I like it simple. And even though I get carried away with putting bouncy bits on sometimes to go a bit faster, I always go back to what’s best. Rigid.

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So when some nice carbon forks turned up from Kinesis with a 15mm QR axle, it spurred me on to strip the bike back and ride it hard.

The FF29 built up into a 20.7lb machine with heavy tyres. Light enough.

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First rides out were a few blasts up into Kentmere.

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Trails were dry (ish) and the fork was great. The added height of 490mm (compared to 470mm which is the norm for most old-skool 29er rigid forks) really made the handling sooo much better.

Friday night came along and I left work early to head over to Hamsterley Forest for the 3rd round of North East MTB XC series.

The forest was damp after some rain earlier in the day and there were a few sketchy sections, almost making me think of a practice lap.

Getting ready too slow made sure I wasn’t going to practice any of it.

Start was at 19:30 and as it was a night race, it was supposed to last 45minutes (ended up being over an hour for most thought)

The start was on a stretch of fast fireroad and after riding at 150rpm to try and keep up there was an uphil section before we all headed down a mud bank.

Too much breaking never does you good in those situations. Funny to watch people fall off in front of you though.

After a lot of laps (the laps were shorts, I felt stronger towards the end and finished with a stoppie (going too fast for a wheelie).

I headed back to the van to get changed and head off straight away to avoid the midges. However, I’d forgotten about my number! You have to hand it back in after the race.

I headed back to the start line and turned up while they were doing the prizes.

I thought I’d heard my name, but didn’t ever think I’d have won anything. There’s some fast lads that turn up and they all have bouncy bits and gears.

It turned out I’d finished 2nd. Not bad ‘ey!

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A few rides at Hamsterley followed over the weekend – checking out the Gravity Enduro race being held there (got to enter that next year) and then a bit of an outing to South Shields.

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Nice to visit the seaside once in a while.

In two weeks me and Roz will be driving down to the alps for a bit of a holiday.

In 2011 we went to Morzine, 2012 we went to Chamonix, Annecy and Morzine. In 2013 we’ll be going to Lake Garda (and then I have to go work in Chamonix and Friedrichshafen for a bit… work???).

We can’t wait. But this was the last chance me and Roz could go out together and get a bit of practice in.

Roz likes it rough… and preferably rocky. So we went in search of the rockiest trails in Hamsterley.

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It didn’t last long and we just slacklined instead.

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The days after that I discovered Stava.

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I had some fun… but I’ve still not mastered the fact of using strava on a ride, and then finding the time to stop and take a picture. I only get before and after shots now.

I spent the week testing Strava and the set up i was going to use for the Sam Houghton Challenge – a race in aid of cancer research in memory of Sam Houghton.

Three route choices. Elite, Long and Short. As I hadn’t pre entered I went for the long (same as last year) which is 46km with 1400m of ascent.

Set up for the race looked like this.

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RACE DAY

The race didn’t go as planned.

I started fast – even getting a few KOMs on the way! But after the climb up Garburn I hit a rock which sliced my tubeless tyres open and covered me in stans magic juice (white sticky stuff that fills any hole).

Once I’d gone through two CO2 canisters and inserted a leaky tube. 9minutes had passed.

I’d lost my ‘race pace face’ and didn’t feel quite as fast as I did for the first half.

I ended up 5th 5minutes down from last years time and losing out on a potential overall win (not just singlespeed).

I was gutted.

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Thanks to http://www.sportsunday.co.uk for the pic

This is the last week before driving into the sunny skies of Lake Garda. It can’t come soon enough.

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