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Surrey Hills MTB

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…

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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.

 

 

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

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