Teva Links (why did they stop making them?)

Teva Links - Purple

Here’s a oldie from my other blog…

Teva – please make these shoes again!!

Buying your first pair of flat shoes for mountain biking is a big decision. Some people stick with skate shoes and it works for them; some walking shoes – they provide a stiff sole and are waterproof. But if you are going to buy a pair of shoes designed for purpose you are going to spend upwards of £80 and you will need to be sure that they are right. Read some reviews, try them on in your local bike shop. There are many choices and many opinions. Here is my 2 year experience with a pair of TEVA Links in purple with Spider Rubber soles!

I wont deny part of my decision making process was they had to look good, who doesn’t look good in pair of purple shoes?

Teva Links x 4

I have been wearing the pair pictured for over 2 years on all sorts of rides and in all sorts of weather including snow and typically British heavy rain. They are not waterproof the mesh above the toes will let water in and of course being typical shoe (under the ankle) height water and puddles find a way in. So we wont labor on this point – buy some waterproof socks.

Teva Links

They look cool and the being of rubber and leather construction with stiff plastic elements they are easy to clean.  The stiff Spider365 Rubber sole doesn’t have the typical tacky feel of some other brands but the PedalLINK grip pattern has mated particularly well with both the DMR and SuperStar Nano pedals that I have used. The toe and heel sections of the underside has some addition grip patterns for off the bike and will help when you have to get off and push.

The ShocPad cushion in the heel provides additions comfort and shock absorption – it also means that even with stiff sole walking in the shoes is really comfortable.

The fit for my size 9 has been perfect and with 2 years of battering they still look great today, complete with a few battle scars.

I have recently bought another brand of shoes (a spare set rather than a replacement) but with some suede paneling I try to keep them for the drier conditions and the Links are my favored choice for the mud and wet conditions because they clean easier.

After 2 years the pins on my pedals have begun to tear at the grip patter in a few places and I have had 1 or 2 pedal slip moments – however I am of the opinion that  I will get another pair of Teva shoes though it looks like they don’t make them in purple any more.

Actually they don’t make them at all anymore :(

Muddy Teva Links

Wet Wiltshire Ride

Grovely Woods Wiltshire
Yeehaw!

While having a clear out of old MBR and MBUK magazine, my son and I cut out all the route guides and I “filed” them for future use. Spotting a ride in Wiltshire I immediately began to think of using it as a club ride. Some research into the area made what looked like a pleasant woodland ride into something a little more interesting so I pitched the ride and set about amending the route found in MBR to explore the woodland further.

I knew the map like the back of my hand. However, I had not been able to do a recce of the route, my summer holiday was coming and the day of the ride was looming closer. Much research had been put in to locate the infamous Handsel Trees and the munitions bunker so I felt I knew the route and the location reasonably well. But in accordance with club rules, a ride leader must have ridden the route to check for any major changes in conditions, likely diversions, fallen trees etc and to generally make sure it was safe and suitable.

Perhaps a little late (or in this case early) in the day, I decided to do the recce ride on the morning of the ride itself! Getting up extra early and being greeted with dry conditions I had high hopes for a great day out and 2 laps of the trails.

Handsel Trees
Handsel Trees

At around 6.30am I set off from Wylye up the road to Grovely Wood with the sun rising behind me. With a copy of my route in hand I set about following it and investigating some additional single track discoveries on the way. Everything was going according to plan. The Roman Road through the forest was indeed very long (over 4 miles) and straight, dropping off and on to it on various forest tracks kept it interesting and fun. As I had hoped the 2km section down Hadden Hill in to Great Wishford proved to be a thrilling descent. First in the woods and then out into the open with great views of the South Wiltshire downlands.

A pedal up the parallel road/track back into the woods and I was loving the ride and feeling a huge amount of satisfaction that it was all going so well. Then came the hunt for the bunker – how could the ride be complete without the Warhead section of the title?

Much research had been done to find the bunker – later discovered to be a Stanton Air Raid Shelter – and I was sure I would find it. Well, I didn’t. I was very disappointed, as this was going to be one of the highlights of my ride!

My research consisted mainly of this website – http://unusual-encounters.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/not-so-secret-bunkers.html

Onwards and upwards – I got back on track and continued to enjoy the woodland trails and downland views. It even looked like the rain was going to hold off. Then suddenly BOOM!

Thunder. Or was I on Salisbury Plain and being fired at? Nope, that was thunder and here comes the rain. Heading straight for tree cover, why wasn’t there any tree cover? I was in a forest! The rain was so heavy that I think I was soaked through in about 2 minutes. Deciding to keep my coat dry I I left it in my bag, pedaled on in my T shirt dripping wet.

I found the Handsel Trees. These gnarly old beech trees eerily stand out among the firs in Grovely Wood and supposedly mark the graves of 4 witches bludgeoned to death and buried in the woods for cursing the nearby village of Wilton in 1737. 132 people died from an outbreak of small pox in the village soon after the sisters arrived from Denmark – so they must have been to blame! The area has a subsequent reputation for paranormal activities and is said to be haunted – if you believe that sort of thing of course.

I followed my planned route back to my car, changed out of my wet clothes, made a cup of tea and awaited the arrival of the days riders.

Base Camp - featuring Alpkit stove and Mytimug
Base Camp

It was 10am and there was no sign of anyone in the village. I wasn’t surprised, the weather was rubbish and waking up to go and ride in this weather is not what we like to do. We talk about manning up and “Rule number 5″ but in reality who really enjoys doing this, and chooses to be dragged around a wet muddy woodland on a Sunday morning?

Just about to give up and go home I spot 2 unfamiliar faces readying bikes. My heart sank – “I’m going to have to do that all again now…” But I was buoyed by the enthusiasm from these guys who had journeyed an hour in the pouring rain to venture on to their first MB Swindon club ride. There was also some relief and pleasure in knowing that someone else was going to get as soaked as I was.

Grovely Wood has some great little trails running through it and even in the wet, muddy conditions we had a great time with the added challenge of judging the depth of puddles and rapidly filling ruts!

I billed the ride as a Novice ride – it was possibly a stretch but Matt and Dave were more than capable of the task. The location and trails are such that changes could be made on the fly and I did make one or two because of the weather, not rider’s abilities. Chalky downland descents in the wet are treacherous and after one with a few lucky escapes, I made the call that we would miss out the others. Water was gushing down the hill side tracks, loosening stones and gravel and adding a slick finish to the nice chalky bits. I opted to leave off the final off descent in favour of a much safer tarmac road where the 3 of us finished the 20 mile ride with a blast at 30 mph back to the village of Wylye for a pint in the Bell Inn.

The woodland will make a stunning spot in the Autumn (and the Spring for that matter) and I plan on returning and with some additional research we will find that air raid shelter!

Final word or thanks and much kudos for Dave and Matt for making the effort in the awful conditions and joining me on the ride. Hope to see you guys again soon.

This ride was an MB Swindon club ride with maps sourced from MBR magazine, originally mapped by Tom Hutton.

If you want to learn more about the Handsel Sister try these links:

http://crow-moor.tumblr.com/post/101501998549/grovely-woods-where-in-1737-the-handsel-sisters

http://www.twilightshadowsparanormal.co.uk/grovely.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grovely_Wood#The_Handsel_sisters

The four Handsel sisters were of Danish origin but they had moved to the Wilton area. Coincidentally, an outbreak of smallpox in 1737 killed 132 people. The local people became convinced that the sisters were responsible for the deaths and accused them of witchcraft and an alliance with the devil. Without an official hearing the sisters were taken to Grovely Wood, murdered by being bludgeoned over the head, and buried a little way apart from each other so that they could not conspire against their murderers. There are four gnarled beech trees associated with the sisters; because either the trees were planted to mark their graves or they mysteriously grew on top of the unmarked graves to remind the locals of their dreadful deed. Sightings of the sisters have been reported over the years. There is a hollow at the back of the largest tree where people leave offerings. The trees are located approximately 50 meters away from the Roman road some ten minutes walk from the Wilton end of the wood.

Nothing called Brian was going to stop me

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Want some inspiration for a little adventure, a big adventure or even just to get out and about see some of the world? Well here it is.

I am not much of a reader of books. I like my reading in bite size chunks ideally, and while I’m a big user of social media I can cope with a little more than Twitters 140 characters and Facebook updates about what people had for dinner!

For Father’s Day my son bought me a book “One Man and His Bike” by Mike Carter, I read the first chapter or 2 and really enjoyed it, but decided to leave it for my summer holiday. Then I started reading about Alastair Humphreys and his microadventures, and discovered he had written a bunch of books and spent 4 years cycling around the world. Now I had a few books ready for by the pool and on the plane.

Nothing called Brian was going to stop me.

One Man and His Bike by Mike Carter is the true account of a newspaper (Guardian) journalist who wondered what it would be like to one day, that instead of cycling to work he would just continue, until he reached the sea. He would then follow a simple plan and circumnavigate Britain on his trusty steel framed Ridgeback Panorama.

Ever packed for a holiday and realised you took too much? Now imagine over-packing for a bike packing trip. You can’t simply leave your heavy suitcase in your hotel room for the week and then put it back on the plane a week or two later. You have to pedal it for dozens of miles every day, push it up hills, balance it at traffic lights and pack it strategically for easy access.

Mike left home one morning with a plan to cycle anticlockwise around Britain starting from his home in London, with so much gear. Included in his equipment list alongside his tent and sleeping bag, were smart clothes and shoes!

But no map!

As the journey and ‘story’ unfolds he slowly sends more stuff back ‘home’ and lightens his load, learning as he goes how he actually should have packed to start with.

The book paints a humorous and romantic account of the people and places of Britain’s 5000 miles of coastline. Along his journey Mike is constantly learning how to adapt to life on the road and is repeatedly reminded how Great and generous the people of Britain truly are.

From prearranged meetings at strategic points in the journey (such as waterways) to complete random drunken evenings with priests and scrap hoarders, Mike reminds us that the people of Great Britain generally have good hearts and are willing to help someone who is doing something special for no particular reason other than to satisfy his curiosity.

His writing is fantastic and as someone who has travelled a little myself it was not difficult to picture the pokey bed and breakfast accommodations, cantankerous land owners, fishing villages, rolling hills and stunning coastal views.

And with a recent interest in bike packing and road biking, I could picture myself on his journey. As a cyclist I could feel his pain on many climbs, share in the misery of being soaked through from relentless rain and also appreciate the thrill of the many descents and the welcome sight of a pub, or smell of a fish and chip shop. The latter has nothing to do with cycling, just a love of chips!

The account of his journey is excellent and not just for cyclists. Anyone with an interest in Britain, it’s people and places should read this great book. It will restore your faith in human nature, and if you didn’t already know how amazing this country is, I guarantee you will compile a long list of places you want to visit in Britain (a future blog post for me I think).

The book is very light hearted. You often feel sorry for Mike, perhaps in the way you might pity Mr Bean or some other unfortunate movie character. But this isn’t because Mike is clumsy, it’s because of the funny way he recounts the events and scrapes of his adventure.

The book will teach you a thing or two about our history as Mike tells stories of how Britain’s coastal communities have been shaped by politics, religion, industry and tourism.

As you can tell, for ‘not much of a reader’ I loved this book and will no doubt be thumbing through it again to compile that list. By the way, I am not going to tell you who Brian is, for that you will have to read the book yourself.

There is a great interview with the author here on Wanderlust Travel Magazine website. In it he recalls some of his favourite locations and of the people he met on the trip.

And here’s a great piece by Nick Hand, a fellow cyclist who actually set out to meet with Mike on his journey – and someone who writes a far greater review than I do!

And finally a nice blog post / slash review of the Ridgeback Panorama touring bike similar to the one Mike used.

Next up….

Moods of Future Joys (around the world by bike part 1) – Alastair Humphreys

Capra Conundrum

Capra conundrum

The reviews are in, or out, I don’t know the right term, either way everyone is loving the YT Industries Capra.

From the top carbon frame models to the entry level bikes, the Capra is currently representing (thanks in part to the weak Euro) very good value for money.

Kitted out with the latest SRAM and Race Face components, and a full compliment of Rockshox – reverb dropper, Pike forks and monarch shock – what is not to like?

Well, everyone is getting in on the act!

I am not a bike snob, but when I buy a new bike I want some one to be surprised by my choice or keen to want a look at something new. But at BikePark Wales on Sunday I saw SO MANY of them!

Not sure why I am bothered, cos in the end only I have to ride it and the value for money and the excellent reviews can’t be wrong can they?

Well I’m just about to go on holiday. I dare say in Greece I will see very few Capras around the pool or on the beach and I will have plenty of time to think about my next full suspension purchase.

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#Microadventure Planning

Alpkit - Airlok XTra 5L
Alpkit – Airlok XTra 5L

If you have been reading my blog recently you will know how much I have been considering a bikepacking trip. I have become a little obsessed with the subject. My twitter feed, facebook likes and web searches have centered around the topic for the last month or two. Brands such as Alpkit have become faves and my wish list of their products is longer than my possible need for most of it! I am also suddenly Alastair Humphreys biggest fan. So I am making small steps in buying kit and putting it to use whenever I can.

Here’s a brief write up of this morning’s dog walk! Yes dog walk…

Breakfast - Kit List
Breakfast – Kit List

Its so easy to just go out and walk around the field with the dog, and don’t get me wrong we do this more than anything else because its convenient and easy and actually Brodie enjoys it as he has a lot of doggy friends in the area. But a couple of times a week we do something a little bigger and more interesting. This morning was one of those times.

I decided to see what I could fit in the Alpkit Airlok bag. At only 5L its not the biggest bag but I was determined to make it work. Here was my kit for breakfast:

  • 650ml MytiMug
  • Kraku Stove
  • 100gm JetBoil Fuel
  • Lighter
  • Tea Spoon
  • Tea Bag
  • Spork
  • Camping Mug
  • SIGG 600ml bottle of water
  • Bag of cereal and some biscuits
  • Milk – in a 250ml Tropicana bottle
  • Travel towel from Mountain Warehouse (I use as a small picnic rug until my Matador Pocket Blanket arrives)

The AirLok is designed for use as a handlebar pack for bikes, but the handy strap means it can be slung over the shoulder duffel bag style.

After an hour or so of walking I picked a spot with a view (and some shelter as it was windy) and unpacked.

I boil enough water for a cup of tea (keeping the tea bag), make that in my mug, then use the MytiMug for cereal. The mug takes up less space than bringing a bowl for cereal and I can’t quite get used to drinking straight from the MytiMug.

Once I have finished my cereal I give the MytiMug a quick rinse and boil the rest of the water. 600ml is just enough so the SIGG is perfect. The Tropicana orange juice bottle holds plenty of milk for two cups of tea and for cereal.

This might seem like a lot of fuss to some, and I have had my share of fun poked at me by a few buddies, but starting the day with a good walk and working up an appetite for breakfast is great. Enjoying that breakfast and fresh cup of tea, while sat on a local hillside away from the TV and the pull of my iPad, email and Facebook is such a great way to start the day.

Calstone Downs
Calstone Downs

Next stop is to purchase a bivvy bag and give it a try over night.

Here’s a quick video of this mornings very microadventure made with footage off my #GoPro Hero using #Magix Video Pro 5.

Remembering why…

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This morning’s plan was to get a few miles in as a sort of training ride. I hate the thought of training as I ride my bike for enjoyment, and while training makes me a better/fitter rider and therefore more likely to enjoy tougher or longer rides – I still don’t like the thought of training. So I didn’t go out with a plan other than that of the distance I wanted to cover – 50km – the enjoyment was going to come from making it up as I went along.

Keeping an eye on the clock, the distance and of course the map on my Garmin meant I could make it up as I went along and keep an element of fun; rather than a Chris Froome TDF style head down pedal and not take anything in.

My ride ended up taking me through some of the local villages of Lacock, Biddistone and Corsham, before heading back along the old railway path from Chippenham. This is my token bit of off road to make the CDF feel a little more at home!

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Lacock is famous for its abbey and for being used in a number of movies including the Harry Potter series. There are some nice old buildings, all protected by the National Trust and a cool little ford. The cobbles were very slippery and I had to pedal carefully on the skinny wheels.

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Who doesn’t like a nice pub and bike photo?

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Villages are full of little treasures when you stop to explore rather the just whizz by. I remembered this morning one of the reasons I enjoy cycling wether it by by mountain bike or now even by the odd stretch of road.

I like to explore and I like to take photos, I if hadn’t been required back home for family duties I also had Castle Coombe in my sights today. I could have easily managed to fit this in to my ride but I was required back home.

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I couldn’t have covered the distance this morning on a mountain bike as easily and still have energy and reserves left over. I think I am going to be working up to a 100km and maybe even a 100 mile ride soon and exploring more of the smaller villages and possibly hidden pubs in the area…

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Garmin Home Screen Tip

I stumbled across some great advice today for Garmin users – forgive me if you already knew this.

I saw that it was possible to add some custom text to the home screen on my Garmin Edge 800 – this is ideally a great location for your telephone number or ICE (In case of emergency) details. So here goes:

1. Connect your Garmin device to your computer and open it up in the explorer (Windows) window.

Garmin Edge custom screen

2. In the root menu locate and double click the “startup” file. It should open into Notepad as this is a TXT file.

Garmin Edge Start Up File

3. Now see the where the text says <display = 0> , change this number. The number is seconds and is the number of seconds the display will stay on to show your message. 10 might be enough, but only if someone is expecting a message so I would make this 20 or more as its a lot more obvious then.

4. Under the line <!– Type your message on the next line –> you should, type your message!

5. Save the file. Disconnect your device and re-boot – it should look something like this. As you can see, I’ve had my Garmin for some time, don’t waste any time and update yours right away, these are expensive gadgets to lose.

Garmin edge screen shot

I am lead to believe that this process compatible with the following units: Garmin Edge 510, Edge 520, Edge 800, Edge 810, Edge 1000, and Touring/Touring Plus.

Mostly mountain biking musings and some other stuff…

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