Wednesday, May 31, 2006

BikeWeek is nearly upon us

Posse, as we're all keen cyclists it shouldn't take too much enthusiasm from ya to make the effort and Bike2Work for a week.

When ? 17th to 25th June, a little over two weeks away.

If a cycle commute is unreasonable or a whole week of isn't viable, then why not attend an organised event, there's around 1,500 to choose from...searchy thingy here.

This year, numerous charity's are involved which make it even more important to do your bit and get involved. As it happens, baby Chipmunk is going to crank out the Great Notts ride for many a worthwhile cause, well done her.

Go on, join in the annual celebration of cycling and help promote our sport. ..
  • ...you'll be heathier for it
  • ...be refreshed
  • ...vibrant :p
  • ...reduce stress
  • ...save money (fuel/parking)
  • ...save the planet
  • ...raise money
...all whilst on your bike :D What more could you ask and what could be simplier ?

You'll know where to find me, I'll be cranking my way safely along the redways (lucky ol'me), enjoying the fine weather (ahem), laughing at frustrated motorists, grimancing at numerous near misses from dozy drivers, chuckling at the speed of the "white van man", snaking around broken glass (ahem) and enjoying the all over feel good factor...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Schwalbe Racing Ralphs

Now that the trails are drying out (yeah right!) I've decided to fit a pair of German boots (courtesy of Larry at MtnHighCyclery) that have been taunting me from a shelf for the past 6 months. The winter months have been spent on my Bonty ACX 2.2, tubeless ready (but w.tubes!) Gumbi's and I've found them to be highly dependable all rounders, even in the gloop. The soft Gumbi compund means that you can really lean on them :)

The Racing Ralphs weigh in at approx 470g each whereas the ACX's are approx 590g (which is mighty impressive for tubeless) so I'm saving approx .5lb of all important rotating weight :D The 2.1 Ralph tread pattern is no more open than the ACX but the knobs aren't as high and it almost has a continuous centre span which should make for a fast summer tyre. Rob has better watch out :p

Fitting the Ralphs was easy, unlike the Bonty's which each need a substantial wrestle to get on/off my DT 4.1 rims. After ten days of seemingly continous rain since fitting them (sorry guys!) I finally found a dry spell to give 'em a try, albeit on a tame local trail. Although it's difficult to fully understand a tyre after just a single ride, I can tell you that these boots are fast. Just one half turn of the cranks has you leaping forward whereas it seemed that the Bonty's and XC Fire's need a good couple of turns. I haven't explored their limits yet but they didn't let go whilst gingerly pushing fast sweeping bends, tight turns or under braking on small loose gravel or hardpack. Nor did they squirm or wriggle their way through the odd water logged section, which was a surprise.

I'll report back once I've ridden the sand and roots of Woburn and covered a few more miles...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sicknote is...poorly

According to the Dozer-vine; our good pal Sicknote took a hefty tumble on the way TO the pub on Friday night, resulting in a nasty fracture that's gonna keep him off his knobblies for a while :(

Apparently he's damaged his wrist and has a Scaphoid fracture of some sort. This looks like a potentially nasty little injury, so let’s hope that it heals quickly (picture from American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).

I'm not normally a betting man, but perhaps we should have a sweep stake on how long it takes mrKungFu to spring back to full health ? Tho it'd be more fun to guess how many Mars Bars he'll demolish whilst convalescing :O ;)

What I want to know is - did he get concussed ? :p - this was Sicknotes fave CyB phrase !

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jacobs Ladder anyone ?

...posted on behalf of Darren...Does anyone else fancy a ride in the Dark Peak on the bank holiday Sunday, 28th May ? I am definitely up for this, as are Les and Mark plus a few of our guide (Chris) mates. Chris is a keen, superhuman biker and I for one am looking forward to the event. Kick off would be Sunday morning from Hope (w.Sheffield and just s.Ladybower reservoir) and to take in some of the best riding our local guide has ever done.

...thoughts from Chris...Ok here’s my thoughts; Jacobs Ladder, Hope Brink, Jaggers Clough and maybe one of the best downhills in the whole county, called The Beast near Snake Pass - the picture does not does this justice the rocks are big and this mother bites back!. I have taken numerous people down this and responses range from "oh my god", "sheete" to "that was the best downhill ever". I’m still trying to shoe horn this all together!

The alternative is a killer route I have done a few times of about 40 miles, 9 hours riding totally hard core but one of the best days out I have had...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Shimano Saint Disc Brakes

The Shimano “SAINT” groupset is Sh!tmano’s no compromise, strength and stiffness over weight groupset, aimed at heavy freeriders and DH racers. The cranks can be seen on both my bikes, and just about any body who is serious about going large, the hubs are pretty good too, as is the front and rear mechs + stubbie levered shifters…. but all that stuff is for propelling you forward… what about when you need to stop? (picture from RideSaint.com)

THE STORY OF THE STOPPAGE, AND THE NOT SO....
I’ve had numerous brake systems on the Chameleon, starting with Hope Minis (old style) and the Mono M4 system. I bought the M4’s for two reasons: More power and looks - they do just look so damned good, don’t they ?

About a year ago, when I decided to give this DH lark a go, I built myself up an Orange Patriot for messing on. I wanted to avoid M4’s again, as I’d had no end of trouble with them on the Chameleon (I’d upgraded the hoses, replaced seals, replaced Pistons, replaced bore caps, and the damn things still wouldn’t work reliably), I didn’t particularly like the feel of Hayes (on/off) and Magura Gustavs are just plain weird, with all that floating calliper business (Work very well though). These also came in slightly cheaper than all of the above too, so I thought I was on to a winner.

REVIEW OF THE STOPPAGE
I rode a full season (numerous races and lots of practise/mess about days) on these anchors, and for the first time, I could just get on with worrying what I was riding over, not about whether my brakes will work or not. Riding that bike was a pure joy (helped no doubt by it’s rear end!). Their sleek 2-pot mono bodied calliper hides an amazing amount of power and control. I got on with them so well, I binned the Hopes on the Chameleon and stuck some of these on, and I’ve not looked back.

While they don’t have quite the modulation of an M4 (there’s only so much you can do with only 2 pistons!), the power (and I know I’m opening a can of whoop ass with this) shames the Hopes. In all fairness, they shame the Mono 6Ti too.

CONTROL OF THE STOPPAGE
Controlling the power is a little bit of a handful to start with, (my dad jumped on my bike to ride it up the drive and almost came off after grabbing a fistful, which was highly giggleworth!) But you soon learn where the feather point is, and I was following a guy down Mortimer Forest today where his back wheel was locking but mine just kept rolling. (Yup-means you actually have more traction and don’t create braking bumps fellas)

I now have complete confidence to ride with the brakes off (anyone riding behind me will testify!) knowing when I need the stoppage, it’s there in great big crate loads.

RELIABILITY OF THE STOPPAGE
I’ve still not had to touch the Saints on my DH bike (now the wonderful Gemini), and have only changed the pads due to contamination!

OK, SO NOW YOU WANT TO FIT THEM TO YOUR BIKE, RIGHT?
Tis worth noting that Shimano don’t do pre-assembled systems like Hope and just about everybody else.

Sold as: Calliper + Disc + 2 sets of pads (yes, that’s 2!) + levers + hose and oil.

Ok it’s a pain, but it does mean this: you have ultimate choice over what lever you want (Cheap as Deore, as good as the specific Saint Levers, or even floppy shi(f)t, if you’re that perverted). It does mean that you can get the correct length hose, and get it routed through your frame if you have a Orange or something that routes the hose through the swing arm.
The Standard hose is also excellent, better than other hoses on other systems, but Goodridge is so tarty ;)

Fitting the calliper is an absolute doddle thanks to the one post mount style calliper with adaptor affair, eliminating the need to get your mounts faced if your fork is I.S. and allows for a bit of scope if you’ve bent your rotors like me :D

Only downside with these brakes is the limited Rotor sizing; they only come in 203mm mega-stoppage size or 160mm “My rotor is smaller than yours” size. However, if you can source a suitable 180mm rotor, you can buy a rear 160mm calliper+mount set and run it as a front 180mm as long as you have I.S. Mounts. (I.S. mounts are 10mm closer to the dropout on the rear than they are on the front!) Shimano and Hope make adaptors to allow you to fit a 20mm bigger disc to your I.S. setup, so you can run a 180 rear like me. They also currently only offer the supplied rotors in Oversized Centerlock fitting, which means you can only sling em on Saint hubs, or various other “freeride/DH” hubs made by companies such as DT Swiss and Sun Ringle. I think Mavic also do hubs to suit too. Ok so the rotor situation sucks, but Sh!mano are reported to be offering more options for 2007 so sit tight!

TO SUM UP THE STOPPAGE:

  • Saints are THE best brakes I’ve used.
  • Hayes are great, but are a little to on/off for me, and the cheaper HFX’s have a habit of breaking.
  • Hopes just dick around with you (ducks salvos from Farqui and Rob – sorry guys)
  • Avid are great, but have a habit of breaking, full stop.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I Bleedin Hope So

Since a damp and crash ridden ride around Cannock, last November, my Mono M4's have gone right off the boil. The levers now have loads a movement and if it weren't for the front working fairly well, I'd have had a miserable time around Coed-y-Brenin - tho I did find that riding without great brakes makes you commit !

To improve performance, I've tried cleaning the rotor's, changed the pads which makes 'em work ok for a time but in the wet their performance drops right off. I've even tried bleeding the rear, which is the worst offender and also the easiest to work on ;) but to no avail. Another set of new pads improved things slightly so a couple of sets must have gotten contaminated :x After the recent Ridge Ride, with very little modulation or power and after comparing Rob's rock solid lever "feel" to my soggy jobbies I decided that something else had to be done.

Whilst ordering a couple of rebuild kits from CRC I clocked Hope's own bleed kit which forces fluid through the system from a pressurised cannister unlike the ol'manual method of pumping the lever and topping up the master cylinder.

Hooking up the kit was straight forward, although the instructions could do with being clearer. Removing the wheel, pads, squeezing a spacer between the pistons and hooking up the pressure hose to the schraeder valve on my commuter (it only needs 20-25psi) had us ready to bleed. Unfortunately fluid pi$ed straight out of the master cylinder :rolleyes - not a good start. I traced the leak to a twisted seal so also I took the opportunity to wrench everything tight. Attempt#2 was much more successful as fluid was steadily driven out of the calliper, containing air bubbles too. A dozen or so steady squeezes with the lever and the bubbles had stopped. Interestingly, the fluid is driven through the system even without depressing the lever.

The lever now felt rock solid, especially with the max sized spacer holding back the pistons. Removing the kit, dowsing off the excess fluid, cleaning rotor and assembling bike I took her for a quick test ride but the alcohol needed fully burning off so a longer ride was needed. A good 18mile rip up the north side of MK had the solvent cleaned off, the pads biting nicely again and by this time I'd become accustomed to a much more solid lever feel, so it seems that we've cracked the problem :D

The front will be getting one of these bleeds shortly so I'll once again be able to dive deep into the corners before applying the anchors, hard :p The rear still isn't quite back to "as new" so I might install the lever and calliper repair kits as the seals could be a little tired.

I'm happy to report that Hope's Bleed kit works a treat and the new clear hoses make it much easier to see when the bubbles have stopped, compared to those on my ancient car bleedin botch job. Once you've got the hang of it, the process is quite quick although it's worth spending a little extra time to get it right first time *ahem*. The kit covers all Hope's braking systems as it comes with two different master cylinder caps for both the Hope Pro (open) and the old C2 (closed) levers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Afan, autumn'06

Peeps, I'm starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms from the Welsh hills and would like to get back down south to Afan before the year is out. None of the Westoning posse have been before and most are keen to give it a try.

When? September 22nd (Friday) thru 5th (Monday)

Trails: Are world class belter's, with two main biking centres to ride from, Afan Forest Park and Glyncorrwg. The rides are challenging with involving climbs giving way to some awesome views. The descent at the end of the Skyline/July trail is one of/if not the best DH sections this xc rider has ridden. Compared to CyB the facilities and trails are newer, have much more flow to them and are probably more rocky. Since last year they've added a couple of sections, incl'g a strip of north shore riding ala Cannock.

There's also number of "family" cycle ways plus a host of other activities available in the immediate area if you'd like to bring along your own lickle posse.

Accom: During our last trip to Afan, Brumster booked us some fab accommodation (nothing like the "midgets" residence we endured in CyB) that easily supported 5 peeps, their bikes and gear, per cabin. We also found that they back onto one of the trails, The Wall I think. They're available from Friday until Monday so if someone wants to make use of a long wkend down there. There are 4 cabins available and we had 2 cabins last year between 8 of us. Although there aren't any pubs nearby we'll have no problem stretching out, kicking back and enjoying ourselves after a days hard riding. I've just emailed Bryn Bettws and they speedily replied with; "We have cabins free all of October and apart from 15th - 18th September we have at least 3 free. The cabins are even more fabulous now as we have a games room, with a pool table, darts and board games available for your use and weather permitting, a lovely barbeque area."

So what say you posse, who's up some more top class trail riding ?

5Spot : Anniversary...

It's a year to the day of our 1st ride B)

Although I assembled my 5Spot on the 26th April last year, we had some teething problems with mrNixon which meant that it wasn't ridden for a further two weeks :o Ironically both forks, a repaired mrNixon and an alternative Pace RC41 were received on the same day !

Throughout msTurner's first tough year, she's performed beautifully and hasn't given me any grief, unlike some component hiccups. Dave Turner certainly knows how to design a solid, reliable MTB, that's great fun too :p

Here's just some of the years highs and lows;
  • fell in love with SRAM ;)
  • after 6 weeks running in, we spent a fabulous wkend ripping around Afan
  • 3 months in, I cranked my longest ever ride along the Ridgeway
  • met and rode with the Westoning and Northants clan's
  • got me some biking buddies over in the US of A, I feel a trip coming along...
  • when the going got soft, I managed to bash both knees, in different "incidents" :X
  • had a mixed experience with forks
A year on and I feel that I'm now able ride harder than ever (sometimes waay beyond my "talent" :blush) and I'm sure that msTurner has helped to raise my game. I've not found any terrain that phases this bike, unlike the rider, and she definitely inspires the confidence to give most things a go :) I'm very happy that I opted for the more nimble and compact medium instead of the large frame, either of which where an option.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Dozers Ridge Ride

We all met up with the "players" *ahem* in Westoning before starting off on route revision#5 which was already being changed and remained fluid throughout the day.

The first half of the ride up and over the ride was greeted with many, many punctures, so many infact that we spent 1.5hrs stationary over the first 3hours ! So we had plenty of time to checkout the views from atop the ridge. A brief play in a quarry saw Uphilla take a tumble but we've learnt that he bounces well :p The dash down into the springs at Barton-le-clay allowed some of us to top up their water and we didn't suffer from the dreaded deli-belly either.

At Pirton (roughly halfway) the sun was shining and gave the posse an opportunity to grab a pint and rest the legs. The second half was predominantly on/around the ancient Icknield Way, being much faster and far less prone to thorns. At around the 20mile mark, a couple of the posse were suffering with tired legs, especially DDave who mucked around at Chicksands the day before. Tired legs and a long ride to this point, caused us to bail out a little and hit the road back to the Chequers pub in Streatley where some of us rested up. The ride back over to Westoning took in the FNC's (Friday Night Club) "steep down" which clearly challenged the solitary roadie as the knobbly crew flew straight down.

Although the route was longer and less techincally challenging than say Cannock it was still good to checkout someone else's local trails, especially with such grand views of the rambling countryside. Many thanx to Dozer and Rob for organising and again to Rob who remembered his camera, you'll find some pic's here,

Posse: Darren, Brumster, DDave, Dozer, Uphilla, Farqui, Les, Roadie, Graham, Mark, Rob

Mechanicals: Loads-a-punctures on the ridge, only Uphilla & Brumster got away unscathed - the lucky Brummy was even running tubeless for the 1st time - without any goo either ! Dozer looked smug with his slime tubes holding up well. At the start, Brumster had metal2metal interference on his front brake/new wheel combo and rear brake rub towards the end.

Weather: Overcast yet warm and humid to start with a little drizzle at mid day, before brightening up into a fab sunny afternoon.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Poor Lamby

I had a lovely solo ride last night (my 1st since my back popped) up the north side of MK, via the Grand Union Canal. The weather was fabulous with the sun shining, warm and very little breeze.

After dropping down the steps at the "iron bridge" (pictured, by Cosgrove Country Park) and a rest stop amongst the midges :x, I ventured back alongside the Great Ouse river. Towards the end of which I clocked a lamb up to it's neck in water looking very distressed, with it's mother (presumably) bleeting like a banshee at the top of the steep bank :huh. It looked although the lickle thang had tried to get out of the fairly fast and deep river but had only managed to trample down a steep sided, neck deep platform. As it was on the other side of a the river that was both wider and deeper than I fancied crossing, with no bridges in the immediate vacinity I speed off back home. Pondering the fluff balls future on the increasingly fast ride home, I felt increasingly guilty about it's future :blush. Would the police be interested ? No, but the RSPCA should. Sure enough, when I posed the problem with Chipmunk she agreed and a quick surf then had me making my 1st "distressed critter" call. I supplied as much information as I could and the operator indicated that it would be passed on as a priority call. They didn't call back, so I guess they sorted the wee might. "Baaarmy" stuff :p.

The good news it, that my back now seems happier when I'm riding and after almost an hour and half in the saddle, my back felt nice and loose. I'm hoping I can gently recover and then I guess I really must concentrate on getting my core muscles strengthened and try to loosen up my hamstrings. Darn cycling, I thought it was supposed to be good for ya !

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

SHROPSHIRE RIDE, SUNDAY 14th May 2006

MORTIMER FOREST/BRINGEWOOD

Ludlow has been a regular holiday spot for my family over the last few years, we are all very fond of the town and area. These days I usually take my bike with me and wander off for a ride in the nearby Mortimer Forest, however I never have time to fully explore what is obviously a great area for MTBing.

I thought it was about time I had a dedicated day over that way and have had an offer from someone with local knowledge to show me round. If you are interested to join us please let me know and I will email start location. Start time will be around 10am, hopefully. Travel time from Northampton is around 2 hours. There will be no refreshment stops en route, so a packed lunch will be needed. (Plenty of post ride food and drink stops in Ludlow, if required).

The area is quite hilly and some may know that it is the home of the very challenging Bringewood downhill course, we may dip into this at some stage. Should be fun!

The hope is to get something on GPS so that myself and others will be able to find their way round more purposefully in future. There are some way marked trails, but these can be difficult to follow. The trails are natural rather than man-made.

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