Today I met up with Klaas Boom (our new test rider) to have a first-look at our off-road test loop. Klaas had just flown in from his base in Oudenaarde, Belgium and we arranged to meet at the secret test loop location (near the Coxford Road entrance to Lordswood, Southampton, UK).
Over the coming months Klaas will test out a number of bikes and tyre choices, with timed laps round the test loop. Today he borrowed my Ridley X-Night (fitted out with aluminium rim training wheels with the robust, but not exactly fast Tufo Primus 32 tubulars) to put down a marker for other bikes to beat.
The test loop is designed to be on the technical side of what you’d get in a cross race, and will probably turn out to be faster on a mountain bike. It starts with a fire-road uphill drag, before a sharp right up a steepish climb, left onto a tricky singletrack descent, through ‘the ditch’, before back down the fire-road. Then left up ‘slog hill’ (you can pick your way through the maze of roots up here, or try and smash it over them) before a final descent through some tight burms to the finish.
Conditions were rather damp and cold, with a few flakes of snow in the air. We’d expect dry, summertime conditions to be faster, so we’ll keep bringing out the X-Night throughout the year to use as a yardstick. Klaas thought he’d get some grip on the corners out of the Tufo tubulars if we took the pressure down a bit. I’d ridden up there with both at 25 psi. He let them down to 19 psi, with the aid of Topeak’s SmartGauge digital pressure gauge. After the timed lap he took the front down to 17 psi and preferred the handling.
Far from perfect conditions, and in winter training kit, Klaas still took the KOM on his first attempt (from me 😞)
While Klaas appreciated the cold weather, he was displeased with the level of mud and sand. To make him feel more at home, we played a typical Belgian cross race sound track for his lap:
(note the Strava time doesn’t quite match with our more accurate stopwatch)
Next time Klaas has agreed to try out a Trek Farley 9.6 fat bike (we’ll have some more camera angles too). Before that he’s going to take the GoPro round a couple of sighting laps on international cross courses. Watch this space!