Tag Archives: long term review

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