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!

Vittoria (was Geax) Goma & Barzo TNT tyres

Vittoria (Geax) Goma/Barzo TNT combination

Have to say 1st up, these are for sale in the Chasing Trails ebay shop. but I like to sell stuff that I use, or would use if I needed one of whatever thing it is.
So, I’ve been running a pair of 650b Vittoria tyres for about the last 8 weeks and I’ve been seriously impressed!

My preferred tyre setup these days combines a rear that’s fast rolling but still has enough climbing grip and a front that grips well in the corners without being too heavy or draggy. The 26er combo I was running was a Geax Saguaro rear & a Maxxis Minion 42a SPC 2.35″ front. The Saguaro was fast rolling & better climbing than it looked. The Minion – as Minions do – gripped supremely well in corners & despite being sticky rolled OK. Put a 42a on the back & it would be a different story however…

Vittoria Goma TNT 2.25Goma TNT 2.25

I was half expecting to be a little disappointed with the Goma based on how good the Minions have been over the years & initially it seemed to be a bit more sketchy in corners. I thought about removing it but it looked like it had some release compound on the tyre & once the dust got to it the grip appeared. It’s actually very similar to ride as a Minion. The feel as you push it a bit too hard is almost identical, if anything you get a bit more feedback, but the main thing is it allows you to respond before it washes out.
This is important as a super grippy tyre with no feel doesn’t inspire you to get anywhere near it’s limits. Once you’ve crashed because there’s been only a millisecond between the feeling of losing grip & hitting the floor you instinctively don’t want to go there again! So I always look for front tyres that combine as much grip as possible with good feel. I assumed the Goma would have slightly less grip being a 50a rather than 42a compound but I’ve not been able to tell. It should last longer though as the compound isn’t quite as soft.

The one I’m running is a 2.25″ but is slightly bigger than the Minion 2.35 – tyre sizes do seem to be plucked from the air..! It’s also the TNT version which is folding, has reinforced sidewalls & will run tubeless or tubed. I’ve found them slightly tighter than average to fit, although this will vary depending on the rim. They’re pretty easy to fit tubeless, it’s been on 2 rims so far & seated on both with a track pump. 1st rim got dented in a ‘banked over, end of bar meets woodwork’ scenario, but no damage to the tyre so suggests that the build is good.

It’s been ridden over fairly slippery off camber rocks and whilst few tyres grip in such conditions it hasn’t caused any problems in that the feel gives time to react. So all in all, these come recommended – by me at least! Ideal on aggressive XC to AM & Enduro.

Vittoria Barzo TNT 2.25Barzo TNT 2.25

Not as much to say about this one as a rear tyre for me doesn’t have to do as many different things. This one hasn’t spun out on a climb yet & it seems to roll very well. An improvement on the Saguaro is that it has more corner grip so it doesn’t drift as early. This helps get more out of the good grip on the front & increases cornering speed. I assume that if a rear tyre doesn’t draw attention to itself it’s doing a pretty good job!

Lastly, re tyre width, I tend to run the same front & rear, as if you go for different sizes it doesn’t work well to have a wider rear on a mountain bike, MX style, and for me a wider front means more speed than the rear copes with, so I tend to match them.

Hope this is some fairly straightforward, useful info!

Banshee Rune 650b upgrade 27.5″

Banshee Rune 26″ to 650b conversion

So, er, with a first impressions and a long term review for Banshee’s Rune a 3rd one could be seen as a bit excessive?!

However, this one will be short as it’s just to give an impression of the ride with 650b wheels compared to 26″.

‘Why make the change?’, you might ask. I’ve long been a supporter of 26″. You can make awesome 26ers. IMO the wheels are big enough & they allow lots of flexibility with geometry and especially with longer travel bikes the advantages of larger wheels are not so great. But it seems the industry is trying to kill it off and I decided to make an economically sound decision for once and sell the 26″ forks while they were in good condition & not yet considered totally obsolete! I’m not against other wheel sizes I just don’t get why we aren’t allowed as many good tyres in 26″ any more!

So, I sold the TALAS 36 160mm forks and replaced them with a set of 650b Rockshox Pikes. There will be a separate post on them, but in a word, great…

Banshee RuneAre there any differences? Apart from the forks performing better, the big positive with the swap over is that the bike is better balanced in the air. It was already good, now it’s extremely good! Handling wise on the ground very little has changed, it still corners, steers and soaks up trails as before. The 650b dropouts are only available in 142mm which is more or less standard & they are slotted for easier axle fitting. It wasn’t that hard before but it’s even easier now. If you’re really looking & you pay a lot of attention to components on, er, all bikes, you’ll notice there’s a 12mm QR instead of the standard bolted one. It’s RS Maxle standard, but not a Maxle. More about that in another post.

The only thing you could call a slight negative would go for any move to larger wheels on a frame with replaceable dropouts. Initially the bike is slightly less keen to manual as the rear axle is further back. I got used to this much more quickly than I expected to. (I did have a quick check to see if the wheels fitted with the 26″ dropouts but no!)

So although there’s not a huge amount to write, I’m pleased with the change. It’s always been a hugely fun bike to ride but it’s genuinely improved as a 650b I think. Also keep a look out for a tyre review of the Vittoria (Geax) Barzo & Goma tyres in the next few weeks/months as well as the One-Up 42 & 16 tooth sprockets & RAD cage.

Renthal Kevlar Lock-On Grips

Renthal Kevlar Lock-On Grips Long Term Review

So, there’s always a chance that a manufacturer’s hype doesn’t quite live up to reality.
Renthal’s description for their Kevlar Grips goes like this:

Renthal Kevlar Lock On GripRenthal Lock-On grips feature CNC aluminium locking collars, permanently integrated with the central core, giving the ultimate all-weather security on the handlebar. The integrated construction eliminates any movement between the grip section and the collars, which could otherwise develop over time.
 
The handlebar grip is your key contact point for controlling your bike. Having a grip suited to your individual demands is hugely important.
We developed the Kevlar® brand resin compound to offer a superbly tacky feel, with excellent shock absorption qualities. The Kevlar® brand resin content of this compound extends life hugely, making this our most durable grip. Renthal Kevlar® brand resin grips are the most advanced grip compound available. The base material contains millions of randomly aligned Kevlar® brand resin particles. As the grip is used more particles are exposed, so the number of particles at the grip surface increases.

Renthal® Lock-On grips are designed to ride faster, jump further and last longer.

I’ve been running these for a year now & if there was nothing else to say that’s a big plus point. I’ve used loads of different grips, some I probably can’t remember (20+ years of riding) and I’ve never had a set last for this long & still work as new.

The level of grip is pretty much perfect for me – they’re very grippy without the jelly like feeling you sometimes get. But they do a more grippy version in another compound if you are used to really tacky compounds.

The technology they’ve used really does seem to work. The grip makes them feel like they should be wearing out but the wear rate is really slow. A year on they still look like they have plenty of life. Although the knurled pattern has mostly gone, it’s hard to tell any difference in performance. They weren’t the cheapest (RRP £24.99) which might put you off, but as far as I can see they work exactly as I want them to & last ages, so value-wise they’re very good.

It goes without saying that the lock-on system works – mine are on a set of Easton carbon bars and they stay put without excess torque on the bolts.

I don’t do star ratings, I think a description is all you need. However, get some Renthal Kevlar Lock On grips!

some, er, interesting statistics on mtb skills courses

Why a MTB skills course?

Drop-off Dalby BlackI was looking through Singletrackworld’s archived polls, for some research into who it actually is that rides these mountain bikes…

I came across this one:

Have you taken any form of mountain bike skills instruction?

  • No, but I keep meaning to get some. (30%, 100 Votes)
  • Yes, I’ve been on a skills course. (26%, 87 Votes)
  • No. Don’t need any. I’m completely self-taught! (18%, 61 Votes)
  • Yes, I’ve been on several courses (7%, 25 Votes)
  • Yes, I’ve had some informal instruction from good riders (7%, 23 Votes)
  • Some other answer (6%, 21 Votes)
  • Yes, I’ve been on SMBLA/ML courses (3%, 11 Votes)
  • Yes, and now I’m an instructor (3%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 337
Start Date: April 29, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

So, a fair number from this group think a course would be a great idea but haven’t got round to it. A significant number are self taught and don’t feel the need. Some have been taught informally by other riders.

In my experience, one thing that these 3 groups have in common after actually doing course is a sense of surprise as to what else was possible

Before doing a course, some people underestimate themselves, some people are relying on ‘bravery’, some people make it around their preferred grade of trail but just feel there’s a certain something missing.

A course or maybe 2 gives you a complete set of ‘tools’ which may otherwise take years to collect, or may never arrive at all. It also gives you confidence & consistency in the skills you already have, by letting you understand exactly how they work & how to refine them.

Some of the ‘self taught & fine with it’ group only arrive on a course because a concerned relative has made them do it or a mate is going & needs some moral support. In my experience these are the ones that are most taken aback by some decent instruction, maybe because they have a good foundation that’s ready for all the finishing touches to be put in place.

If you want to take the plunge, there are always 1:1 & 1:2 days available and in April 2015 there are 2 group courses, a foundation course &amp a next level course. They’re starting to book now, so don’t leave it too late! Take a look at the comments people have left, as there’ll likely be comments from someone who’s your type of rider somewhere in the list

Banshee Rune Longer Term Review

Banshee Rune a few months in

Banshee Rune…see the Rune first impressions review for info on the frame. This one is concerned with reliability, some differences in the setup between this one & the demo bike I rode & anything else that didn’t occur to me originally. The 2 frames are identical except for…

– the demo was a medium & slightly small for me (although great fun!). This is a large & it fits me well; although it’s maybe more like a medium from other brands. It’s got enough room that I might still go for a shorter stem in the future to improve the steering & chuck-aboutable-ness…
– The demo was a 650b & this one’s a 26er, the only difference being a different set of dropouts
– This one has no climb switch on the shock; more on that later

It’s rumoured that the 26er is slightly better, but I reckon they’re both pretty good. Much has been written about the advantages of the different wheel sizes but here’s my opinion. The 650b feels like a slightly smoother ride on rockier surfaces & the 26er feels a touch more nimble, most noticeable is that it manuals slightly easier. It also rolls faster on smoother surfaces. Both feel just as solid & the differences aren’t huge. It should be a slow bike on the tarmac, not that you’d be thinking of riding too much road on it! However, I do tend to ride from home to the trails & it’s no slower on the boring smooth stuff than a lot of shorter travel mountain bikes.

In terms of this being a longer term review, although I’ve been riding it for 3 or 4 months it was an ex-demo frame from EDS Bikes so it’s had a reasonable amount of use already. In terms of reliability, nothing whatsoever has been an issue.

There are other differences concerning the complete build, mostly not that relevant. Most of the build came from my previous frame, a rugged & dependable Orange 5, but it’s all vaguely similar in type & quality to the kit on the demo bike. Different forks were required, the Five was running some solid but quite low performance 150mm Sektors. This frame came with a set of TALAS 160 FIT RC2 forks which are solid & perform pretty well. They’re a massive improvement on the Sektors I was running! However, the demo bike was running Pikes & they kind of give you extremely high expectations for anything you ride after! I suspect a set of Pikes will transform any bike that needs an AM type fork. They are that good, really plush but also feel properly fast whether it’s rough or smooth.

The lack of the climb switch on the Cane Creek DB air hasn’t been a worry. On some bikes I’m guessing it would be a real help, on this frame I haven’t missed it. It might be just me but it doesn’t seem to need it, even on the smooth. As with the demo bike this one climbs well, better than a 160mm bike has any right to..! I suspect that unless things change drastically, other shocks may well struggle not to disappoint once you’ve ridden a Cane Creek that suits your bike.

I’ve mostly ridden whilst teaching bike skills, but lately there have been some quicker riders so I’ve also had the chance to get some speed. Despite being a fun bike I’ve not had any scary moments or crashes. The frame/shock combo would generate more grip with a more chunky rear tyre, the current one is mostly OK but drifts out well before the front. A better one will give even more cornering speed in the future.

The bike rides quite light & seems to get up most trail centre slopes without complaining. It leaves that to me… It’s only running an 11-36 with a single 34t at the front, but it’s only my occasional(!) laziness that stops it getting up climbs. As in the first post, the downhill speed is noticeably fast! I guess that means it may not be a bike for wheels on the ground XC riders but with a bit of basic technique anyone can have some fun on a Rune!

I don’t really do ‘points out of 10’ reviews of anything, but I guess the following would be lots of stars; I don’t usually own more that 1 bike & since I’ve been riding the Rune I haven’t really had the x=n+1 formula playing on my mind…”

Look out for some video over the next few weeks, providing the weather plays along!