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Riding in the Surrey HIlls

Simples

As a man, I am unadshamedly happy when I get my hands on a new gadget, thingamajig, whotsit, doodger (call it what you will). In this case, and with a mind to being fully prepared for our Alpine trip (now less than 60 hours away) I decided to try and get hold of a set of master link pliers. We all know what a ball ache it can be, sat trailside trying to free up a stuck masterlink, either your own, or a comrade in need. I hate seeing grown men cry, and carrying tissues in the pack just isn’t practical.

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I had seen something that had caught my eye in one of the MTB magazines and with a little searching found a company called Bike School Asia which were selling the doodar above. I did have some trepidation when the PayPal confirmation was in Singapore Dollars, which equated to £11, and even more so when I recieved an email from Bike School Asia saying they would ‘let me know’ how much postage was going to be. I had no such qualms when a well written email from them said it was on it’s way and that there would be no charge for postage!

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It is truly simplicity itself, it’s a definite ‘Ronseal’ type of product. It feels sturdy, isn’t heavier than any other set of tyre levers, and at a push I recon you could eat your dinner with them.

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Come on England.

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Seeing Double (Well, I think Phil did)

The bike fairy has struck again, a pair of 2019 Stumpy’s was hastily set up to demo around the Surrey Hill’s, and as it turned out a little further afield too. Certini Cycles had once agin supplied Andy T and myself with a 29er in Large and a 27.5 in medium to give our feedback on. A quick attachment of our relevant pedals and some shock and Fork fettling soon saw us on our way. These were the basic carbon comp versions so the Fox 34 Rythmn fork and simple Fox Float DPS evol can didn’t fill us with huge expectations, in fact the entire list of parts was quite underwhelming, but to be honest they do do the job, even the single pot SLX brakes, quickly brought down any excessive speed when required.

Almost immediately it felt comfortable, I was able to get plenty of pop, lean it over, get some air and all on a very efficient pedalling platform. In short it wants to go fast – but doesn’t dumb the trail down. The wide 2.6 in tyres initially felt odd, but they do seem to work. Also quite forgiving in my poor body positioning during some over eagerness through a little rocky section near Hascombe – I’m sure I’d of been off on some other bikes. So this bike fits very nicely into the trail side of things, the next day we were off to Wind Hill for some park action.

The plan for today was for us to ride both bikes and see quite how much difference they offered. Andy started on the 27.5 again, we both slowed the rebound down a tad (nobody wants to get bucked on some of the bigger jumps here). We gave the Bluetopia line a right good workout, and Phil who had also joined us got things a little pear shaped on an early run, but did the very blokey type thing of ‘nah I’ll be ok’ and as we couldn’t see any bones sticking out, we took him at his word. After a cup of tea and a sandwich we swapped the bikes over.

Now Andy has not normally been very complimentary about our ‘wagon wheelers’ but after his very first run down, he stated the bigger bike was simply ‘better’, so nuff said, although I have to add, the smaller bike was fun and possibly a smidge more agile when airborne. The bigger bike though is super stable, manoeuvrable and with a level of stiffness that even Stormy Daniels might appreciate.

With the better bits on of the ‘expert’ build, you know what, this could be the one.

Lots of footage below, including Phil’s OTB (courtesy of Phil).

Steve.

 

Getting all gingery

One of the advantages of my job (computerery related shenanigans) is every now and then I get to play with a bit of software or service that is, well, a bit cool.

And so it was recently that I’ve been playing with Apple Motion, a “Final Cut Pro-esque” thing for creating effects (specifically motion graphics). Of course, when playing with said offering from Apple I immediately seized the opportunity and threw together a video based on last year’s Alpine adventure using a template from VideoHive.

Seeing as this is a blog about MTB I am no gonna review the software or service here – suffice to say if a buffoon like me can use it, anyone can.

However to mark less than 50 days until wheels down for the “Gingerbread Tour” I thought I’d post the video here.

 

Do NOT feed the animals

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You might be mistaken, but drive another 200 yards past the entrance to Longleat Safari Park and you will find yourself in Windhill Bike Park. On the day in question I thought one of lions has escaped as there wasn’t another soul in sight. An easy hour and a half drive from the Surrey Hills area (outside of rush hour) will get you here, a couple of minutes pedal from the car following the signs and you arrive at the start ramp/shelter/office/refreshment area. Pay your £10 for the day and produce proof that you are a member of the B1ke network (free or full memberships available, you can also make a donation online to help keep the other free sites running) read the obligatory safety notices and you’re good to go. A quick chat with Richard Kelly (old school friend) and Director of B1ke.

I’d seen plenty of excitement on YouTube/Facebook posts, mostly of younger guys sending the pro line (big gaps, senders and huge drops) which isn’t really my scene, but I was eager to try the more accessible blues, reds and black graded options. That meant sticking to the right hand side off the ramp and over what was buttery smooth terra firma and some little rollers and berms on a gentle gradient, before you gradually start to pick up more free speed as the gradient steepens into bigger tables and berms.
To generate speed you have to get your groove on in the berms and pump sections, and when you do the line really comes alive. So a couple of laps of this to warm up and then onto Empuru (Red line). Having been told I need to add commentary on my edits I have done my best Chris, if you don’t like it, mute it!

Empuru is another step up in speed although it shares the same initial run-in as quite a few other lines do. The tabletops are bigger and faster, again if you can gain the needed speed out of the berms you are perfectly set up to fly over the four tables in a row, make the corner and straight into another set, then more, with bigger lines on the left hand side if you fancy them. Some cheeky scrub type turns and into a great set of swooping berms before a final bonus tabletop to finish. This to me is a perfect grin inducing bike park line where letting your bike run free and avoiding dabbing the brakes before the jumps is massively rewarding, with little danger of having a big off.

I tried the red graded left had line ‘Pass de dutchie’ and this is more natural, rooty, off camber with tighter turns, but didn’t really do it justice and I think I’d become addicted to the Empuru line anyway. If I’d wanted this type of trail I can always find it locally, still good though, lower half opens out into a couple of small drops.

Ark at E, the only Black line I tried TBH as I kind of got carried away on Empuru, not quite knowing what was coming is always a tad daunting, but all the features are doable especially with some preflight checks, should have run down this one again as I screwed up the bottom section which should have taken me further to the right and not up to a very large sender which wasn’t on my checklist today.

Had a quick look at the Proline, which is exactly that, sorry not for me!

So a cup of tea, from the smiling Luke, more chatting with Rick who decided a couple of laps would be a good thing for his dehydrated head and body and finally I followed a guy called Kim who had driven eight hours from Luxembourg to come here on a very impressive YT Tues, and yes he was smooth with more pop than Mr Bubble who works at the lemonade factory.

Not once did a tiger, hippo or gazelle cross my path but I’m sure they were enviously looking from their nearby lairs, this place is cracking, super progressive (I’ll be bringing my adolescent son very soon). Get yourself here before the secret is really out.

Steve

Weather

So Bike Radar recently asked the question “If you could ban weather which would you pick?” which is an excellent question IMHO, and one to occupy an entire Friday at the very least. I mean, we’ve all done it, got kitted up, then looked out of the window at the fat drops bouncing off the ground and… gone and put the kettle, But, I thought, what indeed would I choose?

Of course the correct answer is “None whatsoever just get on your bike and stop moaning” but that did not stop me thinking about MTB “weather” in general.

So how to choose? What are the criteria?

“Simples” methinks – I’ll just come up with a “TFIT Surrey Hills MTB Weather Scale of Truth“. Clearly this is a geographic thingy as I imagine anyone slinging a leg over their steed in Banff in mid-December is likely to face a “different scale of peril” than us down here in mild and nonthreatening Surrey! However, without further ado and in descending level of unpleasantness I present:

The “TFIT Surrey Hills MTB Weather Scale of Truth”

1) Swengemaggedon

One of “those” days. You were sweaty before you got on the bike, 3L Camelback’s worth of water is just not enough. Arguable to hot to work hard on the bike, but you do anyway – because if you stop insects will devour you. You consume extraordinary amounts of beer in the post-ride pub because you are convinced it will help you re-hydrate. It won’t. Any unwashed bike kit smells like the devil’s armpit. Clothing should probably be burnt post-ride as it will be just unspeakably nasty. Falls onto the floor with a noise like a frog exploding. Every head movement results in copious quantities of “weeks old ride-sweat” dripping into your eyes. It burns… IT BURNS…

2) Warm, dusty and dry

What the word “awesome” was invented for. Trails are likely to be hard-packed with not a sign of “mid trail mud” anywhere to spoil flow. You contemplate riding at any point of the day. Sod work, parenting, eating or other people. Your riding dangerously fast and it’s just fantastic on every level. High probability you’ll swallow one small and one “uncomfortably large” bug during the ride. The night’s are light until late and there is no better time to be out. Chance are this is why you ride and also the chances are everyone else in the family would like to come for a “family ride” as well. Leave before they realise you’ve gone. Shhhh…

3) Eeeee, that’s pleasant

I grant you it’s a bit of a “Yorkshire-ism” but you know the feeling. Sun is shining, probably still solidly dry on the trails. You are likely to illicit irritation from your partner by a) riding *just* that bit further than normal b) regaling your partner non-stop with how wonderful your ride was. Highly probable you will have a “smug mountain biker” face on at all times. Only reason for cleaning the bike is if you encounter a “dog bomb” mid trail.

4) Quite nice

Weather still ok, may be a bit cloudy, even the occasional shower is permitted. Mid-trail mud bombs are to be expected. Trails are running well. In certain “non-Surrey” parts of the UK this is when the thermometer gets above freezing. You may well have reached the halcyon stage of single layers of clothing.

5) “Meh”

More of an emotional response than a descriptive word. It’s not warm and it’s not sunny. It’s probably cloudy and probably dribbly. You might instantly regret clothing choice (or lack of it) as soon as you stop pedaling. You hold out eternal optimism that the sun might come out. It won’t. Get over it. RYFB.

6) “Sprinter”

Not quite Spring but also not quite Winter. You’re not prepared yet to abandon the base layer or winter gloves or even jacket. You grudgingly have to clean your bike – AGAIN – despite being sure you could managed a dry ride.

7) “Bitwet” or “Dribbly”

Definitely just a one-word description. The “wet” is not yet all pervasive yet but it is definitely determined. Tyres do a fabulous job of flicking water into your face irrespective of any “bike related protection”. Roots can be dicey.

8) Soggy / Sheeting / Just Bloody Unpleasant

OK. It’s raining. Deal with it.  It’s heavy, persistent and bloody cold. Chances are that is not a bead of sweat you can feel dripping down your back. If you don’t have a cold, you will soon. Usually occurs with varying degrees of wind which make it all the worse. Good chance you’ll have to squeeze your gloves dry at the end of the ride. Pub may not welcome you with open arms. Definitely cold. Did I mention it was cold? It’s cold. You will spend following day looking at summer riding videos to remind you why you do this.

9) Biblical

The rain is falling down, sideways and sometimes up. And it hurts and it’s bloody freezing. Face it, you came riding in a f*cking storm you idiot. Likelihood of being “up to your hubs” in mud of a questionable source is high. The back of your bike (and you) look like you’ve been mud wrestling. Despite showering you will find lumps of mud about your person days later. Often as hard to ride down as it is up. Tyre contact with root will result in instant death. Bike may stop suddenly in deep gloopy pit of mud while you continue into the nearest obstacle. Trees may spontaneously “deposit themselves” onto the trail. Base layer, waterproof and winter gloves fail. Is acceptable to be wearing full length tights. You contemplate digging out a drysuit for the next ride. People look at you like your a lunatic. That’s ok, you are. Pub tends to fall silent with disbelief when you walk in. Partner may change locks while you are out. If you get into the house at all you drain all hot water trying to thaw out.

10) “OhDearGodAlmighty”

Too cold to snow or too much snow. Everything is or will be frozen. Doesn’t matter how many layers you put on, they just don’t work. Chances are suspension, brakes and gears may seize. You are unsure if the crunchy noise is “tyres on ice” or just your knees protesting. You can’t speak. You contemplate peeing yourself just to get some lower body warmth. Rides can go direct to the pub without shame. You contemplate setting fire to a fellow rider just to get some warmth. Counting extremities when you get home is mandatory – particularly for guys. You will ask yourself just why did you come out FFS?

11) Cardiff

Nuff said. Wettest place in the UK apparently. If you ride here you’ve got balls the size of a planet.

 

So do I want to ban any weather. Naah – too many giggles! TFIT tonight anyone?

Enduro or Enduro (in pink?)

Two versions of the 2018 Enduro lined up in the Walking Bottom Carpark on a perfect windless Thursday evening, basking in 24 degrees with dry trails, that a week before had been slime and gloop for a shakedown ride courtesy of Certini Bike Company in Saltash. A gaggle of eight of us had been lulled to the trail head with the promise of single layered clothing and some ‘lights off’ riding. I had the 29in version in medium 160mm Öhlins RXF 36 fork with RockShox Monarch Plus out back, and Andy on an identical 27in version with 165mm travel.

Monarch shock was a breeze to setup, autosag is pretty good, but does need a little extra pressure, the fork however does require faffage. Without being boring you need to set the ramp up pressure in the lower (that replaces tokens in most other forks) then add air in the upper (as you would do normally). I got it about right, but even with the rebound in it’s fastest position it’s not as quick as I’d like. This might be correctable with more time, but would mean delving into the dark side of internet browsing and finding ten other ‘experts’ with their ideas to try out.

Anyway enough mucking about and losing the daylight we headed up for a favourite loop taking in Pitch Hill, Winterfold and a smattering of Holmbury Hill. Pedalling up was fine, if not enjoyable, it could really do with a longer travel dropper post 125mm doesn’t really cut it nowadays. And with a mind on the terrain coming up I didn’t want the saddle poking up too high. The summit soon arrived with a good smattering of like minded riders looking out across the Surrey Hills in that perfect evening glow.

And down thick and creamy we dove, this always has a mixture of fear and elation combined, you have to fully commit on this trail, steep bumpy gullies and then into some good sized drops, perfect for a long travel bike, and make it we did (with about 10mm of travel left). Big smiles, adrenalin pumping and a big tick to the Enduro. And so onwards, the rest of the ride is a little less hectic, but does take in some fast single track, twisting descents and loamy goodness.

For a very first ride the bike handles very well, you do sit more ‘in the bike’ than my existing steed, as the current trend for longer, lower, slacker prevails. The rear is definitely more burly and requires more effort to flick, front is lively and eager, it grips corners without the front or rear suddenly letting go and it crushes medium sized roots, rocks and debris with impunity.

We had to have a blast down ‘Barry’s’, and although some sections are quite worn it never fails to please and felt that bike carried good speed, and would have been better if I’d timed the pump sections better, I’m sure that would come with more time onboard. And to the pub, where a quick glance at Strava confirmed a number of PB’s. We discussed ornithology, fork pressures and everything in between over a couple of pints and everything was good with the world.

Need to get a demo on the Bird AM9 now!

Some footage below for those that don’t like their retinas.

Steve

strava eve

Rockin’ the Rockshox with DC Suspension

Ah it’s Spring.

The days are lighter, post-work rides are a possibility and it’s constantly raining. Yep, it’s definitely Spring all right.

And with now a mere 94 days until the Gingerbread Tour 2018 it is high time I spent some time getting the Scout into ship shape form for the large amount of riding I need to put in before July.

Aside from the Hope V4s I’ve fitted to my Transition Scout I’ve also just sent my Pike and Monarch off for an overdue service. Since Christmas my shock has been making a deeply concerning and very audible “squelching noise” when under load. Deeply concerned I’d eaten so many pies I’d broken my shock I was very relieved that a quick trip to my LBS confirmed it was cavitation!

This was a new one on me – apparently it’s when air gets into the oil and said gloop becomes a bit too foamy to function. Not good, not good at all.

And this is where I came across what I am currently regarding as my find of the year – namely the lovely guys at DC Suspension.

Based out in Albury in Surrey these guys can do everything from a basic service to a full strip down and rebuild depending on your needs for DVO and Rockshox. I’m not sure about Fox but I’m sure you could contact them to ask.

And aside from being very reasonable, extremely helpful AND flipping knowledgeable AND they send you photos of the internals – the absolutely BEST bit is that these guys actually come and pick up your gear from your front door (assuming of course you are local!).

So it was Damian Cannell from DC appeared at my door last Thursday night and picked up my fork and shock (they do this if you are in the local area), popping them into a rather groovy looking travel bag before whisking them off to their workshop for some TLC.

And the great news is that this morning I had a mail back from Damian and they are all done.  The great news is the Pikes have had a lowers service with nothing to report (other than the absence of tokens which I REALLY need to address!). The Monarch was generally in good shape but indeed the oil definitely needed replacing. Damian has also recommended a full service at some point in the next six months which I will definitely be doing.

 

So in summary – DC Suspension are in my opinion just bloody brilliant and I could not recommend them more. If you have some Rockshox or DVO kit and it needs some fettling – get in touch with them here!

Bounce on your bike is such an important thing to maintain and I have to say I will definitely be using these guys again.

Brendog and Brakes

So, following on from Storm Emma (or Maureen if you’re a TFITer) the snow has finally started to melt and there might just be a “wiff of spring” in the air today.

And in 2018 – spring for me means one thing – we have officially reached “bike fiddling” time!

For me, this year’s fiddle is a good one too – Ive been procrastinating (some would say obsessing…) about brakes since we came back from Les Arcs in the summer after yet another end-of-trip-melty-brake experience.

Everything on the Scout was awesome – except once again my brakes. So for 2018, we’re going hardcore, we’re going full on,  we’re going “rip your face off and eat a tree when you even LOOK at the brake levers”. All of that good stuff.

Yep, I’ve just ordered a fresh set of (red… it matters) Hope Tech 3 V4 brakes from the lovely guys down at MB Cyclery in Haslemere. The ever helpful Matt and Tom down there have seen me right and a fresh set of brakes and floating rotors will be winging there way to Surrey shortly.

I’m excited, I’m a bit scared, I can almost hear Bob M’s sigh of relief at my decision and I’m definitely quite a few £ lighter than I was this morning, HOWEVER, this is a long overdue upgrade.

And speaking of MB Cyclery, the guys down there are undergoing a bit of an upgrade themselves with a massive increase in the size of the workshop area. Not only does it look rather cool and have a very fetching “you just need to lean on it and drink an expresso” counter but they also have a certain Brendan Fairclough’s ex-Rampage rig on show.

Now that is a bit of kit thats seen some action. Nice…

Mighty Maureen growls in from the East

Allegedly it was meant to be the second day of Spring, but you wouldn’t have known from the -4C temperature and snow laying on the ground. But nothing much can stop a TFIT ride so with some excited WhatsApp banter during the week a number of us set out for a short Birthday ride.

Here’s what happened… (well some of the publishable bits anyway)

 

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