Double Bubble Day - A Tale Of Two Ski Centres

Posted: Monday, 2 January 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

I was up at before dawn to be at the SnoZone in Milton Keynes for an 8:30 rendezvous with Carl Day, for his debut ride on his freshly built DaBomb - AlpineSkiBikes conversion. We were first through the doors and onto the snow, as the lifts hadn't started we walked up the nursery slope and got into position. I went first and made a series of gentle turns down to the bottom, looking back, Carl was on my tail and we had created some pretty nice figure 8s in the freshly groomed snow.
Moving on to the main slope, he found the combination of the Poma drag lift and pegger style riding an unhappy union, so opted to use a "magic carpet" conveyor belt and a fair bit of leg work, to reach the top. Seeing him to be doing so well, I left Carl to practice without being fussed over and took the opportunity to see how some recent modifications had changed the handling of my skibike.


The most recent change being the installation of a Satori "Heads-Up" stem riser, as recommended to me by Wayne Richards, which raises your handlebars by up to 3 inches.  I am very pleased to report that is has transformed riding on the pegs, sending a lovely "buttery" feeling back from the front ski. I was now much better placed to feel the loading at the front of the skibike and there we no more horrible "superman" ejections. Some other minor recent changes involved moving the seat back an inch or so, installing a new posh "anti-dive" link and wider, braced handlebars.

Becoming a little over confident with my new found pegger style skills I had a couple of messy spills on what was fast becoming a very crowded slope. Rather than squeeze the last few minutes from my lift pass, I decided to call it quits and join Carl for a long brunch.

He explained that growing bored with snowboarding, he had tried a Brenter skibob in Canada, immediately falling in love with the sensation. Upon returning to the UK he was on a mission to build his own skibike and wanted to go the "pegger" route, finding the traditional method to be too much like "skiing with a bike between your legs".
I was keen to see how his first impressions riding pegger style had been; turning had not been as steady as expected, especially when standing on the pegs or "a bit sketchy" as he put it, he has also developed a new appreciation for YouTube stunts "you lot....make it look easy". He also thought that some sort of towing gadget for use with drag lifts would be a valuable asset.

After lunch, I enjoyed some fine winter sunshine on the return drive South. My next port of call, was to be the long dry ski slope located in the commuter town of Bracknell, Berkshire near London.
It is possibly unique, as the slope can be accessed by a 2 seater chairlift, in addition to the usual complement of drag tows. This steep slope is relatively high at the top with excellent panoramic views. Sadly I had a lot of trouble finding edge grip on the surface resulting in lots of ungainly skidding about and two full on crashes.
The friendly and helpful staff had described the surface as being like hard packed icy snow, I think they have nailed it with that description, it very similar to the quality surface you would find on a slalom piste, fast and with little give.

Bracknell Dry Ski Slope

Determined not to be put off, I tried for 30 minutes to "dial myself in" and find the sweet spot between grip and slip but, oddly, unlike the similar slope at Chatham,  I couldn't. Checking the recently repaired bases of my SnowBlades, I found that they were once again showing the same wear patterns as on my previous dry ski slope visits. I called time before I caused any further damage.

Today has been a bit hard on my kit, here's the casualty list:

Ski boots - broken binding cable, this has to be fixed pronto.
Fleece - ripped zipper, time to be recycled.
Salopettes - ripped in two places, pocket holed, a sewing machine job hopefully.
SnowBlades - bases scored, I know how to fix this.....again.

Well the kettle has now boiled and a mug of steaming tea and soldering iron await me, it's time to head back into the workshop.