Monday 19 December 2011

On one of those Dirty Discos for Planet X

Pic: Ed Rollason Photography/British Cycling

I rode my first race for Planet X yesterday.

I knew saying that would sound weird - the Planet X team has featured some quality riders over the years. Think original road hardmen Lovatt and Tanner in the early days, right through to the current crop of talented young riders and triathletes. Definitely way, way out of my league.

However, the recent growth of Planet X sister company On One's stable of bikes with the new Dirty Disco cross bikes, as well as mountain bike brand Titus means the addition of a more eclectic bunch of largely Northern based crossers and mountain bikers to the fold.

I'd 'appropriated' the Dirty Disco from the then incapacitated team rider Dave Haygarth back in October and have waxed lyrical about it ever since. It's been really exciting to be in at the beginning of the disc brake revolution (yes, that's what it is) within cyclocross and my ridings and reviewings have hopefully aided On One in establishing a firm footing within this new emerging market.

Either way, I've been taking the Disco around everywhere, and it has generated a great deal of interest at races and on the social networking sites that I share with a growing chunk of the cyclocross community. Discs will eventually become accepted as the norm, as the technology develops further and more efficiently and the Disco as a disc-only, affordable all carbon frame will no doubt become as well loved and used as the Planet X Uncle Johns that I and many others have been riding for years.

And my race? That went OK too - not as far up as I would have liked to have been, but hovering around the top 20 in a combined Senior and Vets field at Leverhulme Park, Bolton on a suitably muddy and slushy course. No clogging issues at all in really quite bad conditions, though I did change bikes mainly because I needed to keep my young son on his toes in the pits. The dirty (no pun intended) bike immediately got reused when I offered it to a fellow competitor who had broken his own rear mech and had no clogging issues for the rest of the race. Best bit? Hoofing down the main wooded descent, drifting both wheels delightfully whilst feathering the discs for control.

Steep, slippy descent - one finger braking control. That's the Disco experience in a nutshell.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Friendship is........

...... a helping hand. Neighbour, training buddy and friend Mark Turner shoves me on the way to my/our only podium of the season - 3rd in the Xmas Madison Cross at Clayton, Manchester. Well done us.

Pic taken by SportSunday, regular supporters of NW cross. More on them soon.......

Vlaamse Druivencross from Overijse - 11 Dec

My favourite cross of the season - always a tough, hilly, often old skool course. And right in the heart of Flanders, with some great kasseien sections........

Friday 2 December 2011

Slick Disco

I find the word 'hybrid' a rather inelegant term for a multitude of sins across the biological and manufacturing worlds, and shudder slightly on hearing it applied to bikes in particular. It conjures up images of ill-conceived designs (or breeds - think Labradoodle), with a mish mash of components, that shine in none of the areas in which they are designated to operate. Neither road bike, nor cross bike nor mountain bike, these unfortunates of the bike world are destined to wander the margins of bike performance, forever consigned to mediocrity....

Of course that is the perspective of a true bike snob, for hybrid bikes are in fact the ideal machine for someone who is not prepared to invest a ridiculous proportion of their income on two-wheeled equipment for their leisure.

And for me, as a confirmed crossista, and one who has not owned a mountain bike for about 20 years and a road bike for only a few out of those 20, I have always secretly liked the simplicity of a do it all bike - one that can perform well across more than one chosen discipline - road, cross and even mtb style terrain. The concept of hybrid then for me, is one of semantics and snobbery, for in fact I am indeed always looking for that ideal multi-purpose machine.

I've ridden my cross bikes on the road for ages now, not really a major imposition since i don't road race, crit race or time trial out of choice. I find a cross bike excellent for both short and long road rides, comfortable and reliable, if slightly aesthetically challenged when shod with thin clincher wheels. For sure, they lack the out and out climbing prowess of a shorter wheeled road bike, or the the high speed cornering of a crit bike. But for an average punter like me, that's fine.

It was with interest then, that I stuck some skinny road tires on the wide rim 29er clinchers that come with the On One Dirty Disco Rival build and headed for a play on the roads. Unable to do anything Disco related without stalking newly signed On One rider, Dave Haygarth, I gatecrashed his day-off morning ride round Calderdale to see how much my enthusiasm for the offroad antics of the Disco would crossover. Dave entered into the spirit of the occasion with his own slicks on one of his Discos.

Dave is more succinct than me, and usually more perceptive so here is his blog entry:

To an outsider there’s little difference between a cyclocross bike and a road bike.  Many people actually buy them as ‘all round’ bikes to deliberately ride as touring or commuting bikes.   It’s not hard to see the logic – they’re comfortable and a little more forgiving than a steeper angled road bike with more clearance. The modern ‘cross bike has moved nearer and nearer to a road bike with racier geometry and stiffer materials, so it makes sense in a way to give it a go.
The improvements in ‘semi’ mudguards also means that mudguard eyelets and stays aren’t needed.  My pair of quick ‘snap on’ race guards meant I was ‘comfortably dry’ over the less-than-dry moors and valleys.The first thing I noticed was how far ahead the front wheel felt when riding on familiar roads. It looks and seems a long way away despite the fairly steep head angle on the On OneDirty Disco I ride.  This translates in to that bit more comfort on the road.  A couple of cm on the wheelbase of the bike – particularly in winter – gives a more forgiving ride. Other than that it felt pretty much like a very responsive and easily controlled road bike.  It’s amazing what a hard pair of 23mm slicks can do to the bike that chews up the dirt at the weekends.
If I had to own only one bike (tssk… heaven forbid) then it would have to be a ‘cross bike.  And forgive my brand lurve, but it would be this ’cross bike.

I'm not going to add to that really - I too loved the chunky feel of the Disco. It's off-road performance translates nicely to the road to give a comfortable and responsive ride, as Dave says.

Which let me to ponder..... would the Disco make a good sportive bike in the summer before being returned to cross duties in the winter? For me, not overly drawn to a high end road bike, the answer is definitively yes. It has double bottle cage mounts to help seal the deal. And could it moonlight as a fast commuter too, given the ability to fit removable mud guards? I would say so.

Is the Disco a hybrid? Clearly not, but it is not the proverbial one trick pony either and manages to give a  pretty convincing performance accros a variety of terrains and disciplines. As to owning only one bike? Well, I refer you dear reader to the time honoured truth:

desired number of bikes to own = x + 1