Monday, 4 July 2011

The highs and lows of Stans No Tubes

After years of punctures I got over the fear of being covered in latex milk (sounds nice actually) and converted to tubeless. Here is a picture of the bottle for your perusal.

The kit costs £49 and includes a nozzle some strange yellow tape to replace your rim tape, two big rubber bands with valves (refered to as rubber bands in this article) and enough tire / tyre? sealant for about 4 tyres with a bit left. 

The instructions in the box are good but assuming you didn't read this from a print out your tech savvy friend gave you, the Stan's website has a really good detailed instructional video that is even better.

The first wheels I did were the GF's she had a fresh set of Stan's Crest rims on Hope Pro 3's bought just before the price hike. 

First step is taking out the existing rim tape and installing the weird yellow rim tape. You can keep the existing rim tape in if want and put the rubber band in over the top if it will fit. No chance with the Crests they are very low profile. Even with the yellow rim tape installed which is extremely thin, the rubber band was difficult to seat in the narrow and shallow rim.

Once in your ready to go with the tyre - you need to use lots of soapy water to seat new tyres on the rubber band, the tyre has to slide over the rubber to get a good seated seal. After bruised fingers and lots of effing and blinding, I got the tyre on - that was the dry run, now the same again with the sealant. 

I thought the sealant would go everywhere, it really doesn't it, just sits in the bottom of the tyre and its quite well behaved there. I had a bit of difficulty getting the tyre (a brand new Schwalbe Nobby Nic) on with without hooking out a bit of rubber band when scooping the tyre over the final bit with a plastic tyre lever.

Once in  I used my track pump - A Joe Blow, to seat the tyre, you might have to fanny around with the tyre around the valve to get the air going in but once I was past that the tyre seated and sealed up to the rim quite quickly. 

From looking on forums this seems to be the bit most people have an issue with, I think the Joe Blow is quite a high volume pump (it's shit for road tyres) so it works well for low pressure high volume tyres and is ideal for getting that initial air in to get the tyre seated on the rim. Now go! go! go! get the tyre up to about 40 psi. The tyre oozes a fine foam where the sealant comes through, this is normal. You then rattle the sealant round as per the instructional video (you will look odd doing this) until its all sealed up.

To be honest it was an emotional journey, the bead on the tyres was so tight and so difficult to get on I left it about a fortnight till I did the conversion on my own bike.

Here are the wheels all done - fascinating, I felt it was a lot of text without a photo.

Now to my wheels: Mavic Crossmax ST's are awesome - I love them. They are light, stiff and they look rad with oversized ali spokes and  they have cool hubs that don't make an annoying noise like a football rattle. They are also UST so no fretting around with the yellow tape that comes with the No Tubes kit. The rims have a deep groove in the middle and as I had been riding the tyres for a while they had probably loosened up a bit either way a combination of the two plus no rubber band required, it was a 15 minute job, no need for a Twix between wheels and a cry on completion. It was much easier. 

Despite the difficulties I had with tubeless on the Crests and the ease of the UST Mavics it has been a worthwhile exercise in both cases, no flats, lighter wheels, better grip and a better ride quality too. You can run lower pressures without bricking it that your going to flat then eaten by midges while you fumble around getting hot and bothered with tyre levers and an awful (but lightweight) mini pump - priceless.

The kit comes with two little stickers. I stuck one on the GFs bike. It looks well factory!

Final thought - an unglamorous but very worthwhile upgrade - recommended. 

Sunday, 3 July 2011

5:10 Greg Minnar Shoe

Here it is!

I got these in the US  they were quite a bit cheaper over there, but thats a different post all together. Over here they retail for £109.99. The shoes are reasonably stiff and despite their skate shoe look they are not that roomy inside and what is termed a 'performance fit' - i.e. snug and responsive - quite a good feel particularly if you are a DH (Greg Minnar) or someone looking for a tough confidence inspiring trail shoe (me). 

I think they are quite a nice looking shoe too, you don't feel too much of tool walking about in them after a ride, they look normal and the cleat is recessed into the sole so they don't click when you walk either. They are reasonably stiff but fairly easy to walk around in so in that regard quite easy to live with.

The main feature and the marquee feature for all 5:10 footwear is the stealth rubber sole. Here it is in all its glory. It really is super grippy even in mud with this tread pattern it seems to perform ok. 

The best thing about this super grippy rubber is that even on regular clipless pedals that I currently have you can still stay on the pedals if you need to dab you foot on a techy trail section or can't get your foot clipped in time. 

This advantage would be even more pronounced if one rode with clipless pedals with a platform such as a Crankbrothers Mallet etc but even with basic Shimano SPDs with no platform this offers a clear advantage on technical ground. Now I try not to spend a lot of time riding with my feet unclipped balancing on the small pedals but it has got me out of a few jams and I would have bailed a number of times had I been unclipped with a more traditional soled race style shoe. 

The sole design doesn't clear mud as well as an open design so that is a trade off if you regularly ride in really gloopy conditions.

The chunky sole offers good protection too, should you ram your clipped in foot into a tree stump or similar, your toes are well protected.


 I conducted an experiment in the Mountain Bike Test Lab to confirm my suspicions about the 5:10 Greg Minnar

They are heavy! 1200g - for a size 8.5 - Thats pretty heavy - If you are putting things into categories (which you shouldn't) that pretty much discounts them for XC use, if you mix your riding up a bit (which you should) you have a great shoe for technical trail riding but one that errs a bit on the portly side.

To summarise:

Good Times
  • Looks nice - conventional skate shoe appearance
  • Easy to walk in
  • Super grippy - good for technical riding
  • Protective
  • Firm fit
  • Durable so far - they appear to exhibit hardly any wear
Bad Times
  • Heavy
  • A bit warm
  • A bit expensive possibly
  • Recess for cleat can get filled with mud in extremely muddy conditions.

Canyon Nerve XC Review - After a couple of months now

It has been a while, I mean't to complete a while ago, sorry if you have been checking back regularly.

The bike is still going well I never got those wider bars. After a couple of outings in the woods in Bristol and near by, I think I can cope with the narrower (680mm) bars for the sake of squeezing through the narrow gaps between the trees - for now anyway.

The kit that comes with the bike is all so decent there is nothing that I have altered on it really, I added a bottle cage, an old specialised rib cage - its a good design, a single stiff plastic loop that holds the bottle firmly and doesn't bend out over time either - mine is about 5 years old and still good, its also really light - Anyway not that exciting an addition - must be getting old, I will be looking at securing a pump and possibly a frame pack in the next few months. Other than that its completely stock which looks dull and I don't have that sense of ownership you get from customising a bike. So Apart from the bottle cage nothing new to add. Tyres still good, slightly narrow bars still on and generally really enjoying have a light bike, especially now its a bit warmer out.

Finally got some pics of my bike in action that my pal took to test out some of his new light rigs. We had battery packs and cables and even an assistant for moral support. I felt very special.

Its hard to tell from this pic but the front is quite low, which is good for hammering flat trails as fast as you can go and the bike really encourages it, in fact it has made me quite an antisocial rider.

As I write this a bundle of newer and even more expensive than the year before bikes have come out that have only served to reinforce my opinion that the bike really is top value. so a few months in no issues to report.

I was whining last time about the cranks getting scuffed. It was one of those niggling things that they scuffed up really quick, I am happy to report their condition has stabilised. I think its a combination of less pedal strikes as I have adjusted my riding style to accommodate the lower BB and I think I have stopped looking at their now scuffed up carbon loveliness. In any case here they are are -

Duffed up and dusty!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Canyon Nerve XC Review

Over the royal wedding weekend I escaped to Scotland for a few days riding with friend and girl. To be honest I had very little involvement with the logistics so it was a bit like a package deal for me, with a bill at the end. We rode the Lake District on the way up - long techy climbs, loose rock descents some wind assisted single track. Then from our cabin near Dalbeattie we rode Kirroughtree, Innerleithen, Glentress and on the last day Dalbeattie - It was a bit of a trail centre bonanza. Unlike the centres in South Wales the trail centres in Scotland are far more varied and generally steeper and more technical than their southern cousins - some are very wild and natural others like Glentress are very engineered with high berms and rollers. In short (ish) a good mix and the new bike got a thorough hammering.

Four Day Weekend!

Its worth noting my previous bike was a Santa Cruz Heckler 150mm front and rear so this my frame of reference in terms of testing the Canyon - you would probably have a different perspective if your previous bike was a carbon hardtail or a Brompton commuter so its worth noting before I start.

So The Canyon - Day one was the Lakes - the day started with a rocky climb, the Canyon was really composed climbing in the saddle and the rear was plush and active when picking over the cobbled trail. At just under 26lb it is pretty light for a 120mm trail bike not mega light but not a fatty by any means.

After a long grind up the trail, we headed along some flat winding singletrack. Having ridden a slacker more sprung bike the taught Canyon was really fun, light stiff and just enough suspension the bike was engaging and efficient to hammer the flats.

The last descent was rocky and loose, I felt a bit more out of my depth as the Canyon is fairly low at the front. Having ridden trail centres for ages riding over loose cobbles was a bit of an experience, bike ok, disappointed with lack of confidence, partly bike position, partly me I think.

Next day we rode Kirroughtree, this trail has a bit of everything and would be a great litmus test for any trail bike its epic. If you haven't ridden Kirroughtree you should, every descent is followed by a sprint climb and it just encourages you to stay on the gas the whole way round. Bike held up great, the shifting is great and you really need it, constantly cranking up the hills whilst changing gears, the XO shifts held up really well and the 10 speed cassette is great, one more gear when you really need it.

While the low BB is great in the corners you just lock in, its awesome on the bends, props to the Nobby Nics they hold up really well, ace all round tyre. The downside is I clipped the pedals and cranks all the time, I got the hang of it after a while and got better at timing the pedalling. Its a trade off but worth it I think. The carbon cranks now look very secondhand now though.

I will try and stay on topic - Wheels: the wheels are Mavic Crossmax ST they are light and really stiff, paired with the low BB and the 15mm front axle they are somewhat of an equipment highlight stiff and light, they accelerate good and they corner good through the rough stuff - you can't really ask for much more from wheels, the freewheel is nice and quiet too.

The rear shock is really plush, I think the Fox F32 FIT needs more time, its stiff and light but I don't think I have had the best out of it yet.

Descending - Im a fan of wide bars, the Canyon has 685mm EA70 bars, they are ok but they are going, the narrow bars and the long stem might be changed for a shorter / wider setup then I think it will be all good. I wasn't missing it most of the time but on some of the faster stuff particularly at Glentress and Innerleithen I wanted a bit more high speed stability.

Ok to wrap up - For 99% of the riding we did - all good trail type riding the bike was superb, only on a few of the really fast downhills did I want a bit more stability - slacker head angle / wider bars / shorter stem - but there is always a compromise. I was surprised how little difference the travel made to the ride and I think with some wider bars it will be the perfect allround trail sled - the Canyon Nerve XC is as good as it looks on paper. If you think your currently riding too much bike and thinking of changing to a lighter shorter travel set up you probably should - I have no regrets and climbs don't suck as much anymore.

Sorry for the lack of photos - the weather was THIS good and no one wanted to stop riding - will do better next time.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Canyon Nerve XC - its arrived

My previous bike a Santa Cruz Heckler was nicked, rather than just replace it I thought I would use the opportunity to try something a little different. My 6" Heckler was around 30lb and probably a bit too much bike for most of my general trail riding duties so I thought I would go with something a little more svelte.

After weighing up the options I had pretty much settled on a Specialized Camber - good looking, reasonable weight and the price was in the ball park. Despite wrestling with some figures and finding some good deals on groupsets I couldn't make the numbers add up for a custom bike that was near the money wanted to spend. Then at the last minute I was referred by a friend to the Canyon Bikes website. Not the prettiest frames but not bad and the angles looked right and the spec was insane for the money. Canyon are a german brand who sell direct - hence no one can touch them on the spec. What MTB confirmed that the bike was indeed a steal and awarded it trail bike of the year. A few clicks later and a two week wait it arrived.

Cool box, very light, I opened it in front of the UPS man just to make sure they hadn't sent me a road bike.

The bike was very carefully packaged and very well protected. Traditionally the customer never sees the bike in its boxed state but as a direct seller the un-boxing and assembly is an integral part of the Canyon Bikes customer experience, and one they have considered carefully. Impressed so far.

Wheels - Mavic Crossmax ST's, very nice, complete with hideous black spoke protector behind the cassette. Despite the risk to the expensive and cool looking spokes I think this will have to go.

This is the biggest bag of manuals etc I have ever seen, the bag includes a cool plastic torque wrench for attaching the bars and a shock pump, one more for the shock pump collection then.

Just incase you forgot Canyon are a german brand. The label says 'Attention' then some other stuff I can't translate, looks important.

This is the bike fully assembled Achtung! labels removed.

Its very black. Welds look very neat and the anodised black looks stealthy and cool. The internal cabling gives the bike a clean look and a possible tricky maintenance issue later on but generally I think it looks pretty sweet, the tapered headtube is a nice future proof addition.

Given the spec for the money, the frame pretty much comes for free!

The highlight of the kit list that comes with the bike is probably the XO group. Im really stoked they put the black logo stuff on it. On the website it comes with blue logos.

I took a short lap of the local trails to check it out before it got dark. First impressions are good, the bike is really light - It weighs around 25 / 26lb so pretty good for a 120mm trail bike, staggering for a £2200 trail bike really. The bike feels eager up the hills, the XO shifting is great, the range on the 10 speed rear cassette is noticeably better than 9 more so than I expected, I hardly used the front mech, which is a bit of a waste as the front shifting is the best I have ever experienced, SRAM have done some great things with the front rings and shifting ramps, very impressive.

I can't really comment on the suspension yet, both are top end fox units but they need some bedding in, and I need to read the manuals. 

First big outing next weekend so Ill write a proper review then.. rather than just what it looks like.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Hut to Hut Backcountry Biking Days 2 & 3

Please check out Singletrack Issue 65 I sent in some stuff to them a while ago, it comes out on the 21st April in the UK. They are a independent so I don't want to put the story up until a while after that comes out. Maybe go and buy it on the way back from a bike ride?  Ill put some more pics up at some point but from now on ill try and write about current stuff -summer is coming and so is my new bike, woo!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Hut to Hut Backcountry Biking Day 1

From Fruita we headed out to what would either be the best part of the road trip or a 3 day nightmare death march. 3 days of self guided biking across the Colorado wilderness.

We booked the trip from Colorado Backcountry Biker a couple of weeks before we left. On booking we got sent a big document with a bunch of maps, directions, what to bring and what to expect. 

The format is really cool and ideal for what we wanted to do. You have what you need with you for a long day in the saddle - spare tubes, tools energy bars etc and when you arrive at the hut (assuming you can find it) is your bedding and a cool box full of fresh food and ice cold beer. 

It sounded great - ride backcountry singletrack all day long without carrying a ton of stuff and finish each day with food and beer.

Day 1 - Meet the Kevin aka 'The Hut Guy' at 7am with all our kit before setting off. He talked us through the route, the expected weather etc before slinging the bikes in the back of his truck and heading off into the hills. The first day was supposed to be pretty easy a 15 miler with some great singletrack to ease us into it gently. Kevin had other ideas and didn't want to "make it too easy" for us and dropped us at the bottom of a six mile climb to get us into the swing of things.

The first climb was pretty tough but the views were great, it was a strange feeling riding into the middle of nowhere with a list of directions and maps to get us safely to the hut, I hoped the directions were correct, failure was not an option!

The first taste of singletrack was not a disappointment about 4 miles of winding singletrack through a shady woodland area. The weather was sunny but not too hot and the trails were perfect.

 A few fire road climbs and some more tasty singletrack later we came to a beaver dam. I have never seen a beaver before let alone walked across a beaver dam. What if they are home?

As you can see from the angle of the photo I had to cross the dam first. Thankfully the dam was fairly solid and no beavers were home. Weather still looking good as well. 

After the beaver dam the trail cruises along in the open for a while before kicking uphill sharply. After a long and technical climb, the final climb of the day, the trail opens out. The last 2 miles is a long cruise out in the open on the top of the plateau. 

Assuming the directions are correct the hut should be around here somewhere. 1 complete, the singletrack was epic and the navigation went without a hitch. 

The hut was clean and fully stocked with everything you could want in the high calorie food department, perfect.

Beer and burgers x2 coming up!

The hut was carefully stocked with books and magazines containing articles about the local area, I went to sleep thinking about Anasazi indians hiding in cliff top fortresses. Big day tomorrow.