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Surrey Hills MTB

On and On and On-One

My trusty On-One Inbred has been around for a while now. Must be close on a decade. She’s been abroad to the Alps, covered most of Surrey, and even done a jaunt from Winchester to Eastbourne on the SDW. Not bad for a steel single-speed on basic rolling stock. Inevitably, being the ‘one’ in the N+1 formula, she was neglected. Dragged out for the occasional birthday or Christmas ride, then left on her own for months at a time.

Of all the things that could have failed – and there were many, the nail in the coffin was the seatpost. Welded on up there, tighter than a gnat’s chuff, there was no shifting that seatpost.

Now I do like a Christmas bargain, and having recently upgraded the drivetrain on the Smuggler, I had bits lying around, and On-One shifting inbred frames for chips, I figured why not get the old bird rejuvenated. The orange frame was an obvious choice, and all that was needed was a new seatpost, chain, bars and a shifter. All in, £180 well spent.

Long live the queen (even if I did have to file the drop-outs to get the wheels to fit).

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The Secret is Out

So the best kept secret in Mountain Biking for 2018 is officially out.

The best decisions are often made in haste, you know, no time to think. No analysis. No chin stroking. No faffing. There you go – bosh. And so it was, while David D (who has been sporting a Gingerbread man on the back of his Bell for nigh on two years now) was on yet another foreign adventure, in the pre-ride TFIT preamble this year’s trip was duly named.

And so it is with great pleasure I would like to share yet another bit of Mr F’s superb creativity in announcing “The TFIT Gingerbread Tour of 2018” artwork – supplies are limited – first come first served!

Am also very glad to see this year’s logo is 100% less “meat and two veg” than last years…

Well done Steve … that’ll be 169 days then.

BPW, The Return

It is not uncommon that something you did for the first time, is often a slightly lesser when revisited. For example take The Matrix Reloaded, sequel to The Matrix – crap. Or the Sinclair C5 the follow up to Clive’s ZX80 – utterly shit. You get the picture.

C5
What went wrong?

So, when it was suggested the TFIT crew visited BPW with most of the team (based on Bob, Chris and I’s gushing recommendations) I was both eager and concerned that perhaps we had over egged it. Chris G got very hot under the collar when he learned a certain Tahnee Seagrave was due at the park this day. And he nearly exploded when Simon (who was an estranged Cornwall TFIT guest for the day) announced he had her mobile number and had been texting her earlier that morning.

A dry, sunny, but cold day greeted us in Merthyr Tydfil on a midweek trip in November, and happy with that we faffed for a bit, a few nervous conversations abounded about just how big are the jumps, do I need all my armour on? etc before climbing into the uplift van (which didn’t smell any more pleasant than last time).

That was it, everyone was grinning like a loon, as we took on the flowing blue runs, arriving back at the pickup point I noticed something odd, no queue, something that persisted throughout the day (definitely ride on a schoolday if possible). We truly smashed the back doors in this day, with seven or eight runs squeezed in before the sun started to set. Couple of beers and a warm up before climbing into the frozen cars and vans for an unexciting run home. It was even rumoured that a few Dai Hard’s (see what I’ve done there) met up for a beer later!

Talk is of at least one other trip before the Alps call to us in July – can’t wait.

Video evidence below…

Rootin’ tootin’ winter tyres

Howdy folks, a couple of weeks ago I was thinking I really need to re-shoe the trusty sled with some winter slop tyres, the Specialized Slaughter on the rear just wasn’t cutting it. Then after a 32 miler with Mark T in the slop and slime of Trail Break’s ‘Turkey Burner’ ride, which took in the delights of Shackleford, Puttenham, Crooksbury, Hankley and the Punchbowl, my burning thighs were either telling me ‘time to ditch the beer and turkey diet of Christmas, or find something that actually propels you forwards in the gloop that has developed during the winter period (see below).

IMG_3781

Some phone calls to my local LBS’s proved fruitless, I would normally put a matching Specialized Butcher or a Purgatory on the rear, a combo I have trusted for a number of years (all in the 29×2.3 Grid flavour). So a few searches later I was presented with a very tempting offer from CycleStore – the Specialized Hillbilly, again with the tougher grid sidewalls (something I consider a must on 29in wheels for stability and non burping) for just £25 each. A pair arrived about three days later, and with minimal effort the old rubber was replaced and set up tubeless – swearing or lubricating wasn’t required to get them on the Easton Heist Rims with a 30mm width. Both front and back were inflated to approx 25psi.

Yee-Haa, off into the great wide open meant a Sunday morning blast up and around Hydons Ball, a good mixture of mud, loam, sand, jumps, berms and roots. Immediately I noticed a higher level of traction, deliberately trying to spin the rear proved difficult, lean the bike over, it all remained sure footed. The wide spaced tread meant any mud cleared easily. Basically I just forgot about how different these tyres were supposed to feel and just got on with enjoying the ride, attacking an off camber corner or grinding up the steep sections of Hydons – all was dealt with, no fuss, no dramas. Quite how draggy they are going to be on tarmac I don’t know yet (or really care) it’s just how long they last. To be honest It feels like I’ve literally rustled these tyres from the supplier, an absolute bargain although I’ll be more than happy to swap back if conditions improve!

Hillbilly1
Setting up tubeless was a breeze
Hillbilly3
Wide spaced knobs (snigger)
Hillbilly2
Cuts well through the West Surrey Mud

Thoughts of summer

It’s getting cold. *Sniff*.

Oh yes, the mud pixies have definitely arrived and although we’ve not reached the “eyeball and feet freezing” stage yet, things are definitely feeling a bit autumnal on TFITs right now.

So as I nursed my slightly thick post-TFIT head this morning I had to smile when my mind was kicked back to memories of warm summer days and dusty Alpine trails as I received an email from Les Arcs MTB guide and all round awesome rider type person Emily Horridge at The Inside Line MTB with some big news for summer 2018.

For the coming year Inside Line are a very tasty looking fully catered package in Les Arcs but with the added benefit of 5 DAYS of guiding around the resort. If you’ve never ridden in Les Arcs, the collective TFIT can thoroughly recommend it as a destination AND when married with Emily’s guiding you can guarantee a fully “big day out”. This year Emily took us up and down the stunning Mont Jovet ride which you can read about here.

It also looks like Emily has been very busy scouting out another potentially awesome venue for back country MTB fun, now offering another catered and guided break in the Queyras Regional Park.

While we were being beasted up to the top of Mont Jovet Emily was describing this destination to us and it sounds awesome to put it mildly. You can check out the full details (as well as some of the other guiding she offers) on Emily’s site at theinsideline.com.

The other good news is that despite being 251 days away I think we have emotionally committed to MTB 2018 with Les Arcs again being our preferred destination!

Thursday post-ride pub sessions are just great!

Oh yeah – and for your Friday enjoyment, just a quick share of Dave D, Andy T and Steve F riding a section of “Thick and Creamy” last weekend (beautiful camera work by Bob!)

 

Fat boy Brakes?

As I wrote in my last post, my somewhat melted Shimano XT pads from the summer have been weighing on my mind a bit.

If I’m honest this is mostly because those “bronzed little beauties” reminded me that I have a biblical need to get at least one Alps trip in my life where my brakes make it all the way to “day four” without running up the white flag of surrender and boiling away into the ether.

So it was that this afternoon, I found myself speaking with Tom down at MB Cyclery in Haslemere ** who told me about Shimano’s up and coming M8020 four pot (yep, count them) brakes.

According to the Shimano site, these new brakes (which are aimed at the e-bike market but will also suit normal humans) offer a 20% improvement in brake power, massively reduce the risk of overheating and if they are capable of stopping an e-bike at full chat they are indeed the fat boy brakes I’m looking for.

The callipers look remarkably “Shimano Zee” to me, but let’s be honest that is not a bad thing and there are “rumours” your existing XT brake lever “might” just cut the mustard and be transferable. I think this is a very exciting announcement and it’s also not a bad thing seeing as the callipers are expected to sit around the $100 mark (pricing TBC apparently).

I may not be in the e-bike camp just yet (and hopefully not for a good while) but I see no reason why I can’t start fitting e-bike kit to my rig asap!

Roll on my February when the M8020’s are released and conveniently also when my Scout will be getting her spring service. At this stage I can definitely see a pair of Shimano’s new four pots in place as soon as they become available in 2018.

 

** MB Cyclery was previously Cycleworks, but now Mike and Ben are running the show, still offering with the same level of superb expertise, Orange, Whyte and Trek steeds, top notch servicing and all round grooviness but now with some added Troy Lee gear (and potentially other boutique bikes… maybe…). They are my go-to LBS and I absolutely recommend them 150% if you are in Surrey and in need some MTB love, general help or advice. Pop in and say hi or checkout their website here!.

 

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…

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

Bike Park Wales

BPW_logo

Now, according to my Dad (so it must be true), the nearby town of Merthyr Tydfil once boasted 365 pubs in its mining heyday (note: never go there for a pub crawl). Not so today, but it does now contain about the biggest bike park on our island. As a last minute stand in with a group of Chris G’s Farnham associates I had a coveted uplift pass for a Saturday in September.

An early start, but a very uneventful drive had me pulling into the car park just after 9am, the blue skies that accompanied me all the way up the M4 abruptly stopped at the Severn Bridge like some kind of force field running up the river, still, it was dry and warm enough, and a whole lot better than had been forecast the previous few days.

Chris (nursing sore ribs from an impressive OTB at Afan the day before), Bob, Leigh, Buzz and the others all arrived shortly after and we were quickly ensconced in the rather unpleasant smelling uplift van, think damp, mouldering underwear that you forgot in your school kit bag for a term and you’d be getting close.

There really is a plethora of runs here and the first runs down the Blues such as Sixtapod and Melted Welly to find your feet instantly got you in the flow. Poppity Ping, Willy Waver and Terry’s Belly also deserve special mention for fun and flow. In fact they are so well designed, riding them blind at nearly full chat didn’t cause any unnecessary grabbing of brakes or offline moments. This continues all the way down back to the uplift point. These runs aren’t over quickly either, you get a good uninterrupted 5 to 10 minute descents (if you don’t pull over for a rest). Even the red routes are fine to ride hard from the go, but do need to be given some respect, as drops, jumps, rocks, roots and tight steep turns all feature on this grade.

Another positive is the vibe, inevitably you get separated from some of your mates if you’re in a big group, but this just means you get into conversation with other bikers, share some stories, find out the best spots and any warnings of what to expect. I ended up tagging along with a couple of small different groups during the day and perhaps pushed myself more than I would of on my own.

Despite a heavy shower for an hour or so, the trails remained firm and offered good grip (rocks and roots excluded) and boy are these trails lovingly created, almost a form of art in certain places, this is despite what the best typical Welsh weather can throw at it. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to ride this place on a fully dry day, I suspect your rotors would get a bit warmer in those conditions. Don’t bother bringing any food either, the well stocked visitor centre clearly hasn’t heard of the term ‘calorie controlled diet’ and the adjoining bike shop, sells just about everything you might need.

To be honest I think I only ran down two or three of the same downhills all day, you can link several different options at intersecting points and build your confidence up and up to tackle what, at first, may of seemed daunting, into a run that would give the foresighted trail diggers a slightly fuzzy feeling inside of a job well done.

I’ve put up a number of videos on YouTube from the day (see below), please excuse any excited swearing at the end of trails, and I vow to go back soon and do the A470 line better. If you want an alpine fix on British soil, visit here!

Steve

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