“Do you particularly like Titanium bikes?”

Borrowed, Lynskey Helix
“…and if so why?”  A pair of questions I was recently asked on my YouTube channel.

Good questions and the answer was too long for a comment. 

Two years ago we visited my friends in Frances.  He allowed me to ride his winter bike - a Lynskey Helix - during our stay.

My wife borrowed his wife’s Lynskey Sportive.  Both Lynskey’s are, of course, titanium.

It was my first ride of a titanium bike, so clearly I’m no expert in this matter.  However, I liked the ride, weight, stiffness and durability of titanium, all of which I felt made it an excellent choice for a winter bike.
First visit, riding with French club
Price was the only downside.  Not having limitless resources, a new bike had  to wait, but I sold my Tri-bike in anticipation.  Waiting was good.  Gravel bikes developed.  Titanium gravel bikes appeared which added an extra dimension to the benefits of this material, because titanium is pretty much the ultimate material for a gravel bike.


Kinesis ATR demo bike at home in Scotland
Brands that previously marketed their bikes as round-the-world robust steeds made them with wider clearances and the ideal road/off road compromise bikes appeared.  All this happened quite fast and companies like Kinesis (which make superb adventure bikes) sold out of my frame size.

Which is why I tried the Sonder Camino Ti and loved the quality for the price. 

Is it titanium perfect?  No, because it’s not light enough to replace really light, fast road / aero bikes.

However, unlike carbon it makes a fabulous bike for the British winter when road salt does lots of damage.  It's robust too - my Specialized Roubaix has lots of chips to the frame lacquer which not only look bad, they make me doubt  the integrity of the frame beneath.  That doesn’t happen with titanium.

My Roubaix taking punishment in Morocco
This week I’ve been back in France,  staying with my friend,  his Lynskey Helix.  There's another video coming 12th Feb 2020.  I’m struck by the differences to the Camino Ti (lighter, shorter and stiffer, more like a regular road bike) and also the similarities (a very comfortable ride, even when it’s not really the right size for me).

If I could only have one bike then it would be titanium with large clearances for winter, for touring and for off-road adventures, pretty much like the Camino Ti.

Fast summer bike
If I could have two, then I’d add a light fast carbon road bike for glorious summer days when the road calls.  Which is pretty much exactly what I have.  Although there's always room for another...

Here's the video which prompted the question.


Suspension Stem Test, Video

This is an old idea, rejuvenated for a new era of cycling.  My initial thoughts are that its pretty good.

Redshift Sports make a few niche cycling products and have sent me a couple of them to test.  You can see the first test in the video below.

The first is this suspension stem - a stem with two elastomer inserts that provide different degrees of 'bounce' depending on your weight, type of bike and terrain you're riding.

I get pain in my thumbs, which a specialist says is tendon overuse but I suspect there's also some arthritis at work.  It's why I can't get on with flared handlebars - they require too much torque on my thumb to shift gears.

On longer, rougher roads my thumbs scream at me. 

So I contacted Redshift and asked if I could test their stem, make some videos of it (and photos), and if I like it, buy it. 

The video below was the first test on an excellent new-to-me route across Ardnamurchan, but I really need to try it on the roads which bash my thumbs to bits. 

So while I'm not yet convinced, I'm initially impressed.

This is not a new idea.  The old Girvin Flexstem, now considered a vintage product, worked on similar lines. 

It was superseded by Suspension folks and is now slightly sneered at by those who felt it was, well, crap.

When Redshift introduced the first generation of their new iteration, MBR magazine compared the two in an article here.

Yet this back-to-the-future vibe is exactly right for the way many of us use Gravel bikes and I'll explain why.

When I first rode an MTB in 1987 everything was fixed and rigid and none of us had a clue what we were really doing. 

However, there was a pure, unadulterated joy at taking your bike down tracks that would break even the best touring bike (my old Dawes Galaxy). 

This was before the sport of mountain biking sub-divided like an out of control amoeba and developed highly specialist tech for each discipline.

Back in the day it was pure and simple and I loved it.  That joy is what the gravel bike has rekindled in me.  Except with age, my thumbs now hurt.  So it's entirely appropriate that Redshift has taken an older idea and re-engineered it with modern components and materials.

The suspension stem is absolutely not a substitute for suspension forks.  If you need those you should be on an MTB.  It's just to take some of the buzz, the vibration, out of the longer rougher rides.  So far, it's working well.  Buy one here.  Oh, and this was a damn fine route too - map below.

 

Video, Edinburgh Pilgrim's Route

When I saw 'Old Edinburgh Road' on the Ordnance Survey map I knew it would be a great route to try to cycle.

When I didn't realise at the time was how important this had been as a pilgrim route, then coaching route to Port Patrick and Ireland.

We had a short break in Dumfries and Galloway towards the end of 2019 and, driving around, I saw streets named Old Edinburgh Road, so I knew it stretched quite a distance.

I had to try to follow it, and you can see how that turned out in the YouTube video below.  I think it's one of the best I've made to date,  so if you like it, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Sunset Photo Competition, West Coast of Scotland

Next year has been designated the Year of Coasts and Waters in a VisitScotland marketing campaign.

Part of that umbrella campaign is one for the west coast called West Coast Waters.

It's being promoted with a West Coast Sunset photo competition on Instagram.

If you're over 18, just post an Instagram photo of a spectacular sunset on Scotland's west coast; add the hashtag #wcwsunsets; tag the location; and tag @wcwscotland.  Follow them too if you want to know whether you won.  You'll automatically enter the competition with a draw every two weeks, and you could win either a bottle of locally produced whisky or gin.

I'm fairly sure this blog is read by adventurous outdoor types, most of whom will have a photo of a spectacular west coast sunset somewhere in their collection.  If not, I'm sure they'll be able to snap one during 2020.  So I made a short video about this, because a winning photo could already be on your computer.


Video, Cycling the Morvern Gap. Adventure Cycling in the Scottish Highlands

Since buying my gravel bike in May I've seen our part of the Scottish Highlands in a different light.

I've cycled most of the roads - there aren't that many.  I've hiked lots of the hills, which are mostly too steep to carry up a heavy mountain bike.

But with the light gravel bike I'm seeking out new through-routes - or at least new to me.  Ideally they'll all be on rough tracks or rideable paths with the minimum of pushing and carrying.

I'd been looking at the area of Morvern from Rahoy to Laudale for a while.  There are a few old Rights of Way in there, and I've done a couple, but all seem to involve quite a bit of carrying.  Then I spotted two forest tracks which head deep into the interior and come within a few kilometres of joining up.

This is what I called the Morvern Gap.  Except, it's not a gap at all.  The roads DO join up and give a fantastic route, almost all of which is rideable - the route mapping is below.  The Ordnance Survey and other mapping systems simply haven't caught up yet.  How do I know this?  Watch the video to find out.

Oh, and please subscribe because it helps YouTube rank my channel a little higher.  

Video, Wild Swimming Nirvana, The Arisaig Skerries, Scotland

Arisaig is sea kayak central.

The reasons for this also make it a superb location for open water swimming.

Those reasons don't need a long explanation, you only have to look at a satellite image of the area (below).

If an Almighty Deity smashed a rock with celestial sledge hammer, scattering the fragments across the sea, it would look like this.  The Arisaig Skerries are spectacular.

Video, Sonder Camino Ti Review at Six Months

The Sonder Camino Ti has helped me re-discover the joy of off-road cycling, so it's no secret I like this bike.

However, there are shortcomings.  Niggles, really.  But let's go back a step.

To learn why I bought the Sonder Camino rather than the Kinesis titanium bike I had as a demonstrator, please check out this video.

My Titanium Test video sets out the comparison between the two and explains why I think the Camino is a good bike and one heck of an astonishingly good price.