Cheap Bike Xmas Challenge – Muddy Fun!

When my front brakes stopped working, I did start to wonder whether this was such a great idea. But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s go back to the beginning …

Mark Garner came up with genius plan of buying cheap bikes (maximum price of £30) and then riding a route with a set of mystery “Top Gear”-style challenges along the way, and finally donating our machines to a bike-reuse charity at the end. Four of us assembled for the challenge at the Bridge on a wet Saturday morning just before Xmas – Mark Garner, Duncan Coombes, Luke Stratford and your author, Steve Hammatt. Tom Garner also came along to help out with the event.

I’d managed to pick up a very decent Scott mountain bike for just £20 (amazing what you can find on Facebook Marketplace amongst the tat). So I was well under the target price and should be picking up some bonus points for that. Suitably decorated with tinsel and lots of fairy lights, I drove down to the bridge with my steed (not fancying the extra work of pedalling a heavy bike to the Bridge and back when I didn’t know what horrors challenges lay ahead). However, I found myself out-Xmas’ed by Duncan, who had gone full Elf!

Can you tell that it’s Xmas?

Duncan had previously pulled out of the challenge because he had been needed for work, only to then find at the last minute that he wasn’t needed after all. So although he hadn’t picked up a cheap bike, he came down on one of his own bikes with the promise to donate some money to the charity (details of the charity at the end of this article).

You’ll also see above Mark’s very impressive (and very heavy) old-school fixie, complete with handy basket. This was apparently his back-up bike, having failed to dislodge a stuck seat post on his original cheap bike and destroyed the frame in the process – oops! Luke brought an old mountain bike of his own that he had previously used for cycling to the station (for challenge purposes assumed to have cost £30).

The weather was initially unkind to us and we started off with heavy rain. We waited a while for it to abate, but we had no luck with that so set off for our adventure anyway. Through the airfield we went, and I started to try and get used to my unfamiliar mount (just one brief trip round the block before this). It felt heavy, and the position was a lot more upright compared to my usual road bike, but it seemed pretty good for the price and the gears were working well (my triple front chainring would come in useful later!).

Mark’s chain came off on the way over – minus points for a mechanical! My front brake started to lose effectiveness too, and I started to be concerned that I’d have to pull out. Luckily, it turned out to be simply that one of the brake block holders had slipped down the caliper, which was easily fixed with an allen key.

We headed onto the Army ranges at Ash Vale, which was a new experience for me. I knew they were there and available to cycle on, but hadn’t actually visited before. The rain stopped when we arrived, so that let us begin to dry out. On to the first challenge!

Time trial!

Mark announced we’d be riding a mini time trial on some tarmac’d paths. We went together for a sighting lap, so that we knew where we were going on the short loop. There were some dog walkers about, so Tom went down the path a bit so that he could warn any walkers (and we took care around them too, of course anyway) and take photos.

Not much danger of me breaking the speed limit

Unsurprisingly, our road racer Luke won the TT. Duncan put up a good fight too, so it was down to myself and Mark to avoid last place. I ended up slowest – not a great start but I was having fun.

On to some off-road riding now, across the ranges. With all the rain recently it was very muddy, and my lack of off-road riding experience didn’t help, but I took it steadily. We followed a decent track for a while, seeing a few other riders and walkers, and then took the track directly across the ranges in the direction of Tunnel Hill. Others will know that it’s basically moorland over there, and quite rough. While this was its own (non-points-scoring) challenge for me, especially with the mud, gravel and large puddles, I also did love the scenery and exploring a new area.

Mark told us that there would be a hill climb next. Gulp. He seemed to take pleasure in telling us that the hill was known locally as “Death Star Climb”. Double gulp. Just as we pulled up to the top of the climb, with the start point down the hill and along the path, there were lots of minus points for Luke – he lost his chain and he punctured as well! He was going to head home, but Mark pulled out a suitable tube from his handy basket and Luke was back in action again after a short delay.

I knew I shouldn’t have said this bike never gets a puncture

It wasn’t a good start for me. I couldn’t even ride down the climb and had to resort to walking! My lack of off-road skills were no doubt to blame. It was very steep and gravelly. I was probably going too slowly and felt that I couldn’t keep proper control of the bike and was going to fall off through sliding. I felt pretty dumb, but it helped somewhat to hear that Duncan (who does go off-roading) also found it very hard to descend.

Not the hill, just the flat bit at the top

We all got down to the bottom in one piece and decided who would go first. Me? Ok, well, better get it over with. We had a bit of a run-up to get some sort of speed up before hitting the hill. I of course use the word “speed” in the loosest possible sense, when applied to my own effort. I got part-way up (thanks to my granny ring), but then ended up losing so much speed that standing on the pedals I was spinning my rear wheel in the gravel and going nowhere, so I got off before I fell off. Wow, even pushing my bike off was very hard and I was overtaken on the way up.

Luke was a superstar and rode the whole way up the climb, finishing with the quickest time. Mark came second with the “slightly unconventional” technique of walking/running/pushing his bike up the entire climb!

After catching our break (where’s the oxygen?!), we rode over to the Tunnel Hill road and went down and left to the canal. The next challenge beckoned – a braking distance test.

We found ourselves a straight bit of reasonable track, starting from a bridge over the railway. Initially we thought of riding four abreast and then braking at a specific point, but it was clear that the track wasn’t wide enough for that. Two abreast it was then, with winners facing other winners and similarly with losers.

First off was me vs Duncan. He had disc brakes vs my V-brakes, so unsurprisingly he won. Next Luke (again, discs) vs Mark (ancient fixie with rim brakes) – a predictable result. For the 3rd/4th place playoff, I lined up vs Mark and won – wow, I actually won something on a bike (sort of). The final was going to be interesting – discs vs discs, Duncan vs Luke. It was a close one, but Luke was victorious thanks to a side-skidding stop.

We headed in the direction of home, riding along the canal tow path. Part of the canal had been drained down for lock gate inspection work. Luke, in his wisdom, decided that this would be a good opportunity to try riding across the canal, something that you can’t do very often.

Umm … help?

Big mistake. He didn’t realise that there was a thick layer of silt at the bottom of the canal, his bike stopped as if he’d hit a brick wall and he somersaulted over the handlebars landing in the silt! He did land feet-first but they ended up stuck deep in the silt (as was his bike), and he needed a nearby walker (interestingly, looking for freshwater mussels) to help him get out. Oh how we laughed! He managed to get himself back onto the tow path, with very muddy tyres.

After the comic interlude, we carried on back through Frimley Green, The Hatches and back to the Bridge, then just down the road to the pub to tot up the scores, work out the placings and have some well-needed refreshments.

Anyone got a calculator?

Mark awarded some more points depending on how much people had paid for their bikes, and we voted on who had the most festive bike/costume – first place to Duncan on that one, with me as runner-up. Mark also went through any mechanicals and deducted points for those.

The final scores saw Duncan take the win, with (to my amazement) me in second, Luke third and Mark bringing up the rear.

Big thanks to Mark Garner for coming up with the idea for the event, and thanks to Tom for helping run it – it was a lot of fun. We’ll definitely run this again, though next time we’ll avoid making it quite so close to Xmas when it’s difficult for a lot of people to get the spare time.

The charity that our bikes are being donated to is called Re-Cycle. They take second-hand bikes and send them to rural communities in Africa who need them for getting to school, collecting water and other essential activities. Halfords at Farnborough Gate is a collection point.

Re-Cycle has sent over 112,000 bikes to Africa

FCCC in the Cyclo-Cross Nationals

The club would like to congratulate club members Scott Heyhoe and Stuart Jackson for qualifying for this weekend’s CX National Championships in Shrewsbury, and to wish them the best of luck for their respective races.

Scott will be racing in the club’s colours in the V50 race at 9:35 am on Saturday, with Stuart racing in V40 an hour later at 10:35am. Sunday afternoon sees the Elite races, with the likes of superstars such as Tom Pidcock and Ian Field (who recently delivered a top quality CX coaching session to the FCCC CX team).

CX is a very active area in the club at the moment, with several members competing each week over the winter at events all across the South. If you’d like to find out more about CX then check out our web pages on the subject, and contact Scott for more information.

THIS NEVER FAILS! – Club Night 3 Jan 2020

Scott Heyhoe

Over the Christmas break, there is no need to watch The Snowman, The Great Escape or even the Queen’s Speech (though I usually watch all three!). Anyhow, this video never fails to amuse me. Like Scrooge and The Grinch rolled into one, you can see exactly how miserable it can be to fit a tubeless tyre.

On the other hand, if you’d like to know how to successfully fit a tubeless tyre, and wave goodbye to punctures forever, then come along to your Club Night on 3 January 2020. Master wheelbuilder, Ian Lynch will be returning to risk life, limb and reputation by fitting a tubeless tyre in front of your very eyes. If we have time, I might glue on a tubular tyre so that you can see the difference. Please do come along and ask all of your questions about going tubeless.

Club nights take place the first Friday of every month, at All Saints Church Hall, Chapel Lane Farnborough GU14 9BW, 8.30pm to 10.00pm.

For more details, directions, or if you have suggestions for future topics, please contact social secretary Scott, at [email protected].

Off-Road Ride Report – 14/12/19

By Terry Holmes

Five of us met at Frogmore Leisure Centre for the latest off-road club ride. Jon Cooke had provided us with a route of around 22 miles taking us up to Caesar’s Camp, the well-known vantage point on Army land near Aldershot.

It wasn’t a good start! I’d broken a golden rule by not doing a thorough bike check prior to the ride, and we’d barely gone 10 yards when I discovered my dropper post cable wasn’t working, making the bike unrideable.

I asked Jon to start the ride with the others while I drove home to get my other MTB, which I knew was working just fine and we agreed to meet up near Fleet Pond.

We rendezvoused with good timing at the Fleet Pond car park and then all rode on.

Three of us were on full suspension bikes, one on a hardtail and Tom braved some slippery single track on his CX Bike. Fair play, he really had his bike handling skills put to the test on some pretty tricky drop-offs at the top of Caesar’s Camp. Jon’s route introduced us to some lovely singletrack there, recently used on the Brass Monkeys XC Enduro race, freshly carved out the previous week.

While we were up on the top of the hill a heavy shower came in quickly, and with the 30 mph winds and little cover we were lashed with hail, firing sideways into us like bullets!

The shower passed as quickly as it had come, giving us a brief and shivering moment to get a quick photo before making the descent back toward Long Valley and on to Fleet Pond where my car awaited. Tom had taken a short cut from the top of the Camp and by the time we reached Fleet Pond car park again, Ed was really feeling the cold so we both returned to Frogmore in my car while Cathy and Jon rode on to complete the route.

Despite the cold, high winds, hail and mud, we all enjoyed the ride (I think!). Great route Jon, and well done all for the ride. Look forward to the next one.

Now……to the business of some serious bike cleaning……..

If you’d like to get involved with off-road club rides, or you’d simply like to find out more, then please get in touch with our off-road secretary Scott Heyhoe at [email protected]

In a Field with Ian Field

By Scott Heyhoe

I was lucky enough to be one of six FCCC cyclo cross racers to find themselves at CycloPark in Kent, with multiple National CycloCross Champion, Ian Field. And what a fantastic coaching experience! We learned everything from explosive starts to how to ace slippery corners to confident off-camber descents to picking up the bike and jumping over hurdles.

Cyclo cross is the fastest growing cycling discipline, and it’s easy to see why. What was more difficult was understanding how Ian could make everything look so smooth and so effortless! However, that was why we were there. With a few demonstrations from Ian, several attempts by each of us, and some expertly-delivered alterations, suddenly, the magic began to happen, confidence flowing through us.

Four of us raced in various Regional championships the following week, each reporting great improvements. “Off cambers and sweeping turns were a dream”, said Alex. You can read more of Alex’s exploits in this week’s Cycling Weekly (12 December 2019 edition). My ability to carry speed through corners was night and day different, and I actually found myself cursing that I could have ridden even faster, such was my improvement in racing line. This, after all, is the benefit of coaching: unlocking potential. A superb day was had by all.

Thanks to Ian Field for sharing skills that will stay with us for a long time, to Ian Stuart for coming along and taking some wonderful photographs, and for FCCC for covering the cost.

Road Racing End of Season 2019 Round-Up

The road racing season has now wrapped up for this year, and while the last few months have seen less activity compared to the summer, there are still several notable results to report back on for this period for the FCCC road race team.

A big congratulations to Adam Bassom for gaining his 2nd category licence in October. That makes him the second rider (along with Jamie Parkinson) to make it all the way from novice 4th cat up to 2nd cat in a single season with the club. A tremendous achievement for both guys.

Another special mention goes to Scott Heyhoe, who raced on 5 September at Hillingdon, which is an amazing comeback considering the fact that just six months earlier he broke his hip while on holiday in Mallorca.

In Surrey League, the club finished 9th out of 51 clubs, compared to 11th place in 2018. This is an outstanding result and testament to the hard work of all the racers. Well done!

Surrey League 2019 Final Club Rankings:

  1. Southdown Bikes CASCO pet RC – 545 pts
  2. Crawley Wheelers – 460 pts
  3. VC Meudon – 399 pts
  4. Meudon Pedal Heaven Le Col – 396 pts
  5. Paceline RT – 342 pts
  6. Kingston Wheelers – 336 pts
  7. Addiscombe CC – 244 pts
  8. Blazing Saddles – 200 pts
  9. Farnborough & Camberley CC – 199 pts
  10. GS Vecchi – 197 pts

4 September – Portsmouth, Evening Circuits #23 3rd cat – Matt Davies 11th. Matt is pictured above, on the right in red, about to swerve onto the grass to avoid the fallen rider in front of him. Believe it or not, that fallen rider ended up sliding over the line to pip Matt for 10th place!

7 September – Hillingdon, BIG Events E/1/2 – Ollie Rastall 14th

14 September – Hillingdon, VC Equipe/Flix Oral Hygiene/Propulse Autumn Cup #1 2nd/3rd cat – Ollie Rastall 11th

5 October – Abingdon, Richard Kell Memorial Series #1 3rd cat – Adam Bassom 2nd

12 October – Abingdon, Richard Kell Memorial Series #2 3rd cat – Adam Bassom 8th

19 October – Portsmouth, Susie’s Ruby Circuits 3rd cat – Matt Davies 2nd

9 November – Hillingdon, BIG Events 3rd cat – Adam Bassom 5th

9 November – Hillingdon, BIG Events 4th cat – Noel Brooksbank 9th

Road race secretary Warren Vye decided to step down from his position in October after several years building up the team. We wish him well and thank him for his past service. We’re very pleased to announce that experienced 2nd cat FCCC racer Luke Stratford has taken on the road race secretary role, providing essential continuity, and is already busy making lots of plans for 2020.

If you’re interested in the idea of road racing, then get in touch with our RR secretary, Luke Stratford. He looks after a friendly team with a wealth of experience who can pass on plenty of advice and tips.

Club Trophies – Have You Won?

As a club we are fortunate to have a rich history that includes an impressive trophy collection (far more than are pictured here), covering all sorts of categories – not just time trials but also road racing, hill climbs, track racing and even sportives.

The large number of trophies means that sometimes a member might have won something without even realising it! The full list of trophies and the rules for them (including exactly what is needed to win each one) are detailed in the club rules document (pages 5-9), accessible via the Members’ area of the website. Please bear in mind that only first claim members are eligible for club trophies.

The onus is on members to come forward and claim trophies. Obviously if an award is for a particular club event (e.g. the annual hill climb championship) then the committee will already know about that and can present the trophy. However, some of the categories are a lot less clear cut and we really need members to come to the committee and say that they think they could be eligible for a trophy. For example, the committee can’t keep track of all open time trials that a member might have entered, so if you’ve achieved a very good time at Little Wallop CC’s TT and that’s connected to an FCCC trophy, you need to tell the committee.

Here’s another example – The Sportive Trophy, which according to the rules (page 8) is “awarded to the member with the greatest total distance ridden in sportives and audaxes. The time period to be 12 months from 1st October to 30th September.” Now this is one where the committee will usually have no real idea who might have won this (though this year we have a good guess!), and we need members to present their lists of sportives and audaxes to us. Someone out there will have won this, and we want as many trophies as possible to be looked after and displayed by members and not to have to sit in a box in a storeroom somewhere!

The trophies are presented annually at the Club Night of the Year (date for 2020 to be advised in due course).

Don’t be shy in coming forward, and please email the committee if you would like to put forward a claim for a trophy.

Club Night Friday 8 November

Ooo, we’re halfway there!

An audaxious tale in store for us at this month’s educational and entertaining club night. Hear how club member Keith Griffiths not only completed the ultimate out-and-back: Paris-Brest-Paris, but did it on a bike he built himself!

So, whether you’re having a mid-ride crisis or a mid-life crisis, come along to your club night to learn how 600km really is only halfway there, in an event that takes riders from Paris to the sea at Brest and back again – a massive 1200km in total.

Friday 8th November, 8.30pm, All Saints Church Hall, Chapel Lane Farnborough GU14 9BW.

Red Bull Timelaps – Windsor

Good luck to all of our club members that are competing in this weekend’s Red Bull Timelaps 25-hour endurance race at Windsor Great Park.

The event starts at midday on Saturday, 26 October and finishes at midday on Sunday. Since the clocks go back at 2am on Sunday morning though, that makes it 25 hours in duration. Teams of four riders race in a relay, with the duration of the stints being up to the teams. There will also be a few solo (!) entries.

Club members Alex Ballinger, Adam Bassom, Adam Dart, Matt Davies, Matt Fawcett and Jamie Parkinson will all be taking part, and we wish them all the best for the race. They will be competing alongside all sorts of other teams, and as well as amateur teams that also includes Team Ineos featuring World Tour rider Pavel Sivakov. I’m sure they’d all appreciate some support if any other club members can drop by.

Good luck guys, and we look forward to hearing all about it!