Well that was interesting

Some of you might know, I have been looking for a new bike.  This has involved many, many hours on the internet researching.  Many long conversations with mates about wheel sizes, shock designs, maintenance, travel and more.

So where have we got to.  The thinking is it has to be 650b or 29 er wheels (or clown-lite and clown wheels as they will be know).  26 seems dead to me. I know not everyone agrees but then beer was once always served warm and we all know how nice a cold pint of Jarl is, dont we.  So this weekend i managed to get 2 bikes to test: Both 29ers, but very different:

  1. A Specialized Camber with 110mm of travel and relatively steep angles – this is a good xc bike
  2. An Orange 5 29 with 140mm with slacker angles  – a great all mountain bike

The test venue was the Innerleithan xc loop with some “choice” extras thrown in to make things more interesting.

IMAG2319So what were my thoughts?  Well it was all a bit of a surprise really.  Both bikes are great.  I had been warned the Camber was twitch with a steep head angle but it was more fun than i thought.  It was let down by its tyres which just didnt inspire confidence.  The shocks were a bit hard for my liking as well which made it hard to manual the bike.

The big surprise was the 5.  There is no disguising the fact it is a big bike, but it was fast on the climbs. Probably faster than the Camber.  This is most likely due to the position you end up in on both bikes.  On the Camber you feel “in” the bike which seems to make it hard to move around and shift your weight. The 5 is the opposite, it is easy to shift around and consequently it feels fast everywhere.

I suppose it could have been the wheels and tyres that made the 5 seem fast. It was tubeless with quite grippy rubber. But i was genuinely shocked that a slack 140mm rig could out climb/sprint a steep angled 110mm xc rig. The job of deciding which bike to get has just got harder, or possibly much, much easier.


New Ride – Son of Ken is born

Kinesis Pro6 review

I am relatively new to cross and wish i had found it sooner. Cyclocross is just plain fun. Faster than mountain bikes, but with less control. I raced the 2011 season on a battered Kinesis 5T that i picked up for £320 on ebay and had a blast. It is hard to explain, but it kind of reminded me why i ride. Furious Ken, as he became known, never let me down but most of his components were close to worn out and he needed some serious TLC if he was going to be competitive in the 2012 season. Over the winter i had also got carried away and had entered the 3 Peaks Cyclocross race. If you don’t know what this is, then follow the link, all you really need to know is that it is probably the toughest cx race out there. All this added up to a new bike purchase, or at least it provided the thinnest veneer of a reason to get a new bike.

Choices, Choices, Choices

I set my mind on discs. The arguments continue as to the advantages of discs and some seem to be waiting for the hydraulic discs to improve before switching. I thought mechanical discs would be alright, even if only 1 pad really moves on most systems. After much deliberation it came down to a choice of 2 rigs; the On One Dirty Disco and the Kinesis Pro 6. I was sceptical about carbon fiber, but you really cant ask for a better advert than Mike Hall can race around the World on one carrying his kit on a Dirty Disco. However the Pro6 edged it. Why? Well it was a bit cheaper and had rack mounts meaning I could use the bike as a fast tourer as well as a weekend cx race bike.


With the frame secured from my local cx friendly bike shop, The TriCentre, i could start planning the build. The next biggest decisions was wheels. After a chat with a mate who also had a Pro6 I plumped for Hope Hoops. These were Pro2 EVO hubs on Stan’s Crest rims. Technically a 29’er wheel-set they are pretty bombproof but still light and tubeless ready. I think going for mtb wheels is a good idea as cx racing is really tough on kit, you end up power-washing the bike after races, well in Scotland at least. Brakes were an easy choice, Avid BB7’s. Just note that you have to get the road version if you intend to use them with road levers. I forgot and at one point had 6 calipers under my desk at work due to some internet shopping excitement. The drive-train is pretty standard run of the mill stuff. Utilitarian kit that doesn’t break the bank, CX70 chainset, 105 block/chain, 105 shifters (you are going to crash a cx bike so don’t waste cash on fancy shifters) and 105 mechs. The finishing kit consisted of a Ritchey seatpin, a bargain RSP saddle and some second hand stem and bars from Colin May.

Sorted, well almost. Tyres. Tyre manufacturers have not quite realised that many riders want to race tubeless but dont want to run tubs. There are a couple of blogs with recommendations of which tyres work as tubeless systems and i opted for Schwalbe Racing Ralphs. Do they work? Yes, but it took a couple of days and a hell of a lot of sealant to seal the sidewalls, the thread count may not quite be high enough to be tubeless ready out of the box.


So how does it ride? Well, i think it rides as good as it looks. You just have so much control than with canti’s. The geometry is exactly the same as the 5t and it is spot on in my opinion. Aggressive but stable. I suppose the only thing that i could criticise it for is the lack of mud clearance t the front. There is plenty, but there could be more. On the 3 Peaks it performed admirably. The conditions were horrific this year (video) and having discs was a great reassurance. I slashed a tyre on a rock which was unlucky. The only issue i had with the bike was that the seat clamp snapped during a remount. Why do manufacturers insist on making seat collars out of mag-alloy? They must save, what, 3 grams over solid aluminium. I have since replaced the seat collar with a nice bit of jewelry from Superstar. The old one will be going back to Kinesis with a comment.


Pro6 in action at Knockburn Loch – image courtesy of Shand Cycles

So we are now 1/2 way through the cx season and the Pro6 continues to deliver. I am yet to test it’s load lugging touring capabilities, but that may have to wait until the summer. If you are looking for a no-nonsence, versitile bike that is just as at home touring as it is cx racing or bashing out winter miles, look no further. The Pro6 is great.

Total build cost: £1350



Europe’s Cold Snap Visualised

You might have noticed that Europe is currently experiencing colder than normal temperatures.  Freak snow storms in southern Italy and Tripoli point at things being quite unusual.  Scores of people have died as a result of exposure with the homeless in central and Eastern Europe being particularly badly affected.

Cold Snap – courtesy of NASA

NASA have released a image showing surface temperature anomalies across Europe at the end of January.  The image has been created from multiple MODIS images and clearly shows that most of Europe has experienced surface temperatures 5-10C lower than is normal at this time of year. Only the wester fringes of the continent have escaped the freeze.

The explanation for the cold snap is an unusually pronounced wave in the jet stream.  This normally runs roughly west to east but this year there is a significant distortion which has allowed cold air to sink south over Europe.  In the UK the south has felt the effects of this with week long cold temperatures and snow in London. However, temperatures in Scotland have been just about normal.

The full article about how this image was made and what it shows can be found on the Earth Observatory site.

If you like the composite MODIS image, then you might want to read an older blog post about last winters cold snap in the UK.

This article was originally posted on the GoGeo Blog


The clocks have changed, it’s dark when you leave work, all getting a bit depressing.  So, what do you do?  Mope? Catch a film at the cinema?  That would be too easy, much better you head out into the woods and have a special Halloween cycloross race complete with fancy dress.



The TriCentre organised Hallocross in Craigmiller park.  A great little course, not too technical, partly open and grassy with a swoopy, spooky wooded section. Top it off with mild, dry weather and you couldn’t ask for more.  The race was eventually won by Gareth Montgomery, with David Lines in second and Colin May in third.  The Edinburgh Uni Cycle Club (EUCC) cleaned up in the fancy dress competition thanks to a crow and a banana.




Cartographers remove more ice than climate change

You may have noticed that The Times has just released a new Times Atlas and there has been quite a lot press coverage about their new map of Greenland.  The Times state that “For the first time, the new edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World has had to erase 15% of Greenland’s once permanent ice cover – turning an area the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland “green” and ice-free”.

This is quite a statement and has been picked up by a number of other publications including The Guardian (John Vidal of The Guardian has stated that his article was based on promotional material from The Times that supported the launch of the Atlas), The Daily Telegraph and The Scotsman.  This is great publicity for the new map, however there are a growing number of climate scientists who are questioning the accurateness of the new map of Greenland.  The rumblings started on Cryolist, a popular climate science discussion board.  The Times do not provide links to any of the resources that they used to compile the new map which makes it very hard to verify the map.

Members of Cryolist, including a number of prominent Professors of Glaciology, have “submitted a Letter to The Times” voicing their concern and asking for clarification on the sources that were used to create the map.  A bit of digging by the Cryolister’s has produced a mosaic of MODIS satellite images from late August 2011, close to the end of the melt season in Greenland and therefore close to the period of minimum ice extent, which shows that ice is far more extensive than suggested by The Times.

Spot the difference? Excerpt from The Times Atlas and a MODIS image mosaic from August 2011

It will be interesting to see how this pans out.  Certainly the climate scientists do not want incorrect information to be circulated, especially if it shows glacial retreat to be much worse than it actually is.  This could erode public confidence in climate science and provide easy ammunition to climate skeptics.  So the lesson for cartographers might be to ensure that your map is as accurate as possible and to provide references to support your map so that it’s representation can be validated by others.  This is one of the cornerstones of Science and should apply to cartography as well.

You can read more about this on the BBC website or by joining Cryolist.

UPDATE (20/09/2011) :

The Guardian have published an article on the issue.  Details of the letter sent by a number of glaciologists are now emerging (letter copied at end of post) and they state that

  • the ice sheet (2.9m cubic kilometres) is loosing mass at a rate of roughly 200 cubic kilometres per year, giving a decrease of around 0.1% by volume over 12 years.
  • if the figure of 15% was correct (which is disputed), this would equate to roughly 1m increase in global sea levels (based on the current estimates that Greenland Ice mass would contribute around 7m of sea level rise if it were to met entirely)

The Times Atlas are still defending their map stating now that they got the data from National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.  It has been suggested that The Times Atlas may have misinterpreted ice extent and ice thickness or that they could have just removed ice below the 500m contour line.

Letter to The Times Atlas:


Dear Sir,

A media release accompanying the publication of the 13th edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World states that the Atlas is ‘turning Greenland ‘green’’. We are extremely puzzled by this statement and the claim that ‘For the first time, the new edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World has had to erase 15% of Greenland’s once permanent ice cover – turning an area the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland ‘green’ and ice-free’. We write to point out that a 15% decrease in permanent ice cover since the publication of the previous atlas 12 years is both incorrect and misleading.

Recent satellite images of Greenland make it clear that there are in fact still numerous glaciers and permanent ice cover where the new Times Atlas shows ice-free conditions and the emergence of new lands.  Furthermore, the low-lying fringe of the main ice sheet appears to be shown as land, not ice.

A sizable portion of the area mapped as ice-free in the Atlas is clearly still ice-covered. We do not know why this error has occurred, but it is regrettable that the claimed drastic reduction in the extent of ice in Greenland has created headline news around the world. There is to our knowledge no support for this claim in the published scientific literature.

We do not disagree with the statement that climate is changing and that the Greenland Ice Sheet is affected by this. It is, however, crucial to report climate change and its impact accurately and to back bold statements with concrete and correct evidence. The volume of ice contained in the Greenland Ice Sheet is approximately 2.9 million cubic kilometers and the current rate whereby ice is lost is roughly 200 cubic kilometers per year. This is on the order of 0.1% by volume over 12 years. Numerous glaciers have retreated over the last decade, capturing the attention of scientists, policymakers and the general public. Because of this retreat, many glaciers are now flowing faster and terrain previously ice-covered is emerging along the coast – but not at the rate suggested in The Times media release.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Poul Christoffersen

Prof. Julian Dowdeswell (Director)

Mr. Toby Benham

Prof. Elizabeth M Morris

Dr. Ruth Mugford

Dr. Steven Palmer

Dr. Ian Willis

(Scott Polar Research Institute)

Update: 23rd September 2011

The disagreement rumbles on.  In a BBC interview,Sheena Barclay the Managing Director of HarperCollins Geo, faces direct questions about the accuracy of the cartography of the Greenland map.  In this she admits that the 15% figure in the press release was wrong. However, when pushed on the validity of the cartographic representation she points towards the general uncertainty in mapping ice extent and the difficulty of representing this at the scale of Greenland.

Sheena seems uncomfortable answering direct questions with a direct answer and the scientific community have not been appeased by the interview. They still support the view that the map is incorrect.  Mapping ice extent is not all that difficult with modern remote sensing techniques. Ice can be distinguished from snow.  The scientists are not talking about a couple of kilometers difference in the ice edge, they point to the satellite images which show large areas of ice (200km across) now depicted as being ice free. This is clear even on Google Maps which has imagery from 2011.

Here is the BBC’s take on the interview.  Interesting they use the words “politician” and “climb-down”.