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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.

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Transition Scout: 10 days and counting till it gets a bit Ginger

10 days to go. TEN days to go. Spank me with a haddock it’s only ten tiny days to go!

Ahem. Can you tell I’m a bit excited? Maybe.

Anyway, yes, next week the TFIT massive are off once again to the Alps for some concentrated shenanigans of the two-wheeled variety and I’m very pleased to report that my Transition Scout has been lovingly prepped, polished and fettled to within an inch of it’s life.

Aside from the Hope V4 brakes I fitted earlier this year (which I am massively loving), the latest pre-Alpine fettlage has been a bit left field but the first impressions are really good – it’s all gone a bit oval down in the Surrey Hills for me.

Yep, I’m trying out a 34 tooth oval AbsoluteBlack RaceFace chainring which is… is… well, it’s a total punt to be honest. As a potential upgrade, an oval chaining was about as far off my radar of “things to do to my bike” as it possible. I mean round is good. Round is normal. Round.. is round!

BUT, following on from a lengthy chat (we love a LBC) with Matt down at MB Cyclery as to the potential merits (and pitfalls to be fair) of an oval chainring, I’ve taken the plunge. I’m gonna give it a bit more time before I draw my absolute conclusion but I have to say – my overall impression so far is very positive. Does it feel weird? No. Do you notice the action? No (unless you look at it). Does it help you get a bit more power down? Well, yes, I think it does. The other benefit I guess it that I’ve gone up from a 32t to a 34t with no noticeable difference.

I’m also talking a set of 3 spokes per side per wheel for my Hope Techs this year. As per normal I’m hoping not to need them but previous form tells me that at some point over our trip I’ll have an argument with a “marble” or two and I want to be able to attempt a repair without having to bail and go find a bike shop.

Aside from that I’ve finally installed my now tyre related “weapons of choice”, namely Specialized Butcher and Purgatory Grids (thanks Andy T) front and back respectively. These are now my standard Alpine tyres of choice, being super grippy in the dust.

Oh yeah. AND I’ve been buying GoPro mounts. I and my bike are a one-man camera rig. Clearly this appeals to my inner narcissist but my logic is sound I promise. Come August I am determined not to be watching only endless “Chest-cam” and “rear helmet-cam” footage on a permanent loop.

So we now have:

  • Parrot Bebop 2 (new frame, repaired and ready to rock)
  • Chestcam (naturally)
  • Bell Super 2r Top Helmet Cam forwards and backwards
  • Bell Super 2r Side Helmet Cam
  • Ass Cam (courtesy of a kEdge seatr rail)
  • Big Bar / Fork Cam (with an oversized GoPro mount)
  • And, Narwhal cam. Or as I like to call it, “idiot who has zip tied a selfie stick to his helmet” cam.

Too soon to start packing? Nah, definitely not.

Seeing Double (Well, I think Phil did)

The bike fairy has struck again, a pair of 2019 Stumpy’s was hastily set up to demo around the Surrey Hill’s, and as it turned out a little further afield too. Certini Cycles had once agin supplied Andy T and myself with a 29er in Large and a 27.5 in medium to give our feedback on. A quick attachment of our relevant pedals and some shock and Fork fettling soon saw us on our way. These were the basic carbon comp versions so the Fox 34 Rythmn fork and simple Fox Float DPS evol can didn’t fill us with huge expectations, in fact the entire list of parts was quite underwhelming, but to be honest they do do the job, even the single pot SLX brakes, quickly brought down any excessive speed when required.

Almost immediately it felt comfortable, I was able to get plenty of pop, lean it over, get some air and all on a very efficient pedalling platform. In short it wants to go fast – but doesn’t dumb the trail down. The wide 2.6 in tyres initially felt odd, but they do seem to work. Also quite forgiving in my poor body positioning during some over eagerness through a little rocky section near Hascombe – I’m sure I’d of been off on some other bikes. So this bike fits very nicely into the trail side of things, the next day we were off to Wind Hill for some park action.

The plan for today was for us to ride both bikes and see quite how much difference they offered. Andy started on the 27.5 again, we both slowed the rebound down a tad (nobody wants to get bucked on some of the bigger jumps here). We gave the Bluetopia line a right good workout, and Phil who had also joined us got things a little pear shaped on an early run, but did the very blokey type thing of ‘nah I’ll be ok’ and as we couldn’t see any bones sticking out, we took him at his word. After a cup of tea and a sandwich we swapped the bikes over.

Now Andy has not normally been very complimentary about our ‘wagon wheelers’ but after his very first run down, he stated the bigger bike was simply ‘better’, so nuff said, although I have to add, the smaller bike was fun and possibly a smidge more agile when airborne. The bigger bike though is super stable, manoeuvrable and with a level of stiffness that even Stormy Daniels might appreciate.

With the better bits on of the ‘expert’ build, you know what, this could be the one.

Lots of footage below, including Phil’s OTB (courtesy of Phil).

Steve.

 

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

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.

So I just can’t talk about it

Yeah. It’s true. I just can’t talk about it.

Despite the fact that I am in possession of some “hot off the press industry type spy shots” sent to me by a like minded sole which concern some genuinely innovative future mtb frame designs… I have promised I will not talk about it.

I just won’t…

*Sigh*

I ALSO cannot talk about the type of bike that the “individual who came by the above information” has recently acquired. Mostly cos that would sort of give the game away.

So I just can’t…

*Double Sigh*

And despite the fact this is the one and only genuine scoop I am ever likely to get in my life, a promise made to a mate is more important.

So moving on…

*Arse*

Anyway, to make myself feel better and because I’ve fundamentally got nothing to say in this blog post but mostly because the TFITers expressed a desire to see it – I thought I’d share a video for one of this summer’s “Gingerbread Tour” destinations – Tigne.

No-one has ridden there but if the little nugget below is anything to go by, oh yeah baby – bring it on!

Thanks to Mirko R for sharing the love

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