Thursday, December 29, 2005

Pace RC41

As my Nixon Super initially had a few teething problems, I decided to get my 5Spot a backup and alternative front bouncer, enter the Pace RC41. I selected this beauty as it's very light (3.5lbs), air sprung / flexible, has a climbing knock-down and looks very trick with it's exposed carbon weave. I also thought that it's 130mm of travel and ideal a-c for the 5Spot would be a good to comparison with the slightly longer Nixon. It'd potentially give me a more flexible steed for different rides and conditions, not that I was keen to keep swapping the forks around too often.

The only flaw in acquiring the Pace was that it's front brake used an IS (international standard) mount whereas the Nixon uses a Hayes/post style, which matched my front calliper. I therefore acquired a new Mono M4 caliper with the fork but then subsequently scored a complete front brake, 2nd hand from the Singletrack classifieds. The complete system made the process of swapping forks very quick and easy so the spare caliper was passed on.

In use the RC41 is nicely adjustable with external compression and rebound, the latter of which is easily accessible whilst riding at the top of the right fork leg. Which also houses the knock-down climbing aid which reduces the front travel by approximately 2 inches. This can either be cancelled manually or by setting a blow-off threshold which'll automatically extend the fork on a big hit lest you forget on the way back down.

Possibly the most noticeable difference with this fork is just how light the front of the bike becomes and I found it very easy to loft the front wheel over obstacles.

Pace market the RC41 with a "linear air spring" which I'm mightily impressed with. During deep compressions the spring rate doesn't increase during it's travel like a spring or other air forks and it gives a lovely bottomless feel. The flipside is that it then requires a different technique to loft off ledges as you can't "load" the front as much beforehand. It's no bigee though as the overall performance is very good.

Steering stiffness is certainly on a par with the Nixon and it's slightly shorter travel means my 5Spot becomes a very, very nimble machine. It'll change direction in a heartbeat and makes tight, technical singletrack a delight once you've dialed in your lightning quick reactions. Ironically, the quick steering has made me realise that I prefer the slightly more laid back feel of the Nixon so unfortunately I'll be passed the Pace on. I'll be sad to see it go but rest assured that it'll be going to a good home...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nixon Super

Why? Whilst investigating my 5Spot purchase, I wanted the bike to be as flexible as possible with a particular emphasis on nailing down the front on steep climbs. Many fork manufacturers offer climbing aids to lower the front a little but many of the early incarnations also caused the spring rate to ramp up, making the fork stiffer. Marzocchi were an obvious starting point with either ETA system but the axle to crown heights were too long for the frame (a-c lengths are lower for '06 and now inline with other manufacturer's). They were also a little heavy at close to 5lbs. Partly to keep the weight down, I wanted to try and air fork as the seals were now more durable and the bouncer would be more tune-able as a result. As I really liked the feel of my Manitou Black, I thought that their Nixon Super might be suitable as it uses the same buttery smooth TPC damping system. It also employs a new snazzy bar mounted, infinte travel (IT) adjust system which is theory meant I could run it shorter on climbs, near the 5Spot recommended 130mm on the level and open it right up on the descents. I opted to stay away from the toublesome Platinum model as the SPV and IT systems seemed to be causing many recall issues. An order was duly placed with Chad at RedBarnBicycles, who'd also been impressed with the same fork as fitted to his El'Salty. Chad also suggested that I opt for the lighter quick release version rather than using a bolt through front hub as he thought the 32mm diameter stanchions were plenty strong enough.

Adjustments. The compression, rebound and travel are all externally adjustable and make a marked difference to the ride, although some indents would be handy. All the adjusters are metal and hopefully more durable than the naff plastic items found elsewhere.

The IT system is so quick and easy to use with the fingertip adjuster next to the shifter on the handlebar. Depress the "spoon" and it'll gradually sinks through it's travel. Releasing, holds it at the selected length. This is handy on the steeper climbs and really helps to nail the front end down and virtually elimates the front wheel lifting and wandering. Lowering the travel does mean that you're more likely to whack a pedal on rocks, etc though, so I'd suggest using it sparingly. To extend the fork you depress the bar mounted "spoon" again and pop a little wheelie. It takes some practice to extend the fork on the move but it's easily achieved whilst you're stopped, gasping for air, at the top of the climb! The beauty of this travel adjust system is that the spring rate doesn't increase as you lower the fork, which means it's still supple / fluid over bumps and feels consistent.

Issues. When I initially bolted the fork onto the frame I noticed that I was only getting 1/3rd of the travel. Chad hadn't experienced this but contact the manufacturer on my behalf. Whilst I was waiting, the techy guy was out of the office at a show, I contacted the Raw (UK importer) who suggested that I send it directly to them for a fettle. They reviewed the problem and found the rebound assembly was busted and it also had misaligned lower legs. These were promptly replaced under warrantly and returned for just the cost of postage, a result. Back on the 5Spot it felt sweet and even while the fork bedding in I was impressed by how supple it felt over the smaller bumps and ripples. Over the next few months it got a pounding around Afan and Cannock without any further problems. In the autumn I wondered if I was inadvertantly catching the "spoon" with my thicker gloves on as I thought the fork was lower than I'd set during a couple of rides. So I moved the "spoon" inboard and continued on my ride. After hammering down a section of trail and at the bottom of the descent I lofted the front end over the log and found the front of the bike disappear over the other side, duly dumping me over the bars. Dozer found this particuarly funny as I'd only just commented on the "easy log hop"! I found the fork had mysteriously reduced to it's minimum travel (40mm) which was some 100mm/4"s shorter than expected... during the rest of the ride, the fork repeatedly sank through it's travel, unassisted. Another email to Raw suggested that I again return the fork as the travel adjust assembly had recently been modified and that they'd install a new unit. Whilst in for repair they also noticed some stanchion scoring (within the lowers) due to a tolerance issue - which necessitated a new set of uppers including the crown and steerer. Therefore, during both visits to Raw, my Nixon had not only been rebuilt twice but almost all the parts had now been replaced. It's subsequently back on my bike and we haven't had any problems so lets hope that all the niggles have now been resolved. We've not yet clocked up the longest runtime before the earlier problems occured, but we are getting closer...

Alongside the Nixon, I've periodically fitted the shorter Pace RC41 to my 5Spot which noticeably quickened the steering. However, I always find that I enjoy the slightly more laid back angles the Nixon gives.

Conclusion. Externally, the fork is well made, of a sturdy construction and not excessively heavy (4.1lbs) for the travel it offers (145mm). Internally, we've had a few negative experiences which I hope are now behind us with the modified components. In function, the positive air spring, compression and rebound adjusters alter the ride much as you'd expect. The TPC damping is as good as ever and really shines over the Marzocchi or Fox forks that I've tried. It also gives the Pace a run for it's money. The IT system is a handy feature to have, even though I've found that the 5Spot climbs well even with the fork extended.

Apart from Rockshox, I find the latest retail price of forks to be excessive and the price of the Nixon is no exception. However, if you can find any discounted I'd say that it'll be worth giving them a try.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Raw, who have been very helpful, professional and quick to turn around any faults.

For 2006, I notice that Manitou have revised their Nixon range and the Super is no longer available - boo. I suspect that this is due to their new "instrinsic" damping and compression cartridge (SPV evolve plus!) which may mean they've now optomised their Stable Platform Valve to also be supple over the small bumps. If they have then this could be a killer fork. I also hope that by simplifying the range, they'll reduce the number of recalls...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Fox RP3

The Fox Float RP3 is an evolution of the trusty ol'Float which both I and Chipmunk ran happily for three years without any problems on our trusty ol'Marin's. The RP3 came as part of my Turner 5Spot frameset and I was keen to compare just how the much technology was loaded into the new unit. The new bouncer not only packs more of a punch but it's lighter at around the 200g mark compared to the Float's 250g-ish. Both the old and new can's are air sprung with a useful range of rebound control as standard. However, the new contender has an additional pro-pedal lever (blue) mounted over the rebound adjuster (red). The 3 position lever subtly alters the ride by employing minimal, medium or high levels of pro-pedal. Neither have a lockout that would put pressure on your frame and linkages.

The accompanying Fox literature waffles on about cancelling rider induced bob whilst still remaining active whilst offroad. Although it took me a few rides to become accustomed to the handling of my new rig, when repeatedly riding over small roots the three settings do markedly alter the ride. Now that I've plenty more miles on the RP3, I find that it typically stays in the middle position for the majority of the terrain. I'll flip it to maximum on asphalt, especially climbs which tightens the handling and only drop it to the softer minimum setting on rough descents or over particularly rutted terrain. The control over traction it offers it quite amazing and it would have been very interesting to compare the RP3 in our ol'Marin Tara's - which housed the Float.

I've found it be a reliable, no fuss system that's handy to have during rides and it's also very easy to setup. Simply add psi to dial in sag and fine tuning from there over the next few rides to ensure that you're using all available travel whilst in the rough, while not bottoming out. There are no negative chambers to balance, bottom out, high or low speed adjusters to complicate setup and straight out out of the box it's performed perfectly. Period, home servicing of the air can is so easy, well worth doing to prevent problems and hasn't altered since the original. Regular regreasing on our ol'Floats saw it well passed 3,500 miles without even a new set of seals.

Once my RP3 falls out of warranty I'll be looking towards getting the unit Push'd, which should improve the ride further. If that's possible...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Cube AMS Pro ?

At the moment Rob is sniffing around for a new fully and has recently found a review of a Cube AMS Pro in this months edition of MBUK. It's not directly available in the UK (boo) but that then makes it all the more exclusive! (you'd best brush up on your German if you follow the links)

It's geometry has an XC bias and 4" of travel front 'n' rear. The spec looks very respectable with Rockshox bouncers front and back, Avid Juicy 7's stoppers, SRAM gears, Fizik perch, Schwalbe boots and the rear also comes with the fabled Horst Link, ala pre '06 Turner's. It also uses 7005 alloy tubing which is light 'n' strong, the norm for MTB's is pretty much 6061. I believe that all this was available for £1,850, delivered - which seems a pretty good deal with all that hardware.

I'm not familiar with the brand or model but all reports are favourable; review. Perhaps someone else knows a little that they'd like to share...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Les Gets'06

Jan'06 update : Trip Cancelled

Until the Westoning posse get around to posting a suitable Blog about a possible return to Les Gets, I figured we'd best get something online for peeps to get their teeth into.

Rob's proposing a weeks visit, begining 25th June'06. The latest head count had something like 5 or 6 definites, 6 maybe's and 4 cannot's/sobs. It seems that couples might be an option but much depends on the take up.

Checkout the photo's from the '05 trip. The four of 'em travelled by car (15hrs each way) and Dozer estimates the entire trip cost 'em around £500 each all in.

Info about the area can be found at the Les Gets website.

Ps : If the Westoning boys email me some pukka info then I'll update this Blog accordingly. There were also grand ideas about a write up from the '05 trip to wet our appetite and entice more of us out for '06, so stayed tuned folks...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

E111 Expires...

Did you know that the E111 forms are not valid from the end of Dec?

You'll be needing a new card called the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), which can be applied for online. Just thought I give y'all a heads up especially with the possibility of a MTBing trip to the contintent next year (Blog pending).

Studded Tyres Anyone ?

This morning I noticed that the Grand Union canal was starting to freeze over, which typically happens if it's been cold for a few days. If it stays cold for much longer then we'll soon be needing studs like this geezer.



Pretty cool. Thread over at; Mtbr.com - Ice Riding in a NY Swamp.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Singletrack - Help Save Chickshore

It appears that insurance woes mean that it is highly unlikely that the north shore trails over at "Chicky" will remain open and that they're to dozed shortly. Which'd be a shame 'cos I was hoping to get over there sometime in the New Year to see what it's all about, especially as it's <20 miles away. Checkout Singletrack - Help Save Chickshore for the full scoop.

Update 19th: Chicksands northshore trails have been saved, see Comments...

Winterised Cables

Avid Flak Jackets.

The posted delivered a parcel yesterday that'll hopefully contain a solution to my regular cable lubing that now seems to be needed almost every couple of rides. If it doesn't then uphilla with his "recommendation", is in a whole heap'o'trouble !

It's not that I mind a little maintenance, it's just that since the wetter weather arrived my rear der has been snickin' "ghost shifts" on most rides, typically when you need it least.

I guess the main contibutor is that I'm now riding through much gloopier terrain that I used to and all that extra mud and sh!te seems to find it's way into the cable, mainly the final rear der section.

Could it be that perhaps the 5Spot is more susceptible to this problem ? Or its the more direct, rear der cable run on my SRAM ? Which I doubt (tho it may contribute) as I my earlier Shimano rear cable "loop" used to clog up a little on my olMarin.

Oh and I'm also using a slightly larger diameter outer which seems to be allowing more cr@p in to glog the system. During a recent strip down, I found it hard to rethread the inner and after mucho pushing it started to going through the outer. A couple more shoves and it appeared at the other end but after a couple of inches had cleared it then flopped to the side ! It wasn't the inner cable at all, rather grit and mud that had compacted itself inside. Why am I using the larger diameter outer ? Hmmm, I read (somewhere) that it reduces friction as the inner will be free-er, which in turn should lessen ghost shifts. However, Rob came up with a good argument against it; in that the inner isn't as well supported and will cut thru the lining quicker, which'll then increase the friction. Aargh.

You can see from the pic that the Flak Jacket cable outers are fully sealed so any moisture or gloop is now gonna find it very tough to bury itself deep inside. One of the main features over my basic setup are those cable end caps which slim down sugly over the inners. Such a system is employed by top flight Shimano cables and used to good effect by the likes of Rob. The Flak Jackets take this a step further tho by then sliding an outer sheath over the normally exposed cable inners. Thus completing their sealed cable system.

I hope to be fitting these beauty's soon, over the wkend if possible, and I'll provide an update after a week or two's worth of muddy riding. Then we'll see if the theory works !

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Lefty on a Turner ?

Hehe, this is what happens when you fit proprietry kit to a non Cannondale; Mtbr.com Forums - Orange Crush. Ouch...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Woburn Dec 11th

The MK posse had a quiet wkend with just a short jaunt around Woburn on Sunday.

The ground was still surprisingly slippy even tho it hasn't really rained for a few days. It caught Chipmunk out a little as the front end shimmied down the side of a root. The resulting "catch" meant that her calf took a thump which'll look dandy on Wednesday, peeking below her evening dress at the Woburn Xmas dinner ! I guess it might even be a talking point...

It was good to see that one of the gantry's has been replaced by a longer ladder to straddle the wide muddy gully. Once the ground had become waterlogged a few wks back, the previous shorter "bridge" had a soggy run up which resulted in a surprise, gloopy endo for yours truely. The tempoary logs straddling the entry were just as leathal so I'm pleased with the result as it helps to keep the northerly Danesborough section flowing.

PS: Please excuse the snaps as I only had my phone with me but the sunlight looked so gorgeous that I just had to try and capture it. Brumsters gallery also has a pic of Chipmunk racing off into the distance, but her Trek is so damn fast that I barely got chance to hit the button - so it's a little blurry.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Woburn Dec 5th

Posted on behalf of Rob, he had a lickle Blog trouble...bless him;

Had another little run out, only Farqui and me this time. Shame on all of you the mud was lovely!! Are there ever conditions that the sand is nice to ride in?

Thankfully the rain held off long enough and in the end it was a really good run.

Next Monday or Tuesday anyone? Babysitter required here, Dozer surely you'd rather sit with my kids?

~Oh and the non-native's route was rubbish, most of it didn't even exist. OS you need to resurvey the woods!! Rob

Trail Head; CMK, 7pm
Stats; 20 miles, 1,364ft ascending, 2hrs 05mins

Posse; Rob (Cannondale Jekyll) Lee (Turner 5Spot)

Injuries; None

Mechanicals; Rob's Cateye headlamp self destructed just as we got to the woods, he seemed to miss it too...

Weather; Although the ride itself was dry, it'd rained for an hour or so before hand which helped to provide an entertaining muddy mix of trails.

Friday, December 02, 2005

1st post as an honarary member

tap...tap...tap.

Is this thing on ?

Well, mr. Farq's it seems you've totally screwed up now. You gave the controls of this most excellent blog to an american.... and not just any bloody ol' american, one that's had entirely to much to drink. Well okay i've only actually had 4 or 5 or 6 beers, but heck who's counting ?

Anyway... i just thought i'd introduce myself and also let you all know that i've really enjoyed your stories and blog updates thus far....so please keep'em coming. Your ride updates have been awesome !

To those that don't know me....i run a small, okay...truth be known....a very small bike shop over here in the states called Red Barn Bicycles outta Hamilton Montana (yes there are grizzly's out in our wilderness) . We specialize in mtb's mostly (cuz that's were we got our own start), but we do cater to the road, recumbent, tandem, and bmxer's out there. The barn is damn near 100 years old, which is old when judged by american standards. My wifes grandfather, Alfred ran dairy cattle out of here since 56', and then came along this skinny biking feller and i have since turned it upside down and into a nice community bike shop since 2000. Allthough we still produce 60 tons of hay per year we're far more intrigued with gears, suspension, and things that turn circles. But .... enough about me....i can't wait to hear more about your ride and the journey that it takes you on. You fellas take care !

enjoy a picture from tonites winterland ?

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