What I like and what I don’t.

26 07 2021
Blue71

Ok – so I built the Moxie up with an ‘extended’ gear range shimano 10- speed group initially – a Saint rear mech (with a One up RadR cage) and some xt stuff. It was ok (functionally great) but the 30:40 low gear was not really adequate for the winch and drop style this bike is kind of aimed at. I could do it – the old singlespeedwidow grind is a lifelong skill it seems – but I wanted to be able to access more trails, more easily.

Ue92

On went an SLX rear mech/10-51 cluster and an XT shifter. It was a learning curve in some ways as the chain length oil not calculated the same way as I’m used to, but it went together and works flawlessly. The SLX rear ,each was both what I could get and a reasonable choice given the high chance it will be ripped off at some point. Can’t say enough good about the quality of the shifting. I’m used to DI2 remember and this is almost as slick.

At the front, I slipped a One up chainring carrier and 12 speed ready oval ring (30T) and it is also excellent.

Ue92

So far, the Next SL is holding up (these are actually a L and a R from 2 sets of broken cranks! we’ll see how it goes!).

Wheels, rear was a total hotch potch: an old DT 440 hub (135mm OLD) with a 142 end cap and a Boostinator kit form Lindarets/wolftooth. It works well, but its a bit like raising the dead! Front is a DT 350 boost. Spokes, Sapim D light and rims are Nextie 40mm AM rims. rear Tyre Maxxis Tomahawk with a Rimpact insert and the front is a 2.6 Maxxis DHF exo+. It could do with being both stickier and bigger (where are the 2.8 versions, Maxxis?)

Headset cane creek 40, Newmen 40mm stem, ace Mweriwether double bend 800mm ti bars Salsa Liplock. King Ti cage (soon with additional Barnacle mounts as one bottle cage is simply not enough). The fork, ah yes, the fork.

I wanted to run 150mm travel on the bike – I have my reasons- even though it will take more. I also wanted to run a smashpot from Vorsprung. I ended up getting a basic fox 38 and dropping the kit in myself – not too tricky to do. It is Incredibly supple and incredibly stiff. I love it but it is h e a v y. Really heavy. You really noticee it on picking the bike up or trying to manual. But for rough trail or cheery stuff – butter!

Blue80

What do I like? pretty much everything in the right situation. I had an old 9point8 125mm dropper and this isn’t really enough for the bike. it has a super low bb height and to take advantage of the geometry you want to weight the front of the bike. I could gt lower with a 150 or 170/5 mm dropper. We’ll see. The drive chain is awesome, the fork unreal, the steering kit great. I love being relatively under tyres, but I want more tyre on the front. We’ll see if I change it up. The Rimpact has been awesome – allowing near plus tyre pressures and I’ve only bottomed the rim once with no tyre damage. Weight is negligible.

What I dont like is the inertial of the bike. It is heavy. It takes more effort to climb than I am used to. Until you are pointed down or have gained some speed the bike feels sluggish.

Now, this is not a criticism. It’s meant to be heavy – you dont get the size and performance of the fork without it. But it has made me realise that I want to apply some of the principles to a much lighter, full rigid build to further my knowledge base.

Soon, an eighteen bikes no9 will be with me – picked after laboriously checking various geometry parameters and looking to buy a non-custom frame for assessment. Matt has changed some of the geometry from the original version. Im going to run a Enve Mtn boost fork (492mm with 51 or 490mm with 44mm offset) with a +6mm cane creek lower race – this stretches the reach of the target frame up to 480mm which I want to try as a rigid mule.

More on that soon.





The long bike: thoughts so far.

26 06 2021

I have been riding the Pipedream Moxie – longer version – for some time now and feel I’m beginning to come to some conclusions. Lets get this bit out the way first: yes, a long bike will allow you to descend difficult terrain with more confidence, particularly as the speeds increase.

(When I am talking about long bikes in the following paragraphs, I am talking about bikes that have considerably more front centre than bikes produced over the last decade. The reach will generally be a lot longer, the head angle lower and the stems short. In buying the Moxie, I endeavoured to push it as far as production bikes have really gone, though there is some variation in how this is achieved across different brands. For example, A Doctahawk from Chromag has a slacker head angle, but shorter reach.)

Now, some detail. If you referred to the previous post and watched some of the videos or read around it a little, you will have some pointers on why long bikes are ‘quieter’ over rough ground. In essence, you are achieving a similar outcome to lowering your body weight as it approaches individual fulcrums caused by trail obstacles. What this achieves is considerably less likelihood of going over the bars when you hit stuff. This is important as your weight will need to be further forward on the bike in order to balance your weight and create front tyre traction.

The other aspect is that a longer wheelbase means you perceive less amplitude of feedback from the trail. You will be ‘bucked around’ less in rough ground.

Now as speed increases, this becomes essential. Force = mass * acceleration. Hit a 4″ root on the trail at 2 kilometres per hour, no biggy. At 40 kmph, a different story. With multiple hits against both wheels, the forces transmitted to the rider are large and trying to maintain position and traction will become hard. Lengthen the bike, reduce the angle of impact, with increased stability due to long wheelbase and reduced feedback amplitude? all good.

So what is not so good? these bikes can climb well, yes. Proponents do tend to go on about the benefits of steeper seat angles. You *need* a steeper seat angle once the reach and front centre get considerably longer so you can actually reach the handlebars. And, yes, it helps with winching up steepish access trails to get to the sweet downhills. Imagine your position on the bike once the front wheel rises and it tilts the bike back. Arguably, you could be in a better position over the rear wheel in order to maintain traction and improve ergonomics over the bottom bracket while climbing compared to a ‘traditional, slacker seat angle. But, if you cycle along a not-so-steep trail, essentially level, you will have more weight going through your upper body and wrists. You are leaning forward. Fine for a few hours, but it adds up – As you go to 4, 5 6 hours you start to feel it. This is not an ‘all-day’ design.

The other aspect that is an issue is technical climbing. Steppy, rooty, rocky uphills are a handful. Getting such a long front centre over multiple obstacles – which generally requires a ‘thrutching’ type body move – is hard work. You have to magnify the body English for sure. Steep corners at slow speed? definitely harder. My local trails -that are by design tight, slow and technical – are hard work.

Now, bike design is *always* a compromise. Perhaps ‘balancing act’ is a better phrase. You can’t have everything with a single design. Winch up fire roads and enjoy prolonged, rough down-country tracks on a hardtail? No doubt, long bikes are for you. Prefer woodsy, along, and tech riding? Not so much. You *can* do it, it’s just not as good. Endurance riding? Nope. But a mix of trail and trying to reduce your quiver? if on balance, you want to go down faster, no doubt you need to consider it.

As mentioned above, what I am talking about here is the bleeding edge of design. The Moxie longer has a 510mm reach and an 840mm front centre with a 150mm/44mm offset fork. The front wheel is a full 140mm further away from the bb than my Vertigo Kraken all-rounder. It is noticeably hard to get in vehicles, over gates and there is zero chance it will fit in my Trico bike box. Take just *some* of the long bike principles to influence frame design and you start to mix up the balance point. There is a place for longer than traditional bikes, but perhaps the bleeding edge is a bit too far out for most.

A super useful site I found – bikeinsights.com – allows you to overlay different production frames to get a visual pointer of differences in the geometry. Well worth playing with. Check it out, here: https://bikeinsights.com/

The next post is going to focus on some of the details of my build and what I like about it (and dont!).

I wanted to post some pictures here, but Flickr lost literally 100s of pictures on my feed. I’m hoping this is temporary and I will be able to put some more visuals into the next post…





Escape.

6 06 2021

Finally got out of the ‘hood for a loop up north. Glen Lyon, followed the pass north from Bridge of Balgie on the HT 550 route, over to Loch Rannoch then Ben Alder, up the side of Loch Ericht to Dalwhinnie and then returned via Drumochter Pass, the road over to Trinafour and the pass I exited Glen Lyon by back to close the loop. 11 hours and it proved I’m far from strong enough at the moment.





Homework.

26 05 2021

Not every one is as lucky as I am. I have a number of friends who are custom bike frame builders and one in particular (Sean at Vertigo Cycles) who is patient enough to entertain all my questions regarding the impact of the ends-of-the-bell-shaped-curve on a bike. He does this without succumbing to hype and dogma. He is also (as an experienced frame-builder instructor in a previous role at UBI) capable of making sense of it to a non-educated, inexperienced but interested observer such as I.

I mentioned in a post a few back that I bought a ‘Longer’ Pipedream Cycles Moxie, stuck a 150mm fox 38 (with a smashpot from vorsprung) on it and have decided to see what it will teach me about the bleeding edge of Mtb hardtail geometry.

But first, here’s a little homework.

This is far from exhaustive and far from the only folk who have shared their experience and application on ‘modern’ geometry, but I have found these 3 items the most informative and circumspect. Yes, Chris Porter, yes PVD and all the rest. But these are worth listening to.

I think the summary here might be ‘balance’ and ‘adaptation to real world riding condition’.

However, I’ll come back to it.





Output before input.

15 05 2021

I’ve been on something of a Tom Sachs/Neistat kick recently. If you haven’t watched 10 bullets – go to it.

One video I’d recommend is ‘Output before Input’.

It can seem very easy to turn around and pick up your phone and start flicking through instagram. I do it all the time, especially since I started to try and lift drj0n bagworks up from being a micro project to a more viable, wider reaching project. Reacting to messages and trying to promote parts is time consuming and absorbing. However, the satisfaction from actually doing something – particularly creating or fixing something with your hands – is hard to beat. It is an aspiration but we can approach it with effort.

The other video I’d like to recommend is ‘Why do details matter?’

Again, we can expand on this somewhat. Refer to ’10 bullets’ – ‘Thoroughness counts’. It is probably along similar lines. Do it properly. Revel in the performance of the task. reap the rewards of a job well done.

And as a bonus. ‘Who sets the standard?’

Going forward, I hope to set my own standards. My dad definitely showed me the value of application, self trust and perseverance in a real do-it-your-self-but-do-it-well way. Hopefully I can do the same for my daughter.





Moxie

12 05 2021





Departure.

9 05 2021

A brief update. I decided to buy a Pipedream Moxie frame, in longer size and a fox 38. I’m going to drop a Vorsprung Smashpot into it and reduce the travel to 150mm. Who knows if it will be a good idea, but I had an itch I needed to scratch. I want to try out this new fangled l o o o o o n g bike with slack head angle and steep seat angle thing. It is a pretty big departure from what I know (and love) but it seemed like a reasonable way to try it all out. We will see.

Updates when all the parts arrive.





Getting closer.

20 03 2021

On returning to the Deeside Trail Loop, I had made some adjustments. The wing nut had to go. Traction on your lower back when you are aiming for 10+ hour days is no good. I had seen folk using running packs before and although the concept of running weight high on ones back might seem far from ideal, because the total weight is pretty small and the front pockets can counterbalance, whilst leaving the lower back to move freely, I felt it was worth a go.

Revelation! it is absolutely the way to carry a couple litres of water and some food and essentials when you are heading for longer rides and need some extra stowage of the bike!

I used a Black Diamond pack with a 2 litre Camelback bladder and this will be my go to set up from here on in. Inspiration was probably from Kait Boyle – an endurance racing badass. Recommend you try this!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/drj0n/50356087268/

The route I modified slightly. I descended the full Fungle Road and cut through the estate at Glen Tanar, riding the south side of the River, Dee, then cutting north, up to Daldownie from the Balmoral area. I love the riding in the area and was pleased to cover some trails I had not seen since I followed a few rivers, coast to coast.

The sun was setting and the warmth of the day beginning to fade as I moved further into the mountains. I had not been into Glen Gairn before, but I knew there was a fairly posh bothy as you entered the Glen proper. Corndavon Lodge was passed, deserted and then as sun dropped I took in the views.

I had to set up the Tarp swiftly using the age-old Scottish technique of work for 30 seconds, when the midge start to swarm, run for 30 meters wait, run back and repeat. It was going to be an interesting night: the ground was pretty boggy and as a result, the midge were thick. Still, beer a wee dram and listening to the stags bellowing and lights out.

Next morning, I awoke and packed up using a similar technique to the night before. If I take this route again, I think I will find somewhere different to sleep! Some wee guy was cleaning off the last morsels of my pork andeans meal – the glamour of bikepacking is always there!.

As I moved further into the mountains, the trail became less well travelled and I was off the bike several times, particularly as I headed under the watchful gaze of Creag an Dail Mhòr. Soon enough, I popped out on familiar trail near Beinn a’Bhuird where a decision needed to be taken.

The question was whether to drop down to Glen Quoich and it’s fantastic remnant forest, or to descend Gleann an t’Slugain – which is always excellent fun. The latter won out, but it was close. From here, I took the north side of the Dee back to my starting point in Banchory, closing the loop on a fine ride that will last in my memory for a long time.

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So, how did the kit work out? I was riding very light indeed with a G funk holding a self-made DCF hybrid roll bag on the bars, a Rockgeist 4 L gondola (custom DCF hybrid model) and Rockgeist partial frame wedge in Liteskin. A second self made Strap Deck bag was attached under the downtube with Voile straps and the aforementioned Black Diamond pack. Self made long gas tank bag, secured with a DeWidget finished off the stowage. It all worked perfectly. I had plenty of room for the sleep system, extra puff, food and H20 and gadgetry. Questions? fire away.





Q factor.

28 02 2021

A lot of you will know Peter Verdone. Hs is rather infamous for his manner but he does generate and become involved in some fairly interesting discussions around the web to do with bike design. My friend Kris (https://www.44bikes.com) had posted a picture of the work necessary for clearing big tyres with a reasonably tight chain stay and normal drive chain, whilst mentioning that 157/83mm chainline standard is worth a look. See here. I heartily agree as I use this standard on several bikes, see my post: Super boost.

Peter dismissed this standard as not being useful and a fairly interesting discussion has ensued around why the accepted, perhaps road-orientated, <150mm Q drive chain is preferred but without clear justification.

The chainline is not necessarily controlled by the Q. Crank offset varies – by over 5mm if you move from Turbine aluminium cinch to Next SL for example, and the use of different offset rings on the 3 major direct mount standards (SRAM, cinch and hollowgram – I have not seen any ability to vary the new shimano set up) mean chainline can be moved enough to allow fairly large variations in Q on a single bb width (or axle width). A really cool set up is to consider a 157mm rear end, and a ‘flipped’ ring on a crank designed for 142mm or boost 148mm (in cinch this is 136.5mm and 143.5mm). The rings would be + ~5mm offset to the outside, or + ~3mm in the case of using the longer spindle. With SRAM this corresponds to using either 3 or 0mm offset rings. It aligns the chainring slightly more towards the larger cogs, which is better generally, and gives a good Q with a wide rear wheel for strength and stability, allowing lighter spoking and more tyre clearances.

Anyhoo, width of Q has other effects. Look at feet together squats. There is no way you can go as low in a squat with your feet together. The wide stance allow considerably further drop and stability. Look at your position when you ride steep terrain with the dropper engaged.

Peter also raised the question of walking ‘tread’. Essentially, when you walk, your feet tend to fall pretty centrally. This is often used to justify searching for a narrower Q, but walking is an entirely different exercise to cycling. You are not holding on to anything, or bent at the hips and the range in which you are using the leg muscles and joints is entirely different.

Push someone while they stand with their feet together, now do it with someone whose feet are apart. Stability is improved and resistance to external forces on the torso increased.

The other aspect is that in road bike/tri and track – absolute efficiency is king. This is where the studies on Q come from but there are not many and the evidence is not great. What there is, suggests that a narrower Q can produce slightly increased power output, but as Lance found out when he tried to emulate Jan Ullrich’s Walser bike set up with its narrow bb, it is harder to maintain power output in that position. Obree famously used a narrow Q by utilising a washing machine bearing and custom axle, but the gain was likely more from aerodynamics and he probably had reduced power output.

There is some work that shows 2% power output at 90 and 120mm Q when compared to 150 and 180 Q – but critically, there was no significant difference between the 150 and 180 Q – the 2 set ups discussed in Kris’ post. But the study is small, of dubious relevance (road bike not Mtb) and was only measured over 5 minutes.

I think there is a lot of bunkum on the question of Q and the likely reality is there is a range over which, for a recreational cyclist, your comfort will allow. But what is *best* ? I dont think there is a *best*, just options.





Subtractive.

17 01 2021

2020 wasn’t the best year for interesting routes on the bike. But, rather than dwell on the negative, I thought I might look back on some of the good things.

I have always loved the Cairngorm to Deeside area and if I have my druthers, that is where I aim for if I have time for an overnighter. The Deeside way trail is a great place to start and in July, I decided to try a pull at the whole route.

Over the last few years, I have invested a fair bit of time, effort and money on minimising the kit I take Bikepacking. I have also adjusted how I pack the bike, so the weight is distributed in such a way that it rides as ‘normally’ as possible. In addition, I have tried to carry as little weight on my back as possible. One of the key factors was reducing the amount of H2O I carry at any given time – in Scotland this is fairly easy most of the time as you are never far from water and as long as you have a way to purify, you can drop 1kg for every litre you *don’t* carry.

In July, the weather had been good and I was optimistic it would remain so for the 2 days I had earmarked. The Deeside Trail (as it is referred to when on the bike) has a high proportion of single track and fair amount of climbing. It parallels the River Dee, west into the heart of the Cairngorm, on the south side of the river, with a short and a long variation, before returning on the north side of the river. I would thoroughly recommend the route: there is no ‘filler’ trail here, it is all good stuff.

In July, I started around mid day after driving up in the morning. I did not have my usual ‘base’ of miles in the legs, but felt that as long as I didn’t push too hard I would get around just fine. My aim for the first day was to grab some food in the Hungry Highlander in Braemar before finding somewhere to bed down, perhaps around the Linn of Dee and returning the next day.

Unfortunately, the breeze I had hoped for (to keep the midge down) was entirely absent and the heat and humidity meant I was under attack as soon as the sun started dipping towards the horizon. I made the decision to try and sleep high, on the shoulder of Lochnagar, and although I did receive a fair few bites, it wasn’t too bad. I was sleeping in my FKT bivi and used my Monk DCF tarp as a sleep system and my new, minimal PHD sleeping bag along with a puff jacket, kept me cosy overnight.

The next day, the rain clouds started to gather and I made the decision to cut short the route, missing the initial loop at the north west corner that is the most exposed in terms of weather and one of the two parts of the loop I had not previously ridden. It as probably wise, as after a few hours the rain was so heavy I had to take shelter near an old farm building before just accepting I was going to be soaked and go for it.

I got back around and although I had some unfinished business, the route and kit decision had been informative and rewarding. I was using a G funk and Strap Deck bar roll system and it was so secure and light it never needed a second thought even while charging down the Fungle Road decent.

For this ride, the sleeping bag and spare socks were in my MYOG hybrid DCF bar roll, the puffy, bivi and sleep clothes in my Rockgeist hybrid DCF Gondola, and the cook system and thermarest were in a MYOG X pac bag held to the ever- ready Strap Deck under my downtube. Food and bivi pole and sundry camp items as well as spare tubes and tools were in the frame bag (a custom wedge in Litskin from Rockegeist) and trail food was stashed in the Mag Tank 2000 from Revelate. I also carried a bladder in a small- ish wing nut and really struggled with the traction on my lower back. It is so long since I used a rucksack of any sort riding and I wanted to address this for future adventures.

Next post, I will review my return to the Deeside area in September 2020.