Monday, March 31, 2008

Ddave's XC hardtail

I purchased a Orange Clockwork frame about a year ago. I liked it's looks and it sort of rode ok in a straight line but refused to corner and didn't really fit me.

I eventually bit the bullet and started trawling eBay for some cheap XC hardtails.

Numerous options came up, with some base model Treks, a few Hardrocks and Rockhoppers, but they all seemed to go for too much. And certainly more than I was willing to pay for them as I remembered how much they were from my Leisure Lakes days.

I stumbled across this beauty by accident really, and after a bit of research on Solid's website, decided to go for it. I set myself a limit but managed to come in much under that, winning the auction for £50 + p&p.

The frame itself is an 07 model, and ex display. As such, it has a few marks on it, but these were all easily rubbed off with a finger nail. I can't complain as it came with a full warranty.

I'd heard of Solid before as they make some pretty awesome DH frames, but not really heard anything of their XC range.

I have to say for the price I can't fault it. It's light, responsive, climbs well, turns well, and seems very confident descending. The frame quality itself is impressive, with some nice hydroforming (frankly darling, you've got to have hydro forming these days!) and neat dropouts. Only catch is that it's not full outer, but I'll get the drill out next time I need to change the cables.

Spec wise it's been whatever was lying about, with the only new things being the excellent XT shifters and rear mech, and Deore cassette.

The flats are on there as I'd just been down the shops, but otherwise I only spin on SPDS.

For £50 + the cost of the gears, it's perfect. Well worth a look if you're after a cheap hardtail to blast about single track on. It'll also double as my commuter now I can get to work without having to go through a river...

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Can't wait...


Saturday, March 22, 2008

DDave's new Cannondale Judge

The Judge Arrives...

As you probably know, I managed to crack my trusty Gemini frame. Thankfully, it was still in warranty, and after a bit of persuasion, Cannondale agreed to replace it with a Judge (as opposed to the Perp they initially offered).

I am really beginning to miss my Gemini... I had developed a rather irrational attachment to it, after all the places I’d been on it; Fort William World Cup track, numerous welsh/Shropshire races, and 2 years in France. I knew how it rode, it suited me, and never once did I feel it was holding me back. Say what you like about single pivot – it works, especially if you put in the right place!

Well, the Judge turned up on Thursday and of course I could barely wait to build it up – in fact I didn’t! By 11.30, it was fully built and ready to go!

The Detail

The Judge/Perp ranges are effectively evolutions of the Gemini platform; using similar front end designs but with more travel and reinforcement.

The most noticeable difference in the two frames is the rear suspension; The Judge has 9 inches of staged travel. The old Gemini was a simple single pivot, and while the swing arm was a work of CNC’d art, it was prone to flexing. To be honest it’s not something that I ever noticed throwing me offline, in fact it seemed to help give a ping out of corners….

Anyway, back to the Judge

It has two little neat links that “actuate” the shock – not only does this stiffen up the rear swing arm but also gives a 3 stage travel effect the first stage is supple for small bump performance, the 2nd provides a stable platform for pedalling and the 3rd is ramped for big hits – making sure that full 9 inches is on tap when you need it most.

All in all, the frame is finished to the high standard you’d expect from C’dale, here are some of those:

* Judge machined out of box section in the swingarm – looks proper trick!!!
* BB and pivot mount one piece BB shell is 83mm wide for extra stiffness and better chainline (yup, that is 83mm!)
* 12mm Bolt through rear axle
* Beautifully CNC'D Links
* Floating brake arm – isolates braking from the suspension
* Gear cable routed through the swing arm keeps everything nice and neat
* 1.5inch headtube keeps everything stiff and strong

The build itself has been a straight forward transplant from the Gemini, with the only new part needed being a new set of Saints to accommodate the wider BB shell. It came supplied with a brand new DHX5.0 – this came straight off and my Push’d Ti sprung unit went straight on in its place – eBay for the new shock, then!

* Forks: 2007 Marzocchi 888 World Cups
* Cockpit: Easton EA70 31.8 Lo-rise bars on a direct mount Straightline stem
* Drivetrain: Full X.0 (Carbon Shortcage rear), PC971 chain turning a Durace cassette
* Pedals/Cranks: Burgtec Penthouse Flats MKII (simple the best, do some research and be prepared to fall off your chair when you find out how much these flat pedals cost! These turn in some new spangly 83mm Saints – you just can’t fault um for sheer stiffness and strength. Keeping everything in order for the last 3 years is my trusty MRP T3.
* Wheels: EX823’s and a spare set of EX721’s on Hope Bulbs
* Other: Sunline grips - the best I’ve found to date, Hope bolt up seatpin, (no need for QR and it looks neater) Thomson Elite seatpost with a SDG Bel Air for those sit down moments – soon to be replaced by a racier Funn saddle (when it turns up).

It’s got a killer spec, and on paper it should ride great if the reviews are anything to go by but I’ll just have to wait and see. I'm certainly very chuffed to have a frame I've wanted since it came out! Further pics can be found here:

Friday, March 21, 2008


Yesterday Dozer and I consummed the last of our annual leave and sneaked off up to Cannock Chase for some knobbly action. We'd originally considered an assault around Hope and fly down Jacobs Ladder but alas the weather conspired to put dampeners on that idea. With less than favourable weather reports we opted for the less exposed FC site of n.Brum, as it was the wind was howling on the ridges and I bet the Peaks were much worse.

As it happens this was going to be one of the more knarly rides that Dozer has attempted on his new steed and thinking about it the "Ladder" would have probably been too much too soon for the big lad who's still familiarising himself with his rig. Since bedding in his bouncer, he's been concerned that the spring within his Pike wasn't beefy enough - so gradually introducing knarlier and knarlier terrain should give us a better idea if it actually needs changing. Numerous comments on the web all suggest that someone of his "girth" will need a mega xtra stiff coil, not that we know what's inside his...

Yesterday started bright and calm here in the Magic Kingdom so we were soon loaded, stocked up on fresh coffee and heading north. Relatively little traffic meant we made good time and we were saddled up and heading over to the trail head in no time. Damn, the revised opening section is a beaut - being tight'n'twisty with the polished cobbles causing your rig to slither around underneath ya. A few subtle tweaks to our shox's calmed things down a little and after a few miles we were dialled and flicking in/out of the trees.

The trails were dry with hardly any puddles or slime to negotiate, "could this be the same Cannock that's typically submerged" :p

I was very pleased to find the new sections had bedded in much better since my last visit and that they'd not broken up into a sludge bath. There's now a good mix out there that allow you to practice berms, jumps and linking fast/slow open/tight corners - well done to the trail pixies. Actually I found some of the more established sections were faster now as they'd mostly been brushed clear of their loose marbles.

Dozer found a terrific spot to lie down, right in front of 20 youths, after failing to clean a large knarly oblique root atop a short rise. I myself was fortunate enough to have a front row seat, tx D ;)

I'd already warned my companion that I intended to hammer the next section, the sweeping open section just after we'd normally return from the heath. We found that it was blindingly fast and even though it's suffering from huge, long braking bumps I found I could clear most of them after launching off the 1st :D I railed the berms and was soon at the other end with my eyes watering from the speed and g's. I was then so fired up that I blitzed the subsequent cobbled rise in the middle ring.

Finding the final section closed we were soon back at the start and mulling over what our next loop would be. "Head up across the heath for a bite to eat at the cafe?" or "blitz around another loop of FtD?" or "both?". Either way we'd start with the opening section of FtD so after a fairly cautious first loop we both raced off into the splendid 1st section again. With much of the short trail now fresh in our minds we were able to open the taps a little and pick cleaner lines between the obstacles, well almost, towards the end I was looking so far ahead that I completely forgot about a monster puddle which was only brought to my attention by a cold and damp feeling - eek. Much to Dozer's amusement I pulled my soggy boot out of the gloop and chuckled my way back to the finish.

Completing loop#2 we headed over to Birches Valley cafe for a cup a joe and a bagette whilst we blathered about all things knobbly.

Recharged we decided to rip out another loop but found the drizzle had turned the exposed cobbles into attention focusing slippery blotches. Keeping an eye out for the damp bits we still had another fun loop that oddly seemed to dry out towards then end that soon had us both racing for the finish.

Dozers coil Pike didn't blow through it's travel and looked very supple throughout. So D's next big outing needs some pukka knarly trails before his lordship can decide if he needs a firmer coil. My Pike felt much smoother since s.Wales having soaked the stanchions in teflon, although it did start to feel notchy again towards the end of the damp 3rd loop.

Sneaky mid week rides are the best :p

Posse; Dozer (Canyon), Farqui (5Spot)
Weather; overcast, windy, drizzle on loop#3
Mechanicals; none

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Brechfa, Derwen

The last ride of our trip was a little gem I found last September, it's a complete hoon of a trail and I simply had to come back. I'd done my best to explain it's "style" to Uphilla beforehand and wanted to hear what someone else thought of it. It's only a few miles down the road from Abergorlech and as we were passing it'd be rude not to make use of the trail fairies efforts :p

It's graded green from the start with the option of a little blue loop halfway around but after just a couple of sections Uphilla was struggling to believe any novices would be comfortable with it's opening salvo's.

Unlike the Gorlech trail the Derwen doesn't gently ease you in, it sets out the style early on and gives you more and more of the same. It's a great way to learn how to tackle berms, small jumps and better still how to pump for "free" speed and keep your knobblies hammerin' along.

The climbing is steady and a mix of fireroad and broad hard packed slate that my Bonty's appreciated a little more than this mornings surface. Quite impressive considering it drizzled throughout this ride - not that it dampened my enthusiasm. Or perhaps the additional grip this afternoon was simply down to the flowy nature of the turns ?

Did I mention the flow, my goodness in most sections you could see soooo far ahead that choosing your line was easy and safe, just as well 'cos the speed often had my eyes watering :p

Again I clocked a number of hawks that weren't just circling overhead, they'd be slicing and dicing their own trail through the forest.

The last section is the cherry on the cake and a great way to end a short blat around the woods. Now we can understand the comical first sign that comes shortly after leaving the car park which suggests the "1st short section". However having ridden it you could easily hammer through this last bit half a dozen times for some seriously fun "sessioning" :)

The smooth surface was great for Uphilla's dicky shoulder and he claimed not to have suffered at all. Some might prefer lumpier and more technically challenging trails but I'm sure this route will bring everyone a bundle of fun that I found to be quite addictive and could easily of had another loop had we had time.

So in the space of two days, I've had three awesome rides on superb trails, each with their own character and challenges. Fantastic.

Uphilla, thanks for driving and I hope that you're not too sore...

Tracklog and pic's here.

; Farqui (5.5 Spot), Uphilla (5.5 Spot)

Weather; overcast, breezy with misty rain cooling our hot heads ;)

Mechanicals; none

Brechfa, Gorlech

Day2 of our sneaky mid week trip greeted us with a pleasant calm day and even a smidgen of sunshine. After a hearty breakfast we drove around the Brechfa hillside to the quiet village of Abergorlech and the quiet trail head for the Gorlech trail - named after the local river.

Neither Uphilla or I had ridden this trail and I was keen explore it's length and with a gentle ascent we began the next leg of our journey. A few km's in and the double track eased to a wide path before starting to gently wind it's way into the woods. The climbing continued into a fantastic atmospheric section amongst moss lined spooky trees, which I found mesmerizing. I surprised a bird of prey towards the top and the large red kite swooped from down from it's perch and elegantly flew off down the tree lined trail - awesome.

There's a fair bit of fire road on this ride but they have gentle inclines and have plenty of loooong views to entertain ya. Before the halfway point we were guided into a felled section of the hillside which is reminiscent of Cwm Carn's highest point on the XC course with berms, small jumps, table tops and lots of cheeky little lines that often used tree stumps as launch pads. It'd be great to ride this bit again but unfortunately we didn't have time to look around for a route back up.

This trail has been designed/built very well indeed as it gradually starts to get more and more difficult and although it's graded red both Uphilla and I found bits some of the subsequent bits were worse than Afan's black. The trail is predominantly compressed, credit card sized slate which my Bonty's found quite slippery in places. Mind you the super flowing sections are designed to keep your speed up and with lots of free speed available if you have the guts to hold off the brakes. The switchbacks aren't much slower as they're mostly massive berms that grab, spin ya's around and then catapult you even faster down to the next obstacle. The trail easily hits some fierce speeds and I dread to think how painful a wrong decision might be.

The trail gets more intense the further you progress and a particularly fast and ill predicted berm had me at a full stop atop an odd little section that starts between a couple of trees. I've not suffered "mind games" for a while but the line though this played on me and I decided to leave it for another day. As I recall I'd already slithered around a couple of loose'n'steep berms not too mention the odd fast sideways slither all of which had clearly got me rattled. "Breathe" ;)

This little beauty gets a big Farqui rating and will definitely see my knobblies again.

A Tracklog and few pic's of our trip can be found here.

Posse; Farqui (5.5 Spot), Uphilla (5.5 Spot)
Weather; overcast, a few sunny spells, breezy
Mechanicals; none

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Skyline 3/4's

In order to use up my remaining holiday I arranged with Uphilla to have a sneaky couple of days away from the daily grind with the objective of acquiring some top rides. A few deliberations had us settle on South Wales and even the poor weather plus doom'n'gloom forecasts didn't prevent us getting an early start on Weds morning.

With fresh legs we planned for our first ride to be the longest, Afan's Skyline which would finally settle the debate of how good the sections are after the 2nd short cut.

Arriving mid/late morning amongst broken sunshine and gusty winds we set off up that 6km climb we're all familiar with. I'm not sure if it was driving to/from Sunderland the day before along with our journey west, that I'd gone at the ascent like a lunatic or that fact that you get ZERO warm up - but by the 1st switchback I had a nasty headache, stomach cramps, the sniffles, wheezing and the wobbles...and we'd only just started. Fortunately my companion is wiser and was taking a steady approach to which I soon settled into, after half an energy bar, a layer lighter and a few more km's I felt much better.

The recent storms hadn't left their mark and although the trails were a little damp there was plenty of grip, the puddles gave you a chance to practice "manuals" :p The wind didn't affect us until we were topside and even then it mostly seemed to be behind us.

We steadily cranked our way to the 2nd shortcut which denotes the July trail we usually follow but this time we headed left to take in more miles. The shortened Skyline is a schweet route in itself but this time we were keen to explore and checkout some new sections.

After some fire road we nipped between the stile of Short'n'Sweet but rather than getting a nice section of singletrack we were greeted with a silly short few feet that simply cut a corner off the fire road. With thoughts of "oh no what are were doing?" we cranked onwards into Riding High which has a super vista over a tarn. On the Edge had plenty of loose rocks to tug at your front wheel but was exposed to the elements so we pushed on.

At the next munchie stop we took stock of Uphilla's poorly shoulder and the weather which was now blowing a gale and worse of all turning into a headwind. My tough buddy had managed much more than I thought he would and we decided to leave the last two singletrack sections for another time so we headed down the 3rd short cut. To get there we first had a fast section of fireroad to negotiate...easy eh ? Yeah provided you don't have a mighty cross wind with gusts hammering into ya.

Next up were Handy Andy and the Grand which pretty schweet sections in their own right and the latter has a fantastic loose boulder in which to test your mettle. Imagine a few hundred metre's of loose scree the size of car battery's and you'll get the picture. Much to my amazement Uphilla made it 3/4's of the way through before a nasty twist/impact stopped him dead and in obvious pain. To his credit he dusted himself off but he was now riding much more cautiously. Fortunately the following singletrack was mostly fast but smooth open sweeping turns where you can easily pick your line 3-4 corners ahead and hammer through safely.

The connecting fireroad then brought us back to our usual short cut and my old favorites of Fast Forward, Joy Rider and Deadwood with it's rock staircase.

THAT (yes you know the one) nasty last fireroad climb is still naughty and does it's best to deplete your reserves before the switchback descent continues to punish your aching body.

Whoop, whoop and double whoop - this trail is a beauty, no doubt about it.

Our accommodation for the night was tucked the other side of Brechfa forest and around an 1hr's drive from Afan. The NonniBarn b&b is a veritable gem with comfy sofa's, a roaring log fire, very comfortable rooms and a HOT TUB :D

You'll find a Tracklog and pic's here.

Posse; Farqui (5.5 Spot), Uphilla (5.5 Spot)
Weather; overcast, sunny spells, windy (VERY)
Mechanicals; none

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

South Downs Way Randonnees 2008 BHF

I have just found out the dates for the 2008 British Heart Foundation - South Downs Way Randonnees.

I have registered my interest and they will be sending me out an info pack and application form.

Let me know if you are interested and want to know more when I get the pack. I plan to do the 65 mile trail on the 28/06.

Note this will be a sponsored event for the BHF.

See link

Monday, March 10, 2008

Crack 'n' Fail

Crack 'n' Fail.

  • Noun Commonly used in replacement of the Cannondale brand name.
  • Adjective Used to describe what Cannondales do

I recently replaced the headset bearings and forks on this bike and whilst doing so noticed a suspicious looking black line on the headtube/downtube weld. A quick trip over to Pleasure Snakes on Saturday has confirmed that it is indeed cracked:( No more Dh riding for a while, then.

I'm hoping that I can get a replacement front end (later years have a reinforcing gusset in this area) or they'll just give me a brand new Cannondale Judge in replacement!


On the 4th November 2007 had a little fall from my horse, landing oddly, my left boot seemed to stick the the ground and I spun round on it, something had to give and it turned out that was my tibia and the muscles across the top of my knee.

This is what it looked like 6 weeks later, for those with knowledge of such things this is a CTI scan, they let me play with the machine in the hospital, it shows brilliant 3D images, the detail is amazing and totally belied by this rubbish scan. In case you can't see it the break is vertically down from the tibial plateau on the right hand side of the picture.

Anyway, after 7 weeks it became clear that I had at least another 4 months in a cast and drastic action was required. I switched from the good old NHS who had done a sterling job if a little conservative up to then.

Spire Harpenden had a rather different approach that looked like this, a couple of 3 inch self tappers to hold it all together.
I was walking again 2 weeks later and at the time of writing this 20 weeks later I am about 90% recovered just with a little pain, especially in the cold and some hard to shift flab but perhaps that's not related? For some strange reason I am not able to pedal standing up, I don't really know why, my leg just doesn't seem to be able to make the movement anymore.

The pins will come out again probably late in 2007, and the other question everyone asks, no, the horse has not gone for pies, look at his little face, how could I?

Of course the pins are XTR, I would have nothing less, they are Ti, my health insurance wouldn't quite stretch to the carbon fibre version but I can slum it I guess.

The most disappointing part of the whole experience is the fact that the accident was totally undramatic, I have rarely had such a soft fall, landing cleanly on my feet. It just goes to show there's a random element to any accident and when I fell 15ft out of a tree the other day with only bruises I went straight to the shop and got a lottery ticket hoping that the luck virus (dwarfers will know what I mean) had not yet worn off, sadly it had.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Spot the Difference

Apart from the obvious, "one's the left and the others the right"...

Since swapping the levers over on my Canyon I've not been happy the lever position or how the brake snuggles up to the shifter. So last weekend I whip'd off the Sh!mano shifter gauges and now the lever falls to hand and everything snugs up nicely. As I'm now yanking the end of the brake lever the Avid's also have a bit more bite :D

Oh and how's about an alternative post title ;)

"How to make Shimano even more like SRAM"