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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!

 

Les Arcs MTB 2017: So what MTB do you take to the Alps?

The Alps. They are beautiful, they are awesome, they are total-and-utter-shit-grin-inducing-fun.

They can also be bloody scary!

Particularly if like me (and I suspect most normal riders) you spend 99% of your time on local trails which, with the best will in the world, are mostly ‘hilly’ rather than ‘mountainous’.

I can still remember my first Alpine (Morzine) MTB adventure and the feeling of total joy when we all got to the end unscathed. Tim W and I exchanged a look at the bottom of the last run and exhaled in simultaneous relief. How in the name of holy bananas, we had thought, that had been managed was an utter mystery, because if I’m honest the kit we rode and the skills we had were frankly not up to the job!

I for example did Morzine 1 on my Giant XTC 26er – that would be Giant’s super light, short travel, narrow bar sporting XC bike with precious little suspension up front – dear God.

However to put that in perspective, Andy C did it (and another subsequent trip) on a RIGID On-One HARDTAIL! But he’s not human, so that’s to be expected.

Anyway, enough reminiscing – in 30 days (yep, that’s one calendar month chaps!) the TFITers are wheels down in Les Arcs for “The Foam Tour” 2017 and with this incontrovertible fact in mind I thought I’d take stock of the steeds we’ll be taking with us this year and also the kit they run. If you are Alps bound for the first time this year and are wondering what it is everyone else rides, hopefully this will help.

Bikes and Suspension

Our bikes, they are many and they are varied. We have MTBs from Transition, Specialized, Mojo/Nicolai, Whyte, BMC, YT Industries and Orange. They are all awesome in their own way and the kit they dangle does the deed week-in, week-out for our normal rides. But they are, in essence ‘trail’ or ‘Enduro’ focussed (whatever that actually means) bikes and not downhill monsters by any definition.

As per normal we are taking the usual “Cove” of Transitions. This year we have a 50/50 split of David D and Matt W on the Transition Smuggler with me and Bob M on the Transition Scout. The Smugglers have 140mm travel up front (up from the stock 130mm) via a Rockshox Lyric and a Rockshox Pike with 115mm at the back coming from Rockshox Monarchs. The Transition Scouts have 150mm Pikes at the pointy end and 125mm from a Monarchs at the back.

Mark T will be unleashing his Mojo/Nicolai Geometron on the mountains this year which is just a mostly terrifying concept. After having been “rudely unseated” from his Spesh Stumpy last year it should be an interesting ride for him. Mark’s Transformer Geometron (although this is subject to change – or rather it depends which button he presses or something) will be running 130mm at the back and 150mm at the front provided by Fox Float X Evolution and Fox Float 36.

Stephan F will be back on his Specialized Stumpy FSR with “enhanced tail end bounce” – after having riding a couple of donor 29ers during his ‘chainstay-gate’ episode, Steve has upgraded his rear to run a 130mm Rockshox Monarch RCS Plus in conjunction with his 140mm Rockshox Pike at the front.

James G will be back on his YT Capra with it’s “monster / more than capable” suspension, 170mm front and 165mm back provided by a Rockshox Lyric and a Rockshox Monarch plus. Arguably the most ‘Enduro’ of the bikes we ride, James’ steed is very much at home sprinting down the side of the most vertiginous Alpine mountain.

Malcolm W will be back for the second time on his Whyte T-129 with a crazy maniacal grin on his face no doubt. Malc rides the shortest travel of the TFIT 29ers with the Whyte equipped with 120mm from a Fox 34 Float at the front and Fox at the rear but that was no hindrance to his enjoyment in last year’s trip.

Andy T on the Carbon 27.5 Stumpjumper,  RockShox Pike 150mm, Fox CTD 140mm and complete with the SWAT opening to hold beer, pasties and painkillers (and some would say a small nuclear power plant to make him ride that fast…)

Both Tim, Tig and Craig will be on their trusted Orange 5 Pro 26ers. As Orange say, if aint broke, it don’t need fixing. Nimble and solid, trail absorption comes from 140mm Fox at the front and rear.

Lastly Andy C will be back on his now very familiar BMC Trailfox riding like a proper hooligan once again no doubt, enjoying the benefits of suspension like no other mortal man has deserved (having ridden the Alps three times on a rigid forked single speed On-One!). Bounce is provided from a Rockshox Pike RCT3 160mm up front and a 150mm Crane Creek DB Inline at the back.

Tyres

Best post-ride pub topic ever? Possibly true, but whereas Rockshox seem to be winning out in the suspension of choice at the moment for TFIT rides, tyres, well let’s just say the choices are many (and ever evolving – I suspect there may be edits here):

  • Specialized Butcher Grid front and back for both me and Bob M
  • Specialized Butcher Grid front and Slaughter back for Stephan F and Matt W
  • Maxxis High Roller front and Maxis Minion SS rear for James G
  • Maxxis Minion SS front and Forekaster rear for Mark T
  • Maxxis Ardent EXO up front and Ardent Race rear for David D
  • Malc, Bob, Tim, Tig, Craig, Andy T, Andy C I have no idea – but they will be tyres. Probably

Brakes

“There are many MTB brakes, but this one is mine…”

The variety in brake choice is less varied here but the requirement is the same – good stoppers with a reluctance to fade under descents of up to and indeed over an hour! It still amazes me how those pokey little brakes from Shimano, SRAM, et al actually manage it, but they do. That said I will never forget being behind David D in Morzine as the “stopper-pots” boiled on his Gary Fisher. Hysterical (with hindsight) and terrifying in equal measure!

The brake choices for the TFITers are pretty much uniformly Shimano XT, with one set of Zee’s, James G’s SRAM Guide RSC 4 pots, Matt W and Tim W running Hopes and rotor sizes ranging from 180 mm up to 200 mm.

Helmets

To full-face or not to full-face – that is indeed the question! Most of us (I suspect because we are all so devilishly handsome – *cough*) will be opting for full-face lids just because you’re in the Alps and it’s fundamentally a good idea. Bob has recently purchased the latest incarnation of the Bell’s Super helmet, the Bell Super 3R which looks cracking and feels lighter than the Super 2Rs.

Bell Super 3R/2R converts include David, me, Matt, Mark, Andy C, Steve F, Andy T, James, Bob and Malcolm with chinguards “very much” attached. Craig and Tig have their proper full-face lids and Tim is the last of us hard enough to brave the trails with his normal helmet. Cos he’s hard. And a bit mad…

 

So there you have it – a variety of kit on a variety of bikes with an extreme variety of riders. In summary it seems that Rockshox are the mostly favoured of forks and shocks, with 140mm or more travel the norm up front but a wider variety of shock travel to suit the individual bikes geometry.

It will be interesting, once again, to see how our very much “trail” focused bikes hold up in the Alps. We’ve come close but they’ve not yet been overfaced in Morzine/Les Gets/Chatel (yet) but what about on the back-country trails of Les Arcs? Only time will tell.

Sense of humour and DaveFest 2017

Ride a mountain bike? Chances are you probably have a sense of humour – and you don’t shave your legs – and you like mud – just like the guys at Transition Bikes!

While drooling over the new Transition Throttle 27.5 on their site yesterday I came across a couple of highly appropriate “cos its Friday” type videos for your general amusement. The first is the “Carbon Hardtail launch” video:

These perhaps might also get the TFITers into an appropriate mood for tonight’s inaugural “DaveFest” ride at Peaslake (thank you for the bed space Mr D and sorry for naming this as a fest…). Also a massive thank you in advance is rightly due to Mrs D who is simply a legend for agreeing to not only put up with crashing but also has agreed to FEED a houseful of slightly smelly guys on Saturday am!

Yep tonight we all have a free pass to head out to Peaslake for some of the best fun in the Surrey Hills – it’s been a while and I cannot wait. I’m hoping we get to try the drops I saw Hoong K and James G having some fun on a couple of weeks ago as well as maybe a bit of “Barry knows Best” before retiring for several post ride beers. And then some more. Meeting a David D’s ready to ride at 6:00 sharp!

So – it’s Friday – settle back with your bacon butty and morning coffee and enjoy some more Transition love as well as “How to be a Mountain Biker” (cheers to James G for the link).

This second one is particularly for Matt W, who somewhat shares Transition’s feelings about eBikes methinks!

Transition Bikes: Throttle 27.5 and Vanquish 29er

Transition Bikes. I love em. I do. I’m biased, massively, I accept that, but when you love a thing that’s just the way it is and you have to embrace it.

So it is with no small amount of squeaky excitement I just read on PinkBike that the lovely people at Transition Bikes in Bellingham, WA have only gone and released two, yep read it TWO new bikes!

So I’ve beetled on over to the Transition site to check them out.

Both Carbon frames you say? Frame weight 3lbs you say. Super slack geometry you say. Very, very much gravity focused you say. Nom nom nommy nomster nom I say.

I think the Vanquish has it in the all-time-most-awesomely-named-bike department but I confess a bit of wee came out when I saw the Throttle.

WHAT A THING OF BEAUTY.

Smack me with a banana – I think I’ve finally found my mythical winter bike although there is no sign of them on the Windwave website yet.

 

 

Check out the Throttle and the Vanquish on Transition’s site. Now, how do I raise that n+1 conversation this evening…?

Les Arcs MTB: Emily Horridge, La Varda and Mont Jovet

We have 93 days until Les Arcs 2017 and so it’s very timely that James G sent me a cracking link last night to a video he found of Emily Horridge, our guide on the Saturday of “The Foam Tour” as we head up to (and down) Mont Jovet.

The video shows Emily absolutely hammering down another highly fabled trail in the region “La Varda” and having seen a couple of other YouTube specials of this trail, all I can say is just “OH MY GOD”. Aside from clearly being awesome on an MTB I’ve also decided Emily is 183.2% cooler than I already thought she was due to the Transition Bikes logo at the start of the vid (these things matter…!). If you’ve got 10 minutes and you want to appreciate just how hard Emily is riding the trail, watch the video and then compare to the (highly respectable) video of the same trail on the DirtMountainBike article below. I think the word I’m looking for here is “commitment”…

This sent me on a quick Googlespasm and I came across this great article on DirtMountainBike:  “Here are another three amazing Alpine tracks that you’ve got to go and ride” which quotes TrailAddiction boss Ali Jamieson listing three amazing videos (at least one I’ve posted previously by Lars Thore Aarrestad) and what do you know – the article has both La Varda and Mont Jovet listed. The La Varda trail is described “Technical, scenic and exposed” and Mont Jovet as “Out and Out the longest, best and most varied flow-fest of a trail, ever

Wow!

Les Arcs: 100 days to go

Woop Woop there’s 100 days to go. That, by any definition, counts as a good day.

Yep, in 100 days from today the TFITers will be wheels down in Les Arcs for the “2017 Foam Tour” and the next 100 days cannot go quickly enough in my book. To slightly focus the mind of the TFIT massive – that would be 14 weeks and 2 days in old money.

Working on the principle of 3 rides a week thats only 42 rides until the Mont Jovet climb of pain…. *gulp*. However, the clocks have changed and we are in the realm of post-work rides so this is only a good thing.

So, what else do we need to know seeing as time is getting short? Over to our “man in the know”, Steve F for the details:

Super Important News

The 2nd Deposit of £200 due from everyone (excluding drivers) by 5th April. No excuses please. This will leave a final balance of £185 due around 15th June.

Other Important News

  • There is still a bucket load of snow on the hills – check out the webcams here
  • Steve is fully in control of all things Les Arcs – but ping him any questions if you’re in doubt
  • James G is now coming to the party after initially denying any interest and then swooping in at the last minute. It’s all about the “Foam Tour” t-shirt methinks. Anyway, we have now cancelled one of the hire cars and James has booked two smaller cars instead. Bottom line is we can all now fit in and this is a good thing
  • Emily has promised not to break any of us. Actually, no, she hasn’t
  • In terms of the new bike front, Matt has got his new Transition Smuggler, I have just taken delivery of my new Transition Scout (it’s large, black and a total trail nutter). Steve F has a mended and enhanced Specialized FSR and a certain Mark “Foam King” T has just taken delivery of one Mojo/Nicolai Geometron frame…
  • Mr F has produced an excellent tour logo – “The Foam Tour” and Matt “T-Shirt Inc” W is getting these onto t-shirts, I am contemplating a tattoo on my left bum cheek. Yes, it’s that good!
  • Don’t forget to get insurance for the trip. I used snowcard last year and found them ideal for what we are doing. Others are available.

So, if you’re chomping at the bit like me and just for your general perusal, enjoy the following nuggets of “Les Arcs Goodness” from the interweb and thanks to Anant Patel, PJ Channel and Vincent Pernin for sharing the love.

Transition Scout? NomNomNom

So last night was an interesting TFIT in a number of ways, Steve F had his new RC3 Monarch Plus resplendent on his FSR and Bob M was demoing an Orange Four Pro from Cycleworks to see how it compared with his trusty Orange 5 26er.

Steve reported all was good and groovy with the shock but Bob was slightly less than convinced about the Orange. I think it was a good looking bike but without a doubt the frame was too small for Bob (a medium) and the headset was as tight as “Yorkshireman at the shops”.

It’s also (or at least the demo one was) twitchy as bananas on the trail. As with all modern bikes it’s “all out front” but the bike did not feel stable when the speed increased when compared to our other bikes, and in particular, in my opinion, Bob’s Scout.

Now speaking of the Transition Scout – last night’s TFIT was somewhat special for me as I managed to get to Cycleworks in Haslemere before closing and I picked up my new ride – and OMG she’s a beauty!

My new Scout frame has been augmented with a Rockshox Pike 150mm at the front (to marry with the Rockshock RT3 Monarch at the back) as well as a Rockshox Reverb Stealth B1 dropper.

The rest of the kit is a direct swap over from my Transition Bandit, (Kore, XT 1×11 with Blackspire go and stop kit with Hope on Hope wheels) and although there are some definite cosmetic improvements to be made (purely for vanity reasons…) including new grips, custom headset cap, red seat clamp and stealth stickers for my Pike – but essentially she is good to go.

So I very rapidly and roughly pressured up the fork to recommend level and the shock to get roughly 30% sag (definitely need to work on this when time permits to get it right) and barreled out of the door for a pre-TFIT and then TFIT ride.

Initial impressions – well the Pike was a revelation – although 10mm more than the build kit forks you get with a Scout I think I have very much made the right decision. Comparing a 2017 Pike with my 2013 Fox Kashima 140mm is a bit like comparing Apples and Aardvarks (things have soooo moved on technology wise) I have to say that hands down the Pike wins the favourite bounce battle. It’s an awesome piece of kit and tamed Marbles with ease, particularly in conjunction with the Monarch at the back in “Giddy Up” mode.

The Reverb B1 is also a massive improvement on my old Reverb dropper. Apparently Rockshox have re-designed the internals and again, initial impressions are it’s just brilliant. Very smooth and very controllable when compared to my old Reverb and the internal routing (mandatory for a Scout frame) is superb.

I was slightly worried that putting on longer travel forks would stuff up climbing on the Scout but I have to say – not in the slightest. The Scout feels super planted heading upwards and is, as Transition say, very ready for riding up and down hills! However, it’s the down bit where all the fun begins – the Scout just simply rocks. It’s a nimble, enthusiastic, trail monster and OMG it made me feel (if not look!) good. I love it – there – I’ve said it.

So a massive thanks to Tom P@Cycleworks for all his help building up the Scout – let the pre-Les Arcs shenanigans begin!

The Benefits of having a broken bike

Now luckily with the sort of person you get riding with us in TFIT, they are normally very receptive to lending less fortunate accomplices various pieces of equipment, including their newest and dearest bikes. The only proviso it seems is that you have to give a write up afterwards (and the usual ‘you bend you mend’ policy) so here goes…

With the chainstay well and truly knackered on my Stumpy, Mark was quick to lend me his Specialized Enduro 29er. Notwithstanding the fact that it needed some tlc (fix the flat tyre, degunk drivetrain and get all 11 gears operational). With that done and with some extra pressure in the shocks and fork we headed off for our usual romp in the Surrey darkness. It was on my way to the meeting point I felt an urgent need to raise the saddle as even in the ‘up’ position my knees were far to close to my chin.

That quickly sorted we were off, I can only say that this bike was like wearing a comfy slipper, the handling felt almost exactly like my own wheels, but with the added bonus that the monarch plus rear shock was a revelation, ground hugging, plush without excessive bob and still plenty of deep down grunt when everything got a bit more vertical and quick. Some quick Strava times confirmed that this is a bike I could live with very happily. I would put some thicker sidewall tyres on to help with a couple of sideways moments, and tune the front brake to prevent it being so grabby, but otherwise a very stable machine.

A week later and it was a very kind Matt who offered his very new and incredibly shiny Transition Smuggler, again in the 29 flavour.

Now, there was a slight difference in the condition of this bike. I did find a speck of dust on the frame, but thought I’d leave it, just in case that was how Matt liked it. I also resisted the urge to change any of the shock/fork pressures or the positioning of handlebars or saddle as Matt has a micrometer and he’s not afraid to use it. To be honest though his size is fairly similar to myself so this wasn’t really much of an issue.

The ride I did on this was a little different to our usual Thursday outings as I was with my nearly teenage son, so just a 9 mile trip starting from Puttenham and heading over to the Crooksbury pumps and jumps. Again immediately I got jealous of the ability of the rear shock (another Rockshox offering) and has me wondering about upgrading my Fox CTD. This bike was another ground hugging trail smasher, for myself I would raise the stem and handlebar upsweep to get me into a more comfortable position when attacking a downhill section or getting airborne, but when on uphill, gentle or flat terrain this bike was effortless. But oh my god the SRAM XX1 drive train was like a dream, so light and precise. A mere four hours later of washing and cleaning and the bike was ready to give back to its owner.

So just another thank you to the boys in question, it’s a good eye opener to realise the pro’s or shortcomings of your own equipment.

And if any TFITers, needs to borrow my bike (and I’m not using it) then just ask. I might just need to injure my bike more often.

Transition Bandit: Gone, but not forgotten

It’s a sad day today. I’m saying goodbye to a dear and beloved friend…. *sniff*… my Transition Bandit. Yeah, today is “wrappy up da frame” and send down to the lovely guys at Windwave ready for my new Transition Scout replacement.

Ah, I will miss my Bandit so very much but I’m content that even though she’s going back to the great “Bellingham, WA in the sky” while she’s been with me it’s been one hell of a ride.

My Bandit, bless every inch of her “awesome redness”, was without a doubt the best bike I’ve owned (so far). It’s taken me safely me down trails I never thought I could, and unseated me on more than one occasion just to put me in my place!

She’s made me look good when I was riding bad just as much as it made made me look bad when I thought I was riding great. She taught me I “could” just let go of the brakes and trust the bike when I thought I couldn’t and showed me I could have just as much fun in a bike park as I could on my local trails. Simply an infinitely better bike than I could ever be as a rider.

 

I guess if the definition of a great bike is “how wide is your post-ride smile” (and I ask you, is there any other?) then I know that even though I will have a tear in my eye when I seal that box tonight, I can tell you it will be more than compensated by the size of the smiles at the memories.

RIP Chris G’s Transition Bandit 650b: 2014 -2017

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