Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bush Triangle

Last night I decided to thoroughly investigate an annoying squeak that hadn't been cured by cleaning the seat rails/clamp, lubing the seat post or cleaning/replacing the bottom bracket.

After removing the Hollowtech 2 cranks (simplicity itself) I decided to swap out the bearings for a set of EnduroForkSeals which Rob has found so much smoother than the originals. I had a bash at this last week but the lock tight and almost 3 years of chemical bonding kept bearing and cup together. However this time I was armed with the fabstastic bearing press (now this IS a special tool) which made the job as convenient as a trail side repair. If anyone needs to replace their HTII bearings, give me a call ;-)

Interestingly the stop gap '08 HTII cup/bearings are sealed differently from my original '05's (on the right hand side). See that the bearing is no longer "sealed" and now the "top hat" has a step to help align the loose cover. I've not been impressed with the sealing of the early units so it'll be interesting to see how these open units fair.

Armed with a Torx I then set about the rear suspension pivots, which haven't been touched for over 2.5 years and over 3k miles - with the exception of the teeny rear Horst Links. Sure they've had a few squirts of lube every now and then but otherwise they've just got on with the job. During disassembly I found one of the bottom bracket fixings was a little loose and as this link gets put through the most torque, I'd guess this was the source of my annoyance. Dang these Turner pivots are a good design - after a simple clean they look as good as new. Drifting the shafts in/out showed the bushes were still plenty tight so they remained in-situ.

Whilst the suspension was on the bench I also popped the rear shock apart and gave it a quick clean/re-lube.

Everything was refitted without a hitch and I eager to give her a test ride to check everything is running ok before my next tweak arrives...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Coast to Coast (with a twist)

Over the past few months several peeps have expressed an interest in doing something a little different, with mentions of the Coast to Coast, s.Downs, Isle of Wight and even "bothies" :O

I've regularly pondered the usual C2C challenge (St Bees to Teeside) but have been put off by the uninspiring destinations (apologies to anyone who lives there!) and the fact that the popular variations all make use roads/lanes. However, I've just stumbled across a splendid variation offered by that has really got my juices flowing;

Yes folks you read that right - "trail centres" :thumbu :D

MB7 summary; This is quite simply the ultimate mountain biking holiday. Join mb7 on the very first coast to coast tour in southern Scotland. Our route begins in Edinburgh as we dip our wheels into the North Sea at the historic port of Leith. 7 days and nearly 200 singletrack-hugging miles later and we dip our wheels in the Irish Sea. With further details here.

Taking in 5 trail centers and starting or finishing in the Scottish capital definitely appeals.

If the dates don't suit, it's too long or guiding options aren't agreeable then we could always try and string something together ourselves.

So what'd'y'all think ?
Pic's by kind permission of MB7

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pitch black and cold beer

No, not the film that helped launch Vin Diesel's' career - rather a dark night ride and the virgin outing for Les' new rig a, Specialized FSR Pitch Pro.

As the route map shows we opted to meet in Streatley (at the Chequers) for a change and then head off over the A6 and explore the eastern trails. Les cranked up from his pad and arrived well before I'd finished faffin' with all the clobber required for a winter night ride. At least it gave us chance to setup his FD on his new the granny ring the cage was rubbin' the tyre (lower limit stop) and a big to middle selection was reluctant (tension). Oh and my HID failed to start causing me much palpitations until a re-seat of the battery connector had my retina's burning :p

As Dozer wasn't 100% familiar with the trails we mapped out the route before hand and popped it on the GPS. As the screen isn't constantly illuminated I sneaked Chipmunk's L&M onto my helmet and angled it down at the bars - it's drowned by the HID so "backlighting" was the name of the game. The downcast light often had my thinkin' Chevok was gonna beam me up :p

The weather stayed dry and the chilly 3 degrees was soon forgotten after a few miles rollin' our knobblies. Rain earlier in the week had nicely softened up the surface so many sections were spent spinnin' and a slitherin', much to the delight of the posse. It seems that autumn is giving way to winter. It never ceases to amaze me how different trails look at night, especially where you're not that familiar with 'em or riding them in reverse. My repeated "loops" at junctions gave Dozer a few chuckles. I'm thankful that L&M helped light the way, although I'd have done better hammering down "the springs" if it had been pointing in front !

Apparently the Pitch was a delight to the riders nether region/thigh's with many a mumble about "I ain't had to get out of the saddle yet". He simply wafted over the trails and both he & I were surprised when Dozer face planted on a root that neither of us felt. T'was commendable for his h/tailness to entertain us. However, our fully convert was initially quite perplexed that his steed now didn't have skippin' gears, or rubbin' this, or squeakin' that ;-) He did have one sketchy moment racing DH as he hauled on the anchors (that bite) and he locked up both ends...the joys of hydro's over mechanical disc's - he'll soon learn to be gentle. As it's only the first outing, he needs to tweak the ride position /fiddle with pressure's but I reckon he's now on a winner and that we'll all be moving aside at Afan :lol

Thanks guys for a tip top blat. Oh and the post ride tipple was great, albeit a bit "parky".

Posse: Darren (Heckler), Dozer (Rockhopper), Farqui (5Spot), Les (Pitch)
Weather: 3 degrees, dry
Mechanicals: Puncture (Les)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ay Up LED Light Review

Well thanks to Farqui and some fine research I managed to identify almost every conceivable LED light option to replace my L&M Solo helmet light. My research had indicated that right now an LED manufacturer called 'Cree' were producing just about the brightest highest output LED know to man. In fact I was lucky enough to be shown a Cree development board with their latest dazzler LED fitted. It was so bright (LED, no lens) it was impossible to look at it directly even from across the office! Interestingly, I only found two manufacturers claiming to be using them and AyUp had a particularly interesting product at a cracking price (direct Internet sales again!) Its well worth checking out the Au Up site. Its well produced and there is plenty of info concerning the lights and some very good night shots of the lights in action.

Well you already know I love direct Internet sales and can't resist a bargain. I decided to jump in feet first and ordered just enough bits to kit myself out with a helmet light capable of a constant 3 hours at full power. Its worth noting that AyUp have proposed a number of kits for both road and MTB use. However, if this is not what you want its very easy to spec your own set....that's exactly what I did. I paid a total of £98.00 incl freight from Aus! 5 days later, the product arrived and these are my initial thoughts and beam test comments:

  • Wow, very, very will see from the picture that each lens is no bigger then a 20 pence piece. When you first see the product its a little disconcerting. It looks more like an 'Action Man' Mtb set! However, these lights are actually very thoughtfully designed and each lens barrel is made from Aluminium with a fully sealed lens. Ay Up claim these units will work frozen and under water to 1 thinks that Mr AyUp has a decent engineering background.

  • Wow, very light weight. LED light unit and battery 150 grams. This enables you to fix all to your head without noticing the difference (no battery cables to backpack required). I know this will be an upside. Last year, after a long ride using my L&M Solo with the battery stashed in my ruck sack, I forgot about the light on my head, removed my ruck sack and nearly gave myself whip lash as I dumped my sack on the floor!

  • The bike and helmet fittings are all very simple but effective. Consideration has been made to provide a replaceable breakaway fixing and a spare is provided. The charger is small and functional. I guess the accessories don't look as bullet proof as L&M kit but worse case just replace them, they are so cheep...battery£13.00...charger £12.00.

  • It appears that AyUp are continuously updating the product range. I purchased the simplest battery solution....a plug and go (I always run on max power). No switching or power options. However around Xmas they plan to launch a new battery pack with 5 beam power option including flash strobe. Something for everyone

Tested the light beam and output compared to L&M Solo Halogen and L&M HID. Very surprised at the results:

Firstly, I was expecting the lights to out perform my L&M Halogen Solo not least because I new the light colour (much whiter) would be more revealing. However, its so difficult to compare Halogen and HID watts with LED Lumen's. The AyUp site has some user comments indicating that the lights are a real challenge to HID. I was sceptical and anticipated that my L&M 13W HID would be the clear front runner probably still around 2 or 3 times brighter then the Ay Up LED. One things for sure, there is not that much difference!

  • Halogen is dead! The little Ay Up beast is whiter, has a crisper beam and is far more penetrating then I expected. Partly due to light colour and a more focused lens the Ay Up is just in a different class! Not bad when you consider the L&M Solo retails for around £180 in the UK, nearly twice the price. I really can't see that Halogen has a future.

  • The Ay Up LED does Halo but in a very usable way. The centre of the beam is very focused and the halo is created by a reduced intensity secondary beam. Oh, I specified 'intermediate' beam pattern for the lens. It's available in Wide, Intermediate and Narrow. I can't see much use for a wide because the intermediate beam is quite broad and I imagine the narrow is like a laser beam.

  • HID watch out! I am shocked to say that the light intensity of the Ay Up LED's compared to HID (13 Watt) whilst not the same is still very impressive. I had to keep switching between the two before it became apparent that the HID is brighter but more significantly provides a very clean broad, deeply penetrating light with an overall wider light dispersion. However, the Ay Up really packs a punch given its size, weight and cost. I just couldn't quite believe how well it performed against the HID. The other noticeable difference is that the Ay Up is simply feather weight by comparison.

  • HID and Ay Up together provide a very impressive solution. I've no doubt that I'll be stopping even more oncoming traffic with these two on full chat!

  • If you are thinking of buying a new light set for the first time then a twin Ay Up MTB Kit for £170.00 is one hell of a proposition. Perhaps LED will replace HID sooner then I imagined.

I will report back once I have had some riding hours with the Ay Up. Perhaps I should not get too enthusiastic until the goods have been fully tested. For those of you riding with me on the 9th Dec....I look forward to your thoughts!

Light and Motion Li-ion Solo Review

You will already know from my previous HID light review that L&M are a firm favourite of mine. Well last year shortly after purchasing my L&M HID I decided to complement it with the addition of an L&M 13watt Halogen 'Solo' light. My intention was to use this as a supplementary helmet light to provide me with that all important peripheral vision. I dropped Larry a line and saved myself around 30% in the process. Well I used my new solo all last winter and these are my thoughts:

  • Good 'white' Halogen output. However when compared to HID or LED, decidedly Yellow. I knew to expect this and I'm prepared to say that when run next to each other its a compromise. It works but it is strange looking ahead at a 'white beam object' dominated by the HID light and then looking sideways at a 'Yellow beam object' provided by the Halogen only helmet light.

  • L&M advertise that the light has an adjustable beam pattern. Well its adjustable between good medium spot and poor halo diffused effect. I kept mine on the spot setting all of the time.

  • Unit is supplied with a switchable 6w, 10w and 13w output. I liked the 13w output but it only gave me 1.5hours burn time. Not really enough. The 10w lasts for 2.5 hours but does not cut it off road. The 6w is very useful for map reading on route.

  • That said what it does it does well. The beam is Halo free , broad and reasonably penetrating. However its not quite got enough 'punch' for off road use and I think it would make a really solid road light with occasional off road use. The L&M accessories are of the usual high standard.

You see, what I wanted all along was a good LED light. However, when I looked last year I was not convinced that the products available offered value for money or a suitable light output. However. that's already changed. Consequently the L&M Solo has been 'ebayed' and I guess you should read my LED light Review!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Chiltern Wendover Discovery

I've been planning an open invitation ride to give folks a sample of my local trails. I propose a twin loop of the Wendover area taking in some fine Chiltern views with a good mixture of climbs and down hill sections. To add some interest my plan is to time the ride to enable a half light, half dark circuit.

The proposed ride date is Sunday 9th December at approx 3.00pm

A convenient meeting point will be my house. After the ride I suggest we frequent my local which serves very affordable Thai food and local brew.

If you are interested then log a comment ASAP

Proposed route; Tracklog


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Singletrack" CHILTERNS RIDE - 2nd November 2007

“Squirrel chasing in the Chilterns”

Well there they were happily collecting nuts for their winter store when out of the blue a Hi-Viz clad human appeared at speed on a silver machine. Poor things must be traumatised along with quite a few pheasants and wood pigeons……These routes are relatively quiet so the wildlife are clearly not used to being disturbed, and there was a lot of wildlife to be disturbed on this occasion!!

As nobody seemed able to come out to play at the weekend and withdrawal symptons setting in big time after Afan, I decided to give myself a day off and try something new.

Originally I was thinking about Llandegla, but then Singletrack Magazine landed on the mat with a selection of routes in the Chilterns. The loop we have done from Watlington is one of my favourite ‘natural’ rides and I must have done it 4 or 5 times now. The ST ‘hard’ route also started from Watlington, but covered very little of the same ground, I was intrigued and decided to give it a go.

The brilliant weather from earlier in the week held out and so I had a fabulous autumn day for the ride. The start takes in a short section of the Ridgeway, to the west and then heads off up a woodland bridleway, a steady climb. Like the other ride this one is a series of climbs up the chalk ridges followed by fast downhill blasts, but the difference is that all the climbs can be cleared. The autumn colours were vivid and the ground deep with golden leaves – the latter made some faster section interesting, as you had no idea what lay beneath this thick blanket.

Ground conditions were good overall, only a couple of brief mud patches churned by horse riders. The only real problem lay on the climb out Turville, this was steady until it hit the woods and there the ground was very soft making it very hard going, but with the addition of leaves it became impossible for my tiring legs and I had to admit defeat this time. Fortunately the resulting downhill was very “entertaining”.

Sadly the last few miles consist of a road drag up to Christmas Common, which seemed to go on and on. I expected a great downhill run back to the Ridgeway, but it was short and not that exciting.

Overall a great ride though with plenty to challenge. I am looking forward to going back in the summer to clear that woodland climb. :-)

Route: Tracklog

Posse: Uphilla, 5Spot

Mechanicals: None

Weather: warm, sunny, dry.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Canyon Nerve XC 3.0 Review

After a few build hiccups I've mainly been stomping the XC back and forth on my daily commute and it's a definite improvement over my clunky old hard tail. On asphalt it immediately felt stable and reassuring especially in fast sweeping turns. Much to my surprise it rides light and rips up to speed quickly, shaving minutes off my ride to/from work - I just hope my legs aren't ripped apart in the process :p

Last night I escaped the "trick or treaters" and headed over to a misty Woburn for a taste of the Nerve on our beloved dirt. After initially scrabblin' and lurchin' through the roots I decreased the rebound front/rear and the rig then soaked up the roots without any fuss. With only limited time available I hammered around and started to enjoy the ride more with every crank. I did experienced more pedal strikes and after some initial frustration we both soon adjusted to predicting pedal lifts as obstacles swung by. I reckon she's got great potential for XC duties and given a few more miles off road I suspect we'd even cope with a lumpy Welsh trail or two :thumbu

Clicky for the standard specification and interestingly the geometry isn't wildly different from my 5Spot, with just 1 degree steeper HA. Naturally the two rigs handle quite differently (shorter travel/different rocker ratio's/etc) but as there are no demo rigs available the stat's were the only way to gauge if the bike would be suitable.

  • Levers - swapped with rear brake now on the left
  • Grips - changed to my fave Yeti's during the lever swap
  • Saddle - Fizik Gobi, watch the seat post bolts tho - they're made of cheese
  • Pedals - Time ATAC
Weight; a smidgen over 28lbs (no pedals), which is fab considering the price and fact that it's fully suspended. The large diameter tube walls sound impressively thin compared to our other rigs, I guess that the beauty of a hard alloy (7005).

Components worth of comment...

Brakes; Avid's Juicy 3's are proving to be dependable albeit noisy when wet stoppers and the larger front rotor (180 to 160 rear) provides oodles of bite. I'm disappointed by the amount of lever movement (50%) before the pads state to bite. Perhaps it's a quality control thang (fluid levels?) 'cos over the wkend we had two sets of brand new Ultimate's, one with the same 50% idle lever movement and the other with immediate bite. MrsDozer's Nerve also has lots of lever play.

Shifters; My initial cussing at Shimano shifters has been eased somewhat by Dozer pointing out that the dumb ass "finger" lever can also be operated with the thumb, ala SRAM-ies. Otherwise the drive train works fairly will with only the odd half shift experienced by the light feeling levers/mech - I'm used to a good ol'positive "clunk".

Fork; I've not yet mastered the Reba and it appears that few of my Pike learnings are applicable. However, I'm getting there and I also suspect it's still a little tight and needs a few more miles to before it starts to shine. I've noticed that the Bar mounted Poploc occasionally sticks which is easily overcome by twisting the fork adjuster - as you would without the bar lever, go figure. Rochshox's reliability will be most welcome with the amount of miles we'll steadily be clocking up.

Shock; The RP23 is an interesting beast compared to it's older RP3 which I'm more familiar with. The difference being that the 23 can be set with NO pro-pedal i.e. fully open and a user selectable pro-pedal on setting. Unlike the 3's light, medium, firm pp. It does seem psi sensitive on the Nerve as pedal bob can become quite pronounced - something I don't recall on my vanilla RP3/5Spot combo. As the shocks are the same length/stroke I'll be swapping them around once I've acquired a suitable "pin" spanner to undo the Nerve's top mount, grrr another "specialist" tool.

Tyres; Schwalbe's Nobby Nic's are proving to be dependable all rounders being both impressively fast and with reassuring bite both on and off road.

Pic's; here.

Conclusion; In the Nerve XC it seems that Canyon have themselves a nicely sorted rig that quietly gets on with business. It's shown it's versatility during both the daily grind with rapid mile crunching and also at play on our beloved dirt cosseting the rider over the rough. Stomping out of the pedals (about as scientific as it gets!) it doesn't induce any 'orrible floppy moments so it seems to be well designed and bolted together - with plenty of greased components, even the full length of the steerer.

For the price you'll be very, very hard pressed to acquire a similar spec'd fully and this internet only retailer definitely gets my vote. This particular example is only fractionally more than the frameset alone.

Future Tweaks ?
  • Reba, extend to 115mm (spacer removal)
  • Shorter stem, currently 100mm - possibly with a bit more rise
  • Nic's for Racing Ralph's
  • possibly replace the Shimano shifters/rear mech with SRAM