Rippin’ around the woods.

30 05 2016

All this sunshine over the last 2 weeks has meant dry trails. Dry trails make me smile.

Sometimes it is your local trails that give you the widest grin.

I have been really liking the Hodag on the front of the Jones. It can take all I can give, excellent grip, whilst being tolerant of low pressure with minimal squirm. 1200g is a lot in some ways, but the advantages mean this is staying on the front wheel: it suits the Jones personality well, just ripping around in the woods, pushing through the rooty corners as fast as I dare.

Another bit of relative newness is the cut 710mm carbon Jones loop bar. The cut is *slightly* more flexible than the full loop version, offering superb ‘buzz’ reduction on a rigid bike. Recommendo.

Bespoked 2016.

21 05 2016

A few weeks ago, I travelled to Bristol to meet old friends, make new ones and see some cool bikes at Bespoked 2016. Shaggy and myself were to act as judges, representing and Singletrack magazine – judging the off road drop bar bike and the mountain bike exhibits. The awardees are here and the Singletrack awardees are here. The rest of the awardees can be seen here.

Overall, it was (just as in previous years) a fantastic experience. Phil Taylor and team organised a welcoming, informing, laid back and incredibly professional show that belied the amount of effort and work that it clearly took to produce. It was great to discuss the bikes with Shaggy – a great friend and bike builder himself. I think we complemented each other well – his keen eye for quality of workmanship and engineering know-how and my experience with various custom builders over the years on my own and others’ bikes.

The standard of frame building was superb. Really, there is little difference between the North American Hand Made Bike Show and Bespoked in anything but number of exhibitors.

I am looking forward to next year already.

I have a gallery up on flickr now that shows what I spent time looking at. Enjoy.

Planned obsolescence and the relentless march of progress.

20 05 2016

You would be forgiven for thinking that the rate of new wheel/tyre dimensions available for mountain bikes would show some sign of slowing. Not so much!

For example, recently, Trek/Bontrager released the Barbegazi 27.5×4.5″ tyre. Wow.

This tyre is coming stock on numerous Trek Farley fat bikes in 2017 and is soon to be available aftermarket in the UK.

You wouldn’t expect me to be off the back, would you? Of course not!

En route as we speak is a Nextie Black Eagle Mk2 27.5x65mm rim and another Junglefox Mk2 27.5x52mm rim. I’m going to build the front up before the arival of the Barbegazi and the rear I will likely use with a Hodag.

This will, I believe, mount without fuss in to my Vertigo Cycles fat bike. While the HED’s are off, I will repair the rim that split and see if this new wheel size has any benefits/drawbacks. The initial number crunching suggests I’ll gain a few mm bb height as the front tyre has been reported as 766mm in diameter – very much in line with a 29×3″ tyre and a hodag on the rear I would expect to be around 745mm diameter. This is ~20mm more in the front and ~10mm more on the rear than I have currently. In terms of radius this means I might gain 5-7mm bb height or so? tyre squish might be more or less than the current 26×4.5/26×3.8 set up – we’ll see. It is going to be ball park.

I had an interesting chat at Bespoked with Keith Bontrager over a pint about wheel and tyre size. As you might expect his insights were carefully considered and relate much more to the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ rather than being affected by any element of ‘fashion’ or a purely commercial interest. You cannot say that all these new tyre sizes are *not* designed to sell more stuff, but I firmly believe the people behind them feel they have numerous ‘pros’ over what is currently avaialble.

Time to find out for myself.


14 05 2016

The day after I rode over Conic hill, my schedule allowed me another day in the hills.

Another medium length ride would be a good test for the legs, so after some good advice from Frazchops and Bryan Dawson, the ground west of Balqhuidder seemed to be as dry as it is going to get so I decided to take in the north section of the Mell loop.

I started at the bottom of Cnoc nan Sidheag and followed the trail built a few years ago skirting Loch Venacher towards Callander and turned north under the big toe of Ben Ledi and up Stank Glen, past the glistening waters of Loch Lubnaig (where I stopped to tighten the SixC crank – see last blog entry!) popping out at Balqhuidder and turned west then south towards Ballimore and the trail head for the Mell hill path.

The going to Sròn a’ Chonnaidh was mixed. Some boggy trail, some sweet little sections of singletrack, but fabulous views. There is a farm track to a new barn just the other side of the Allt a’ Ghlinne Dhuibh which would be quicker and need a reasonably easy stream crossing.

From here the trail went uphill southwards, on the shoulder of Carn Mòr, before rejoining the trad Glen Finglas circuit.

The ground was generally a mix of reasonable trail on grassy ground and a lot of sphag bog. On a fat bike, or downhill, this might well be rideable, but it wasn’t for me going this way. About 1.4km of walking ensued, but the loop as a whole was definitely better this was round (anti-clockwise).

All in, it took 4 hours and is a good addition to Trossachs mtb’ing.

Mechanicals & the kindness of others.

8 05 2016

You will laugh, no doubt.

I was a couple of hours into a ride, heading over the Campsie hills towards Carron Valley or perhaps North Third to have a mess around before turning tail and heading for home. It was cold and my focus on whether I had enough layers on or not, as i shivered along the road near Fintry, led me to ignore the slight rocking of my left hand pedal with every revolution.

Eventually, it dawned on me I had better stop and find out what was causing the unwanted movement. I’m glad I did: my crank was loose.

I have never had a Shimano crank loosen on a ride before. It was torqued up and I had not fiddled with it in any way. But loose, it most certainly was.

No matter. I reached for my hex key to snug it back up and get on my merry.

Except, I didn’t have a hex key with me of any sort.

Ironically, I had *nearly* packed a second (or so I thought) multi tool before I started, but decided that that was pointless.

The splines in the aluminium crank are not particularly deep, though they are many, and so I sat for a few minutes and considered my options. Only one good option presented itself: wait at the bottom of the Crow Road (a road climb over the Campsies frequented by roadies who often combine it with the Tak ma Doon road to complete a loop with plenty of climbing in it) for a rider who might lend me a hex key.

After 5 minutes a very pleasant chap stopped, held my bike as I tightened the crank and went on his way with a cheery wave.


The rest of the ride passed uneventfully, with some fun messing around on the trails at the Carron Valley mtb centre and a rotor burning decent of the Tak ma Doon.

Today, I decided to use the afternoon’s sunshine to tag on some more mileage.

Out the Westie, then over to Drymen and take the cycle path to Mlton of Buchanan, then over the great lump of Conic hill, and back on the Westie again. An hour in and I was contending with a thonn puncture. Many years of experience has taught me to check the tyre for the thorn in case it is still stuck in the tyre but there was no sign and there only appeared to be one small hole, so I got busy with the self adhesive patches. Remounting the wheel as the tube slowly deflated, my curses were the kind only a man with a tiny pump can think to utter. It was clear that I had not one, but two thorn punctures. Dagnabbit.

Once on my way again, I hustled a bit and H.A.B’ed up the West side of Conic hill. As with most times I am up there, it was blowing a hooley and on one of the step downs on the decent my bike was nearly taken from me by a gust. Yeah, suspension is good sometimes – in this instance it absorbed a very sideways landing onto a rocky section of trail that was itching to abrade at my lily white skin.

I’m getting there, slowly, surely, implacably. It took four hours for me to feel the burn in the legs and I could still put some watts out despite that. I would be happier if I was feeling that way at six or seven hours though. More work to do.