Monday, February 29, 2016

Finding Enlightenment - Exposure Lights

I’m writing several posts about the main pieces of equipment that powered me through my first 24 Hours Solo. Leading into the race, probably the biggest gulf in my experience was riding when the sun ain’t shining - although I would have night ridden many years ago in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains, it had been at least six years since my last time riding off-road at any sort of pace at night (it was Bontrager 24/12 where Mel and I raced in the 12 hour pairs race - two to three hours total at night between us).

In 2008 we had both raced in the UK, and Mel being who she is (always seemingly super fast) won the “Queen of the Night” competition in a 12 hour race we paired up in (basically, fastest female night lap) - the prize - a shiny new engraved Exposure Maxx-D light which to this day she cherishes. We played with it, experimented with some other lighting systems and decided to go all in with Exposure Lights. For the next while (and any time we were on the road at night ) a Maxx-D and Joystick was on our bars and helmets - indeed, many of our friends loaned those same lights as they did 12 and 24 hour races themselves. Those lights from 2008 are still “on the go”!

Middle of the night
For the Worlds, I wanted to upgrade to the latest and greatest - everything I could reasonably optimise I would - for me (due to also working in the real world) I don’t believe in being “sponsored” by a company unless that company would be the thing I would have bought anyway - saving a few hundred Euro is nothing in comparison to the personal investment I have put into the sport - I will always go for the best equipment whether sponsored or bought. 

That is where Exposure came in - for the race I had two 6 Pack (2000+ lumen on full) and four Axis (bigger brother of the Joystick) for the race. They all fitted into one 6 Pack carry case and safely into my hand luggage for the flights to New Zealand.

My setup was simple - I ran the 6 Packs on the six hour mode and changed every four hours (never cutting it fine, although in fairness, I could turn them down to twelve hour mode and it was still enough light for the tight single track). With the Axis, I changed their program from the standard 1.5 hours on high to 2 hours and switched them out every two laps as lap times were around the hour mark during the night.

Early morning
The mountings I left on the bike and helmet from start to finish as at only a few grams, it wasn’t worth switching them on later (and I only had one helmet/bike with me anyway) to save weight.

Throughout the race, there is not a thing that I could fault with the lights - worked exactly as expected with no surprises. Now I can’t wait to get home and do some night riding before the nights get too short :)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Lovin Schwalbe Thunderburt

I have had a relationship with Schwalbe for many years now - at the start, it came out of Mel and I trying a massive bunch of tires from every manufacturer I could find and then settling on using Schwalbe before I ever started a personal relationship (i.e. some form of sponsorship). Since then, their tires remain at the head of the rubbery field and have evolved in cool ways (I talk about riding their Tubeless road tires here). The thing that I wanted to mention in this post was my exact tire setup I used in the Mongolian Challenge, the World 24 Hour Championships and almost all my training in between from Ireland in the winter to 3,300 meters above Addis Ababa (where you really don’t want things to go wrong). 

Racing Ralph on the front,  Thunder Burt on the rear (in either 2.1 or 2.25 depending on what I could get my mitts on).

At the WEMBO 24 Hour MTB World Championships
The Thunder Burt has been a revelation for me - it has a reasonably specific set of use cases but within that, it has continually blown me away. First off I’ll get it out of the way, it is not for wet mud, wet dirt or anytime there is a lot of water and you are not on stony (or tarmac) trails or road. Basically, since Mongolia (aside from the Crocodile Trophy which I used a Racing Ralph on the rear) it has been the only rear tire I used. Why, well, in the dry it rolls super fast, more than enough grip and did I say super fast? Over the last few months as I rode my road bike much less getting ready for the World 24 Hour Championships I still rode a significant number of kilometres on the road (don’t beat up my body all the time), but with the ThunderBurt on the rear, I can more than stay up with the fast roadie rides I join into and at the end of that, tear off into the mountains for more punishment on the fire roads and trails - it has almost left my road bike dormant. In the past, I hated riding my MTB on the road, so draggy, so much noise and so much fast (and expensive) wear on the tires. My last Thunderburt (the one I rode in Mongolia) finally gave up the ghost after 5,000 kilometres of training/racing across dirt, trail and road - yeah - 5,000km and no punctures (it was the 2.1 Snake Skin one - the riding in Ethiopia was very rocky at times so fragile it is not).

Pushing it in Mongolia with the setup
As I say, it wouldn’t be for general Irish/UK winter forest riding, but for trail centres, fire road (any season), road and trails when they are at least somewhat dry it has been magic.

This is how they looked after 1,000km of hard racing (rear)

2016 WEMBO 24 Hour MTB World Championships - 5th

I'll have a multi part posts up about the race sometime in the next few days. Below is a video I recorded a few hours after finishing (I look very rough) and the Strava file for the race below.

Sticky Bottle Interview
Another Piece

Going out on another lap