Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Gear: My Favourite Things

We all know the saying, all the gear and no idea... in this post I'd like to share my favourite gear with you, why I like it, why I use and where I got it from.

As you already know, I hate waste! I don't like paying more than what I should for a product, but I don't mind paying for something that I know will last and is of good quality.
I don't have lots of stuff/gear, but my philosophy is that, what I have has to be practical. I thought I'll give you a few tips on where I shop and which brands work for my figure, taste and budget. :)

I usually shop around, see what I like and want and then search on the Internet for the cheapest provider. There is so many good providers out there. Evans, Wiggle & Chain Reaction would be your best options most of the time, but don't think that they are necessarily the cheapest. They all offer free delivery and easy returns which make life easier. I prefer Evans & Chain Reaction's websites as it is more user friendly and easier to navigate around. Some shops also offer price matching, so do your research.

Apart from your bike number 1, 2 & 3 would be the essentials that you would need when you start riding, the rest you can buy as your need for them increase and as you get into the sport more.

1. Pearl Izumi Tights
I try and buy these when it is on sale. Expect to pay £34 - £40 on sale. Evans stock Pearl Izumi. In principal going into an Evans shop can be painful, but their online store is great. They have a great return policy, you can pick up in store and they also offer free home delivery, so you can order and take it back with no drama if it doesn't work for you.

2. Specialized Gloves
Your hands need protection for a few reasons. Firstly, so that you have good grip on your handlebars. Secondly, your hands take a lot of shots and shocks so good comfortable padding is essential. Thirdly, your hands are also exposed to overgrowing plants as you swish past them and if you fall over you will avoid the graze marks we used to get when we fell on the school playground. I am a big Specialized fan and like their body geometry philosophy.

3. Helmet
Specialized... :-) It was a birthday gift. (I chose it though...)  

4. Repair Kit
It is also important to always carry with you, a pump, a spare tube (the right size - check on your tyre if you are in doubt), tyre levers and a multi-tool

5. Camelbak Classic
Travelling light is key and my 2 litre water bladder is enough for the type of distance we do and also living on the island it is not often that you need to fill up your water reservoir. I usually fill mine to the 1.5l mark. The classic has one small pocket on the front in which I store my repair kit. Because I don't fill the reservoir to its maximum, I always have spare space for my rain jacket, house keys or anything else that needs to find a place to live.

6. Squirtlube
It is essential to keep your chain running smoothly, happy chain, happy bike, happy pedalling.:-) I prefer Squirt, less messy, works great in winter and summer and doesn't get clogged up with all sorts of gunk like other lubes. I can highly recommend it, a few places in the available. The latest shop that stock this is Specialized Concept Store and Wiggle also sells it online.

7. Kalenji Rain & Wind jacket
Best £12 ever spent, this jacket is perfect in the intermediate and early winter weather as my 3rd layer. It is light and packs away easily and cheap from Decathlon.

8. Buff
Absolutely love these. They have so many purposes. In fact there are 12 things that you can use it as, so yes you pay about £12 - £15 for a tiny piece of material, but there is so much that you can do with it. I use it for sweat wicking in summer and to keep my hair out of my eyes and in winter for warmth over my ears and head, sometimes also as a balaclawa/scarf.

9. Shimano Clip-ins
They are cheap and cheerful and do the job, I bought all 3 pairs of mine from the cheapest Internet free delivery provider. A good sale price is about £18 for entry level clip-in pedals.

10. Shoes
Again I love Specialized so I've only ever had Specialized shoes. Even though I love their brand I know that their shoes don't really cater for those of us with a wider foot, so it would probably be best to go for a brand like Shimano. I've bought both pairs on sale so keep an eye out for sales.

11. Short sleeve cycling tops
Thankfully I don't get cold easily and feel restricted in cycling tops with sleeves, so I basically buy any brand as long as it has the right material, I stay away from those shiny material that sits on your love handles. :-) Pearl Izumi, Altura and Bontranger, but I think it comes down to personal preference.

12. Clif Bars
Some of you might know that I don't really like fruit, very sweet stuff and can't stand peanut butter. So Clif Bar is the only bars that make an all chocolate chip bar, raisin and oat bar and their latest new flavour that was unlikely for me to like, but I LOVE it, is white chocolate and macadamia. I would usually only take a bite and then later another bite, but this white chocolate and macadamia is so nice that I had the whole bar in one go which is not preferable, but hey ho.

13. Clif Shots
Clif Shots are like jelly babies, but in the shape of an icecube. I don't like jelly sweets and sweet stuff as mentioned above, but these are great to take on any ride. I don't use any gels as you have to have the whole gel in one go which is just revolting and if you don't have the whole gel, then you are basically wasting it. So clif shots are very convenient and handy to have. I always have them with me and they are also great to hand out when someone has fallen or crashed to get over the shock.

Winter Apparel

14. DHB 3/4 Thermal Bib Shorts
Wiggles in-house brand DHB has been an absolute treat. I'm short, so the 3/4 length works perfect for me, I usually wear my South African arm warmers as legwarmers and it does the job. The bib also provides warmth and you feel nicely tucked in on your winter rides.

15. Seal Skinz winter waterproof socks
These babies have saved my feet from freezing plenty times. They have merino wool on the inside and are waterproof, don't misunderstand me, your feet still feel the cold, but at least they are not wet and cold, they are just cold. Don't get me wrong, they are nothing to look at, but they do the job.

16. Signature South African Arm Warmers
I use these all the time, they were the best gift given to me by my sister during the Fifa World Cup in 2010. Wearing them as arm and leg warmers all the time and we've used them as a make-shift bandage before too. Multi-purpose in many ways.

17. Gloves
In winter your hands and shoes feel the cold a lot more than other parts of your body so to keep them warm is going to make you a happier rider.
I use Gore wind and rain proof gloves, they are not tight fitted enough to my liking, but they keep my hands warm in most normal winter conditions.

18. Overshoes
Overshoes, neoprene material, wind and waterproof overshoes will help a lot. Overshoes will be the most unattractive item of clothing you will ever own, BUT for the benefits you will get from them, it is worth investing in them. Warmer, dryer feet, cleaner shoes!

I hope you found this useful, if you have any other kit relating questions, please drop me a line and I will try and answer your question. tangocycling@outlook.com

Wearing my Favourite Things
1. Specialized Shoes
2. South African Arm/Leg Warmers
3. Pearl Izumi short tights
4. Kalenji Rain & Wind Jacket
5. Specialized Gloves
6. Buff
7. Specialized Helmet (my old one - not a gift)
8. Borrowed Camelbak Classic which convinced me to get my own

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Paula's Debut MTB ride!

Sunday, 11 August 2013 - This post is all about Paulatjie! 

Well as I mentioned in my previous blog post, it has been years of banter and begging before Paula finally decided to come mountain biking with us. I lowered myself to even ride and buy a road bike and she still didn't budge, but as soon as Bron convinced Karen to come along she was up for it. I e-mailed Paula to invite her along and when she replied with, "Thanks for the email and your thoughtfulness!" I expected something along the lines of BUT I have to train for the Haute route. Instead she replied with, "Yes, that sounds like a great plan!" I could not believe what I was seeing in black on white.

We had a whole build up to the actual ride, I told Paula that mountain biking is like the surfing of cycling and that she will have to blend in with the cool kids.

So yes Paula finally joined the cool mountain bike crowd on her inaugural ride.

As there were engineering works on the train lines, we went down to Peaslake with the cars and did loads of single track.

We were a group of 16 all competent riders even though some joined for the first time ever. Albert invited a few old faces along and it was great to have a more people than what I expected.

Gill, Jason, Jono, Bryan, Simon, TC, Paula, Glen, Louis, Annelize, Pokkeltjie, Albert and Nathan
Unfortunately Bron, Kyle & Duncan was fixing Duncan's flat
We took Paula first to the legendary and well known Yoghurt Pots. She was right behind me the first time and it was an absolute priceless event. She recently got the nickname, Scrat, as in the squirrel from Ice Age. It was hilarious hearing her go, Ehhhh or Uhhh at the top of every dip on Yoghurt Pots. I was constantly looking back to check if she was still on her bike. She looked and rode like a potential very good mountain biker! :)

Some of us did Yoghurt Pots four times before we decided to carry on to Barry Knows Best. Jono's phone unfortunately dropped out of his saddle bag and fell somewhere on the trail. After a lot of uhmmming and ahhing and faffing with the app, locate my phone we were going to leave him there and meet up later. I suddenly just thought this is NOT going to work, no cellphone coverage and someone who potentially don't know where they are or where they need to go, so I made the executive decision that we are all going to look for the phone.

Typically mountain bikers our efforts were a bit useless as we were too selfish to push our bikes and walk and look under ferns. I was riding my bike while dialling Jono's number constantly. We gave up and just as we were about to leave Jono behind with Albert's phone Kyle saved the day.

He was on his way down Yoghurt Pots when he pulled over to let a speedster pass him. As he jumped into the bush he saw Jono's phone and Bron even picked up a pound that fell from his saddle bag too. Jono was so relieved and rewarded Kyle with the pound!

We went over to Barry Knows Best and down to Peaslake and up through the Walking Bottom parking lot over to Christmas Pudding and Carpet Land. The trails were dry and running smoothly.
Coming down Carpet Land, Nathan, Bron, Jason & Liezl

We went back up on the tar road to do Secret Santa. As Paula was cycling up she got into road cycling mode and brushed wheels with Jono and fell on the tar. I helped her to get her chain back on and ran some water over her elbow before we went on to Secret Santa. We were all amused that she came off on the road and not on the trails. :-) Hope your hand heals quickly!

We did Secret Santa before we head back to Peaslake for a well deserved cup of tea and famous cheese straws!

Thank you Paula for finally joining the cool kids. You were styling! Also thank you to Glen our first Aussie, Nathan, Duncan and Gill, the Newbies who joined us for the first time!

Starring Paula & Karen Rutherfoord.

If the video doesn't work click on this link and I you will be able to watch it. http://www.magisto.com/video/O0AbPQBQS2phWhthCzE 

2nd Tango Cycling Ladies Ride

The Ladies Rides seemed to have taken off, 13 ladies joined on 3 August to explore Peaslake. 5 Brand new girls that has never been out with us before.

We met at Raynes Park station as before. Paula was so paranoid that her sister Karen was joining us before her that she just had to come and see what we were up to. She clearly didn't fit in with her road bike.

Paula slowly infiltrating the MTB-group

We did a quick check on tyre pressures and made sure that everybody shocks were unlocked this time.

We set off along the White Downs then followed Cycle route 22, had a scary road crossing at Abinger Hammer, up past Holmbury St Mary YHA to Yoghurt Potts, our first fun part of the day.

I was so proud of everybody and special kudos to Izelle who attempted it with almost no back brake. Some of us did Yoghurt Potts twice before we set off to Barry Knows Best. Angela had a bit of a crash on Yoghurt Potts, but she got back on her bike and soldiered on.

We then got to Barry Knows Best. I was a bit nervous about BKB, because the drop is a bit scary and I wasn't sure if I should warn people or if I should just leave them. I had to hang back a little bit to wait for Liezl and Ange to join us again, so I sent Bron and the girls off. As soon as Liezl arrived I carried on, because I was as worried as a mother hen with her chicks about my girls. Big was my surprise when I got to the drop that they discovered the chicken run on the right hand side. I didn't even know there was a chicken run. I was so relieved! :)

We descended and waited at the bottom for everyone. The next minute I looked up I saw Izelle hitting a tree. Panic struck as I said, "Liezl... Izelle just went into a tree!" Izelle was fine, she moved out of the way for a speed junkie and because she only had a front brake she grabbed it and went over her handlebars into the tree.

Tarynne with her slick wheels had the biggest smile on her face and was saying how much she enjoyed it.

We made a quick loo stop at Peaslake and got Izelle's bike sorted at the bike shop. It was so straight forward, only a little screw that had to be adjusted, if only we knew that, but now we know.

We went back via the flat route, through the Tunnel of Love to Tillings Tea Rooms in Gomshall where we spoiled ourselves with coffee, cool drink, sandwiches and cakes.

Parked off at Tillings

Mel chilling
Our Route:
We covered 35km. I felt so proud every time I looked around there was a long line of girls riding along. They are all pretty hardcore for doing 35km on most of their first ride ever and all deserve kudos.

Thank you's:
Great thanks to Letitia for making the circle bigger (who tagged 3 friends, Mel, Tarynne & Carrie along) and for Emily from Ireland who came along not knowing any of us. We met her boyfriend, Glen the week before in Peaslake and I told him that I was taking some girls out the next week. #networkingisking. Special thanks to Pokkeltjie aka Liezl van Zyl for co-leading so self-sacrificially. Thank you everybody for a fun day out!

The day was filled with banter at Paula's expense as Karen her sister came mountain biking before her. I've known Paula for a few years now and we have bumped into each other at Peaslake Village Store plenty of times. Paula on her road bike and myself on my mountain bike. I've tried all strategies to get her to join, I even started road riding and then Bron had the winning strategy. She convinced Karen to come along whilst we were in France so we had loads of fun taking small videos that we showed to Paula to stir the pot a little bit.

If the video doesn't work, you can use this link to see the video...

Some of the ladies requested tips on how to improve hill riding, so I thought I'll put my top tips down for you.

TC's TIPS for next time:
  1. Ride as often as possible to build up some base fitness
  2. Ride at your own pace up a hill, best not to try and keep up with the person in front of you as you are just burning yourself out quicker than you ought too
  3. Use your gears, use a lighter gear and increase your cadence (cadence = the amount of pedal strokes you give per minute) so you might will feel like a hamster on a wheel, but you will get used to the technique and the benefit is that the quicker you learn this technique the more energy you will safe
  4. Just keep on pedalling, you will get there even if it feels like you won't
  5. Don't look at the top of the climb, keep your eyes in front of you and before you know it, you will be at the top
  6. Sorry for the over share, but it is common knowledge in cycling circles, so think it is appropriate to go on this blog. Ride commando under your cycling shorts/tights - you don't need more rubbing than what is there already 
NEXT Rides make a note in your diary:

31 August 2013
5 October 2013
2 November 2013 (Yes we ride whatever the weather, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing)