Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: Osprey Talon 6 Lumbar Pack - 2017.

Upper Mustang, Nepal. A great testing ground for the new Talon 6.

I'm a big fan of Osprey products. I've used their packs extensively for a long time; The Atmos 35 has been my go-to travel pack for everything in the last six or seven years.
And with good reason; the build quality, comfort, and durability, are as good as it gets.
So when I received the latest version of the Talon 6 Lumbar Pack to test during my recent trip to Nepal I was pretty excited.

Osprey Talon 6 Lumbar Pack.
I've been using an older Talon 8 for running, hiking, and mountainbiking, for a good few years now and it's been faultless. I did feel that it was sometimes a bit too voluminous so the smaller 6 litre version should be more user friendly. Let's see how it stacks up.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

An Unexpected Twist.

Nepal was as beautiful as ever :)

I've barely given my bike a cursory glance in the last two weeks let alone climbed aboard. Firstly I haven't been particularly interested in doing so, and secondly I've been rather busy; much busier than I planned to be.

Landing at Manchester Airport on a fine Sunday morning after ten weeks in Nepal was surprisingly less traumatic than expected. It wasn't particularly cold; I had been expecting Siberian level chills.
A cancelled train to Manchester Piccadilly saw me hopping onto a rather posh coach; far too posh for a vagrant like me I'd say. And then my delightful connection on The Trans-Pennine route took me through the heart of the Peak District National Park and onwards to gritty Sheffield. From Sheffield I tootled towards home on the East Midlands Trains service to Alfreton. On the way I called my Dad to let him know that I was on time, which took him by considerable surprise - he was expecting me to arrive three days later.
On the Monday I went, with my mate Mad Dave Martin, to have a look-see at some local woodland that was due to be sold at auction.
On the Tuesday we bought it.

I had absolutely no idea when I returned from Nepal that I was about to become joint owner of a six and a half acre wood.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Daring Deed indeed.

The stunning Rara Lake in Western Nepal.
Because I have been quite lazy of late I thought I should probably post a little update. I am in the process of writing several pieces for the blog. At least one covering some of my extended visit to Nepal and another one with some very exciting news to share.
Watch this space.

I have written a couple of pieces for Alpkit's Daring Deeds section. The first was a preview of my recent trip to Nepal...

...and the second is a travelogue of our time exploring the area around the rarely visited Rara Lake National Park in the Wild West (just click on the links).

A curious couple and a curious cottage - Western Nepal.

It's not much of a blog post but there is plenty to come over the next few weeks as I get caught up.

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Thank you for looking, see you soon.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Yak Attack 2016 - The Prologue.

It's that time of year again where I cast my net over the entry list for the worlds highest mountainbike race and offer up a few predictions on the unpredictable outcome of this epic race.
The 2016 event is definitely the race of the year.
It's the Tenth Anniversary of "The Showdown in the Annapurna's" and it's all set to be a very special edition of this already legendary sufferfest.
It's also about to carve its way through the stunning Upper Mustang Region (for the first and possibly only time ever) with no less than 17 mountain pass's over 3500m and the almighty Thorong La at 5416m.
It may be shorter in distance this year at just 350km but the bite is undeniably worse than the bark. Grrr.

The front end of the mens pack is a snarling pride of stage-race lions.
It's going to be a true Clash of the Titans this year, the most competitive Yak Attack ever.
Could this be the year that see's an end to the Nepali domination of the top spot? Let's take a look...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

And now the end is near...

I've done my last day at work for a while. It's a strange feeling to walk away from a place that you've really enjoyed being at, knowing that you won't return. 
Two and half years ago I got a phone call for a short term project - "Three weeks work, four at the most". I'd worked there a couple of times before and was familiar with the people and familiar with the drill. I didn't anticipate two and a half years to be honest, but I've loved it for the most part.
Progress, however, means that I won't return; production is moving out to the far east - Vietnam - and the south east - Essex. The world keeps turning. That's life.
It has provided me with a decent income and plenty of flexibility to pursue my passions.
Today I fly to Nepal for ten-plus weeks. It's been worth it. I'll miss the people, some of whom I consider to be good friends and not just colleagues, but we'll meet again.
People, friends, characters.
You can travel all around the world and see the most amazing things but you will always remember the special people more than anything else. The memories you make in life are almost always connected to people. I like people.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

First look: Planet X Super Deluxe Bike Bag

Planet X and On-One are a well established direct-sell company with a decent reputation for well priced products.
Today I picked up one of their Super Deluxe Bike Bags (£89.00) for my upcoming trip to Nepal.
With a meagre 23kg luggage allowance I was in need of a lighter weight bag instead of my trusted Evoc Bike Travel Bag (which weighs in at a hefty 9kg).

I spoke to Planet X before travelling to confirm that the stated weight was indeed "just over 5kg" and was told that it was "virtually nothing". 5.01kg was the answer I got. This was important to me.
So when I arrived home I popped it on the scales. Guess what? 5.9kg, that's 890gms more than I was told. In my book that's just under 6kg not "just over 5kg".
Bad start, don't lie to your customers.
After removing the unnecessary shoulder strap (it's a wheeled bag after all), a pointless small accessory pouch, and the padded wheel bags, it weighed in at 4.5kgs. Much better.

Aside from that my first impressions of the product are reasonably favourable.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How to: Hike-a-Bike Thorong La, Annapurna - Yak Attack.

Other than "Which bike?" and "How to train?" the question I get asked the most about Yak Attack is how I carry my bike over Thorong La.
I have written a few times previously that my preferred method for this most testing of stages is to porter my bike attached to a rucksack.
In past years I used an Osprey Atmos 35, this year I'll be using and testing the 2017 model Osprey Stratos 34 (release date is February 2017).

Partner announcement: Osprey Europe.

I'm delighted to be able to announce that Osprey Europe are once again partnering me with some product support.
I will be testing two new products during my Autumn 2016 trip to Nepal.
The Stratos 34 Rucksack and The Talon 6 Lumbar Pack (both due for release in February 2017).
I have been using and recommending Osprey Packs for many years (as a paying customer).
My Atmos 35 Rucksack (review here) has done thousands of miles around the world; sadly this has now been discontinued from their product range. I looked at suitable alternatives and The Stratos 34 is very similar. Likewise my trusted Talon 8 Lumbar Pack (review here), which has also done thousands of miles of trail running and mountain biking, hasn't been available for some time due to a streamlining of the range which saw the Talon 4 and Talon 8 usurped by the current 6 litre model.
Thankfully they were happy to supply me with one of each to test and review so that I can continue to recommend a current product to my readers. If they are up to the job (or not) you will see an in-depth review on my return in December. First impressions and early use suggest that Osprey have hit the ground running as usual. I'm dead impressed so far.

My first YouTube video - Welcome to Chase The Rainbow.

I posted my first video on YouTube. It's crap, but it's a start :)
I'm a one-take wonder. One day I'll learn how to edit and stuff.
Damn, I look an old git on camera :D

You can also follow Chase The Rainbow here:

Thank you for looking, see you soon.
Please don't forget to Like, Share, and Comment, if you enjoyed it :)

Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

News: Tour of the Dragon - Bhutan.

The results are in for this years 7th Tour of the Dragon in Bhutan.
An epic one-day mountainbike race in The Himalayan kingdom that covers a daunting 268kms with over 4000m of ascent, and four high pass's - Kiki La 2870m - Yotong La 3430m - Pele La 3430m - and Dochu La at 3150m.

The top three positions in the mens field were all scooped up by Yak Attack racers. That bodes well for an epic scrap come November when they will all be toeing the line for this years 10th anniversary edition in Nepal.

Canada's National Champion - Cory Wallace - took the top honour in commanding style with a 37m 54s lead over nearest rival Rajkumar Shreshta (Nepal) followed by Roan Tamang (Nepal) a further 17m 25s back.

The racers were faced with appalling conditions for the first 150kms. 
In Cory's own words: "Unforgettable day racing in Bhutan today. Thick disgusting mud for the first 150km, monsoon rain, then some epic climbs with a destroyed bike to finish the day. Top 5 hardest rides of all time in my book".
I think that says it all.

Results from TotD facebook page:

7th ToD winners- Men Category.

1st Cory Wallace (Canada)- 13 hrs 2 min 5 sec.
2nd Rajkumar Shrestha (Nepal)- 13 hrs 39 min 59 sec.
3rd Buddhi Bdr. Tamang (Nepal)- 13 hrs 57 min 34 sec.

Women category
All the women did not cross the the 4th pass (Dochula) before the cut off time.

Riders preparing to start at 04.00am local time.
Canada's Cory Wallace crossing the finish line after an epic days racing.

You can also follow Chase The Rainbow here:

Thank you for looking, see you soon.
Please don't forget to Like, Share, and Comment, if you enjoyed it :)

Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bargain cycling tour in Nepal!

Here's something for anyone fancying a trip to Nepal this Autumn.
My friends at Himalayan Singletrack have some late deals with a whopping 15% discount on offer.
Jenny Caunt and Santosh Rai operate one of the longest establish and most respected Mountainbike tour company's in Nepal.
This is a great opportunity to ride with them and see some of the amazing trails and sights that Nepal has to offer.
If you're lucky you might even be guided by Aayman Tamang, one of Nepal's elite international mountainbike racers. (You might even bump into me, now wouldn't that be a treat! :D)

Follow the links below to contact them for more details.

You can read all about them here:

You can also follow Chase The Rainbow here:

Thank you for looking, see you soon.
Please don't forget to Like, Share, and Comment, if you enjoyed it :)

Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Yak Attack and Stage Racing. What bike?

© The penny farthing by Peter Jackson. 

I'm often asked by potential racer's what bike I consider most suitable for Yak Attack.
Hardtail or full-suspension? Aluminium, carbon, titanium? etc.
So I thought I'd give a few thoughts on the matter.

First of all, if you are thinking about taking on The Yak Attack then just do it.
Anyone can do it. It is considered extreme and that is a fair tag but it's not so extreme that it's unattainable for most people. If I can do it so can anyone else.
You will need to have a reasonable level of fitness and bike handling skills but you certainly don't need to be anywhere near elite level to take part in, and enjoy, the adventure. The most important ingredient to finishing Yak Attack is grit.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The best laid plans... #DestinationUnknown

My life is a series of best laid plans, some of which magically materialise, and some of which don't. It's always life itself of course that dictates the direction and flow of my best laid plans.
This year for example I had to cancel my attempt at the Tour Divide Race in America because of the change of circumstance in my living arrangements (it was a timing issue rather than a homeless issue). This lead on to plans for an impromptu bicycle tour and an ultramarathon which were then partially dissolved by the opportunity to go to Nepal again.
See what happens? Life is fluid, so I go with the flow.

And so... This is where I'm currently at, and this is the plan...
I fly to Kathmandu at the end of September for a jolly old adventure of ten weeks. Ten whole weeks of dossing around, riding my bike, and making a nuisance of myself.
It's a very good job that it's cheaper to be in Nepal than it is to be at home.
I plan to have a couple of days in Kathmandu, recovering from the rigours of long haul travel, meeting up with friends, and sorting out permits.
I then plan on heading for the Annapurna circuit and The Upper Mustang region (so long as I don't get lost again, see here) to recce the new Yak Attack route, 
I might then head for the lakeside city of Pokhara for some R&R. I haven't spent much time in Pokhara and I'd like to get to know the area a little more. Also it has considerably less air pollution than Kathmandu and I'd like to avoid the dastardly "Kathmandu Cough" before Yak Attack heads out of town.
I then plan to cycle circuitously to Kathmandu for the race registration and stuff.
Yak Attack will be all encompassing for about three weeks and I'll hang in KTM for a few days after the race until everyone has departed.
I might then hatch a plan to cycle to Chitwan for a week or two. They have elephant and rhinoceros in Chitwan. I have met elephant and rhinoceros before but I've haven't met them in Chitwan.
That's a lot of plans. A lot of plans that might get unplanned and replanned into other plans. Who knows man? I'll just float with the tide and see where it washes me up. A man with a flexible plan :)

The Elephant Patrol
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Please don't forget to Like, Share, and Comment, if you enjoyed it :)

Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.

Friday, August 5, 2016

#DestinationUnknown - Independent Short-Haul Travel - Packing and the Pitfalls.

My son Dan in Luang Prabang, Laos; proving you can travel anywhere with 35 litres.

So now that we've booked our impromptu flight, sorted out some cheap accommodation, and figured out how to transfer from the airport it's time to look at how we're going to pack efficiently.

I'm going to look at suitable packs, the type of clothing that is best suited to travelling, essential items that are worth considering, and the sort of shit that you might be tempted to carry but shouldn't!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dear Diary... Nepal and other things.

I'd say life is definitely out there... you just need to go find it :)

I'm in a period of limbo currently.
This has allowed me to spend a lot of time day-dreaming and procrastinating; it's the perfect excuse for a dreamer such as I.
I really do have to make some solid lifestyle decisions at some point very soon.
I have made one solid decision recently. I have booked my flights for a 10 week trip to Nepal. Not exactly a solid lifestyle decision of course but it does allow me the grace to defer any real decisions until a later date. I'm hopeful that my current contract will take me right up to my departure at the end of September.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Newsflash: Yak Attack 2016.

The big news out this week, from Race Director Phil Evans, is the release of the new stage details for this years 10th Anniversary Yak Attack,
The rather appropriate tagline for the showdown in The Annapurna's is "Into the Forbidden Kingdom", reflecting the momentous decision to take the race high into the remote Upper Mustang region of Nepal.

10 stages. 350km. 15000m of ascent, and 17 mountain passes above 3600m. The high point, as usual, is the mighty Thorong La at 5416 breathtaking (literally) metres above sea level.

That's right - 17 passes above 3600m.

I'm going to stick my head above the parapet here and suggest that this years edition is probably the hardest mountain bike stage race on the planet in 2016; surpassing even the legendary IronBike for brutality.

Entries currently stand at 74 riders. A figure almost as astonishing as the race stats themselves.
I hope that the race can continue to have a grassroots family feel to it even with the elevated number of entrants this year.

There are plenty of familiar faces returning for second, third, fourth, or more bites at this indomitable cherry.
There is the welcome return to the fold of high profile elites this year including Cory Wallace (Canada), Yuki Ikeda (Japan), and Sonya Ewonus - nee Looney (USA).
Other returnee's include such lovely people as Steve Edwards, Wendy Lyall, Brian Sweat, Paul Cooper, Zoltan Keller, Tania Tryhorn, Sonam Drukpa, Matt Rousu, Pete McCutcheon, Zbigniew Wizner,  and Tetsuo Shimoda.
My very dear friend and great adversary Tyler McMahon returns again for his record (for an international rider) fifth consecutive race. 
Nepal's great ambassador, role model, six-times National Champion, and five-times winner of Yak Attack, Ajay Pandit Chhetri will of course continue his unmatched and incredible run of having raced in every single edition.

I'm really looking forward to seeing plenty of my old friends, and meeting plenty of new ones too.
Did I forget to mention that I'll be there too? :D
I'm assisting Phil with officiating the race again this year and I can't wait. so much so that I'll be off out to Nepal at the end of September. Keep an eye out for my dispatches before, during, and after, the event.

In the next couple of months I'll be researching all of the riders and I will post my, now annual, prologue, discussing the likely movers and shakers, and highlighting one or two people to look out for.
If any riders wish to contact me with a few details I would appreciate it very much. The best way is via the Chase the Rainbow Facebook page.

Please consider giving your support to NCRR - Nepal Cyclists Ride to Rescue.

You can also follow Yak Attack here:

All of the details for this years event can be found here

You can also follow Chase The Rainbow here:

Thank you for looking.
Please don't forget to Like, Share, and Comment, if you enjoyed it :)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Neil's Mountain Bike Indispensables.

I've spent a lot of money over the years on Mountain Bike kit and components. Not all of it proved a wise investment. I bought a few turkeys in my time, so I've put together a little list of the things that I have found to be indispensable in recent years. I appreciate that many of them are quite high-end products but for me it is value for money that counts and everything here has proven itself over and over again for bombproof long-term reliability. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

#DestinationUnknown - Independent Short-Haul Travel - Transfers & Accommodation Choices.

A homestay in Padang, Sumatra, not exactly slumming it.

OK, so we've booked our bargain flight with a budget airline (if not see here), what next?
Selecting an accommodation choice in a handy location and figuring out how to get there from the airport.
A lot depends on your budget, if you are solo or in a small group, how independent you really want to be, and whether you want a sociable or private environment.

The first question to ask yourself whilst hovering the mouse over that nice 4 Star hotel room is this: "How long will I actually spend in my room?" It's a simple enough question with a simple answer - not very long. The reality is that most of us need somewhere clean to stash our pack, take a shower, and sleep. The remainder of our time will hopefully be spent discovering our chosen destination. You can travel an awfully long way, for an awfully long time, on a very modest budget, if you're ready to forsake unnecessary luxury. I'm not saying that you should go for the cheapest out-of-the-way fleapit you can find but to be mindful of the available options and maybe select something that will offer you greater value for your money.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Longest Day - Ultra Tour of The Peak District

A great big inflatable elephant!

A couple of years ago Mitch Bryan and I went through a spell of running Ultra-Marathons which culminated in the successful completion of The UTPD - Ultra Tour of the Peak District - 60 miles (100km) event. To your average man (or woman) on the street this seems inconceivable, when we set out to do it it seemed almost that way to us too.
Both of us intended to continue to do other similar events, in fact we had our eye on the big prize - a 100 miler, but for various reasons we got distracted.
What may surprise you the most, as it did me, was that it wasn't actually as hard as I thought would be.
I'll quantify that rather bold statement. Running 60 miles in half day is very hard, it's just that I expected it to be brutally hard.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Review: Alpkit Bikepacking Luggage.

Over the last ten years or so there has been a growing trend (or sub-culture) in cycling for Bikepacking.
(I have added a few useful links at the bottom if you are interested).

If you're not familiar with Bikepacking then it's a bit like off-road bicycle touring encompassing anything from an overnight adventure with a bivvy, multi-day (or multi-week) racing like The Tour Divide, right through to global adventure travel. The great thing about Bikepacking is that it can take you as far, or near, from the beaten path as you desire. It has developed alongside the desire to have these adventures.

Pioneering routes like The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route or The Israel Bike Trail have given more mountain bikers a thirst for just such an adventure.

Hand-in- hand with its growing popularity are a bunch of companies innovating solutions to packing gear on a mountain bike. The age old practice of fitting pannier racks on a cycle tourer just doesn't work on a mountain bike.

This is where the likes of Alpkit, and others, have stepped up to the plate and filled in the gaps.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A tale of three cities. Friends, football, and a beautiful girl. The Netherlands.

Shameless travel selfie with my son Dan.
Finally we seem to have left the shadow of winter behind. It has felt like a long time since I felt the sleepy caress of a warm breeze on my face. Here in the UK we seem to have skipped a season this year and lurched from winter to summer in the blink of an eye. From the grip of cold Siberian northerlies to an overnight heatwave. And it is very welcome.
It must have felt even longer for most than I. I spent most of the dreary late autumn and early winter riding dusty singletrack in Nepal, returning only in time for the Christmas festivities; and enjoyed a winter break in Israel, in the fine company of my friend Yoram Hen, doing much the same.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

#DestinationUnknown - Independent short-haul travel - getting started.

It's surprising, in the age of the budget airline, how many people find the prospect of independent travel a slightly scary undertaking, overwhelming even. The seasoned traveller may not benefit a great deal from much of my advice, but many people still travel under the comfort blanket of prearranged packages and it is they whom I hope to inspire. Package holidays aren't a bad thing and can often be almost as cheap as a decent flight to long-haul destinations, Thailand from the UK is a good example of this, but if you'd like to get out there and explore more with some shorter breaks then hopefully you might find this useful.
I'm not an industry travel "expert" but I do have plenty of experience, I've visited in excess of thirty countries predominantly as an independent traveller, and I have made plenty of mistakes along the way. This isn't going to be one of those silly "Tourist v Traveller" things either. We are all, by definition, tourists.
With this series of blogs I'm going to attempt to dispel a few myths and, hopefully, open up a little world of opportunities for you to go and explore.
Over the next few weeks and months I will be writing about how to get started, how to avoid a few of the common pitfalls, and hopefully encourage at least a few of you to take that step into the unknown. Once you've made that first step you may be surprised at how empowered it can make you feel and the freedom that it brings.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Destination Unknown. A little road trip in the making.

My new project, a bargain basement hybrid for a budget bike tour.
In recent weeks I've had my eye on bargain basement hybrid bike for commuting, during which time a spark of an idea has been forming in my mind.
Given that I've had to defer my Tour Divide attempt until another time I've been musing over other adventures.
I'm also embarking on a little side project that I am tentatively calling #DestinationUnknown (or maybe #NewHorizons) in which I'm trying to encourage the ordinary holidaymaker to embrace independent travel and try a little adventure of their own.

As a consequence of that I have bought said bike with the idea to show that it's perfectly possible to do a budget bicycle tour on a £200 (ish) bike, and to share the planning and the journey with you.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Fabulous Fatty!

Phwoar! Check out this beauty. 
The new Alpkit Vir Fortis Adventure Fatbike.
I spotted one finished up in the final build over at the Alpkit showroom the other day
It's a beautiful beast! I think I want one :P
It's definitely gone on to the "Most Wanted" list. 

Take a look at it here

Don't forget to like, share, comment, or follow us on the social media links in the sidebars if you enjoy what we do.
Thanks for looking :)

Friday, April 29, 2016

A leap of faith. Destination Unknown.

Image Copyright Yoram Hen.

With this years Tour Divide attempt on the rocks I'm finding myself at a bit of a loose end and wondering what to do about it.
Of course I always have a long list of adventures simmering in the back of my mind and new ones get added all the time, so what to do?
It's also possible that I have reached a cross-roads in my life and there's no time like the present (is there?). I have some big decisions to make, or not. Do I maintain the status-quo and continue as is? I like my current lifestyle very much. Or do I begin a whole new adventure? I'm a little excited at the prospect of a new direction. I'm also quite scared by it.
Firstly I have the time consuming process of moving house to get through over the next few months so I'm fairly restricted by that, and my working life will be pretty chaotic until September. The compulsion to rush off on something big has to be temporarily tempered; something I'm not very good at. (I am, however, very good at procrastinating).
I have a few ideas swirling around in the back of my head for later in the year, maybe, and I'll just have to decide which one is most practical (or more likely which one is most fanciful).
My long-list contains such frivolous things as a bicycle tour through Central America, an exploration of The Azores (now that the budget airlines are flying there), a (bicycle) road trip through Holland, Denmark, and Sweden, and a particularly ambitious adventure taking in Ascension Island, St Helena, and Cape Town, involving a military flight from RAF Brize Norton and a short voyage on a Royal Mail ship; these however are unlikely to come in under budget.

Instead I'm going to try and spend a little spare time doing something I find equally as rewarding; and that is to try and inspire others to travel a little differently. Something akin to Alistair Humphreys' "Microadventures" project (but perhaps not quite as successfully).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pop goes the bubble.

Where to begin...?
I'm feeling a bit deflated right now.
Firstly, for a few reasons, I have had to make the unbearably difficult decision to defer my Tour Divide attempt until next year or possibly even 2018. Currently, in my head, I'm aiming for next year but that can only be decided over the next few months.
Primarily because I've got to move house pretty much right in the middle of what would have been my 2016 Tour Divide race. This has been on the cards, as a possibility, for a couple of years but this week, unfortunately, it has become a reality. I could maybe go out and just do the race but I want it to be part of a bigger adventure and I don't really want to be under pressure with difficult time constraints. I want to enjoy the adventure.
I've invested too much financially, physically, and emotionally not to do it.
Of course it's not the end of the world, life throws curve-balls at us all the time and you have to roll with it, it just feels like a bit of a weight right now.
But it's also exciting in other ways; as one door closes and all that stuff. The last time I reached a cross roads in my life I ended up living in France for the best part of two years managing a fishery complex, so hey-ho. My current work contract runs until September and maybe I'll go off on a different adventure after that? Who knows? The next few months are an uncertain time for me but getting stressed out about it won't change it or make it any easier. The world keeps turning and I'll keep on chasing the rainbow.

Stick around and we'll share the journey together :)

The Tour Divide is a fantastic race. This year see's quite a few British riders taking part. 
Alpkiteers Tom (11 years old) and Rich Seipps are doing it on a tandem and speed demon Guy Martin is also taking part, amongst others.

You will be able to follow their live progress from friday 10th of June using the link below.

Tour Divide Live Tracking

Friday, April 22, 2016

First look: Alpkit Hooped Bivvy-Bag (prototype).

Some time ago I had a chat with Nick at Alpkit about the possibility of adapting one of their Hunka Bivvy bags in to an ultralite hooped bivvy for The Tour Divide.
After a little brainstorming session Nick went away to work on something for me.
This is the result. It's the first working prototype of, I believe, a potential production model. I hope I haven't jumped the gun here and let the cat out of the bag.
I've christened her "Little Nellie".

Nick pretty much nailed it first go.
Mitch Bryan and I will be doing some CO2 testing on it for safety purposes (breathability) and then I'll take it out in the field and see how I get on with it. It's a new laminate material and Nick seems pretty excited about it.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Long Term Review: Pivot LES 29er.

Pivot LES 29" Carbon Hardtail.

I've had my LES for about a year and for the most part it is a fantastic bike. I've ridden it an awful lot.
I rode it hard almost every day during 3.5 months in Nepal; including Yak Attack. I also used it for The Strathpuffer 24.
It does however have a couple of issues that need to be considered before you part with your hard earned cash. I'll come to these later.
It isn't cheap; £1600 for the frame only is a lot of money. These days you can still buy a pretty good full-build trail hardtail for that kind of cash.
For a full build you will be looking at somewhere between £2500 and £5000, that's a lot of money! Is it worth it?

It's very stiff and super responsive, and those big old 29" wagon wheels means that it climbs like a mountain goat. All of this is aided by the 12x142 bolt-thru rear end, 92mm BB housing and a huge downtube.
It also goes down hill in an impressive manner, in fact it is massive grin-inducing fun, and the harder you ride it the more it proves its capability. The very short chainstays keep it really snappy. The big wheels do require a more aggressive approach to cornering but I soon got used to that. On rough trails the chatter absorption of the carbon is a godsend. Dropper post compatibility is catered for with a 30.9mm seat tube.
I have the small - 16"- version and it is extremely comfortable for all day epics (and 24 hours races).
As a ride it is actually quite amazing, it's an extraordinarily capable machine.
I've run it with a 60mm stem, 120mm suspension fork, and a dropper seatpost, as a super capable trail weapon.
I've also run it with a 100mm stem and a rigid carbon fork and it's been a super comfortable endurance bikepacking machine.
It is definitely very versatile. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Israel - The Promised Land? Mad dogs, Englishmen, & Israeli's go out in the midday sun.

©Yoram Hen
Preconceptions, no matter how hard you try to resist them, are always very different from reality.
Israel is a country that gets a lot of press, that carries with it some political baggage, and some hefty misconceptions.
It is a country considered by many to be nothing more than a virtual desert wasteland.
It is also considered by many to be something of a war zone.
I was asked on more than one occasion why I was going there. 
As I was to find out during my trip it is far from either.

What I actually found was a safe, modern, vibrant, country with a pristine and diverse landscape.
A landscape that is cherished, invested in, and very clean. It is one of the cleanest countries I have had the pleasure to visit.
I met warm and welcoming people who were excited, and proud, to show me the best that their country has to offer, and it definitely has a lot to offer.
I even saw a wild tortoise! (wild in the free-roaming sense, not wild in the angry sense!). I'd never seen a tortoise in the wild before.

It is also remarkably accessible from The UK. My five hour flight from Manchester to Tel Aviv cost £180 return with easyJet, and a very reasonable £70 for my bike (which allowed up to 32kgs!).
A five hour flight, a two hour time difference, and visa-free entry,  makes it a very realistic option for a short (or long) winter break. I flew out on Thursday lunchtime, arrived in Tel Aviv around 7.00pm local time, enjoyed four fantastic days of mountain biking, and flew home on Monday evening. No jet lag, no hassles.

In the early part of last year I was introduced to Yoram Hen and his brother Michael, by mutual friends in Kathmandu, and we, in turn, became friends. He regaled me with tails of epic singletrack in his homeland.
In November I bumped in to him, once again, in Kathmandu, and he extended to me an invitation to go out and see them for myself. I was bewitched by his photographs and videos and so I took up the offer. I love to visit new destinations, I love to visit friends with my bike even more.
And it just so happens that my friend Yoram has an encyclopedic knowledge of Israels burgeoning trail network. How could I refuse?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The sticky side of Travel v's Politics v's Reality.

At the behest of a good friend I'm off to visit Israel soon for a few days. For the simple pleasure of riding my bicycle, in good company, in a spectacular environment.
When I posted this revelation on Facebook I was chastised by another friend for embracing a regime that oppresses some of its citizens. I hope I'm not embracing or condoning any government simply by visiting a country. If I chose all of my travel destinations based purely on politics I would have nowhere to go. In fact I would need to go and live in isolation on a desert island.
My friend has every right of course to air his grievances and I respect him for it. As an individual I also like and respect him very much.
Other friends have been aghast that I'm considering venturing in to what they believe to be a war zone. It isn't a war zone and it is just a safe/dangerous as anywhere else in the world.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Three Strikes. The Strathpuffer 2016.

Neil, Mitch Bryan, and Simon Owen with the all important race numbers!
Every year in Northern Scotland, in January, there takes place a remarkable event, The Strathpuffer 24; fondly known as The Puffer.

"The Puffer"; it's an endearing abbreviation, it makes it seem somehow cuddly. Don't be fooled!

In the UK it's the type of event that we might best describe as "character building".
It's an event that attracts a lot of characters, and a lot of people with character. As Winston Wolfe so profoundly put it in Pulp Fiction all those years ago "Just because you are a character doesn't mean you have character". The Puffer can help you solve that particular conundrum.
Fundamentally it's a 24 hour mountain bike race; nothing unusual in that, there are plenty of them on the calendar, there's even a World Championships. It has Solo, Pairs, Quads, and Team of Ten categories. The Solo's, quite rightly, attract the most attention; and the places sell out in less than five minutes every year!
What The Puffer has is 17 hours of darkness and the wild vagaries of Scottish winter weather; snow, ice, rain, sleet, hail, wind, and mud, (in varying permutations) along with trail conditions that destroy drive trains, chains, brake pads, bearings, tyres, clothing, skin, and spirit, with merciless impunity.
It is probably the hardest 24 hour race going. Any self respecting endurance racer should have this on their palmares.
It's the most fun you can have in January with your (many layers) of clothes on!
As far as I was concerned this was to be my third and final attempt at completing it, if I failed this time that would be it, I would accept defeat.