DMBinS Event

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland invited me to present at their latest networking event.

Hosted by BMDinS and held at the Tor-Na-Coille in Banchory, the evening was a light touch networking event, designed to give local businesses in the sphere (or looking to diversify into MTB), a flavour of the support availble to do so.

DMBINSEVENTbanchory 4

There was a nice range of really great speakers, Danny Cowe and Will Clarke of DMBinS opened the evening and Sam Richards (originally from Strachan) of One Up Components delivered the keynote about the One Up story.

I was representing the university and school where I work (Gray’s School of Art at RGU) alongside James Njuguna of the school of engineering. We were both discussing the ways our schools can support developing businesses and innovation.

Local bike business 20 Twenty Bike Clinic was also in attendance. As a dealer of One Up Components, plenty of their wares were on show as well as some very nice bikes that had rolled out of the bike clinic.

It was a relaxed and enjoyable evening, there are few events that gather the wider Aberdeenshire MTB community together. So the oppurtunity to put names to faces and find out about everyones ideas and projects was really exciting to see.

The Geometry Spectrum

In recent years bike geometry has become a big talking point among riders.

Longer reach, slacker head-angle, steeper seat tube, longer wheel base and the perpetual argument about if chainstays should be growing or shrinking. These are but a few of the aspects that make-up a good balanced frame design. But the numbers tend to be discussed in isolation from one another by riders when contrasting and comparing geometry tables. That being said, the more experienced (generally speaking) a rider is, the more of the geo-chart they take into account when making bike choices. However, the conversation rarely expands into how one element affects the other, and that is truly the crux of the matter.

But regardless of how informed the general biking public is to the finer points of frame design, the trend is that geometry is getting slacker, longer and lower.

The first thing we have to accept, is that there is no single magic set of numbers, no magic bullet, there is no such thing as “perfect geometry“. Geometry gives a set of characteristics and a certain feel to a frame (not withstanding the suspension platform if applicable). It will bias a frame to be better suited for certain types of riding and certain types of terrain. Whilst sharing the share same DNA, we can all agree that XC race bikes are different from DH rigs.

Whilst the “Enduro Bike” did start life as a beefed up trail bike, it has become a identifiable niche within the market and one where geometry is arguably, king.

It is also a perfect balancing act, If you change one thing you have to change it all, you cannot simple extend one aspect in isolation. A bike designer once described it to me as spinning plates.

For example if you extend the top tube and thus the reach, that will move the riders weight forwards and this may imbalance the ride.  So a designer may choose to shorten the chainstays to account for that shift in the riders weight. If they don’t, then the back end may become unweighted more easily and be prone to breaking traction.

Now if we take the view that the best riding position is central on the bike (and ignore the impact differing wheel sizes have to the equation). Then we can make some objective observations on how frame geometry has evolved over the last 10 or so years.

To illustrate this, I will track the evolution of a fairly critical and influential bike, the Specialized Enduro. Whilst the “Enduro Bike” did start life as a beefed up trail bike, it has become a identifiable niche within the market and one where geometry is arguably, king.

But I thought the top tube and thus the reach, was meant to be getting longer as well?

Now lets have a look at some key figures, the headliners if you will.

  • Head Angle
  • Top Tube Length
  • Wheel Base
  • Chainstay length

The trend has been for the head angle to slacken, the wheel base and reach to grow and the chainstays to be kept as short (or as static) as possible.

year Head Angle Top Tube Length Wheel Base Chainstay Length
2005 68º 623 mm 1156 mm 424 mm
2009 67° 620 mm 1177 mm 421 mm
2010 66.5° 620 mm 1185 mm 419 mm
2014 66.5° 617 mm 1183 mm 419 mm
2017 65.5° 604 mm 1201 mm 425 mm

All of these sizes are taken from large size frames.

So whats actually going on here?

The head angle is consistently getting slacker and the wheelbase is getting incrementally longer. But I thought the top tube and thus the reach, was meant to be getting longer as well?

The wheelbase is being extended in two ways, by throwing the front wheel forwards from slackening the HA and latterly by extending the chainstays. But if we look closely, the reach is actually contracting, in a size large, it shrinks 7mm from 2010 to the current year model.

Specialized has a secret sauce in the Enduro, and people like it.

But if longer and slacker leads to a more stable and therefore, faster platform then why are the big S shrinking the reach of their race happy Enduro? Why not go all in and extend the top tube and the reach aswell? In my mind it comes down to two things, the elusive “ride feel” and the rider that they are selling this bike to.

Geometry gives a certain feel, some riders prefer a bike that is not to long as a shorter bike feels more “playful“. Specialized has a secret sauce in the Enduro, and people like it. They don’t want to move the position of the riders weight on the bike as that will change that feel. But riders have also drunk deep of the Enduro cool aid, so Spesh needs to not only make a bike that still feels like an Enduro, but also appears to be following the trend of longer slacker bikes being better without changing the taste of the secret sauce.

The second point that I feel is pertinent is the market that they are selling the bike to, or more accurately how broad that spectrum of riders is. A bike that is genuinely longer and slacker, regardless of what the chainstays or top tube are doing on paper, will appear to be very different to what has gone before. It will also feel different, and that will put some riders off.

Now there is no getting around it, if you are designing a race specific bike that is built around 160mm of travel, then you will probably come up with some more aggressive numbers than what the Enduro has. But the vast majority of riders don’t need a race specific bike, they would find it harsh and beyond what they were used to. So when your objective is to sell as many bikes as possible, which approach do you take?

Now this is by no means an attack on the abilities of this very capable bike or the riders who choose them. Change is generally slow and usually has interim steps, hybrids before full electric cars for example.

but when looking at geo tables and comparing bikes that are on the market, maybe compare them to previous iterations as well, to get a sense of how a frame has been evolving to see whether it is indeed the frame for you.

Standard Rant

New standards, everybody loves them, wait no the other one, nobody loves them. Pink bike keyboard warriors love them, nothing gets them going like a new axle width. What do I think, well, I don’t care and neither should you.

This little shed based rant/vlog I cover the ground I previously wrote about in this post.

 

Sick Bicycles: The Birth of an Unusual Bike Company

This article was originally written and published on Singletracks.com

Sick Bicycles are not a normal bike company.

They sell more t-shirts than bikes. They fight fire with fire with the trolls online. They make bikes that are not for everyone, and you can’t just order one stock or from a dealer. They hand build steel hardtails in the UK, but they don’t do custom frames. They mix materials almost as much as their metaphors, their full suspension frames blending titanium, carbon, steel, or aluminum to achieve the perfect balance of strength and flex. They want you to own their bike for life, not until the end of the next season.

And with all of this, Timothy David Allen and Jordan Childs are making and developing some of the most exciting bikes I have seen in a long time. They have extreme geometry (that’s not hyperbole: a hardtail can have a wheelbase of 1.4 meters, or more) for extreme old skool riding.

Don’t like it? Buy another bike. Sick Bicycles are not for everyone, but that mono-focus allows them to build some truly special bikes.

Fittingly for a bike brand that is known for its social media as much as its bikes, I met Tim and Jordan online after selling them a tiger proof rock and some tire inserts. I had seen snippets and heard the name “Gnarpoon,” but Sick Bicycles wasn’t on my radar, yet. The EWS had just visited Millau and a semi-privateer had just piloted one of their prototype hardtails far higher up the results than common sense would have allowed a hardtail to go.

It was punk, it was raw, and Sick Bicycles had my attention.

After a failed Kickstarter, they turned to what they knew: self-funding development through sales of limited edition hand printed tee-shirts. They tested their extreme geometry ideas through hardtails, but from the beginning, longer travel suspension frames were always the plan: long-legged bikes for the kind of riding best described as dicking around in the woods.

Very quickly, a titanium and carbon full suspension super-bike (the Have Blue) surfaced. It was successfully tested and received positive press, before being shelved. It relied on eastern carbon fibre manufacture, and as such, suffered from the lack of environmental waste management of the by-product produced by the less regulated nature far eastern manufacture. This did not sit well with Tim and Jordan, hence the difficult decision to mothball the project.

However, the Have Blue (named after the stealth bomber’s development code name) garnered a lot of interest in its short time in the sun, so plans were put in motion. A UK carbon manufacturer was found, and the project revived.

This journey is indicative of Sick Bicycles: ambitious plans for large scale manufacture of accessible, high-performance bikes but not at the expense of environmental or ethical concerns, all framed with an ultimate ambition to return as much of the manufacturing to UK shores as possible. They sell hardtail frames, tee-shirts, luggage, and courier bags that are all made in the UK, but pragmatically and only when it makes sense.

Sick Bicycles are not your normal bike brand: they have a personality, and that guy might not be for you. Taking their fair share of flack online, but instead of ignoring the it wont climb, it will never work comments, they call the trolls out and better them at their own game. They also have the dubious honor of having received a cease and desist order from Kanye West’s lawyer–true story.

After one year, they have a range of hardtails and three suspension frames in development, each with a different suspension platform, including the radical and reverential Heathen.

Whilst looking backwards at what has inspired them (Brooklyn Machine Works being an obvious influence), they are not afraid of new technology. Gearboxes and additive manufacturing (3D printing), as well as more conventional processes, all come together to make bikes where form follows function.

So at the onset of year two, I put some questions to them to see whats next.

Callum Kellie, Singletracks: What led you to start a bike company? With the recent growth in boutique builders, if you wanted a specific bike for you, why buy a cow for a pint of milk and start a bike company?

Jordan Childs, Sick Bicycles: Well if anyone would buy a cow for a pint of milk it would probably be me and Tim.

But it wasn’t that there isn’t any good bikes available, I think the reason we really did it was to see if we could. It was almost like a dare, to be honest. Now we are really just struck on a development cycle where we are kinda more interested in testing theories than selling bikes. It’s pretty exciting to push the envelope with design. Now we know we are starting to streamline things, we are enjoying the last bit of truly out-of-the-box thinking. It’s fair to say we might be restricted on that going forward.

Singletracks: What have you and Tim tried to bring to bike building from your past work and life experiences? How has a background in Tattoos and Toyota shaped how you’re building Sick?

Sick Bicycles: Well I worked for 3M not Toyota (that frequently gets muddled up) but I’m a big fan of the “Toyota Way.” I’ve mostly had a background in consultancy, making companies more competitive by being efficient and driving down waste. Our business has to be lean, we don’t have capital, so we have to ride the lightning quite often to keep innovating. This means not drawing a wage and reinvesting, working for free is draining, but not on something you love.
The excitement of prototyping and the highs and lows keeps me going significantly. We’re friends working together. If me and Tim can’t handle something, Lee, Zam, or Bry will know how to. I own and operate a tattoo studio. In this respect, I guess my acumen for running a team and non-standard, clear and open marketing probably natively comes to me. I like bikes, I like tattoos and tattooing, but I’m not particularly keen to have them define me.

Singletracks: In the UK there are a number of what are essentially very skilled “men in shed” bike companies. Some are a little larger–Shand Cycles, for example. But Sick seems to be trying to make it clear that whilst the hardtails are made by one of these builders, that is not who you are or what you’re aiming to be. What is the ambition?

Sick Bicycles: I have no interest in standing ’round in coveralls with a cup of tea telling everyone who will listen that I am an artisan. The media loves that gritty image. I think Hope Tech have shrugged that off so they can get taken seriously on the world stage. I’d like to be a global leader in a decade, to be big enough to step down and let someone run the minutia, so me and Tim can innovate, raise our families, and ride in peace is the goal. At the same time, I don’t want to downplay the cottage industry in the UK, the things we/they can do here. The progression in products that lead the industry often starts at the bottom, and people WILL pay for that bespoke craft. It’s not my vision. I’m not coming for their business, but we are here to stay.

Singletracks: I come from an art school background, and within fine art and design there is a differentiation between making and building. Making is experimental and testing: it generates knowledge and experience. Building starts with a plan, and what you have at the end matches the plan. Building normally follows making but not always. Does that sound familiar from year one?

Sick Bicycles: Yeah I think it’s pretty apt! We are detail-orientated and curious people. We want to know the limits, so we take things there, sometimes at great personal cost. At the moment we very much make bikes. Until there is cohesion in the brand, then we are not truly building. We’ve been making bikes 7 months, we’ve been careful, but I think we’ve been underestimated as chancers, or lucky. But no one is that lucky.

Singletracks: All business enterprises need initial capital to develop product, marketing, and buying inventory. Often startups use savings, bank loans, outside investors, or all of the above. Have you guys used any of these traditional revenue generators or has it all been tee-shirts and frame sales?

Sick Bicycles: We fund the business forward by selling garments or out of our own monthly [salaries] from our day jobs. Many projects have been pure financial loss ongoing, some have required us to sell our old bikes and components to fund. It’s certainly been a year of bootstrapping. I’m not against investment, but we’ve not even had any real offers. I guess it’s just working fine, or investors feel we are too volatile, or we are not valuable enough to want to retain and control. With special projects like the HB, LUXE or DFA, customers have paid upfront for the prototypes at cost price to have the right to retain the finished item down the line. We are lucky in that respect.

Singletracks: Some people have found your approach to social media… abrasive, shall we say. I feel that Sick is a brand that has a personality, and it is this “personality” that helps align riders with the brand. Would you say that is a fair assessment, and how much of the brand’s online persona is representative of its founding fathers?

Sick Bicycles: People find everything abrasive at the moment; the internet gives people a voice to disagree just to be heard. People are comfortable with the very fake customer service and business models eBay / Amazon etc. employ, but it’s an iron fist in a velvet glove–make no mistake, those guys are monsters. I’d prefer to be honest with people even if that means we will clash heads. I’ve grown weary of it though because I can’t stand dull repetition. After a year of it, I’ve really heard it all again and again. I totally respect the Mike Sinyard and Gary Fishers of this world–they were renegades and hellions back in the day. Later on, they just made it pay the bills. MTB was road riding’s wild sibling. Now, not so much.

Singletracks: You have also been increasingly vocal about environmental and ethical factors steering business decisions, even if it contradicts previous actions. What influences the decision making processes for how projects develop and what you make?

Sick Bicycles: I think if you are worried to contradict yourself you are treading a bad path. We each force each other not to be stubborn. We can admit we are wrong and progress on a path contrary to where we started if it’s the right thing to do. We both have strong environmental concerns, the implications were very wide, the media tried to make light of “silly boys hating carbon whilst everything is bad” when we never implicitly said carbon. We even went into detail about paper waste and QC rejects.

We are very young in the industry. We have been pretty knee jerk in the past because we are passionate about protecting our sport. In the end, it’s a case of lead by example because, as a generalization, turns out the consumer base actually doesn’t care at all. So for us, we don’t want to clean up and chase other companies. We have our own business to run, and we’ll run it as clean as we can, we don’t even bother to shout about it.

Singletracks: The brand has always been very upfront online in terms of demystifying the bicycle industry and your ambitions to use UK-based manufacturing as much as possible, but also pragmatically. How do you find the suppliers and fabricators that you work with, and couldn’t this possibly constrain your growth in the future?

Sick Bicycles: I think in real terms there is a disconnect with what riders SAY they want and what they can afford. Our end goal is to have a significant portion remaining in the UK. But our best-selling products are lower priced, that’s economics for ya. So people are vocal about their choices but then you get to the checkout, it’s how much do you want to pay? We will split lower priced frames offshore and retain home production. Which is quite frankly vanity. I want to always have a physical hand in things, we all do.

Singletracks: Ok, now for the elephant in the room: Brooklyn Machine Works. They are a pretty big influence. Influence is something that is not very common in the bike industry, but if you were a metal band, no one would bat an eye lid. Have past exploits shaped your outlooks on homage and reverence and how that translates into bikes?

Sick Bicycles: There is a deep-rooted respect for several brands: Rotec, Karpiel, Brooklyn, and Spooky. These brands were the offshoot from the main industry, did they produce the best race bikes? Nah. Did they make beautiful living breathing monuments to excess? Well, you know the answer.

I mean, you can’t put it any better than the metal band analogy, when people bring up plagiarism, like in music. I usually bring people’s attention to one of the earlier innovators that they missed as they’ll accuse us of copying X, when we were really influenced by Y. And you can only slice the pie so many ways. If you make a single pivot bike, there are a few ways of making it work, when its steel too? Well it’s going to look a certain way. People said the Gnarpoon looked like the Shan 05, well, duh, PP are our friends. I loved that bike, but its identical as long as you agree geometry and travel have no effect on a bike… that a frame is managed only by superficial similarities. We all know it’s not true.

Is it fair we get a hard ride over that when people are riding Chinese catalog bikes that have only had the decals changed brand to brand? That everything is still using the same horst link 4 bar? It seems if you do something enough it’s no longer plagiarism. Is the Heathen a modern retelling of the Brooklyn Race Link? Well Yes. Is it ok to have a homage to your heroes should you have the chance? Well… would you?

Singletracks: Now, speaking of bikes. You have Blue, Gnarpoon, and Heathen 3–very different bikes with totally different silhouettes. Is this a theme we can expect to continue, or can we expect to see a consolidation of frame styles to one that will be recognizably Sick, in the same way that Orange’s and Evil’s bikes are instantly recognizable

Sick Bicycles: No, I’m afraid you will see that variety disappearing. Consistency is something that customers REALLY want even if they don’t think they do.

From 2019, convention and silhouette becomes pretty important. We are working way ahead of time to bring things into line. There will be predicable processes now and standards we will adhere to. We already have cohesive dropouts, seat tube diameters, head tube, and BB. Even if the industry is all over the place. We will still have standards and we will fight to keep them relevant for us. Aesthetically, there will be formal rules we stick to.

Singletracks: Mountain biking used to constantly draw influences from outside of itself, but it now feels like it mostly looks inwards in terms of ideas and style. What, if anything, outside of bikes gets you excited enough to try and bring it back in?

Sick Bicycles: Riding bikes outside of competition. Y’know, fun! Making competition bikes is a great engineering challenge and allows you to measure yourself against other brands. I wanna bin that off. We are big fans of skateboarding and BMX. A challenging but relaxed environment with its own aesthetic.

That’s why we wanted to do an event like Raveduro. Bring partying back to riding. Pitch up a tent. Hang out with your mates. Send it into a pond on a BMX with sunburn

Singletracks: The last year has looked like a whirlwind of stretching the envelope of low and slack whilst looking like an Ed Roth painting on a mountain bike. What can we expect in year two, and what are the ultimate ambitions for Sick?

Sick Bicycles: I think we’d like it to be a full time job. Employ an adult to run the numbers and make sure everything is on time in full. Get ourselves dug in to prototyping and testing full time. That’s the dream. Might even happen.

Conclusion

With a recent offering of more affordable hardtails and plans for a matured product range on the near horizon, all the signs point towards Sick Bicycles settling down and becoming a more predictable–and dare I say, a more conventional–bike brand. But I suspect the reality will be more interesting than that, with making cool stuff and getting their hands dirty core to Tim and Jordan’s take on what a bike company should be.

At the metaphorical dinner party of bike brands, Sick will always be the one you wish you were sitting next to, whilst you’re being bored by the guy talking about Super Boost.

 

 

Banshee Spitfire 200 Mile Review

200+ Miles in and the Spitfire has lived up to the promises made by modern geometry.

Thought I would share my thoughts on this bike and have a wee bike check of the build and how its holding up. To summerise, the frame is amazing and well balanced now the fork is behaving. Starting to build pace and confidence, but its still a newish bike to me and I don’t put in as many miles as I did when I got its predecessor.

That said I rarely get less than a top 3 time on any given trail I ride on it, not half bad.

 

Bike Build

“Would you like a new bike for your birthday?”

That was the question that my wife asked me towards the end of last year, my 30th was in a few months time and she was sounding me out on the idea. As a committed mountain biker that is the kind of question you have day dreams about hearing.

giphy

With the Heckler starting to show its age, (2005/6 frame) I would of been lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it’s replacement.

Stravaiging Enduro durris February 6
Kaspir, what a machine.

When entering the market for a new bike the choices these days are a wide, varied, confusing minefield. What wheel size should you choose? Should it be plus sized or have boost spacing? 1X10/11/12 and what about 2X drivetrains, they are making a comeback. Hard tail or full suspension or should I just capitulate now and get a E bike?

You need to be honest with yourself about what terrain you actually ride. That 170mm super enduro bike might look amazing in the video but it is going to be a drag around the average trail centre.

Ask yourself a few of these questions;

What do you primarily ride and will that change over the next few years?

Is where you primarily ride trail centres or natural terrain?

Steep or mellow?

Do you have any riding or racing ambitions?

Are you an aggressive or hard rider?

Is covering long distances a regular ride for you?

After asking myself these (and a few other questions) I decided I was looking for an aggressive trail or light enduro machine, or what used to be called “all mountain”. I then wrote a set of criteria that the bike should be. I wasn’t wanting something that was vastly different from what the Heckler was for, just a modern, more capable machine.

  • 650B
  • Aluminum (unlike carbon, it can be recycled)
  • 66/7° Head angle
  • 140-160mm rear travel
  • 150-160mm front fork
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Ideally external cable routing
  • Boost not a priority (screw boost)

I was initially looking to buy a whole bike, I was looking at a few bikes, the Bird Aeris, Canyon Spectral, Vitus Sommet and even a Orbea Rallon had all caught my eye. All of them had good, but not perfect builds for what was within the budget. When I accidentally found a shop in Englandshire that had Banshee frame bundles at very reasonable prices.

And a Banshee Spitfire more than met the criteria listed above.

I hadn’t considered a frame and custom build, but the idea was very appealing. A few conversations with my LBS and they were able to not only match the frame deal from down south, but better it by it coming with a CC Inline instead of a RS Monarch. Let it never be said that a bricks and mortar shop should be ruled out over direct sales when looking for a new ride.

A big part of the fun with a build is the specing, researching the best mix of performance, weight and cost. The simple things like colour matching components and getting your preferred tyres and handlebar width right from the start. And knowing every part, every bolt and having that detailed knowledge of your ride, it all makes a difference.

This also meant that family could gift me components for the build, making the bike more special, as my family helped me build it. The end result is a unique bike that no one else has, no one else is riding the same bike as me, and that is special.

glenlivet-trail-centre-banshee-spitfire
Ash thinks he is called Big Tom.
There are a lot of Canyons on the bike racks of Audi drivers afterall. 
Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

G&T

Rental bikes, love or hate them, we all need the convenience of them at sometime in our riding lives.

Rental bikes can be a lot of fun, they are like rental cars. Which as we all know, are the fastest cars around as the wear and tear of ragging them silly is not going to come back to bite you. But like all things there are good and bad examples of the breed.

Last year I rode a brilliant rental from Bothy Bikes in Aviemore. It was a well maintained, fast and well thought out bike with a good solid build and a sensible cockpit. Occasionally a rental is an opportunity to ride something different, a new bike (to you) on unfamiliar trails or a chance to try a 29er or a fat bike for example.

At the start of the year whilst visiting family in south Lanarkshire and close to Glentress I found myself with some time free, but without a bike. Alpine bikes do a rental service at GT, so it seemed a good opportunity to sample their rental fleet and get a new year spin in the legs. I thought another run on a 29er HT would be fun as the red and blue trails would suit a bike like the one I rode from Bothy bikes. Unfortunately, this was not like the bike from Bothy Bikes.

Collecting the bike at the Peel centre shop was an fast and easy process, however they had lost my pre-booking so I was charged £5 more for my hire. The bike was a Trek X-Caliber 7, the entry level model, with a build that did nothing to hide its price point.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-14-57-46

Featured a 3 x 9 speed Acera drive train and Shimano M355 disc brakes, with 80mm of travel up front handled by a Rockshox XC30. The finishing kit was all Trek’s in house brand Bontrager and to be fair, was fairly solid. All this weighed in at a mighty 30/31 lbs so it was fair to say this was no feather weight cross country whippet.

Sadly, even though this was a large sized frame and the 2016 model, the cockpit was both long and narrow, with a 90mm stem and sub 700mm bars.

It became quickly apparent that things where not entirely well, this was not a healthy bike and it had had a very hard rental life. If you put down any power the chain would jump the rear cassette when in the middle of the block. Convenient.  When the bike was lent to the right would drop gears and shift down and in a left turn it would shift up. And to top it off, the front brake was as useful as one of those plastic display puddings you get at a chain restaurant. Fully pulled to the bar, I could still pedal uphill.

It was a lazy diesel engine, and a heavy one at that

But I didn’t come here for the climb. Finally topping out at the familiar benches at the start of Spooky Wood, probably the most famous trail in Scotland after the Fort William WC track.

It was my turn to drop in, time to see if this 29er came to life when gravity was assisting. Handling like all the things you expect a middling 29er to be, slow to accelerate and was at its best when it was allowed to carry its momentum. Turns needing initiating earlier, but it was the heavy feel at the crank and the lack of any acceleration that was the most notable. It was a lazy diesel engine, and a heavy one at that.

However this was soon to be over shadowed by a far more uncomfortable sensation.

The tyres, I discovered, had at the very least 60psi in them, presumably to ensure they didn’t puncture. This meant every small stone was communicated to the fork with the tyres lacking composure on even the most groomed sections of trail. The most basic of basic forks, predictably, lacked any small bump sensitivity. So by half way down Super Gee I could feel my knuckles rattling apart. This bone shaker ride quality only got worse the fast you went and eventually I had to slow to walking pace as it was getting acutely painful.

With the ride comfort simulating acute arthritis, I opted to let as much air out the tyres that I dared and head back on blue trails, in hope of saving my hands from becoming useless claws for the rest of the day. While this took the edge of I was reminded of the tyres in every berm and gee out as the squired under the now lack of pressure.

Arriving back at the Peel centre I handed over my rental donkey to the shop mech, who asked how it was. “Rough” was about all I could muster in summery, along with “You might want to look at the front brake”.

Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

Kaspir & Henry

Sold a car Sold a bike, 6 wheels less in the stable.

Last month was a good (or bad a month) for wheels in our house. Henry the faithful Honda HRV after a difficult few months went on to pastures new and time was also called on Kaspir the Santa Cruz Heckler 5.0.

“were showing signs of problems”

Both have shared adventures and spots on the driveways for almost the same amount of time, and both, to paraphrase my car mechanic “were showing signs of problems”.

DSCF5294

Selling both cars and bikes as private sales can sometimes be a tricky and with bikes, long process. After all, it is a buyers market. So with your expectations realistically set, a sale shouldn’t take that long. I advertised both on Facebook and Gumtree, but it was Facebook that found both buyers. The Santa Cruz having an offer of the asking price accepted within 24 hours of being advertised.

Racing Mountain Bike Pits Muckmedden

As brilliant as they both are, the lure of the new was starting to grow. As was the niggle (with the bike at least) that I was starting to out grow the Heckler, having gotten as much as I could out of the 2001 frame design. I don’t expect to be instantly faster on modern geometry or 650b, but I expect to have a bike that is more confidence inspiring and with that, pace will come.

DSCF2926

I will miss both of them they were brilliant and will continue to be brilliant, just for someone else.


Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

Aspirational Object

As part of my work at the art school I was asked to contribute to a digital Wunderkammer.

A Wunderkammer is half way between a small museum and cabinet of curiosities, this German “room of wonders” will be used as a learning exercise for our first year students. I was asked to add two objects, one personal and one aspirational, my personal object was my custom painted Specialized frame that I wrote about here.

My aspirational object was a very special anniversary edition Yeti frame.

Anyway I decided to post the short here as well.


Yeti are a bicycle maker that only produce mountain bikes, that singular focus is actually an incredibly rare thing. They were there from the start, founded in 1985 by John Parker when he sold his Indian motorcycle to buy a jig and some tubing. He started building frames and bikes that were at the very peak of design and performance for their day.

They are a brand that have developed a cult following called “the Tribe”, this following is so loyal they cross the globe for the annual Yetimeets with special anniversary meets going as far as Nepal, the home of their namesake.

Being there since the beginning of mountain biking means racing and Yeti have always raced. They brought a level of factory support and professionalism to their race team in the late 80’s and early 90’s that did not exist elsewhere. A small outfit in reality, their race presence has always been that of a much larger company, they have also boasted a rider rooster to match that ambition.

Yeti were there at the first UCI Mountain bike World Cup. The first female mountain bike world champion was Julie Furtardo on her fully rigid Yeti FRO (For Racing Only).

The early racers like John Tomac and Furtardo piloted the distinctive turquoise and yellow machines in both the downhill hill and cross country disciplines to successive victories.

1993-yeti-arc-lt-missy-giove-13
Picture Credit The Pro’s Closet

The infamous Missy Giove made her name ragging amongst other Yeti’s a early full suspension ARC ASLT, simplistic and unrefined by todays standards but jaw dropping for 1993. Mountain biking in the early days was punk, it was tribal and it was on the edge of extreme sport counter culture, Yeti fitted right in.

tumblr_mpbjl6Qffo1rk6u99o2_1280.png
Picture Credit Yeti Fan

30 years later and some things have never changed, Yeti still race, they still support the uppermost talent of the sport and they are still that boutique brand from Durango.

2016_Yeti_SB6c_Profile_30th__20098.1441315705.1280.1280.jpg
Only 250 frames were ever produced.

The racing may have changed focus to the new discipline of Enduro and the  EWS  but they are still at the top of the field. In 2015 Richie Rude won the Enduro world series on his SB 6C, with team mate and the previous years champion Jared Graves winning the last race of the season.

p4pb12984721.jpg
Picture Credit Pinkbike

This long introduction leads me finally to my object of desire, 2015 was the last year that Jared graves raced for Yeti, he also won that race. After over a decade on the iconic bikes a year later and its still hard not to picture Graves in the Turquoise and Yellow.

You can’t collect racers but you can collect their bikes and my object for the Wunderkammer is the bike (no doubt in Graves’s own collection) in the 30th anniversary colours that he piloted in his last winning race for Yeti.

p5pb12718966.jpg
Picture Credit Pink bike

Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

Bike Prep

So much preparation can go into one race, training, strategy and of course bike preparation.

When it comes to race prepping my bike, the first thing to decide is which bike is most appropriate for the race. I don’t have the most extensive quiver but I have a XC bike and the big all mountain bike. Is it an enduro or endurance event? Are the trails natural or man made, will the racing be mostly gravity, cross country or a mix? Youtube and Strava are great tools for scoping out the potential terrain and helping to guide the decision, which ultimately boils down to – hardtail or full sus.

Bike chosen its time to get a cup of tea, hit the shed and get the tools out.

A clean bike is a happy bike, first thing to do is get the bike on the stand, get the wheels off and give it a good deep clean. Cleaning the bike usually red flags any potential maintenance issues that have gone unnoticed, as well as making sure everything is running free and clear.

Now we have a sparkling clean bike to work on, it’s time to check the torque on all the bolts. Starting from the top and working down the bike, make sure to adjust the torque wrench to the correct torque for each bolt in turn. If you suspect a bolt has been over tightened, loosen the bolt with an allen key (never loosen a bolt with a torque wrench) then re-tighten the bolt to the correct torque. Don’t forget to check disc rotor bolts as they are sometimes easy to forget.

Once all the bolts are checked, I break the bike down into key areas, making a list of jobs needing done for each.


Drivetrain
  • Fresh gear cable and index deraileur
  • Fresh chain
Cockpit and brakes
  • Fresh brake pads
  • Bleed brakes
Suspension
  • Fork lower service and oil change
Wheels and Tyres
  • True and tension wheels
  • Fresh tubeless sealant
  • Service hubs and bearings

Drive Train

Slipping gears aren’t acceptable on a race run and a snapped chain (unless you’re Aaron Gwinning) will end your day, so a smooth drive train is vital.

Fit a fresh gear cable then check the high and low limit screws to make sure the deraileur can’t shift off the cassette. A fresh cable will stretch a little as it beds in, so you will need to repeat the indexing after a few rides to get the deraileur shifting well again. Or, you can pre-stretch your new cable so you don’t have to re-index the deraileur, good news for race prepping.

To stretch your gear cable, shift to the innermost sprocket, then whilst turning the cranks pull the deraileur cage outward so you shift the chain into the middle of the cassette. When you let go of the mech the chain will shift back to the innermost sprocket. Repeat a few times and the shift will become slower. Re-index the cable and you have a pre-streched gear cable and a crisp gear shift.

If you’re unsure how to index your deraileur, Park Tools have a excellent guide.

Fitting a fresh chain is usually pretty high on the list of priorities when prepping for race day. If a new chain is going to fail it will usually be fairly early on in its life. Therefore I try to get a few rides on a new chain to make sure it won’t fail and that it’s bedded in.

Make sure the chain is properly oiled and any excess has been removed.


Cockpit and brakes

Racing burns through brake pads like nothing else, with the heat of the moment you’ll brake harder and more aggressively than normal. Pads also pick up all kinds of contaminants in normal use, so as with a fresh chain, it is always best to race on fresh pads. Just remember to bed them in properly in advance.

With fresh pads I always like to give my brakes a quick bleed, not necessarily a full fluid change, just a quick bleed to make sure they are at their best. If its my Avid brakes (yes they can work!), a quick lever bleed will usually suffice.

The other thing to ensure is that your brake calipers are properly aligned to ensure the discs aren’t rubbing and slowing you down.


Suspension

Nothing is quite as nice on a bike as a dialed fork. Sadly, just like all of the components on a bike, their performance slowly deteriorates over time, we just don’t notice this as we ride them all the time.

One of the easiest ways to refresh your fork is with fresh seals and servicing the lowers. This is the kind of job we know we need to do to maintain our forks performance and prevent damage, but it’s very easy to forget.

TF Tuned Box Suspension service

An event is a great reason to make you service your fork and remind you that it’s a straightforward job that doesn’t take all that much time.


Wheels and Tyres

Pros and serious racers will race on fresh rubber, for privateers and casual racers that can be a little pricey. If your tyres still have plenty of tread on them, then some fresh sealant and ensuring they are properly seated is the thing to do. Some people go as far as applying fresh rim tape (Gorilla tape) before reseating the tyre, but this isn’t strictly necessary.

While your tyres are off, it is the perfect time to true and tension your wheels. You can do this yourself with a little patience and some basic tools, but if you’re unsure or short of time then a trip to the local bike shop will sort you out. This could take some time, so remember to factor that in as your bike may be out of commission for training rides while the wheels are in the shop.

There is a comprehensive guide on Pinkbike for truing wheels on the bike.


Final touches

Lastly I like to wipe the frame down with a silicon spray or detail it with a coat of car wax. This prevents mud from building up on the frame as well as keeping the frame looking box-fresh come race day.

Like with washing the frame, it’s wheels off as well as pads out, after all no point changing pads just to contaminate them! There are various brands of silicon spray – some like WD40, some prefer bike specific products. Whatever you use, ensure you keep the wheels and pads well out of the way.


 There you have it, that new bike feeling and ready to race.

Tour De Ben Nevis 2014

Rewarded

No good deed goes unrewarded, so the saying goes.

Some people would warn against emotional attachment to objects, they would say that a bike is simply a tool that serves a function, versatile it may be it is still a just a utilitarian object. I am not one of those people, having spent the long hours together I know not only the characters and capabilities of my bikes but their names also.

Sven the bike 2

Sven Specialized hardrock fat creations before stravaiging 1

Sven is a Specialized Hardrock, he is not a flashy frame, nor a poorly conceived one. he is part of a long line that through gradual refinement and evolution has led to him being a compliant, comfortable, fast and adaptable frame. If we borrowed language from the drug world he would be a “gateway bike”, easy to ride, forgiving to beginners but fast and surprisingly capable once you’ve gotten to know him.

Hardrocks are usually considered a beginners entry level bike, they have a special place in many peoples hearts as they introduced them to riding. I rode mountain bikes as a teenager, but after a long break when I discovered gin and other distractions at university Sven reminded me of what I didn’t know I had missed.

I wanted a Hardrock that was unique, the build has been a continuous project which has left no component stock. I liked the colour and graphics but the paint was a little tired and my tastes in colourways has matured. A respray was the answer.

I spoke about Fat Creations in a previous post, having had some email conversations with Ali at Fat Creations I started the tricky process of designing my own colour and graphics package.

ruling out everything from murdered out stealth to candy apple red I settled on a petrol blue and teal colourway in metallic pearl paint.

With the RAL codes confirmed I parceled Sven up and confused the local post office with the size of the box and waited impatiently for Christmas.

Needless to say, Ali did a stunning job the photo’s honestly don’t do it justice as the depth of paint and metallic finish really sing in natural light. All that is left to do is to build him back up, get some nice finishing touches and take the time to service and build the best bike he can be.

Shed time
Shed time

Sven the bike 7


Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook

Got Soul

Going fast on a bike, or in my case, moderately fast requires a few key elements including but not limited to confidence on and in the bike.

If your confidence in the bike is shaken either through potential mechanical, the something not feeling right or the dreaded rattle of something that is definitely not right. This for me usually results in the end of any pace during that particular ride, the off feeling or rattle claws at my confidence until its probably best to just head for home and call it a day.

Or the slightly harder to quantify feeling of confidence on the bike, confidence on the bike only comes from time spent on the saddle. Some bikes take a little longer to bond with than others but once you truly know a bike you can achieve performance beyond what the spec sheet tells you.

A bike like this moves not under you but as part of you.

Some believe that the tools of the craftsman take on some of the knowledge of the owner, the well used hammer helping to guide the hand of the novice, transferring its tactile knowledge born of experience.

When you truly know your bike it feels like this, the bike guiding you as much as you pilot it, the shared experiences and time together bonding you together as brothers of the trail.

Sven Specialized Hardrock 10 under the ben race prepped

Sven is my bike, he is that sort of bike, we have spent the time, the miles, the metres climbed together. Some people name their bikes, Sven told me his but only after time together on the trails.

He has taught me most of what I know about riding bikes, he has taught me the joy of the trail, the elation of the climb, the thrill of the descent and the deep darkness of bonking. His build has been a running project for most of our years together, 3x 2x 1x, 8, 9 and 10 he has been through them all.

Raleigh Max Ogre 15 USA design, where it started

In my youth I rode bikes in the woods but I was oblivious to the growth and evolution of the sport, I simply hurtled down chutes on my rigid Raleigh MAX Ogre. I knew the bike, I knew what the brakes would and mostly wouldn’t do but I did not know what cycling could really mean.

Sven was the bike that brought me back into the sport, he taught me what it was, what it had become and he showed me what it could mean to me and for that he should be cherished.

I want to thank him for the gift.

Fat Creations is a custom painter who specializes in bicycle frames working with 100% paint, no decals or vinyl, his work is fantastic with a flawless finish. A Custom respray is a fitting thank you for a friend this loyal, he is one of a kind and deserves to look that way. It is all a bit of a love letter really.

Thanks for the ride and the adventures to come.


Elsewhere

Instagram Stravaiger Strava Facebook