Is Your Clutch Mech Affecting Your Suspension?

You know that little switch on your clutch mech? That magic little mute button? Well does that clutch affect your suspension?

I had a hunch that the clutch on my mech was inhibiting the initial movement of my rear suspension. We already know that anti-squat (pedalling) and anti-rise (braking) affect the suspension ability to do its job properly. So it is only a small leap of logic to assume that the clutch inhibiting your mechs movement, (thus affecting chain growth) is adding to that mix.

I’d proposed this question a few times and was always met with two responses;

“Yeah probably.”

and

“There are bigger influencing forces, like rocks on the trail! The clutch exerts such a small amount of force that it makes no difference!”

So with no way to prove or disprove my hypothesis the debate always ended there, that is until I had an extended loan of a Shock Wiz. The Shock Wiz is a suspension setup aid, it plumbs into the air valve of air forks and shocks, monitors them on the trail and offers setup advice and feedback. With the latest update to the app, this little unit now offers a far more nuanced tool for suspension tuning. It also offered the opportunity to experiment and get some data to further my curiosity on the subject.

Time for the science bit.

The experiment was simple, I had gotten my Shock Wiz score to 88% and I was feeling pretty happy with how it was all feeling. I would do a control run of a fairly typical piece of natural Scottish single track, then again with the clutch switched off. This direct comparison would show if the Shock Wiz detected a difference in the shocks behaviour.

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The test track was a lovely little ribbon of prime condition singletrack on the southern edge of Aberfeldy. Comprising of fast and pedally sprint sections, drops and root matrices, so providing a good variety of trail conditions to test on.  After a few runs it was time to consult the app and see if the Wiz had noticed a difference.

My prediction was that the Shock Wiz score would decrease and the low speed compression would need increased by a few clicks and maybe a few more PSI in the air spring. My thinking being that the clutch would inhibit rider induced movement and would be more active to small bump input.

 

So in short, yes the derailleur clutch does impact the suspension,

Whilst the suggestion after the first run was that with the easier breakaway more air pressure was required, however after successive runs it settled back to the green. So, my prediction was partially right, the compression was affected, but it was in the high-speed over my predicted low. So in short, yes the derailleur clutch does impact the suspension, now the question was, how much of an impact does it actually make?

Well the initial suggestion, with the mech activated was that the high-speed was far too firm, listed fully in the red. So by the apps measure, it needed adjusted by three or more clicks softer. Now the Cane Creek Inline, has an adjustment range of four full turns on HSC. So if we take one half turn to equate to one click of adjustment, three or more clicks is a significant tweak that the app is looking to make.

However with the clutch turned off the app was only looking to make an adjustment of one to two clicks, so maybe a single half turn. That is more or less in the right ball park in my view.

Something that I did find interesting, is the lack of a braking shudder feedback that I experienced with the clutch turn off. With the clutch on, when I was at full chatt through a rock garden I had significant shudder from my rear brake. My reckoning was that this was my shock and clutch fighting it out due to brake jack. With the clutch no longer fighting the HSC the shudder didn’t occur. Shock was able to do its job and the bike just monster trucked along.

Conclussion:

Did it make a difference to what I experienced as a rider? In some circumstances.

Was the bike louder? Well, yes.

Did I drop a chain? No, I have a chain guide and narrow wide front chain ring for that.

Did the the app measure an improvement with it turned off? Yes, the tuning score improved by 5%.

Will I run the mech with it switched off form now on? In some circumstances, yes I will.

Will this be a definitive answer to this question on STW? HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAAA, sorry was that a serious question?

Standards, huh, What are They Good For?

Absolutely nothing!? maybe? I don’t know, lets talk it out.

So there is this perennial myth in mountain biking, that “big MTB” is creating new standards to devalue our existing bikes and force us into buying new product.

142X12, Boost, Super Boost, Plus tires, 29er Plus, BB30, PF30, 1.5 straight Steerer, Tapered Steerer, 20mm, 15mm, 12mm, 10mm and good old QR axles to name but a few. It can become pretty easy to look at all of these new “developments” and start believing that the Illuminati has been confirmed.

I just don’t care, I really don’t

Now I am no “industry insider“, I don’t own a shop, I’m not a frame or component manufacturer, I am at the consumer end of all of this. Frequently however, it is the consumer end of the chain that has been the most vocal against new standards. You do not need to wade far past the “looks like a session” comments on Pinkbike to find the hate for any fresh standard.

So here is my opinion on the proliferation of new standards. I just don’t care, I really don’t. Whilst that sinks in, let me illustrate why this is with a story.

I had a Honda HRV, I loved the car, he was called Henry. Henry Snapped a drive shaft pulling out of my drive one day.

Was my reaction;

“Thank goodness for industry standards! I’ll pull the RH drive shaft from my wife’s Citreon and go and get a replacement from my local autoparts shop.”

No, of course not, that would be ridiculous. I as the consumer, sourced and ordered the correct part, based on the manufacturer, model and the year of my car. It arrived, and I repaired my car.

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What a machine.

In almost all of our consumer goods, we accept that component parts are not interchangeable. The heating element for my Kmix coffee maker is not interchangeable with any other drip coffee maker for example. So why as a consumer, do I expect that of my bicycle?

Arbitrary standards based on what was historically available or what is used on road bikes makes no sense. The width or length of an axle should be based on what a bicycle requires to be a better bicycle.

But we have a problem, a bicycle manufacturer does not make bicycles, they manufacture frames. Even with the big box brands that have their own branded components on their build kits, rarely do they actually own the factories making those parts.  Component manufacturers produce the parts that engineers at Trek, Spesh et al have to conform their designs too.

DT Swiss make the hub, the engineer and product managers at Trek see what is available from the catalogue. They then make a choice as to what is most appropriate for the frame design and target price point.

Sometimes, an engineer at for example, Trek, has a hunch. Increasing the axle width will lead to a more evenly dished wheel, a straighter chainline and a stiffer rear end. Trek speaks to DT Swiss, they explore the possibility of making a hub that will fit this new standard. Trek wont tell Specialized whats happening, but DT Swiss will, after all they now have this new hub width to sell. Before you know it, Boost is a thing.

There have even been occasions when a bike brand has co-invested with the component manufacturer, lessening the initial outlay in bringing a new product to market. Trek payed for the molds for the Reba 29er lowers to be produced for Rock Shox’s. That is a 100K investment. Arguably, without the Reba the 29er wheel size concept could not have been proven. It kick started the development and growth of the wheel size, and introduced another new standard to the world. Another debate for another time perhaps.

There are also times when brands have genuinely made their own components, with varying degrees of success. Specialized Future shocks anyone? Trek however do not make suspension or cranksets. They may own Bontrager, but they don’t make everything a bike needs. So product managers still have to rely on other component manufacturers to complete their bikes.

This is one of the major differences between the bicycle and automotive industries. Whilst some car makers do use OEM parts made for or by other manufacturers, they still manufacture and sell the entire car. Bike companies frequently only make one part of the puzzle.

Component manufacturers also want (and need) to sell to as broad an after market as possible. This goes without mentioning that more experienced riders are just as likely to buy a new frame instead of a complete bike from their LBS. These riders are typically the most vocal when it comes to the adoption of new standards. They bemoan having to buy new hubsets and cranks when upgrading their existing frame. Or how they can not simply transfer all of their existing components to the new frame of their choice.

Is the expectation that you can transfer any mid to high end wheel/crankset/brakeset to a new frame unrealistic? Yes. Does it suck if you dropped £600 on a new wheelset, only for them to not be compatible with a new frame a year later? Yes. But please acknowledge that the rider who spends that level of cash on parts and who also changes their frame on a regular basis is the minority within the market. Stop your whining.


So who in the bicycle food chain do new standards really harm?
The consumer!

I don’t buy that argument. If I am upgrading or building a bike, I just order the correctly specified part for that bike or frame. Just like when I repaired my Honda. When 650B came on the scene, did my 26 inch wheeled bike explode in a puff of small rimmed obselance? No. The bike still worked as a bike. “The industry” did not force you to upgrade, you chose too.

The LBS!

Yes and no. Now I don’t work in a bike shop, so my views here are from the outside so may be inaccurate, please correct me in the comments. but I don’t see many expensive top tier big ticket items sitting in glass cabinets anymore. Sure they have some more common standard wheelsets in stock. for example, 135mm QR rear hub wheels. But I have seen a set of those wheels sit unsold in one shop for several years.

If I wanted a custom wheelset made up, I would speak with my shop wrench and we would work out the best mix of hub/spoke/rim for my needs. I would tell them what I frame had and they would order the parts they required.

In the same way I do not expect my independent garage to have the driveshaft for my Honda in stock “just in case” why would I expect my LBS to carry every conceivable spare or upgrade? That, I feel, is unrealistic and unreasonable of me as the consumer. My LBS is a service centre and knowledge base, not amazon prime. That is not to say that the proliferation of standards is not a right pain in the ass for the LBS. I am sure there where more than a few eyes rolled and groans at the news of “Super Boost”.

Distributors!

Here you go, this is who I think is really harmed by shifting standards, importers and distributors. Distributors bring product into a country and distribute it amongst their dealers (LBS and online retailers), they are typically a B2B business.

Now when I go to my LBS and we look at the big Saddleback pornographic catalogue of components whilst discussing that dream wheelset build. They will order the CK hub from the aforementioned distributor. It is then the distributor who has to make that initial investment in inventory. It is the distributor who has to hold an ever diversifying inventory when new standards emerge. It is also the distributor who is left with dead stock taking up space and tying up cash-flow when the world forgets 142×12 hubs.

The Consumer Again!

Sort of, I have no way of knowing other than what I would do in that business. But if I was a distributor with a damaged balance sheet due to redundant stock. I might try and increase prices elsewhere in the product range to try and mitigate that loss.


Imagine,

Now what if we thought about this whole question differently. What if we as the consumer re-wired our expectations and what if the component manufacturers became consolidated with the frame builders into one holistic business.

The engineers could build the best bike they could build, not being restricted by the need to conform to a limited series of standards. Being able to base decisions such as hub width on the engineering, not what products were currently available. knowing that the suspension division could build the right fork for the application, the correct drivetrain for the suspension kinematics. No more off the shelf forks or shocks with a “modified tune” fitted to every bike at the same price point.

A bike where each element was designed as part of a whole. You know, like the automotive industry. Imagine what that bike would look like.

Why I Didn’t Choose a Carbon Fibre Frame

A recent article on Pink Bike has gotten a lot of attention lately.

The piece was essentially a press release by Pole Bicycles about why they wont be making a carbon fibre bike anytime soon. They had various reasons, but one of them struck a cord with me as it was the same reason why when choosing my new trail bike, I went with alloy and not fibre.

metal is infinitely recyclable,
carbon fibre is not

I would be naive to think, that in some point in the future, that my current wunderbike will not be essentially worn out beyond use. It may suffer from metal fatigue and be no longer safe to ride, it may simple outlive me and have no use once my need to ride has past.

Sobering thoughts, but lets not be blinkered about this. All consumer goods (bikes included) have a life span and when that time is up we need to consider how we safely dispose of and reuse the materials they are made of.

Whilst carbon fibre to a certain degree can be recycled, due to the very nature of the material once recylced it is weaker and not fit for load bearing applications. The current recycling processes also require the material to be either burnt or melted in chemical baths to release the carbon fibres themselves from the polymer resin then are incased in. Both fairly damaging processes, either through the chemical waste created or the toxins released into the atmosphere.

In short, carbon fibre cannot be, safely recycled into a meaningful raw material for remanufacture. Whilst metal is infinitely recyclable, carbon fibre is not. This is not a new problem and cycling is not the largest producer of carbon or resin waste. But that does not mean we should, or rather, that I wanted to perpetuate it.

I do not judge other people for choice in carbon components, now in full disclosure, I have carbon bars on two bikes, both are second hand bars. I feel that if I were not using them they would most likely be sitting in a shed getting damp. I also grant that carbon has some benefits both in performance and aesthetics, but new carbon fibre is not for me.

The thing that first made me ask the question myself was a picture from behind a factory for high end carbon fibre road bikes. The pictured showed a pile of quality control fails dumped behind the factory that would dwarf a bus. This pile will not bio-degrade, they cannot be melted down and they will still be here in centuries to come. I considered that this was one product line of one factory. That it would likely be a similar story at many carbon bike frame and component factories. Each having a similar pile of factory fails, all waiting to be crushed by bulldozers at a landfill site.

With the large scale use of carbon fibre in the likes of aviation, renewables and the increasing growth of its use in the automotive industry, all meaning that there is a vast and growing amount of carbon that will need recycled. This creates an opportunity for a process of meaningful disposal or recycling to arise, as there is a business there and money to be made.

But I could not comfortably buy a carbon frame with that end disposal question being solved by some future what if?

We need to learn the lessons from history when it comes to materials like carbon fibre. They mostly seem to have been ignored or belittled by the mockery suffered by some of the more iconic uses of similar materials. For example, there is Duraplast and the little East German car, the Trabant.

The Trabant 601  was a car manufactured in the DDR from 1963-1990, it featured a metal monocoque body with body panels made of a material called DuraplastDuraplast is not dissimilar to carbon fibre or fibreglass, it used cotton or wool as the fibres and held them in a resin based plastic similar to bakelite.

the-junkyard.jpg

Now the problem with Trabi’s beyond their soviet obsolesce, is that once the car has died, once the chassis has rotted beyond saving, the panels will live on. East German scrap yards and country lanes have at one time or another been filled with dead and abandoned Trabant’s whos body panels will not rot and cannot be recycled.

They will outlive history and carbon fibre has the potential to do the same.

Nimbo Cumulos

Loamy moss and pine needles rooster tailing off your back wheel, endless grip and at the end of another great ride, a clean bike to go back into the shed.

Then as the nights draw in and the lights come out, the trees shed their foliage and stop drawing water from the ground. The heavens open more often, the mercury is a little lower on the scale and the ground starts to hold a little bit more water than it had a few weeks before.

It happens every year and every year it catches you out, there is always at least one ride where you ride like a total squid as you have forgotten how to surf the slop. Winter riding, (or Autumn, Winter and Spring riding in Scotland) is a particular type of wet, and the wetter the better once the ground starts to get slick.

winter-riding-mud-pligging-mtb-scotland

A change of rubber is usually when things start to click again, the spikes come back out and the wheels start digging for grip. Once confidence in your grip starts to return (slowly) you remember braking works differently in the slop. In that, you brake less and have to look harder for safe braking points. The soft mud is scrubbing speed off your wheels for you anyway.

there is a special kind of panic reserved for when both wheels try and drift in different directions

Your body movements have a different effect as well and you work harder to keep momentum. Or more accurately, you let the bike move around more and your body has to instinctively react to counter the bikes sudden wiggles in the mud.

Then there are the unexpected drifts, moments when the back end just lets go and makes a pretty good attempt to overtake the front wheel. The front end likes to wander as well, cutting loose and sliding downhill on both wheels is hilarious fun. That said, there is a special kind of panic reserved for when both wheels try and drift in different directions.

The important thing is to stay loose, the moment you panic and get tense is the moment your over the bars and you get muddier than you already where.

The winter is when I usually remember how to properly control a bike and when I usually notice some improvement in my skills. The pace may be slower but I love this kind of riding, I find myself hollering and laughing out loud to myself as I drift into a deeply ruddered corner hoping to hook into it.

I love hardtails for this kind of riding, a simpler bike for slower, more comical pleasures, less linkage to clean out as well.

Elsewhere

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Picture Credit Pink bike

Elsewhere

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Progression – Chasing Form

Often when riding, I get the nagging feeling that even though I’m trying to progress my skills and become a smoother, faster rider. That last year, I was fitter and faster.

Turning the cranks, trying to move forward, deliberately practicing skills and sessioning challenging trails, yet sometimes I feel like I’m just going backwards. Mostly I am sure it is a confidence issue, I lack a certain confidence, not in my ability to ride at a pace but that my current “form” is always weaker than it has previously been.

For me, the doubt was probably always there, but it started to creep in more last year when my wife and I were blessed with our first child. As you can Imagine, towards the end of the pregnancy and for the first few months riding took a back seat with not many miles being clocked and my “form” began to stiffen in my mind.

But how much of these feelings are just that, feelings.

So much of our sport is psychological, intangible feelings of form and flow, yet anything we can measure and quantify needs to be placed within context. The condition of the trails changes with the seasons, meaning comparing any two runs made at different times should only be done with a pinch of salt.

As a tribe, mountain bikers have always tried to go faster, we have always raced, but when your racing yourself we do have some tools to help us measure our progress.

Lets do the math!

Pulling timings from Strava, I plotted the top 10 fastest times for two regular trails in chronological order. The first trail (Roots Manova) is fast, steep and with some proper technical sections to catch you unawares, the second (Log Ride) has less vertical drop and more pedal but still has plenty of teeth to bite you. Both are regulars and I have ridden them a few dozen times each so I know them well.

Roots manova top 10 times

Log Ride Top 10 Times

The trails are both natural in style so have eroded, been dug and have evolved over time. Runs two months apart can be on noticeably different trails, so as I said previously, any comparison has to be with a pinch of salt. All that being said, once the times are plotted chronologically we can see the trend.

The progression is visible as the trend is for the time to decrease, ie for me to get faster, and I would certainly hope so. I have been riding these trails for a good few years, and whilst erosion has made them more challenging, I would hope my skills would have grown to match the evolving trail. I can also see that my recent times, albeit whilst not feeling fully back to pace, are still landing within the top 5 of my times.

You can also see that whilst the trend is saying I’m getting faster, there clearly is a spell in the spring of 2015 when I was faster, on form. Once a level of speed and confidence is felt it is oft remember fondly in the rear view mirror and when the mojo is a little rusty, it can feel like the faster times where faster and you are more off the pace than you actually are.

DCIM100DRIFT

Strangely, I do feel that I am riding cleaner from a technical stand point, cornering better, braking better, hitting technical sections more smoothly. Just without some of the small amount of speed I once had.

Ultimately even without timing we know when we are riding fast and when we are just cruising. Not every run has to be a “YOLO” run, but it is important not to let the gremlins into your head. Once there, target fixation and doubt creep in, thoughts of past crashes and crashes still to come make you jam on the anchors. And that is when it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, I’m off form so I’ll ride conservatively, I used to be faster here and that drop is bigger than I remember so I’ll just roll it, thus making you slower and stiffer on the bike.

Better to ignore past pace and just enjoy the ride and remember.

Its all in the mind.

 

Progression – Local Loop

Your strengths are those you practice most, and your weaknesses those that are too hard or to rare an opportunity to perform.

A few things have caused my riding to change and progress over the years, one of the biggest influences has been the local loop. We all have a local loop, somewhere we can crank straight from the house or after a short drive, long drives eat into riding time. What the local terrain has on offer and the style of the trails to be had there will dictate the strengths and weaknesses of your riding (unless you travel to ride a broader variety).

Whilst on a skills course aimed at steep and natural terrain I was told that I was riding with an XC style. This didn’t surprise me all that much, as my local loop for most of my time on a bike had been just that, cross country. My strengths on the bike reflected this, as did my weaknesses.

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Strong in the climbs, fast on undulating terrain where constant power is needed and trails with climbs or sprints in them. Conversely I was slow on steep terrain, lacking in confidence with jumps and drops, and relied to much on my fitness to build and keep speed.

This started to change a few years ago when after moving house my local loop changed, I went from averaging 160m of elevation in 10km to 260m in 10km. The change of local riding spot had a pronounced effect on my riding, but it was not without teething problems. Crashes, broken bike parts and sliced tyres, as not only did my skill level have to adapt to the more technical terrain but my bike setup had to change too. The challenge was rewarding and riding bike became thrilling again and not just a test of physical ability.

DCIM101DRIFT

My progression was apparent when I next visited Glentress with my brother, who traditionally I had always been chasing. My new local loop had been beasting me for a few months by this point and I was now out in front, my power in the climbs had also grown as the greater elevation had made an impact.

However I still found myself chasing the pack whilst on my LBS shop rides, when I realised, I was on the groups local loop, not mine. When on home turf you are faster, more confident and have the trails memorised. When on unfamiliar trails its a new learning curve, new challenges and new terrain to master.

Scolty DH 4

There will always be scope for improvement on your local trails but variety is the spice of life after all. I try to mix it up with as broad a variety of trails as possible but time spent traveling is time spent not riding. My local loop has taught me a lot, and has many lesson still to school me. But weaknesses still remain and new ones have been brought to light, and again they reflect my local loop.

So the only way to address those is ride somewhere that forces me to address those weaknesses and gives me the scope to progress those elements of my riding, making me a faster and more rounded rider.

But and hours driving is an hour not riding, its a tough call sometimes.

Enduro by any other name

“What sort of stuff do you ride?”
“You know, Enduro trails mostly”

We have all had that conversation with someone on the trails or in the LBS, and it is something I am having increasing difficulty with. Now Enduro as a race format, is still evolving with as many variations and permutations as there are events and race series. Fundamentally it is a multi stage gravity mountain bike race where racers access the timed stages (descents) on the bike via untimed liaison stages (usually climbs), similar to car rallying.

For a more detailed explanation of enduro please watch this primer video.

This style of climbing for the downs is more representative of the kind of riding most of us do, unlike Downhill’s single run or XC’s multiple laps. The explosion in popularity of Enduro has led to the cult of “Enduro Specific“, from bikes and set ups to components and kit, this is what I have my issue with.

Enduro is a race format not a style of riding, when you ride a trail and your not between the tape, it is just riding a trail, no more no less. An “Enduro Specific” chain guide still works when it hasn’t heard you dib in, a 160mm Enduro sled still works when it doesn’t have a number board hanging on the bars.

I once saw an advert for an oven, one of the key features was the view of your food through the HD glass. Now HD is a woolly term at the best of times that refers to the resolution of a video it is also another term that has been misappropriated. Unless that oven’s door was a video screen, saying the glass possesses HD qualities is marketing bullshit. The marketeers have borrowed a word with positive connotations and applied them to a product and sphere that it has no business being in.

This happens all the time, this toothpaste advert is a favorite example.

Can someone please tell me the connection between toothpaste and a specific brand of action camera?

I think Enduro racing itself is some of the most dynamic and varied racing in mountain biking, I have raced Enduro style events and will do again. It is the misuse of the word and its connotations to sell that frustrates. Not because they are trying to sell product, but because of the sales pitch the word has been swallowed wholesale into the MTB lexicon and outside of racing it is an essentially meaningless term just like HD.

Sermon

I ride bikes to test myself, make a measure of where I am and to go inside.

To lose myself in the work, the trail, the flow, repeating the rites that make up the routine of riding bikes. Routine it may sometimes be but the anticipation for the ceremony can begin days in advance, the thoughts and lessons from the last observance repeated in my mind.

On the day of the ride wearing clean kit with bottles filled and bags packed I perform the rituals, I check the bike, the tyre pressures, the brakes, some bolts but not all. Turning the cranks I pass the chain rosary like through my hands, applying oil one last time before I depart.

Dawn Raid Sermon Church Stravaiging Clachnaben Aberdeenshire Snow 4

leaving early the dawn yet to fully break around me I enter the woodland, the early light slowly working through the canopy, mature trees buttressing high above the trail-head. The cold has worked into my fingers but my core is warm with the effort of the climb, it is never long before my hands have acclimatized and I become unmoved by the cold.

The climb is fast as winter has frozen the long autumns worth of water and rain in the ground, giving cold sure grip. Breathing slow and deep I take in the woodland, drinking deep from the ever changing yet familiar trails, time disappears as vertical metres are gained.

I run through the little motions that precede descending, clipping in I begin to build momentum, I ease around turns with the bike telling me what the ground feels like beneath its tyres, he lets me know when it is safe to attack and when to be prudent. The silent song of the trail plays loud in my ears, the satisfying silence of a well prepped bike broken only by the whirring click of the freehub and the buzz from tyres compressing through turns.

Breaking through the tree line and back onto the fire road that punctuates the landscape, it marks the end of the single track. Carving to a stop I lean heavy on the bars and breath deep, I pause and let it soak into me.

The fire starting to recede in my legs I clip back in and crank it back up the hill to earn another descent, I climb then descend, climb then descend.

I climb then descend, climb then descend.

The light is growing now as we enter the golden hour, shafts of light break through the canopy creating pools of rippling gold in the under story either side of the trail. The sounds to have started to change, as melt water drips heavy from the boughs above, disturbed by the birds flitting from tree to tree.

Dawn Raid Sermon Church Stravaiging Clachnaben Aberdeenshire Snow 6

Time has again disappeared and the day is starting to dawn for those back indoors, its time to thread a path through fire road and trail back to home. The route possibilities running through my mind I quickly decide on the best use of time and height to return home on singletrack, I clip in once more.

Its Church.

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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.


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Rule #9

The seasons march on, the contracting of daylight hours mirroring the trees receding sap, falling like the leaves that blanket the trails on which we play. The sap in the legs also slowing as we are ironically in the best condition of the year if not our lives but tired from a year of training and riding, riding and training, the wheel always spinning. There are those who move away to other pursuits waiting out the wet months for fairer weather and dryer times. There are those who change tyres, clothing, pack lights and every autumn relearn how to let a bike slide. There are those who change discipline and count miles rather than meters descended, on the road or on the trail trying to stem the tide of seasonal decline.

RULE 9 XC Winter Training stravaiging 5

On any given Sunday we can be any of those riders, Struggling to find the motivation to maintain our gains, work on our weaknesses or ride trails that challenge us as they will be too loose, too wet, too sketchy, almost too easy to find reason not to ride. These months are long and many in Scotland, if you don’t ride in the wet here then you won’t ride at all, with the same hill frequently having dusty corners and deep scarred muddy ruts that will never fully dry.

Even so when the mist clings to the hills, the air wet with the slow creeping cold that only a dreich autumn day can provide it can be especially tough to step out the door and turn those wheels. It may be canon to road culture but Rule #9 still applies here, it is still acknowledged by people who ride mountain bikes even if they don’t know its cultural significance to our lycra clad cousins. If such a manifesto as The Rules were ever written for mountain bikes it would be a much shorter tome, probably along the lines of like bikes, like beer and don’t be a dick to your fellow rider, but that is an argument for another time.

RULE 9 XC Winter Training stravaiging 4

Once on the trail and turning into the wind the rain gathering on your helmets visor as your eyes narrow to see, goggles and glasses are useless here, pray you don’t get grit in your eyes at the wrong time. Your feet cold but the worst held off by water proof socks, the wet slowly working its way through the outer layers. You know you are the only person on the hill, everyone else is warm and inside, your mind wanders as you try to keep focus as a tough climb is round the corner.
 RULE 9 XC Winter Training stravaiging 1
Low cadence, just south of top of the block you keep the pedals moving, forcing yourself to look up trail rather than the ground in front of your wheel, each oncoming turn is a new goal, somewhere else too aim for. Metronomic in movement the grit in the drive train equaling that in the limbs, counting your breaths to clear the mind. The meditation of the climb settling in as the heat in your legs starts to mount, you start to enjoy the work as the flow comes from the ups as well as the downs.
Flow comes in the ups as well as the downs.
Transitioning onto the plateau the deraileaur moves the chain through the block to keep a constant cadence whilst building speed, nursing the changes as any oil has long been washed from the chain. Moving into a descent, heals dropping and moving over the back wheel, keeping your weight low carving turns and letting the bike move beneath you. The flow brought on from the climb still in control of your thoughts.
Reaching home you wrap yourself in the warmth and sanctuary, the ride that is begun is never regretted but if taking those first steps to go for a ride are hard and the conditions poor just remember there is always Rule #5 to help motivate us.
RULE 9 XC Winter Training stravaiging 2

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