Category Archives: MTB components

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.

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…

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!

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!

Superstar Nano Pedals long term test

Superstar Nano PedalsIt’s nice to see a long term review where the product is still available! These Superstar Nano pedals were bought in Oct 2011 and are still current…

They’ve been on the bike from new until now. I’ve taken them off because Teva were kind enough to send me a pair of their Pivot SPD shoes, so some suitable pedals were needed while I give the shoes a good test. Not sure if I’ll ever go back to SPDs permanently, but that’s a tangent we won’t go down at the mo…

These have been given good reviews elsewhere, suggesting they must be pretty decent & they’re also available under a few other brand names (usually for more cash)

This review is mainly looking at how they’re stood up to nearly 2 years of use, but here’s a bit of a description:

Superstar Nano Thru PinThey have a decent area to them, some people find pedals like V12’s a bit small (I didn’t), but these should suit most feet. The pins seem a good length & there’s enough of them for good grip. I like thru pin pedals – although the grub screw hex type can have sightly more grip they do tend to damage easily & then you can’t always get them out. These are much easier to remove & replace. There are thinner pedals out there but at 17mm these get noticeably fewer rock strikes than pedals like the V12. Overall dimensions are 105x100x17mm. Weight is quoted at 499g & they’re fairly well sealed. Superstar say the body is concave – this is minimal, but whatever the shape, it suits me

With riding being ‘work’ they’ve had to put up with a fair bit of all kinds of stuff including a couple of coast to coasts where the mud wasn’t washed off for a week. They also get a fair bit of air time, partly teaching others how to jump & partly because if I see a take off point on the trail, well, it’d be rude not to…

The pics show that as with any anodised finish, cosmetic condition eventually deteriorates! However it took a while & riding in mud is more or less like taking wet & dry to a set of pedals! I like the used look though

Superstar Nano ColoursSo far these have had 1 change of pins & 1 service kit. The pin change was mainly a ‘just in case’ – I didn’t want to find that any were damaged enough to remove the thread from the pedal body. They started to develop some play recently, hence the service. Both jobs were done about 2 months ago & the old pins actually weren’t too bad. The service kit sorted the play & the axles weren’t worn. I thought the axles were perfectly straight, but it turned out that one side has a slight bend – not enough to feel when riding but you can see it when the axle spins as you re-attach them. This is almost certainly from the odd heavy landing, I would guess that a ‘wheels on the ground’ rider would have little chance of doing any damage. I could replace the axles as well, but at the moment they still feel fine

All in all, recommended. Oh and they come in lots of colours!

Easton Carbon Bar, Hope Stem

Hope FR Stem Easton Havoc Carbon bar reviewEaston Havoc Carbon Riser Bar & Hope FR stem

Bar & stem reviews by nature are never going to be long & detailed. Although important they all do the same job, so you really just want to know weights, dimensions & whether they stay straight & in one piece!

Hope FR stem

Hope FR Stem Easton Havoc Carbon bar reviewHope stems are available in a good range of sizes & rises so you should be able to find something that gives you good position. I went for a Hope as it seemed the best combo of price, weight & reliability available at the time. I was looking at the Renthal but it wasn’t any lighter, cost more & doesn’t come in a choice of colours…

One thing to remember when changing your steering setup is that wider bars move your hands outwards (obviously!) which brings your body position forwards. So if you want to keep a similar riding position as before a shorter stem will do this for you. That’s good all round as shorter stems are better for good steering. If you want wider bars and to move your body position rearwards then go for an even shorter stem

I fitted the Hope stem same time as the bars just over a year ago – no complaints so far, seems super-tough. What could go wrong you ask? Well, I’ve had other lightweight stems twist on me in the past. Not catastrophically but having one grip lower than the other isn’t that great!

Weight is quoted at 133g but that may be for the 50mm version, I have the 70mm

Officially the FR version is the 50mm or 70mm, in 0deg or 25deg rise, but they are plenty light enough for XC as well

Downsides? Only the price but there are a lot of more expensive stems out there as well

Easton Havoc Carbon riser bar

Hope FR Stem Easton Havoc Carbon bar reviewThis is a wide one! When it was released it was the widest DH bar at 750mm. DH you ask? On an all mountain/XC bike? Well, yes. It’s light enough & my paranoia told me that a lighter carbon bar would obviously snap! Probably not true but I don’t fancy being impaled by carbon. Alloy would be fine obviously…

The width suits me, although it seems a bit close when going through narrow stuff. Not hit anything yet though. Other stats are:

  • 9° bend 5° upsweep
  • weight – 235g

This bar feels straighter to me than previous risers I’ve used. Initially I thought it was less than ideal but I’d bought it so best put up with it. But riding with it for a while, it became obvious that being a DH bar it suits the fast, more extreme stuff better & works well with a lower position on the bike, elbows out. Then it fits really well. I’ve not long returned from an off road c2c & it was comfortable with longer days riding. Being carbon the stiffness doesn’t get in the way of vibration absorption & that adds to the comfort. Along with the stem comments above, I used to find that alloy bars would bend slightly on the right (mostly from messing about doing 180’s…) Tough carbon bars can’t so hopefully these will never have to be replaced!

Both were fitted at the same time. There’s been plenty of miles ridden & the odd crash but no issues, as it should be