilarating in equal measure, and certainly some riding and views that will stick with me for many years to come. I will surely return…

A breathtaking bike trip

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Those of you unfortunate enough to be my Facebook friends and Twitter buddies will already have been bombarded with photos of BasqueMTB & Great Rock’s recent ‘South Pyrenees Tour’. The trip was conceived as a week touring round the most stunning sections of singletrack in the Southwestern Pyrenees. This was to be the first ‘prototype’ trip. With the first 4 lucky guests duly signed up we set off, and our guests were treated to what they unanimously described as their ‘best MTB trip ever’.

Along with the 4 guests were 4 BasqueMTB staff – Doug of course, Ed Oxley doing his Great Rock coaching as part of the holiday, me on various duties including uplift driving and Ed’s son Nial, a downhill star in the making to record the trip on video and basically shred every trail that was put in front of him!

The week was to feature 10,000 metres of all mountain vertical descent with only about 2,000m of climbing. My kind of riding!

The trip started for me with an 8 hour trip from home in Guethary, to Bilbao airport to collect 2 guests and take them on to the first town of the trip. The road trip was highly eventful with extreme rain, floods, rockfalls and a spooky dark winding mountain pass.

We were staying in luxury apartments in Ainsa, a beautiful old natural-stone town in Aragon. On arrival, exhausted, we were blown away by the beautiful town square lined with bars and restaurants! A sight for sore eyes!

Ainsa – snapped by Ed, clock strikes beer o’clock!

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Early morning in Ainsa, setting off for the first day of riding. View spoiled by grubby MTBers van!

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Church tower strikes #ridetime

Day 1 was a tougher than expected XC loop near Ainsa – unfortunately in the rain! I was driver/uplift guy that day so stayed dry. The morning ride was planned to be fully uplifted, but due to torrential rain the day before causing a small landslide which blocked our ascent, there was a climb to start the trip! A few babbling brooks had become raging torrents too, causing some wet feet!

After lunch, this was followed by 2 uplifted runs which although I didn’t ride, judging by the beaming smiles must have been pretty special even in the rain. Everyone one who rode it was buzzing, but it was then quickly back to the apartments for a hot shower! (Let’s not mention the curious lack of hot water that night shall we?)

The closest I got to the trails on day 1 (and the rain!)

Day 2 was a day of massive uplift. We were to meet a local guide in town with his 4 wheel drive VW Transporter and trailer at 10am for a one-way (steep and sometimes perilous) trip to the summit of one of the nearby epic looking mountains. 1600 metres of down featuring the most perfect, technical and testing singletrack imaginable, combined with the most stunning views! Easily the best ‘trail’ I’ve ever ridden!

Nial recording every detail

Snapping from the uplift van – everyone excited!

Unloading at the summit

On the trail

Edus Oxleyus in its natural habitat

Careful lads! (And lady)

Nial showing ‘the line’

Nial off ‘exploring’ another line!

Happiness is a perfect trail with a downward gradient

Me living life on the edge. Biggish awkward drop onto the trail just out of sight behind me!

Nearing the bottom – thinking it’s all over…

Then we get THIS to finish off!!!! Amazing natural jump park!

We finished the ride by rolling into Ainsa for a beer. WHAT a day!

Day 3 – Guara

We stayed in a really cool, painfully picturesque hostel for one night to be near the gorgeous bedrock of Guara. Another epic day’s uplifted riding featuring steep rocky switchbacks and endless bedrock with multiple lines…

Ed also held a couple of skills sessions, on rocky chutes, switchbacks and the dreaded ‘Eurohop’.

Beautiful digs for the night

Admiring a truly stunning view as the sunshine hit the autumn tree filled valley, and girding my loins for a day of switchbacks, rocks, chutes and uplift. (Photo courtesy of S.B.)

Another day another summit unload

The camera really doesn’t do this view justice etc etc.

Doug rented the local town hall and gardens for lunch and a skills session

Bedrock

Ed coaching a seemingly impossible rock garden. Impossible no more!

More bedrock perfection – Jumpy!

Spot the Spanish hilltop town

Great Rock on a great rock

From here – onto Day 4 – Spanish Utah

Don’t think I need to say anything – just look at the pictures!

Nial shredding Spanish Utah

Let’s hit it!

Doug snapping

Brraappp

Ed flying high

Convoy…

Gut-wrenchingly beautiful trail

Robbo on manoeuvres

…and again…

Nice! Kids eh?

Bikes parked in the ultimate bike park?

Dropping in… (nod to camera)

Trail perfection? Spoiled only by beardy Yorkie bloke.

Nial recording the return of the 3 amigos

Son films father

Trail’s end

Days 5 and 6 were spent heading west and showing the guests the jewels in the crown of Basque singletrack – first the great Blue Pill, and finally ending the week with a day hitting uplifted singletrack on Jaizkibel with awesome sea views to San Sebastian and Biarritz. A great way to end the journey. These final 2 days allowed the guys to sample the very best of our regular trails and also to sample the unique Basque food and culture.

A gratuitous shot of me on top of Jaizkibel with my beloved TR250. This was the trail we hit on the last day, and I did guide on that bike though:)

The atmospheric closing dinner at a high class Sideriola (?) restaurant was truly a memorable way to end the week. Good food, entertaining banter, limitless cider. Great, great trip :)

To book up your place on the next trip talk to Doug or Ed here:

http://www.basquemtb.com/mountain-bike-tours-spain/spanish-pyrenees-mountain-bike-tour/

http://www.great-rock.co.uk/courses/backcountry-pyrenees-trip/

Montage by Ed of the whole team at the top of the last run of the last day! Do you think Nial likes the TR250??

What’s in the pack?

Well, since you ask…

3 spare tubes

First aid kit (comprehensive, inc insulation blanket, tweezers, scissors, various dressings, plasters, wound wash etc.)

Knee and elbow pads

Sun cream

Wallet/Money/ID

Spare contact lenses

Phone

Camera

Spare mech hangers for all my bikes

Tie wraps

Mech hanger bolts

Short length of chain

Gaffer tape (wrapped round pump)

Toilet paper (never used, but you never know!)

Pump

Puncture repair kit (tubes)

Tubeless patch kit

Tubeless repair kit (sticky string)

Multitool

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Topeak tool with loads of bits. (It was annoying at first till I discovered the sides popped off to reveal tyre levers, spoke keys and the handle of the chain tool)

Set of Torx wrenches

Compass

GPS (Garmin eTrex 30)

Spare Batteries

Chain oil

Map

Knife

Leatherman

Energy bars x 3

CO2 inflator

Spare CO2

V brake cable

Shifter cable and outer

Spoke key

Mavic spoke key

Brake pads for all my bikes

8, 9 and 10 speed quick links

Tyre levers

Mavic GoreTex rain jacket

Extra layer of clothing

Not forgetting 3 litres of water! No wonder it weighs a ton!

Are those any good?

Many times Doug and I get asked about our gear and asked what’s good and what’s not. So here’s a quick review of the gear I’ve been using this year, and a quick answer to that question!

Some gear, a bike and a van. All you need in life…

Evoc Freeride 30

This pack was bought specifically for the trip. And I have to say it’s been great. I wasn’t looking forward to wearing a pack weighing 8kg all in, but once on the bike I can honestly say I don’t notice it.

It features a great separate tool section, a separate waterproof jacket pocket, another pocket with a built in rain cover and a generous main compartment. It has an easily accesible bladder compartment which also houses a removable back protector (which I left in at all times!)

Evoc pack

Back protector and bladder pouch

Rain jacket in separate pocket – great for keeping other kit dry

Tool section. Aka Ian’s bike shop…

Is it any good?

Yes! Highly recommended for epic trips or guiding where you need all that extra gear. It’s very comfortable and I can fit in all the tools and spares I need, plus a decent sized first aid kit, energy bars, wallet/phone and my knee and elbow pads (and a bocata). I haven’t used the Evoc bladder though as I found it hard to get a decent flow of water through the bite valve, but that may be just me… I’ve been using my trusty 3 litre Camelbak bladder that fits just fine.

http://www.evocsports.com/de/bike/protector-backpacks/fr-tour.html

Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet

OK they look a little odd, and I wasn’t sure about it when I bought it, but this helmet has been a great find. Very light, extremely comfortable, and offering great protection. And I now think it looks pretty cool too.

The only downside is it can be a little warm if you’re not actually moving, but the wicking liner and air vents keep you cool when you’re rolling. Having said that it’s never been too hot, even out here where the temperatures have been up in the 30s, and now the season’s changing a bit of warmth won’t go amiss…

One of the big advantages I reckon is the lack of any internal parts to break or wear out. My Giro Xar wore out pretty quickly due to the constant use and taking on and off. I’ve given it a couple of head/rock interface tests and I can attest the strength is good. It’s taken knocks that would have written off the Xar…

Endur-O-Matic and shades. This year’s look!

Stood up well

Mmmm Comfy

Is it any good?

Yes – recommended without reservation unless doing a lot of climbing in the tropics!

http://www.urgebike.com/en/urbain/enduromatic

Shoes – Am41 v Sam Hill

I brought 2 pairs of 5-Tens with me and one pair of Shimano AM41s. The Shimanos have won hands down. I probably wear the AMs 10 times for every one occasion where I wear the 5-Tens… You can probably tell this from the photos! The AM41s were almost new when I came out!

Why? Well comfort really. The AM41s feel like your favourite slippers, and while the 5-Tens may have a little bit more grip, it’s not really that noticeable on the trails we’ve mainly been riding (no giant road-gaps or gassing to flat) which are technical enough for most people. They are lighter and nicer to walk in too.

Where the 5-Tens win is on protection. I generally wear them on faster super rocky terrain where it’s easy to catch your your foot on an unforgiving boulder. And it frikkin hurts! Everywhere else the Shimano wins. They even dry out quicker!

Rather tired AM41s. I reckon they’ll last the final month. Just

Much fresher 5-Tens. Still a good shoe, but a bit heavy and less comfy for pedally trails.

Are they any good?

Both shoes are a great product, but unless you really are a downhill racer, do yourself a favour and get the Shimano shoe.

http://www.madison.co.uk/productinfo.aspx?vertical=Cycling&tier1=Shoes+%26+Footwear&tier2=MTB+Shoes&catref=VARBAM41

http://fiveten.com/products/footwear-detail/28-impact-low

661 Comp gloves

I don’t think I’ll ever consider another glove. These are available for under a tenner from Chain Reaction and are comfy and reasonably hard wearing. I got 3 months from the first pair, although they pretty much fell apart. But for a tenner? Grippy, comfy and in a range of colours. What’s not to like?

I brought some other more expensive Alpine-Star gloves with me. I wore them once when my 661s were wet…

Available in a range of colours. They even match the bike perfectly! (OK garish colours are cheaper!)

Are they any good!

Yes! They’re 6 quid!

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=57611

Fox Launch Pads

I used to use Race Face hard pads that also covered the shin and forearm, but I invested in these Fox pads this year. Faultless, comfortable and protective.

I tend to wait until the first descent before putting them on, but then they tend to stay on for the rest of the day, regardless how much more climbing there is. I guess that tells you all you need to know about the comfort levels. I don’t even need to do the Enduro-trendy thing of slipping them down over my shins when pedalling back up…

Quick drying too!

Little and large. Elbow and knee.

…plus they fit in the pack as well…

Are they any good?

Yes – not cheap, but otherwise a great buy unless you’re getting into body-armour territory.

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=60809

Specialized Air Tool Comp

This is my 3rd track pump of the trip. And by far the best. The first I donated to the BasqueMTB van (a Joe Blow with a slightly dicky pressure gauge and less than grippy valve), the second I left behind in a Spanish town never to be seen again… (a bright orange German thing, difficult to leave behind with such a bright colour).

Ok so a track pump is a track pump? 4 good things about this one:

1    The head fits both types of valve with no fiddling, first time and stays on

2   It has a high volume so pumps from flat really quickly

3   The pressure gauge is huge and easy to read

4   Available in a range of funky colours

Sold!

Is it any good?

Yes!

Cracking pump Gromit

Even I can read this gauge!

Decathlon Cheapo Isotonic Drink Powder

Use it! Dirt cheap and just as effective as more expensive brands. Halve the dosage – one scoop per typical sports bottle (500ml)

Decathlon’s finest

Van and bike rack and fork-ups

Lots of people have commented on the van and the 5 bike setup in the back. It’s worked really well, and while it may not suit high speed shuttling uplifts due to taking a  minute or two to set up each bike, it’s a great way of transporting 5 bikes with no risk of bumping and grinding and subsequent damage.

The rearmost rack is a Delta unit, sourced from James at my local bike shop, Pedal Heaven in Fleet. The 2 bike rack at the other end is the old roof rack off my Clio! The Delta rack easy to fit as it just expands and wedges itself against each side of the van. But I also screwed it down.

Fork-ups are required for 15mm and 20mm axled bikes. these are very expensive for what they are (£40), so I have my good friend Alex knock up something similar in Green for a tenner each! :)

My lovely van :) I’ll be keeping it!

The Delta bike rack from Pedal Heaven (and a bolt I need to go and put back in the Transition!)

£40

£10

Happy to take any questions on any of the gear featured here or any other bits you may have noticed!