Saturday, 29 November 2008

Powerkite Mag - Flying for Swansea

The signiture green potty appeared in PowerKite mag this month as part of their report on Aussie-Kiss the UK's biggest student kite festival. Aussie-Kiss was way back in October now, we had 20 students representing Swansea and are own Jess Barker made the podium in the comps. It was an awesome event that mixed decent winds, epic piss ups and hundeds of kiters of all abilities mashing it up down in Westward Ho. I was having loads of fun flying my 15m Lynn and riding a proto Rickman mountainboard, Tim Harley was also featured in the article ripping some very stylish tricks on his Instinct, demonstrating all weekend how to man-up and get the tricks out of the bag.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2008


I just had a great session at Newport Velodrome. Rocking it in style with piss-pot and baggies riding a sketchy fixed gear, brakeless rig and trying to chase down Swansea Uni's Lycra crew. It is a far scarier experience than DH! Those walls are steep and riding (or attempting to ride) on someone elses wheels with an inconsitant ability to slow down gave a huge sense of impending carnage. If you think I am exadurating a quick check of YouTube turned out this beauty:

Maybe roadies deserve some respect!! It was a great thing to experience and a disturbingly addictive sensation, aparantly I am now on a slippery slope and I will soon be converted to a full blown lycra wearing, skinny tyred, carbon junkie...

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Thursday, 23 October 2008

Keeping it local

I had a mint session yesterday out on Kilvey with the Swansea boys. Sometimes the local hills are the best, nothings better than charging down your favourite line wheel to wheel with your mates, banter flying in all directions, awesome!

Will Soffe has come back from this summer looking insanely quick, he's definately one to keep an eye on next season!!

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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Rickman Boards

Rickman Boards are now trading check out the new website here:

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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Surf/Bike Van Conversion

The plan for this summer was all based around travelling on the cheap out the back of the van. The first roadtrip of the summer however ended abruptly after the van had to be scrapped at the bottom of France as a result of it practically bursting into flames on the autoroute. I was left with a stripped bank account and no wheels. This project was born to get back on the road and on the cheap.

My choice of vans was severly limited by budget anything with a VW badge was well out of my league so the search was for an old Japanese van that from what I have heard are meant to last forever. The only issue was that none were popping up in the pages of autotrader. After a month of looking I got lucky and found one down the road off of The van was an electricans well used Mitsubishi L300 with a mere 180,000 miles on the clock. Worrying numbers, but it drived nicely and there was no major rust that needed sorting.

First job was to plyline and carpet the inside. This helps insulate the back which is a must for camping but also helps with deadening the noise and making it look considerably more tidy. The ply was cut to shape and screwed into the pillars using selftapping screws. Any big voids were filled with polystyrene ceiling roll I found in B&Q. Ply was also screwed to the ceiling creating an instant transformation, the inside of the van had almost lost the whole retired builders van look.

The layout was very difficult to work out. I wanted a sort of 'rock and roll' setup where a seat lifted up to form the bed. Putting any permanent structure in severly limits the useability of the back of the van. As there was not much room to play with it is crucial that bikes and surfboards could still fit in when wanted. As a result the bed had to be very high so that bike wheels could fit underneith and we are still able to load up several bikes. The seat is fully removable and lifts up to hang on metal supports I had made forming the bottom half of the bed. It is also possible to have one fully built bike standing inside the van with the bed up along with loads of room for storage underneith. The advantage with this setup is also that with the seat down muddy/wet gear can be stashed behind the seat in the rear section keeping it fully sepparate from the front living area.

The seat and rear shelf were made out of varnished MDF with a supporting structure made out of 2*2 beams again self-tapped and glued to the side of the van. Once the structure was in place I carpeted the inside. I managed to get the end of a roll of carpet for £10 which was enought to do all the areas in the back I wanted. The carpet had a rubber lining that had to be peeled off first and then it was cut and glued using spray glue to the sides. The edges of the carpet were tucked behind the ply panels giving a crisp pro finnish.

The outside of the van was looking really ropy I wanted to do a full respray. First any major dings were filled and sanded so that the pannels were all nice and flat. the next stage was the hardest part of the job in that all the exterior trim had to be removed or masked. This takes a lot longer than you might imagine!! The van was then fully cleaned using thinners to take off any dirt grease and residues. Followed by a light rub down to key the surface ready for the paint.

I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a spray room and guns to do the van in. The painting itself was quite a simple process. First a dust coat was added where a very thin speckling of paint is sprayed and let to tack off to give something for the first layer to stick to. Then spraying along the full length of the van at as constant a speed and distance as possible to give an even covering of paint. Getting the right ammount of paint applied on each coat is crucial. Too little and the droplets wont converge together leaving a textured finnish, too much and the paint will run. After 2 coats we had a couple of runs and so left it to set before giving the runs a careful rubdown. The final coat was then applied and left to set. We ended up only getting one small run on the whole van. the finnish of the paint has come out really well. Opening the tin of paint for the first time was a bit scary, the colour was brutally loud!! It has thankfully mellowed down now the paint has set!

With the paint done the trim was refitted and the inside given a good clean up. The van is more or less finnished for the meantime. Mechanically it seems to be running sound and has passed its MOT with no issues so fingers crossed this one will last a bit longer than the last!!

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Wednesday, 13 August 2008

One BFe, One day, Four disciplines

This post got lost in all of the end of term fun. However the pictures are too good to let sit unseen and are definitely a bit of a reminder of what our summer weather should look like!!

The plan was to hit the road early with the guys for a lap of Afan, then on to Tredegar BMX track for a few motos. This was followed up by some DH, valley style, ready for an evening of Dirt Jumping at Caerphilly to use up all the remaining light. Finally our activities were chased down by the compulsory sweet and sour chicken-balls and chips outside the castle!!

Rd1 Afan - The Wall

Eventually having made it out of Swansea, late thanks to jack ripping the handle off his garage door locking his bike in and some overly officious car park attendants up at uni. We were on the road with the prospect of The Walls long fireroad climb as a warm up and a painful wake up call. This, my first ride of the wall and as far as Mega training goes it really is one of the best. The trail is seriously Alpine feeling, the hot summer air and smell of pine trees makes for the start of an amazing ride. The views from the sides of the hill look down the near deserted valley down towards the welsh coast, stunning. Likewise the riding is top notch. Another full on descent fast, narrow, rocky that for an xc route really tests the nerve of us DH boys.

Rd2 Tredegar BMX

The track looked in great condition after having been groomed for the national up there the previous week. Jason's new pump/play track is now up and running and really finishes off the place. The view across from the start hill is now an unbroken mass of jumps and berms. The play track is also great for less experienced riders providing them an opportunity to get the feel of what a BMX track is about with out having to face a full sized track straight off. It is however incredibly tight so small wheels recommended.

Rd3 Valley Dh

Valley loom is so much fun!! This trail is loose drifty but even in a week since we were last there the ferns had grown. They were poised ready to grab you leaving no room for error. This is the perfect afternoon track with nice easy push, lots of sun and a cool breeze.

Rd4 Caerfilly DJ

This is still one of my favourite places to spend an evening. The sun goes down behind the trails and the orange hue of the dirt blends into the sunset. The jumps are big challenging and a lot of fun. More trails need to be this way they are built with corners and hips in mind so you do lots of changing of direction and makes it really lively and fun to ride. Rob was seriously on form. Not having much dirtjumping experience and on his 'sx trail' he was making it smoothly half way down the main line. He was more than proving our philosophy that one bike can be all thats needed to have fun in any type/style of riding.

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Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Unofficially Hard 08

A few likeminded British riders thought that this year it would be fun to take hardtail riding a step further by setting up an Unofficial Championship to be held at the Mega. With hardtail riders from both the Cotic and Univega teams up for the challenge the idea was in place, but despite lots of interest on the forums few others could be persuaded that ditching their rear suspension for a 30km DH race was a good idea!

Recruitment continued well into Mega week. By the end there were 10 riders representing 4 different nations and with bikes ranging from the tricked out Nicolai hardtail with Rohloff hub down to Arnold's hardcore singlespeed semislick configuration! With 4 well placed Mega veterans and Cotic bikes offering a frame to the highest placed hardtail a serious fight was on to be crowned the Unofficial Hardtail Champion.

The Contenders
Top: Arnold, Tom, Me, Lloyd
Lev, Christian, Torsten and the two brits whose names I have forgotten, sorry guys!

Wednesday saw the first challenge with the Sprint Race over at Oz. This track is amazing with loads of fast flat out cornering big rock rolls and a huge drop down to Oz. This is DH racing well beyond anything found in the UK. Me and Tom were representing the hardtails, although I had to borrow Lloyd's number plate as I had missed the entry on the sprint. What I hadn't considered was this put the Univega name well up in the results, sorry Cy!! Racing wise Tom set a 5.13 which sat very respectively above a large number of `Full Bouncers.` Tom said he received a load of surprised looks as people were called up before him for the second seeded run!! I managed a 4.53 which left me in 117th position overall. Comment of the day came as I was hammering a berm and someone shouted "F*** me that guys on a F***in hardtail" Awesome!!

Thursday we took a pack of hardtailers comprising of Tom, Lloyd, Arnold and me to hit the top half of the Mega and eye up the level of competition. I was seriously impressed and slightly worried by the standard of riding. All 4 of us were flying down the snow and catching DH bikes down the singletrack getting some shocked reactions along the way. Lloyd and Tom were looking to be hot competition for the title. Lloyd, who is also a competitive cage fighter and so is used to taking a decent beating, was telling us how he would rather be punched in the face for 5 minutes than take the kind of abuse handed out by the mountain! He was hot on the pace on the downs as was Tom who had just taken part in a 100km road race that finished with the notorious 21turn climb up to Alpe d'Huez. His fitness is insane, destroying us on the climbs and not loosing bike skills to fatigue as quickly as the rest of us. Arnold was showing serious French style, he had a skinny rear tyre as this was all his frame would handle but this never held him back and he was absolutely shredding the trail with the rest of us.

Qualifying came around quickly and the pressure was hotting up. We had decided that the winner was to be chosen according to ranking in the main event as opposed to time down the mountain. This meant the qualifying event would decide it. Tom was the in the first group at the front of the grid while me and Lloyd were at the back of the grid in the second wave. Sitting on the second to last row I knew this event depended on being a hero off the start so a fast snappy gear was chosen and all the 4x skills were brought in to play waiting for the Eurotrash to blast across the mountain indicating the start. The helicopter was rising behind us as I eyed up the row in front looking for the best person to aim at in the ensuing charge. I attacked the side of the track and managed to get to the front quarter of the pack by the time I reached the end of the fireroad switch backs. By the time we reached the climb out of Alpe d'Huez I was placed in the top 30 but fatigue was playing a part. My hands were unable to control the bike down through the switchbacks over the other side of the hill. It was a fight between maintaining hold of the bars and grabbing enough brake to survive the corners. Lloyd who had not been far behind up to the climb had serious brake issues and with so much fade he had no chance of slowing into the switchbacks sending him deep into the shrubbery. Crossing the finish Tom was there waiting and having placed 30th in his group there was some tension as to who had made the top group. It turns out I placed 40th and so made the main race for the first time. Lloyd however had slipped back and so was in the Promo. Chilling at the top we saw Lev arrive back at Oz. He was missing a load of skin and had a ripped off mech hanger, putting him out of the game. One of the Brits who came through who's name I have forgotten had a set of self steering lefties forcing him to run the last section of the track.

The main race was a different story than usual. The organisers had been telling us on Friday that the weather was set to be 'Scottish' to suit all the British riders over for the event. Out of bed at sunrise and the sky appeared to be clearing. However the rain quickly settled in as we had to wait for an hour at the bottom of the lift. At which point we were told that the snow start was off and so we were to go off and pedal to the lift that took us to the Qualifying start. We were then left there effectively sitting in the middle of a cloud for a couple of hours without any news of what was happening. Eventually the lifts started rolling and we shuffled up to the start of the qualifying track. A lot of riders gave had given up choosing to head back to the warmth of Alpe d'Huez, or for the 10 other riders in my chalet not even getting out of bed in the first place, Lightweights!!

The track was rerouted along the start of the Qualifying track, down track 2 and then across to the flat out grass track down into Alpe d'Huez and onto the bottom half of the Mega. The track was actually really good and although no snow, the start was still bonkers. With now twice as many riders leaving the qualifying start at once and with a more even range in ability there was absolute carnage. Massive pileups across the moonscape at the top as people were pushed like lemmings off the side of rocks. Riders were funneling 50 at a time into the narrow start of track 2, filling the full width of the tapes and beyond. A stream of riders cheated heading down the fireroad with no action taken by the marshals. There was no chance of the pack spreading out so it was tight, tail to tail all the way through to Alpe d'Huez. Chasing Tom down I saw him fly front flipping through the air clipped in. his crash was huge, bikes and people going everywhere as other riders careered into him while on the floor. He said he was seeing stars! Tough as ever was back on the bike and made it to the finish.

The tempo of the race was down on previous years as the cold and wet of the start had knocked peoples competitive edge. The rain had left the steep climbs down in the woods unrideable and for a lot of people unwalkable, as people slipped around in the mud. This lead to long tailbacks and a chance to rest aching bodies. The mud was awesome, it was thick and tacky and with the steepness of the hill the motorbike noises were coming out as the bike was smashed into corners motocross stylee!! The sun was out for the finish, finally reaching the line after a long sprint down the road is an amazing mixture of relief and a sense of achievement. In the end I believe we only had 4 hardtail finishers showing the extreme nature of the event. I took the win with Tom coming in 10 minutes behind for second place. Two of our German representatives, Torsten and Christian, filled 3rd and 4th positions after completing the Promo. Walking back to the buses I heard a guy tell his mate that this was one of the best experiences of his life, I totally agree, the event is totally nutty and an insane undertaking. Congratulations to all the finishers as well as the organisers putting on a great event despite the issues with the weather.

Before: Cotic vs Univega
After: Univega defeated!!

Overall Hardtail Rankings

1st Robbie Rickman Cotic (164th - GBR)
2nd Thomas Gilfedder Univega (259th - AUS)
3rd Torsten Rolfes Nicolai (277th Promo - GER)
4th Christian Schott (303rd Promo - GER)

For more pictures click here.

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