Tag Archives: 29er mountain bike

A Decadent Way to Travel

A Decadent Way to Travel

The rain stopped long enough for me to change my mind about venturing over to Hillsborough for our weekly night ride. With the hole in the elbow of my expensive waterproof cleverly stitched up by my talented wife I headed out the door and into the fleeting sunshine.

I opted for a new route that took me in a straight line down a steep path through the woods that border Bingham Park. This got pretty gnarly almost immediately with the combination of gravity assisted speed and large blocks of granite embedded in the trail making for an unexpected early doors adrenaline rush, I paused briefly to asses the rideability of ancient set of steps at the bottom of this path before deciding it was doable.

The ride over to Hillborough was uneventful and we met Dan at the Rivelin Valley “Big Steps”. While he’d been waiting for us he’d taken the opportunity to have a go at this intimidating hurdle for the first time. Always scary, but oh so rewarding and easier without the pressure of an audience.

After a brisk pedal up the Rivelin Valley we met Jim at the Lodge Lane car park for a bit of Wyming Brook downhill. On the climb up from the brook we decided to do the climb to Stannage Pole, despite the wind and rain vigorously trying to dissuade us.

Standing in the wind and rain on this exposed peak I asked the night “Who thought this was a good idea?”. The night threw back a line from The Motivativators Guide to Outdoor Pursuits, “You’ve got to go up to get down!” I told the night to stop quoting James Brown at me and we turned tail and headed back the way we had come. I had no intention of setting a time down this trail not least because I don’t know it that well and I was wearing my glasses as I’d run out of contact lenses, didn’t see that coming. The first section down to the gate went smooth and Lambo and I were neck and neck down the second section.

Egged on by this unexpected dual we found ourselves doing 25 miles an hour down the stoney fire road. I was aware that there was a barrier at the bottom of this road but it loomed out of the darkness earlier than expected. Pulling on the brakes at this speed didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, the wheels locked up and I hit a fist sized rock. This had the effect of turning the bike into something akin to a fairground broncho ride, minus the disappointed looking, tattooed operator and the squashy, padded landing area.

I was flipped from the bike landing on my shoulder and sliding to a halt on my back about 10 metres further down the trail. Despite the high speed nature of this event I escaped with relatively minor injuries. The same cannot be said for my bag or my coat. I expect it would appear to the casual observer that I’d been dragged behind a car down a rocky fire road for 10 metres at approximately 25 miles an hour, or that my left arm had be mauled by a hungry beast with a taste for Gore Tex.

broken-coat

Here’s a stat extracted (after a bit of zooming in) from Strava:

From 47.8 km/hr – 0 km/hr

in 3.5 seconds

over a distance of 10 metres

=  5th place overall

 

 

 

 

Troy Lee Moto Shorts Product Review

This feels like a fitting time to write a review of the Troy Lee Moto Shorts that I’ve been wearing for the last year. Despite being exposed to a significant number of crashes they show no signs of wear and tear and their tough but comfortable material has saved my thighs on a number of occasions, even with the velcro hip padding removed.

They have a rachet style buckle fastening that copes very well with fluctuations in waistline and the rubbery coating on the inside of the waist clings to lycra undershorts helping to keep them in place. They have two zip up cargo pockets on either leg that are perfect for soft items like wallets or gels, I wouldn’t stick your keys or phone in there. In short, these things appear to be bomb proof, or at the very least me proof.

Over Ride Lapierre Mountain Bike Demo Day – Parkwood Springs, Sheffield

Over Ride Lapierre Mountain Bike Demo Day – Parkwood Springs, Sheffield

I wouldn’t say that I’m in the market for a new mountain bike, I’m quite happy with what I have and there are other, more pressing demands on my wallet. That said, when Martin (Over Ride Cycles, Sheffield) said I’m having a Lapierre demo day, you should pop down, I’m unlikely to pass up the opportunity to spend the morning riding some very high end mountain bikes around Parkwood Springs Trail Centre.

For those of you that don’t know, Parkwood Springs is a newly developed Mountain Bike trail in Sheffield near what used to be the Ski Village. Made up of flowy berms and small table tops with a choice of descents designed to inspire every level of rider, a job it does very well.

Parkwood Springs MTB Trail Sheffield from Vertebrate Publishing on Vimeo.

I cycled from home, it’s only about 6km and served as a good warm up. When I arrived the bikes were all out and the menu consisted of the Zesty 514 (Medium), a Spicy 516 (Large) and XR 529 Carbon 29er (Medium) with electronic suspension.

Lapierre Spicy 516

demoday3

This is a 26″ 160mm travel rig aimed at the big mountain enduro rider and would happily chew through anything the Peak District could throw at it. I would love to take this thing down The Beast or Jacob’s Ladder and see what it does to my personal best. On a track like Parkwood Springs the travel and slack head angle feel a touch over the top on the hardpack single track, and they are, this is not the Spicy’s natural habitat.

I’ve not ridden a 26″ bike for over a year so the Spicy’s small wheels and short stem took some getting used to. For this reason I’ve posted the second lap where I was a little more settled. I’m not going to get hung up on the technical stuff except to say that the slack head angle of 66 degrees means the 516 is not a great climber and the front end wandered a bit going up hill, that said, at 13kg, this is a light bike considering the applications.

Downhill the Spicy felt lively and quick, really quick. As I chucked this bike around the berms I couldn’t shake the unnerving thought that “this thing is egging me on because it wants to hurt me”. Taking this bull by the 750mm horns was a lot of fun, but warm, fuzzy thoughts like “stability”, “control”, “grip” were far from my mind, terms like “skittish”, “unbridled”, “mental” came to the fore. Add to this the not unlikely prospect of running out of talent and stacking someone else’s £3000 bike and my over all impression of the Spicy 516 was unsettling, fun yes, lots of fun, but it’s a mad man.

Lapierre XR 529 29er

demoday4There were two XRs on the demo, sadly they were both mediums and the Lapierre rep suggested that I might need a large or even an x-large. An interesting feature of this frame is the electronically controlled rear suspension (£400 extra) that is supposed to calibrate the rear shock depending on whether you’re peddling uphill or pointing down.

Perched on top of this undersized frame I really wasn’t expecting to get much out of the XR as I pootled up hill but it climbed well and the times going down hill weren’t awful, a wider bar would have been nice and I’m not convinced handing over the configuration of the rear shock to a computer is for me.

I don’t feel I can really give this bike a fair review as it was considerably too small for me but Jim was a better match for it and was blown away by it, so much so that I think this could be his next bike. I might get him to add his comments at the bottom.

The Zesty on offer was also a medium but with 26″ wheels even smaller than the XR, this really would have looked like a clown bike with me on it so I didn’t bother taking it around the loop. It is however interesting to note that Lambo didn’t rate the Zesty while he was riding it but when his Stava results came back he’d beaten all his best times laid down on his own bike.

Back on Katie

I was expecting to get back on the old girl after riding full suss dream machines and find myself a little despondent but quite the opposite was true, she climbs better than the Spicy, felt more stable and grippy in the corners and granted I didn’t have that exhilarating  “glad to still have skin on my knees” feeling that the 516 gave me at the bottom of the hill, but I’m not sure I want that from my everyday mountain bike. The times were just as good as the mad man too so it just goes to show that feels fast is not the same as actually faster.

So it would seem that all I have to show for a Lapierre demo day is affirmation, I am better off for good or no, on a home built steel hardtail. Of course this isn’t true, benchmarks are important and it’s always interesting to compare and contrast and when all the proceeds are going to a great cause like the Lady Canning’s Mountain Bike Trail, everyones a winner baby.

No Excuses Thursday Returns

No Excuses Thursday Returns

Spring is here and No Excuses Thursday is back baby! I had to miss the 6.30pm meet on the 11th of April (children to bath, stories to read) and instead met the guys and girl at the Sportsman pub for 8pm. This meant I didn’t have to try and keep up with Julia Hobson going up hill. Keeping up with Julia was hard before she won Single Track Weekender, won Mountain Mayhem, cycled from John O’Groats to Lands End off road,  left blighty to compete in Mega Avalanche, worked as a mountain bike guide in portugal over last summer and then competed in the Cape Epic in South Africa. Mmmm, I’ll meet you in the pub Julia after I leisurely grind up the road to it, in the granny ring and in my own time.

Two pints of liquid courage and then lots of down flowy and technical downhill into Hillsborough left us all grinning. The only notable event was my head light going out half way down one of the technical descents, not for the last time. That’s a Thursday night that is.


Appetite for night riding reinvigorated the next Thursday saw the introduction to No Excuses of Martin, who has just opened Sheffield’s latest bike shop, Over Ride Cycleworks, and has therefore not been out on his bike for quite some time. We showed him the Flow House, he liked it, we went for beer.

During the third NET on the trot we rode up the Rivelin Valley, met Jim at the top of the Wyoming Brook downhill and had two pints of Landlord and some rather nice jalapeno pretzels. Resisting the urge to save myself 10km of riding by pootling straight downhill on the road to my side of town with Jim, I opted to descend into Hillsborough with Lambo and Chadders and take in some steep, technical descents through the woods on the way.

Chadders has just bought himself a new 26″ Cube with 100mm up front, it’s a very nice looking bike, quite racey for some of the stuff we throw ourselves down, but he’s done the right this going for a high end hardtail, you wouldn’t get much of a full suspension bike for £1000. The other aspect of opting for a hardtail rather than full suspension bike is that full suspension can make it too easy to get down technical descents, which on a hardtail is more difficult and this means that the hardtail rider either improves his or her technique or falls off a lot.

So No Excuses Thursday is back with a vengeance and the main players all seem suitably enthused by the fun we’ve had on the last three rides to maintain the trend. The momentum required to drag yourself away from the telly on a Thursday night is not always easily mustered but having a couple of mates to drag you out always helps.

It feels like I’ve been riding on snow for a while.

It feels like I’ve been riding on snow for a while.

It’s been a while since my last entry, the discipline of writing a diary is not a natural inclination but I enjoy looking back through past entries and this encourages me to write the next one.

I suppose I have several good excuses, we moved house in March, I had to find a new job in June, the baby was born, 4 weeks early in August… all in all 2012 was pretty hectic.

I did find time to do the 12th Hope Valley Mountain Bike Challenge on the 15th of September with a few mates, this is billed as a 50km off road ride around some of the Peak District’s classic descents starting from the base of Win Hill. The route has regular water stops with mountains of home made cakes provided by the organisers, with out this and a Camelbak containing a cocktail of energy powders and caffeine tablets I think I would have struggled more. I genuinely believe regular slurps of carbs, sugars and salts prevented the peaks and troughs in my energy levels, and certainly avoided the grumpiness I suffer from when tired and hungry.

The route took in The Beast, riding this with a cascade of other cyclists buzzing around you, shouting to let you know where they are and crashing in front of you, was an experience that seems to have spurred me on and I have yet to improve on the time set during this event. A long steep muddy climb out of the belly of The Beast brought us looping back to the top of Win Hill, the route took us up the Roman Road for the second time but we went left at the cross roads down to Jaggers Clough.

Other moments that stay in the memory are the hike up Jacob’s Ladder, this is hard work without a bike, and the general camaraderie and good nature of everyone involved in the event. We plan to do it again this September.

The rides have been sporadic at best. Lambo, Jim and I did manage to get out on a Boxing Day ride around Lady Bower. Do you remember all that rain? It was muddy and the water in the reservoir was so high it had breached the retaining wall and was cascading down the side producing an impressive water fall effect, an eventuality that was clearly planned for in its design.

Upper Derwent, Lady Bower Reservoir, Fairholmes

No Excuses rides have taken more than a back seat, it has got out of the car and been left in a layby on a remote hill side. This is a shame and has had an impact on my fitness, so much easier to lose it than it is to maintain it.

It feels like I have been riding on snow for a while, this is because I have, January and February have both been inclement and have produced some bracing temperatures and interesting riding conditions, burning all my energy pedalling but not moving up the Wyming Brook climb, trying to get to Stanage Pole but failing due to the depth of the snow and travelling sideways down Clough Lane were all features of the ride of the 26th of January.

 

The Top of Clough Lane

The Top of Clough Lane, Peak District, Sheffield

We’re at the end of February and the weather seems to be improving and I will have no excuse to not start riding to work again. This will improve my fitness and encourage me to get out on the mountain bike a bit more.

Bring on the spring.

After riding everything else in your life has the volume turned down…

After riding everything else in your life has the volume turned down…

I limped into work last Friday morning with welts and cuts on my arm and a large patch of skin missing where the granite kissed my knee – I’ve let Strava egg me on. This has led to a consensus of opinion between my friends, stop chasing King of the Mountain, use Strava to push yourself and concentrate more on enjoying the ride and less on the stats.

Does this mean I am going to stop turning Strava on before my rides, no, but I am going to stop chucking myself down stuff faster than my limited skills will allow, and this Thursday I have the perfect excuse to concentrate on riding well as I will be setting an example to our newest recruit.

I’ve been bugging Adam to come out for ages, almost as long as he’s been moaning that he doesn’t see enough of us, Lambo thought that it might have been the moaning that was the important part, rather than the doing something about it, but I have set about removing excuses for not coming biking as they present themselves.

So decked out in all my spare gear, which is all pretty decent kit, I stuck Adam on the Dawes which is not decent but is ridable and has coped with everything that we’ll find ourselves on this evening. The consensus was that if we’re going to convince Adam to spend £500 on a new bike we’d need to hook him, and the way to do that was to take him down the best technical downhill our humble Thursday night ride has to offer, and that means the Flow House.

Why is the Flow House so good? For a start, being mostly granite it stays fairly dry, there is only one short steep section during the down hill, meaning the rest can be taken at your own pace, it has some wonderful natural technical features and there are so many lines that you never ride it the same way end to end twice. The problem with it is that it is a 8.5km up hill slog to get there.

This has stopped being a problem for us regulars a while ago but Adam struggled. I should point out that Adam is cardiovascularly the fittest person I know, but it’s football fitness which is a different set of muscles. It doesn’t really matter how much you want someone to enjoy an activity, when they reach the “good bit” on their last legs, having rubbed raw their virgin perineum and their two fat mates are fresh, chipper and full of encouragement, it seems unlikely that they’re going to see the attraction of this sport.

Adam commented that this wasn’t like football where if someone is slow and crap you just shout at them until they get better or leave and I think he appreciated the nurturing inclusive environment we tried to provide for him. Lambo and I both know that he can’t stand being the worst at something and we really wanted him to get into it. Sadly I fear we have failed, you can tell when someone has been bitten by the wild, glad to be alive glint in their eye that accompanies their first high speed completion of a descent, there was no glint. Oh well, you can’t say we didn’t try.

Despite failing to recruit another rider to our chapter the benefit of taking out a newbie is that you have to slow everything down, the climbs, the descents and this means that you have time to think. You have time to spot the line you’ve never seen because you’ve just been bundling through chasing your personal best. You have time to go back and do a section again whilst they catch up. Going slower could be the best way to go way to go faster.

Wharncliffe Woods… Mud and Glory

Wharncliffe Woods… Mud and Glory

There is much to smile about on this sunny Thursday May evening. I’m going on a ride, it’s not raining, it’s not cold and I have fixed my bike.

I went out with Lambo last weekend on the Inbred 29er and we relived our first ride, the Win Hill, Blackley Hey loop. This was I think only my second ride with out a fall and it felt like hitting the reset button on my confidence after my disappointing performance on Snowdon.

Before this ride I put more air in the fork, this performed much better for it. I also spent an afternoon with the gears, tweaking and adjusting and finally got them shifting predictably. The only problem left was the headset, I couldn’t get the play out of this no matter how tight I made the top cap. As the ride progressed, the more the headset wobbled. Upon my return home it was clear that the movement had mashed this component and it was time for a new one. I bought a Cyclus headset press and a Chris King headset in mango. I installed the headset and found that there was still play between the bearing cap and the top cap… bollocks.

After having Gav and Jim take a look before the ride last Thursday, we all agreed that it wasn’t worth destroying another headset and I dragged the Dawes out again. With brakes dragging on the back wheel, frequent chain stuck and the chain stuck in the middle ring due to front derailleur issues I slogged my way round Houndkirk and Cabbage Bench, cursing my luck and the bike I found myself on.

I was on the cusp of giving up and taking the Inbred it to the LBS, but on reading some forums I discovered a theme running through threads about problems with Chris King headsets. Many posters claimed that the issue with the bearing cap not seating is often caused by the quite deep top cap bottoming out on the steerer tube and not applying the preload fully to the stem, spacers and bearing cap. Rather than trim the steerer I bought some oddly sized spacers (12mm, 6mm and 3mm), these increased the stack height by 1mm to 21mm. New spacers installed, top cap tightened, stem tightened, front wheel on and… NO PLAY, HOO RAH!

So I have a working bike and Lambo, Chadders and I are off to Wharncliffe woods, this involves a half hour ride over to Hillsborough to meet the lads and then another half hour on the road until we reach the woods. Fire roads crisscross the woods and make the climbing easier, although there is a short, very steep section at the start to get up that only Lambo cleaned, a trophy climb that will be mine one day.

Wharncliffe now has a sign posted, designated red route for bikes that is a mixture of swoopy single track interspersed with bits north shore, rocky slabs and muddy pits. The first section contained a tricky roll off followed by one such bog that we all approached with some trepidation. The expectation was that one of use would fly over the handle bars and skid to a halt in a patch of slop. With saddles dropped down and balls pumped up we all cleared it. We briefly lost Chadders but found him amognst the blue bells, berating his newly aquired clipless pedals – they do take some getting used to.

A short techy climb and muddy descent brought us back to fire road and after losing height for 2 minutes we decided it was time to find a more interesting way down. Slinging our testicals over our shoulders we rolled into the unkown.

We descended a very steep bank with wheels locked up and tails drifting. We popped a nose around the first corner, Lambo froze up so we parked the bikes to take a look. We’d found a step, that wouldn’t have caused too much bother if the run in was straight and the runout hadn’t be a large berm and a narrow exit between two trees. This was going to take some bottle. Lambo went first and did a good job, I made a start but lost my nerve and decided to start my approach again. Chadders wisely walked it. When I did go for it I rolled it whilst sitting on the back wheel, I remember thinking “surely my front wheel should have hit the ground by now?” as visions of a face plant into a clay berm flashed through my mind but I took the corner and stopped by the tree framed exit, not a catastrophic attempt, it will be easier next time.

More mercifully dry technical trail followed as we descended through the trees. The trail seemed to gradually increase in difficulty as went and as each section was cleared with out damage or injury our confidence grew. The last large drop off needed inspecting, after satisfying ourselves that it could be rolled, Lambo took it, I went next but Chadders stalled at the top and he walked it after common sense prevailed.

Thoroughly pumped up we made it back to the fire road and found some more fast single track through the woods to take us back to town, avoiding most of the road. We met Jim in the New Barrack tavern, he’d been on his own adventure on Houndkirk and had then ridden across town to meet us. Two pints and it was time for Jim and I to take on the hills of Walkley, Crookes and Greystones.

I checked my headset for play upon returning and the bearing cap was still seated snugly in the top cup, I will sleep well tonight.

Buying a new bike… 29er vs 26er

Buying a new bike… 29er vs 26er

When my On One 456 was nicked I had every intention of replacing it with a carbon version of the same bike. I don’t like to sound like a sales rep for On One but I just think they make great bikes and they don’t take the piss with their prices, I mean why would you pay more than £200 quid for a few steel pipes welded together? I had my heart set on the SRAM X9 456 build for £1299, unfortunately there’s been some delays in getting the money together and the price has now gone up to £1499, still great value but at this price point there are other options that present themselves. One is a new carbon 29er called the Lurcher that is arriving in the UK in March, it’s been in the pipe line for nearly 2 years. The 29er is the new standard that everyone is talking about, the fact is that big wheels roll over big rocks more easily and now that designers have got a handle on the geometry needed to solve the handling issues of early incarnations of big wheelers, there’s no reason not to give them a try.

Having owned a 26er and loved it, it’s very tempting to stick with what you know, that said I know that I ended up going over the handlebars of that bike a number of times. Most of these instance I put down to bad positioning on the bike, but there were several times where I felt that being flung over the front was a harsh punishment for a minor error. The more I think about the times I’ve scrubbed off speed on the approached to a steep section or step and not had the momentum to roll over the first root, rock or rut that’s met my front wheel, bringing the bike to a sudden halt and sending me over the bars, the more I think that the 29er is the solution.

I went to One One’s showroom at the weekend and although the staff were very helpful it didn’t really make the decision any easier. The carbon 456s are very pretty and chucking my leg over a 20 inch frame felt like home but I also got to see the Lurcher. I had thought I’d need a 19.5″ in the 29er but the cockpit of the 18″ prototype felt very roomy even with a short stem and is probably the size for me. I’d be happy with either bike, the 150mm travel of the 456 is great but you don’t need as much with the  a 29er, making the fork cheaper or a lighter, higher spec fork the same price. It’s a tough one but the Lurcher has it by a nose at the moment, it’s not landing until the 2oth March so plenty of time change my mind.

[slideshow]Here’s a list of 29er problems that I believe have been solved.

Handling – Big wheels may be stable but they’re not as manoeuvrable as 26″ wheels

I think this has been solved with the geometry of the new breed of 29ers, I needed an 80mm stem on my 26er, the longer the stem the less responsive the steering, but 80mm was necessary to fit a 6ft 2in bloke on to a 20 inch frame. The 18″ Lurcher had a longer cockpit, and a shorter stem (about 40mm),  shorter stem means more responsive handling, my theory is that these differences in layout should negate any differences in handling between the two bikes.

Parts and Spares – 29ers are not as common and replacing parts is a problem and there is not the choice.

The 29er standard is being embraced by all the major manufacturers and with Fox and Rock Shox expanding their range of 29er forks in 2012 this problem is of the past.

For big guys only – 29ers are only good for bigger riders

You may have a point, I read that really big guys (25 stone +) should stick with 26″ wheels, but shorter riders may not experience the benefits of big wheels in the same way as us six footers. Would you want a 16″ frame with 29″ wheels?

Wheel Strength – Bigger wheels have more flex in them, don’t track as well and are weaker than 26 inch wheels.

I understand that the shop return rates for both standards are about the same, you could argue that there are less 29ers out there so if the return rates are the same then that suggests 29er wheels are weaker. That said I’ve bent in half a 26 inch wheel, mainly due to being fat and clumsy, but if 29er geometry suits a bigger rider it might make wheel bending accidents less likely. With the introduction of the 15 and 20mm front axles last year the issues of tracking for both 26 and 29 inch wheels should be a thing of the past.

No good for Down Hill – You’ll never replace the 26″ standard in this discipline, it’s just the best tool for the job.

Only time will tell, I guess we won’t know until riders start winning events on 29ers.

Having not yet ridden a 29er this is all conjecture and imbibed wisdom, but I thought I would share my decision-making process with you.  I hope to have a 29er in place by the end of March so then I’ll be able to speak from experience.