Category Archives: MTB clothing

Teva Pivot review – DH & All Mountain clip less MTB Shoes

Teva Pivot MTB Shoes - coloursThe nice people at Teva sent me a pair of their new Pivot shoes which I’ve had for a month or 2 now, so here’s some thoughts:

I feel the need to admit I’ve been a flat pedal user for the last 7 years. The last time I put spuds back on (out of curiosity), I lasted about 5 miles before it made my knees hurt! Getting old & all that… Part of this I’m guessing was that flat shoes soak up more shock than the usual SPD designs, so going back felt a bit harsh. The Pivots however, gave me no problems at all

Fit is worth mentioning – although a brand is likely to either suit you or not it’s handy to have some kind of reference point, even a vague one. So my other shoes are FiveTens which fit me nicely & are fairly generous I’d say. I take a Euro 45, so I asked for the equivalent. The Tevas are a tighter fit, narrower & more supportive, but didn’t take long to be comfortable

Teva Pivot MTB Shoes - coloursOne of the simplest but most useful features of these shoes is that the cleat bolts can go in from the outside or the inside. The inside fit doesn’t work with every system but it does work with SPD cleats. This means no more bits of gravel getting stuck in the hex fittings on the bolts with the obvious badness that follows! The other advantage of fitting the cleat bolts from the inside of the shoe is that you can bolt them up, clip the shoe into the pedal then loosen the bolts & set the shoe to the exact position & rotation you want. If it’s still not right after riding you can tweak it much more quickly & accurately than with other shoes

Plenty of thought has gone into other areas of the design too. They’re stiff & supportive when pedalling but are also surprisingly normal to walk in. What they’ve done is make the stiffening midsole plate shorter than in most shoes. Usually this would be the whole area of the sole but in the Pivots it stops before the toe end so there’s some flex for walking. They’re not XC race stiff, but then they’re not that kind of shoe. For normal riding they’re plenty stiff enough

Teva Pivot MTB Shoes - blackI like the Velcro lace cover. It’s not a look that appeals to all but I find on shoes without one when I tuck the laces down the side of the shoe to keep them out of the chainrings they inevitably come out at some point…

So, even though I prefer flats (must get round to trying a pair of Teva’s Link shoes at some point) if I do ride with SPDs it will be in Teva Pivots. They suit the kind of riding I do, which varies from messing about to long stuff & they seem better for trail riding than the plastic race shoes, as good as they are for their own purpose

Also I should say that the shoes came without any requirement to do a review & no pressure to say good things!

Hilltrek Ventile Cycling Jacket pt2

Had this for a few weeks now:

It’s a Ventile cycling jacket from Hilltrek.

It finally arrived & I’ve been using it for a few weeks. Great bit of clothing, really like it, but…

…it’s quite warm for biking in, so definitely more of a winter jacket, if you want one mainly for summer or for warmer climates they do the same jacket in single layer Ventile. This isn’t quite as waterproof, but it will be cooler, and is still fairly weatherproof.

The rain beads off it better than it does on new synthetic jackets, although I’ve not had a really heavy sustained downpour to test it in yet. One of the best things about it is that it looks good off the bike, so I use it most of the time the weather’s bad. It’s heavier than synthetic jackets, but again the single layer version will be lighter. I plan to get a cheap super-light jacket for summer riding & use this one in the winter when I won’t be wanting to take it off & store it too much. The material also seems good at shedding mud, it doesn’t seem to stick easily like with most other clothing.

There’s plenty of pockets, 4 on the front and it has the classic rear pockets that makes something a ‘proper’ bit of cycle clothing! I actually rarely use these on any jackets, I always have a Camelback type pack on & these always seem to sit where the rear pockets are placed.

Not a huge amount more to say, if you have any questions, just leave a comment…

Hilltrek Ventile Cycling Jacket

Just ordered one of these:

It’s a Ventile cycling jacket from Hilltrek, I like the idea of Ventile as a material. It’s waterproof, lasts years & is 100% cotton! Not too pricey either – £199 seems a lot for a bike jacket, but in my experience most of the ‘membrane’ type only last a few years, maybe 3, before they start to leak so if this goes for as long as people say, then it’s a bargain.

Delivery time is 2 to 3 weeks, partly because it’s made to measure, partly because they’re running flat out to keep up with demand!

So there’ll be a review up when it’s arrived & been tested, hopefully (?) in the rain…


Quick reviews of a load of MTB Kit I’ve used…

Random useful MTB kit

Thought I’d do a list of kit that I’ve used that works. Hope you find it vagely useful!

  • Endura Stealth Jacket 07/08 – the first waterproof soft-shell I know of. Great bit of kit, breathes reasonably well even though I sweat almost as soon as I start riding… It’s got a thin fleece lining, so I wouldn’t wear it on warm days, but the rest of the time it’s quite versatile. You can wear it with just a base layer, or if it’s really cold with a mid-layer as well. 2 sets of vents make it cool enough as you get warmer. Only a chest & back pocket, but this has been enough for me so far. The back pocket will hold just enough to get by on short rides where you may not want to take a backpack. It’s still going strong & still 100% waterproof. Newer versions have more pockets, so even better. Only regret is that I went for red instead of my usual preference for dependable black! The blue looked quite good but wasn’t in stock at the time
  • Endura Venturi eVent jacket & trousers – eVent seems to live up to the hype. The theory is that it breathes without body heat. It’s as or more breathable than most other materials, but feels better than some when you get a bit cold. Also seems reasonably tough & hard wearing. I recently did put a small tear in the knee, but this was a heavy fall with a huge pack on …gaffer tape required! Well thought out, 2 side pockets plus a back pocket. Still waterproof after 2½ years & has only been re-treated ‘just in case’.
    Comments for the jacket as for the trousers. It has more pockets than the Stealth. Great jacket, shame I stupidly lost it…
  • Paramo Velez Adventure Lite Smock – got this to kind of replace the eVent jacket. This is the first Paramo that isn’t too hot for biking in. I thought I’d try it as Paramo stuff lasts ages; many people have Paramo gear that’s been going for over 10 years. Reason for this is that the waterproofing is down to a layering system rather than a membrane. If it loses it’s waterproofing a bit you just re-proof with Nikwax TX10 to bring back the performance. The smock design might not suit everyone, and there is only a chest pocket & a kind of one piece hand-warmer pocket accessed through the side vents, but I always have plenty of space somewhere, so lack of pockets hasn’t been an issue for me. It’s still a warmish garment for cycling, so can be worn with just a base-layer, but if it gets too hot the afore-mentioned side-vents allow for a fair bit of cooling. Not really for the summer, but the rest of the year it’s great. First impressions were that the sleeves were on the short side for biking, but in practice this hasn’t been a problem. The Velcro cuffs seem to do a good job. The other difference with Paramo is the feel, their stuff is really soft to wear.
  • 5-10 Impact High/Low ’06 – most people know how good 5-10 shoes are. They use tacky rubber, same as climbing shoes on the soles, so they grip flat pedals like nothing else. Only thing to add is that they’re still going now with no signs of giving up. The newer ones are synthetic uppers, not heard any negatives about this so far. The main reason why I have 2 pairs is that at the time there seemed to be some doubt as to whether they would keep making them, so I ordered a second lot. They proved so popular that it looks likely they’ll be made for some time into the future. The Lows are a bit more comfy, I have weird feet with angular bony bits that make the left shoe slightly less comfy on the High’s. I found the High’s could be waterproofed reasonably well with Grangers or similar. If they do get wet, dry them out fairly soon, as almost every shoe other than the clip-in types have a midsole made of compressed & glued cardboard, or something similar
  • howies merino base layers – many reasons why I use these; they’re still reasonably warm if they get wet, they breathe better than anything else by a long way, they never smell bad like synthetics, they keep you warm in the winter & cool in the summer. The merino fibres are naturally resistant to bacteria &a,p; they can absorb a lot of liquid before they feel damp. howies merino is about as good as it gets, so there’s no hint of itchiness
  • howies merino mid layer – same comments as for the base-layers, just a warmer version. They have thumb loops to make it easier to put a jacket on
  • howies long way home shorts & merino liner – not much to say, the shorts are comfy, the liners are really comfy. It looks very much like they were made by Endura, which is a good thing, but they were quite pricey. Bit of an irrelevant review as they don’t seem to sell them any more. They do have a habit of reviving stuff though…
  • Endura Humvee & Singletrack shorts – really well made, Endura stuff generally is. They have plenty of pockets & the Singletrack shorts came with liners. Most shorts do the job, but Endura seem to do it pretty well. Best to try on before you buy, as good fit is important
  • Rixen Kaul Klickfix Mini Map Holder – the Klickfix system is used to attach various things to the handlebars, but the map holder is the only thing of interest to me. The map holder is great, helps avoid missing a turning because you have the map in sight all the time. It’s made of folded perspex & is A6 size. I use Memory Map & then laminate the maps. Satmap seem to have borrowed the same attachment system for their GPS unit. The mount rotates 90 degrees to fit bars or stems. The similar Polaris MapTrap is a bit cheaper & has an identical looking map holder. Not sure if it’s as versatile in fitting though. I reckon I’d struggle to fit it around a bike computer & light as easily as with the Rixen Kaul version
  • Middleburn chain rings & RS7 cranks – lightweight cranks with a lifetime guarantee! The RS7’s are guaranteed for dirt jumping & DH! If you want to go even lighter they do the RS8. Still guaranteed, but not for jumping & downhill. Mine are ISIS, they also do square tapered & were working on an x-type. Many will be put off by ISIS bottom brackets, as there have been some bad ones. In my experience the good ones outlast external BB’s by a fair bit. Current one is a Superstar, it’s made like the old Shimano square taper cartridge BB’s, which is a good thing. See the long term review earlier in the year for more. Still going strong with a reasonable amount of air-time… The chain rings are made of the better 7075T6 alloy. You get a choice of clear, coloured anodised finishes or a hardcoat, as well as the choice of slickshift or not (shifting pins & ramps). Much discussion can be found on forums about whether the hardcoat does anything, but in my experience it does seem to substantially increase the lifetime. If you’re running a single ring then there’s no need for slickshift so you’ll save a little bit. You’ll find other makes that do 7075T6 chain rings, some cheaper, some more expensive. Watch out for the quality of machining as well, as the more accurate the tooth profile the longer they’ll last
  • KMC X9 chains – KMC also make Shimano’s chains as far as I’m aware. They’re by far my chain of choice. It’s essential to join them with the ‘missing link’ as per instructions but then they’re super tough. Spare Powerlinks are available from sellers for easy repairs on the trails, although I’ve never had one break. With the standard X9 it doesn’t matter whether you go for the grey(73), grey/silver(93) or silver(99). I checked with KMC & they’re all the same quality/strength, so I go for the cheaper grey X9-73 model. By all accounts the lightweight versions aren’t so tough, but this is the same with all brands. Hollow pins & cut-out side plates might look cool & save a few grams, but they will break more easily…
  • XTR M952 rear mech – it finally gave up recently, the springs were really weak & chainsuck was occuring on the granny ring despite everything being new! It was no longer providing enough tension. But it gave about 5 or 6 years of heavy use, and I bought it 2nd hand from ebay for about £25. It looked a few years old even then!
  • XT Shadow rear mech – the replacement for the XTR. Works really well, even lighter but also more positive shifting & the cable routing on the Orange Five is much improved. Nothing badly wrong with it before, but it’s much more direct & stops the outer cable from moving back & fore in the guides
  • Sealskinz socks – fully waterproof socks with a seal around them so they stay waterproof even when fully submersed. Still going strong after about 6 years, although they’ve not been used all the time. Mine don’t have a warm lining, so I use them with some thin merino socks which make them plenty warm enough. A practical point with gloves & socks is to put them on in the warm! Change in the cold & you’ll stay cold…
  • DMR V12’s – these seem to fit my feet nicely. The bearings/bushings seem to last ages, I’ve never needed to replace them. Practical tip; to grease them, remove the alloy end cap, clean the old grease out if it’s dirty then fill the cavity & the cap with clean grease & re-fit. Repeat until the dirty stuff is pushed out at the crank end of the axle & you start to see a bit of clean stuff coming out. Downside with V12 type pedals is when you mash a pin on a rock & destroy the hex fitting the pins have a tendency to crumble when the necessary mole grips are used. Not always, but sometimes. This can make them impossible to get out. The pins seem that hard they break ti coated drills. So if you see any signs of damage replace them before it’s too late. Problem is you don’t always see it coming
  • Fox Flux lid 08 – good coverage, good venting, seems solid, fits me well. Try before you buy for fit, as it’s no good a helmet being great on paper if it’s not comfy
  • BBB replacement derailleur jockey wheels – cartridge bearings & fibre-glass reinforced plastic, last longer than XTR originals & are about ¼ of the price. I’ve used them for ages with no complaints. The upper one doesn’t float like the Shimano originals, but seems to make hardly any difference. Possibly slightly more positive shifts but almost impossible to tell

howies merino base layer – NBL natural base layer

howies NBL base layer

howies description: “Superfine Merino that can be worn on its own or as part of a layering system when it’s cold. Wicks naturally, resists build-up of odours, regulates temperature and is itch-free so it feels real nice next to your skin. 100% Zque accredited Merino wool”.

Brands generally want you to believe their products will somehow enhance your quality of life. Apparently if you drink the right kind of Cola you’ll have more friends and become rich & cool… MTB marketing isn’t usually at that level of fantasy, but it’s often difficult to know which brands have a quality product and which rely more on a huge marketing department. If you’ve got a product that does the job it’s all a bit more straightforward, for company & customer.

The howies stuff I’ve owned does usually seem to match the marketing. I hesitate to use the phrase “does what it says on the tin”, it’s a bit cheesy, but there genuinely isn’t that much to add that howies haven’t said above. Except that I’ve owned a long sleeved & a couple of short sleeved versions for nearly 3½ years now, and they’re still going strong. When new, I was concerned that they were so comfortable that I’d grab one to wear off the bike far too often! Well, I’m still doing that now, so I reckon they’ve proved themselves for quality.

[edit] I was complaining the other day (July 2014) that my 2 NBLs were wearing out & why doesn’t stuff last very long these days. Then I found this post & realised they were 8 years old…

On the bike, I wear a long or short sleeved howies merino base layer as the only top layer on warm summer days, and you can get away with just the base layer & one of the warmer jackets like an Endura Stealth in the winter on all but the coldest days. When it’s cooler but dry in the autumn I usually wear a howies mid layer on top

It’s often claimed that natural materials out-perform synthetics. In my opinion this is often true; it certainly is with merino. For many, the cost will seem a bit high, but I reckon they work out at good value seeing they last so well. The fact that they refuse to smell used is a plus if you’re away for a week or weekend as you don’t need a base layer for every day. Another advantage is that merino stays almost as warm when wet, so if you sweat a lot or just get caught without a waterproof the ride doesn’t turn miserable. It also soaks up a huge amount of moisture before it even starts to feel damp. Make sure you follow the washing instructions as it will more than likely shrink in the tumble drier. They dry quick enough not to be tempted, so no excuses there.

Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock – pt2

Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock – longer term review

OK, a short re-visit to the Paramo. In short, great. As I mentioned before, I’d have the arms slightly longer, but there’s not much in it & with the wrist tabs done up everything’s comfortable & stays put<./p>

The big question; ‘has it stayed waterproof?’ – yes. And Paramo are one of the very few that always reproof properly when they need it. Good on & off the bike & seems much more resistant to dirt than most fabrics. Got splattered with Dalby mud the other day, the sort you’d think might not even come out in the washing machine, and it just didn’t soak in.

If you really don’t get on with smock designs, unfortunately they don’t have much else that works for biking. [edit] Now they do… I wasn’t 100% convinced that it would be as good all round as the eVent it replaced, I went for it because I wanted long life (from the Paramo, it doesn’t make you live longer..!) Now I’ve used it for a few months it all makes good sense.

Another plus for the ’10 version is the choice of a few more colours.

Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock – pt1

Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock – First Impressions

Paramo Velez Adventure LightThe Velez Adventure Light is a new waterproof from Paramo, IMO it’s their 1st one that’s not too hot for biking (in the UK at least!).

[edit] – since this was originally written, Paramo have released other waterproofs that are very suited to mountain biking

So far it’s all good. I find it’s best worn with just a base layer; with all the vents closed it’s warm, open the vents and it cools down enough not to have to remove it except in warm weather, when you’d not be using this kind of garment anyway

For me, the best thing with Paramo waterproofs is that the waterproofing doesn’t wear out. It doesn’t use a membrane – the layering system does the main waterproofing, and you just reproof it with Nikwax every so often. Because there’s no membrane, you can reproof it indefinitely, so they work out quite reasonable value. Also, they’re among the most breathable outdoor waterproofs available

Downsides? Sleeve length whilst OK could be a bit longer for me, and it replaced an Endura eVent jacket that I lost at Dalby (don’t ask…)