Saturday, March 31, 2007

36 Bits

Following on from mrNixon's recent improvement, Dozer noticed that his 18 month old Fox 36 bruiser was perhaps a little sticky during our recent visit to Cannock. Although it wasn't notchy his Talas adjuster didn't seem to have it's full range of adjustment and as it's well overdue for a 12 month strip down and it's endured two British winters we decided it was time to treat the big brown bouncer.

After reviewing the owners manual and identifying that a strip down DIDN'T need any special tools we set to popping it apart. All that's required is to remove the two fixings at the base of the lowers, give 'em a tap and simply slide the lowers from the uppers. Have a drip tray handy though as the "open bath" lubing system should drain out once they're separated. In this case one leg seeped oil with the other offering up just a few drips. Wipe everything down making sure any nasty grit has been eradicated before you contemplate putting it back together. Pay particular attention to the wiper seals and foam rings. Sliding the lowers back on, stop just short of feeding the fixings back through so you can squirt the required amount of lube that constitutes the open bath. Nip everything back up, put it back on the bike before testing and setting up the compression/rebound which will most likely need a tweak. All in all, it'll probably take you about an hour the first time and half that once you're familiar with the routine.

From the pic you can see that I removed the fork from the bike but this isn't strictly necessary. I just prefer removing it as it's easier to view and clean everything plus I get an opportunity to check and clean the headset, stem, etc.

The benefits of a regular service schedule are many, not least a reliable and better ride but you'll also reduce the likelihood of an expensive repair bill. Your shock(s) are the most expensive components hanging from your rig, so look after 'em. Now winter is behind us (hopefully!) it's a great time to bet your bouncer back on form for a long summer of fast trails :p

Don't be put off servicing your own bouncer, all it takes is a little care and now the tinterweb has a host of useful guides to help you along. Here's just a couple to get you going; EnduroForkSeals, Fox.

But before you dive in, checkout your manufacturer's manual for the tools required, correct oil weights, volumes/heights, etc; Fox, Magura, Manitou, Marzocchi, Pace, Rockshox.

PS: I take no responsibility if after being "inspired" you go and bust yours !

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cannock Sunshine

Four of us decided to re-trace a route we rode almost 12 months earlier, this time using our GPS rather than a local guide to find our way. After jostling with the commuters we all met up at Birches Valley for a swift coffee before starting the way marked Follow the Dog singletrack.

It soon became clear that the trails were dry, a first for me here and my poor brake pads :p Although the trails are starting to suffer from braking bumps the sinuous tracks were on the whole fast, real fast and great fun. I'm also pleased to report that my serviced fork was tracking much better after a service and I soon had the confidence to turn up the wick and start throwing my rig around :D

It was fun mixing up the ride with the twisty FtD and then heading north across the heath for a well earned lunch at the cafe in Milford, yum.

Roger enjoyed his first taste of the north Brum trails and I'm fairly certainly he'll be back before too long. Actually, if you can guarantee clear skies and more buff singletrack then I might just join him.

I'm sorry for the lack of pictures but we were having such a blast that taking snaps came second to razzin' the trails.
Trail; 19.1 miles, 2.5hrs, 2,261ft ascending, Tracklog
Posse; Dozer (Endozer), Farqui (5Spot), Roger (FSR), Uphilla (5Spot)
Weather; Overcast start that cleared to leave bright blue skies and temp's around 16c. Dry (for a change)
Mechanicals; None

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Drude's Irish Challenge

Not content with cycling from John O'Groats to Land's End a few years back one of our posse is attempting to snag another headline over the coming weeks. This time he intends to crank out even more miles cycling around Ireland :o "Cycling in circles" - how Irish is that ? ;)

It seems that Drude needs such crazy challenges when a milestone birthday is looming. But as usual his achievement will help others with proceeds of his sponsorship going to Cancer related causes. Details can be found over at, we'll certainly be donating to help him achieve his goal.

You've gotta checkout his monster of a route, the schedule and accrued mileages give me the eebie-geebies. Hopefully, he'll be on quiet roads.

So if your near a pump dispensing some Irish black gold, sink a jar and reflect on the suffering he'll be inflicting on his undercarriage...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Aston Hill to Close

Although the venue is close by I've never made it over to Aston Hill and by the looks of this announcement, I never will. It's due for closure on 6th April. Future ownership and use is up for grabs so it could continue as one of London's closest MTB'g venues...

Brought to my attention by STW and BucksMTB.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Well I’ve finally done it. Splashed some cash on a new FSR MTB and taken a rather risky German bet that Canyon Direct MTB bike sales will save the day…read on if your interested......

Actually before I let you loose on my Canyon Nerve XC review its only right that I should clarify the true novice nature of my review credentials. I’m a man that’s been happily riding a 1999 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR. Slightly tweaked with an original and still very respectable Pace RC39. However, even with my most optimistic hat on, I realise that I’m highly unlikely to convince a cynical reader that comparing an 8 year old bike to a new Canyon provides a true reflection of any bikes credentials. Well all I’m left with then is to provide you with a personal reflection of its performance given that I’m probably an aspiring MTBer trying to find a bike that will provide maximum pleasure within a minimal budget….

Firstly my current bike has 80mm front and 60mm rear travel. It’s a classic ‘old style’ XC bike and frankly it’s served me very well. Why upgrade? Well I rode hard last year and covered some miles, much of my chain set needed replacing. I figured it would be better to put my money into new kit on a new frame then new kit on an old and restricted frame. I knew all along that 4” travel front and rear would be a massive step forward and my focus was on staying with a light bike with quality components. 90% of my riding is Chiltern Hills. Moderate to hard hill climbing and fun but not technical down hill. Fast forest tracks in between.

My research indicated that 4” was now considered to be a minimum and that every review is apparently positioning 5” as the new 4”. Well I didn’t want the extra weight and don’t actually think I’ve the downhill balls to max out with a 5” frame anyway!

My Options: Stay brand loyal with Specialized….maybe try a new brand….Marin, Trek, Giant, Commencal ???

Well I read every review, checked out the frame geometry, suspension geometry, looked at the quality of components and the amount of “own brand” alternative parts and realised that I couldn’t get what I considered to be a worthwhile upgrade at a sensible weight for less then £1800 min. It didn’t put me off, but I still consider it to be a fare wedge for a bike. That’s when by chance I found a small article re. Canyon in the back of MTBr magazine. Who? Never heard on them before. The only German brand I was familiar with was Cube.
Once I’d checked out the WEB site my interest level increased dramatically. So much kit for such a low price. In fact around 40% cheaper then UK retail. In summary Canyon is a German manufacture with a factory direct sales strategy. Great spec, great price but no chance to test ride…big risk! Well maybe not…. My research phase was still not complete. I few emails later and I’d specified a US (courtesy of Mountain High) component build option. However, it soon became apparent that even with US prices by the time I’d added on duty and VAT I still couldn’t buy all of the components on the Canyon for less then Canyon wanted for the whole bike. Here’s my logic…buy a Canyon….if the frame is crap throw it away and keep the bits…. I’d be no worse off. Well it persuaded me!

I waited for Canyon to launch their 2007 range of bikes and revamp their WEB site and duly set about the process of purchasing a Canyon Nerve XC 6.0. Its so simple. Either use the WEB tools (quite impressive) or phone direct (everyone speaks perfect English and is highly efficient in a classically German way!). I chose to call them direct. I handed over my essential body dimensions..inside leg, torso, shoulder width, arm length, body weight and Canyon recommend the correct frame size. I’d already studied the frame geometry and agreed with their size ‘S’ recommendation for the NERVE XC. All in with a set of Ergon grips £1300.00 (Euro @ 1.48). incl. freight and VAT. 10 days later Canyon emailed to advise the bike was ready to ship. 3 days later I received a big box with BIKEGUARD on the outside.....

From this point onwards it seemed like a demonstration of German efficiency. Firstly the bike was superbly packed in a very well designed cardboard carton. Easy to carry, every bike component protected. All I had to do was connect the handlebars to the stem and attach the wheels. They had even set up the suspension for me.
Finally, the attention to detail on the build is as good as I’ve seen on a bike.
Excellent welding, great finish to components and frame and detail touches like chain stay protector and cable frame protectors all fitted as standard.

I took my time and tinkered with the suspension to get the re-bound just to my taste, fitted my new Ergon grips and generally tweaked. Before I new it, it was time to test ride…

So far I’ve ridden the bike 3 times. First a 15 minute set-up ride. Second a 1 hour, has anything fallen off ride. Finally a 2 hour twenty mile full-on ride and so far I think my Canyon is fantastic.

Before I purchased Rob#1 suggested that the 7xxx Aluminium frame combined with 4 bar linkage and quality Fox suss front and rear would give me a very plush ride. He was right. With the suspension fully active the bike just soaks it up and tracks the terrain fantastically well. I can already ride this bike much faster then my old Specialized. When the suspension is locked out and pro-pedal is activated the bike firms up and rides really well, the frame seemingly providing enough give to still connect me with the terrain and climb really efficiently. The position of the lockout’s both front and rear makes this adjustment very easy whilst ‘on the fly’ and it’s this combination of performance options that I’m really enjoying. Here’s a quick summary of the components:

Canyon frame: Genuine 4 bar linkage (Horst link rocker and swing link design), 7xxx aluminium frame, and cartridge bearings on all pivots. 5-year guarantee. Does what it says on the tin!
Fox front fork: Plush out of the box and so easy to set up and use. Quality product
Fox RP23 rear shock: Plush out of the box and so easy to set up and use. Quality product
Formula ORO K24 disk brakes: Very light lever pressure and excellent braking performance. (Oh, German levers fitted the opposite to UK levers i.e. front on left hand, rear on right hand. Not an issue for me)
SRAM X9 triggers and rear derailleur: Slick and impressive.
Shimano XT cranks, Chain and Deore cassette. It’s what Shimano do very well.
DT rims, Sun Ringle hubs and Schwalbe tyres: Hard to tell at this stage. Types appear to provide excellent grip although I’ve not yet exposed them to a variety of conditions.
Selle Italia saddle: Ouch!!!! So sore!!!!! I’m going back to a Specialized Body Geometry ASAP!
Ergon grips: Superb product, no more numb hands!

All this weighing in at just over 26.4 pounds.

Well at this early stage its all looking very encouraging. Clearly I need to put some miles in and report back. Watch this space…Maybe I’ll post another article after the planned Ridgeway epic. That should test Canyons endurance and marathon credentials!

Incidentally if any of the posse want to have a closer look either through curiosity or an intension to purchase drop me a line and I’m sure we can set up a viewing.


Newcastleton Red Trail + 7 Stanes Website Update

Hello Dudes

Update from the Newcastleton Trail Warriors & 7 Stanes website

Yes that's right.. you heard it here first!

The whole of the North Shore area at Newcastleton 7 Stanes site has now been re-opened for use! We know that a lot of people enjoyed the see-saw and are sad at its loss, however in its place, we have added a new sting in the tail! Swoop down the ramp, down the banking and up to the brand new hipped jump.

Remember the North Shore sections are rated Double Black and should only be attempted by those who are both suitably experienced to ride it, and have the ability to dismount safely in case the need arise. Please also check that your bike is up for some punishment! For those trying the new section for the first time, we recommend you take a look first before you leap!

However if North Shore isn't your cup of tea... don't worry there's loads being done at Newcastleton at the moment... We are currently working on a red grade singletrack descent, which will be the longest downhill section on site. Fancy having some input to this exciting new trail, or lending a hand with a spade or saw?

Check out the Newcastleton Trail Warriors forum right here on this site for up to the minute information, including details of our fortnightly build days!

We hope you have fun, and encourage you to complete the visitors book with your comments on the trails.

7 Stanes - More new pages on the site

We've created a dedicated events page for the 7stanes site which gives a rundown on planned events for the year at 7stanes locations. There are contact details and descriptions of the events too.
Also, check out the trails at a glance page - it lists all the 7stanes trails in table format, listed by grade and order of difficulty within that grade (based on the 7stanes team's judgement of difficulty). You can download all the trail maps and 7stanes location map from this page as well.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Moist and Squishy

Earlier this weekend, I popped open mrNixon and according to the instructions I should have drained 16cc from each leg but found just a few drops dribbled out. After a quick clean, he was re-assembled complete with plenty of 5-40w lube for his "open bath" lushness.

A couple of laps around Chicksands had a high tide mark over 3/4's up the stanchions and he once again tracks smoothly over the rough. I'll suspect the psi, compression and rebound will need a tweak now that we're moving freely. Thankfully the Welsh unpredictable notchy-ness is a thing of the past and it looks like we're ready for some pukka rocky action at 7Stanes :p

I need to re-read the manual as I may be able to pop apart the damping and/or rebound circuits which also rely on a little lube for schweet, buttery smoothness. Although I recall that at least one of 'em needs a special gizmo to access the internals :(

I thunk he was last serviced some 18 months ago so it seems that a more regular spannerin' schedule would have prevented my recent Welsh wrestling match. So don't let a notchy bouncer ruin your looming northern trip, go get lubed up and treat your rig to a quick fettle.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Super Fruit Bars

Spurred on by the rejuvenating affect Chris/Jenni's homemade energy bars had on a flagging DDave last Sept I decided that perhaps we ought to give the WhatMTB recipe a try. My resident chef-ess reviewed the article, nodded approvingly and promptly set to with her spatula.

After thoroughly testing the first couple of batches :p we're converted :thumbu They're a doddle to make (Chipmunk is available at favorable rates!), taste great, are easy to chew ;) don't leave you thirsty like High5 bars sometimes can, are easy to digest and seem to give you a steady release of much needed oomph.

Best of all, they cost much less (approx 1/3rd?) than a a £20 box of bars. Thanks to Chipmunk for helping fuel Uphilla and I around Wales and for writing up the "how to".

So come on peeps, don an apron and get busy...

  • 250g chopped dates
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 4 tablespoon olive or rape seed oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 175g chopped pecan nuts
Put all the ingredients listed into a bowl in the order shown, mix with a wooden spoon. Once thoroughly mixed, grease a tin and line with greaseproof paper before pouring in the mixture.

Cook for around 30 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade, just until the top goes a lovely chocolate brown colour.

Leave to cool and set for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before cutting into snack-sized slabs.

Can be frozen and they keep very well in an air tight box.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Coed Y Brenin, MBR

Day2 of our sneaky mid wk road trip saw us start the day in no frame of mind to rush anything. Breakfast was at a sensible time and we spent a while spannerin' our rigs to ensure they'd survive another tough Welsh trail. Uphilla even found a couple of admirer's at the b&b, lets the rumours begin...

The day started a little more overcast than day1 but we were thankful it was dry, albeit a little cooler.

Coed Y Brenin is one of the original MTB'ing center's and after our last visit I felt it had lost some of it's appeal. However, the prospect of a sizeable reinvestment tempted me back and I'm pleased to say that the revisions didn't disappoint. They've built a new eco-friendly center with lots of facilities to keep the ankle biters amused whilst pah is rolling his knobblies. They've also invested in the MTB trails with revisions to old alongside new routes plus several running and walking options. Although most are classed as "difficult" they also now have a shorter taster for novices.

The altitude climbed the day before still left our legs feeling a little tender so over a brew we pondered route choices. Our legs certainly wouldn't survive the longer Beast or Dragon's Back although we felt the shorter Afon and Temptiwr would leave us wanting. So that left a revised MBR or the new Tarw and the thought of an extra 50m climbing shook the knee's so we opted for the slightly shorter MBR, an old faithful.

Leaving the trail center through the "fork" sculpture we were immediately presented with an extremely well armoured trail with large slabs of rock to skip across. Fortunately the climbing was gentle and didn't shock the system too much. Much of the trail remains from it's previous guise but they've beefed up the odd section and it now rides even better. For anyone that remembers, this trail offers some excellent techy climbs with a good mix of roots and rocks to amuse. This time the long, steep and loose bridleway climb was too much for my tired pins :x

The last few sections are all new and they sweep from turn to turn with speed inducing cambers. Naturally, there's always a boulder or jump to reign you back in but the feel got us to push it to the stops. The signs at the end of the trail aren't clear at the mo but that's my one and only gripe from a thoroughly good little blat.

Overall it's a good route but the builders obviously don't want you to hook up too much speed. My poorly fork had me revert from my usual fast'n'furious approach (which was now becoming dangerous) to more of trails style. So much so that on the Pink Heifer I enjoyed lots of track stands, rolling over ledges and steadily (very steadily) controlling my descent. By this point I'd also got to grips with my new brakes, although my rear tyre clearly got a beating whilst learning to be delicate.

The drive home wasn't the swiftest catching three tractors on the twistiest sections and loads a traffic at the bottom of the M6. Talk about lucky, within an hour of returning the heavens opened so we defo timed our sneaky mid week excursion to perfection.

Route; waymarked Forestry Commission trail starting at the revamped Coed Y Brenin visitor center, Tracklog
Weather; Dry, mild and sunny/overcast
Posse; Farqui(5Spot), Uphilla(5Spot)
Mechanicals; Uphilla lost his rear hydro cable guide and his new LX brakes weren't particularly strong even after covering all the rough terrain in this trip.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


With the 1st ride of the day behind us, a brief lunch and popping around the corner (from the tourist center that is Betws Y Coed) we arrived at Penmachno. This trail differs from the majority in that it's not Forestry Commission developed but a private enterprise affair. Consequently it doesn't have a visitors center ...oh and it's quiet, really quiet with not another soul in sight.

From the teeny car park you crank up a gentle fire road until diving into the woods for a more entertaining climb. In contrast to the Marin trail it's much more flowing with less large rocks to negotiate. This type of trail encourages speed and commitment but these two riders appeared to have left their legs under the lunch table back in Betws! :p We were both really struggling to get the legs into any gear other than "reserve" and I recall the first 4 miles being really, really tough on the pins. I don't think that the trails were that severe, just that ride#1 had taken it's toll. At one point I even thought we'd be pushing up the fireroads let alone on the more demanding techy climbs. I have to admit that I walked a few of the steeper sections but even walking was painful...

This trail has some really long sections, which seem to be more and more common now :thumbu One exposed portion just seemed to go on and on and on, steadily up and up and up :x When it eventually pointed down, my mind and body had almost forgotten what to do ;-) I'm not jesting my reactions were slow and I nearly rode straight into the first big boulder.

The final three sections were by far the best, not least as they now allowed us to flow down rather than endlessly crank upwards. I tend to agree with Uphilla that knowing these trails would really allow you to build up some great speeds. Not on a par with the steep downs at CwmCarn but excellent xc trails none the less.

At the end, we were both glad to see our solitary transport and even more grateful that satnav cut the usual time to our b&b in half. Boy was that road narrow twisty and with excellent views over the range.

Route; waymarked private enterprise trail starting just outside the village of Penmachno (a few miles out of Betws Y Coed), Tracklog.
Weather; Dry, mild and mostly sunny
Posse; Farqui(5Spot), Uphilla(5Spot)
Mechanicals; Uphilla's relatively new Shimano LX brakes weren't performing as expected.

Betws Y Coed, Marin

After an early start Farqui and Uphilla cruised effortlessly along quiet roads to the trail head of the Marin trail in north Wales. Thankfully the forecasters got it wrong (again) and with blue skies and warming sunlight, two "sneaky" riders began their assault on yet another welsh trail.

Immediately we were confronted with an entertaining techy climb which quickly raised our heart rates. My pin's weren't quite ready and the resulting "dabs" caused Uphilla to pull out of view :x As with all decent trails there's always a big chunk of climbing to open your lungs and get you fully warmed up and from what little recollection we now have, much of this was on steady fire road.

It's been a few years since I tackled this route and I noted a few subtle alterations that have improved the experience. One section was a particularly nasty rough, steep muddy cross camber drop that had no run-out, which has now been armour'd and is now much more rideable but none the less challenging. Shortly after being built, the Dragon's Back's section was a picture and clearly visible but now the wilderness has taken over and hidden the slumbering giant.

Uphilla was pleasantly surprised to see the glorious, massive views on offer after exiting numerous sections and whilst cranking along most of the fire roads. He quite rightly tagged this as the "most scenic" of the Welsh trails he's ridden and I'd tend to place it alongside Cwm Carm for dramatic views. The numerous little Llyn's looked idyllic in the sunshine.

The Marin trail wouldn't look out of place down at Coed Y Brenin as it too has lots of rocks to negotiate. A few downed trees provided the occasional short diversion and I'm glad to report that all the sections were open and rideable. I'm glad I wasn't riding alone on this one as without Uphilla's help I might still be wedged under a fallen tree :o I mistakenly thought I could slither under a felled tree that was propped up at one side. However, as I ducked under my backpack/shoulders hooked onto the downed trunk and to my horror the chunky vertical support toppled slowly to the ground. Now I was firmly pressed into the saddle and perfectly balanced by a substantial mrDouglasFir. Thankfully Uphilla was close behind and swiftly upended the surprisingly effective log that was previously supporting my new friend. Boy was I glad to get the weight off, I even think my 5Spot groaned a sight of relief too :p

As the trails progress they gradually become a little more flowing and slightly less technical. Encouraging you to keep attacking and hammering along. Well I would have but towards the end I'd finally realised that my fork was far from happy. Initially I figured I just need to adapt from my usual flat-lands technique to cope with these more challenging trails. I then thought that I still needed to adjust to the monster powerful new brakes but moving the levers helped ease the pitching. A few miles later, my aching hands/wrists/shoulders and a sore head from the constant pounding had me looking towards my bouncer. It was clear to see that mrNixon was not happy and was only using a 1/3rd of his travel. Some careful analysis over the new few miles confirmed how randomly he was performing being reluctant to move, notchy and very slow to return - thereby often packing down on repeated hits. Drops become quite a gamble and slow speeds made keeping control extremely challenging. Semi smooth and flowing trails were ok but if the speed or rock size increased I felt like a pinball and line choice became something of a lottery.

The last two sections are an absolute blast with plenty of altitude lost to keep the momentum up. On an earlier visit I didn't get an opportunity to complete this renowned finale and although they don't flow like Afan, they're some of the most rewarding and memorable sections I've ridden.

Back at the car park we both knew that we'd cranked out a decent ride with my legs just starting to go a little wobbly on an empty stomach. However, I was confident that a substantial lunch should take care of them before we continue today's road trip...

Route; way-marked Forestry Commission trail starting a few miles out of Betws Y Coed, Tracklog.
Weather; Dry, mild and mostly sunny
Posse; Farqui(5Spot), Uphilla(5Spot)
Mechanicals; Farqui's lower jockey wheel locked solid after a couple of miles - easily freed up after stripping down and lubing.

Friday, March 02, 2007

New Hoops – i9’s


I’ve purchased some all black i9 Enduro wheels from Chad @ Red Barn.
To go with the new wheels set; I got some new Hope Buzz Floating Rotors, Hutchinson Barracuda MRC MED tyres (i picked these after reading this blog) and SRAM PG990 Red Cassette and 22t/32t Middleburn inner/middle - Hardcoat Slick Shift Chainrings.

If you’ve seen my blog; I had a few maintenance problems recently. It started with a wet weekend in the Lakes and then leaving the bike standing for two months! I’ve had to replace the bb, all the rear suspension bushes and my RP23 air decided to disintegrate, so looking forward to that semi-new bike feel.

Ride report to follow, once I get the DT Swiss RWS 10mm rear axle from CRC