Thursday, February 22, 2007

Woburn is Black

A few of the posse got together last night for some rooty Woburn action which would also be Sicknote's first every venture into his lordships domain.

All but Rob rode to/from the woods and managed to crank out a respectable mileage by the end of the evening. Rob met us up on the heath where we id'd that Sicknote's noisy bike was prob'ly due to a freewheel ravaged by another damp winters riding.

We found the woodland sections to be mostly dry and just a little springy, so hopefully they'll get faster as the year slips by. Although the roots we dry they made from some interesting sounds amongst the posse as we all slithered around.

Unfortunately, Brumster's light failed without any warning and left him fumbling around in total darkness until someone took pity on him to see what the problem was. No amount of fiddlin or butchery got his lamp working so we between us we donated bits to at least give him some vision. After which, the "fix" made his bike look like it was rigged to explode :lol

On our rapid exit and descent of "lights out" (the original!) we found the top half has been resurfaced, passing by mighty quick. In a moments madness I decided to then head back over the railway line but the horse trodden track was extremely muddy - BAD NEWS. Some pressed on, stressing their limbs while others opted to walk. Either way the bikes were now buried in gloop and more than doubled in weight. The next couple of miles (hard pack) was spent pogo'g as much mud off our rigs as possible.

A few delays and a mixed posse meant we had to leave some sections for another time but I for one enjoyed slicing through the trees with some pals.

Thanks to Uphilla for remembering to switch on his GPS and recording the route. Unlike I who hauled it around in his copious rucksack - along with a "silenced" mobile phone :blush

Posse: Brumster (Liquid), Dozer (Endozer), Farqui (5Spot), Rob (Flux), Sicknote (Hardrock), Uphilla (5Spot)
Weather: Mild, dry, clear-ish with a light breeze.
Mechanicals: Brumster - complete light failure/unfixable. Sicknote - noisy freewheel/quietened with lube

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sneaky Rides

If anyone would rather roll on their knobblies rather than sticking their snozzer against the daily grindstone (all?) then we've two "sneaky" mid week, daytime rides lined up in March;

Wed/Thu 7/8th
Farq's, Uphilla

Friday 23th
Dozer, Farq's, Roger (for his first taste of n.Brum singletrack), Uphilla ?

This'll be a great way to chew up your remaining annual leave and I guarantee that it'll be better than any DIY a certain someone has lined up for ya. Your only problem, is figuring out a way of fooling your better half that you actually spent a day at B&Q rather than having a ball razzin' some sweet trails ;-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another Steed for the Stable

Dunno what it is, but I had a strange fetish all of a sudden for 'regressing' back to a hardtail. I'm perfectly happy with the old Liquid but - I dunno - I guess I was just bored one long winter night. Unlike Farqui, I don't ride enough on the Trek (plus the components aren't Hope) to induce weekend rituals of fettling and changing bits constantly ;-) I guess I just fancied some tinkering.

I fancied something a bit unusual in the frame department, and while I scanned eBay for the likes of a Pace 200/300 or maybe even a D'Dave Santa Cruz Chameleon two things became apparent. 1 - they were going for daft money. 2 - if I went the latter route, despite the frame being apparently excellent, I'd be labelled Dave's bitch boy forever. So that ruled the SC out.

I stumbled across a Merlin Dual DH/jump frame. Merlin call it a trials frame but that's a little over-generous. It was advertised with BB, chainrings, front der and cranks. And I like Merlins. They're sparkly, spangly, pretty things. So that sold it, really. To hell with whether it actually rode any good.

Frame sorted so the search for all the bits to bolt onto it. Once again, ebay re-enforced the fact that most of the mainstream stuff on there goes for silly money. I mean, why would I want to pay 90% of new price for a Hayes HFX9 front brake from some bloke called DafydBoy2020 in South Glamorgan, who probably hates the English and has rigged it up to fail catastrophically on the first big downhill stretch of Afan that I next come to?

I'm set on using the two sets of wheels from the Trek I already have, which will save a big portion of the build costs, but does mean I need to pick matching brakes so they swap easily. Which sort of ties me to Hayes HFX9's front and rear (8"/6") unless I wanted to spend some time looking into what other callipers were compatible. I couldn't be arsed; I love my Hayes anyway so happy to stay with them.

So between Wiggle, Merlin and good ole' Chad in Montana, I sourced enough spangly bits to make a bike out of it all. A 2007 Rockshox Revelation 426 DualAir goes up front. Deciding factors here were it's light, they have a good reputation for being bomb-proof, and the price was right. Well, the price was the biggest expense of the lot, but I reckon your fork makes or breaks a bike so I was willing to splash out a bit on that one.

Thomson provide an X4 oversize stem and an Elite layback seatpost, and I managed to snatch a Carbon Rizer Ritchey bar "half price" from Merlin at £50, which I was happy with. Selle Italia X0 seat to park the old schnifter on, and good old SRAM X9's all round for the clicky bits.

Merlin also provided the Cane Creek S8 headset, which I went with because of the good reputation the bearings have. Had a CC in the old Marin and it seemed to serve me well there. Would have liked some Hope bling but just too expensive and, if Farqs bikes are anything to go by, it would self-explode at the first sign of mud :-D.

Merlin had rear HFX9's on offer, so I nabbed one of them for the back, but no luck finding a sensibly-priced 8" Hayes for the front... until I spoke to good old Chaddyboy at Red Barn, who's turning up an 8" HFX9 for the front for me (actually a 7" rear as far as he was concerned, as levers are swapped over in the 'States compared to here).

A Woodman QR seat clamp, some Lizard Skins for the bars and a spare new hollow-pin SRAM chain I have kicking about complete the build, and I'll naturally keep my pedals from the other bike and swap 'em over. I was hoping the bottom bracket, chainrings, crank and front mech that came with the frame would see me through but it turned out the chainrings and square-splined BB in there were knackered, the cranks were old bits of pig-iron and the der was some old Shimano Alivo thing that had seen better days. Sod it if I didn't go and blow another £100 but, heck, I now have some brand new LX chainrings and hollowtech cranks, a decent outboard BB and a new X.9 SRAM front mech.

Built up she weighs in at a trim 26lb 6oz with pedals. The cockpit is compact and forward-biased (as per the frame's original jump/DH tendencies I guess). With a long seatpost she fits better but the riser bar isn't quite riser-enough so it might need swapping in the future. It'll do for now, but it's taxing on the back at the moment. First ride shows she's spritely compared to the Trek (well, duuh) and the relaxed head angle makes her a confident, sure-footed steerer. She feels like she'd fly well, too, but I've not got used to the lightness yet! She's surprisingly comfortable too provided you get your bum off the seat at the appropriate point. Still some fettling of gears and brakes to do to get her bang-on, but she'll get there.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Welsh mid week action

With an excessive amount of surplus annual leave that needs consuming before the eoMarch, I figured it'll be fun using it on a blat around some Welsh trails.

With many of the posse expressing an interest in repeating our (now) annual trip to Afan in September, it seems sensible to roll elsewhere this time. Although I wouldn't mind cranking around those lovely southern trails again sometime soon. Uphilla's keen to get more familiar with 'em again so stay tuned for another mini-trip plan. Further north, the routes at Mach are ok if you want open wilderness but I need to dose up on tasty single-track after a winter away from sinuous trails. Right in north Wales we now have a great choice of centers that aren't more than an hours drive apart so we should be able to knit together quite a number of trails for a short (2 day visit).

"Ooop north" we have;
  • Marin trail at Betws y Coed (25km) with which I have some unfinished business. My one and only ride there was cut short as we needed to return pals hire bikes. I've been told numerous times since, that i missed the best bit :-(
  • Little known, Penmachno trail, 20km which Uphilla blitz'd last year.
  • Private enterprise of Coed Llandegla appears to have a good variety of trails, red 18km, black 21km along with a couple of tamer, shorter routes.
  • Or the recently revamped trails at Coed y Brenin and try either; Temtiwr 9km, Afon 11km and the Tarw 20km.
I can appreciate that during the working week, most peeps won't be able to escape the daily grind. But rest assured folks, Farqui intends to get more than his belly full and will flow from turn to heavenly turn on your behalf ;-)

Don't fret Chipmunk I won't be alone as fellow fanatics Uphilla and Rob look like they're up for a dose of top notch singletrack. So someone will be close by to reign in my enthusiasm ;-) Oh and the painful memory of a busted shoulder will probably haunt me and slow me down...for a little while :-D

When? Wed/Thu 7/8th March are when Uphilla and I are aiming to sneak away for a dose of north Wales style singletrack. If anyone else fancies dodging a few days graft in exchange for some knobbly action, then feel free to tag along.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Deuter Cross Air

After 3yrs use my old Scott back pack was looking a little tired, although it's still got plenty of life left in it and hasn't totally given up the fight. However a heavy fall at CwmCarn put a small tear in the body of the pack, complimenting a long term scissor nick acquired whilst removing a stubborn label :O Over the years I've found the Scott's 15 litre capacity to be marginal, especially when on a day ride, or with pals and sometimes 2 litres of fluid isn't sufficient in the heat of summer. But I like the thin, vented straps and clever system it uses to lift the bulk of the pack of your back - meaning no damp patches...

Last year, whilst killing a few minutes in Evans, I stumbled across Deuter packs which offered an abundant array of features and had the same "lifted off your back" system that I like so much on my Scott. Anyhow, Santa's little helper was listening and over the holidays the geezer in red left me a nice new blue pack for me to use. It's now been on a good few miles and I'm pleased to report that it's a significant improvement over my old pack. The padded straps are more comfortable although I suspect they'll get a little more sweaty in the summer. The lower pack padding definitely works, which is a good thing 'cos you can really load the puppy up. It's sooo much bigger and doesn't take any arranging to carry copious amounts of tat. Although I initially thought the helmet slot wouldn't be useful, I've started using it more and more - it stops you dropping/bashing your brain bucket, or forgetting it when loading up the car (Ben and Rob take note).

As the pack didn't include a Deuter bladder I can't report on German system, so I'm still a big fan of the reliable Camelbak hydration units - which slots right in :thumbu

So if you're getting fed up with a damp squidgy patch out back (ooher misses) then I can highly recommend the Germanian alternative to the common as muck "humped" in the desert packs ;-)

...from the Deuter website; Put an end to the sweaty back syndrome! This system keeps the backpack from coming in direct contact with the wearer's back. Moist air can freely escape through the three-sided ventilated system preventing heat build-up. Test results from Germany's Hohenstein Research Institute show that the Aircomfort system reduces perspiration up to 25%. Additional padding at the shoulder blades and hip increase the carrying comfort.

MBR recently give the Cross Air 5/5 for performance; A multi-functional backpack in new design with Deuter Advanced Aircomfort back. Details; a new helmet or jacket holder, front pocket, side mesh pockets, internal separation pocket, interior valuables pocket, 3M reflectors, attachment loop for the LED, hydration system compatible.
  • 1,120g
  • 22 litre capacity
  • 48 x 32 x 20cm
  • Ballistic/Super Polytex material
  • Practical front mesh pocket with top strap
  • 2 front pockets for small items
  • 2 mesh side pockets
  • Internal seperation pocket
  • Interior valuables pocket
  • 3M reflectors
  • LED loop
  • Integrated rain cover
  • Superb ventilation with Air Comfort back system
  • Hydration system compatible, will easily accommodate a 3ltr reservoir
  • Hydro hose clip
  • Elasticated sternum stra

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Endura eVENT Jacket

Since I started MTBing I've used an Altura Dolomite jacket during the winter but it's now thoroughly non-waterproof and although it has pit-zips I tend to get very hot and sweaty inside it. After browsing the mag's and t'interweb I found that Endura were getting good reviews, especially with their clever new eVENT fabric. As clothes aren't something I'd directly order over the web without trying 'em on first, we checked out a range of light weight winter jackets in our lbs's. Outfits from Fox fitted me quite well, Gore-tex were silly tight and too expensive, Altura's generally lacked features and we eventually found the eVENT. It had a good range of features and it even looked sensible for wearing off the bike - in black at least ;-) Another bonus is that the arms aren't overly long but as medium was a tag snug I opted for a large - something to note if you're looking. Chris (aka Checkov) had been raving out his so a conservative black/anthracite was duly ordered.

I like having a good wind proof top during the darker months and this doesn't disappoint. The sleeves and neck can be tailored from tight to loose very quickly. It doesn't chafe, isn't bulky either on or off the bike and wraps up to a pleasantly small parcel for loosing in your rucksack.

Breathability was high on my list and I'm pleased to report that even with a couple of heavy layers underneath this jacket doesn't give you a 'boil in the bag' feeling. I've not yet worn it on a full bore training ride but I suspect that it'll work out brilliantly, just needing a slight revision of base layers to remain sweat free.

This is the most I've ever paid for a jacket but I'm not too concerned as it offers features available from other manufacturers, at a fraction of the cost. Have you seen how much Gore-tex sells for !

Oh yeah, on my first ride I ended up bouncing hard off a wall :blush with my forearm and the tough fabric shrugged it off without a mark, phew ! Rip stop ? I should say so :thumbu

  • Lightweight, fully waterproof and exceptionally breathable (very close to Goretex standards)
  • Laser-cut pockets and welded-in waterproof zips (with ‘snap-down’ pullers) give the garment a slick appearance and reduced bulk
  • Anatomic cycling design: articulated elbows, extended sleeves and back, single-hand pull cords
  • Reflective prints through 360ยบ
  • Rear shoulder vents
  • Back pocket fits standard OS map
Technical Specification
  • Lightweight mini-ripstop eVENT 3-layer fabric
  • Waterproof to 30,000mm, breathable to 22,000g/m2/24hrs
  • Fully seam-sealed to eVENT approved standard
  • All zips are waterproof YKK with snap-down pullers
  • Double-front storm flap with gutter
  • Storm closures on collar, wrists and waist
  • Laser-cut pockets