Tag Archives: advice about mountain bike

Building a mountain bike for the first time.

Building a mountain bike for the first time.

It’s about a year since I bought my first mountain bike, a brown On One 456 with a 140mm Rock Shox Revalation RLT Ti fork, full Shimano SLX drive train and Avid Elixir 3 brakes and about 5 months since it was stolen. Since then I’ve been trying to decide what to ride next, first it was a carbon 456, then it was an On One Lurcher, but I’ve ended up with an Orange Inbred 29er frame because I was told that the Lurcher was not available until May, as it turns out that wasn’t true and I could of had one.

So I’ve ended up with a bit of a compromise, an over priced compromise at that, as On One have just dropped the price of the Inbred frame by £60 which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and takes the shine of ones purchase.

Here’s the spec

On One Inbred 29er 18″ Frame – Orange
RockShox Reba RLT – Dual Air 100mm/29″ MaxleLite15 White MoC/PushLoc Remote Right Alum Ø 1 1/8″ Disc (100 max travel)
Avid Elixir 9 Carbon Lever Grey Anodized Front Disc Brake w/ 180mm HS1 Rotor (IS and Post Mount)
Avid Elixir 9 Carbon Lever Grey Anodized Rear Disc Brake w/ 180mm HS1 Rotor (IS and Post Mount)
Truvativ Stem Hussefelt 60mm 0deg 42mmheight 31.8 1-1/8 Blast Black
Truvativ X9 Chainset GXP 2x10sp 175mm Grey 39-26t
SRAM PG1050 10 Speed Cassette 12-36
SRAM PC1051 10 Speed Chain Silver/Grey 114 Link with PowerLock
SRAM X9 Front Derailleur 2×10 High Direct Mount Dual Pull
SRAM X9 Rear Derailleur (10spd) Medium Cage Carbon Grey
On One Smoothie Headset
On One Fleegle Handle Bar
Thompson Elite Seat Post
Charge Spoon Saddle
Supstar Grips
Rear Wheel – 29er CREST – EVO Black
Front Wheel – 29er CREST – EVO Black

Often it’s the jobs that you think are going to be hard that are very straight forward and the jobs that should be easy have been a bit of a nightmare. I’ll run through them briefly

Installing the bottom bracket and crank (easy) – with the right tool this was very easy. Grease the threads, screw in the two parts by hand to avoid cross threading and firmly tighten with a bb spanner.

Installing headset cup (f*&king nightmare) – Tried installing these with the bolt and washer approach as seen on you tube. First stab was with metal washers from B & Q and it was impossible to get the cups into the frame straight, and top cup did get a little damaged during the process but as these are not moving parts it hasn’t effected the performance of the headset. Next attempt was with this ghetto headset press which did work a little better and I eventually got both the top and bottom cups in. I spent about £20 on bolts and washers and I could have had the Cyclus Headset Press for £33.43 shipped with my Wiggle discount. So a bit of a false economy, if I were to do it again I would invest in correct tool for this particular job.

Installing the fork (fairly easy) – I bought this pipe cutting tool and it works brilliantly, I had a pratice with it by lopping of the top 10mm of the steerer, this went well so I measured it up by installing it with headset and required spacers (I’ve gone 15mm under the stem and 10mm on top) and chopped it. Getting this right is a little tricky and a few mm shorter is better than a few mm too long, especially as the tool’s clamp means that there is a minimum cut length of around 10mm. I’d cut just below your mark rather than on it or above it. This is a good video on how to cut a steerer tube.

 

Getting Tyres onto Rims (Hard) – This was very difficult due to a combination of Stan’ s Rims and Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres and lack of technique. For anyone struggling with their tyres, the first bead of the tyre has to be sitting in the groove in the middle of the rim, if it’s not you will not have the slack to get the second bead on. Even with this technique I still needed tyres levers to seat the last section.

Installing & setting up gears (Tricky) – There is a lot to go wrong here as there are many parameters and settings to consider. Finding the right combination of front deraileur and shim to make it fit a 28.6mm seat tube was the first big challenge. After tweaking limit screws for a couple of hours I worked out that the barrell adjuster on the shifter could be used to correct tension the cables, adjusting this also stopped the rear mech clicking. The problem is that it is seldom one thing but a combination of factors leading to unsatifactory performance.

Brakes (Straight Forward) - These have been fit and forget, at some point I will need to shorten the rear brake cable but as it is working at the moment I am reluctant to work my particular brand of fecal magic on it.

Overall it’s been a horrible nightmare, there are so many standards and compatibility issues that it’s very difficult to make the right desicions when buying. At one point I had 4 X9 front deraileurs on my work bench and the correct shim and I still could mount any of them. It seems often the manufacturers don’t know whether what they’re making will fit.

If you’re thinking of building a bike for the first time, DON’T, I implore you, it is, for the most part a soul destroying, time evapourating, hair extracting all consuming misery. If there is a hell I suspect it is filled will lawyers and BMW drivers trying to build bicycles from scratch. On the odd occasion, when I’m greasy and bleeding in the early hours of the morning, it goes well and there is a great sense of accomplishment. This usually evaporates in the cold light when the expensive part you slowly, lovingly fitted according to the intructions and with the right tools disintergrates because of some obscure compatibility issue, or you forgot to face and chase the deliniated nipple flanges or beacuse of plain bad luck.

If you want an overpriced bike that doesn’t work made out of tears and pain, build your own, otherwise I suggest using your local bike shop.

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.

A beginner mountain biker’s last 6 months

A beginner mountain biker’s last 6 months

I’ve been attempting to give an overview of my introduction to mountain biking in my last few post but I am quite anxious to start writing about now. So this post will attempt to summarise the interesting bits of the last six months riding.

Ride 3 – Houndkirk & Blackamoor 7 May 2011

No drama until we hit the cobble stones at the top of Blackamoor. I was feeling fairly confident having cleaned this the previous week but I wasn’t carrying enough speed to roll over one of the large stones. I stalled, pitched forward and almost in slow motion hit the trail with my face. Initially I thought I’d broken my nose as I heard a crunch, this turned out to be the visor of my helmet wich took the brunt of the impact and transferred this force to the rear of the helmet, snapping a chunk of the back. I laid there for 20 seconds, wiggling fingers and toes to see if there was any other damage. I got away with just a cut on my nose. Time for a birthday pint at the Norfolk Arms.

Ride 4 – No Excuses Thursday 12 May 2011

No excuses Thursday is an attempt to get out and ride during the week in Summer (easy) and more importantly in winter too (quite difficult). Two riders will do but three is better as the other two can usually cajole, bully and cast aspersions on the thirds sexuality until he relents and drags his carcass to the meeting point.

There are a number of routes we take but this first attempt took us along in Rivelen Valley. The first obstacle is a shallow set of stairs that gentle curve around to the left as you descend towards a narrow bridge. The fork needs to be correctly loaded by the rider on this section to stop the bike pogoing down the steps with increasing vigour. Adjustment of the rebound damping can also help stop this. This is the easiest of three sets of similar steps that increase in steepness and curvature as you progress.

Perhaps the most intimidating hurdle on the ride is a 10 foot descent down a steep flight of 15 steps. I came unstuck as I reached the bottom, the fork compressed, rebound and threw me off the back of the bike onto my back. In trying to not go over the bars I had positioned myself too far off the back of the bike. No harm done, a grazed back but the bike escaped without injury.

Next is a woodland climb, followed by a nip across a road and more wooded uphill. A steep road climb greets you as you exit the woods then a narrow, technical and often precarious piece of single track. This path has narrow rocky channels and densely wooded, root smothered areas where the track almost disappears. Along climb follows, it is tradition to climb to Stanage Pole but the guys took pity on me and we went straight to the Sportsman.

There is a self-imposed, two pint limit. Any less than this and you might start to question the merits of riding, at speed, through the woods in the dead of night with a torch on your head. Anymore and you end up sailing off a bank into the night, dropping 7 feet into the river as Gareth did after a three pinter. Incidentally, he landed it.

The descent was without incident, we took some time to session the impossible step, a root edged, foot deep step, that needs to be tackled whilst turning the bike to avoid the tree that sits directly after it. Gareth and Matt both managed it but I felt like I’d save my luck for the rest of the ride and walked the bike around it.

Night riding is all about the pool of light three metres in front of you, your senses are heightened and reactions take over. There is a tangible high at the end of the ride, knowing that you’ve ridden along treacherous slabs of rock, ducked branches, traversed narrow tow paths flanked by water on one side and steep black emptiness on the other… and got away with it.

Rides 5 & 6 – No Excuses Thursday

I emerged from the second No Excuses Thursday without incident and feeling like I was starting to get the hang of it. This feeling evaporated on NET 3 when we took a slightly different route which took in took in  a series steps followed by a couple of 2 foot drops. I didn’t have full control of the bike down the steps so I was too far forward when I went I came to the  first drop. I briefly unicycled, tried to turn away from the second drop, went over the bars onto my shoulder while the bike headed off into the river.

Apart from a few scrapes I’d got away with it, the bike hadn’t. Gareth had gone on ahead, but Matt had witnessed the accident and as we dragged the bike from the river we saw that the front wheel had a 30 degree angle in it, like Salvador Dali’s clock. The back wheel was also bent to a lesser extent, the sum total of this damage was £260. I was gutted but as we stood about scratching our heads looking at the seemingly ruined wheels that had written off our ride Hobson rode back towards us. “You’ve rolled this up well” he said as he removed the front wheel and proceed to bend and beat it back into alignment on a roughly hewn bench by the river, the back wheel took less abuse to straighten out. 15 minutes later after some fine adjustments with a spoke key I had rideable bike and we finished off the ride, testament to Gareth’s unflinching positive, no problems, just solutions attitude.

The rest of 2011 can be summarised as a series of off-road bike rides punctuated by blunt trauma and puncture wounds, I’ll summarise.

Ride 7 – Ladybower Loop & Jacob’s Ladder

http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=cjelvqrhusssuwgo

Enormous 18 mile loop around the lake on the Saturday taking in the Beast of Hope Cross, I had to walk down the worst of it but rode about 60%. The Beast did take a bite out of Chris however, he fell off and damaged his wrist, but he completed the ride even though he was in some pain. Uneventful apart from that. There were several sections where we had a “who can clean it” competition” Matt L came out on top in most cases.

http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=iyhkueibujispkcp

On Sunday we cycled up to from our Edale campsite to the cottage where Beachy and family where staying and after a quick bacon sarnie hit the road heading for Jacob’s Ladder. We started the ride on a steep rocky ascent, it wasn’t long before the sky darkened, the wind picked up and the rain came in sideways… this was beautifully described by Matt W as a “Road to Mordor” moment.

The previous day had taken it’s toll and we found ourselves pushing our bikes up the really steep stuff more often than not. Jacob’s Ladder was the final downhill, and the videos on You Tube don’t do it justice, it is very steep. I was the last to go and didn’t take enough speed into the first section, the front wheel stuck in a rut and I went straight over the bars and bounced down the ladder on my knees, I did manage to catch the bike as it sailed over my head.

The rest of 2011

That was the last crash I had for a while. there were lots on No Excuses Thursdays in some foul weather. Rivelin claimed a victim that wasn’t me in October when Jim lost control on one of the many stone bridges and nose-dived into the river knocking his forearm quite severely, we continued for half a mile but Jim was in too much pain and we got back on the road and headed back to Matt’s. Once in the kitchen we saw that Jim also has a large deep cut on his calf that had that joke shop look to it, no blood weirdly.

My next accident came at Dalby Forest trail centre in November. We met in the car park on the Saturday morning and had a great day on the red route that has some really quite challenging sections on it. This was the first time I’d been to a trail centre with my own bike and it made such a difference. Rather than dragging around an unfamiliar lump of rental bike, I had a light, well specced On One 456 to play with. Everyone was on form and we made it back to the cars at dusk.

Sunday didn’t go so well and on the same red route I went over the handle bars and the bike came over the top and I think a pedal caught me around the cheek. Nige and Arnie helped me up and, throughly pissed off, I marched the bike back up the hill to tackle the section again. It wasn’t until we reached the bottom where the others were waiting that i checked the rest of me and found a deep wound in my right side, a proper ride ender. I still don’t know whether it was stone, tree root or gear lever that took a chunk out of me.

The drive back to Sheffield was stressful enough without the sat nav playing up taking me miles out of my way. With the car beginning to smell like a butcher’s shop I decided to duck into Huddersfield A & E. Several x-rays to check for foreign objects and 2 stitches later I was back on the road with the sat nav unceremoniously slung on the back seat.

That was the last ride of 2011, the injury kept me off the bike for several weeks and then it was nicked from the shed, goodbye On One 456, may you through the scum that nicked you off as often as you did I.

Shopping, making decisions and spending money.

Shopping, making decisions and spending money.

I didn’t know that mountain bikes are really expensive, this came as a bit of a surprise. Even a cheap bike that will cope with moderate abuse will cost you around £500 and will probably start dropping to bits shortly after being introduced to the more technical descents that the Peak District has to offer. I’m not very good at spending money or making decisions so I went to the pub with Mat and Gareth who were only too happy to give me suggestions as to where to spend my money and on what.

The budget was £1000ish which sounds like plenty to get a decent bike, and it is depending on the bike you’re after. My initial instinct was to get a full suspension rig because that’s what most of the guys I’d been riding with had, but a grand only gets you about half a good full sus frame. Not half a bike, half a bike frame. I didn’t really want to blow my budget on a heavy, budget full sus with low spec parts and the advice I was given by seasoned veterans was this:

“Don’t buy a full sus as your first bike, it makes it too easy. Buy a hardtail with a good, long fork and you can tackle the same terrain, you just have to be a better rider. This means you’ll get better at riding or break something trying.”

So buying a full suss straight off is like Mr Miyagi giving the Karate Kid a paint sprayer to do the fence. The first bonus of this reasoning is that a hardtail bike frame can be bought for as little as £170. This leaves more money to spend increasing the spec and decreasing the weight of all the other parts. The second is that I feel better about getting the bike I need rather than feeling disappointed that I couldn’t afford the bike I wanted.

Matt gave me a pile of What Mountain Bike magazines and started emailing me potential contenders. After much deliberation and research I was swayed but the astounding value of the On One 456 steel frame at £170. I briefly considered building it up myself but the 456 SLX package that On One offered had such at great spec (full Shimano SLX chainset, Elixir 3 brakes and 2011 Rock Shox Revelation RLT Ti fork for just shy of £1200) that it just wasn’t worth the hassle. I’ll build the next one.

I ordered the bike early April and it finally arrived early May. Unfortunately it arrived just too late for me to join in with the The Beast cable cam stunt, this descent lies between Hope Cross and the Lady Bower reservoir.

A bike centric diary about life…

A bike centric diary about life…

It’s the last day of 2011 and this is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Whether it’s because life has become more interesting or just that I want to forget less or perhaps remember more, whatever the reason, this feels like a good thing to do.

My obsession in life has been skiing, I don’t really remember that first trip to Italy with my parents and sisters in the early 1980s but I am told that the itinerary was left on the kitchen table so the first night we didn’t stay in our booked hotel as my parents couldn’t remember the name of it. My father remembered its name the next morning when he looked out of the window and saw it printed on the building on the opposite side of the road. Things went down hill from there, with almost no skiing, lost comfort blankets (gollies), family wide illness and a bout of athletes foot that almost went gangrenous.

So why the obsession? At 6 I went with my father, uncle and cousins to Italy again and this has formed some of my earliest and happiest childhood memories, I’m told that after a couple of tantrums I took to it fairly quickly and was racing my Dad down the nursery slopes by day two. Other memories include my first big crash and humming the theme tune to Airwolf as I snowplowed with great speed and precision down the pistes. I can think of few another events from my past that I remember the details of so crisply.

After a change in fortunes that prohibited expensive skiing holidays I skiied once more at 13 with the school and then not again until 18 when I mentioned to my father how much I would love to do it again and he organised a boys skiing trip for the two of us. This trip became a regular feature of our calendar for the next 10 years. At 28 I went on a trip to Zermatt with some University friends and got chatting to a bloke in a bar who had seen a group of trainee ski instructors snaking down the mountain, each on only one ski. The thought that you coud train to become a ski instructor had literally never occurred to me, thinking back, the ski instructor gap year course may have been a relatively new beast.

So I signed up for a course in Meribel the next winter, just passed, did some teaching for Interski in Italy before returning to the UK. The skiing bug was sated for a few years but it was not long before I got the urge again. Fortunately an understanding boss and a very understanding and supportive wife let me swan off to Verbier, Switzerland for 5 months to teach and train. The plan was to take the ISIA qualification but cost prevented me tackling this final hurdle.

The part of the season I enjoyed the most was a 10 day mountain safety course ISIA module. This involved mostly off piste ski touring which is a mixture of cross country and downhill skiing. The obvious advantages to this form of skiing are escaping the crowded pistes and the challenge and peace of skiing in the wilderness. The less obvious and in many ways more rewarding benefit is climbing up what you ski down also known as the opportunity to “earn your turns”. The bottom line is the it’s the adventure that commercial skiing isn’t. I guess I just got rather disenchanted with the snowsports industry.

I didn’t even realise that I missed  plummeting down a slope under my own steam until Beachy’s birthday bash in March 2011 at the Llandegla trail centre. My introduction to mountain biking had been at Llandegla for Beachy’s stag do in 2009, but a year and a half later and unwittingly suffering from adrenaline withdrawal I was ready to be bitten by a new hobby. I rented an Orange hardtail, not sure what model but it could have been called The Lead Pig,  I was also very unfit.

That weekend in March just about finished me physically but I was hooked and it was time to buy a bike and make use of the peak district which just happens to be on my doorstep.