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Surrey Hills MTB

Bad language

I have a foul mouth.

Yes, it’s a problem I admit it, and I guess I should feel some kind of remorse about it, but I just don’t so there you go.

So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks going through all the footage (and OMG there is a lot) from the Gingerbread Tour 2018 looking for the slightly “rubbish” side of TFIT MTB.

Yes, it’s most definitely not all “sweeping left turns” or “berms of joy”. It’s quite “sweary”, mostly a bit rubbish but fundamentally it is deeply amusing.

So without further ado, I give you the annual “Outtakes Mashup” from this summer’s trip.

It is most definitely NOT safe for work! It is most definitely NOT appropriate for children!

Sorry Internet…

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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.

30 something

No, definitely not a reference to my age. No, that ship sailed well over a decade ago.

But it is definitely a reference to the 30 something days until we have wheels down in our two centre La Plagne / Les Arcs “Gingerbread Tour” 2018.

I’ve been (mostly) quiet on this year’s tour to date – guilty as charged. You can blame either GDPR or laziness, take your pick as both are to blame as excuses.

However I thought I should remedy that, put finger to keyboard and post a nugget of interweb goodness, because, well, just because I can!

Kudos to Thomas SOCQUET-CLERC for sharing the love including Shoshone, Blue Tomato and Redskins

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.

 

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.

Hope you like it

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.

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…

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