I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…


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Fatty wins the day: Pivot Twentyfour12

We had such a good time at Twentyfour12 last year that as soon as entries opened in December we signed up again.

JB and I agreed to put in an entry for 24 hour female pair and if a team presented itself nearer the time we’d jump on board. Her version of the whole malarkey is here

As the weekend approached we (or at least I) got more and more anxious about the Twentyfour12. Plus, we’ve got That Thing In The Summer (leTITS) which is actually (OH FUCK) next week. As we have actually trained for leTITS we agreed a plan for Twentyfour12 which was to look after ourselves, make sensible decisions and come away from it in one piece.

Cut to Saturday morning when JB knocked on the door, MrJB was faithful pitcrew again along with MrH. Once again a round the clock service was on offer and I happen to know that vast amounts of bacon had been bought.

We arrived, pitched the tent, parked the van, unloaded and signed on. It was windy, and cloudy with the odd scattered shower, but generally conditions were good and the ground was bone dry.
2017 / 2018

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Anyway. We signed on and I noted that we were the only ones in our category, we weren’t sure if it would stay that way, but without giving it much more thought, we collected our souvenir glasses and beer mats and sauntered back to camp.

Then we just waited.

The start was dead on 12pm and JB had called for the first lap, which was fine with me. We found a spot and cheered her on when she went by, then back to prepare for my go.

JB and I had decided that the fat bikes were the bikes of choice for the weekend. Mainly because we have no other bikes; my hard tail needs some work, as does JB’s Strumpet, both of whom performed ok last year, it has to be said, and it was us that let them down!

We didn’t know how long the laps were this year, the course was different to last, and so after about 40 minutes I saddled up and headed to transition to wait for JB and my go. I didn’t have long to wait – JB said “there’s nothing unrideable, the climb’s a ball-ache, you’ll be fine”. She’s never said that before and it been true, so I was sceptical as I pocketed the rider’s token and set off.

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I set off from transition slightly anxious but really just wanting to get on with it. Twisted through the campsite fields and out on to the course proper. A tight right hander, there was a line there but I didn’t see it until it was too late. Fortunately it didn’t matter a shit because my Fat bike, Fatty, saw the line and all I hadta do was pedal. Phew. “You might be useful today” I told him.

On a bit, and what the fuck is this?

A rocky 90* corner straight into a rooty drop off and onto a narrow bridge. “OOOoooooooooh fuuuuuuuuuucCKKK I said to Fatty as we popped out nicely on the other side of the bridge. “well done Fatty” – I’m not stupid or naive enough to think that was anything to do with my input… 🤔

We pottered on, and the course wove back on itself a couple of times, through the trees and alongside the river. I recognised one bit where I’d spent some time last year looking for my shoe when it came off in the knee deep mud. No such bother this time, a bit rooty and rocky but nothing too tricky and we were spat out at the foot of the climb.

While all this was going on fast lads and the odd fast lass went swooping by, mostly safely. And then holyhell what the fuck is this

A near vertical ramp coated in loose gravel. I said some choice words to JB in my head at this point: “the climb’s a ball-ache in-fuckin-deed” People were all off their bikes pushing, heads on saddles, wills to live long gone. I clattered Fatty into Granny gear and told him “We’ll just try and get to that tree” at about half way. We passed a couple of pushers, then another, and blow me, we made the almost top. Of course it kicked up again, what ever else would it do? We plodded on, past the motivation station blaring out the All The Choons, my timing was such that Doo Bop by Hanson was playing as I passed so that made me get a move on 😝

We were still climbing, but the gradient had eased a bit, replaced by some rooty, tree-stumpy bits. The next two miles were up, but a good mix of woods with roots, some good swoopy singletrack to mince along, fire trails and The Bomb Holes which were my favourite part this year, unlike last year when I was frightened about going into one and never being seen again.

The fat was just awesome: like a surefooted (fat) Dartmoor pony, he never put a tyre wrong. He forgave me all my shit lines, gripped the gravel on the climb when the carbon full sussers couldn’t, rolled over roots the size of my legs, absorbed all the holes, rocks and mistakes; I wouldn’t want to have been riding anything else. Folk were all keen to say how mad I was riding it, and how they wouldn’t want to be me (hahaha – No. They. Wouldn’t 😝) and had the novelty worn off yet – er, this isn’t my novelty bike, he’s just My Bike… I genuinely couldn’t understand it. Also, they called me buddy, and mate. I hadta check at one point that my pigtails hadn’t fallen off! 😳

Time then to start the descent back to transition and the handover to JB. I was knackered – the lap was only 6 miles but they were tough ones and there was no point where there was nothing to concentrate on, and I even struggled to find a gap for a drink! I was pleased we seemed to have decided on only doing one lap at a time.

Rolling down the Bit Before The Cottage Return my blood ran cold. It was this bit again, that I couldn’t ride and could barely walk last year. Fatty drifted right… and before I knew it he’d rolled right down the drop off’s AND kept enough speed to get out the bomb hole the other side! I almost went weeeeheeeee! Then the cottage return, I enjoyed this one last year and this year in the dry it was even better: just enough to keep you on your toes but nothing scary then spat out onto the field and round and about to transition. There was no one there!

I found JB at the tent, almost ready. She announced that she was going to do a double lap and disappeared into the drizzle and wind.

Oh yeah: the weather. There was some by now, a bit of drizzle and the wind was warm but strong.

I settled into the campervan and MrJB threw sausage rolls, pork pies and crisps at me, along with a piece of flapjack which was the best flapjack I have ever had. As I drank about 20 litres of water he gently persuaded me that a double lap was the best approach, although it was hard, it meant that we had double the sitting down time, and a 3 lap stint would be counterproductive as it was too hard.

Soon enough I glimpsed JB go by for her 2nd (3rd) lap and I knew I had about 40 minutes before I needed to go to transition. I started to think that MrJB was right, I was starting to feel human and ready to go again.

I shan’t bore you with lap by lap detail, we did doubles twice, they were tough and I deliberately backed off as much as I could, leTITS always in the back of my mind. JB reported the same, 2 laps was a big ask. When we handed over for what I had already decided were to be my last laps before I got some sleep, JB said she was done with the doubles and we’d revert to singles as and when we could. Fine with me.

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I had my light for the last of my doubles. Setting out at around 7:30pm I was pretty sure I was going to need them and I was right. The first lap was ok, but in the woods and whatnot it was definitely dimming and I had the light on for the majority of the second. I’d forgotten that I love riding in the dark, and actually, had the much promised yellow warning weather not arrived I’d have been very tempted out again. As it was, when I rolled into transition JB was waiting and said she wasn’t going out again. Protected out in the woods I hadn’t realised how heavy it was raining and how strong the wind had become. I was so relived. Now we could get a decent night’s sleep and regroup in the morning. Plus, with no one else in our category, the prize was in the bag.

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A bite to eat and we turned in. MrJB decided that he was going to bed down in his van, leaving JB and I on our camping mats in the tent. We put the Fats to bed, jammies on and earplugs in and went to…. Wait. No. There was no sleep. It was like lying in a crisp packet on a washing line. The wind was so strong you couldn’t hear the lashing of the rain. Luckily we knew it was there because the side of the tent slapped each of us soggily around the head with every strong gust.

We lay there and maybe lightly dozed until it was time for MrH and MrJB make us coffee. I switched on my phone and realised that I must have had some sleep as I’d missed a message from MrJB telling us how warm and cozy and comfy he was in his van. *sigh.

When we emerged from the tent the field was at least half as full as it was when we went to bed! WTF? CH (also there, riding a mixed pair combo with IC) said that she hadn’t seen a rider go around in the longest time. A bit of arsebooking and some head scratching and it emerged that because of Conditions the organisers had felt they had no option but to stop the race at around 7am. Trees were falling down in the Bluebell woods and they had to consider the safety of the marshalls and riders. The easy rolling, tinder dry rock hard campsite field looked like this:

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I had to try really hard not to cheer; even although we’d already decided that we weren’t going to ride again, because leTITS, at least this way, it was out of our hands.

We lined up for the podium presentation, went and collected our winners bag of shit, I mean prizes. Here’s JB reverting to type and trying to leggit with the loot:

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We said last year ‘never again’ but this year I think I mean it. The riding is really good, and it’s a great event, but the camping? Not so much. In an event like that you need to maximise your down time, and in those conditions a tent is not the place to comfortably do that. If I were to do it again though, I’d take Fatty. He was the real star of the show.

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Fatocks

When the message came through at 8 am on Saturday morning from JB that she was cancelling the Saturday Social ride because Conditions, I was a bit disappointed but on putting in my contact lenses it was clear she had made the right decision. The roads outside the house were sheet ice. Her counter offer was Quantocks on the FATs. I put on Normal Clothes and replied: no matter, I’ll potter up the towpath later when Conditions are better.

I didn’t want to go to the ‘Tocks cos I hate it there. We hafta go in the GFW (Great Fuckin’ Woods) and I always fall off or hafta take my bike for a long walk; but also cos The Others were going. The Others were Missy (twentyfour12 team mate), MrJB (who was on a top secret mission) and MrGotANewToy. They are SO much faster than me and I didn’t fancy a day of them always having to wait for me, and slogging my whossits off trying to keep up.

Then MrMegster said to man up, and so I changed my mind.

The new arrangements saw me collect JB and MrJB went ahead to collect Missy and MrGotANewToy. We arranged to meet them in the carpark, and JB and I decided that we would potter ahead if we got there first. They’d soon catch us up.

I shan’t bore you with the logistics, we got there, they got there, off we all went together. JB, MrJB, and I had our FATs, MrGotANewToy had his new FAT and Missy had her… I didn’t even get a chance to notice what Missy had.
Conditions, I may add were different to those at home. Conditions at home were mainly black ice on the roads. Conditions on the Quantocks consisted mainly of gusty freezing cold winds and freezing fog. Still, we had on all our clothes, nothing could go wrong.

As we set off from the carpark in to the fog, Missy appeared from nowhere alongside, murmured about ‘fuckin’ cold’ and pedalled off into the fog. This wasn’t the last time we saw her, but it nearly was.

When we got to the first ‘junction’ we pause-… Missy paused to let the rest of us catch up. There was a which way we gonnago type discussion and we all agreed. JB went for a quick whassaname behind a tree, I waited and the others went on. THAT was the last we saw of them.
When we got to the junction about half way down the hill we couldn’t decide if The Others had gone that way or not, so we decided fuckit and kept going. At the bottom, they weren’t there either.  So we climbed back up again, deciding fuckit – lets just do the ridge ride, at least this way we don’t have to go into the GFW. But we do hafta get back up this bastard hill. 450 feet in 1.2 miles with up to 12% in places, and we were back where we started.

The ridge ride is lovely. It’s about 7.5 miles from one end to the other, and then the same back again. There’s nothing technical, no roads, just undulating moorland trails, rooty tracks, some quite deep mud, and some rocky descents. I rode more of it on my FAT than I ever have my hard-tail – it’s made me an excellent rider you know ;-). Having said that, JB and I both got pitched off, almost at the same boggy bit. As I picked myself up, outta the bottom bracket deep mud I glanced up to see JB do the same. Well, that bit is obviously unrideable :-O.

With no one but ourselves to please, we stopped to take many, many pictures. The Quantocks were stunning. The freezing fog came out brilliant in the photos; no! Really, it did! There were loads of MTBers out, they all gave us a chirpy ‘hello’ and then a double take… You could see them thinkin’ ‘look at the size of them birds’ tyres’, but not being quite sure if it was ok to say it out loud!
We had our chocolate break at the far end of the ridge, took a couple more pics and u-turned for home, feeling pretty smug and actually enjoying the ‘Tocks. The hill we’d just descended looked steeper from the bottom than it had done at the top… but off we went, almost chirpily. It seemed to me that it was becoming harder than it ought to be, and JB  was beginning to scamper off into the fog…

A glance down explained it…. “bird….

Bird….

BIRD!!!!!”

When I caught her up, I explained why she’d been forced to stop in the -2°: Puncture. Well, it had all been going rather too well…

“Lets see if we can get to the next car park before we change the tube” JB suggested. We were about as far from anyone or thing as we could be at this point, and if we’d thought the fog was lifting we couldn’t have been wronger. I tiptoed on as far as I could but JB called a halt cos the tyre was close to coming off the rim. We were atop a hill and could see about 30 yards in any direction.  It was so fucking cold, but proved almost impossible to change the tube wearing gloves, let alone the two pairs I was wearing!  So we, sorry, JB set to work. She’s better at doing these things than me, cos she’s had more practice.

We found the thorn and used our special tools* to remove it.  Then we just had to pump up the new tube. The FAT runs on around 10 psi – shouldn’t take a jiffy should it, to get that pumped up? We took it in turns to pump the tyre for around 2 hours. Well, maybe 5 minutes. We had to take it in turns: a) to keep warm; 2) cos I forgot my (ahem) gas; and III) have you seen the size of a FAT inner tube? It’s pretty much an airbed.
Once on our way, the remaining ride was a doozy. We were back in half the time it took us to get out, mainly cos we were cold and there was far less twatting around (there was still some twatting around). Also coffee and cake awaited in the car…

The Others were gone by the time we got back. A later stalk on Strava showed they did 8 miles and around 850 feet of climbing. Not bad you say? We, the slow, did 15 miles and 1600 feet of climbing. I do know it’s not a competition, I do. But this still raised a fist pump on the way home. I am entirely at ease with being childish.

From a ride that nearly wasn’t, it turned into a brilliant day, again: Conditions were definitely far from ideal, and circumstances didn’t exactly all go in our favour, but it was such a good day, we’ve even said that we’ll go try the GFW next time. But on our own, when no one else is watching, and when no one can hear us scream.

*teeth

Photos are all JB’s, I take no credit for that part of the twatting around…


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FAT – Devon Dirt

I’ve had an excellent day.

A couple of weeks ago, JB asked me if I wanted to ride the Devon Dirt with her. I’d tentatively agreed to this a while ago, so readily agreed. Then she said she’d booked us in, and we were doing it on her and MrJB’s FAT bikes. Whoop! I’ve been secretly hanging for a proper go on the FAT for ages. She’d also agreed with the organiser (who she knows from Days Gone By) that we only had to ride the first half, to the lunch stop. 17 miles on the FATs – how hard could that be?

I was duly collected at 8am (well, 7:45am – we don’t do late), and we were off to Ashburton, the start was set for 9:30. At 8:45 we were parked, the bikes were unloaded and we had our helmets, camel-baks and arm warmers on. We were ready.

So we had a coffee, and then got ready again. 😉

We aimed for the back of the start pack, knowing we were slow, mainly due to our engines, but partly because the FATs take some effort on the tarmac uphills.

Once we were off there were a couple of miles of quiet Devon roads, and then a pile up. Well, not a proper pile up. But lots of ‘normal’ MTB-ers stalled at the start of the first trail, which had an exposed rock slope to go up. We let the way clear a bit, pointed the FATs upwards, found a nice low gear and we were off. How easy was this? I couldn’t believe it, the FAT just rolled up the difficult stuff, the only thing I had to do was pedal, the bike took care of everything else, amazing. I was baulked about 20 meters from the top of this first climb by someone tipping off sideways, clipped in. Were it not for that I’d have made the top, something I am pretty sure I couldn’t have done on my hardtail.

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This was the theme for the day, this bike surprised me time after time, it just rolls. It rolls over rocks, mud, puddles, steps… you name it. Where the track was rutted and the wheel caught the edge of the rut, which at best would have been a foot down on the hardtail, the FAT just rolled up it, no bother. Awesome.

The payoff for all this awesomeness is getting them uphill on roads, a small pice to pay (and I think, were I fit, it may not have been such a struggle)

The ride itself was everything I love. Green lanes and bridleways, linked by short road sections. Were I not completely bolloxed come the end, I’d have happily gone around again. Stravia says (and she never lies) we climbed just over 2,000ft in 17 miles, over a well signed and brilliant route.

And I wouldn’t have wanted to ride it with anyone else .