First in a series of posts. We’re on a journey this summer, to the race that most mountain bikers know very well indeed and, dare I say, dream of riding. I’m not going to bore you with a description, watch this instead:

Or you can read about when George and the rest of the Evans Cycles crew raced last year here (which I might add contains some very good tips indeed). I asked George recently if he had any good tips for me. ”Run until you feel sick” he said. So of course on that positive note this year we decided it had to be done. First stop, find a bike that is up to the job. Bike distributor Hotlines come to the rescue and very kindly agree to loan us the classic Alpine riding, Megavalanche bike: a Lapierre Spicy 516. Basically, a beefy trail bike. But this one has a few tricks up it’s sleeve.

Tapered head tubes are new for 2011:

The Fox TALAS forks are adjustable: from 120 to 160mm. This means you flick the switch and can instantly change the geometry of the bike – shorter travel for climbing, longer travel for descending. I had a lot of fun with this – it is a bit like one of those American bouncing cars – flick the switch and the forks magically extend: totally bling.

Combine this with the pro pedal switch on the rear shock, and you instantly have a bike that climbs like a regular trail bike (OK, but a bit heavier), and then let the full suspension do it’s job on the way down and roll over anything, brilliant!

Another little blue switch of joy

What else? The clever sag-o meter incorporated into the frame, makes adjustment quick and easy.

It comes specced with powerful Formula R1 brakes, with oversize rotors.

A really neat feature is the internal cable routing option for your suspension seatpost. You can tuck the cable away through these guides. I am either going to fit a Gravity Dropper post, or Rockshox Reverb, at some point.

The first job to get it race ready – fit a chain device. This stops the chain flying off, and an absolute must have. Pete & Will from Hotlines come to the rescue again and supply a very simple to fit device, the Straitline Silent Guide. I am also given blue guides for the device to achieve the absolutely essential colour co-ordination with the bike. I am bound to win the race now.

First step, test fit the guide, using the spacers provided to make sure the chainring isn’t rubbing against it. For the Spicy bottom bracket, it just needed x1 2.5mm spacer. Once everything is turning smoothly, and the bashguard is just proud of the top guide, remove the crank and you are ready to re-fit.

Tip: mark the correct position of the guide against the bolts, so you know exactly where it goes when before you re-fit with threadlock.

Then use plenty of threadlock on the bolts when you re-fit. Loctite 222 is the best. I had trouble finding it locally, so ended up buying it online. Once you have the device back on securely, a bit of grease in the BB and back on with the cranks. I also swapped out the Shimano chain for a more practical SRAM powerlink chain for speedy repairs.

And after all that, well, what does it ride like? After only a quick spin around a fairly tame local loop the bike didn’t really have a chance to show what it can really handle, but the slack angles, wide bars & short stem all make me feel at ease and confident enough to hit bigger stuff faster than my Stumpjumper, but not quite as DH’ey as the Commencal. Over the coming months we’ll be putting it through it’s paces, probably some Hindhead trips, Cwmcarn, and our training regime for the big race is also going to take in the Kielder forest event at the first ever UK Gravity Enduro series – I cannot wait! Other things we’ll be doing for a bit of training:

> King of the Downs – 22 May

> Erlestock Twelve (formally Set2Rise) – 28 May

> More mega commutes – as often as my legs allow

And that should see us in fine shape for the big race come July! Next month we’ll update on training, race tactics (stay on bike basically) and new bits for the Spicy, see you then!