Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BIOMEGA Copenhagen REVIEW - shaft drive designer's dream

Welcome to something quite different, a bike with no chain, a bike without even a belt to drive the back wheel, this Biomega Copenhagen uses bevel gears and a shaft to transfer the power from the pedals to the rear hub. 

The first shaft-drive bicycles were introduced over a century ago, but were soon replaced by chain drive bikes for a number of reasons, namely the number of gears available using a sprocket and derailleur system and problems with the quality of milled products in the late 19th century. Biomega have been able to revisit the shaft drive concept due to advances in machined milling techniques and the availability of alternative gearing systems. Bevel geared shaft drive systems are, today, usually mated to an internal hub gear system like the Shimano Alfine or Nexus, as is the case with the Copenhagen.


This picture clearly shows the shaft drive system used by on the Columbia Bicycles Model 59 from 1899.

Whilst the working principle is exactly the same, what Biomega have produced with the Copenhagen is a beautifully designed and functional piece of two wheeled sculpture, perfect for urban cruising. This bike turns heads as passers-by look on, bemused and confused, and being at the centre of continued curiousity lifts your mood and makes you feel just a little bit better.

From a practical everyday perspective, greasy trousers and skirts are a thing of the past due to the enclosed transmission. The system is very durable and being protected from road dirt and everyday grime, premature wear is prevented. With prolonged use, the bevel gears will bed in and the transmission losses reduced, so getting smoother and smoother.

This bike is at least as much about design as it is about technical innovation and some creative big guns have been brought in as contributors. Colour genius, Beatrice Santiccioli, famed for her work for Apple, Swatch and Nike has created the colour palette that includes the beautiful 'Buttermilk' colour on the test bike. Other colours availabe are, Aspen Pearl White, Dragon Black, Aluminium Silver and Bio Blue.

Mark Newson penned the stem to be made from a solid piece of aluminium and with it's CNC'd Biomega logo is a beautiful piece of industrial design, that also incorporates an innovative solution to steerer tube corrosion by eleminating the top cap altogether. Overall this Martin Skidsted designed bike is minimalist and practical, like many pieces of Danish furniture. Wallpaper magazine praised the Copenhagen as one of the 'most promising means of urban transport'. Being such an appealing piece of design it has featured at numerous exhibitions.

Enough of the design talk, here is how it rides.The first thing that hits you is how super smooth the gear change and transmission is. Without the need to engage a chain with spocket everything is seamless and fuss free. You can even change gear whilst standing still, which is a bonus in stop start city traffic. There is some bouce in the 26-inch tyres and hence, cope very well with less than perfect urban streets. Braking provided by a cable operated disc set up at the front and a roller brake at the back is quite sufficient, without being overly reassuring and suits the intended use of this bike perfectly.

Where the Copenhagen is somewhat compromised is in retaining forward momentum - you
do lose speed quicker than on a bike with a conventional chain and freewheel drive.

The reason for this is probably down to a number of factors, like tyres, added weight of the shaft drive system (about 3kg heavier) and 'newness' of the bevel gears that will loosen with use. As a consequence you do find yourself changing gear more often than normal. Biomega claim that once bedded in, the system is 8% more efficient that an chain & sprocket equipped bike.

The controls and the dynamics of the bike are spot on, though, and provide a very positive, responsive ride. Changing direction is smooth and reassuring. Looking at the bike side on reminds me of an early 80's mountain bike, with similar geometry and clearance around the wheels.

Considering it's aesthetic appeal, I would hate myself if this bike got damaged or scratched from everyday use, so in my hands that would limit how often I used it and I'd be unlikely to use it as a commuter or pub bike. Buyers with stairs up to flat or house might need to consider that the Copenhagen is a bit on the porky side at 14kg.

In summary, this bike is all about the individual design and obsessive Biomega styling and  detailing. It's a bike that turns heads and puts a smile on your face but it's dynamic appeal is ultimately compromised by it's innovative shaft drive system. But that's why you are buying this bike in the first place, because it is individual and a breath of fresh air in a bicycle market that is cluttered with sameness and similarity.

Styling            9/10
Ride               7/10
Desirability   10/10
Value             8/10
Coolness        9/10

Available from Bike Republic - - Tel: 0044 208 4001248

Sunday, February 19, 2012

INTREPID APPAREL Ultimate MTB Softshell Jacket - design, detail, form & function

Intrepid Apparel threw down the gauntlet of ambition by launching their range of technical MTB clothing at the 2011 Downhill World Cup in Champery. On the same weekend Danny Hart won a UCI rainbow jersey for riding down the mountain faster than anybody else dared to go. 

In the few months since the day in August that will be tattooed on Danny Hart's brain for the rest of his life, Intrepid Apparel have been winning fans all over the world with their range of off-road cycling clothing that is a near perfect cocktail of style and performance. On test here is their flagship Ultimate MTB Softshell Jacket. 

What hits you immediately is the obsessive attention to detail - this jacket has been designed by someone who clearly loves riding and knows what they want from a technical outer garment. This jacket (RRP £135) is no cheapy but for most riders it will be a worthwhile investment that will last for a number of years. The quality is first rate with the nicely contrasting green seams being accurately contructed. 

Intrepid market the jacket as a 'perfect choice for winter rides' but I think that it's window of opportunity is much wider than just sub-5 degree days - this versatile companion can be layered up to face the coldest weather but also worn throughout the spring and autumn seasons, being a very breathable softshell. Some under arm venting would increase the window even further. The microfleece lining provides both insulation and comfort. Big chunky zips, with their own little 'garages' mean that you can access all areas even when plastered in a veil of mud.   


The fit of the jacket should fit most body forms too. I wear an XL, being a 6'1 tall, but I've seen the jacket (Small) being worn out on the trails by a slim 5'5 female. Whether you want to call the sleeves 'ergonomic' or 'articulated', what is important is that the centre of the outer face has a panel of stretchy fabric that allows easy movement of your elbows when riding.Good thinking.

I think that covers form, function and design - now the detailing. Intrepid Apparel are very proud of what they have created and are not shy about shouting about their brand and logo. Pine tree logos are even used as zip tags for easy pulling. The Ultimate jacket is like buying a jacket from Paul Smith - you think you know it inside out, then discover yet another design quirk or feature. The rear cargo pocket opens at 45 degrees for easy access. The same pocket contains a climbing karibiner sewn into the lining, so that you never loose your keys (as long as you attach them to the karibiner). Also out back in that voluminous pocket is an iPod / iPhone pouch, with image tab, for anyone who thinks that riding whilst listening to music is a clever thing to do. For those who have the luxury of cablecars and chairlifts, or those who fancy wearing the Ultimate jacket for some spring skiing or boarding there is a pocket in the left sleeve that takes a liftpass.

The hood for me isn't a deal breaker either way, but it proved it's worth on a blustery test ride on The South Downs. The hood will accommodate an XC helmet & the effect when faced with a cold cross wind is one of cosy smugness. On the back of the hood is a handy drawstring to find optimum trim. Below the drawstring is a strip of velcro to attach an Altura Lightstick - very handy for illuminating the trails behind you and when your pals need to dig you out of a ditch on a night ride. 

My only criticism is that, with my larger than average hands, the thumb loops weren't big enough but with the protective countoured cuffs this didn't present a problem at all. While talking digits, the fleece lined pockets are very welcome for the many times when you're not attached to your handlebars.

As with any softshell it needs to be considered as 'showerproof only', but the quality of construction meant that we got no wind penetrating the seams at all, or water ingress, after hitting some wet sections on the trail.

And finally, the skills of the Intrepid jacket know no bounds, even courting favourable comments from pals at the pub on a Friday evening and a random stranger who was very impressed with this very ultimate item of apparel. A winner in every way. 

Brimming with thoughtful design features and technical ability. A great opening hand from this new and exciting British company. We can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Performance      9/10
Detail               10/10
Quality               9/10
Value                  8/10
Overall               9/10

Available from - Daily Cycle , Intrepid Apparel and an ever expanding network of quality bike dealers.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bikesoup No.2 - Chicken noodle miso broth with ginger, chilli & lime

Bikesoup No.2 is a delicious light broth that works very well as a post-ride recovery meal. It's packed with vitamins and has a good dose of high quality protein to aid muscle recovery. Medium burn carbohydrate in the rice noodles give you an energy boost that will last a couple of hours. 

This broth will also deliver a good dose of potassium, useful if you have been sweating heavily (unlikely in winter) and need some electrolyte replacement. Of course, the chicken breast provides most of the protein and being white meat is easily digestible and will provide a speedy aid to sore muscles. The recipe, when made with rice noodles, is GLUTEN and DAIRY free. If you are VEGETARIAN or VEGAN replace the chicken with more mushrooms, perhaps some meaty ones like shitake.  


  • Vitamin A (carrots) - anti-oxidant that helps remove toxicity. Good for eyes
  • Vitamin B (chicken, savoy cabbage) - good for releasing energy to the body & skin maintenance
  • Vitamin C (savoy cabbage, lime juice) - bolsters your immune system & guards against ageing
  • Magnesium  (savoy cabbage) - assists protein production & muscle function. Helps transport energy
  • Potassium (savoy cabbage, chicken) - water balance and nerve impulse transmission
  • Iron (savoy cabbage) - maintains healthy blood & aids post workout recovery
  • Garlic - natural decongestant, reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure
  • Chilli - boost energy, promote blood circulation, generally addictive
  • Ginger - aids digestion, improves circulation, energises the body
Time to make: 15 minutes

Recipe ingredients for 2 people:

  • 750ml miso soup or good quality vegetable stock  
  • 2 cloves of garlic - peeled and finely chopped 
  • 3cm chunk of ginger - peeled and grated 
  • 1/2 of a medium sized chilli - deseeded and finely sliced 
  • 100g rice noodles
  • 1/4 head of savoy cabbage - shredded
  • 1/2 carrot - cut into julienne strips
  • 4 to 6 mushrooms - cut into quarters
  • 2-3 spring onions - trimmed and finely sliced (or a very big one like in picture) 
  • 1 skinless chicken fillet (about 150g) - cut in half lengthways 
  • 1 lime - zested and juiced 
  • Soy sauce - to taste 

Cooking instructions:

  1. Put the miso soup or vegetable stock in a sauce pan & bring up to a low simmer. 
  2. Add the garlic, chilli, ginger and lime zest. 
  3. Place the two chicken fillet halves into the hot broth for 5 to 6 minutes until cooked all the way through. Remove & when cool enough shred into long thin strips. Put aside. 
  4. Add the cabbage, carrot, mushrooms and lime juice. After 1 minute add the rice noodles. Leave for 1 minute. 
  5. To serve, use a slotted spoon and place a pile of the noodle, cabbage, carrot and mushroom mixture in the centre of a soup bowl. Place the shredded chicken on top of the cabbage mixture. Fill up the bowl with the hot broth. Finish with the spring onions & add soy sauce to taste.
  6. Bask in the warm comfort of this soothing, rejuvenating bowl of health.

Obviously this highly nutritious broth can be eaten at any time.....

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bikesoup No.1 - Spiced red lentil & spinach soup with / without bacon

This gorgeous smooth Bikesoup is perfect as a pre-ride, low GI, energy fix. Tomatoes pack in the flavour too and together with the spinach give a good dose of umami - the 5th taste so treasured by culinary god Heston Blumenthal.

The red lentils (look like orange discs) provide the lions share of the carbs in this cockle warmer and being super low GI (21) will deliver a steady and long release of energy throughout your ride. Without the bacon the soup is vegetarian (vegan if you know the provenance of your stock). Red lentils are commonly used in Indian cuisine to create dahls, thicken curries and as an essential ingredient in a dhansak. 

  • Vitamin A (carrots, spinach, tomatoes) - anti-oxidant that helps remove toxicity. Good for eyes
  • Vitamin B (lentils, bacon, red onion) - good for releasing energy to the body & skin maintenance
  • Vitamin C (spinach, red onion, tomatoes) - bolsters your immune system & guards against ageing
  • Magnesium  (spinach, lentils) - assists protein production & muscle function. Helps transport energy
  • Iron (lentils & spinach) - maintains healthy blood & gets you up steep hills in one piece

Don't worry about chopping everything up too small or in perfect dice - we're going to blend the soup at the end. 

Time to make: 30 minutes (if you are organised)

Recipe ingredients for 3 or 4 people
  • 1 medium carrot (chopped roughly about 1 to 2cm pieces)
  • 1 red onion (chopped - doesn't need to be to small)
  • 1 tablespoon of light olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (powder or seeds pounded in a pestle & mortar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes OR 1/2 fresh red chilli (seeds removed & chopped)
  • 150g of dried red lentils (the orange disc shaped ones)
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (cheap & cheerful is fine if you are on a budget)
  • 500ml vegetable stock (fresh or made from good quality stock cubes)
  • 100g fresh spinach leaves (use baby or remove any thick stalks) 
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 100g of bacon (smoked or unsmoked) or pancetta or chorizo

Cooking instructions:
1. Cook the dried lentils in simmering boiling water for 7 to 20 minutes, depending on size of lentils. Drain and put aside.
2. Grill the bacon or pancetta or sliced chorizo. Cut into thin strips. Remove any excess fat on kitchen paper. Put aside.
3. Sweat off the onion, carrot and garlic in the olive or rapeseed oil for 5 minutes. Try not to add any colour to the vegetables. 
4. Add the cumin and chilli, stir into vegetables and cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a low heat.
5. Add the lentils, stock and tomatoes, bring up to a low simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 
6. Remove from heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. 
7. Use a hand blender direct in the pan or an upright blender to create a smooth lump free soup.
8. If using an upright blender, return soup back to pan, bring up to a low simmer & stir in the fresh spinach. Remove from heat and stand for 2 minutes until spinach is properly wilted. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Enjoy eating from a bowl with the bacon / pancetta / chorizo scattered on the top. If you want to win some brownie points drizzle with olive oil & some chopped parsley or coriander leaves.

Some fresh bread or toasted pitta will provide a few more calories to power you home, or keep you out cycling longer.

Now, jump on your bicycle and ride, safe in the knowledge that you can have another fix of Bikesoup No.1 when you come back.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Scott Foil R1 review – a super stiff carbon superbike

Certain things mark you out as a serious cyclist. Buying a skin suit, setting up a turbo-trainer in your garage and shaving your legs are all signs that you might have taken your cycling up to the next level. Despite splashing out on skin-tight lycra and making access to my lawnmower almost impossible, I’ve not yet plucked up the courage to take a razor to my varicose veins. Fortunately, the last few weeks have allowed me a hairier route to the world of the elite rider. I’ve been riding a genuine superbike – the Scott Foil R1.

The Scott Foil R1 really is a serious bike for serious cyclists. With an RRP of £6300, it’s clearly not aimed at the average sportive rider. But does the performance of the bike justify the hefty price tag? I had the ideal opportunity to put that to the test.
Ritchley kit on the Scott Foil R1

The National Hill Climb marks the end of the British racing calendar. Held on the last weekend of October, it attracts the best climbers in the country to pit themselves against the clock and gravity in front of large and enthusiastic crowds. This year, the event was to be held on the appropriately named Long Hill, just outside Buxton in the Peak District. It was a controversial choice, quite different to the traditional short sharp blasts up nasty gradients. Long Hill goes up 4.4 miles with an average gradient of just 3.2%.

There was some debate amongst the top riders as to whether a Time Trial bike would be the best choice for the race. I had ridden in the open event on the same course in September on my normal road bike with clip on aero bars. It didn’t really suit me. What I needed was a super-light road bike which would give me an aero advantage without needing to hunch over the tri-bars. Step up the Scott Foil.

Scott Foil R1 aerodynamics

The Scott Foil was designed to take the best aspects of the Addict and Plasma TT frames and combine them in a UCI legal road bike with exceptional stiffness and light weight. With the help of Formula 1 aerodynamicist Simon Smart, and extensive wind tunnel testing, Scott developed the almost triangular tube shape, removing the trailing edge normally seen on aero-frames. This has kept the weight down whilst still producing what Scott claim is one of the most aerodynamic road frames available – saving up to 20% of drag compared to the Addict.

The result is a bike that is visually stunning, from the large, sculpted head tube to the swooping chainstays. This bike turns heads, from spectators on the hill climb to the pro-rider I caught up with on a training ride. The black and white finish subtly emphasises the aero properties and looks great combined with the weight saving Naked External Tubing – no fancy carbon weaves here.

Scott Foil R1 - Dura Ace kit

Mavic Cosmic SL wheels, a full Dura Ace groupset, Ritchey WCS carbon finishing kit and a carbon-railed Fizik Arione are added to the 840g frame. With a total weight of 6.96kg it feels amazingly light. Most road bikes, when picked up by a member of the non-cycling public, produce incredulous gasps. This bike produces the same response in experienced riders.

itchley seat post on Scott Foil R1
Lightning fast
On the road I expected an uncompromising ride, but there’s a surprising lack of road buzz and I felt no discomfort, even on long weekend runs. Handling is sharp and responsive, yet reassuringly stable and sure-footed. I soon found myself throwing the bike into corners at silly speeds, coming out with nothing worse than a massive grin! The Cosmic wheels get up to speed quickly and hold it well, but are a bit susceptible to crosswinds, the bike’s general stability compensating for that somewhat.

The whole package feels faster than my normal bike, particularly on the hills, where the light weight and stiffness of the frame really comes into its own. I beat my personal best on a seven minute training climb near my home by over a minute, helped by the lightning fast gear changes of the Dura Ace (for electronic Di2 you need the Premium model and a further £3000). Fellow members of Leicester Forest CC who tried the bike on our local hill climb course were impressed by the lightness, stiffness and acceleration.

Climbing with the Scott Foil R1
And so the big test, the National Hill Climb. Riding the Foil definitely gave me a psychological boost and made me feel that I could do well. Sure enough, I managed to beat my previous time for the course by an impressive 22 seconds. Unfortunately, against a very strong field including such legends as Rob Hayles and Michael Hutchinson, that was only enough to lift me to 118th. A top level bike that my legs and lungs couldn’t quite match.

If you want a unique piece of brilliant engineering and design and can afford the Scott Foil R1 you should seriously consider buying one. A dream bike that will almost certainly make you faster, I’m sure you will not regret your investment. As for the rest of us - Scott are releasing some lower spec models for 2012, including the 105 equipped Foil 40 for about £2200.

I’ve enjoyed my brief foray into the world of the top rider, I think it might even be time to get out my razor!

  • Performance: 10/10
  • Quality: 10/10
  • Desirability: 10/10
  • Value: 6/10
  • Overall: 9/10

Summary - Fantastic bike but prohibitively expensive for most riders

See a short video of us testing the bike here:

Putting the Scott Foil R1 through it’s paces

All pictures via placid_casual

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Girls, girls, girls! And bikes for the fairer sex.....

Over the years I've been asked many times to recommend bikes suitable for women. Easy you think? Well, no. The woman is a very different animal to the man & hence, has a very different wants list. If a male pal asks for some advice, or if we end up on some bike related chat at the pub, then there exists a foundation of knowledge & intent - we both know where things are heading. And there is usually a realistic idea of what might be presented as a good solution. When communicating with a woman about bikes you can throw the normal male terms of engagement out of the window.

This post is about a recent request for advice from my nearest & dearest, lets call her Mrs Bikesoup. I gently asked how & where she intended to use the bike, knowing full well that what would follow would be a very specific wants list. The list went something like this -

1. As light as possible
2. Good for riding around town & along the seafront (we live in Hove)
3. Very capable of some offroad trail riding
4. Good looking & not to fussy or girly
5. Excellent brakes
6. Under £500
7. Easy to use gears
8. Cleans itself & doesn't need any maintenance ;-)

Hmm..... All of the above would have been covered with a decent hybrid & that would certainly be the lightest option. So, we looked at some lovely hybrids first & tried to find something that would have some front suspension to soak up the bumps when doing some urban offroad. The not 'girly' want started to erode the list very quickly & we ended up with a list of not very many. We looked at the Specialized Ariel Comp Disc but Mrs Bikesoup wasn't keen on the step thru frame design...... But she loved the disc brakes for improved stopping power over conventional v-brakes.
And the Specialized Vita Comp but that was rejected due to no front suspension.......
All of the bikes that we looked at were 'women specific design' which means that they have revised geometries & components to suit the female form. In our case it was more important to have the shorter reach shifters & womens saddle than having a shorter seat tube that catered for womens proportionately shorter legs.

Next for the look & chop was the very pretty Trek 7.3 FX WSD which missed the cut due to no front suspension & no disc brakes. We were coming to the conclusion that doing some proper off road riding would be desirable & hence we needed wider wheels & tyres, so we shifted the search to a hardtail mountain bike with disc brakes.

Due to the increased price point of these bikes our search would now be easier as there were very few options available under Mrs Bikesoups' £500 budget & in the end we had to find some extra pennies to find the right bike.

We were shopping at Evans Cycles in Brighton (where we experienced great overall service - very personable, knowledgeable & with no pressure to buy) so we were limited by what was in store & what could be ordered in.

Our choice came from a final 3 bikes:
1. Specialized Myka HT Elite
2. Scott Contessa 20
3. Cannondale Trail SL 3

All 3 bikes offered a similar spec in terms of parts fitted & groupset so it came down to aesthetics & looks in the end. Vanity won the day! Et voila, here it is in all of its Cabernet coloured lovelines.....

And a very happy customer......
Hopefully we have found one bike that pushes the hybrid moniker to the extreme & is as comfortable on the streets of Hove as it is terrorising the trails of the South Downs.

AA - 22.09.2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Downhill Race Reports by Arran & George Gannicott- Bikesoup Gravity

iXS European Downhill Cup - Round 3 - 18th/19th June, Leogang DAY 1 - Here I am again at the top of a mountain. Only this time I'm in Leogang, Austria for the 2011 IXS European DH Cup. I had been here the year before to watch the World Cup and had been staying here for a week prior to the event so I knew the track pretty well. It was Friday afternoon and I was walking the track with Arran just like every other race.

The track had a pretty much brand new top section with some really soft, muddy corners which lead you on to the first pedal section. This was one hell of a pedal just to keep moving. After that it was a small step down and a steep drop into the first wood section, which would always be wet, no matter how hot it was! After that it was the start of the second pedal and it was a big one. About 1km of soft holes and stupidly small jumps that would just about kill you when you landed to flat!

Finally you made it to the bottom wood section which was, for me, the best part of the track. Seriously fast with nasty compressions to sort the men from the boys. After the track walk I shoved my gear on and headed up for a run. With the weather being hot and sunny, the track was rolling well and was super fun to ride!

Day 2 - Typical, pissing it down and the track had completely changed. Wasn't much point in even riding on Friday now. Oh well. Practice had to be done so once again i headed up for a run. The whole top section was just a bog and there were different ruts every run. The holes were begining to appear as well, which made it pretty physical on your upper body. A change of tyre was in order, so I slapped some of Schwalbe's finest Dirty Dan's on and went up to give them a try. Super! All my confidence was back after my apalling first run. After 4 practice runs I headed up for seeding in good spirits.

The rain had stopped and I was confident on the course. Five minutes before my run, the winds picked up and the rain cam lashing down. Well like I said before it has to be done. I went out the start gate and instantly knew that i didn't have enough tear-offs. I only had two tear offs and for a majority of the way down, I was squinting throught the water and mud. I was nearing the final route section when my visibility lead me off line and ended up sliding down a bank and off the track. I got back on the bike and realised it was just before the only up hill section on the track and thought - 'Way to go George, the one up hill section and you crash before it, real smooth' Well after all that nonsense I made my way down and still managed to bag first when I crossed the line...some how? The final rider came down and beat me by four seconds, pushing me into second place. Not to worry, only seeding & i had made a big mistake anyway.

Day 3 - Big day today & the rain was still hammering down. Two runs in the morning to sort out any last minute changes and then a four hour gap until my race run. The track was really getting beaten up now and i was starting find it hard to hold on. The holes we begining to become insane, I swear if you stopped in one it would just eat you. Big thanks to Marzocchi for providing me with their 888s to help me hold on throught the rough sections.

I was at the top for my run now and for some reason I was really starting to feel the pressure.Then the rain came again, exactly the same time as the the previous day. I was quite glad actually, it seemed to fire me up more and get rid of the nerves a little. I was called to the start and then after a thirty second wait, I was plunged into my run. It was exactly the same as my seeding run, except I had more tear offs this time. Visibility was still bad though and the holes seemed to have grown even bigger. After giving it death on both the pedal sections, I entered the woods confident and made it to the bottom with only one or two small mistakes. I took the hotseat by a considerable margin. Thirty seconds later I was in second place. I was pretty gutted and didn't know what I had done wrong. At that point in time I thought I was beaten by 1 second. After the podiums however, Arran showed me the results sheet and I had only lost by 0.1seconds. Not stoked.

After a pretty crazy weekend I was beaten up and tired. I'd not let my second place get to me and tried to move on. All in all the weekend was good, I gained a lot of experience for World Cup racing and I was feeling really confident on my Transition TR450 - George

British Downhill Series - Round 4 - 25th/26th June, Llangollen Now on our way home back from Leogang we stopped in North Wales for the 4th Round of the BDS. George & I were both knackered and eager to get home! But after walking the track on Friday afternoon our thoughts soon changed, the track was awesome and with sun forecast, the weekend was looking good.

We got up early, all keen and full of beans on Saturday but after some rain over Friday night the track was quite wet in the morning. So we took a leisurely start while the track was drying up. Each practice run was to savour with uplift queues running into over 1 hour but the track was riding great. Later on in the day I realised that I hadn't really been focusing on my racing, so I got into the zone & squeezed two runs in at the end of the day to get my lines dialed. I felt confident for the race the next day.

Sunday morning, we woke up to a gorgeous day of full sun with not a cloud in sight & the excitment was brewing in the team & looking forward to some good racing ahead.

George was up first and after seeding 2nd he was keen to get back up the hill and give it another shot. He came down into 2nd again by 0.1secs the same margin that he lost out to in Leogang the week before, so he wasn't to chuffed to say the least!

I was off about an hour later and after seeding 25th I was hoping to improve. I set off and had a descent top section; I had finally got my head in the right place and was dialed in & able to focus. Then....... tragedy. Nearing the end of the first half of the course I had a mechanical which meant I had to retire from the race. I couldn't do anything but laugh at the bad luck I had been having. No point on dwelling on it, it cant get any worst anyway! - Arran

iXS German Downhill Cup - Round 2 - 10th July 2011, Ilmenau With the Bikesoup Gravity rig packed & ready for the road, we headed to Ilmenau in the middle of sunny Deutschland. We'd seen a few videos of the track and were looking forward to racing it. The track is pretty much like Innerleithen but a lot faster & more fun to ride. Being German all was very organised & uplifts aplanty so easy to get plenty runs in on both practice days.

The track had had a bit of rain during the evening which added to the fun; this caused endless casualties and pile ups which resulted in a few on track queues.

We had decided to sleep in a campsite after our experience at Winterberg. This was a good descision as there was a large party with live band on the friday night (sure that was the cause of a few red flags). After 11 practice runs in the hot sun George and I were pretty spent and descided to chill out and watch a DVD before our race.

George was off last after seeding 1st in the U17 catagory, he came down into another 2nd place. So I quickly headed off for my run before I had to face the wrath of a tired sweaty George after his 3rd 2nd place in a row!

I had seeded 10th with my new found race head & new stiffer fork spring for my Marzocchi 888's from Dan Jones at Windwave. Cheers, Dan! I knew I had a bit left in the tank so I just went for it and ended up 7th so I was pretty chuffed with that, being my first descent result of the season. En route to Morzine now and just had to spend my 80 Euros winnings on a bloody Swiss toll! - Arran

Big thanks all of our sponsors: Bikesoup, Gravity, Marzocchi, Transition, Fi'zi:k, Tamed Earth, Schwalbe, Dakine, Clif Bar & Trick-X

Next stop National Championships at Llangollen - 23rd/24th July!

Arran & George