Category Archives: UK designed

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.

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!

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!

Middleburn RS7 Crankset (ISIS) long term review

How has Middleburn’s RS7 stood up to the abuse?

Middleburn RS7 Silver cranksetCranks. Pedals one end, bottom bracket the other, 1 – 3 chainrings, make the bike go.

There’s a lot of talk about how stiff various cranks are. These ones are stiff, although it’s rare for even cheap ones to feel flexy. The Middleburn RS7 crankset is also on the light side. They’re made out of quality alloy in the UK. They’re a little bit pricey, with a RRP for the arms & a spider around £150 but you often see them for a fair but less than the RRP. They do have a lifetime guarantee which includes DH & dirt jumping. It doesn’t cover the splines but it’s rare that they would go on any crank in use. I would guess the disclaimer there is to avoid paying out for dodgy fitting. If you want even lighter still, the RS8’s still have a lifetime guarantee but not for DH & jumping.

I can’t think of anything bad. They’re available in square taper & ISIS. Stop, I hear you say, but aren’t ISIS BB’s the worst product ever invented? Well they seem to have a bad rep, but in my experience if you get a quality BB, (not necessarily the most expensive), they last as long as the old square tapered ones. The axles are larger diameter & therefore stronger. The FSA Platinum I 1st used lasted 16 months of hard use before any play developed. It was replaced by a Superstar a couple of months ago, the design of which makes total sense, so I’m expecting that to do well. As a comparison, the best I’ve had from an external type BB is 6 months, the worst is 3 rides! Before anyone asks, yes the BB shell was faced. There are better units available now, however, from Hope, Chris King & others.

Although these have a triple, the spider is removable & you can fit a lightweight XC double where the inner ring is also the spider for the big ring. Uno setups do away with a spider, the ring fits where the spider would normally. Spiders are available in XC & DH versions, and trials set-ups are also available. In the more standard config, you can get various 4 or 5 bolt types including one for XTR cranks to allow you to run your own choice of rings.

Lastly, a word about chain rings. The pic shows Middleburn’s own fitted to my set of RS7’s. I use these because they seem to last better than most. It’s very hard to decide on a longest lasting make of chain ring, because the conditions & the weather make it a bit variable, but these seem to do the job. The granny ring has been on other cranksets, so it’s 2 years old or more, The big ring isn’t showing any signs of wear & it’s about 6 months old & the middle ring (gets the most use) is still going after a good few months, but has some wear. Not enough yet to need replacing, but enough that you can see it. The one on there at the mo is a hardcoat, unlike the older one in the pic.

To sum up, buy a set of RS7’s if you don’t mind shelling out a bit of cash for something that will last. They’re due to release an external set sometime soon, so you may want to wait for that – I’d say there’s no need, this one is fine. Another UK product that works & works well.

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.

Orange Five long term review

Orange Five Long Term Review

Orange FiveThis isn’t so much a detailed review, you just need to Google for tons of reviews & info on how it rides & handles. This is more about how it stands up to long term use. This one’s an ’08 model – not so much has changed for 2010; a slightly lighter/stronger top tube by Reynolds & the head angle is a little bit slacker. I wouldn’t have said it needed it, but it’ll make the bike slightly more stable at speed & help prevent over the bars incidents on the really steep bits.

…back to the bike – it’s lived up to expectations. No major problem’s so far since it was bought in Dec 2007. It was the basic ‘S’ model with factory upgrades where it seemed worth it. Forks were upgraded to Fox TALAS RLC, hubs, brakes & headset to Hope items & a GravityDropper seatpost added by me. Reasoning was that drivetrain stuff will wear out anyway, so why pay extra at the start? Just upgrade if necessary when stuff wears out.

The forks went to MOJO after a year to have the TALAS system sorted, it almost stopped working due to an unsealed system on the ’08 forks that lets in dirt. They fitted the ’09 assembly which has been great – instant travel adjust instead of almost instant, and it’s now sealed. It’s currently the only system that’s so easy to use you can adjust it on the move.

Pivot bearings are still smooth, so well done Orange for quality bearings & a design that obviously doesn’t put much stress on them. Had to change the shock bushings & went for TF Tuned stainless ones which have been good so far, and they sell the tool for DIY purposes. Although it’s nothing to do with Orange as such, the Fox shock has done well. No issues & it’s easy to change seals on the air can & add some float fuid every so often just to be on the safe side. Mojo reckon if you do this you won’t need a factory service as soon.

Most upgrades have been due to wear & tear or personal choice rather than breakages. One exception was a front rim – bent the original WTB item on not too heavy a landing. Replaced it with my current rim of choice, a Mavic EN321 (used to be XM321); cheap, reasonably light & I’ve not bent one yet. I replaced the rear recently with one that became spare from another bike. It’s handy that EN321’s & WTB SpeedDisc AM rims take the same length spokes, so can be swapped without replacing the spokes if they’re in good order. The other major replacement was a set of Middleburn RS7 cranks, due to the Truvativs being required for another bike. Nothing wrong with the Truvativ set, the external bearings don’t last ages, but I got a lot longer from them than from Shimanos I’ve used. The RS7’s are an awesome bit of kit & there’ll be a detailled review sometime.

That’s it really, does everything I need & does it well.

[edit] I am still using this bike in 2014! Obviously components wear out, but the frame is still fine. It’s running on the original shock & has only had 4 sets of pivot bearings & 3 sets of shock bushings so far… #26aintdead

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…)