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Surrey Hills MTB

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!)

 

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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!

 

 

Shall we go ride in Les Arcs then?

Wooooohooooo.

Finally, we’re here. It’s been a long old wait but today, this most halcyon of days, it’s time to kick off “The Foam Tour 2017”.

After a successful “LAVOJ packing” last night at Matt W’s, the LAVOJ is now winging its way through France and the remainder of the TFITers are counting the seconds.

So, all I can say is, check your passport is in your bag for the 15th time and see you at the Star at 14.30 sharp.

And finally, a “Happy Birthday” to both Mark T and Malcolm W, well done to Stephan F for organising this year’s trip and have a good drive to the D brothers. We’ll see you on the flipside.

If I get time (and I’m not too inebriated) I’ll write an update while we’re on the ground about how my Transition Scout and perhaps Mark’s G13 is handling the Alps.

Transition Bikes: Engineered to Party

They’re having a busy year are those lovely people at Transition Bikes.

So aside from already launching two new carbon hardtails this year, namely the 27.5 Throttle (dribble…) and the 29er Vanquish (double dribbles…) they not only gone and done it again with the equally excellently named Transition Sentinel.

Transition Sentinel

PinkBike had some “spy shots” of the Sentinel the other day which I was deeply appreciative of but now you can see a +rider shot on Transition’s site, which 108% more awesomer…

So as I wrote a few days ago, PinkBike had a cracking article the other week about Transition Bikes new approach to bike geometry call “Speed Balanced Geometry”. I wondered out loud what that would mean for their 2018’s bike lineup. Well, it did not take them very long to answer that with the announcement of the Sentinel long travel 29er.

Looks like Transition have definitely found a bit of “Nicolai-esque” inspiration in this approach and totally made it their own, and I have to say – JUST WOW! OMG that’s a slack looking beast of a bike. And it’s grey. And that just helps. It just does. I’m also interested to see Fox fork, dropper (I think?), but can’t make out the shock.

If you want to see what Transition say about “SBG” (that just sounds so cool…), check out this video:

I cannot wait to see the full spec of the Sentinel when it’s released later this year. Of course I now have to try to work which of the three new bikes I would like most of all.

That could take months…

 

 

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.

 

 

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