Well the 2018 race season has now come to an end. Memories of the first races back in March seem like a world away and as the winter off-season starts to roll in, I thought now was as good a time as any to reflect on the year. I've had a good season. I've completed all the races I started, which was a relief for me after the nightmare that was 2017. Bike breakages made that a year I'd rather forget and I was delighted to achieve my goal of making it through 2018 injury and mechanical catastrophe free.
A few highlights along the way have been a 12th at the British Enduro Championships and consistent top 10's throughout the year in the Scottish Enduro Series races. I was delighted to have been selected as an Ambassador for the Scottish Enduro Series this year and have enjoyed listening to people's feedback at the races and promoting the Series. Enduro racing is still growing in Scotland and it is quickly becoming a hot bed for the best and fastest rides who come here to ride, train and race.
However, none of the good times away racing would be possible without the support of my sponsor, Cycle Law Scotland (CLS). Alongside completing my traineeship with the firm, they also support me in my racing ambitions. I've made great strides forward in my legal career as a member of the firm's team of specialist cycling lawyers. As of 16th October, I was admitted as a Solicitor in Scotland and this has all been thanks to the guidance I have received as a CLS Trainee Solicitor but also because of the support I receive when I'm away racing my bike. Having the opportunity to combine my legal career with my goal of competing at the highest level, racing enduro is something I am eternally grateful for. So I just wish to say thank you to everyone at Cycle Law Scotland and cheers to racing in 2018, I'm looking forward to 2019 already.
I think it was way back in 2013 when I last competed in the Selkirk MTB Marathon. Back then it was hardcore. 75km's of brutal, unrelenting single track through the Scottish Borders. I remember at the end of it being distinctly pleased to have just made it home the last time I rode this event. So, when a banner ad flashed across the front of my computer on a rather slow Monday morning depicting entry for this very event, I must of had a lapse of memory and I went ahead and entered it again. However, gone are the days of the 75km monster. In its place, the organisers, Durty Events now give riders the option of a 25km or 50km route.
Now I'm not one for long distances, really. I do enjoy a big day out but climbing is very much a means for descending as far as I'm concerned. The kind of lovely people you meet at a MTB Marathon are often lycra clad, carbon XC bike riding, sadomasochists who enjoy punishing themselves on the climbs in pursuit of that elusive Strava KOM. So when I turned up in baggy shorts, riding an aluminium hardtail sporting big, knobbly tires, I got some strange looks.
The route took in a fantastic mix of natural singletrack, twin-track forest roads, ancient drove roads, hand-made singletrack, and trail centre. It meandered its way up, along, down and through the tweed valley. 50km's of beautiful, but tough riding.
I must confess, I set off a little too exuberantly and paid for it later on in the day. Officially the Selkirk MTB Marathon is a "sportive" type event, i.e non-competitive. But that is simply untrue. Put any self respecting mountain biker up against the clock and you can be sure they will try there damm hardest to finish the course as soon as they can. In a race against not only the clock but also themselves and their fellow competitors, even if if its for nothing more than bragging rights at the pub after the event. This is a competitive event.
But I know my place. I race enduro most of the time which requires a completely different approach than that of long distance XC riding so I was just here to enjoy the views (read : to get the best time I could). The sun was high in the sky and despite getting overtaken on most of the uphills by the aforementioned lycra clad sadomasochists, I was able to make some time up on the descents.
I was able to make it home in 03:23:43 which I was pretty happy with. All in all a good day out and some good training for the next Scottish Enduro Series coming up soon. Big thanks to all the Durty Events team for the excellent organisation and to Cycle Law Scotland for their support this year.
See you on the trails,
A few weeks ago, several members of the Cycle Law Scotland (CLS) team headed north to the beautiful city of Inverness in the north of Scotland. Rod (marketing director), Brenda (founder and head partner of CLS) and Thomas (trainee Solicitor) all signed up to take part in the famous Etape Loch Ness. The Etape Loch Ness is described as "cycle sportive taking place around iconic Loch Ness, offering the chance to cycle 66 miles (106 km) on traffic free roads". The route takes you on a 360° closed-road route around the loch, offering 900 m of ascent. There is a timed King of the Mountain stage, with a 4.8 mile (9 km) climb gaining 380 m in height with a gradient reaching 12% at times which was tough for all members of the team.
Each member of the CLS team had set their own personal challenges for the day. However, their main purpose and reason for attending the event was to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. The team members set up fundraising pages on JustGiving.com and Rod, Brenda and Thomas raised £360 between them thanks to generous donations from friends of the firm and other members of the CLS staff. There is still time to donate to Macmillan and if you would like to make a donation you can do so by clicking here.
Brenda set herself the challenge of completing the 66 mile route in under 5 hours. Rod agreed to be her wingman and rode the route by her side. Brenda was delighted to sneak in with a time of 4 hours 59 minutes and 34 seconds (04:59:34).
Brenda said, "I was so determined to get under that 5 hour mark. The route was fantastic, cycling along the shores of Loch Ness without traffic is a special experience. We have clients who ride in this event and it was great to finally experience the Etape for myself. I am planning next year already"
Thomas, who normally spends most of his time on two wheels off road riding mountain bikes, dug out his commuter bike which he purchased through the firm's cycle to work scheme. Having not ridden a road bike for some time, Thomas was a little nervous that he wouldn't be able to keep up with the roadies. However he was able to complete the route in three hours, eleven minutes and twenty three seconds (03:11:23).
After the event Thomas said, "I was really proud of my time and even surprised myself. The beauty that surrounds Loch Ness is astonishing. It wasn't easy but I can't wait to come back. Who knows, maybe this road riding stuff ain't so bad? Although I could definitely do with a lie down now"
Rod, Brenda and Thomas all did really well and the whole Cycle Law Scotland team are really proud of their achievements and money raised for Macmillan. Well done guys!
So here were are. The beginning of another race season. Another winter of training with coach Phil. A new year awaiting to unfold. What lies ahead remains to be seen but as far as season openers go, few do it better than the folks at TweedLove. We were in the Tweed Valley for the race known as Vallelujah, a hallowed race for those who regularly throw themselves off hill sides on their mountain bikes at the weekends. This year it took in delightful trails from both the well known Glentress and lesser known Cademuir forests.
It was great to see riding buddies and racing rivals again after a long winter of racing hiatus. The sun had come out and the trails were teeming with grippy dirt and perfectly formed ruts. It was shaping up to be a good weekend. Sunday race day came, as it always does and the seeded riders headed out toward the back of 9am. First up was Cademuir to take in 3 short, but technically demanding stages before making our way towards Glentress for a further 3 physical assaults of our bikes and bodies.
First race nerves always make an appearance but for some reason I felt remarkably calm. The chilled out nature of the event meant stress was at a minimum, but the make no mistake, the racing would be fierce, fast and furious. Excitement and determination got the better of me and I put the bike down coming into a turn on stage 1. "Chill out!" I told myself.
My plan of attack was to keep things steady until stage 6. Stage 6 was the big kahuna, the whole enchilada, the most important stage of the weekend. Being the longest and most physical, time could be made (or lost) here. I executed my plan with surprising efficiency with 3 stage results inside the top 6. But it was stage 6 where I had planned to make my attack. I saved my energy with this in mind and went with "all the eggs in one basket" approach.
The top section of 6 was a flat out, white knuckle ride down the southern face of Glentress and the stage snaked its way through the forest all the way back to Peebles. I was riding well, catching the rider in front of me and felt as though I could finish the race strong. Then, all of sudden my bike started to make some concerning noises. Like when you are driving an old car and you hear a loud bang, not a reassuring noise in any case, well that was what I was going through but at this point I was travelling at speeds of up to 31mph. Offroad. When your bike starts to make noises like that, you certainly notice. I put it down to a rock strike or something of that nature and ploughed on.
I began to hear rattling, but as is tradition when you are mid race run, I ignored it and kept pushing on. However, I was halted when my rear brake eventually seized and stopped the wheel from turning. I was only a few hundred meters from the finish line. "This can't happen, not now!" I shouted. I pulled over to the side of the trail, looked round and there it was. Sticking out of the end of my frame was my rear axle. It had worked its way out of the frame making the wheel loose and causing the rear brake rotor to become misaligned with the brake caliper, thus stopping the wheel from turning. I frantically tried to get the axle threaded back in but it was no use. The seconds ticked away and a rider went by, then another, until I got everything tightened up again.
I rode to the finish and I was gutted. Plauged by mechanical misfortune once more. Ah well, at least the sun was out. I ended up 19th thanks to my bikes spontaneous combustion no doubt. But crucially I was able to take away some positives this weekend. I have some good speed and I can hang with the really fast guys when I put things together. Its now a matter of patience and a bit of luck to carry that through to the end of a race.
Next up for me is Rd1 of the Scottish Enduro Series at Laggan. Entries are still available so get involved and give racing a go!
Thomas Mitchell appointed as new POC Scottish Enduro Series Ambassador
A 24-year-old trainee lawyer has been appointed as an ambassador for the 2018 POC Scottish Enduro Series, which starts next month.
Thomas Mitchell, a 6’ 3” elite Enduro mountain bike racer, will take on the role to help promote both the races and the locations for this year’s series.
Bikes are Thomas' passion, his hobby, his sport, and his job as a trainee solicitor with Road Traffic Accident Law Scotland (RTALS) LLP. Everything he does revolves around bikes in one way or another.
Thomas grew up mountain biking in the Scottish Borders and started racing in the Scottish Enduro Series in 2014. He competes regularly in the ‘No Fuss Events’ managed POC Scottish Enduro Series and has been fortunate enough to compete in select rounds of the Enduro World Series in the past.
Ahead of Thomas’ Enduro season opener, the TweedLove Whyte Valleluljah in the Tweed Valley (24-25 March), and before he heads to Laggan Wolftrax for the first round of the POC Scottish Enduro Series (14-15 April), he said:
“Enduro racing is rapidly becoming the most compelling and competitive form of mountain bike racing. The variety of trails, the locations and the camaraderie it inspires is bringing more people into our sport, which is fantastic. This ambassadorial role gives me a chance to encourage more people to discover the sport and I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities it will bring. Through cycling, I find it possible to combine sport at a top competitive level with a working life, and I want to encourage others to give racing a go.”
Having graduated with an LLB Honours degree from The University of Aberdeen in 2016 and completed his Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at The University of Edinburgh in 2017, Thomas is now a Trainee Solicitor at Road Traffic Accident Law Scotland (RTALS) LLP.
His primary focus is progressing claims for injured cyclists through the civil legal process working for Cycle Law Scotland. The work takes on a very personal dimension for Thomas as he knows the challenges cyclists face on the roads and can bring that understanding and expertise to the many cases that the firm handles.
He is #thecyclinglawyer.
New bike day
I very recently picked up my new mountain bike from Hart's Cyclery in Edinburgh. I had my first day on it this weekend. There is a little background story that goes with this bike so here goes...
I originally bought a bike in early December, the same make and model as the one I have just acquired. I went to collect it on a Friday night after work. I was so excited. It was the first bike I'd bought in a while. Something I choose to ride, something I really wanted to ride.
Being a young, Trainee Solicitor I'm not making the big bucks so I had to beg, borrow and steal, well not steal but you get the jist of what it took to get this bike together.
I collected the bike, which at the time was one of 6 left from the first shipment coming to Europe from the manufacturer. I put it in the back of the van and drove it home. I checked everything over and put it in a garage, safe for the night. My intention was to ride it during that weekend but sometimes life gets in the way and I wasn't able to ride. Handily, I'd booked annual leave for the Monday so earmarked that for the maiden voyage, December 4th 2017.
Tragically, in the early hours of the 4th my new bike was stolen from the garage it was being kept in. Gone in the night and I hadn't even had a chance to ride it. I was absolutely heartbroken. Having bikes (or anything else) stolen is never pleasant but it's made worse if you've just picked it up and you haven't even had the tyres on dirt.
Thankfully my insurance covered the bike but the process has been long and I've only now been able to get a replacement. This time there was only 1 left from that shipment I mentioned earlier and I immediately put my name to it.
This time I made sure I wouldn't wait another minute to ride the bike on my favourite Innerleithen trails. It was damp, cold and dreich but my god... what a machine! The bike is everything I'd hoped it would be and it's currently just out the box. No special components, no modifications, just bone stock. It really is an impressive piece of equipment and all for under £3,000 which in mountain biking terms is relatively cheap.
So sit back, relax and share in my unbridled joy as I finally get to ride the bike I'd always dreamed of owning.
Can you tell what it is? Comment with your guesses. All will be revealed soon.
Pole EVOLINK 140 bike check
Thomas rides a size large Pole EVOLINK 140. Unlike a lot of EVOLINK 140 riders, Thomas chooses to run a 150mm fork as opposed to the longer travel 160 mm option many prefer. The 510mm reach of the size large suits Thomas' 6ft 3' frame well when paired with a 50mm stem and a Works Components reach adjust headset which gives him an extra 5mm reach over the standard headset.
The ability to fit a water bottle inside the frame is vital for Thomas. When racing he is able to go without a backpack meaning he can focus on his riding more. Thomas runs a 170mm RockShox reverb seat post. Thomas's personal sponsor, Ergon provide an SME3 saddle for long days out on the bike.
Thomas has been a long time user of CrankBrothers products having been sponsored by them since 2015. He runs the Mallet E model over the Mallet DH model. Thomas says he prefers the smaller profile of the E pedals and the shorter spindle length. Thomas runs his cleats in the 15 degree release angle. Thomas runs the seat post lever on the left hand side, under his handlebar. He uses grip tape to ensure he never misses the remote.
Thomas does not have sponsorship for drive train or brakes so he is able to mix and match the parts he uses. He runs a Shimano XT 11 speed cassette, old style 170mm XT cranks and an SLX shifter. Thomas runs an SLX shifer because it only allows one shift at a time. Whereas more expensive Shimano shifters allow multiple shifts with one click, Thomas says the SLX shifter allows him to always keep track of which gear he is in, a tip he learned when reading about MTB legend Brian Lopes' bike set up many years ago. Thomas uses Ergon's GA2 grips, preferring them over the more popular GE1 model. Thomas also runs his brake levers almost flat, he tried this to help combat weight distribution on the steep terrain of his home trails and he's stuck with it ever since. His brakes are SRAM Guide GE, E - Bike brakes which have 4, large, over sized pistons. They help keep the speed of his EVOLINK in check when paired with 203mm rotors.
Thomas' bike is prepared and maintained by Fall Line Cycles in Peebles. The mechanics there, Nic Jenkins and Nick Tanner both know how hard Thomas is on his bike so he tends to run a coil shock with a 650Ibs spring. But Thomas also enjoys how the EVOLINK feels with the standard RockShox Monarch air shock so swaps between both shocks during the season.
You can pre-order your own EVOLINK 140 frame now from Pole Bicycles right here. Although we can't promise you it'll make you as fast as Thomas.
EWS Rd 7, Whistler, Canada. Stages 2,3 and 4 practice
I have been training on stages 2, 3 and 4 of the EWS out here in Whistler, Canada. The trails here are so rough. It has been really difficult to just hold on to the handlebars. It will be a battle to hold on tomorrow.
We made it to Whistler! Me and Niamh have been hitting up laps of the bike park. We loved riding B Line and I even gave A Line a go which was fun, although easy to overshoot the jumps. It is hot and dusty and the park is so rough! But we're having a blast nonetheless. I unfortunately snapped my axle on Crank It Up and hit the ground hard. I'm really sore but fighting through it. The Pole is in a local shop getting fixed and hopefully it'll be sweet for racing. Fingers crossed
Canada Rough Cuts Ep3
I've been in Squamish a few days now and I'm really enjoying the riding here. I did plan on doing a few uplift runs, however these plans were scuppered as the air quality is so poor. There are forest fires raging north in Kamloops and smoke is blowing down and into Squamish. The air quality has taken a turn for the worse and there are not very many people out on the trails. The evenings are happily a little better, I met up with fellow Pole ambassador, Adam Price, who lives out here in Squamish. He's super quick and showed me some cool turns. We hit turn after turn until the sun went down. Another day ticked off in paradise.