SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Time Off For Good Behaviour

Posted: Monday, 31 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Today was still balmy and warm with clear skies, up on the Jura mountains, my local snow gauge, it looks like the snow line is heading up to around to the peaks at 1300m or 4000 feet. In previous years it has been right down to the base about now. I saw some alto cirrus or mares tail clouds yesterday, often a sign that there is a change in the jet stream that powers the weather systems.
Much as I would still like to go out today, my hands are stiff, much aches and I have a fine display of fresh bruises to display, so I am giving my rattly old bones a chance to recover. The flat looks like a squatter hovel, so a little housekeeping is in order too. One benefit of the tidy up is that I have found my camera's USB lead, so I will be able to sort out some pictures for you.

Skibiking has been featured on evening prime time TV here, I have been promised a link so that I can see it, but for copyright reasons I won't be allowed to share it with you :-(
Furthermore, an English health magazine are to feature skibiking at Le Grand Bornand, although sadly not till autumn.

On our recent days trips it was interesting to see that the lifties are no longer freaked out by skibikes, let us ride alongside all the other sliders and allow us to demonstrate the best way of fitting onto the chairlifts. This is a massive improvement on the situation just two years ago when they insisted at one resort that it was just one skibike per chairlift. It is also interesting to see how other snow users no longer seem to give us as wide a berth, some cutting in dangerously close at times. For my part I have been riding over cautiously on the crowded slopes to avoid collisions, luckily I didn't have any, although I might have left some in my wake.

Have a Happy New Year SkiBikers there will be more to come in 2013.

SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Flaine Happy Days

Posted: Sunday, 30 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Today was the last skibike ride with Carl Day as he will be heading back to blighty tomorrow. We started the day playing a game of catch up as I worked my way round the lift network with Carl about 15 minutes behind me at every link.

The pistes were just as busy as yesterday so we tried to pick out the lesser used runs and head off piste to the many open snowfields still on offer. As the day wore on the snow softened and had a lovely buttery quality, but there was always the danger of hitting one of the scraped icy patches just under the surface. You could see the caterpillar tracks in them, not good. This area badly needs a cold snap and a fresh dump of snow or it will be a very short season.

The day offered some great last day highlights; watching Carl emerge from a pisted tunnel spectacularly sideways, then later seeing him drop off a ledge at speed, become fully airborne, then land it without crashing. To say that he is happy with his new Lenz Brawler would be an understatement. That he has progressed so far in under two weeks of freestyle skibike riding is exemplary.

Sad though I am to see him go, I can look forward to some food, rest and a good lie in tomorrow.

Heading back to Morillon - last run of the day

SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Flaine with Four

Posted: Saturday, 29 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

This morning I braved some brutally icy runs down to Les Carroz for my rendezvous with Carl, Serge and Thierry. The easy blue run was like one of those specially prepared slalom slopes. Luckily it was much better higher up on the sunlit peaks.

Serge Mermillod brought one of the new production versions of the Firem VS512, whilst Thierry riding some very neat skibikes of his own design and construction. One had utilised a Cannondale Lefty mono tube fork.

4 very different skibikes

My riding got some firm but fair assessment from the other skibikers:
Firstly, I now appear to be riding even slower than last year; true but I like control and accuracy not speed.
Secondly, I enjoy drifting much more than carving. Apparently I should be retro fitting my skibikes with Russian skis without any edges. Right ho lads, you got any for sale, let me at 'em.

As is traditional on a Gallic ride we had a simple but fine lunch, with crisp Haute Savoie wine from near Chambery and a selection of picnic munchies. Carl Day has now been converted and will be expecting this every day in future.

A superb blood red sunset over Flaine, worth missing the last lift home for

The enjoyment of the ride was somewhat ruined by huge queues for almost all the lifts. It seemed that the entire populations of France and England combined were in front of us at every occasion. Having to wait for 15-20 minutes with not so good natured jostling from all and sundry. I don't know whether the Grand Massif lift system had reached overload point, but it made me appreciate how lucky I have been in the past whilst skibiking in the off season.
The delays caused me to miss the last link back to Samoens, so I was force to divert to neighbouring Morillon and had a 3km night time walk through the woods back to the car, I'm so glad I don't ride a 20kg skibob now.

SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Flaine with Three

Posted: Friday, 28 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

After yesterday's soaking and a rare early night, I was up just after 5am to collect all my skibike stuff drying on every radiator in the flat. I then forced down two cups of coffee and some excellent Galette des Rois, a tasty almond flavoured cake traditionally served at Christmas, not dissimilar to the English Bakewell Tart.

Then to my surprise it was gone 7am and time to hit the road in order to get on the first lift from Morillon at 9am. There was quite a bottle neck trying to get over the hill to Les Carroz to meet Carl for our day's riding. Fortunately the weather had improved, but some of the pistes were boiler plate hard, good to practice that carving technique.

Once Carl and I had made our rendezvous we ventured over towards Flaine where the snow was considerably better and improved markedly as the day wore on. We both found a sweet spot where our riding became both fluid and rhythmic, got to keep some of that mojo going at all cost. We were able to meet up with the man who bought Carl's first skibike and had an impromptu coaching session with him.
We completely forgot the passage of time and had to make a mad dash back to our respective base camps before the mountain shut down for the night. I could have used a headlight on my skibike for the last run and wasn't back at the car till 6pm.

And tomorrow we ride, with Serge Mermillod and his friend Thierry and there will be four of us, which I think is a skibike first.

  A mad dash back to our respective base camps before the mountain shut down for the night

SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Flaine With Two

Posted: Thursday, 27 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

When I first discovered a passion for skiing, I surprised myself months later by having my first ski dream...
I had put my skis on at a Scottish, possibly English or even Welsh ski station (something I had never experienced at the time) and it was raining heavily from grey leaden skies. There was a Poma drag lift, with a narrow snake of Dendix dry slope material leading up a gloomy, heather covered and totally snow free hillside. "Don't worry mate" the cheerful liftie told me "It's snowing up on the mountain"...
Perhaps it was a metaphor for the afterlife, some old scab from a childhood filled with Catholic dogma, or perhaps it was prescient of what was to come many years later?

I had made made arrangements to meet with my number 1 skibiking buddy, Mr Carl Day. He was to be taking a short vacation in the attractive resort of Les Carroz, just over the hill from not so attractive Flaine. I drove out from Geneva to the linked resort of Morillon and arrived at base station in the pouring rain.
I have never been at a ski base station in rain before, not even in Scotland, wet snow perhaps, but rain never. The weather might have been damp, but my spirits were high, in fact the nervous anticipation had reduced my intestinal fortitude somewhat and I had to make an urgent toilet stop.

As it turned out Carl was equally excited and hadn't slept at all and with good reason too. He was about to make his very first runs on a Lenz Brawler, possibly one of the best freestyle skibikes money can buy, although my French buddy Serge Mermillod would disagree.

Our plan was to meet up and use the interconnecting links of the "Grand Massif" to visit Flaine and its wonderful high altitude monster descents. But unusually all the interconnecting links were shut by high winds, so we had to move to a sudden plan B.
I was still able to make my way over to Les Carroz from the Morillon sector and together we spent a happy, but very taxing few hours sliding about and crashing out on the sheltered tree lined runs above Les Carroz.
In spite of the conditions we soldiered on, Carl smashing part of his helmet during a spectacular high speed crash and both of us getting thoroughly soaked through in the grossly damp conditions. There wasn't even the opportunity to take photographs, it was too wet at the bottom of the hill and (wet) blizzard conditions at the top.

Skibiker Carl Day - bruised and battered

With sagely wisdom Carl called time around 3:30 in the afternoon, which was just as well. My return trip to Morillon was somewhat obtuse and took me the best part of an hour, in quite horrible conditions of; high winds, low visibility and poor light.

Uncharacteristically I returned to my car before the last lift had stopped running, it had been somewhat brutal for a first day of the season and the start of The SkiBiker SkiBike Blog Tour 2013.

SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Free Time

Posted: Wednesday, 26 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

I had some free time today, so have updated the "How to SkiBike" page. There's no way I could explain everything on a single page, but it should give anyone planning to try out skibiking a rough idea of what you should be learning. Some people learn skibiking very quickly and would find themselves doing the advanced techniques by the end of their first day.
Tomorrow I am heading out to Les Carroz to do some riding with Carl Day, it has been a while, I hope my body remembers what to do as well as my brain remembers me doing it.

SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Made It!

Posted: Tuesday, 25 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Well I've made it to Geneva and I really had my doubts, arriving here at 15 minutes past midnight on Christmas Day. Why am I always caught out by last minute disasters that conspire to make for such a mad rush on the lead up to departure day?
On this occasion it was Uncle Fester my tired old Ford Fiesta who threw me a curved ball when one the wheel bearings seized up last week. Most galling was this was not down to neglect, but as a consequence of poor servicing technique on my part a month ago. So my precious pre-Christmas skibike building week was reduced to a mad scramble to source and fit more replacement parts. Exactly the very last thing I needed before a gruelling 700 mile journey across some tough and remote terrain.

Uncle Fester - travelling light in 2010

That sorted, I approached the assembly of a spare skibike with some gusto and blasted through it in a few days, transforming a pile of disparate bits into quite a tasty looking machine. There will be more on this subject soon, once I have had a chance to test it out, see how it behaves and draw some conclusions. Thanks to this manic output, for once I was waxing skis on the evening before the ferry and not the same morning.

I am beginning to think that Uncle Fester is a member of UKIP (a UK Euro Sceptic political party) as every time I hit foreign soil he throws a tantrum. Having crossed the channel, just past Brussels, I could hear a vague whirring noise from behind me. Sure enough once I had stopped and checked, the other wheel bearing was showing signs of a rapid demise. This was around mid-day on Christmas Eve and in continental Europe it is more important than Christmas Day itself. I stopped by a garage where the proprietor was still working and he confirmed that I was well and truly shafted.
I had a think and not wanting to spend all Christmas stuck in Brussels, I decided to keep going and see how far I could get. After all it was only another 450 miles to Geneva, what could go wrong? Keeping my speed below 50 mph the noise level was tolerable, although progress was painfully slow. By the time I reached Geneva the sound was akin to a Lancaster bomber on final approach, but defying my own risk estimate, I had made it to civilisation and a bed for the night.

Skibike Conversion Kit - Bike The Slopes!

Posted: Saturday, 8 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

A couple of days ago I had a message through from Charles "Chic" Tyson of  Bike The Slopes who wanted to let the World know that there is another option for diy skibike conversion kits.
On offer is a conversion kit priced at 199 Canadian Dollars, which certainly puts it on par with offerings from both the South side of the 49th parallel and also here in Europe. Furthermore, I have been able to confirm that this is no "coming this winter season" hype, the kits are on the shelf and ready to go.

So if there are any Canucks out there Jonesing for some skibike action straight away, consider yourself tipped off.

Mountain Bike - Tour Around London

Posted: Saturday, 1 December 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

With just a few weeks to go before the 2012-13 SkiBike Tour kicks off, this is no time to let my fitness levels fade. So an opportunity to meet up with pals from RetroBike and enjoy an extended ride around London was not to be missed. Best of all the planned route was my idea and I would be doing the guiding.

The ride should have been a week earlier, but we had to abandon the idea due to torrential rain and substantial wind. A week later the conditions couldn't have been more different. It was a dry but icy cold start to the day, whizzing down the hill to Purley Cross certainly woke me up and made me feel alive. A quick couple of miles warmed me up and got me to the meeting point for the start of the run.

East Croydon - 60s modernist architecture

East Croydon railway station, is a soulless spot, surrounded by the worst excesses of 60s modernist architecture. Luckily I soon found the Whatleymeister and Godders, grabbed a quick snap in front of the NLA tower and we were off for a pleasant run through South London's suburbs. Following a number of trails that follow disused railway lines and former industrial area reclaimed into parkland, Godders commented "who would have thought you could find all this in the middle of a city".
At Lewisham we headed up onto Blackheath and over to The Royal Observatory for a view of the vista over to Docklands. Then it was a flat out blast downhill to the Cutty Sark and a rendezvous with jonnyboy666 who had made his way from an overnight stay in Kilburn some 10 miles away.

View from The Royal Observatory

Next it was time to head down into the foot tunnel for the underwater route to the Isle of Dogs, as Whatleymeister pointed out, it was his first ever lift assisted RetroBike ride. Arriving at Island Gardens the sun briefly shone and we rapidly made our way towards Stratford and our 2nd rendezvous, this time with local boy Bike Man. He guided us around the perimeter of the former Olympics site, through Hakney Marshes and along the canals tow paths to Victoria Park. I generated considerable mirth from my fellow riders by using my painfully screechy front brake as a fog horn and clear a pathway through the many bimbling hipsters and sundry tourists.

By the Cutty Sark

Our next port of call was the Haggerston Park BMX track, an unexpected jem in an otherwise uninteresting area. We all had a go and as a novice I found it quite intimidating, but equally thrilling too. I learned the hard way that you don't use your brakes and would be tempted to go back, but maybe when there are no onlookers to watch my failures.

I had arranged a couple of prizes raided from my "conference freebee giveaway" cache, very Alan Partridge I know, so took the opportunity for a quick prize giving session, namely:

Farthest Distance Travelled To Attend - went to jonnyboy666 who had made the trip up all the way from Southampton.
The Riders' Choice RetroBike du Jour - went to Bike Man, who won by a whisker for having the most original and Retro of all the bike's present and boasting the ugliest forks too.

RetroBikes win prizes

It was now time to head for the centre of town, dodging buses and taxis for a photo stop at St. Paul's Cathedral. Godders found a puncture and deserves a prize for the fastest inner tube change in the West End.

Godders - fastest inner tube change in the West End

Then it was up the Strand, whizzing round Trafalgar Square in seconds flat and on to the final photo stop at Buckingham Palace. The queen was in, but didn't offer tea or scones, maybe next time?

Buckingham Palace - Tea with the Queen next time?

After this we bade farewell to jonnyboy666 who was heading back up to Kilburn whilst the rest of the party headed South to Vauxhall Cross. Outside the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Whatleymeister left to brave the delights of the South Circular for the short run to Clapham Junction, whilst Bike Man headed back East, which just left myself and Godders to make the trip back to Croydon.

Taking the scenic route; past the Oval Cricket Ground, through Loughborough Junction, Dulwich and on to the lung busting climb up to Crystal Palace, one of the highest spots anywhere in London. With only about another 15 minutes of riding left ahead of us we indulged in a swift pint and took in the view. The night was so crisp and frosty with phenomenal visibility, I believe we could see the radio tower on Wrotham Hill in Kent and the towers of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge at Dartford.

There was considerable post football chaos around Selhurst Park football ground, I began to wonder if the Croydon riots had resumed. A few nifty back street runs avoided the grid lock, got us back to Croydon and saw Godders off to catch his train with 2 minutes to spare.