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Surrey Hills MTB

Scumbags in Surrey

So today is not a good day. I woke today to a flurry of Whatsapps from the collective TFITers – Mark T has only had his shed broken into by some world class sh*tbag.

And they’ve stolen not only his Specialized but also his Geometron.

Once again I sigh at the complete and utter f*ck-facedness of some of the world’s population. It may not be very PC, but I genuinely wish this person misfortune in their life. I hope, with all my heart, karma delivers them to a police station in the very near future.

Or even better, I hope the TFITers find out who it is and we get to them first.

Anyway, that said, if you reside or ride in Surrey or specifically the Surrey Hills and you happen to see a Mojo/Nicolai Geometron Ion 13 (silver) either on the trails or in a LBS please do drop me a line – I would very much be persuaded to offer a not insubstantial reward for the Geometron’s safe return.

 

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The Secret is Out

So the best kept secret in Mountain Biking for 2018 is officially out.

The best decisions are often made in haste, you know, no time to think. No analysis. No chin stroking. No faffing. There you go – bosh. And so it was, while David D (who has been sporting a Gingerbread man on the back of his Bell for nigh on two years now) was on yet another foreign adventure, in the pre-ride TFIT preamble this year’s trip was duly named.

And so it is with great pleasure I would like to share yet another bit of Mr F’s superb creativity in announcing “The TFIT Gingerbread Tour of 2018” artwork – supplies are limited – first come first served!

Am also very glad to see this year’s logo is 100% less “meat and two veg” than last years…

Well done Steve … that’ll be 169 days then.

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

Thoughts of summer

It’s getting cold. *Sniff*.

Oh yes, the mud pixies have definitely arrived and although we’ve not reached the “eyeball and feet freezing” stage yet, things are definitely feeling a bit autumnal on TFITs right now.

So as I nursed my slightly thick post-TFIT head this morning I had to smile when my mind was kicked back to memories of warm summer days and dusty Alpine trails as I received an email from Les Arcs MTB guide and all round awesome rider type person Emily Horridge at The Inside Line MTB with some big news for summer 2018.

For the coming year Inside Line are a very tasty looking fully catered package in Les Arcs but with the added benefit of 5 DAYS of guiding around the resort. If you’ve never ridden in Les Arcs, the collective TFIT can thoroughly recommend it as a destination AND when married with Emily’s guiding you can guarantee a fully “big day out”. This year Emily took us up and down the stunning Mont Jovet ride which you can read about here.

It also looks like Emily has been very busy scouting out another potentially awesome venue for back country MTB fun, now offering another catered and guided break in the Queyras Regional Park.

While we were being beasted up to the top of Mont Jovet Emily was describing this destination to us and it sounds awesome to put it mildly. You can check out the full details (as well as some of the other guiding she offers) on Emily’s site at theinsideline.com.

The other good news is that despite being 251 days away I think we have emotionally committed to MTB 2018 with Les Arcs again being our preferred destination!

Thursday post-ride pub sessions are just great!

Oh yeah – and for your Friday enjoyment, just a quick share of Dave D, Andy T and Steve F riding a section of “Thick and Creamy” last weekend (beautiful camera work by Bob!)

 

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

Tahnée Seagrave can’t be wrong

There are few facts in life I’m 100% sure on. I mean, beetroot is the devil’s food – clearly that’s one. Wet roots are the enemy, undoubtedly that’s another.

However, one thing I am definitely sure of is I do not and never will, sit in the “downhill-death-defying-ah-a-wet-root-hahahaha-i don’t-care” camp. That is for lunatics, and pro riders. And lunatic pro riders.

Like the awesome Tahnée Seagrave – all round top women’s elite rider, general bike-demon and very importantly – a Transition Bike Rider! So when Miss Seagrave smashed a win in Leogang this year on her new TR11 from the chaps in Bellingham I sat up and noticed just a bit.

Normally when I look at a bike with more than 160mm of front travel my interest tends to wain because downhill rigs are just beyond my bravery level. However those clever people at Transition have released the TR11 to the rest of us mere mortals.

It’s a beast, a carbon framed (9lbs – eek) rock and drop smashing monster with a drip list of bike kit to make the most ardent non-downhill rider have a bit of a “nom nom nom” moment.

 

And in true Transition fashion, aside from the gorgeous photos of the rig, a launch video is available to grace your eyeballs with. Thanks for the link James.

Les Arcs MTB: Done

So the TFITers are down from the final run, ending very appropriately at the bottom of Woodstock, possibly our favourite run of the trip. Yes, the Foam Tour 2017 has drawn to a close.

I’m glad to report everyone is in one piece – our bikes somewhat less so, but that’s to be expected after a weekend of big mountains and equally big descents.

I’m still trying to process the weekend (and the reality of another epic delay getting back from Geneva airport), however, I guess the big question is, “is MTB in Les Arcs worth it?”

Well, to put it simply, I can confirm that is an emphatic, unequivocal, massive YES.

Les Arcs is awesome. Different to Morzine / Les Gets in many ways and better in others. Personally I think the trails lean towards a bit more ‘real world’. They are rougher than we are used to (Marbles… they are everywhere) but I think all the better for it.

We’ve rode a checklist of the trails, Woodstock, Marsupalami, Le Tranks, Yellow Stone and of course the simply-epic-best-big-day-out-I’ve-ever-had on the Mont Jovet descent with Emily and Evan from The Inside Line MTB (more on that to come at a later date) and have all left with some stupidly wide grins.

The trails did not disappoint. They were technical in places and challenging in others but also felt very “familiar” to a UK trail rider. The major benefit to my mind though was there were no MTB super highways (like Morzine!) and 90% less braking bumps (yayyyy).

The most surprising thing of all though was just how quiet it was. Les Arcs is definitely not as popular a resort to head to and is all the better for it. Even on the Saturday (official opening day) we were blessed with VERY empty trails and VERY quiet lifts. Which was simply fantastic!

I’d recommend you get up to the higher trails if you can and weather permitting. The trails are very worth it and the views are simply stunning.

We stayed at an awesome chalet in Peisey (note: a great place to use as a base) and our a brilliant host (John – who has some new chalets through Icebreaker Chalets for riding and skiing as of next year) who fed us to within an inch of our lives.

Are there any downsides of MTB in Les Arcs? Not many, but I would recommend anyone heading out to take plenty of spares for your traditional MTB consumables (brake pads, mech hangers, spokes, bleed kits) as bike shops offering repairs were surprisingly a bit thin on the ground. I’d also very much recommend that you have some form of transport there as well – it does come in handy. If you’ve broken something I advise you head to Bourg St Maurice or to Moutiers.

Now that we’re back the TFITers are collectively and feverishly editing some footage together and I hope to get some videos up here soon so we can do some “show and tell”.

I think on balance Les Arcs has not fully woken up to the potential of MTB in the summer and unlike Morzine / Les Gets is high enough to still routinely get awesome winters so it’s not as important.

However, don’t let that put you off, it is 100% worth a visit and we WILL be heading back!

 

 

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