Category Archives: MTB kit

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!

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

MBUK 100 most amazing bits of bike bling EVER

20130607-015611.jpgI posted the below (italics) on the Facebook page. I’ll be doing some individual blogs over the next few weeks on some of the products I think are the best or most important. If you have any suggestions for what you want to see first, Let me know in the comments…

MBUK’s 25 year issue just arrived along with a “100 most amazing bits of bike bling EVER!” booklet. Out if the 100 my picks are, in no particular order:

  • Easton Havoc Carbon bars
  • Shimano STI triggers
  • Almost everything Hope have made
  • Maxxis Minions
  • Middleburn RS7 cranks
  • Orange Five & 222
  • Pace RC100
  • Dropper posts (not necessarily the one they featured..)
  • Fiveten Impacts
  • ODI Lock-on grips
  • Fox Float RP23
  • Camelback
  • Club Roost original riser bars

Not really ‘bling’ but all good stuff! 
Anything missing or any of that list you’d like a blog post on?

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

Satmap Active 10 GPS – update

Satmap Active 10 GPS unit – review update

Satmap active10 GPS unitGot one of these through the post end of April by Special Delivery from the UK distributors. They were after feedback about the unit from a mountain biker’s point of view. There’ll be a full review after it goes back at the end of June, but here’s a few comments:

Battery power seems to be easily good for a day & a bit – so far hasn’t lasted 2 whole days with high capacity alkalines. If I owned the unit I’d go for the rechargeable battery (you can always keep AA’s as backup).

As with any device with a backlit LCD screen, the brighter the default setting the shorter the battery life. Also the longer the screen stays on before sleep the more battery drain …obvious to some, not so obvious to others. So far I’ve left the screen on a mid setting & about 30 seconds until the screen switches off. In bright sunlight the map is quite hard to read, but the waypoint pointer is much easier. As far as I can gather this is the same with all brands.

One thing I need to have a play with is the speed setting at which the compass switches modes. Sometimes at slow speeds, like on a steeper climb, the map flips 180 degrees or the waypoint goes a bit random. This can be a bit of a pain sometimes & send you the wrong way, but not for long. Still annoying though if you end up having to double back & it’s uphill… I have a feeling that altering the afore-mentioned mode change speed might sort this.

To me the unit is useful as a ‘get you home’ device. If I want to explore randomly, I can then switch the unit on to plot a route back. The route maker is easy to use & by all accounts the Satmap Active 10 is the only current unit with a decent one.
For a pre-planned route I still prefer to use a traditional map although I may be in the minority soon!

That’s all for now, more later.

Satmap Active 10

First Impressions of the Satmap Active 10 GPS unit

Satmap active10 GPS unitJust received one of these through the post by Special Delivery this morning from Satmap. They were after feedback about the unit from a mountain biker’s point of view. I’ve only had a quick look so far as I’m waiting for a map-card to show up. First impressions in no particular order:


  • Replaceable screen covers
  • Easy to plot routes on the unit
  • …which allows it to be used without a PC
  • Personally I like the button control as opposed to touch screen
  • OS mapping
  • Really solid bike mount
  • Decent carry case
  • Appears to have good battery life, will report more fully later on


  • so far, not much. The buttons do need a firm press though