Thursday, 27 February 2014

How to Cope with Wind, Rain and Ice: Our Guide to Winter Cycling

Battling the elements by bike may not sound like a good idea, but with the right equipment and caution, winter cycling can be a real joy.

How to Cope with Wind, Rain and Ice: Our Guide to Winter Cycling
The cold, dark and rainy days of winter may not seem like the best time to get out on your bike, but with the proper preparation, you can beat the elements and enjoy cycling all year round.

With our winter cycling guide, you can still enjoy every muddy mile of mountain biking and chilly commute to work.

Here are the essentials:

A Warm, Dry Cycling Wardrobe

The key to enjoying your ride – whatever the weather – is to have right kit. No ride is going to be an enjoyable experience if you're soaked through with icy rain, numb with cold, or chaffed by wet clothing. It's important to invest in some cycle-specific clothing, which is warm, waterproof and designed to make cycling easier.

Your kit should include:

·         Warm Base Layer – a good base layer is designed to keep you warm but reduce sweat
·         Waterproof Cycling Jacket – choose one which is lightweight, compact and ergonomically designed for cycling
·         Cycling legwear such as bibshorts, bibtights, cycle pants and/or overtrousers – the choice is down to personal preference, as well as the terrain
·         Gloves – your fingers will be icy cold otherwise!
·         Helmet liner or headband to protect your head and ears
·         Waterproof winter boots or overshoes
·         Thick merino socks – avoid layering thinner socks as this can cut off the blood circulation, making the cold feel worse


As the days get shorter, lights become an essential part of your ride. There are two kinds of lights – those which allow you to be seen by other cyclists and drivers, and lights which allow you to see.

The light you go for depends on where you'll be cycling. If you're on a dark, quiet road, you'll want more than to simply be seen - you want to be able to see where you are going. Whereas, if you're cycling on busy, well-lit roads, all you need is a light which allows you to be seen.

Generally speaking, the brighter the light the more expensive it will be – but lights are a vital investment, not to be overlooked.

It’s also a good idea to carry some cheap, lightweight 'emergency lights' in case your main lights break – that way you won't be left in the dark.

Bike Maintenance

The harsh winter climate is tough on your bike. What would have been an easy ride in the glorious summer sun, now results in muddy water being sprayed over your gears and mud caking your tyres. Therefore, your bike will need a little extra help from you to stay safe.

Here are our bike maintenance tips:

·         Clean your bike regularly – dry mud stuck in every nook and cranny will accelerate the wear on the vital parts of your bike
·         Check for damage regularly – cycling in challenging conditions is more likely to damage your bike, so try to spot problems early on
·         Lube your chain before and after each ride – choose a lube designed for wet conditions, as normal lube can easily wash away in heavy rain

There are also a few changes which you can make to prepare our bike for winter. Switch to hard-wearing tyres with greater grip. This is particularly the case for mountain biking, where you should choose mud tyres for the winter.

Also, although often hated by most cyclists, mud guards are a worthwhile investment in the winter months. 

Difficult Weather Conditions


It's not all rain and gloom in the winter. Those bright, crisp days can catch you by surprise and are very inviting – even for the cyclists who have 'retired' for winter.

However, bright blue skies usually follow sub-zero overnight temperatures – meaning frost is likely. And while glittering white frost is easy to spot, black ice is almost invisible and can be very dangerous.

One of the biggest causes of black ice is when there's a big freeze followed by a partial thaw. When the rainwater freezes again, it's often just a thin layer of water, which hardens into a transparent layer of black ice.

If you're cycling in icy conditions it's important to be aware of the dangerous spots on the road. Many long winter shadows hide patches of black ice – so try to avoid the shadowed patches of the road.

Choose routes where the roads have been gritted and cycle cautiously – don't brake or turn suddenly, as your bike may slip out of control.


Although it rains all year round, winter rain can be particularly piercing – that’s why it's so important to have waterproof kit. However, you can alter your cycling style to ensure rainy weather doesn't lead to an accident.

Be aware that it takes longer to brake in heavy rain. Water builds up on the rims, between the brake blocks and the braking surface, making your brakes slightly less effective. As a result, it's always worth cycling more cautiously in wet conditions.

To avoid skidding on wet roads, apply equal pressure to both brakes when stopping, and try to avoid road markings and drain covers as these can become slippery when wet. As a precaution, it’s a good idea to cycle further into the road than you would normally.


Many cyclists are aware of nature's hidden obstacle. Often called the 'invisible hill', strong winds can simulate a mountainous incline on a straight road.

As a result, many keen cyclists see strong winds as an opportunity to have a good workout. It takes a lot of leg-power to keep up a good speed when the wind is pushing you in the opposite direction.

If you don't fancy such a hard slog, then there are ways to lessen the effects of the wind. Try cycling with a group of friends, as together you can reduce your wind resistance and beat the wind.

Or you could try to pick a more sheltered route. You can also reduce your wind resistance simply by lowering your cycle position.

Obviously, it's not safe to go out in gale force winds, floods and blizzards but a bit of winter cycling can be highly enjoyable and rewarding. Many coaches actually recommend cycling in winter, as it increases your mental toughness and can prepare for gruelling competitions in the summer.

Don't let the rain or wind put you off – get out on our bike and enjoy the elements this winter! Head to our website and you'll find the clothing, lights, tyres and maintenance equipment you'll need to keep you riding through the winter.

Do you have any great winter cycling experiences? Share your stories below.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Arrowhead 135 and Rovanimi 150 Cycle Race Preparation .. not for the faint hearted!

Well here we go again, jetting off to go and do a ridicules bike race. This time we were heading to a place in Minnesota called International Falls and its only claim to fame is that it’s the coldest place in America oh and it’s where Hot Tub Time machine was shot!

The Arrowhead 135 recognized in the book "The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges" by Richard Hoad and Paul Moore as one of the 50 toughest races in the world. It is a human powered Ultra Marathon taking place in the coldest part of winter in the coldest city in the lower 48 states. Our average finish rate is 50%, the finish rate for new racers is much lower.

135 miles Deep Winter across Northern Minnesota on rugged, scenic Arrowhead State Snowmobile Trail from Frostbite I-Falls to Tower, MN Fortune Bay Casino. Pick mode of transport at start: bicycle, ski or foot. Historically coldest race anyplace even the Arctic, check average temps, virtually every year luck has us -30 to -40C/F, we have frostbite to prove it. Or it snows and is a sloppy mess! Arrowhead 135 is an organization of local folks dedicated to the promotion of human powered ultra-endurance events across beautiful Arrowhead Region of Northern Minnesota. Our Race Mission is fostering national and international amateur endurance sports such as winter-biking, skiing and trail running.

I’ve now been snow bike racing for 3 years I have committed a lot and time and money into racing fatbikes in various locations around the world. Preparing to be physically and mentally fit for a race in January can be very hard work, especially with the endless wet and muddy conditions and long dark nights. This year I have been praying for a hard cold winter and I have ended up with the opposite. My body could be in for a bit of a shock with a second polar vortex due to hit North America next week with potential temperatures of -55oC.  Due to the very wet and muddy conditions in the UK I have mainly been training on some of the classic road routes within the Yorkshire Dales as well as strength training and structured training on the Turbo trainer. I had planned to do some long mountain bike rides up at Glentress over the Christmas period but I came down with a mystery viral infection which hampered those plans. This has not done much for my confidence going in the race but I’ve had to put this behind me and concentrate on the positive aspects of my training to date.     

Arrowhead 135 and Rovanimi 150 Race
Our journey up to International Falls went without a hitch and for once we arrived at the northerly outpost with a full complement of luggage and on time. We had taken the decision to stay in the Voyager Motel which was very popular with the other competitors because it was located right at the beginning of the Arrowhead trail and the race start.
We now had three days to build up our bikes and test our gear in the current conditions. It was looking like it was going to be cold which is good for the bikes because it makes the snow much firmer to ride on. Friday morning I got up and built up my beautiful Salsa Carbon Beargrease and had a quick check over it to make sure all was ok. After a hearty or heart attack breakfast at the fabulous CafĂ© Landing we decided to go for a little ride along the trail. 

The science of snow is very complex and the conditions can change vastly whether you are skiing or trying to ride on the stuff. Having the time to fiddle with tyre pressures was very important. I had taken the decision to run Surley Rolling Darryl’s rims with 45 North Dillingertyres which are both grippy and relatively light.

The temperature that day was around -20oC which once you got moving was very comfortable. We rode about 10 miles down the trail to the first shelter and it was so firm. I couldn’t believe it we kept stopping and adding more and more air in our tyres. I think we got up to around 18psi which is unheard of for snow riding.

Once back at the motel we ordered more food and chilled out watching cheesy American TV. I was feeling fairly confidant with how my bike felt and how the trail was riding. With snow riding you have to be very prepared to either have a very long push and to be covering ground at a very steady pace. I always set in my own mind if I’m riding averaging 5mph that’s a good thing because the alternative could be walking pushing a very heavy bike at 2mph. My motto is “Be patient” which is very hard for me as I am not known for my patience! 

Over the next couple of days the Motel began to fill up with other competitors and the atmosphere was just amazing. There was such a vast wealth of experience from elite standard ultramarathon runners to ex SAS soldiers. I did feel slightly in awe of these people but everyone was very friendly and helpful. We all ended up as one big family for the weekend and went out for our meals together. The social side was fantastic but there was a slight undercurrent of fear spreading through the group. Everyone’s televisions were blaring out news of a severe weather warning that was to hit North America. The jet streams were all over the place and a second polar vortex was to hit with predicted temperatures of -50oC.  

Everyone was worried which didn’t do a great deal for my nerves. I think even the race organisers had their concerns too. The race brief was very blunt and to the point as was the mandatory gear check. I got a really hard time but you don’t argue as you could be pulled from the race before you’ve even started and it’s for your own safety. Stats were projected up showing the percentages of finishers over the 9 year history of the race. The rate of attrition is so high for Arrowhead but on paper it looks so doable. What is it about the arrowhead trail that makes it so hard?

It was soon Monday morning and I was ready to just get on with things my nerves were jangling but I knew once I’d started riding I would calm down. It was dark and cold when we lined up at the start. My entire face was masked up and I had goggles on which was very claustrophobic. At these temperatures you can’t have your skin exposed for any length of time. Then all too quickly the air horn sounded to start the race. I was determined not to get involved with the early race testosterone charge as it was a long race, but somehow I did get caught up and I was soon riding way harder than I intended too. I was very panicky inside my mask and goggles it was awful and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. To make matters worse I soon began to develop ice inside my goggles that was slowly taking over my vision. I really didn’t know what to do I couldn’t breathe or see. I was thinking my race could be over inside the first 5 miles! Other riders started to overtake me because I was forced to slow down and I noticed most of them had removed their goggles, as I was inexperienced with dealing with such low temperatures I didn’t know if this was the done thing but I was left with very little choice so off with the goggles it was! Hooray I could see again but my eyes kept freezing shut but itwas better than frozen goggles. I gradually settled down and it was so beautiful out there massive blue sky and glistening snow I was so lucky to be having this experience. I paused at the first shelter to have a quick drink and a little to eat. I was planning to do this on the move but it’s impossible when you are wearing a mask. Andy was having a slight issue with his right foot so I rode on whilst he adjusted his footwear.

It was so cold so I have to ride at a tempo that was slightly quicker than I had originally planned just to keep warm. Arrowhead 135 tail runs 135 miles from International Falls to Fortune Bay and there are 3 checkpoints along the route. 2 of these checkpoints were inside with hot food and tumble driers available. These checkpoints can be both friend and foe because once inside it takes a lot to leave. I was so happy to reach Gateway and was looking forward to removing my iced up face mask and to eat some hot soup. I quickly stripped down and handed over my clothes to be dried. Much to my surprise my primoloft jacked was all frozen. Andy arrived shortly after me and I was so pleased to see him and his huge icicle he had developed hanging off his face mask which had us all in stiches. It soon became apparent other riders had been forced to quit due to frostbite, one of them being the previous year’s race winner who developed it within the first 10 miles of the race.

Once fed and our clothes dried we decide to leave together which was great for actually getting out of the door and braving the cold. We rode along admiring how beautiful it was and it was great to be with Andy again. A few miles further along I could gradually feel the cold creeping in and I needed to ride a little harder. It was awful feeling riding off and leaving Andy but it was the right thing to do as we needed to ride at different paces to keep our temperatures right.

I plugged on at my own tempo looking forward to the next checkpoint that was the luxury cabin on the shores of Elephant Lake at Melgeorges. I was totally on my own and you have to be prepared for solitude during these races even with 165 other competitors you soon get well spread out. I am fine with being on my own, I actually really like it but I was nervous of the extreme cold. Whilst I was moving I was just about comfortable but as soon as I stopped it hit me. Even to eat and drink I needed to be super organised. I absolutely feared even a puncture because my hands were so numb and claw like even on the move. I kept moving this worry to the back of my mind and decided that momentum was my friend. I was constantly watching my garmin and doing calculations in my head so I could work out my eta at Melgeorges.

I don’t know how much time passed but I eventually reached the edge of Elephant Lake I was overjoyed. I knew I just had to cross the lake then I would soon be sat by a roaring fire. By now it was dark and the temperature had plummeted even further. At least riding across a frozen lake would be flat and in my mind I thought it would be just fine. How wrong I was, I dropped out of the comfort and shelter of the trees and onto the lake. The first thing that hit me was the soft snow as my bike squirmed and wriggled, then the wind that just bit into the side of my face even through a mask. Shit this was going to be awful. I rode on the best I could but it was like riding with your brakes on and the lights of civilisation did not appear to be getting any closer. Without sounding over dramatic I had to keep moving otherwise I would have been in serious trouble, I don’t know how long it took me and I pushed my bike on foot for the last section I had at last reached the cabin.

The welcome inside the cabin was overwhelming and the ladies that devote their time to making sure the races are well cared for are phenomenal I can’t ever thank you enough. I had to dig deep not to burst into tears. I was soon sat down by the fire and offered soup and grilled cheese sandwiches but I had a slight problem. My face mask had frozen its self to my neck warmer. I was stuck and couldn’t eat with it still in place so frustrating. Eventually it defrosted slightly and I painfully managed to drag it over my head. Freedom!

It was now around 9pm and I had learned that the temperatures on the lake were -55oC no wonder it was painful. I was sat gently defrosting and worrying about Andy. Pre race I had decided I wasn’t going to stop and sleep but now with these temperatures I was considering having a knap in the comfort of the cabin as sleeping out in a bivvy

wasn’t  something I really wanted to consider at -55oC! Then Andy arrived I was so happy to see him, but the lake crossing had taken it out on him too. The ladies were very quick to realisehe had suffered frost nip on his right ear and quickly checked it out. Fortunately it was just nip and it would be fine providing he kept it covered. After a quick catch up and food we decided to have a sleep and I was considering hitting the trail at around 2am. This would give me a good 5 hours rest wow! We both laid down upstairs with many of the other racers. It’s not a time be prudish as you snuggle up with people you hardy know in various states of undress. You do what you have to do. The cabin was very noisy and too hot but I just closed my eyes and tried to relax a little. After a little time Andy sat up and said my foot feels weird. He removed his sock to reveal the horror that was 5 black toes on his left foot. I felt like I had been hit by a steam train and his face went ashen.

He has suffered frost bite; this is something that happens to other people! Amongst the ladies in the cabin was a nurse from Minnesota and has seen many cases of frostbite and without a fuss or panic got on with treating him straight away. She dug out a casserole dish and began to very gently give him warm foot baths to try and restore blood flow. Her actions without a doubt have help prevent Andy losing a large portion of his foot. I feel a bit sorry for the next people who use that casserole dish totally oblivious to what it’s previously been used for!

I was lost and devastated for Andy. He had trained so hard for this event and I have absolutely no doubt he would have finished but being pulled out on medical grounds was just unfair. I just didn’t know what to do I too was suffering with my feet and my right foot had swollen up but the blood flow was fine. Gradually more and more racers were filling the cabin and this included the lady who was in 3rd place behind me. I can’t deny this fired me up and she said she was going to have a few hours’ sleep and get back out there at 5am so a group of 4 of us decided to go out together at 5am. I was in the cabin for almost 9 hours and that wasn’t really in my race strategy but given the circumstances it was the right thing to do.

After some more sleep and food I started to get my kit together in preparation of carrying on. I really can’t say how I felt part of me didn’t want to quit, part of me wanted to quit and most of me didn’t want to leave Andy. It was awful, frightening and just confusing. I went to put on my boots and I just could not get my right foot into my boot. Hooray I have got a genuine excuse not to go outside but Andy came up with a cunning plan. Take my boots I don’t need them, so that’s what I did. I rode off in a pair of size 12 boots when I only a 4!

Riding away leaving Andy and the warmth of the cabin was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make but once I was back out there I just discovered how strong I could be. The second half of the course is much tougher and hiller and it was colder. I soon discovered that I just wasn’t going to be warm no matter how hard I rode. I one point I was making myself do 10 second sprints to try and increase blood flow. My head and face were incased in ice which was starting to hurt my face. I soon rode away from the group that had left Melgeorge with me. I did feel very rude doing this but I needed to maintain my pace. I had no doubt in my mind if I could just get to Ski Pulk I would be able to finish.

Head down and making me pause to eat and drink every 5 miles I made the lonely 40 mile journey to Ski Pulk. I don’t really know how long it took and there were times I was terrified because my hands wouldn’t work and I was struggling to eat and drink and as soon as I stopped the situation became worst very quickly. I was hoping to be lucky enough to see some wildlife as there was plenty of very fresh wolf tracks but it was not to be.

Suddenly out of the forest I could hear voices and a cow bell. I was at the last checkpoint and was given the biggest hug from Mike I’ve ever had. I was fighting back tears once again. I was so well looked after. I was bundled into a tent and handed a much needed hot chocolate. I took the decision to try and eat and drink as much as I could stomach whilst in the shelter of the tent. I was still cold so I changed my hats and face mask and also put on my huge down jacket I had with me in case of an emergency.

I was determined to finish in daylight as I couldn’t face the cold of the night for second time. This was the driving factor that got me to the end. My legs felt amazing but my shoulders were done for. I could hardly hold myself up right on the bike. I think I finished the last section with my chin on the stem.

The very last section was very confusing and my brain wasn’t functioning as it should have done. I was so concerned about getting lost at this late stage but eventually I saw the signs for Fortune Bay. Then I saw the finish banner ahead I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. I had done it. Somehow I had managed to finish Arrowhead 135. This time I did burst into tears then both my eyes froze shut!

The journey was a mixture of emotions and I am still sad Andy wasn’t there with me. After Arrowhead he endured a hellish week in hospital and is still on his long road to recovery. I am blown away by his determination and he is already planning a comeback in 2015. I still haven’t got my head round that I am the first European lady to have ever finished Arrowhead 135 and I managed to hold on to 2nd place.

I am more than happy to share my kit list and clothing list but I just want to include the following caveat. Riding in these conditions is very dangerous and I am learning and modifying my set up all the time. Just because the following works for me it might not necessary work for you. Please come and visit me at All Terrain Cycles should you prefer to talk bike packing/ adventure racing in person. I am more than happy to help and we have a good range of adventure bikes in stock.

Bike:                            Salsa Carbon Beargease

Luggage:                     Relelate Designs – Alaska     

Sleeping bag:               Mountain Equipment Everest

Bivvy bag:                   AlpKit

Sleeping Mat:              ThermarestNeoAir

Stove:                          MSR XGK

Pots:                            Alpkit titanium

Clothes:                       Boots 45 North
                                    Liner sock
                                    Lorpen expedition socks
                                    Smartwool socks
                                    EnduraEquipeWindstopper tights 
                                    Mountain Equipment fleece trousers
                                    Craft Vest
                                    M&S Sports Bra
                                    Endura Baa Baa base layer
                                    Gore Primoloft Gilet  
                                    Primaloft Jacket
                                    Endura Stealth jacket

                                    Various Gloves          
                                    DogWoodPogies (bar mits) Alaska
                                    Endura Baa Baa beanie
                                    Cold Avenger Face mask  
                                    Oakley Goggles and glasses

Extra Clothes:             Various Gloves
                                    Face mask
                                    Rab Expedition down Jacket

Lights:                         USE Exposure Joystick
                                    USE Exposure Flare

GPS:                            Garmin Edge 800 with USE Exposure battery back up

Hydration:                   CamelbakSpark 

                                    Hydro Heater Alaska

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

How Has Strava Changed the Way We Ride?

Strava has taken the world by storm. Critics say that it turns the sport into a computer game, whilst many cyclists enjoy the thrill of competition.

What is Strava?
In many ways, Strava is like a social network for cyclists. Cyclists have an online profile, which enables them to compete for the best time on any route – from their morning commute to a tough mountain ride.

The whole world is divided up into 'segments' which are virtual race tracks. If you're using Strava, the app logs your time every time you cycle through one of these segments. It allows you to track your progress and see how you compare to the other cyclists in your area.

The app uses GPS mapping to host a competition of egos, where riders compete to be crowned 'King of the Mountain'. The term is borrowed from Tour De France and this prestigious title is fought for ferociously, making the app highly addictive.

Why Cyclists Love Strava

Competition is inherent in any sport and you could say Strava simply formalises many cyclist's desire to compete. The app allows you to compete with anyone in the world, transforming cycling into a truly global competition of pedal power.

Many cyclists love the sense of achievement that Strava gives them. Whether this means getting into the top ten for a segment, or simply tracking our own personal progress, the app encourages you to better yourself.
Norman Triplett, a psychologist at Indiana University proved back in the late nineteenth century that an element of competition makes cyclists faster than those who ride alone. It's simply in our nature to compete and as a result, using Strava is likely to boost your speed and really push you to do better.

Claims that Strava is 'Unsupervised Street Racing'

Critics of the app claim that it promotes reckless cycling and has transformed the sport into an overly competitive computer game. The app becomes problematic if the online scoreboard becomes more important for cyclists than the act of cycling itself.  In some cases, riders are taking risks they otherwise wouldn't in pursuit of a virtual goal.

The risks are only too clear when you look at the case of Kim Flint, a Californian rider who was trying to win a downhill 'King of the Mountain'. In 2010, the cyclist crashed into a car whilst attempting to get the best time, and later died in hospital.

In order to beat the existing time, he was cycling way over the speed limit, making the ride very dangerous. Despite this, his family tried to sue Strava and failed. The court ruled that every cyclist is responsible for their own safety. Even so, the app does encourage reckless behaviour, which is big concern for many people.

Those who object to the app, claim that it is not a 'game' if you are cycling on roads shared with cars. One of the most vocal critics is the inventor of DigitalEPO, an app which artificially boosts your Strava performance. The site claims to be against what it refers to as "obnoxious street-racing websites".

However, like many things, Strava is something which can be used sensibly and enjoyed, but if taken too far, can be dangerous. The question of whether or not, Strava is actually responsible for dangerous behaviour is still disputed.

How Has the App Changed Cycling?

Strava is huge – with millions of members worldwide, the app has changed the way many people cycle. Cycling with Strava in your pocket, means that you are permanently racing.

This not only affects the commuter or weekend rider, but cycling clubs too. Many of these clubs have embraced the app as a way to compete, not only amongst themselves, but against rival cycling clubs.
However, it's not like cyclists didn't compete before Strava. Whereas they may have previously raced each other to a distant landmark, they now compete online.

It's not just that the way cyclists race that has changed – the app has changed the way many of us think about a ride. Whether this means slowing down before a segment so that you can attack the race with more power, or simply waiting for better weather conditions before cycling – many cyclists are changing the way the ride to improve their Strava time.

Has Strava Changed Why we Ride?

Many Strava-sceptics are worried that the app will change the nature of cycling. Instead of cycling for the joy of it, many will get out onto their bikes with the intention of beating a time on Strava. You could say that this doesn't matter and that anything which encourages people to cycle can only be a good thing, but others argue that the 'soul' of cycling could be lost.

By constantly measuring your ability and competing against others, will the individual pleasure of cycling disappear? What was a relaxing journey through towns, cities or open countryside can become a series of races divided by invisible lines.

Despite Strava's critics, the app is hugely popular and motivates many to get out on their bikes and improve their performance. Do you use Strava? If so, how has it changed the way you cycle?

Monday, 24 February 2014

Jane gets a great result in Rovaniemi 150

Rovaniemi 150
After a hard race in America it is now time to head off to Finland to compete in Rovaniemi 150. This is a 150km Arctic Winter race run in the wilderness surrounding the City of Rovaniemi. The course is a mixture of frozen rivers, tacks, forest roads and frozen lakes.
My preparation for this race was less than ideal having only returned from America 2 weeks before and my Husband Andy having to endure 8 days in hospital for treatment to his frostbitten foot. Even until the day before we were due to fly out I was not entirely sure if we were actually going. There was no way Andy could race and this had a huge emotional impact on all of us. There was nothing I could do or say to make him feel better and I just felt guilty and tried to avoid the subject of the Finnish race, which is difficult when you are busy packing your winter gear and fat bike!
Yet again we had a very good journey up to the Rovaniemi and because we had taken Andy’s parents with us we treated ourselves to a nice hotel. The Porohovi was also where the race event center was. This was very useful for prerace brief, kit check and the start and finish of the race. Our room was huge which was very useful for sorting out my kit and building my bike.
The Friday before the race was due to start was fairly hectic as we had a scheduled visit to see Santa and I really wanted to go and have a ride on the river to see what the snow condition were like.
It doesn’t matter what age you are you can never fail to be excited about visiting the real Santa in Lapland. After some photos he wished us all good luck and sent us on our way. I suppose he’s a very busy man. We still had some time before the bus was due to take us back to the hotel so we took the opportunity to go on a Reindeer sled ride through the forest. It was a much civilised way to travel and I was starting to wonder why on earth I was embarking on another crazy long distance snow race.  I think I need my own reindeer!
All too soon I was stood on the frozen river waiting to get going. I was fairly nervous but I really wanted to get this race done so I was fired up. The temperatures were warm at about -1oC so I had altered my clothing that I had worn for Arrowhead.
Ready steady go! As ever the pace was fast but the river was riding really well and it soon became apparent my tyre pressures were too low. I did have a little practice ride the day before but now with my bike fully loaded I needed more air. I was so cross with myself and unsure what to do because I had locked horns with the Alaskan lady I didn’t want to pull over and pump up my tyres. The checkpoints on this race are fairly frequent and I had altered my Garmin to kilometres so we soon reached checkpoint 1 at the 10km mark but yet I pushed on.
I tried to hold her wheel but she was so strong and I was starting to overheat. I had already removed my hat and buff and unzipped my jacket. This was a long race and I wasn’t planning on stopping so I decided just to ease off slightly but it was awful watching her pull away from me.
After the river we ended up on a forest track where the snow was much softer. For once I was glad I had not stopped and added more air to my tyres as my bike snaked and squirmed under me.  I just kept telling myself to relax and pedal smoothly and I was soon overtaking a lot of the men who were also struggling with the snow conditions. Before I knew it I had reached the second checkpoint. I was actually making really good progress which did loads for my moral.
The next section I was dreading, during the brief Alex’s words were this bit will be shit for the bikes. It was a section of steep winding single track that eventually dropped onto the lake. I was still feeling upbeat and thought come on it’s the same for everyone I bet the Alaskan not crying about it. It was tricky and sometimes the snow was up to the top of my thigh. I had decided to take a gamble on my kit because of the warm conditions and as a result my bike was so much lighter than in previous races. This certainly paid off through the woods because I was fairly nimble with the bike and could easily pick it up to get round the narrow trees. I took a few tumbles but no real dramas and I soon reached the shores of the lake Sinettajarvi .
The lake rode really well and I still perhaps should have stopped and pumped up my tyres but I was now riding with some of the Italian racers and we were trying to figure out a song we all knew so we could have a sing along. The atmosphere at all of these races is just phenomenal and even with language barriers you still come away with lifelong friends  who will always have a special place in my heart. The lake was about 11km long but we soon were riding past the ice hotel and had reached the far shore where much to my delight Andy and his parents were there along with many other race supports. It was here I eventually decided to pump up my tyres.  Andy stood over me with his hands firmly jammed inside of his pockets as no outside help is aloud what so ever.  I was so happy to see he was also enjoying himself. He had built a fire in the shelter and was cooking reindeer sausages and warming hot juice on the fire. It was quite a little party with many nationalities such as French, Dutch, Spanish, and Finnish there supporting their husbands.

After a big hug it was time to get moving again my heart felt a little lighter seeing Andy with a smile on his face. Over the next hours I rode and pushed my bike through various terrain. The scenery was just stunning and with the different conditions rarely did it become monotonous and some of the descents were huge fun if a little scary in places.  The volunteers at checkpoints were so friendly even though not much English was spoken. One chap tried to make me sit by the fire and eat some reindeer sausage. That was tricky trying to explain I was racing and didn’t want to stop though my body would have appreciated a sit down by the fire.
I was now at the highest point of the race and approaching the halfway checkpoint. For the bikes this is the slowest section of the course as it is very high up and the snow tends to blow covering the track making this a bit of a slog. It was just starting to get dark but I could see that everyone had been pushing their bikes and I knew that the middle checkpoint there was a refuge with a fire. This is the only checkpoint throughout the entire race where you can get inside and escape the elements. I had already decided unless I was actually on my knees I wasn’t going to stop. Still in my mind I was hoping that the Alaskan racer had stopped and was perhaps slowing down a little.
The refuge looked amazing so warm and cosy with a big fire roaring in the centre of the cabin. I think the lady thought I was totally crazy when I checked in and out at the same time. I knew had I stopped it would have cost me at least an hour. It was now totally dark and I was plodding on looking at the beam of light cast in front of me from my head torch. The next section was slow going but I knew there was a fast section of road coming up. Just keep it moving every step is a step in the right direction and I had passed halfway.
I was getting a bit lonely out there and it felt like it was midnight even though it was about 8pm. Then I heard voices coming out of the darkness. It was Andy, Maria and some of the other supporters. Hooray at last I had reached the road.  I stopped to eat drink and add some air to my tyres. I had been pre warned that this section was quick so make the most of it.
After a big group hug  time to get back on it and I was actually riding my bike very quickly. I was very aware of my lack of helmet as I flew up and down ice covered roads but I was making progress so that was worth celebrating. The van full of the race supports pulled alongside with lots of cheers and whoops then all too soon it pulled away and I was alone just surrounded by darkness and my own thoughts.
My Garmin clicked over 100km so to celebrate I stopped to have a caffeine gel and a big drink I also treated my backside to some chamois cream. It’s all about little treats to keep you going. The road section was all too soon over and I was back pushing my bike through soft snow. I am normally absolutely fine on my own in the dark but I started to see things and a couple of strange shapes in the trees made me jump. I had been on my own for hours and I was tired and could feel my tempo slowing down. I don’t normally wear an iPod but I knew some of the terrain would be very testing so I had shoved my shuffle into my pocket. I am too ashamed to admit to the cheesy rubbish I listened too but it helped pick me up and push on again. After what seemed like a like a life time I had reached the next checkpoint.
Just 25km to go to reach the river I was starting to believe I could do it and with a mixture of pushing riding and falling off I was finally heading down hill to the river. I knew once I was on the river it would be flat but I may have a headwind. So close but so far away the amount of snowmobile traffic on the river during the day had turned it into mashed potato it was awful to ride on and the headwind was testing too. For a moment I just wanted to curl up and have a little cry but that wouldn’t get me closer to home.  Come on Jane quit your moaning and get this done.
Eventually I could see the final checkpoint. They had done a wonderful job of making it welcoming with a big fire and candles in the snow. Just 10km left now let’s go. It was a slog and at one point I got so disorientated I almost went down the wrong fork in the river. I had to use the last of my strength to concentrate and soon I could see the lights on the bridge and Rovaniemi in the back ground. It was like Elephant Lake All Over again with the lights never getting any closer! At last I was scrambling up the snowy river bank because I didn’t have the energy to ride it.
I had made it my eyes struggled to focus in the harsh light of the hotel foyer. My family had waited up until stupid o clock to see me home. It had taken me just over 18 hours to get round. I never did manage to catch the Alaskan lady so I had to settle for 2nd place again. She was so strong and I think doing Arrowhead only 2 weeks previous was a bit ambitious.
Rovaniemi 150 compared to Arrowhead 135.
Though they are both winter ultras Rovaniemi is a very different beast to Arrowhead. Though historically Arrowhead is a much colder race you have the nice warm checkpoints to look forward to and your drop bag. For me personally I broke Arrowhead down into small chunks checkpoint to checkpoint and also managed to carry a smaller amount of food with me. Rovaniemi you don’t have your drop bag to look forward too or Grilled cheese and soup at the halfway point. You are out there for the entire race and have to carry all of your food but the distance is shorter.

Neither race is easier than the other the both have massive challenges you have to overcome but what is the same is the power of human spirit whether it’s other racers, family or the army of volunteers that make these races what they are. Yes I did hurt out there but I have come away with some amazing memories and friends for life that nobody can take away from me.

Friday, 14 February 2014

All Terrain Cycles back Leeds Lord Mayors Cycle Ride

The Leeds Lord Mayors Cycle Ride was officially launched this morning. Here at All Terrain Cycles, we are over really chuffed to be a Main Sponsor of the event. We will be involved with Mechanical assistance and support as well offering event riders help with equipment and bikes.
 If you show us your entry form in Salts Mill Shop , we will give you -15% off goods you need for the ride.
 Here are Team Riders Gaby Shaw and Chris Hope showing the Lord Mayor, Tom Murray how its done.
 Come and join us on 29th April and ride 400 miles from Dortmund to Leeds , or join in at Hull on Sunday 4th May or the Family ride in the afternoon.
 What ever takes your fancy please come and join us , we want 100s of riders to make this an event not to forget and help us raise loads of cash for Loffty that supports Kids projects in Leeds.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Saturday was a very exciting day.......

our Ride in Peace Race Team all got together  for a beginning of Season shindig.
At All Terrain Cycles, we have our strongest Team ever this year.
DH , Road , Enduro , Cross , XC even Fat Bike!
 The guys and gals talked Race talk , grabbed their new bikes and kit and then rode off into the hills on a training run.

Look out everyone 2014 is going to be our year!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Clockwork Orange 25 Limited edition

So whats black and purple and there only 25 in the whole world?
Well it has to be the new Limited edition Clockwork 29er
We have number 23 out of 25 in our showroom.
Its a 19" Large and would make a magical bit of artwork for your lounge wall !
Here is being built in our workshop.