Tag Archives: what sort of bike do I need

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.

Melted ice and snow, mud and of course rain.

Melted ice and snow, mud and of course rain.

Just me and Jim last Thursday, it had been fairly dry but as we set off from Endcliffe Park the drizzle started, as we ploughed up Clough Lane the wind howled and as we pulled onto hound kirk moor the mist descended. With nature screaming in our faces to go home or straight to the pub we pushed on up to Jim’s rock as tradition now demands. This track has now become one long rut though over use, we suspect because the “improvements” to Houndkirk road have rendered it so boring many more riders are using the alternatives. The climb is a real test of skill and although I rode up more of it than I did in last week’s snow and ice the stop start, wheel spinning  and pedal strikes made it an exhausting slog. The way down was not much better, slippery mud threatened to drag us into the heather and the mist meant we couldn’t see the steps until we were on top of them, I was glad to be at the bottom in one piece.

For the third week in a row we called off Cabbage Bench, it’s hard enough in the dry when you can see more than three feet beyond your front wheel, tonight was not the night. We took the bikes about half way up the Houndkirk Road before turning back to the pub. We broke the 2 pint rule; this is the rule that states, any less than 2 and you might question the wisdom of firing through the woods at speed, in the dark with a lamp on your head, any more and you may end up in a river/ ditch / tree trunk.  That said, this rule was established by short people with less blood for the purposes of dilution than Jim and I so to hell with it. We found a different route back to town that took in Jim’s local circuit that he does a couple of times a week. It would be pretty tame in the day but at night, swooping silently through the trees not really knowing where you’re going with three pints inside you makes it quite interesting.

We popped out in Whitley Woods and went our separate ways, both glad we’d dragged ourselves out and grateful for mud guards.

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.

The first rule of bike club is… You’re going to need a bike.

The first rule of bike club is… You’re going to need a bike.
No Excuses Thursday – 2 Feb 2012

No excuses Thursdays has taken a back seat over the last few months, equipment failures, Matt’s pre wedding riding ban, Matt’s Honeymoon and then I had my bike nicked. Apart from last weeks ill fated puncture fest we haven’t been out as a group since Jim and I meet up at the Norfolk Arms at the end of November and as we set off Jim’s rear brake caliper seized up and that was the end of the ride, three pints in the pub and home.

So with a text from Matt on Monday asking if I had plans, and a response from me stating that I had no excuses, we arranged a 7.30pm meet. It would have been a less stressful start to the evening if, upon wheeling out the bike from the shed at 7.20 I hadn’t discovered that the rear wheel had a flat. I left a message on Matt’s phone telling him that there weren’t enough swear words in the English language and set about prising the tyre from the rim. On doing to the usual checks of the inner wall I found another f-ing thorn. I had to go back into the house to find the tweezers to get this one out. I was about 15 minutes late, this would have been bad enough if it had just been Matt and Jim but also there where Gav (Jim’s Brother and Chadders, a new one). I apologised profusely and we set off.

It was clear, dry and not as cold as I was expecting as the five of us cycled through Whitley Woods, I explained that I’d had two punctures last week and that this evenings flat technically made it three. Silence descended upon us as we concentrated on keeping the wheels turning up Clough Lane, as the fittest among us Gav broke away with Jim not far behind. I kept them in my sites but I always find this the toughest part of the ride, just when you think it can’t get any steeper, it does.

We stopped at the end of the lane to wait for Matt and Chadders. I hadn’t realised that this was poor Chadders’ first time out: welcome to No Excuses Thursday, now ride up this wall. As we all had on our first attempt at Clough Lane, he ended up pushing the bike to the top and it took a fair few platitudes and reassurances that the worst was over to keep him in the game. We took the ride up to Ringinglow Road slowly, Chadders told me that he would normally be sat on the sofa playing Call of Duty, hopefully the chat kept his mind off the fact that we were still slogging up hill, and would be for the next mile and a half we reached Lady Canning’s PLantation.

On to Jumble road and then right up to Jim’s Rock, the Dawes reminded me of its crappy clearance issues all the way up. Once we were all at the top we took a moment to take in the lights of Sheffield as the snow started to fall. Matt and Jim led the way on the descent, it’s a great little warm up and for Chadders it was the unveiling of the reason we ride up to the moors in February in the snow, rather than sitting in front of the telly. The smile on his face as he reached the bottom of the trail suggested that he’d been bitten.

Down to the “improved” old Houndkirk Road which has recently been filled in, smoothed out and essentially ruined for mountain bikers and off roaders alike, if I wanted to ride on a smooth surface, I’d use the road. We turned right towards Burbage Edge but only rode for 20 minutes before deciding to head back to the Norfolk Arms via Lady Cannings Plantation which is a pine forest that has a wide central track with a well concealed narrow path down to Ringinglow road. We’d hoped that the temperature would have frozen the worst of the quagmire that we usually find on this route, and it had but as we sped through the trees Chadders managed to find a patch that hadn’t frozen, his front wheel disappeared and he was over the bar, I was directly behind him and it looked like he could have left his testicles dangling from the stem. Fortunately he was all smiles as I handed his bike back to him. The rest of this blast through the trees went without incident and I even managed to clean the narrow bridge that I usually struggle to get across without putting a foot down.

Following a couple of pints in the Norfolk Arms we braced ourselves for the coldest part of the ride. Gav and I waited for the rest of them at the junction to Clough Lane as Matt approached he said that Jim had taken Chadders back down the road as his legs had cramped up and he couldn’t face any more off-road. Down Clough Lane, remembering to avoid the large patch of ice we’d seen on the way up, through Whittle Woods and home.

I should have stayed at home

I should have stayed at home
No Excuses Thursday – 26 Jan 2012

In the absence of anyone to play with (Jim had the kids and Matt had mashed his finger in the door of a Ford Mustang) a moment of stubborn single mindedness descended upon me and I headed out of the door on this cold January evening with intention of riding up to Houndkirk moor on my own. The Dawes felt a little sluggish up Clough Lane and my back started to ache to the point where I had to get off and stretch it out. I continued the slog feeling that this was unusually difficult but putting it down to being unused to rear suspension. Getting onto the road didn’t make things much easier and turning right onto Ringlow road the going got tougher and tougher to the point where I got off and discovered that the rear tyre was almost flat.

I set about removing the rear wheel, levering the tyre off and running my fingers along the inner wall of the tyre to establish the cause of the flat. I felt a spike and on closer examination I had an 1/2 inch thorn buried in the tyre, I pulled on the chunk of bark that formed the root of the thorn from the tread side of the tyre and after a little persuasion it came free. I replaced the inner tube and levered the tyre back onto rim as quickly as I could as the frost started to form in the grass around me and I began to lose the feeling in my fingers. I continued up Ringinglow Road and took a left onto a track called Jumble Road, it borders Lady Canning’s Plantation on the left.

I was a bit paranoid about riding off road without a spare tube, I thought I had one in the back pack but it could be a bust one I hadn’t removed. That said I was not going to ride out to the moors, nearly get frost bite and not get some down hill, so I took a right up to Jim’s rock. I’ve not had any gripes about the Dawes up until this point but I hadn’t really taken it up a technical climb, the single track up to the rock has a number of rocks to navigate and I never had to think about pedal position with the On One 456 and its apparently vast bottom bracket clearance. The Dawes frame demonstrated its limitations as a Peak District bike as I caught nearly every rock with a pedal or the chainring. The positive to be drawn from this is that without the opportunity to ride a different bike I probably wouldn’t appreciate such subtle aspects of frame design. The bike was fine on the way back down but I was conscious of the reduced clearance  and combined with not being sure about the spare, spare tube in the bag I decided to chuck a left upon reaching the Old Houndkirk Road and call it a night.

On the way back through Whiteley woods I felt the front wheel start to skid around, I hoped it was just the mud, turned out to be another thorn and another puncture. I had no intention of changing another tube in the dark so I pumped it back up and rode it until the street lights started. At least it wasn’t as cold back in the city and the second tube I had turned out to be sound, saving me a half hour push back home. Not the most successful outing, but  an outing non the less, and one that has highlighted an urgent need for mud guards.

Getting used to a different bike

Getting used to a different bike

Despite telling myself “that it’s just stuff” I’m still very angry about my bike being nicked. In attempting to rationalise the problem I have tried to see the positive angles. The insurance has covered 95% of the cost of the stolen bike, I’ll be getting the next one through the cycle to work scheme, saving me a few hundred quid, and my boss has kindly lent me his mountain bike.

Up until this point my frame of reference has been a heavy Orange hire bike and a light well specced On One 456, both hard tails. I now have at my disposal a Dawes full suspension bike with a Marcozzi fork and Shimano Deore brakes and chainset. Mountain bikes have come along way in the last six years and it is somewhat of an education to ride a bike from an era when disc brakes weren’t the norm and lighter full suspension bikes were starting to become affordable. It’s first outing (maybe in 6 years) was a loop around Beachy’s house in Diggle, Oldham. First impressions were good, it climbed better than expected and didn’t leave me gasping for breath at the back of the pack. Not being fixed to the pedals felt unnatural down the first rocky track and the rim brakes were no substitute for the Elixir 3 disc brakes on the old 456. The stout, grippy winter tyres impressed as we crossed claggy fields and descended muddy frozen tracks.

My introduction to full suspension left me pleasantly surprised, it wasn’t horrible up hill, it felt competent on the descents, wider bars and better brakes would help but all in all not bad for an 6 year old, entry level rig. The real silver lining is the exposure to a different bike. It made me appreciate the lightness and superior components of the 456, but also left me aware of areas like ride quality and tyres where the old bike could have been better.

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.