18 February 2012

New address

Hi - just to let you know that this one won't be updated anymore, everything will soon be at - www.chasingtrails.com/blog

3 December 2011

Five Ten Sam Hill Monster Lo MTB Shoes




Time for a review. I've been using these for a couple of months now so thought you might be interested to know how they've been holding up.

I've used Five Tens for the last 5 and a bit years, and believe it or not that's been with the same 2 pairs from the start. When I got the first pair there still seemed some doubt in the air as to whether they'd keep making them. Intense had sold a limited run made by Five Ten beforehand & some downhillers liked them so much they'd bought a few pairs.

I got a pair of the original Impact Low's then thought that if they decided not to carry on producing them it would be good to have a 'spare'... So I ordered a second lot, in the high version. The only real problem I've had in the whole time is when I forgot to dry out a soaked pair & the midsole disintegrated a bit. Arghh! They're still useable but a bit soft. The other pair have been sound until recently when the outer sole split, but five years constant use seemed pretty good. I've not used anything else the whole time.

Back to the new ones - although the standard Impacts seemed supportive enough, the Sam Hill version has a nylon midsole which is a bit stiffer again. This makes them a little better for pedalling efficiency, but lessens the feel a bit. The main reason I went for these was due to the  soaking of the older pair. I thought the nylon midsole would be more hardwearing.

I actually prefer the feel of the standard shoes, they seem slightly more 'connected' with the pedals than the Sam Hill version, but it's not a big difference. Compared to any other shoes you might use with flats, any pair of tacky soled Five Tens will seem like a revelation.

The other difference to the standard Impacts is that instead of a wrap-around tongue that's fully attached on one side these have a skate shoe style tongue that has an elastic strap on each side. Again, the standard shoes are maybe slightly more comfy, but this is an even smaller difference.

I have to say I'm happy with them, they're a quality product, but if I'd known in advance I might have gone for another pair of Impacts, just because they're cheaper & there was nothing wrong with them.

I'd say if you've tried the standard shoes & like them you're probably best to stick with them, but if you want slightly more support & maybe straight line speed then give these a try.

28 October 2011

Superstar Nanotech pedals

Superstar Nanotech thru-pin pedals
I've ridden with the trusty DMR V8's & V12's since I switched from SPDs about 5 years ago.

The last lot of V12's expired recently though, and although they might have been fix-able, it was going to cost a good chunk of the new price in parts, so I thought I'd try something else.
I'd have been happy with another lot of DMR's, except for the pesky problem that if/when you get a rock strike the allen grub screws are a bit of a pain to impossible to remove. The new Vaults look good but I wasn't up for the extra cost, so I thought I'd go for some of these Superstar Nanotech thru-pin pedals.

They arrived a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't try them straight away as the forks on the main bike were away on a warranty repair. First ride out though & I couldn't fault them. The nice thin profile meant no catches (I'm sure it'll still happen, but a lot less). The bigger area is handy, or should I make a rubbish pun there & say 'no, I mean footy'. No, thought not...

Anyway, the size gives plenty of support & means you don't have to be pinpoint accurate in your foot placement to feel planted. Shape-wise they seem good, nice & comfy which counts for something near the end of an epic. Pin placement gives good grip, even with not so grippy soles, and great traction with the almost compulsory Five-Tens (look out for a review of the Sam Hill version sometime in the next few weeks)

Apart from that, they've stood up to jumping & the usual rough stuff that the Five encourages.

I'll add a comment if the thru pins don't come out like they should, but as far as I can see the main-steam MTB mag reviews have got it right on these. Great flat pedals & lighter than many. They do magnesium models if you just have to shave off another 100g ish.

1 September 2011

Photo Session

Did a photo session today with James. Check out his website for some more images of biking & much more. I also particularly like some of the abstract images myself.

The photo opposite is from a previous ride with James on the Moors. Today was at the ace Dalby Forest trails & it looks like there'll be some cool images to come. Great day!

In a way the day seemed opposite to my usual 'work' days, in a good way. Helping you to get your riding sorted involves more than just 1 good attempt at something, so after an explanation & a demo you need to repeat it with maybe a few corrections until everything's working & then a few more times to get it built in to your body memory. 

So most days I tend to ride each bit of trail once or twice. Photo sessions, however, tend to involve repetition! I'm always aware of wanting to improve my own skills as well as customers, but I tend to assume it happens riding elsewhere, not Dalby trails I know off by heart. Today though, I was looking to get the line & speed really good on a berm to improve the photo. I ended up varying the line & discovered a subtle tweek was all it took to get a fair bit more speed through the berm. 

So I guess the point is that if you already have a skill nailed, the way to make further improvements is to session a small bit of trail until you get the feel for what might improve things. If all it's doing is reinforcing bad habits, then some coaching is probably in order - www.chasingtrails.com/mountain-bike-skills-courses   

More of James' photos will appear on the Chasing Trails website over the next few weeks.

8 June 2011

2 really useful wheel building tools

This post is really just a review of a couple of tools rather than a wheel building tutorial!

Cyclus 720158 Spoke Nipple Driver

You can build wheels without a nipple driver but it's a lot more fiddly & will take longer. Most nipple drivers look like a screwdriver with a bent shaft. That kind is a hand tool & usually costs about the same as, or sometimes less than, the Cyclus one being reviewed, which is about £25. Anyway, I like this particular tool for a few reasons. It's a bit quicker (& less tiring!) to use than a hand tool & the quality seems good. More importantly though, if the spoke lengths you're using aren't exactly precise, the pin is adjustable for depth so you can still get the tensions fairly accurate.

Once you get the feel of using the tool you'll often find that the wheel starts fairly true just from the initial tensioning before you do the final finishing off with the spoke wrench.

So far I've built about 4 or 5 pairs of wheels with this particular tool as well as being used on a couple of wheel building courses. There's been no damage or wear so far despite the fact that nipple drivers work by essentially slipping out of the slot in the nipple when the pin hits the end of the spoke.

So, if you know how to build wheels & you know what a nipple driver does, this one is a good one. That's about it!

Cyclus (720037) / Sapim Nipple Grip

This one is sold under the Cyclus name as well as Sapim & possibly others. It's less 'essential' than the other on, but it does speed things up & all but prevents the annoyance of a spoke nipple dropping inside the wheel rim. The wire loop just grips the nipple so you can thread it onto the spoke nice & easily. Where it gets more vital is if you're building wheels with deep section rims. It might seem a bit pricey for what it is at £15 or £16, but I'm guessing they don't sell in huge numbers.

Having used one for a good while now I'd not want to be without it. Apart from a bit of extra speed, anything that helps keep a bit of a routine & order to wheel building is a good thing. The wire loops are held in with a grub screw & spares are available, but mine hasn't needed any yet & doesn't show any signs of getting tired.
[edit]...the day after poasting this the body of the tool cracked! Seems like it was a manufacturing fault rather than a design fault. The tool's been around for a while so I'm guessing it's not a common problem[edit]

Spoke keys or wrenches

No need for a full review of these, but if you're after a spoke wrench for workshop type use you really want one that grips the spoke nipples with as much support as possible. Good ones include the Sapim which is my choice. It grips all 4 sides with a diamond arrangement; Park do some good ones but spend the couple of quid more to get the '4 sided' type. The cheaper ones just have a 'u' profile which has more risk of rounding off the nipples; The one by Newton, also sold as Wrench Force is a multi-size design which grips on 4 sides the same as the Park. I also use this, but these days I tend to leave it in my Camelback as the multi-size design means I won't get caught out if someone on a skills course or guided ride needs a wheel sorting.

27 April 2011

Green Oil's Chain Cleaner & White Lube review

Green Oil White LubeWhite Lube

As I said a month & a bit ago, White Lube is a wax lube made of naturally produced ingredients. For best results it needs applying to a clean chain (see later). They recommend applying it to the inside of the chain as you wind the pedals backwards, which makes sense as then it gets to the chain rings & cassette as well. Anyway, on to how it does on the trails...

I've been using this for about a month & a half now. As I was hoping, it does indeed keep the chain clean. It picks up hardly any trail mank & grit & the drivetrain stays nice & shiny.

It doesn't need applying every ride, more like every 2 or 3. This is good, as it's easy to use a bit more than needed at first! It's a lot more liquid than you might be expecting, but the solvent (plant ethanol) evaporates off leaving the wax behind. This means you'll want to be careful not to squeeze the bottle too hard & waste a load.

It must be working as everything is quieter than with most lubes. No gritty noises and no squeaking that you get when too thin lubes disappear half way round a ride.

All in all, this is what I'll continue to use. It really is good stuff. The only thing I wonder is if more beeswax could be dissolved in the mix to make the bottles laast even longer, but I'm guessing this has been thought of already.

Green Oil Clean Chain Ecological Degreaser Gel

Green Oil Clean ChainA decent chain cleaner has to be a money saver. A dirty, gritty chain will wear out way quicker than a clean, lubed chain, no matter how expensive the chain. It depends a certain amount on where you ride but most mud will eat chains if it's left on. Peak District grit & Dalby Forest sand are even worse!

On to the product. I've used the plastic chain baths with the rotating brushes in the past & they're not bad, but I've always been disappointed that they don't get the chain cleaner than they do. Surprisingly, the 1st time I used the Green Oil gel it easily out-did a chain bath, whatever the cleaning liquid used.

The instructions are easy to follow & not too much of a faff & you don't have to worry about where you use it as it is genuinely bio-degradable. It is actually made from citrus, whereas some of the competitors that have 'citrus' on the label or in the name only use enough to make it smell nice & in fact are made from the usual chemicals. Green Oil's version doesn't have anything to hide & is another great product. It seems to be another case where natural is best in every way. I've not used a better chain cleaner.

Oh and the prices for both of these seem quite reasonable to me. Have a check on the website for up to date prices.

Green Oil is at www.green-oil.net

13 March 2011

Arrived in the post.

Coming up in the next couple of months will be a review of Green Oil's new wax lube. In an odd connection to the last post, this one uses beeswax instead of petrochemicals & plant ethanol as the solvent.

Green Oil is run by Simon Nash who developed the original Green Oil wet lube whilst at Southampton University. The wet lube does everything that any other wet lube does except that it's made from completely natural ingredients. It's also very reasonably priced.

I've used the wet lube & it's a great product. There's no hint of cutting corners on quality in order to be green, but also no compromises on the green side of things either. It's proof that you can do things well all round if you have the expertise & motivation.

I however prefer wax lubes as I find they need applying less often & the chain attracts less grit & dirt. Si had mentioned back at bikeradar live that there was a wax lube on it's way. So I'm expecting good things from this one.

Before applying wax lube you'll need to clean the chain. Green Oil's Chain cleaner is another quality product. Not sure why I haven't put a review up yet but there will be one witht the results of this test.

Green Oil's site is at www.green-oil.net