Friday, May 22, 2009

2009 Specialized S-Works Epic - Race machine

It has been almost 3 months since my new rocket ship arrived at my door – the award winning, 2009 Specialized S-Works Epic, more than enough time for me to form an opinion on it and give a little review – briefly, I think it’s an amazing technical achievement. The mix between rigid rocket and sofa bike is astonishing – It just knows what to do.

For 2009 there has been a massive shortage of S-Works Epics with the Irish and UK supply being sold out long before they even became available. Due to this, my new bike didn’t arrive until the day before I left for for my first set of races in Cyprus. Basically, my housemate, Alan, picked it up for me from Cycleways and I laid hands on it at around 8pm to build up – once built, it was time to pack into a bike bag. I did take a little risk in that I never rode it and I was taking it away to race on for several weeks. Although the suspension had changed significantly from my 2008 version, the geometry was going to be pretty close so I believed that I would feel right at home on it from the start.

Race prepped in Cyprus

Having read a great deal about it on various forums I knew that setting the front and rear suspension correctly at the start was important – in that regard, I watched the various suspension setup videos Specialized has online and spent 30 minutes setting it up – I got it perfect first time around and aside from changing the brain threshold, based on the type of course, I have not altered anything since.

From the first pedal, what got me was the rigidity of the bike – it felt almost like my road bike with every bit of energy going into the pedals. Initially, I was a little worried that I made things too stiff and that when I hit the offroad I would be knocked around a lot. Obviously, the first thing I did was try and find the roughest, most technical terrain I could find and see how it feels. My reaction was, OMG, this feels like my Enduro SL – the suspension worked magically, like riding on a magic carpet – everything from trail buzz to square edge hits were hammered into a smooth ride. It was like a mini destruction crew working just in front of my wheels to make the trail as smooth as possible – just for me, yet when I stood on the pedals, there was a road bike under me – amazing. Another nice thing, the S-Works Frame is naked carbon like last years S-Works Tarmac SL2 road bikes – not only does the frame look sweet (and save about 150grams on paint) but is actually super easy to clean. Important when your racing abroad, cleaning to make it look spotless takes about half the time of last years white Kona.

The front and rear suspension was the main difference with this years bike for me – a lot of the control, drive train (except the new S-Works crankset – very smooth – which I’ll be converting to a double once they become available), wheels etc… was very similar to last years from a performance point of view and has worked perfectly. Racing really is the toughest test of any bike – especially on trails as technically demanding as the ones in Cyprus and I have to say this bike has come out with flying colours. I know it’s really clich├ęd to say it is the “best bike I’ve ever ridden” – but it really is! It is by no means a cheap bike though at 6,000E, but if you want the best…

Both our bikes ready

Now for the all important bit – what is the weight – well, in the pimped race version with my KCNC components and crankbrother pedals and real tires (not 300gram show bike tires) it hits the 9.2kg mark. Not bad for something built to last under a 73kg rider!

KCNC supplied chains, seatpost, skewers (a new, longer rear skewer is need as the carbon dropouts are pretty wide), stem and bar. Thanks Andy!

Most importantly, thanks to Specialized and Cycleways for sorting Mel and I out with our bikes this year - it is a real privilege to be riding these amazing machines.

Mel has already written a piece about her bike too with lots of pictures here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

CT Scan of my shoulder

I was at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry this morning for a specialist opinion. A CT scan (and some pretty crazy looking images) and it is decided that I'm going under the knief tomorrow morning for a plate and pins. This is my fouth operation (3 herina operations, 2 when I was very young) and is a little daunting. The operation will mean I should be up and going quicker. The earliest possible MTB race will be then end of June with hopefully some road stuff before that.

My body as I have never seen it before

The broken bone - two main bits with about 6 bits in total

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2009 British NPS Round 2 - Dalby Forest

Last weekend was a busy one – lots of things happening and one that I wont forget for a while. The second round of the British NPS series was been held in Dalby Forest, it was a UCI C2 event and also been used as a test event for a World Cup they hope to run in 2010.

An evening flight to Leeds and a quick car rental brought us to just outside Dalby around midnight, the day before the preride. Saturday morning was cloudy but looked like we were not going to get the rain we had lots of recently. Hoping for a dry course, we arrived at the race venue to see the usual pre-race buzz. The TorQ crew were already there and were expanded by the Australian contingent that are in Europe competing in all the European World Cups.

Start of the Men's race

After a lap of the course, I had to admit that I liked it. Lots of courses feel like you are always climbing, this course felt like you were always descending. Lots of swoopy wide singletrack sections, a lung buster climb, a 'standard' 3 minutes climb and a few technical sections. Before my lap, I heard lots of stories about how difficult some sections were, a big drop and a rooty/droppy section being the highlights – I can tell you, after some of the things we rode in Cyprus, these sections were easy – Mel had no issues with riding them first time around either. (Although she did hava a fall and a scare that meant we spent Saturday evening in Scarborough A&E – I'll leave Mel to talk about that on her blog though)

Robin Seymour

Race morning arrived to see a stacked field, around 50 of us on the grid. A quick blast around the start arena and we hit the singletrack – I didn't push too hard and made sure to go into the singletrack around 20th-25th. I was trying to see if I take it a little steadier at the start, if I would be able push a bit harder later on. The laps went by easily enough, I enjoyed the course a lot and had a lot of little battles – having looked at my HR data afterwards, I don't think I was pushing hard enough or was not recovered, my HR was way down - or maybe ut was the cold I had for the previous few days. One thing that surprised me was how poor some riders were on the technical sections – great on the fireroads/easy singletrack but very slow descending (maybe too much road biking for some?). Up the last big climb on the last lap I caught and passed 2-3 riders and was feeling good. I had a few more riders in my sights and was chasing them down.

With under two minutes of riding to go on a walking trail linker section that lead to the last technical section I was out of the saddle sprinting to catch another rabbit. Suddenly, my world was turned upside down and I crushed into the ground – hitting a tree stump with my right pedal. I have hurt my shoulders a few times since I started riding and feared breaking things before. The way I felt as I hit the ground, I knew that I had broken something – there was no doubt. As it happened, my crash was as close to the medic tent as I could have made it and with a steward in tow, I wondered over. Feeling like a ghost, dizzy and getting cold I answered a few questions and with nothing more than a look, I was diagnosed to have broken my left clavicle. Blood poured from me but that was the least of my worries. I asked one of the medics to find Mel and a few minutes later, he returned with a worried looking Mel and we started to plan the rest of our day. A trip to Scarborough A&E was in order :(

After arriving there, it took about 4 hours until I had been seen, X-Rayed and ready to try and get back to Dublin. Mel was a star looking after me and packing up our bikes and between my friends Alan and Fergal (who I called to help me with advice) and the VHI, a very complicated situation was made a lot more manageable. 22:20 flight out of Leeds seen us get to bed shortly before 2am. (We were still wearing our race gear until shortly before then!)

Results, report and photos are up here. I also have to mention Mel's second place which means she is now ranked in the World Top 100 (but bad for a girl that decided to do this mountain biking thing properly 18 months ago) and leads the UK NPS series - well done Mel!

More on the injuries soon... I would also like to say a big thanks for all the well wishes - it means a lot to me. It's really tough going from fully fit to injured like this, but in 13 years of high level sport, this is only my second serious injury so I shouldn't complain too much!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Broken collarbone

On Sunday's race I broke my collarbone (clavicle). Report coming, but if anyone knows anything about this, please drop me a mail or comment below. Going to see a specialist tomorrow morning in St. Vincents.

Man it hurts :(

And a huge thanks for all the well wishes - it means a lot to me!

Thursday, May 07, 2009


My club, MAD, is celebrating it's 20th anniversary this year. One of things we are holding is an XC event in Dublin's mountainous back garden, Three Rock mountain. The event is one loop of mostly singletrack and is aimed at everyone from the Elite rider to the person who has only been out on a mountain bike a few times. It promises to be a fun day and a great way to see the trails around Three Rock (believe me, you will not know them all) and hang out with other MTB crazed loonies.

Online signon is available here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pietermaritzburg DH Photos

The day after the XC race, Mel, Alan and I watched the Downhill Race. As we walked the track we took a few photos - here is a selection.