Brighton Big Dog 2012
By David Kleinjan
Brighton Big Dog 2012, the 4th edition of a classic in the making. 6 hours of shared or solo punishment around some of the best single track Brighton has to offer. Situated in Stanmer Park, a short ride from Brighton Pier, and so it was that I saddled up on Saturday morning and spun down the road (standard 34×19 ratio enabled). Selection for team events has been rather haphazard this year, never seeming to stick to the original plan set out during the winter team planning session. It was more a matter of self de-selection that led to the formation of this triplicate of singular clad gents. Steve, Aidan and David (myself). Credited as a singlespeed team, mind games with the opposition had begun. I’ll freely admit Steve had bought the wrong bike and was equipped with a full selection of gears; 9 more than Aidan and me. Oddly we were also all sporting bikes with a suspension fork, something of a rare occasion for the two singlespeeders.
Meet and greet commenced upon arrival, excuses exchanged with Josh Ibbet, mine being
too much running, and 0 biking in the past month. This was reminiscent of last year; I’d entered in the solo category and after a lap I’d had enough, couldn’t bear the thought of pushing a singlespeed around for 6 hours. It’s not a singlespeed course I kept repeating. It’s certainly a challenge and results in a bit of running, but that was how I’d been training. Invalid excuse.
Steve arrived a little late, but was keen, as ever, to take the honours of the first lap, a surefire way to get a good start and a clear lap for the second man out. Back in a flash, riding comfortably with the leaders, it was my turn to grind my way around the brilliant course. The first climb was OK, lungs were ignited in short order, not in a good way. The many short sharp climbs challenging the traction offered by my Crossmark. The way down was fun and littered with whoops and just-about moments, but with a Maxxis Beaver mounted, I was pretty happy to let the levers out an extra notch. I’m still running my new X-Fusion forks at 120mm, coupled with full width USE Atom bars, it was a bit more moto than I’m used to, also making the narrow tree passages feel narrower yet.
Half way through the lap, I heard a noise that wasn’t right. One that makes you ride differently. I still had drive, each pedal stroke accompanied by a crunching and clicking noise emanating from the rear hub. Had I lost another pawl? I was already down to 3 (one ill-fitting pawl had been removed before my trip to NZ)? Was it a bearing? I figured the worst that could happen was a sudden lock up on a sketchy descent, but I was willing to risk it. There was a bit more of a wobble in the tail, again, not making it unrideable, but no less disconcerting. I did ride the rest of the climbs with more caution, favouring riding the remainder over pushing. No doubt I lost some time, but it certainly added to the adventure of finishing the lap.
Having survived the rest of the lap, I crunched across the line, handed the baton to Aidan, and went in search of a solution. After failing to find tools to dismantle the freehub, I talked to Rory and managed to borrow a wheel off one of the Upgrade bikes. This is normally where I’d turn to Sam for a solution, but unfortunately he and his quiver of bikes was absent. I really need to sort out my other wheelset, in addition to keeping my daily runners in good shape. To be fair, I’ve never touched these wheels, built by a friend Tristan in NZ (wheelworks.co.nz), they’ve served me well over the past 4 years. I think I’ve had the freewheel off once, it was pretty grim. It’s been a bit wobbly for the last 6 months, so I am surprised they’ve done so well. Anyway, instead of resorting to using a fully cassetted wheel, Harvey produced a toolbox with exactly enough spacers, and promptly turned it into a singlespeed wheel. Done. With a slightly too large Bronson mounted, I headed off for my second lap, the tyre nibbling on my lovely Ti chainstays. The second lap felt pretty good, the track drying quickly, the speed rising with each descent. Again, a few exciting moments with the front scrubbing then hooking up again, man this bike is fun. I got caught between two trees whilst attempting a pass, resulting in a good laugh and flustered apologies. It seemed a common theme amongst my wide barred brothers. On the final technical climb, slip. The wheel had ejected. Eek. Quickly remounted with some more bite, and luckily without any further issue, I headed into the final part of the lap, ending in a screamer of a descent.
With some infrequent updates, we’d gathered we were in 2nd place in the team category. I’m not sure we really cared, but we were all having a ball, with some fast laps the effect rather than the cause. I wouldn’t call myself a racer, but I love riding fast, and not so much searching for, but stumbling upon my limits. With a window of 80min to lay down the final two laps, ending inside the 6hr cut off, I knew I had to leave it all out there to give Aidan a fair go at anchoring the effort. I certainly haven’t felt so harassed in a long time. The improving track certainly helped, and without any mechanicals, I was on track to lay down a sub-40min lap. I think Aidan was surprised to see me, but he needed no more motivation than “you’ve got 40min, do it”. Sure enough, another hot lap from the man who does long better than anyone I know, was back with 1:30 to spare. Second place was secured, the gap narrowed to 4:30. If only I’d been more attentive to the maintenance of my wheels, sorry guys!
My (and I’m sure the others) thanks go to Sam from Singular for producing fun bikes, and also bringing such a great group of guys together to go riding with. Another thanks to One Industries for keeping the rubber side down (Maxxis tyres) and USE for getting us stuck in trees (bars/stem/seatpost). Also a special thanks to Rory and Harvey for helping me to keep riding. It would have been a shame to bail after one lap. To the organisers (Oli, Rory, Nigel, and others), keep this one going, it’s ace. Hope to see some of you out there on the trails. If you see me riding around Brighton on my Cr-Osprey or other Singular, stop me for a chat. Alway great to meet more locals. Cheers!
Many thanks for the photos to David Hill at www.RideAgain.co.uk.
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