taking part in a group MTB skills course

Group MTB skills course Sun 23rd July

One-off foundation skills MTB course

You may have seen some info already saying that courses are now only available as exclusive days due to shifting demand.

This is true, but one or two people still have gift vouchers to use for a place on a group course. This means there’s a foundation/beginners course on Sun 23rd July which you can book onto for a discounted price of £49 per person!

Start time will be 10am, finishing at 4pm. Start point will be the car park at Dalby opposite Dixons Hollow, at the far end of Adderstone Field.

The course will cover:

  • gears
  • effective braking
  • off road riding position
  • how to roll drop offs
  • getting the front wheel off the ground
  • cornering
  • …and how to crash much less!
    You can book a place here or phone to pay by card or bank transfer 
    If you want to book more than one place you can change quantity on the PayPal page after clicking the button. It will only let you book places that are actually available!

    Foundation MTB skills 
    Sun 23rd July 2017 
    £49 per person

Renthal Kevlar Lock-On Grips long, long, long term review

Renthal Kevlar Lock-On Grips Looooooong Term Review

So, as I said in the previous long term review of these, there’s always a chance that manufacturer’s hype doesn’t quite live up to reality…

Renthal Kevlar Lock On GripHowever… I’ve now been running these grips for 2 years! They’re looking used now, but they’re still going & I can’t tell any difference in feel from when they were new! The first picture is a new set – the second one is now.

I haven’t changed my mind re the level of grip they offer, they’re very grippy without the jelly/sticky like feeling you sometimes get, which I find a bit gross!. The diameter is good, narrow enough for good control but not too narrow.

Renthal Kevlar Lock On Grip, well used!The knurled pattern has worn off, but hasn’t lessened the feel, the lock-on system works – mine are still on the Easton Havoc carbon bars and they still haven’t ever moved or damaged the bars in the odd crash.

Long life is always high on my list, but obviously there’s more to it that that! These do everything else I want & at risk of using a cliché, they’re a no-brainer. When they do wear out another set will be going straight on. If I had to pick a negative, some people might not like the colour. I’m fine with it, there’s Kevlar in them & they look Kevlar colour

Renthal Kevlar Lock-On Grips – long term test

Renthal Kevlar Lock-On Grips Long Term Review

Renthal Kevlar Lock On GripThere’s not a lot to say about these that I haven’t said before, in the, er, long term review. However, you’ll notice that it was posted May 2015 after a year of use. It’s now Sept 2016 & although the diamond knurled pattern now looks smooth & they’ve slightly worn to my hand shape, after 2 years 4 months I have no intention of replacing them just yet. The photo shows a new set from the Renthal site but I’ll edit in a better one of their current state soon.

So although these aren’t the cheapest grips out there, at £24.99 they’re the best I’ve ever used. With plenty of grip & also being the most hard-wearing I’ve ever found, Renthal seem to have done the impossible with these. It’s all down to a clever idea of mixing Aramid (Kevlar) fibres into the rubber compound. So as they wear, which happens slowly because of the Kevlar, more fibres get exposed, so there’s a constant resistance to wear whilst remaining grippy.

Told you it’d be short. Buy them if you can live with the one colour choice! I like it, and I’ve noticed they also do a set for motorcycles…

More info on the Renthal website.

2016 Ard Rock Enduro

2016 Ard Rock Enduro photos

This is the first year I’ve been to ‘Ard Rock & I’ll definitely be going back! It’s a spectacular event – the trails, atmosphere & organisation were beyond expectations & despite 60-70mph winds on the Sunday, the riding was still awesome. It has a great festival feel to it & if you like the idea of racing but prefer the downhills, Enduro is for you! Keep a check on the Ard Rock Enduro site or subscribe to their mailing list for 2017 dates.

To give you a feel for the trails, I’ll shut up & post some photos taken by various professional picture takers that were around the route. The only thing I’d add is that the trails are steeper & more technical than they look! The quality of the photography is great & all they photographers were great to deal with!

All photos are used with the photographer’s permission

Photo of Steve Phipps at 2016 Ard Rock by Digital Swaledale2016 Ard Rock by EventPhotosArd Rock 2016 - photo by JWDT PhotographyArd Rock 2016 (3) - photo by JWDT PhotographyArd Rock 2016 (2) - photo by JWDT PhotographySteve form Chasing Trails at 2016 Ard Rock - photo by MJP2016 Ard Rock by MJP (2)2016 Ard Rock by MJP (3)2016 Ard Rock by MJP (4)2016 Ard Rock by RH Photography

Long Term Test of Race Ready Braking disc brake pads

Race Ready Braking disc brake pads

Race Ready Braking's resin padsHow well do they wear..?

First thing I should say is that I don’t go through brake pads that quick. Brake pad reviews have the potential to be extremely subjective as different riders seem to be heavier or lighter on the brakes and sometimes by a huge amount. Added to that, riders being, er, heavier or lighter, the amount different people ride, the terrain & the trail surface of your local trails all make huge differences in the longevity of your brake pads.

So these were fitted in January and after a year are still good. This is about as long lived a set of pads as I’ve ever had. Again, it’s nowhere near 100% scientific! But seeing there’s still life in them, if you order a set & they don’t last you long I’d politely suggest that you’re doing something wrong! It could be your braking technique or not bedding them in or possibly riding in the Dark Peak on a wet day! Having said that, you’ll know how previous brands have lasted as a comparison anyway.

Race Ready Braking's Resin PadsDo they stop you?!

Yes. Obviously they stop you… But how well & how quickly & with how much control..? For context, I don’t chuck stuff out until it can no longer be fixed. Therefore on my 160mm ‘Enduro’, ‘all mountain’, ‘trail’, or just ‘mountain’ bike I am still running a set of Hope Mono Minis from the misty past of 2007. As an aside I’ve only just replaced the lever blades & brass pivots and apart from that I’ve bled them on occasions. So by modern standards they’re not super-powerful stoppers. I can’t remember what brand the previous set of pads were as it was much longer than 5 minutes ago, but I do remember that they were a bit sub-standard. They felt like the front disc had a touch of oil on it. It didn’t because fitting the RRB pads sorted it out. All I need to say is that I’ve not been in any situation where the brakes have let me down or caused any problems & since fitting them I’ve never had a dodgy moment caused by not enough power or feel. Incidentally, if you have a set of brakes that you hate,try a different brand of pads before getting rid of them.

Last time I used them in ‘anger’, I was being chased by a teenage nephew who’s fear levels are non existent, possibly into negative levels. I was helped on the downhills by the fact he was on a hardtail but he relentlessly caught up on the uphills. Pride (& the fact that I teach skills for a living) meant he could not be allowed to overtake, or even get too close, so I had to ‘make the most’ of every downhill section. The quality of the brakes obviously play a big part in staying on the bike when pushing it a bit, but the feel through the levers was good at all times. The only times I was anywhere near to a mistake was pushing the corner speed a bit much, but speed control was always good. Using the same brakes with other pads in the past has given a completely different feel. I’ve tried a good few brands & some have been good, some not so, but the RRB pads are amongst the best for power & feel. At least with my Hope’s anyway.

Price? This is where you might start to have doubts, but maybe not for the reason you’d expect. At £3.50 for a set of resin pads you may be thinking ‘how good can they be? See above…

Long Term Test of Brill Cleaner

Brill Cleaner 500mlBrill Cleaner – how does it work for bikes?

I’ve been using this for a couple of months now, so this post is what I’ve found after a good few uses…
…those of you that know me might have noticed that in the past I might have, once or twice, turned up for a ride with a pre-muddied bike! So maybe I’m an ideal candidate to test out bike cleaner?! Or maybe not, you decide!

Whether it’s the influence of the product or not, I’ve actually been more motivated to wash the bike after muddy rides since it arrived! Often the mud will have dried on before I get to the hose pipe so it’s a good test for any cleaner. My frame is a blasted anodised finish & the mud seems to stick more than it might to a glossy painted finish.

The Brill Cleaner works more or less like other brands, with a difference, which I’ll get to.
You spray the bike, let it soak in a bit then give it a go with a non-abrasive brush. Then hose it off & it’s done.

It’s very effective, not too much effort & not particularly time consuming; much quicker than a bucket of soapy water. Where it has the biggest difference/advantage to a lot of products is that you get a bottle of concentrate, either 500ml for £8.95, 1 litre at £14.95 or 5 litres for £29.95. You then dilute it according to whatever job you’re doing. 1:10 seems fine for muddy bikes, so that means you get 5 litres of cleaner from a 500ml bottle. This makes it great value and you can also use it for cleaning other stuff that might need a stronger or weaker solution (I know, why would you even want to non-bike stuff?!). I haven’t tried it on the dishes, probably not recommended..!

There’s a list of items with the recommended dilutions on the bottles. Whichever size you order, you get a spray bottle included which you re-use. It’s a ‘made in Britain’ product & although it’s new to the cycling world Brill has been around since 1987.

It’s also 100% biodegradable and if you look at the FAQ under “What does it clean”, the answer given is – Everything!

All in all, it’s well recommended with seemingly no downsides apart from you still have to actually remember to clean your bike…

You can get more info & order from the Brill website – www.brillcleaner.com
They’re also on facebook and twitter

OneUp Components 42T Sprocket & RAD cage

OneUp Components 42t & 16t sprocketsOneUP Components 42t (and 16t) Sprocket

I’ve been on a 1×10 setup for quite a while now, probably a couple of years I think. However the 36t largest sprocket was a bit limiting. If I was race fit I’m guessing it would be plenty. This became apparent watching @GringoJimi disappear up a black climb at Dalby halfway down the cassette while I ran out of gears!

Being a fan of downhills however, (who said unfit & lazy?) 36 teeth isn’t enough for me on the climbs. I looked into available options for a long time. I wasn’t ready to lose the 11 tooth cog as some recommend, and I didn’t like the big jump that you get from ditching the 15 or 17. Another company makes a replacement for the 3 largest which sounded ideal but has all 3 made of alloy & users reported limited life. So it seemed the best compromise was OneUp’s 42 tooth, shipped together with a 16 tooth. The 42 is alloy and the 16t is steel. You replace both the 15 and 17 tooth with the 16 and although the jump isn’t perfect it’s not noticeable after about half a ride.

Fitting is easy for anyone that does their own repairs – you just need to pay attention to the orientation of the cogs to match the brand of cassette you’re modifying. You need to wind the b-tension screw on the derailleur all the way in, and you may well need to remove a washer too. UNLESS…

…you also fit one of these:

OneUp Components RAD CageOneUP Components RAD Cage

The RAD Cage is a solution to the fact that normal 10 speed mechs aren’t designed to cope with huge cogs. They work, but shifting isn’t necessarily as good as it could be. For some reason I’d ordered one of these way back – I think I was also planning to order an extender cog & forgot. It’s not as simple a job to fit the cage as it is to fit the cog itself, but the instructions are some of the best you’ll get. Absolutely spot on! Granted I’m used to working on bikes and I’ve done so for a long time, but I hadn’t done this job before. One go, no mistakes and it went on perfectly.

What the RAD Cage does is to shift the cage into a much better position for the big cog without messing up the chain coverage on all the others. You re-use the other plate from the mech and when it’s all back on the bike you wouldn’t really know anything had been hacked. Unless you go for the green option!

OneUp Components RAD Cage, fittedSo, 3 months of use including a coast to coast later and it’s performed flawlessly. I’ve been making sure to lube the chain regularly as I was slightly worried about the 42t cog, but it’s showing no signs of mechanical wear, just a touch of silver showing on the side from shifting. If you’re interested I use the Squirt wax lube which seems to stay pretty much grit free. Overall, nothing bad to report, only that I still need to be fitter/lose some weight! But the 42t combined with the 32t oval chainring (see previous post) really does make most climbs doable. This showed up on the c2c as I’ve done it enough times to have a feel for most of the climbs and the effort required! This time they all felt more doable, apart from the ones that no one rides. This despite me not being as fit as on some other years.

I’d be happy to recommend the OneUp setup to anyone looking for a good reliable 1×10 system that copes with most situations a double or triple will. Oh and it also saves a touch of weight too!

Oval 32t chainring – ‘Black’ by Absolute Black

Absolute Black-Black Series-32t-OvalAbsolute Black – “Black Series” 32t Oval Chainring

I’ve been impressed by Absolute Black’s quality for a while. I won a narrow/wide 34t round ring from them in a facebook comp a good few months back and it’s not showing much wear at all. Despite running the mech with the clutch switched off it hasn’t dropped the chain once – I found that the suspension reacts better to the small stuff with the clutch disengaged. So I thought I’d give one of their ovals a try based on my inability/dislike of climbs…

Some oval/elliptical chain-ring info:

Right, lets clear up the misunderstanding with oval rings once & for all..! (I know, an ambitious task, but it’s not too difficult to understand)
I had my doubt of of oval rings cured years ago, although being young & poor I could never afford to run one! I was around when Shimano’s embarrasing ‘Biopace’ experiment was still refusing to die off, but I met an engineer called Chris Bell who had a workshop in Wales about 5 minutes from where my parents lived. As cyclists do, we chatted about all things bike & he showed me round his workshop. Amongst other custom products he’d been making Egg-Rings (a range of round, elliptical & other shaped rings) since before Shimano made their (very rare) mistake. He’s retired now but some of his products are still made by Highpath Engineering. The mags at the time were full of advice to avoid bikes with Biopace because they actually made a bike less efficient, harder to pedal and possibly more likely to cause injuries; the orientation of a Biopace ring being exactly opposite to what it should have been. This unfortunately had a negative effect on many serious riders’ views of oval/elliptical rings in general, despite everyone else’s being fine! People still remember Biopace when anyone talks about non-round rings and assume the modern ones are similarly flawed. Just check out any forum/facebook post on ovals and someone will say “seen it before” and talk about Biopace. At the time there were some other lesser known Biopace clones too, as well as various others that worked. To stop me rambling, if you’re interested have a look at Chris’s website and a handy history of non-round chain rings.

Anyway, the long & short of it is that an oval or elliptical ring orientated correctly WILL do what it’s supposed to do, which is give you a higher (harder) gear when you can use it and then an easier gear at the dead spot where you have the least power. This isn’t necessarily suitable for every style of bike & rider but it does work particularly well on mountain bikes and single-speeds, although not exclusively. Absolute Black’s site & facebook page has some info and video explaining why they like oval rings. Biopace gave an easy gear where you had most power, then a hard gear where you were struggling at the dead spot!

Anyway, that’s a load of background but my review will be short! For once… Maybe…

So, it does it’s job extremely well. Main difference between these & older oval/ellipticals is the narrow/wide profile which is designed to keep the chain in place. I wondered if the oval profile would result in one or two chain losses but not so far after a good number of miles & rocks.

It felt weird in the first 1/2 mile but then on familiar climbs I could immediately feel the difference. It’s noticeably more efficient, more-so the harder you have to push. On fast flat sections & downhills there’s no downsides but you get more benefit on climbs. The 32t I’m running is effectively a 34 when you have the most power, but feels faster than the 34 round I was running and easier on climbs than the 34.

Absolute black comparison 32t-OvalsI’m running the “Black Series” version which is the same as their standard rings but with less machining so weighs a bit more. The functional bits are the same though, but it costs less and is only available through Chainreaction.

And if you’re curious but not convinced they will let you buy an oval from their site, use it for 30 days & if you don’t like it they’ll swap it for a round ring for nowt!