Raleigh Superbe 1982 to 2010.

Bought 1982 after my Yamaha XS750 got stolen. Karon had one too and we went without a car for 18 months. We carried a set of four dining chairs home on them once and regularly overloaded them with the week's groceries. They were heavy but fun to ride though the rod-pull brakes were pathetic.

After owning these for nearly 30 years, we decided to donate the pair to the St Micheal’s Hospice Charity Shop.

Raleigh Activator II c1992 - 95

Raleigh Activator II. My first proper? MTB. Went to Chelmsford - The Army and Navy - to see the Hamsters in about '92. Stopped off in Cambridge on the way home the next day and I saw it in a sale.

My first rides consisted of pootles through the local woods around Tadley, 2-3 miles being an achievement. It never dawned on me that footpaths were out-of-bounds so I followed everything I could. After about three years my riding had improved (say I) to a degree where the bike felt heavy and limiting, so I traded it in...

Marin Rocky Ridge circa '95

Originally it had rigid forks but after about six months and endless rides with 'itchy' forearms I had the Rockshox fitted. I tried my first Trailbreak MTBO event at Nettlebed on it and failed miserably. I punctured and was ill-prepared and then lost my punchcard – on the way to my second checkpoint. Then I managed to drop the chain off the inner ring and got it firmly jammed. Over time I learned and started to do reasonably well. After a couple of years I decided I needed a full susser if I wanted to improve my placings.

Marin Mount Vision c1998 - 2000

Marin Mount Vision – I bought it in May '98 after we'd spent less on holiday than I'd budgeted for. I had it for three years and may well have kept it, but for the fact that it lacked disc mounts. It certainly improved my placings on the Trailbreak events and I think I managed third overall in the 'Vets' for three Series on the trot. My only gripe was the V brakes...not their performance, for after a year I'd gone through the rims so replaced them with ceramic coated ones which were almost as good as discs. Unfortunately the brakes were where the mud collected and I felt I needed discs to get round the problem.

My Whyte PRST-1 c2000 - 03

In November 2000 I traded in my aging Mount Vision for a Whyte PRST-1. Ugly as sin, but for my type of riding, perfect (almost). The Hope C2's provided plenty of clearance and stopping power and I loved the design of the front forks. The high front suited me and my back. The rear triangle was replaced under warranty as it was out of alignment and the early cable routing was not very good, but overall it did me well.

This was taken after the 2001 Salisbury Plain Challenge. When I moved on to another Whyte, Karon took over 'ownership' for a few years.

Whyte/Marin hybrid Jan 2004 - Nov 07

My only real criticism of the PRST-1 was the rear triangle. I thought it was overcomplicated and it had a remarkable ability to collect mud behind the bottom bracket.

The bike's designer, Jon Whyte obviously felt the rear end of the PRST-1 needed a change too, for it was redesigned as a four bar link 'Quad' in the PRST-4. Although the Quad is used extensively through the Marin range, I wasn't too sure about it. One of the pivots ran behind the seat tube – making an ideal 'ledge' for any mud dropping off the rear wheel. The clearance on my Mount Vision had been very good and I thought the perfect solution lay in mating a pre 'Quad' Marin rear swinging arm with the Whyte front end. Jack Peterson (Numbplumz) had the same idea and with more confidence (and skill no doubt) actually did it.

In September 2003 during a visit to his website, I saw that Jack was thinning his stable and was thinking of parting with the bike. I emailed him and as a result bought the frame/swinger and shocks...

Pedal On built up the wheels and fitted the drivetrain and brakes. In it’s original form it consisted: Mavic X317 rims on Hope XC hubs with DT Revolution spokes. Tyres; Panaracer Dart 2.1 and Continental Gravity 2.3. Hope Mini Mono disc's. XT Hollowtech II drivetrain, (48/36/22), SRAM PC89 chain. XT 2003 shifters with Flak Jacket cables. Oval M600 bars and seat post, Whyte stem and Specialized Body Geometry Gel Comp saddle, Look eggbeater pedals.

The 'Whybrids' first outing was the 2004 Salisbury Plain Challenge and I was impressed all round. It was light (then) at about 26.5 lbs and with the suspension set stiff, very fast. I loved the front end – partly because it looked different but more-so because it worked so well. A lock-out on the front shock would have been good as it bobbed a bit on climbs. The rear end was not quite as laterally stiff as the original triangle and I would be have been happier with the big grippers rather than a quick release. A coupe of times, on really rough, fast downhill tracks the chain jumped off the front rings. A couple of minor niggles, but all-in-all it was an impressive and good all-rounder and I put in a lot of miles on it.

In November 2007 I sold the bike on eBay and ordered a Giant Trance X Zero to be my future full-susser.

Lemond Nevada City Nov 2004 -06

During 2004 I joined several CTC road rides and as a result decided to get a road bike. I would also use it to commute into work when I could.

I enjoyed getting out on the Lemond – the light weight, minimal rolling resistance and very stiff rear end all made it very quick to accelerate and it seemed to have been designed for out-of-the-saddle climbing. The carbon forks took the edge off the bumps. With the stem reversed and a stack of spacers the bar height was just right for me. I had expected some back pain, but it was never a problem. However, I found that I was not confident riding the bike in winter on wet, greasy roads and after a couple of spills (23mm tyres) I decided to sell it.

Giant CRS Alliance Jan 2008-October 2010

For a while I used my Solitude (see below) to commute and all was fine until it got stolen from my work in November 2007. Having sold the Whybrid a couple of weeks earlier, I was now bikeless apart from the Raleigh Superbe. I commuted on that for a while, but the brakes were pathetic and in rush hour traffic it was dangerous. So I decided to buy a commuter bike while I waited for the Rolly-Solly replacement and the Giant Trance X Zero I had on back order (not due until March 2008).

I plumped for a Giant CRS Alliance with a light alloy/carbon frame, 27” wheels and v brakes with 32mm tyres.

I liked this bike. It was light, quick and comfortable and with riser bars the riding position is not unlike my off-road bikes. With bar ends I could ‘honk’ out of the saddle on climbs and the 32mm tyres made it an all-season bike.

Rohloff geared Solitude and Qubic

Solitude: July 2006 - present (stolen Nov ‘07, recovered Feb ‘08).

At the 2006 Salisbury Plain Winter Challenge I lost my rear mech to the mud. Not the first time the vulnerabilities of deralieur gears had showed themselves and it set me thinking...In the soft going of winter mud, full suspension is probably more a hinderance than help. And why dangle all that gearing where the mud can take its toll? A hub gear could be better and the Rohloff Speedhub seems such a good idea with all the working parts sealed away inside the hub.

I thought a Rohloff geared steel hardtail would make the perfect off-road bike.

More on design, development and build of the Solitude bike here.

Qubic: Insurance replacement for Solitude, March ’08 - present – and yes, I did tell them I’d recovered the Solitude after I got it back. They said “keep it for spares”!!! So now I have Rohloff twins.

More on the build and original spec for the Qubic here.

Giant Trance X Zero  March 2008 - 2014

This was the replacement for my long serving Whyte so it had a lot to live up to. I tried a couple of demo bikes before deciding on this one. Mud clearance wasn’t great, but for that I had the Solitude and Qubic (see below). Surprisingly light for its looks, had five inches of travel and climbed really well. I changed the saddle to an SDG Bel Air and ran it with Continental Vapours as I didn’t like the stock Devo saddle or Kenda tires. It was a bit low at the back under compression but overall it was a good steady and versatile off-roader.