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Playing with the Parrot

As I mentioned earlier this year, I managed to accidentally buy a drone with Matt W, namely a Parrot Bebop 2 which was intended for use in Les Arcs to maybe, just maybe, get some “non-standard-GoPro-hammering-down-the-trail-holding-on-for-grim-death” type footage.

The basic idea was that the Bebop would be small enough to carry in our packs and stable enough to not get blown away by sudden alpine gusts of wind at the top of Mont Jovet on Saturday.

However, with a rapidly diminishing number of days to go before wheels down in Les Arcs 2017 I realised there was a slight flaw in this well thought out plan – basically neither of us have tried:

a) actually carrying the drone in our packs

b) actually trying to film bikes

So, this weekend a few of us headed up to the Punchbowl with the Parrot neatly tucked into Matt’s pack (tick) and with the Parrot’s “Follow Me” functionality installed and ready to go (tick).

Basically what this allows you to do (trees and other obstacles permitting) is get the Parrot to focus on the person carrying the controlling phone and it’ll try its best to auto follow you down the trail, keeping you in focus as best as it can.

There were a couple of “holy crap” moments as the Parrot sailed VERY close to a couple of trees but essentially all was good. You have to ride quite close together if you’re trying to get a group shot and I’m not sure how the Parrot is going to handle if speeds get very high. However, I’m genuinely impressed and it bodes quite well for trying to film above the tree line in the Alps at any rate.

Checkout the our first attempt below.

G-13 prior to the Alps

Me and my Mojo G13 “gelled” last night (and just in time, with Les Arcs looming!) over the course of a cracking ride up and down the Temple of the Windz on a fantastic Summer Solstice evening.

It is expected (by Chris) to write about your new bike, you know, “how was your first ride”, “what are your first impressions” and such like…. but during the last 2 months I’ve felt like things weren’t right enough to talk about.

I mean I hadn’t “dialled-in” the set up to fully do the bike justice. Or indeed I thought, this could be bollocks!!  Perhaps more accurately, in my hurry to build up the G13, I’d buggered it up!

The small 10t Hope cassette needed a chain that could cope, so the first one went into the bin, my seat was too far back, I didn’t tighten the chainring properly, leading to a rebuild, the handle bars were too low and my Mallet pedals hit the dust, leading to SPD shuffling on shiny new HT pedals that entailed taking multiple “nettle baths from hell” for a couple of weeks.

The journey has been long… (and considered… [ed]) but with the last fettle on Thursday night of adding riser handle bars I’m now very, VERY at home on my new bike and oh my it’s a whole lotta fun!!

This is the bike I’ve always wanted, but prior to this I had accidentally bought a very nice bike (50% discount my excuse) and this is a good way of letting you know what I have now.

My old bike was an aggressive Specialized Enduro 29er. 155mmm at the rear and 160mm at the front.

In the first two weeks of owning it, I replaced the brakes, seat post, handle bar stem (much shorter),  bars (much wider) but more telling was it was still way “too upright”

I reduced shock pressure for more sag, put in an offset bearing and a 10mm spacer between the forks and the frame, but it still wasn’t slack enough!

The geometry was the same as any cross-country 29er in the 69 to 71 degree range and a year ago there were no “progressive” 29ers. I see them coming onto the market now, and this year 29ers are being used on the DH circuit but the daddy of them all, in my opinion, is my bike, the Mojo Nicolai G13.

It’s a glorious looking machine, an all “raw aluminium and Kashima’d monkey”! Oh yes, it’s a long, low and slack 29er to be sure.

Evolution of my Nicolais
The beast

 

I have mine set up in the low setting (slacker)  64.2 degree and you know, in the first few yards it feels normal, “a tad different” but also very normal. All that wheel in front brings bags of confidence.

I set off on my first ride on the flat for starters and let me tell you this bike is responsive. Put in some effort and off you go, it just … keeps … accelerating… (yeah ha!!!), turning some dull flat trails, in to super-whizzy-turny trails. (note to self need to be fitter and maybe I do need a bigger chain ring).

Oh yes. the “turny” bits. So is a super long bike, poor in the turns?

Well my first proper corner was hammering into into Yoghurt Pots up at Peaslake, and wow, the G13 just absolutely railed it! The 2nd time down, I smashed my PB and had a total ball.

The G13 is surprisingly agile, popping around all over the place. I do feel I’m slightly getting pushed over the front at times, but raising the bars and a riser bars on Thursday has totally sorted that.

I have the suspension feeling fantastic, and the fiercest Surrey rocks and roots are a joy as you float over them. This bike does downhill with no sacrifice in the corners. Getting the whole bike in the air as a bunny hop is fine, but lifting the front wheel up is a bit tricky because it’s just so “planted” I’ve discovered getting the front wheel up needs a slighly different technique (which is probably the correct technique of pushing rather than pulling). On Thursday all this was coming together and it felt mighty fine.

There’s also a bizarre bit too. The G13 climbs like a goat strapped to a rocket, no seriously, I really mean it, it really, really does And it’s a bit weird!

I’ve claimed hills where I’ve normally pushed, which if I’m honest is quite enjoyable and slightly novel!

There some technical reasons why it does this including the seat post angle for one. As the testing fraternity have often mentioned it climbs and climbs, it really is that noticeable.

So There you have it. I summary the G13 is a beast. It climbs like a pro, oozes confidence, is very responsive, is totally huge bags of fun, and it is now very comfy. Sorted

Bring on Les Arcs is all I can say .

Mark T

Riding the Summer Solstice

OK, so the summer solstice was technically speaking on Wednesday this year, however, one day late, we had a well timed TFIT – and as is tradition, we marked the occasion with a ride out to the “Temple of the Wiinnnddddsss” (Blackdown) in Haslemere.

If I’m honest I’m always a tad sad at this time, cos you know, it’s gonna start getting dark soon… (what a misery guts I am…) but riding with your mates who are all fully frisky in a pre-Alps trip kind of way?

Priceless.

So my advice, get out and ride – you’ve got until July 1st before sunset starts getting earlier…

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!

 

Deathgrip

Brendan Fairclough, Brandon Semenuk, Josh Bryceland, Sam Hill, Andreau Lacondeguy, Sam Reynolds, Ryan Howard, Nico Vink, Andrew Neethling, Dan Atherton, Kyle Jameson, Olly Wilkins.

Yeah, that’s kind of a role call of the “somewhat super-talented” and “substantially fearless” right there.

So Mr Fairclough’s long gestating MTB monster of a film “Deathgrip” is out on various channels today. I’ve just pressed the hot and sweaty “buy” button on iTunes and will be enjoying this later tonight but in the meantime, check out the trailer if you are in any doubt at the size of these guys balls.

 

TrailAddiction no more

Wow. What a shocker.

While waiting for a code build this morning I had a quick browse of the interweb for all things MTB and Les Arcs related (37 days and counting) and came across the TrailAddiction site.

Or rather I didn’t, because all the site has on it is a “highly sterile notification” that TA have gone into administration.

This is super sad news because Trail Addiction have been stalwarts of Alps related fun for many a year and I know a couple of people who thoroughly enjoyed trips with them in the past. My heart also goes out to anyone who has (or had) a trip for this year booked with them as the statement on the site (related to package holidays):

These holidays will not be going ahead…

…seems fairly brutal and final to me. According to the TA site, it also looks like the Les Arcs Enduro2 event has been canned as well. That sucks. It really, really does. If you know anyone who has something booked – pass the word.

#Update – apparently this happened in March – shows you how on the ball I am! However, it still sucks monkey balls…

TrailAddiction? #TrailRehab

Helmet Swenge

Swenge

/sw-EN-j/

noun informal

  1. Originating in South-East London as a slang term referring to something which is dubiously sweaty. Can be used as a derogatory term for a person.

e.g. “Ewww, he’s a bit swenge” or “I get really swenge when I run

Helmet Swenge

/Hell-met sw-EN-j/

noun very-informal

  1. Made up by me last night as I felt the need to take my helmet into the post-ride shower because it was so vile and foul smelling it nearly made Mrs M vomit on the spot.

e.g. “(Mrs M) Oh my God, go away, you really smell. (Me) That’s not me, that’s my helmet swenge

 

So my top tip of the day is for the sake of domestic bliss, you need to get rid of your “Helmet Swenge” (and let’s be honest, if you’re riding at the moment you WILL have Helmet Swenge) by taking your lid into the shower with you.

Shower Gel helps.

You look weird.

But it helps

If only I’d fitted a tow bar

I’m lucky enough to live in a part of the world where I can ride out from my front door and get to a mass of excellent trails without ever having to look at my car. But, as with everyone else who likes to mix it up occasionally there comes a point where your MTB has to be attached to / inserted into your car to get to the trailhead.

And seeing as I live in the UK where a pickup truck is not really an option as a daily runabout that means using a bike rack of one kind or another. And that, if I’m honest, terrifies the living pants off me.

You know, that highly uncomfortable feeling when you catch sight of the “bike shadow” as you drive (clearly at no more than 65mph…) to the ride site and feel that slightly puckering feeling as you see it wobbling around in the wind or as you go round the corner.

So I’m always interested in any method of “securely” and “safely” transporting your beloved and highly precious bike that does not involve borrowing a van from your local friendly Bob. So it was with great interest I followed a link from James G this morning to check out Scorpion Racks.

This Surrey Hills based company offer a very sturdy and securely fixed mounting rack (with two fitting options – plate or towbar) which will take up to two bikes, is apparently Carbon Fibre friendly (they are from Surrey after all…), folds away and allows you to still access the boot if needed.

It’s not cheap at £349 but to be honest, securely fitting your bike to your car is not really something you want to skimp on. So all I’ve got to do is fit a towbar…

Consider the G13

So Mark T is 50. Let’s get that out of the way first. To celebrate he bought himself a new bike – a Mojo/Nicolai Geometron Ion 13 (G13 from now on – not typing that again).

Mark is not only 50, he is also a number or other things.

A bit left field? Certainly. A demon suspension fettler? Unquestionably. Perilously fast? Beyond question. So busy at work he could’t write a blog? Definitely.

But is he highly considered in his kit choices? Yes, 100%, unequivocally without a shadow of a doubt.

This bike has been a long time coming (I’ll let Mark describe the saga of the carbon wheels at a later date) and watching Mark going through the process of choosing each bit of kit has been a pleasure (if a confusing one at times).

So Mark, Bob M and I headed out on Tuesday this week for a brief Punchbowl leg stretch and the silver demon that is the G13 was in attendance so I thought I’d take the opportunity to badger Mr T for the reasons for his kit choices. Again, I’ll let Mark report on his first riding impressions at a future time as my brief spin on the G13 could not do it justice.

I will say however that it’s a “slightly strange” looking thing. Not in a bad way mind you, just in a “you can tell it’s a bit different” kind of way.

Various bits of the bike are just “a bit longer” or “a bit shorter” or indeed “a bit slacker”. But the overall impression is that of a much smaller bike (for a 29er) than for example the Specialized Mr T used to ride. But OMG it’s long. Longer than a very long thing with an extra bit of long added on.

Well unfeasibly long or not, let me tell you that holy bananas Mother of God it’s fast. I mean jaw droppingly, leave you eating dust pedaling furiously to keep up fast. On Tuesday we ran down Flat out Fun and Mark just simply dissapeared….

Wow.

However, I digress. Onto the kit.

The frame is obviously a Nicolai Ion-G13. Mark’s wanted this since they were first announced, simply because 29er’s have not been this slack since, well, ever. So you think that’ll make it hard to climb? Guess again. Mojo and Nicolai have taken care of that issue by having such a steep seat angle.

Bounce is handled at the rear by a 2017 Fox Float-X 2017 (there are other acronyms associated with this –  namely F-S, K, 3pos-Adj Evol LV, but I’ve frankly no idea what they mean) and up front by a beast of a thing – a 2017 36 K FLOAT 29 F-S 160 RC2 BLK 15QRx110 1.5T R-51. Yes, I also played spot the acronym on that one. And lost. All I can say is that it appears rumours of the “death of the long travel 29er” do not appear to have reached Mojo HQ. Front and back are complimented by a Fox Factory series Kashima 150mm dropper. Mark however says it:

…(the shock) looks good, is tuned by Mojo and the piggy back air can reduces heating up in the Alps… (the fork) is super sturdy and offers lots of fine tuning and (the seat post) matches the others…

Stopper pots are Hope Tech 3 Evo 4s dual-pots which are very tidy indeed. Mark noted that they are also pretty light, usual super Hope hight quality and have let him use smaller rotors for the same stopping power.

Go gear is sorted by Shimano XTR shifters (the only ones that can handle frost and mud and still maintain a rapid change says Mark), Shimano XT rear derailleur, a Hope 28 tooth crank (yes – that’s not a typo – 28), a Hope BB, and XTR 11 speed chain and a VERY nice Hope 10/44 cassette which is specific to the Hope Boost Evo 4 148×12 hubs. Of the cassette Mr T says:

… a light 11 speed cassette , together with Hope drive saves a lot of weight – and cost! But I still get a big range

Other kit is handled by Hope for the headset, Renthal for the carbon bar, grips by Ergon, pedals by Crank Brothers, rims are Race Face Arc 30s, seatpost clamp by Hope and tyre duty is performed by Maxxis Forekasters (which is a new one on me).

So all round some amazing kit on this beast of a bike but perhaps the most unusual is the seat – and this is one you won’t be finding on Wiggle. The seat is a custom carbon creation by British Aerospace. Yep, you read that right… oh yeah, and it weighs 125g. Don’t be thinking it’s uncomfortable either – it’s flipping not – it’s amazing!

So all in all some amazing kit on a genuinely impressive steed. Let’s see which PRs Mark manages to destroy on this evening’s TFIT….

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