Today's Weather
Church Stretton
11 December, 2017, 11:29 am
Sunny
Sunny
-5°C
real feel: -8°C
current pressure: 99 mb
humidity: 92%
wind speed: 3 m/s NNW
wind gusts: 3 m/s
sunrise: 8:12 am
sunset: 3:57 pm
 

Articles

Batch Burner Report

Batch Burner 2015 Report – by Peter Flint

For those that haven’t heard of it, the “Batch Burner” (www.batchburner.org.uk) is an organised 48km MTB Challenge that runs over the Long Mynd hill range in Shropshire (the below picture giving you an idea of what sort of hills we’re talking about) during the first Saturday in June and was started in 2013.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

For those that haven’t heard of me, I’m Peter Flint a 37 year old XC rider in my second season of competing in XC type events, having taken up cycling in January 2012 following an operation on my back and as a way of keeping a decent standard of fitness and core strength, before that it was 1991 since I last rode a bike round the woods… and its wasn’t very well even back then! These shortcomings make sense a bit further on.

I took part in my first Batch Burner in 2014 and “had a mare”, initially with the front group we found ourselves going up the wrong “hill” due to a slight lack in signage, then being sent down another the wrong way courtesy of some pesky local scamps and their idea of a practical joke (I remember how hilarious I found that when my HR was 185bpm+ coming back up it) and no sooner had I joined up with the other riders and made my way towards the front following that then I ripped the side of my ‘oh-so-flimsy’ Rocket Ron TLR tubeless tyre (I thought they were supposed to have thicker sidewalls?!) cue spending an inordinate amount of time at the side of a soaking wet Carding Mill Valley putting an inner tube into the rear wheel then trying desperately to warm up enough to finish the rest of the challenge.

Anyway! That was all last year and despite it I was really looking forward to this year’s event.

A bright breezy day awaits with those “hills” in the distance

I arrived an hour and half prior to the mass start (the event is strictly limited to 350 riders to minimise impact on local trails and this year the event sold out within 26 hours!) to ensure my usual pre race rituals could all be fitted in. My customised Canyon Lux 29er frameset replaced the hard tailed version I had used last year (and found more than a bit bumpy on the descents) but unfortunately Round 4 of the Southern XC at Bordon (I ride Sport Cat at present) and a local blat earlier in the week had taken its toll on my shift cable, internal grime made shifting down the cassette more and more of a mission and today the smallest cog wouldn’t engage at all and the second from bottom wasn’t overly keen either, with the 4 hour delay on the M40 the day before meaning I couldn’t get it to an LBS in time to rectify the issue it would be riding but not as you’d want it.

After the rest of the pre ride prep I lined up at the front of the amassed riders with the other lycra wearers (spotting some familiar sponsored riders from last year) and at 10am we were off!

The first couple of miles were country lanes, tracks and a couple of fields and by the time we hit the first of four Cat 3 climbs, the “Plowden Puff”, which took us initially up a couple of farm tracks, I had settled a few riders back, pulling in behind one of the ‘Trailhead’ riders “Dave” who had a good piston-pumping type fast cadence and still upper body, this guy, I thought, will be a good gauge/canary down the mine to follow behind, so I settled in and tried to calm the breathing down. A couple of hundred metres further on I got that “I can go quicker than this” feeling; and, knowing most of these guys will eclipse me on the descents, I attacked the climb and pulled off the front and made some headway whilst trying to concentrate on breathing, keeping the cadence up and legs pumping as the lactate started to flow and quads started to burn! I took a left as guided by the marshals and it was out onto fields, climbing up to the top of the picturesque Long Mynd plateau with an impressive crosswind I was able to lean into, I glanced behind and could see I’d put around 30 metres into the next rider and although I was only half way up I began to think “This might be easier than I thought!” clearly failing to notice I’d only covered around 4 miles – schoolboy error. In went a Torq Gel anyway, I was going to need every ounce of energy today.

As I got another 150 metres on I had another quick glance behind only to see “Dave” was now only a few metres behind, I’d pulled some time on the rest but Dave clearly wasn’t here for the scenery. As he pulled alongside we exchanged a quick “Hi” and as friendly a smile as I could manage as my HR hit and settled around 187bpm. As we finished Plowden Puff, Dave had taken a few feet of lead and it was now a gradual but fast descent across the plateau and through the next couple of check points and a nice chance to have a quick glance at the stunning scenery that brings walkers and hikers from far and wide – it’s easy to see why! The weather was a breezy 13 degrees but the sun was out and in its glare I had quickly realised the base layer was a mistake.

The next couple of miles followed the sheep trails across the tops of the hills, (time for another Torq Gel) but the first steep descent then presented itself with a couple of hair pins and I now struggled to hold Dave and slowly watched him pull away down into Carding Mill Valley (memories of my puncture last year at this spot still fresh in my mind)

Dave takes full advantage of my lack of descending bottle. Photo courtesy of Country Style Photography

Towards the bottom I was impressed with a gutsy off-trail overtake from another rider and even though I was concentrating on not losing my front or rear end on the loose trail, the fact this other rider was on a hard tail didn’t escape me! I took the knock and continued “Riding my ride” and could see the friendly marshals at the bottom pointing Dave and the speedy hardtailer up the bank, I duly followed but now some 20 seconds back. Having negotiated the steep bank powered by pure frustration, the ride joined a farm track onto a country B road and I put the power down and popped an SiS Caffeine Gel as I pulled back to Dave and Mr Hardtail (who was introduced at the end as Darren) who I noted was riding a very trick Orange Clockwork Anniversary (love those bikes!), I broke the silence with a loud “Wish I could go down hills quickly gents!” which received giggles and nods before we all settled into the next Cat 3 “Long Mynd Climb”. A couple of hundred metres into it I decided I needed to adopt the same approach and attack the climb to make some time up that I now knew I’d lose on the next steep descent, so I stood up on the pedals and began the familiar breathing/burning combo as I pulled away. At the end of the climb some 600 metres further, I could see I was clear of the other two and enjoyed the hill check point on my own. The next descent was almost immediate and was also almost a repeat of last time, only this time I was overtaken half way down by Darren and another rider (introduced afterwards as Dave as well – let’s call him Dave2) Where did he come from?! All I knew was my descending “skills” were sadly lacking and I couldn’t just switch off and attack them Downhill stylee as the others seemed to.

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Scenery helping the pain – Photo courtesy of Country Style Photography

As everything settled at the bottom and I again made up the lost ground, we began the third Cat 3 “Sandbatch Slog” – the longest of the four major climbs but my legs now really feeling the burn. Dave2 was at the lead and through a boggy lane I had my way to his wheel with Darren and Dave now behind me but thankfully no one else in view. Sandbatch Slog really lived up to its name, at the bottom of it we’d made it to almost half way at 15 miles, as I looked up I could only see an impressively steep and rocky trail which was more than a little daunting, so I instead focused on Dave2’s wheel and just kept repeating “Just follow the wheel, follow the wheel”. As the climb double backed on itself and got steeper again half way up, I realised for the first time in the last 12 months I was in the biggest cog on the cassette yet the burning just continued, I was now panting for all I was worth, as my HR hit 189 Dave2’s wheel started to speed up out of the climb but I wasn’t about to let it go now so I dug in and a quick look showed we’d made a good 75 metres on the other two, which for me were vital seconds I knew they’d make up on the down.

The next few miles were again beautiful and although my legs were now hammered the views over the sun blessed valley really helped lighten the mood; Britain up here is truly beautiful I thought. The next thing I could hear was music and as I went through the midway check point and feeding station I could see it was equipped with its very own brass band! Now at full bore trying to keep Dave2 only a few seconds in front of me, I couldn’t even shout a request only a quick “No Thanks” as the locals were there with arms outstretched with cups of water and sweets.

The next descent was more manageable but on a sheer hillside with only a small sheep track between you and a fall that would only come to a stop at the valley bottom, found me again on the brakes and I could see Dave2 had come to an abrupt stop in front of me at a 50/50 fork in the path – which way do we go? Signage this year had been very good, but right now we needed the right direction. Dave and Darren had caught up and we all decided on the very slightly better trodden path up the bank with me knowing I had my work cut out to stay with this group as the second part of the descent started. Sure enough Dave2 and Darren took full advantage of it and made seconds of lead up as I struggled to hold them, fatigue was really starting to set in so I took my second caffeine gel out and consumed –yuk! The acrid flavour hit me (won’t be trying that brand again), washed down with the Torq energy drink from the Camelbak (I seemed to be one of the few lead riders with these, others having team mates and family members to help with speedy bottle changes at check points)

The journey now came back in to the main entrance to the Carding Mill Valley and its Cat 3 climb, I knew what was ahead as I’d been on a walking holiday in this area years ago and also remembered the ride last year had followed the main footpath ascent, but unlike last year where the climb was early on I’d now been riding hard for 1 hour 50 minutes and was beginning to seriously flag. I was trying desperately to keep my legs pumping and keep the lactic acid flushed, but the path up the hill had rocks across it in places that would require a quick dismount and as I reached them and swung my leg back over the bike I felt my hamstrings cramping up and the lumber region of my back was now getting very painful, I quickly tried to stretch both but could see Dave only a little way behind me and with the constant flow of walkers clapping and giving me the usual “Well done, keep it going” I ignored any further body warnings and tried to make headway on the climb.   I could see 75 metres in front Dave2 and Darren disappear over the top but the pain was really kicking in – this wasn’t happening I thought as I had to dismount again and repeat the earlier stretches before negotiating the rocks that covered the path once more.  As I remounted I realised I was now in a world of pain, I started slowly peddling but was quickly been joined by Dave at which point I managed to muster “That was seriously hard!” – Dave clearly agreed.

Still that was it for the hard climbs so time to “Man Up” and finish this challenge properly, through the last couple of checkpoints and a welcomed gradual farm track descent. I could feel an inner rejuvenation, the lactic was shifting fast and a look at my Garmin showed 26 miles and confirmed the pain would soon be a distant memory, I glanced behind as we reached the other end of the track before the final smaller climb and couldn’t see anyone, I was feeling my power returning by the second and decided to capitalise on this and bury myself into the final more gradual climb, I got up on the pedals and gave it everything making some ground on Dave by the end of it. The descent had now hit the country B roads and despite my rear mech refusing to give me the smallest cogs, I pumped for all I was worth in the smallest that would engage and made the most of the change to easier terrain for the last 2-3 miles. The Start/Finish area has never felt more welcoming when it arrived further on, I’d managed 3rd place in a time of 2h 33:47 minutes with Dave2 crossing the line 3 minutes 47 seconds earlier – a well deserved victory!

Photo courtesy of Country Style Photography

Photo courtesy of Country Style Photography

There were claps and cheers and a fantastic band playing, I was presented with a mug, voucher for food and a choice of prizes, selecting my choice of SealSkinz items before it was over for a much needed recovery shake whilst the local Scout Group took the Canyon off for its post ride clean.

The Sun was shining, the weather was sweet and the smell of the BBQ was waiting for me as soon as I got off the floor from my impromptu but much needed stretching whilst being accompanied by the band playing a fantastic cover of “Valerie”.

Batch Burner is a fantastic event and great for XC and Marathon training, I found the organisers (PTA and friends from Norbury Primary School with some help from Plush Cycles) really friendly bunch and can thoroughly recommend the event and will be sure to be returning in 2016!

The 2016 Batch Burner will be held Saturday 5th June, entries go live in January 2016

Coast to Coast Adventure

Coast to Coast MTB Adventure – 1st – 4th May 2015

c2cIntroduction

We started planning this event back in January and we wanted to do something slightly different from the norm, so we opted for the “off-road” version of the route, which we thought would be more of a challenge than the normal “on-road” version.

Fourteen of us put our names down for the trip, with one dropping out through illness 2 weeks before we left. Luckily we were able to fill his place with another rider, without too much trouble.

We employed the services of Trailbrakes Biking Holidays to organise the route. Not only are they experts in this field, but they provided support over the 3 days of cycling, should any of the bikes suffer mechanical failure. They would also take our suitcases to each night’s stopover. This was essential as the weather forecast was pretty grim and there was no way we could have carried enough dry clothes for the duration.

The plan was to drive to the finishing point at Tynemouth, so that our transport would be waiting there on completion of the ride. Once we arrived there, we would be driven to Keswick, in the Lake District for our first night’s stop. The next morning we would be driven the 40 miles or so across to the starting point at Whitehaven.

Our bed and breakfasts were conveniently situated next door to each other, with seven of us staying in each one. One of them was significantly better than the other, with cakes and other goodies being provided on arrival on both nights, whereas the other one felt like the owner didn’t like bikers!

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Church Stretton Square, ready for the off!

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Arrival in Tynemouth after a 4 1/2 hour drive.

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View from the mini bus – snow on the hills in the Lake District.

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The two bed and breakfasts in Keswick – home for the first 2 nights.

Day 1 – Whitehaven to Keswick

An early rise of 7am was called for on the morning of our first ride. After much deliberation of what to pack in our backpacks we went down to breakfast where we were greeted by a full English breakfast, which was to power us that morning.

Trailbrakes arrived promptly just before 8am and we secured our bikes onto the trailer, with the others on a roof mounted bike rack on the second mini bus. We then set off for Whitehaven.

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Loading up the bikes to drive to the start.

When we arrived, we got our bikes ready and made sure all was well with our kit bags. One of our party decided to venture down the ramp to get his wheels wet, so he could say he started at the correct point. However he forgot that the surface under the water would be extremely slippery from the algae growing there and took a tumble into the icy cold sea. The poor bloke was soaked from the waist down! We lined up for the customary photo and set off at just after 9am.

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Let the fun begin!

The first hour or so was on the Ennerdale cycle path, a disused railway line, on which a lot of the standard C2C route was based. Soon however, the railway gave way to country roads with fantastic scenic views of the hills and lakes.

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Towards the end of the morning on this first day, four of us were racing down a hill and we missed the turn off to the first part of the off road course. After waiting for around twenty minutes for the others to catch up, we decided that something was amiss. After ringing one of the other riders, we discovered our error and arranged to re-group at Buttermere, at the bottom of Honister Pass. Whilst we were waiting for the others we ate lunch, consisting of soup and rolls and a slice of cake at a quaint little cafe by the lake.

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By now it was raining heavily and with a 20mph wind in our faces, Honister Pass with its 25% gradient was by far the hardest part of day one. We felt bruised, battered and cold and now we had to wait for the others to finish their lunch in the cafe at the top of the pass, before we could set off again.

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Honister Pass

After this climb it was a fairly easy ride back in to Keswick.

I would like to say that the rest of day one passed without incident. However when we arrived back at Keswick at about 3:30pm after 37 miles, some of the group decided to go kayaking, while the rest of us went for a walk around the town searching for a good place for our evening meal.

Anyway, the same chap that got a soaking before we had even started decided to upturn his kayak and ended up in the water again, for his second soaking of the day!

After a few pints and a fantastic dinner at the Dog and Gun pub, we retired to the bed and breakfasts to prepare for the next day’s journey.

Day 2 – Keswick to Alston

The weather forecast for day 2 didn’t look good and we awoke to heavy rain. We had 6000 feet of climbing ahead of us to get us to the top of the Pennines and it was sure to be a tough day. After a good breakfast we set off, in all our waterproof gear.

We soon came to our first off road section, which was a farm track that consisted of some very technical climbing over large rocks. The rain had made them slippery which did not help the ascent.

After half an hour or so, the track levelled out a bit and we sheltered in an old shepherd’s hut, whilst waiting for the slower riders.

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We were now cold and wet and some off us had waterproof clothing on that proved not to be waterproof. Looking for somewhere to stop for a morning break, we came across the delightful Greystoke Cycle Cafe, a refuge that some of the guys had found during last years Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle. The owner Annie looked after us magnificently with tea and cake. She also let us dry our wet gloves on her aga and provided several of us with plastic bags and dry socks!

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Annie’s Tea Room

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Best way to dry gloves!

Suitably refreshed and somewhat drier than when we arrived we set off again along country roads, passing through some small villages psyching ourselves up for the Pennines.

At lunch time we met Pete from Trailbrakes outside the pub where we were to eat. He was on his way to Alston in the mini-bus with our luggage and it gave us the opportunity to change into some dry socks and gloves. Lunch consisted of hot soup or a tasty baguette and the pub was very welcoming towards us.

45 minutes later we were back on the road and heading for Nenthead, 5 miles from Alston. We were a relatively short distance of 15 miles from the hotel, but we hadn’t started the climb over the Pennines yet. Thankfully it had stopped raining and the sun was even trying to shine, injecting us with some much needed warmth.

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The long road to the top!

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Resting at the top.

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Once we left the summit, we had about 4 miles of beautifully smooth tarmac taking us back down towards Alston. The roads were almost empty, so we were able to take full advantage and raced down the hill, managing to hit 45mph in some places!

When we reached the bottom, we had another stage of off roading, this time downhill over some gravelly tracks, through a disused mining area that had a huge water mill in it. This brought us out onto the road, where we had a 2 mile downhill cruise to our evening’s accommodation, the Nent Hall Country House Hotel.

What a fantastic place this was; a huge old building with big rooms and high ceilings. We were given a warm welcome by the manager Pamela and went off to unpack and get showered before regrouping in the bar!

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Dining in style!

Back to the bar after dinner, where they stayed open as long as we wanted them to, before retiring to our rooms at about 11pm.

Day 3 – Alston to Tynemouth

We set off just after 9am on Day 3 and the weather had changed. The sun was out and we had the wind behind us for the first time since we left Whitehaven. There wasn’t going to be so much climbing today, as we had to get back down to sea level by Tynemouth.

We had to re-trace our route for the first few miles, back up to Nenthead and up Black Hill, the highest point of our trip at 1998 feet. Climbing up this hill, we were humiliated by someone who zoomed by on an e-bike, leaving us all standing. The northern Pennine scenery was now very much wider and open and was scattered with the remains of former mining activity.

Some more off-roading followed, up another farm track. This took us up to some spectacular views overlooking the north Pennines. When we reached the top, we had a 10 minute break and did a spot of sunbathing.

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Sunbathing at the top!

This trail led to a huge open area that reminded me of the Shropshire Hills. Some beautiful views, some fantastic single track and some rocky paths. It was on one of these rocky paths that two of our group took a wrong turning and they were unable to hear our shouts at them that they had gone the wrong way. We hung about for a while to see if they realised, but they did not appear. We carried on until we had some phone signal, when we contacted them and arranged to meet them in a small town called Consett.

In Consett we would pick up the old railway track, known as the Derwent Way which would take us to Newcastle.

Once this 15 mile railway section was finished, there followed a section of industrial wasteland around the back of Newcastle’s Metrocentre, before we crossed the river to pick up the vibrant and busy Tyne riverside path.

The last section from the new shopping centre by the Tyne tunnel to Tynemouth was quickly over and we soon found ourselves at the end of our journey.

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Epilogue

We didn’t hang about in Tynemouth for very long. Pete from Trailbrakes greeted us with some whiskey, ginger beer and some chocolate brownies, which was much appreciated. We then biked the 5 minute ride back to where our cars had been left for the trip. 5 of the group set of back to Shropshhire that afternoon, arriving back at around 8:30pm, whilst the rest of us drove to Durham to spend the night there.

We had an enjoyable evening in a nice town and sampled a Durham curry together with a few of their finest ales.

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In front of Durham Cathedral

All in all a fantastic trip and very well organised. If anyone else is thinking of doing the same, or any other biking holiday, it is well worth giving Trailbrakes a shout, as their support and knowledge is excellent.

Lands End to John O’Groats 2014

From the 6th May 2014 to 16th May 2014, 9 lads from Church Stretton set out to complete the 928 mile journey from Lands End to John O’Groats.

Congratulations on successfully completing it to, Dave Power, Joe Green, Ian Townsend, Pete Arden, Ian Beaver, Mark Davies, Lee Brown, James Russell and Tony Griffiths.

This is their story in pictures.

Reinventing the Bike Frame

Reinventing the Frame, Challenging the Status Quo

Background


Spurred on to create a more efficient cycling frame that is moreover comfortable, Mr.Tortola went home one evening and began making the first sketches of his new idea (photo: Jeff Harris/Artmix; RoundTAIL)

For over a century since their creation, traditional, diamond shaped bicycle frames dominated the industry and remained almost unchanged. In 2010, however, Italian-born inventor Lucio Tortola had a simple yet industry-changing idea.

What if a new, more efficient, more reliable, more comfortable and more attractive frame for bicycles could be developed? In answer to his question, Mr. Tortola made an invention – a circular bicycle frame – that promises to revolutionize the cycling industry.

In order to commercialize the groundbreaking idea, the entrepreneur established a company called RoundTail Bike (RoundTail) – also operating as Tortola International Inc.

Intended to capture the essence of the bicycle’s frame, the RoundTail brand has resonated with expert and novice cyclists alike and sent waves of interest cascading across the cycling world.

Invention

The idea to create the RoundTail bike first came to Mr. Tortola following a long cycling season in 2010 covering 5,000 kilometers (km). With over 20 years of cycling experience, the inventor noticed that some of his cycling partners suffered from fatigue and discomfort following extended rides using bicycles with traditional diamond frames.

Spurred on by a desire to create a more efficient cycling frame that is moreover comfortable, Mr. Tortola, who is a designer and engineer-technician by training, went home one evening and began making the first sketches of his new idea. Soon thereafter, the circular bicycle frame was born.

The entrepreneur’s invention represents a step change in the state-of-the-art in bicycle construction. Before the RoundTail bike, conventional diamond frames supported a straight line tube that extends from the bracket (where the pedals are) through to the seat.

This configuration provides little protection from shock waves that emanate from the road, up through the straight tube of the frame, into the seat and through to a rider’s spine. Hence, many cyclists have suffered a variety of discomfort and injuries (including back pain) from cycles with diamond frames.

By contrast, the RoundTail frame – which is made of two parallel rings that are splayed open towards the bottom bracket and back of the bicycle and connected at the top where the rider’s seat is located – dissipates energy from the ground along its curved structure.

As Mr. Tortola said, “What I’ve done is removed the direct path of travel [of the forces] from the bottom bracket to the seat. All the stresses that occur at the bottom bracket have to travel [along] the circle and the vibrations that would normally make it to [the cyclist’s] back are lost.”


By establishing a robust intellectual property (IP) strategy, Mr. Tortola (pictured) has secured his invention and newly famous brand (photo: RoundTAIL)

The result of the RoundTail frame is increased comfort for the cyclist without loss in sideways stiffness and pedaling efficiency. In addition to improvements in function, the RoundTail’s curves aid the aerodynamic efficiency of the bicycle while creating a shape that has become a hit with many cycling enthusiasts and customers.

As one potential customer with over 30 years of amateur cycling experience said, “I’m always looking for something that is unique and at the same time very functional; and [the RoundTail] is one [of] those things where you have form and function going together into a really nice package.”

Research and Development and Partnerships

From the beginning, RoundTail’s founder was eager to establish a reputation for quality via collaboration with established industry partners. With a computer-aided prototype sketch in hand, Mr. Tortola sought the expert advice and creative skill of a well-known custom frame builder in Bozeman, the state of Montana, in the United States of America (USA).

Five months later, the inventor had a fully built and functioning prototype. Thereafter, Mr. Tortola took the frame for proof of concept (PoC) testing at Microbac Laboratories Inc. (Microbac), an established company that carries out product testing for a number of industries including cycling.

At Microbac, the RoundTail frame was successfully tested for horizontal and vertical loading durability and impact strength. In addition, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) modeling – which measures the stiffness of complex structures – was carried out at the lab.

The FEA procedure showed that the RoundTail frame had 10 times the vertical flexibility and over 60 times the shock absorption capability of traditional diamond-shaped bicycle frames.

Along with shock absorption and durability, the new frame retained lateral stiffness – a prerequisite for efficient pedal power and cycling speeds (excessive shock absorption would reduce speed which would disadvantage road cycling racers).

Moreover, although the RoundTail was found to be slightly heavier than traditional frames (by approximately 250 grams in some instances, depending on the materials used), the marginal costs of the new frame were outweighed by its overall benefits.

Other tests were carried out on the RoundTail including real-world tests when two cyclists rode a bicycle fitted with the new frame over a variety of smooth and rough terrain. These cyclists provided important feedback – such as the level of vibrations felt in the backs and arms during such rides – which was compared against tests where the rider used a traditional, diamond frame cycle.


RoundTAILs are available in a number of materials including titanium and carbon-fiber (pictured), three colors (white, light blue and black), and models such as MTBs, road bikes and hybrids (photo: RoundTAIL)

Results showed that no discomfort was reported after riding the RoundTail for approximately 80 kms, whereas some discomfort was reported after riding bicycles with diamond-shaped frames after only a few kilometers.

Having completed comprehensive PoC testing for the new frame, the inventor followed his Italian roots and outfitted the prototype frame with components manufactured by Campagnolo srl (Campagnolo) – a renowned manufacturer of high-end bicycle parts based in Vicenza, the Italian Republic (Italy). Mr. Tortola also visited Campagnolo directly and received excellent feedback and support from the company.

By 2011, three RoundTail frame models were handmade in Bozeman and fitted with parts created by Campagnolo. To develop the RoundTail frame for the mountain bike (MTB) model, furthermore, the company has collaborated with other established partners including Shimano Inc., a cycling components manufacturer from Japan, and Sram, a bicycle parts maker from the state of Illinois, the USA.

Also in 2011, three more RoundTail bike models – inclding the 26” and 29er series – were made in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). A high-end titanium frame was also constructed by Lynskey Performance, a renowned manufacturer of titanium bicycle frames based in Chattanooga, the state of Tennessee, USA.

Furthermore, the company’s bicycles satisfied the requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials – an international organization that sets the standards for materials, products, systems and services.

Branding and Commercialization

In order to attract new customers and investors, RoundTail has worked with established industry partners while developing a number of bicycle models based on quality and the company’s Italian heritage.

Apart from the RoundTail brand itself, the company has labeled all of its innovative bicycle frames with two logos: “Italian DNA” and “Tortola” – the latter word being a match for the inventor’s last name while the former pays homage to the company’s and inventor’s Italian roots.


RoundTAIL not only show-cases its bicycle’s functionality via Internet based tools; it uses Online services such as You Tube to market its products through personal testimonies by satisfied customers (photo: RoundTAIL)

Moreover, RoundTail has relied on a variety of multimedia outlets, industry events and famous personalities in the cycling world in order to raise brand awareness and increase commercialization opportunities.

One of the company’s earliest collaborations was with Steve Boehmke – a mountain biking hall of fame member and early pioneer in the sport. Working with Mr. Boehmke, who is also a public relations consultant, the company was able to establish contacts in the industry and arrange promotional interviews and awareness-raising campaigns with cycling related publications.

Furthermore, Mr. Tortola has utilized a number of media outlets in order to promote the company via interviews on radio (including AM800CKLW, a broadcaster in Windosr, Ontario) and for established magazines including the Los Angeles Times and Mountain Bike Action Magazine.

Commensurate to promoting its brands through a variety of media, RoundTail has attended industry events where the company’s products have been showcased in specialized stands. In 2011, the company’s bicycles were presented at Interbike – one of the largest annual gatherings of bicycle enthusiasts and companies in North America.

The company has also promoted its unique bicycles in neighborhoods with a high following of cyclists such as Delray Beach, the state of Florida, in the USA. During such events, Mr. Tortola has been able to meet and greet customers and explain the inspiration and method behind the RoundTail invention.

As the inventor said following one such event, “[The company has] been thrilled with the overwhelming public interest in [the RoundTail] bike. [RoundTail hopes] the many visitors and dealers [who attend the company’s promotional events] will be just as excited.”

In addition, the company has relied on its professional corporate website and utilized a number of Internet based tools, including social sharing and networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, in order to raise awareness of its brands, products and activities.

The company’s Facebook page utilized an application that can be downloaded – called “WinRoundTail” – through which participants could share information with others about the company and enter a competition to win the distinctive bicycle. Via its YouTube channel, moreover, RoundTail not only show-cases its bicycle’s functionality; it also markets its products via positive personal testimonies and endorsements by consumers.


The RoundTAIL trademark has been secured in the USA and its design and patent (pictured) is protected in Canada, the USA, the European Union and other regions and countries around the world (image: RoundTAIL’s PCT application)

Such strategic use of Internet-based and other marketing tools has raised the company’s profile internationally while allowing it to interact with potential and actual consumers from around the world.

As of 2012, RoundTail’s products were available in a variety of materials (including titanium and carbon fiber); three colors (white, light blue and black); and a number of models (such as MTBs, road bikes and hybrids).

In the same year, the company created bicycles for advanced cyclists and beginners which were commercialized in Canada, the USA and, increasingly, other international markets.

Trademark, Patent, Industrial Design and Domain Names

Since the company’s establishment, Mr. Tortola, who has inventions in other fields, has been keen to protect the intellectual property (IP) rights of his designs and brands. With his ideas protected via the IP system, the inventor has entered confidently into new markets in several regions and countries.

In order to protect the company’s brand in the potentially lucrative USA market, the bicycle maker registered Roundtail (2012) as a trademark via the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

In the same year, Mr. Tortola filed a design application for the company’s unique frame via the International Design System (the Hague System) managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

RoundTail, furthermore, filed patent applications for a bicycle frame via the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, the USPTO (2010) and the Patent Corporation Treaty (PCT) System managed by WIPO.

By establishing a robust IP rights strategy, Mr. Tortola has secured his ideas and newly famous brand while ensuring important company assets that can be leveraged in negotiations with partners – such as large bicycle manufacturing companies – or prospective investors.

Parallel to the company’s trademark, patents and design registration, RoundTail retains two domain names (roundtail.ca and winaroundtail.com) in order to enhance its corporate profile on the Internet.


RoundTAIL’s award-winning products have brought a new kind of functionality, form, and comfort to the world of cycling (photo: RoundTAIL)

Business Results

Within a few years since it was established, the RoundTail brand has shaken up the cycling industry and developed an international following. As a measure of the impact the company has had on the industry, in 2012 RoundTail’s design was inaugurated into one of the USA’s most prestigious institutions – the Bicycle Museum of America, based in New Bremen, the state of Ohio.

In the same year, the company was represented at Expobici, an exhibition of cutting-edge industrial design for public transportation held in Padova, Italy. At the event, the Carbon Diamante RoundTAIL bike won a distinction award in innovation (in the “road” category) while the Pinarello Dogma MTB model won an award in the design section.

RoundTail’s product portfolio includes high-end, custom-made bikes (selling for approximately US$7,000); medium-range bicycles (selling for approximately US$3,000); and mass-produced bikes (selling between US$800 and US$1200).

The company, moreover, has already taken many of orders for its bicycles from around the world. As the inventor said, “[The RoundTail] is just another variation on the bicycle [;] I don’t want to take over the world with it, but I would like to sell a number of them world-wide.”

Cycle of Fortune

For decades, bicycles relied on the traditional diamond frame until Mr. Tortola decided to challenge the status quo with a new, circular design. The inventor quickly sought expert partners in order to develop his idea and enter a competitive and international market. Basing his company’s expansion on a strategic branding and commercialization plan that was supported by IP assets, Mr. Tortola has been able to commercialize his idea and enter potentially lucrative collaborations with established partners in the industry. The RoundTail brand, meanwhile, has brought new excitement to cycling while enhancing functionality, form and comfort.

2014 MTB Marathon comes to Church Stretton

We are excited to see the Cycle-Tec MTB Marathon series coming to Church Stretton in 2014. The Long Mynd will be a treat for competitors and having so many riders descend on the town can only be positive news for our local businesses.

The event has been taken over by Cycle-Tec Events Limited who are experienced in the organisation of events of this type.

The event takes place on Sunday 29th June 2014 and starts and finishes at Church Stretton school. The start time is at 10am.

Official Event Website and Booking Form

Date
Sunday 29th June 2014

Event Type
MTB Endurance

Location
Church Stretton

Includes
Event village (with caterers, bar and entertainment)
Trade stands and demo bikes
Camping from Friday evening to Monday night
Showers and toilets
Full route marked courses
Pasta party
Bike wash
Live entertainment
Medical support
Finishers T-shirts
Finisher times
Feed stations (with Torq energy products)
Mechanical assistance
Sweeper vehicle
Event photography

Registration Opens
Saturday 12 to 7.30pm & Sunday 8 to 9.30am

Start Time
Sunday 10am

Entry on Day
Yes, if not sold out (surcharges apply)

BluntMTB Reinventing the wheel!

Saw this on dirt and it got me thinking.

So I wasted my night and wrote this perhaps I should have been doing something else on February 14th!

Here’s my take on the 29er thing. As I am starting to get a bit fed up with the whole subject

First of all this is what I think to 29ers. I have owed one for quite a few years but only as a XC hardtail. That style of bike has got loads of advantages over a 26” XC hardtail and there are no negatives over a bike like that for its intended use. I don’t think I would ever buy a 26” pure XC bike again and they have got a place in the market.

I ride lots of different bikes from XC to DH, like a lot of other riders out there. So you start to think what would these bigger wheels be like in another discipline.

I go out and have fun on my bikes and you can feel the difference in grip and speed when I am out on my 29er but I also know what is intended use is.

The thing is I own and have paid for my 29er XC bike so I don’t want to trash it down a DH track to see what it would be like. I have got a problem with that video of “Cedric Gracia Blasting on a 29er”. Cedric is a top pro Mountain biker and probably one of the best all round riders so if you put him on a Santa Cruz Tall boy he is going to ride the hell out of it and do things on it that take the bike out of its XC bounders. If that video was of Cedric blasting on a Santa Cruz Blur (the 26” equivalent) the video would have all the same footage of someone riding a XC bike on a DH track but no one would have thought anything much to it apart form someone riding a XC bike on a DH track. But as he was on a Tall Boy people think that he might do a DH race on a 29er this year!

Teaser 29ROCKS! DH session with Cedric Gracia & Simon André on 29ers on pinkbike.com

Its more about the rider not the just the bike. Just look at that kid doing some crazy tricks on a old shopper bike. We are not going to go out and buy a Pashley bike thinking it will make us ride like Danny Macaskill are we?

Vintage Ladies Bike Street Trials

I have ridden a Tall Boy and they are really good bike and make the most out of the big wheels but I felt that the fun factor was lost a bit when riding it. If I could only have one bike I don’t think I would have a 29er as they are just not as versatile as a 26” bike.

I think that 29er’s are here to stay and I have to agree with the article in dirt about them (even if it was a bit one sided to 29er’s) they are really good to ride as a XC bike or a 120mm trail bike. In a few years they will out sell 26” bikes for this style of bike.

The thing is the industry have seen the advantages of the big wheels and are questioning the 26” wheel now. I really don’t think we will see 29er on the DH circuit, you might see the odd manufactures experiment with them but I just don’t think it would work in the long run.

The problem now is that they are questioning the 26” wheel size. They know the advantages of a bigger wheel but I think they with start/if not already realise that 29er wheels are just a bit to big for a bike over 150mm of travel.

I think that’s where we might start to see 650b. Until last year 650b was a very niche wheel size in the world of mountain biking. I am led to believe that it if a 650b tyre had a xc tyre on it , it would be similar in size to that of a 26” wheel with a high volume 2.4 tyre on it. So imagine a 650b wheel with a 2.4 high volume tyre on it. That could be one sweet set up? Also if you look into it there are a lot of manufactures planning on making 650b products in 2013. Especially considering the availability of 650b frames at the moment it is quite shocking.

As someone who likes to buy and build up bikes this worries me. I was looking to build up a “all mountain” hardtail. Its the style of bike that I have always enjoyed the most but stupidly sold mine a few months ago. But do I buy a 26” bike something that I know works and I could have a lot of fun on, but it might be completely out out date within a year. Or buy a 29er something like the Transition Trans am 29, a bike that could work but it might be a bit of a gamble. Or see what comes of 650b? I have decided to do nothing and just enjoy the bikes that I have got.

Unfortunately I feel that the industry will be playing around with different wheel sizes for a good few years before they settle down on a certain size. I think there will be a option of different size wheels and it will just be the case of picking the right one for a given job.

At the moment we are in that test period and we are expected to fund it. I think at this given time manufactures would be better off sticking to what they know and trying to bring down the cost of part and bikes instead of passing on all the R&D costs of new parts onto the consumer.

 

square-wheeled-bicycle
This Blunt MTB blog post was kindly re-produced with the permission on the author. See BlutMTB for more posts or follow our author on twitter.

Chain Reaction Marathon – Marshbrook Review

Hundreds of riders battle through the weather for another stage of this year’s Series – taking on the best of the riding in Shropshire.

The third round of the CRC MTB Marathon Series took place over the weekend in Marshbook, Shropshire, with the rain threatening to do its worst. Luckily for us there are some hardy riders in the UK, and hundreds turned out for another great weekend of road and mountain bike riding.

Here’s the weekend’s race report from Events Manager Grant Norris:

“What is it with this weather? Last year the Marshbrook round of the CRC MTB Marathon Series was one of the best weekends of the year. It was proper summer weather and the event was the biggest in the Series. So I was looking forward immensely to a repeat – even though I knew there was going to be some rain, the forecast assured that the main event on the Sunday would again be bathed in sunshine, and to be fair it was. However, Friday and Saturday took place in some of the most testing conditions.

We arrived on Friday and the rain was constant, we set up and soon after went back to the hotel to get dry with a 6am start on Friday for the Vitus Sportive. The rain continued all night and as we arrived on site we were informed that two major roads were closed due to flash flooding.

The event site resembled a quagmire, more like the ground at a festival after a downpour rather than a quiet little field adjoining a pub in the beautiful county of Shropshire.

We had quite a few no shows, which is hardly surprising but sign on was busy and over 100 riders made it to the start line and then off into the amazing countryside around Marshbrook.

The rain continued on and off adding to the massive puddles on site. Was Sunday going to suffer the same fate as Saturday, leaving the ride with only half of those signed up actually making it? By 8pm only 140 had signed on and were enjoying the pasta party care of the Station Hotel who stepped in at the last moment due to the caterers also not making the event.

Well, Sunday came and if there was ever a world record for signing on a mass of riders in a very short amount of time it would surely have been broken. Mike and his team were flat out as 800+ riders showed up ready to go and ride the three routes of the MTB Marathon Series round three.

The forecast was right and the sun did get its hat on and joined us for most of the day and the riding was challenging but rewarding. After all, these conditions are really par for the course in 2012 and if you don’t go out and ride in it, well, you just don’t ride.
So well done to all and here is hoping that as promised August is the start of Summer 2012.

Article copyright Chain Reaction Cycles.

A Weekend Riding in Shropshire

Up until last weekend I was guilty of thinking that Shropshire was that county that you pass through when you’re on your way to Wales for a weekend.  I’ve passed through Shrewsbury dozens and dozens of times without ever really thinking about what was close by.

But lately I’ve been hearing the words ‘Minton Batch’ far too often to not go exploring.

The Long Mynd (Welsh for Long Mountain) lies just 10 miles south of Shrewsbury with the nearest town being Church Stretton. The area is known more for its glider club than mountain biking but local business ‘Blazing Bikes’ is quickly changing that.

Based in Marshbrook, just a few miles south of Church Stretton, Blazing Bikes have a fully stocked bike shop, bike hire service and well located campsite complete with traditional pitches as well as a few camping pods.

The campsite was our home for the weekend and as tempting as the heated pods were, we opted for traditional camping.

Arriving late on the Friday it was too late to head out to the hills by the time the tent was pitched so there was nothing left to do but light the BBQ and open a beer.

Saturday morning arrived and bacon sandwiches were consumed as the trail map was studied. With two relatively inexperienced riders joining me I headed in to the bike shop to discuss routes, my one stipulation was that the ride must include the ‘Minton Batch’ I had been hearing so much about. The staff were happy to advise me and between us we worked out a route that wouldn’t be too tough on the legs.

Climbing would be inevitable but I was advised that the fire road climb through the forest was the lesser of the evils.

Heading out of the bike centre at Marshbrook we followed the road past the campsite and towards the hamlet of Hamperley, here we turned right and were soon on the forest track. At this point the tree line disguised the magnitude of the Long Mynd and the climb ahead.

The majority of the land on the National Trust owned Long Mynd is a heathland plateau, so taking the forest route is the best way to add some diversity to your ride.

The climb started gently but  soon began to steepen as the track wound its way up the hillside. The legs were burning already and with dense forest all around us we had no idea of how much distance we had covered, or more importantly, how much of the climb remained. The only indication of the height we had gained came when a backwards glance revealed a gap in the trees and the views in the distance.

The climb had become too much for my fellow riders and they were off their bikes and pushing. I began to feel pangs of guilt about leading them to such a climb as an introduction to mountain biking. I only hoped that the descents would make amends and that I hadn’t put them off for life.

As the landscape changed and we rose above the treeline, the silence was occasionally broken by the sound of the gliders above. In regular intervals they were winched up into the Shropshire sky and soared over our heads with the wind screaming  around their wings.

Despite it being August it was decidedly cold once we were away from the protection of the trees and onto the moorland. I hung my head in shame as the experienced mountain biker shivering in just a T shirt while the other put their jackets on.
The glider club was in sight, as was most of the West Midlands and Wales. On a clear day you can see as far as the Malvern hills in one direction and Snowdon in the other. It’s no wonder the Midland Glider Club chose this location for its home, Midland Mountain Bike Mag may well do the same!

We rested for a while and watched the crazy folks taking a running jump off the hill; that is a hobby that I definitely won’t be trying any time soon.

Rested and ready to take on the descent we headed to the top of Minton Batch. This descent is one of the most talked about natural descents in the UK; a simple Google search will bring up countless forum discussions on the area. Some of these threads included pictures of various injuries suffered on the way down; this was playing on my mind as we lowered our seats in preparation for the descent. If the climb hadn’t already put them off for life; the loss of blood would.

Immediately the trail began living up to expectations; singletrack of the highest calibre. A rocky, uneven, twisting trail that demanded your undivided attention right from the get go.

With the exception of a small wooden bridge that crosses some boggy looking ground it is an entirely natural descent. There is undoubtedly evidence of its popularity in the form of ruts that try to pull your front wheel away from your grip. As unfortunate as the damage is to the trail it also adds to the challenge.

In some places the trail narrows to barely the width of your tyre; one misjudged line could see you falling down the embankment and into the brook that the trail runs parallel to. The second you pick your line for the few metres ahead of you, you have to change it again as you notice a jagged looking rock waiting to destroy your tyre. No trail centre I have visited offers the intensity of this descent. The mind works overtime routing and re-routing the path of your front tyre. Like a sat nav analysing a thousand roads in a few seconds, the rider must analyze a thousand rocks to determine the safest way through.

Eventually the trail eased to a gentle gradient and meandered alongside the brook, we had made it down pretty much unscathed and with Cheshire cat grins on our faces. Only one of us had become a victim of gravity’s wrath, and it was only a minor incident.

We didn’t realise how much height we had lost until a look behind us revealed the mountain looming over us and the top where we were just a few short minutes ago now seeming a very long way away.

The rest of the ride was an uneventful journey back to the campsite, although the smiles didn’t fade all afternoon.

There is a sense of freedom to be had in riding in places like this. Most of us are guilty, on some level, of forgetting the origins of mountain biking. Trail centres are not the history of mountain biking and ultimately won’t be the future of mountain biking. They are merely a commercially viable weekend convenience, eventually the tide will turn and we will all return to the hills in search of that sense of exploration and solitude. New ‘batches’ will be found and internet forums will be alive with threads titled ‘I just found the best descent ever’ instead of ‘what’s your best lap time for trail centre X’.

We only saw two other mountain bikers all day on the Long Mynd, I doubt that we were the only parties out there on a sunny Saturday morning in August  so that means that the locals in the know were riding some other part of the long mountain. Where? I don’t know. So,there are two ways for us to find out; endless trawling of forums or endless exploration of hills and mountains.

I’ll see you up there!

Article copyright Midland Mountain Bike Magazine – http://mmbmag.co.uk/

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