Saturday, November 25, 2006

Titus MotoLite build

After a week closely monitoring the online tracking, we finally received Chipmunk's package from the Red Barn. As much as I wanted to rip open the box myself, I let the dear lady explore the contents and her :D was a picture.

The teeny small ML frame is gorgeous, well engineered with some neat, practical touches such as a forward facing seat clamp slot. The mega bling, pink Chris King headset looks awesome set into the grey anodised frame. We'd already planned to transfer the majority of the components from her Trek but the fork would be too short and the seat post the wrong size for the new rig, so a few tasty xtra's were included in the shipment.

Having stripped down her Trek the day before, we quickly set about building up her new ride. All the typical initial steps went well, seat post in, clamp to work stand, test fit fork/stem/spacers, chop down steerer, mount fork/stem/bars, route brakes, fit saddle, etc.

Unfortunately, assembling the drive train brought the build to an abrupt halt as we couldn't mount the rear mech! It seems that the boozy boys in MT had neglected to include a hanger :rolleyes Half an hour of phone calls to various dealers within the UK came up with none in stock and just one shop willing to part with a hanger from one of their display models. Unfortunately this was located on the south coast, some 2.5hrs away which is time we couldn't spare being part way through renovating a bathroom :-( A suitable chastised Chad is embarrassed :blush and sending a hanger over. Meanwhile we've ordered one from Fat Tread Bikes which should arrive in a couple of days. Then the build can continue...

You'll find more pic's here and we'll upload a few more once it's daylight, the rain stops and we can get outside.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Light & Motion Arc Lion Review

After a great summer and hours of ‘Chiltern’ Mtbing my fellow Mtb riding chums decided that we should inspire ourselves to 4/5 months winter riding by exploring the thrills of night riding. To be honest, the concept was entirely new to me but I figured that it must involve a decent gadget or two so I quickly indicated my enthusiasm and started my advanced research phase.

I quickly established that I was faced with three possible solutions;

  • Halogen with ‘yellow light’ and generally heavy batteries, probably entry level product and not for a Mtb gadget/technology research freak like me.
  • Luxeon LED (Love the technology) Reliable, durable, generally light weight but questionable light output. Nevertheless very tempted!
  • HID ‘big boys light’, high performance white light, lightweight, high end product. Just the sort of thing I’d like to impress my mates with but unfortunately, over budget!
That’s when Rob and Farqui came to the rescue. A work related meeting with Rob quickly degenerated into a technology debate on all things Mtb and subsequently an offer from Farqui to help source L&M ‘big boys lights’ direct from the US. I’ll be forever grateful for the final import price of £270.00 inclusive, which was just about in budget (well close enough ish..). This equated to a saving of over £100.00 on UK retail.

I didn’t have to wait too long before the excitement levels rose and I was the proud (and extensively well researched) owner of a new set of L&M ‘big boys lights’. It was like Xmas but early and I quickly rushed home to tinker and prepare for a trial ride.

My first impression of the light assembly was how could something so small allegedly provide so much light? I tinkered some more…

The HID lamp assembly unit is approximately 50mm X 70mm in size. It’s constructed from a quality plastic moulding which houses the lamp, ballast lamp control assembly and an integral on/off function switch and LED status indicator. The power cable is moulded in and the whole unit is factory sealed. The ‘Solarc’ lamp is specified as factory replacement only. The lamp assembly is very lightweight and is provided with a universal bar mount or helmet mount. I chose to mount my lamp assembly on the handlebars as close to the stem as it would go. The assembly bracket is well designed and clamped in place within seconds.
The Lion battery pack is also functionally well designed and lighter then I expected. Just like the light assembly it utilises a quality plastic moulding (with a moulded in top tube profile) with integral lamp cable socket and alignment markings and Velcro top tube strap. Again, installation to my bike top tube was very easy.
By now all that remained in the box was the battery charger. Thanks to Farqui, the battery was already fully charged and ready to go. However, the L&M battery charger is designed to charge all L&M battery technology products and consequently will seamlessly handle both L&M Lion and NmHi battery technology. I like this concept and somehow it makes me feel like I should buy another product just to take advantage of it?! Anyway, its plug….wait 2hours…and play!

Enough said. It’s a very well designed and manufactured product but does it justify the price tag and is it as bright as folk would have you believe?

Answer: Yes, WOW, Yes!

This really is a ‘big boys light’. It has two power settings: 13W (attract UFO spotters) 3.5 hours burn time and 10W (irrelevant – I like the 13W setting!) 4.0hours burn time. My first ‘virgin’ night ride was solo for around 1.5 hours. I covered a mixture of open countryside single track and dense woodland track. I was able to maintain around 70% normal riding speed (except on downhill- scary) and thanks to this great product I loved every minute of it. Quick Summary:

  • Great price (thanks Rob/Farqui)
  • Lightweight
  • Very bright ‘wide and spot’ light dispersal
  • Excellent functional design
  • Good battery performance and re-charge time
  • Breakaway bracket (hope I don’t need it!)
  • Versatile bar and head mounting brackets.
  • Lamp to battery cable management. I wanted something to keep my bike looking tidy. Wrapped cable around top tube but still didn’t look quite right.
Other then that I haven’t found any other cons yet. All I’d say is that in my opinion this light is a minimum requirement for ‘dark dense woodland’ night riding. Anything less would slow you down too much. To get closer to 100% daytime speed I’m sure an additional helmet mounted light would make a big difference. I missed the loss of peripheral vision. This is most prevalent when you steer the bike around an obstacle only to completely loose sight of the trail ahead.
Think I need a new gadget! I fancy a Luxeon LED helmet mounted system to complement my L&M ARC. Maybe a Cateye twin or a Hope twin system.

Farqui, any options from the US??


"Extreme freeriding" at Cannock Chase 18/11/06

Just thought I'd drop a little note to say what I'd been up to this weekend....

What was only supposed to be a 4 person rider ended up being a 10 rider event!

Spent a little time on the official runs before heading off to THAT drop (the one you can see on the left as you walk up the fireroad to the top).

I'm happy to say I finally got over my fear and did it! Once death training it in with my deathtrain accomplice, Alex!

Spend most time on the unofficial stuff which is a hell of a lot better than the official stuff, before topping off the day with a UBER deathtrain with all 10 of us heading off down the Red Run at once! Possiblity for absolute carnage was extremely high!

Posse: (See Pic)
Mechanicals: None
Crashes: Matt, guy on the far left of the pic, managed to crash on THAT drop by landing with the bars turning in the wrong direction, and sliding 12feet on his head! His silence and twitching foot had us all fearing the worst!

Good days riding with lots of cake eaten.

DDave... signing off.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ML ordered

The guys over at the Red Barn confirm that Chipmunk's new ride is on route. Here's a traditional "tease" pic from MT, ain't that some schweet bling.

We'll be tracking the rig for the next few days, with the anxiety sure to build towards the end of the wk...

Some may ask "but what is it ?" - tsk, do keep up ;)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Autumn Ride, Chilterns 12th November

Well, where were you all??? A fantastic ride probably less than an hour away and, if it had not been for a few new faces, it would have been just Farqui and myself!

The ‘Killer Loop’ series in MBR magazine have always been appealing, but until, now they have generally been too far away for a casual visit. When I saw the Chilterns route I got very excited, as it was a new area for me and not that far away. A posting on STW Forum caused quite a bit of reaction, clearly this is a popular biking area with a lot of potential.

The route starts at Watlington and heads onto the Ridgeway, (Farqui tells me this is England’s oldest road and one he attempted to ride a while back.) A good gentle warm up, because very soon we were faced with a steep and long climbs, fortunately on quite a good surface. Good to get this out of the way early and everyone managed to clear this. The reward for this height gain was soon to come after a short road section we headed off onto a woodland bridleway for a long fast downhill section which could mostly be done flat out, (keeping an eye open for walkers). Although there was more mud about than when I did my ‘recce’, the trail condition was generally very good.

The next climb, although shorter, was more ‘technical’ and saw one or two of the posse pushing before the top. A little more on the road and we reached Christmas Common and into the wood for another long blast – think I had the advantage here having done it before. This one just seemed to go on and on before ducking out into open countryside. A short road climb led to a short but fast downhill, but sadly this was over too quickly and we were faced with the most challenging climb of the day – according to the magazine no one has cleared this. Maybe because of the log across the trail half way up, but for us there was the added challenge of slippy leaves. My attempt ended quickly with wheel spin. Farqui was determined to get up and did well, but was still defeated before the log (think he will be back in drier weather to try again!)

There was nothing too demanding after this, but we were treated to another fast downhill on a field side trail before heading back onto the Ridgeway.

I must say I just love this route, it's not technically challenging, apart from some of the climbs perhaps, but the surface is good and the scenery is fab. The long downhill sections are such fun and no doubt get better with familiarity. If it was a choice between Cannock and the Chilterns, both around the same journey time, it would be a tough one.

It was great to see some new faces, my nephew Jeff kept us entertained with his ‘tricks’ – a long time cyclist probably more at home at the jumps at Woburn; His partner Heidi is new to Mountain Biking, so did very well, she regularly competes in triathlon events, so has the fitness, but found off road very different. Nice also to meet Paul from Northampton who found us through Dozer.

Posse: Farqui (5 Spot); Jeff (Trek HT); Heidi (Specialized Hardrock); Paul (Carrera HT); Uphilla (5-Spot).
Route: Tracklog
Weather: Bright, but cool
Mechanicals: None
More Photos

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's that time of year again

...when the evenings are black and the trails are even more fun. It's also the time that a (now) annual order gets placed stateside for some lights (and/or bling) that'll help get us through this SAD time of year.

This year Chipmunk has expressed more of an interest in venturing out occassionally and rather than lug our ol'hefty and dim DIY SLA about the Yorkshire lass decided to splash out (a bit!). As my L&M ARC's have been so impressive we thought we'd give their halogen commuter-eqsue Solo Logic mv a try.

As you can see, the "mv" lamp is teeny compared to an "ARC" and we're pleased to report that it packs one hell of a glow. For a halogen, it's a fairly white light and the custom reflector gives a good spread of spot and flood. This lickle lamp also has a couple of snazzy features;
  • the "side lights" that should help to bring the cockpit out of the gloom
  • the bar mount shifts the lamp centrally over the stem
  • dim-able from 13w, to 10w to 6w giving 2 - 4hrs burn time
  • along with L&M's trusty "break away" bracket
The "mv" system comes with a trickle charger as standard but it appears that my smart ARC charger copes admirably with both a 7.2v Nimh and my 11.1v Lion. So we can top up both system's in around 2hrs a piece.

Thanks to Larry for supplying such a cute, diddy system for Chipmunk and another mighty ARC (to Rob's pal Rob) at such favourable prices. Oh and gawd bless the strength of the GBP !

Ride report to follow...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Chipmunk Demo's a Moto Lite

This morning Chipmunk and I whiz'd down to Leith Hill (nr Dorking) and snag'd a Titus Moto Lite demo from Nirvana Cycles in Westcott. On paper this small rig has a lower stand over and couple of extra inches in the top tube, when compared to her too compact FuelEX. So in theory it should help address her toe/wheel overlap (Chippy doesn't use spd's and the arch of her foot sits on the pedal) and help tame the Fuel's racey handling.

After a quick pressure check we set out off onto the heath and initially the ride felt a little too "bobby" but a quick flick of the RP3 tightened the ride up nicely for the asphalt climb. Venturing off road I was surprised to find the lass wafting effortlessly over a loose rocky, leaf littered trail that she'd have found a bit of a handful on her Trek. Quickly adapting to the comfortable and compliant ride, Chippy obviously began to enjoy the trail with her confidence visibly improving turn after turn.

After a brief explore at the Leith Hill tower we began our journey back on a mostly DH trail of roots, rocks, sand and mud. Much to our combined surprise she easily cleared a good 12" rooty drop without any hesitation.

The demo rig was well spec'd with some demon Magura anchors, my beloved SRAM shifters which Chippy kinda adapted to along with a Fox RLC 130 which appeared to be very plush. No pins and needles or sore buttocks were reported after the ride - which apparently came all too soon as evident by her numerous loops around the car park and having to pick her up on route back to the shop.

So at long last we appear to be have located a rig that'll suit my gal, lets see if our pal Chaybo can supply us with another import bargain ;)

Nirvana Cycles passed on a map with what looks like an interesting couple of loops in the area and if our little explore is typical of the trails, then I feel that a return visit won't be long in the wait...