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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.

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MTB brakes. Important? Yes. Something else that I was able to obsess about? You know it!

As with tyre choice (and indeed any other primary component choice I guess), getting it right is important at any point of the year but the warmer the days get and the drier the trails, the more getting your choice right can impact on your summer.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been been let down by my brake choice in the past but I also confess – I do like Shimano brakes.

I’ve had SLX and two different sets of XTs and these have always performed flawlessly in the Surrey Hills BUT have tended to put their tail between their legs and ran to mum when they saw their first Alp. This has now happened to me on my last three Alps visits.

I’ve dabbled with increased rotor sizes, swapped pad compound for the appropriate conditions and have become a dab hand at bleeding Shimano bakes.

I even tried braking less. That sort of worked but may have aged me by about a decade…!

And although all of these things have made small performance gains, not one Shimano set has ever made a full Alps trip or indeed, as happened recently, a full day at Bike Park Wales.

So this year I’ve vowed to do all I can to address this and have fitted, what the TFITers regard, as the de facto brake for all occasions.

Hope V4s.

These have been beautifully fitted by the guys down at MB Cycles in Haslemere and I’m pleased to report a brief test ride yesterday was as drama-less as it’s possible to be. I’m VERY pleased to report that the brakes did not throw me into the nearest tree when I looked at the levers and the response from squeezing the lever is not wooden, or harsh (two complaints I’ve heard previously).

Indeed if I had to pick a phrase to describe the Hope brakes, it would be “smooth, assured and insistent”. So take that internet – in your face.

Clearly with the trails being 89.7 pure Surrey slop with the rest made up of snow and dog bombs, this is not the time of year to gauge just how effective an upgrade this will be or indeed to try to understand what the advantages of floating rotors are versus standard ones.

However, so far I can say I am very happy with the Hopes. The proof will indeed be in the riding and we’ll see how these puppies handle La Plagne, Les Arcs and Tigne in the summer.

Rootin’ tootin’ winter tyres

Howdy folks, a couple of weeks ago I was thinking I really need to re-shoe the trusty sled with some winter slop tyres, the Specialized Slaughter on the rear just wasn’t cutting it. Then after a 32 miler with Mark T in the slop and slime of Trail Break’s ‘Turkey Burner’ ride, which took in the delights of Shackleford, Puttenham, Crooksbury, Hankley and the Punchbowl, my burning thighs were either telling me ‘time to ditch the beer and turkey diet of Christmas, or find something that actually propels you forwards in the gloop that has developed during the winter period (see below).

IMG_3781

Some phone calls to my local LBS’s proved fruitless, I would normally put a matching Specialized Butcher or a Purgatory on the rear, a combo I have trusted for a number of years (all in the 29×2.3 Grid flavour). So a few searches later I was presented with a very tempting offer from CycleStore – the Specialized Hillbilly, again with the tougher grid sidewalls (something I consider a must on 29in wheels for stability and non burping) for just £25 each. A pair arrived about three days later, and with minimal effort the old rubber was replaced and set up tubeless – swearing or lubricating wasn’t required to get them on the Easton Heist Rims with a 30mm width. Both front and back were inflated to approx 25psi.

Yee-Haa, off into the great wide open meant a Sunday morning blast up and around Hydons Ball, a good mixture of mud, loam, sand, jumps, berms and roots. Immediately I noticed a higher level of traction, deliberately trying to spin the rear proved difficult, lean the bike over, it all remained sure footed. The wide spaced tread meant any mud cleared easily. Basically I just forgot about how different these tyres were supposed to feel and just got on with enjoying the ride, attacking an off camber corner or grinding up the steep sections of Hydons – all was dealt with, no fuss, no dramas. Quite how draggy they are going to be on tarmac I don’t know yet (or really care) it’s just how long they last. To be honest It feels like I’ve literally rustled these tyres from the supplier, an absolute bargain although I’ll be more than happy to swap back if conditions improve!

Hillbilly1
Setting up tubeless was a breeze
Hillbilly3
Wide spaced knobs (snigger)
Hillbilly2
Cuts well through the West Surrey Mud

Fat boy Brakes?

As I wrote in my last post, my somewhat melted Shimano XT pads from the summer have been weighing on my mind a bit.

If I’m honest this is mostly because those “bronzed little beauties” reminded me that I have a biblical need to get at least one Alps trip in my life where my brakes make it all the way to “day four” without running up the white flag of surrender and boiling away into the ether.

So it was that this afternoon, I found myself speaking with Tom down at MB Cyclery in Haslemere ** who told me about Shimano’s up and coming M8020 four pot (yep, count them) brakes.

According to the Shimano site, these new brakes (which are aimed at the e-bike market but will also suit normal humans) offer a 20% improvement in brake power, massively reduce the risk of overheating and if they are capable of stopping an e-bike at full chat they are indeed the fat boy brakes I’m looking for.

The callipers look remarkably “Shimano Zee” to me, but let’s be honest that is not a bad thing and there are “rumours” your existing XT brake lever “might” just cut the mustard and be transferable. I think this is a very exciting announcement and it’s also not a bad thing seeing as the callipers are expected to sit around the $100 mark (pricing TBC apparently).

I may not be in the e-bike camp just yet (and hopefully not for a good while) but I see no reason why I can’t start fitting e-bike kit to my rig asap!

Roll on my February when the M8020’s are released and conveniently also when my Scout will be getting her spring service. At this stage I can definitely see a pair of Shimano’s new four pots in place as soon as they become available in 2018.

 

** MB Cyclery was previously Cycleworks, but now Mike and Ben are running the show, still offering with the same level of superb expertise, Orange, Whyte and Trek steeds, top notch servicing and all round grooviness but now with some added Troy Lee gear (and potentially other boutique bikes… maybe…). They are my go-to LBS and I absolutely recommend them 150% if you are in Surrey and in need some MTB love, general help or advice. Pop in and say hi or checkout their website here!.

 

Do I need to upgrade my MTB brakes for the Alps?

So I was rooting around in my “box-of-general-mtb-related-crap-that-has-no-natural-storage-space” looking for an unused set of pads. A TFIT related brake failure last week demanded a quick rear brake bleed.

And what do you know, as the comparative image above shows quite nicely, I came across my XT brake pads that were removed “after” the Mont Jovet descent Les Arcs in the summer.

So when I say removed, perhaps I should say “melted”. Can you spot the difference?

 

I’ve no idea exactly what temperature is required to “burn off” the black coating from the pad’s fins. Let’s just go with “very extremely quite hot”.

So, if the question is “do I need to update my MTB brakes for the Alps? Then yes. You do. No really, just get it done…

Spaced Out: Nicolai Mojo G13

Ok, so grab your anoraks people!

Anyway, I felt like I should give a view of fettling with forks, specifically the forks on my Nicolai G13. I’ve been reading around various websites and it seems that changing the air spacers in a fork is a common thing to do (!) and manufactures cater for this, making it relatively simple to do so.

However, for me, being a bit “old school”, taking your forks apart fell squarely into the “difficult / if ain’t broke don’t fix it” category.

However, I’m still working on getting my new bike dialled in and having owned a number of forks, both Fox’s and Pike’s, I was a bit perplexed that my new Fox 36’s weren’t as comfortable for me as they felt they could be.

It has been a latent itch that really needed a good scratch. So that was it, I decided to MTFU, I was going to have to take the forks apart and experiment with this spacers thing. What could possibly go wrong?

The story is that if you’re getting a bit fat (Ed: Aren’t we all…) then you simply put some extra volume spacers into the forks, and hey presto, you don’t bottom out as easily and the forks hold up better.

I totally get this. Very logical.

My problem however was the other way round. My forks were feeling very much “firm” and “sluggish” and not as “compliant” as I wanted.  I also still have a dodgy shoulder following an Alpine stack of biblical proportions a couple of years ago and I know that this wasn’t helping but compared to my old Rockshox Pikes, it was definitely noticeable.

I also think I have lost a bit of weight (not always a good thing) and more to the point with slack angles the forces directly into the axis of the fork are diluted just a little bit.

So I concluded to open the fork up and take out a spacers….and, I’ve got to be honest, it is extremely easy. I did miss out on the slick honey, let out the air, undid the big bolt, slid off “o-ring”, slid off extra volume spacer, put “o-ring” back on, slid in the “spikey thing” (technical term) after coating with slick honey, tightened up big bolt (220 lbs/in), pumped back up the fork and hey presto, job done!

All I have to do then was go for a ride.

The result? Well it did just exactly what I wanted to achieve. A noticeably “softer squidgy” feel, with a bit more rebound in the fork. Or perhaps I was now getting the right amount of sag at the recommended forks pressure.

Also of note was that before I would have everything wound fully open,  low speed compression, high speed compression and rebound compression. Now I can put on a few clicks on/off to get further dialled.

If you are contemplating doing something similar I suggest you watch this 2 min video from Fox. And a massive thanks to Bob M for the loan of a torque wrench.

http://www.ridefox.com/help.php?m=bike&id=575

So I am one happy camper with this little fettle, and I’ve have a nice little introduction into the black art of forks tuning.

Spacers are a good thing. All you need to do is just get comfortable with idea of fiddling with your forks. Gulp

Mark T

Altitude Sickness

Every year this happens. You’ve been bombing around all year on your bike. Got winter out the way with minimal damage, hit spring hard, and fine tuned early summer. The bike is running spot on. Pressures are angled and travel is pumped, and you fondly pat your bike after a ride.

Then the Alps start looming, and suddenly you start looking at your bike in a completely different way. So now my bike is up in the stand, and I have altitude sickness: Lordy me, look at these tyres – basically slicks, and the pads are gone (they’re fine), when did I last change the bb? (Maybe I should change the whole chainset?) Is this dropper post feeling sticky? Wait – is that a KINK in my brakehose! How did I survive the last ride – let alone the season? Someone find me a computer and a credit card…

This phenomenon sneaks up on you, and I count myself lucky that I caught it in time. I did order a new tyre (ok – there may have been other things too) but after fitting, I suddenly noticed I had the wrong one – I wanted the thick-walled enduroallmountainradhardcore type, and what I had was the ordinary kind. (The same kind that had pulled me up and down the Surrey Hills for the last year – not to mention a clutch of top tens – even a KOM or two) But nope – now its just not good enough. Its not ALPS enough. Grabbed my phone and double checked the order – they must have messed up? Nope – I messed up. Can you return a tyre after it’s been loaded up? E-Bay? Check online – oh yeah, this version sucks. The other one is like 5 stars everywhere. What the hell was I thinking? What if I put the old one back on? Ok STOP. Deep breath – the tyre is fine. It’s just the front – the rear was still enduroallmountainradhardcore. It would be fine. This is altitude sickness, that all. And that was that. I cleaned up my tools, put the bike away, and slept well that night, knowing the bike was ready, and I did not overreact.

Sunday morning 7:30am. Ordered new tyre, paid extra for next day delivery. My name is David and I have Altitude Sickness.

 

 

Retail Therapy: Alps ready Transition Scout

I am a tool.

27 Days until we hit Les Arcs for the “Foam Tour 2017” and I managed to bugger my knee during last night’s TFIT. And the most annoying thing about doing that? I did it just dismounting from the bike onto some uneven ground – no failed “6 foot gap jump” for me – oh no, I just have to get of my bloody bike! The net result of this awesome skill? I’ve hyperextended my knee.

Not the end of the world I know, but deeply annoying (and highly painful to boot). Also annoying because I’m supposed to rest it for four weeks and I must…

… avoid the activity which caused the injury in the first place, particularly if that is a sport…

Right. Yeah, that’s gonna happen – not.

Anyway, knee related shenanigans aside (and not forgetting a massive thanks for all TFIT attendees who put up with my moaning last night!) I’ve consoled myself with a bit of retail therapy today and some minor pre-Alps preparation for my Transition Scout today and I have to say, she’s looking ready and raring to go.

The “enhancements” are fairly minor if I’m honest – I’ve fitted a Specialized Butcher Grid and Purgatory Grid front and back respectively and they are looking good. I do like Spesh tyres and the grids did sterling service last year in Morzine. So aside from new brake pads (which I’ll fit a week or so before we go) I’m basically done on the bike front – benefits of having a new bike I guess!

I also took the opportunity to replace a slightly faulty tubeless valve and replenish my tubeless goo (technical term). Although in a slight departure from my normal choice of Stans, I’ve gone for Seal “Endurance Tubeless Sealant” and I have to say I rather impressed.

Seal’s goo spreads around the tyre nicely and certainly helped with the “tubeless-frantic-pump-of-misery” that if you run tubeless you’ll know all about, by sealing any small gaps before the tyre was fully seated. Very, very impressed with it so far. Although top tip – it dries really quickly on a newly laid warm paving slab. Which makes your significant other really cross. And they shout at you. And you have to clean it up…

I’ve also invested in a very overdue new pair of riding shoes. I’ve gone for Specialized 2FO which despite their quite narrow looking design are extremely comfy for someone with freakishly wide feet like me. I’ve not taken them out for a ride yet but they are very stiff, supportive and have well placed toe protection. And they have red bits on them. Red bits are important.

The last bit of retail therapy was a new pair of riding shorts – Endura MT500s which are great, roomy and comfortable and not bazillions of pounds either. Certainly not when compared the £90 Fox shorts I “briefly” picked up earlier.

So there, I’m done (with the exception of some new knee/elbow pads maybe), the Scout is ready and I cannot get through the next 27 days quickly enough!

 

Quote of the Day: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5

Tyres for the Alps? The question is currently burning like Madras with too many chillis in the minds of the TFITers at the moment.

What do you take? Speed or grip? Which manufacturer? Which type?

Then like a poet sitting on the throne of truth (…!) Matt W sent through a sage Whatsapp this morning of a quote he read on BikeRadar about the Maxxis Minion DHF 3c 29 extolling the virtues of 2.5 over the 2.3…

… but if gravity is the gravy on your riding roast, the 2.5in is unbeatable…

Quite what the tyres are like I have no idea (although they get 4/5 on BR and are outrageously chunky looking) AND Mark T is sporting a close cousin on the front of his G13 at the moment.

But I have to say, Guy Kesteven – just wow, that is definitely my quote of the day…

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