Sunday, February 18, 2018

2018 Anthem Advanced Pro 29ER 0 - First thoughts.

To say the last couple of months have had me excited about a new bike would be the understatement of the century.The anticipation of getting a super light, 29 inch wheeled dual suspension bike was slightly tempered by the fact that I have really enjoyed the 27.5 inch wheeled Anthem. It is a super fun bike can really haul (well, under a better rider it could) and has that element of playfulness that my previous 29er's lacked. Reading over the details for the 2018 Anthem Advanced Pro 0 soon had me like a kid in a candy shop. I waited patiently (not!) for it to arrive and now I have had the absolute buzz of riding it and getting together a few initial thoughts on it. My caveats as always, I've done about 100km on it, I had a short shakedown ride which proved I didn't need to change too much and so far the longest ride is just under 3 hours. Not a definitive testing regime by any means but here goes.
Yeah it is...
I won't go into the nitty gritty of the spec and numbers. It's got Eagle, it's got Fox, it's all carbon! The link below has all of that in way more detail than I could be bothered with. I figure the highlights and how it feels to ride is where it's at. Highlights for me are pretty straight forward.

Fox suspension with a dual remote lockout. Awesome. The Evol rear shock runs a very low pressure and so is supple and responsive. The Maestro suspension means there is limited bob under power and you get heaps of tyre contact when braking. The forks do as they should be expected to on a bike of this level. They track well and are smooth through the travel. Being able to lock both out on one lever means that for long climbs and sections of smooth fire road you can get every bit of efficiency through the pedals and I have to admit to using it heaps.

Evol shock with remote lockout.
Step Cast to save weight.
My second highlight is maybe a little unexpected. The saddle on the bike is the Giant Contact SLR Forward model. I have had one of these on two bikes now and they are very comfortable! I haven't had any issues and it took no time to break in. It may not sound like much but when you ride a lot.... A sore butt can really spoil your day. All of the Contact SLR stuff is really nice. It is finished well and is light and strong.
The last time I rode a 29er was 2014. It was a previous incarnation of the Anthem and I loved it. It was a great bike to race marathons on and long days in the saddle seemed made for it. In tight singletrack and on more technical descents though it was a little less capable. The 2018 version has gone a long way to making these shortcomings a thing of the past. The cockpit is longer, the stem shorter, the head angle slacker and the rear wheel tucked up more under the rider. This gives a very confident feel when ripping through rough trails and lets you turn faster than I would have expected possible. One of my favourite bits of singletrack has a long section of off camber roots and broken shale that drops following a sharp left hander. The run in always presents a moment of hesitation as the right line takes you through the roots before setting you up to launch the shale and land in a corner. The bike cruised through the roots with barely any loss of speed or control and then easily flicked the tail to get the correct line into the shale. The stability of the 29er coupled with the very forgiving suspension made me feel a bit pro as I dusted my mates through the section. So yeah, descending is good!
Contact SLR cockpit

What about going up I hear you say? The cockpit feels nicely stretched out so no worries there. Having the rear wheel tucked in tight under the rider gives shed loads of traction  whether you are locked out or negotiating tricky ascents over obstacles. My local trails are very loose at the moment with very fine dust over hard pack. While I can break traction if I stand and stomp, while seated there is great transfer of power to the rear wheel. Couple this with the lockout and you have a very fast bike when the trail goes up. I'm liking it.
What more is there to say apart from a HUGE thanks to Jaaron and Fi at Giant Brisbane. Without them I wouldn't be riding such awesome bikes. Hopefully soon I can do a report after racing it!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Older, fitter, happier.

It's been a long time since I posted anything here. Life has been busy and complicated, but I guess that's why it's called "life" and not "easy". I'll try and get the energy up to post more about the last year in particular soon, but for now I have bike stuff to write about and frankly it's a lot more fun for me.
So Giant, wow. In particular Giant Brisbane. It's been nearly eight years of amazing support and great bikes to ride. The support from Cyc'd for Bikes, QBC and now Giant Brisbane is nothing short of brilliant and I can't explain how much it has meant to me over the past 7 years. This year and for 2018 I have the honor of being an ambassador for Giant Brisbane and continuing my friendship and support from Jaron and Fiona. As context, Jaron and Cyc'd for Bikes were the first sponsors I ever had and were the main reason my 2010 Terra Australis and fund raising efforts were so successful. I'm still a pest at QBC though and will continue to help out with events and the like as often as I can. So for a bloke who doesn't win races, finishes mid pack at best but LOVES bikes, I am seriously blessed. A huge thanks to you all.
Obviously I have kept riding. I have raced a couple of Epics, a couple of marathons, a bunch of shorter XCO type stuff, a stage race and a 24 hour race. I have been in essence pretty happy with my efforts and if nothing else the training is THE best medicine for my state of mind. I am still using the "Today's Plan" online system and it works pretty well for me. The flexibility to change around the sessions is critical for me as sometimes life just gets in the way! The structure does keep me motivated though and I love seeing the analytics as I progress through the program. Thumbs up.
Gear wise I am riding a 2018 Anthem Advanced 1 29er currently with some exciting upgrades due in the new year. I haven't had the chance to get enough miles in to do a review of the bike yet but my intention is to do one in the next week or so. My initial thoughts though are after coming of the 27.5 version of this same bike it feels more stable through trail chatter and the feeling of sitting in the bike rather than on the bike makes climbing very comfortable. More to follow here.
All in all, the title says it all. I'm definitely older, definitely fitter and working on staying happier than I have been for a long time. Life should be about a journey and not a destination. My goal is to enjoy that journey and live and feel the experiences along the way.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Wrap up of an attempt.

I didn't finish the Epic. I had all kinds of excuses that I was going to use but I thought the truth would be best. I say this because the real reason is that after a long and very emotionally exhausting couple of weeks, when I toed the line yesterday I was already half beaten. I had no nervous butterflies, no anticipation of the flowing singletrack or the long climbs. Nothing.
You need a reserve of mental toughness to push through the times that your body is tired or your plan isn't going quite right or even when you have a slower rider in front and you want to get around. You need that. I didn't.
I'll take a few positives away though. My first 50km was good. My recorded time and the time on my Garmin are at odds but it felt good and controlled. The nutrition plan worked a treat and I had energy the whole time I was on the bike. Today's Plan had my body as fit as it has been for years and I felt comfortable on the bike.
I didn't deal with the problems mounting up in the weeks before the race. I should have talked more about them and worked harder on solving them or at least coming to terms with them. I hope by saying this that someone else can feel comfortable in talking about a problem or letting the people around them know they are struggling a bit and seek some help. You are not alone in feeling down and you do not have to be alone in dealing with it.
I will be back racing in November for the Bayview Blast. I haven't decided whether to do the 100k or something less. My honest belief is that I should do the big one.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Epic preparations.

When a little over 14 weeks ago I did a race down at Jacks Ridge I had this little itch inside to have a go at the Cycle Epic. My  biggest struggle in the last couple of years has been the motivation to get out and do some miles to make sure I got the smiles. The pattern went like this. Say I am doing a race, put all the good intentions in the world forward about how I can train and how good it will be to get fit and then watch it all fall apart around me because I let everything else that is not riding my bike get in the way. There is no structure or tangible goal to meet on a daily basis. I kept looking at my performances over the last couple of years and it is always the same.
Anyway it was time to sort out the entry to the Epic. My good mates at Epic Event Management helped me out and I was entered. There was an interesting email that followed a couple of days later offering a training plan through Today's Plan. The pricing was fantastic and it looked quite good value. I have wanted to try a plan for years now but it hasn't fit in financially and if I had to pull out for work reasons of just because I was too slack it was a huge outlay. I finally decided that it was a small investment to make even if it didn't work out. I was in full stealth mode though. I didn't tell anyone. So on the 21st June I did a threshold test.
Fast forward to today. I am into the taper week before the Epic and I feel pretty bloody smug. I have completed almost all of the sessions apart from a couple of anomalies due to illness and life pressures and I can feel the benefits from consistent, focused training. It isn't anything like having rockets strapped to my calves but I get out for a 3 hour ride and feel strong and energised. I have looked after myself with recovery times and eaten better food. All in all I can honestly say this is the best I have prepared for an event since 2010 and I am excited to get on the course and see how I go.
I have kept my goals modest. The last time I raced the Epic I manged to finish in shade under 6 hours. It was a tough slog for me and I have to say I didn't really enjoy most of the day. I placed 51st in my category and was not really happy with my performance. I have never done the Epic with any real preparation much less a proper program and taper so it is really untested ground for me. I have looked over the times from the last couple of years and I have set my top end goal as top 20 in my age group. That would mean I need to drop over 30 minutes from my last time. Of course this is all speculative as I get further into the field and more fast guys make it up into the 40+ category but you have to have a goal. Why not push it a bit?
My race plan is straight forward too. I know the course really well and the first 50km has some serious climbs but some faster fire road and tarmac sections. I smashed myself hard in the tarmac last time I raced and really blew up bad so that lesson is learnt. I am going to use the road to eat and drink and hopefully get in  bunch to get some respite. I am happy to do a turn but last time a couple of wheel suckers latched on and wouldn't come around. If I can just get a good rhythm on the climbs I'll be stoked. While the last 37km is the most fun, I also think it is the hardest. There are a lot of singletrack sections that offer no rest and I always find it hard to get a groove for the Dandy's and Yowie sections. Couple that with Grinder and it can be a very tough day at the office. I am trading my usual singletrack brutality for a more composed and hopefully energy efficient approach. We'll see if that works!
The bike is only as good as the rider they say. Well, my Anthem Team is way ahead of me in terms of capabilities but it is certainly a great comfort to have it to race on. It is dialed. It got a little love over the last couple of days to make sure everything is tip top. Some new brake pads tonight and a final clean after Saturdays pre race warm up and it will be ready to rock. I can't speak highly enough of the Anthem platform.
No good deed goes unpunished and my mates at Cyc'd for Bikes, QBC and Giant know that for sure. Brent, Darcy and Jarron look after me way too well for an old wannabe. Huge props for that!
Finally, and my weakest area in a sea of weak areas, is what I will fuel myself with. I have had a nightmarish time with race foods of the pre-prepared and packaged type. I have consciously used only a small amount of electrolyte drink and otherwise whole foods during the 12 week training. They are by no means as convenient as gels and liquid food but I am yet to have any stomach issues from this course of action. If it works out though it picks up 10 minutes of the 30 minutes I have aimed for by simply not having to rush off into the bush with stomach cramps! Besides that an almond butter and cranberry tortilla is damn tasty!
Right, so I am off now. Two more rides before the race on Sunday and I am pumped. Stay tuned for the post race report which will either be Sunday night because I am bursting to tell the world how well I went, or sometime in 2016 when I get over the disappointment.......... :)

Friday, July 31, 2015


A little video of the Giant 3+3.