This has been raised as a question a couple of times during our darkness ventures with some of us advocating selling lights after a year or two before the battery duration begins to reduce and others keeping a light until it dies and then buying a replacement. Continue reading
First group ride ever so wasn’t sure what to expect. Met at sussex uni sports centre car pack, i was early but before i knew it there was 16+ riders all padding up and looking eager to ride.
After a few quick hellos, we’re off!! Great
Nice gentle climb up onto the downs with all manner of lights beaming around like something out of close encounters
Can’t remember if the sky was clear but air was really nice and fresh, bit of wind to cool us down as we went.
First mini loop to get a quick hit of action. A short section of twisty single track before we carry on up.
Right out in the middle of nowhere now, the guys know all routes. Some bigger loops with longer runs. Man this place is rooty! Sus is doing overtime as we bomb along with some more technical woodpiles to navigate and drops to make.
Somewhere up high we all stop and Ronnie breaks out the sweets, nice! and we get a little rest before hitting a fast decent taking us round to some seriously off camber tracks with, yep, lots of roots. Bike was struggling to find the grip and after a number of near fun misses we’re through.
Quick climb up and we’re on the home leg, few sections of trail yet to hit. One quite quick one with a wall on one side and some nice challenging drops. Groups spread out a bit now and everyone hass found their space, big smiles when everyone re groups
Before i know it, we’re back having riden 10 miles and ascended some 1700ft acording to googles mytracks. A good Thursday night!
Southdowns has loads to offer and a really friendly riding group. I’ll be back whenever i can
Recently I moved from London to Brighton, to among other things rejuvenate my mountain biking enthusiasm/skills – I then did what we all do these days…..and Googled mountain bike clubs in the area.
I quickly found out that Brighton MTB (http://brightonmtb.org/) seemed a friendly bunch, and after exchanging a few emails had arranged to meet at Sussex University on a Thursday evening for a spot of night-riding.
Lacking suitable lights I was also offered the chance to borrow some impressive Exposure lights (courtesy of Freedom Bikes), and so on that Thursday evening I set off into Stanmer Park woods with 10-15 other bike nuts!
The biking itself was superb – a combination of challenging singletracks, obstacles to jump/ride over/avoid, and even some Northshore thrown in for good measure.
The group seems to be led by different people each week, with someone also at the back to ensure that no-one gets left behind, and the guys have excellent knowledge of the local routes available!
Based on my experience with Brighton MTB, the warm welcome I received & the quality of biking I’ve done so far, I would highly recommend this club to anyone who wants to get off-road again!
It was a Mixed Bunch of Riders that gathered for a Muddy Bike Ride. Choosing what mountain bike was ideal for this sort of ride is difficult as it would include a little singletrack. The South Downs National Park has as good a range of trails that you can find for mountain biking in the UK however the chalk can be slippery so I was hopeful the weak sun would dry out the dirt
After quick introductions some typical mountain bike action saw us avoiding the trails and riding the black stuff up hill with cold legs for some, especially me. On the flat the lack of a big ring showed up really quickly and reaching the high point was more effort than I had hoped. Continue reading
First impression after getting the frame out of the box was how light it was; compared with the steel 456 it replaced it’s incredible. Lacquer finish etc was ‘ok’ but for the price you can’t complain. I bought 2 sets of bolt on dropouts – one for gears and one for singlespeed – I’ve used some thread lock on the bolts attaching these and had no problems. The various inserts seem to be aligned well – I quite like the idea of the BB being inside a threaded aluminium sleeve – any water that does find it’s way into the frame isn’t able to get to the BB bearings.
Originally I had planned to be running it with gears but, following a frame failure and a complex parts swap across three bikes it turned out to be a singlespeed in the end. I built it with some 130mm Pace RC41’s but have subsequently fitted some 140mm Marzocchi 44 Micro Ti forks with a QR15 axle. Other parts are Easton low rise carbon bars, 90mm stem and carbon seatpost, Magura Louise brakes, XTR cranks, Salsa cog/ring and Hope Pro2/DtSwiss wheelset. Complete with the 44’s it weighs about 22lbs.I rode it for about 3 months with the Pace forks and was never entirely happy with it – the front end just didn’t seem to allow me to ride the woods at Stanmer the way that the back end seem to be indicating it could. After the fork change the whole bike seemed to come together – the solid front end now tracks really well, deals with roots and obstacles cleanly and the back end (helped no doubt by weighing next to nothing) obediently follows wherever it’s led. I do sometimes miss the ability to lock down (rather than out) the forks but even with a 140mm forks I don’t seem to suffer from wandering climbs – probably as much a result of the bikes geometry as the fact I’ll be stood up pulling faces on anything with a significant gradient due to the lack of gear choices. I know this is a frame review but these Marzocchi forks are great – I’m so impressed I’ve got a set at 120mm on my steel Kinesis Decade Versa.
As well as pinging off and over logs and roots around Stanmer I’ve taken the bike out on a 31 mile Wiggle organised ride on the North Downs (route here – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/83177769) and whilst this was by no means a technical ride it did show me that the bike is far more comfortable over a reasonable distance at good pace than the steel bike it replaced. It’s a solid feeling bike (more so than the steel in some respects) but it has an ability to not transmit ‘chatter’ off the trail that leads to a much more relaxed ride feel.
So, is it worth a couple of hundred quid more than the steel 456? At the moment I’d say yes – it seems to flatter my somewhat mincing approach to obstacles more but at the same time not leave my lower back asking for a rest after 15 miles. This is my first carbon frame and whilst I’ve no reason to doubt its’ longevity there is always a slight worry about crash damage and overall lifespan. I’ve heli-taped the whole down tube and various other places where cables may rub. A good chain stay protector is a must – the stays are so deep I get chain slap occasionally, even running singlespeed with a well tensioned chain.
Things that bother me about this frame – mainly transmitted noise – the slightest squeak from a component (and I’ve not got that many running it SS) seems to be amplified through the frame to the point that you think it’s about to fail – a ‘failing BB’ turned out to be a chain that needed a bit of lube after one very wet ride. It can sound like a Tupperware box full of marbles being shaken on fast descents with loose stones on them as various bits of high speed geology hit the frame. I had some problems getting a disk calliper to fit – they run inside the rear triangle and with the slidey dropouts there was no room for a Magura Marta calliper. On-one do a different non-drive side dropout for geared use that runs the calliper above the seat stay but this won’t work with a SS setup. The only other issue I’ve had is with the On-One headset I use to run a 1 & 1/8th steerer in a tapered frame – it’s been difficult to get it to run consistently tight enough without being ‘too tight’ – the bottom bearing also needs cleaning out and re-greasing far more frequently than I’d expect on a £40 headset.
So, overall as an upgrade from a steel 456 what have I gained? Well, I’ve not lost the geometry and dimensions that made the steel frame into such a nice ride, which was critical for me. I’ve now got a lighter frame that seems to do everything the steel bike did but it does it all with just a bit more panache.
Oh, and it’s not pink.
” I have been persuaded to lead tonight, glad it is only twenty seven”
” I am new tonight so that is why I am hiding”
“Don’t look, he has no head”
“Does my bum look big in this?”
” whistle – check, wristguards – check!”
“now you see me, now you see me”
” Are you ready Mike?”
” I hope this headset is back the right way round”
” How hard can it be?”
” I don’t want to turn around, what is he doing?”
“I can’t see from here”
“I feel like a doppleganger”
“why is everyone else’s bike the wrong way up?”
“do you like that lycra feel?”
“not the feel, just the look”
It lies in wait, hidden in the undergrowth and waits to catch you unawares. Daunting, dangerous, defeatable. Many of the obstacles on a mountain bike trail are challenging; narrow gaps, steep drops or a log structure that makes you girdle your loins and race to certain doom on the hidden side but the most fearsome for some is the natural jump.
I bought a Nicolai Helius AC in July 2010. I rode it for a couple of months until the winter mud set in, now that the local trails are drying out it is fast becoming my favourite bike.
This is the second Nicolai that I have owned so I knew what to expect in terms of industrial looking tubes and lovely big welds!
Although Nicolai are famous for offering a wide and wild range of colour finishes mine is ‘raw’ eg unfinished aluminium (not polished or laquered) with plain black stickers and black anodised fixtures and fittings. I think it looks great and on almost every ride someone passes favourable comments. The frame is typical Nicolai with the front triangle made from round tubes and the rear made from bulky square section. I think the shape and stance of the frame just look right and perfectly proportioned. The tubes are all joined by huge symetrical welds that are a stand out feature on their own. All the pivot points have sealed bearings with protective covers. At each pivot plane there is a supporting strut of aluminium, this is not noticable on first glance but it means that any lateral movement on the frame is taken by these struts and not translated into sideways stress on the bearings. I have owned a number of FS bikes including a few boutique brands and non have had this degree of thought/design put into removing bearing stresses. There is zero lateral flex in the frame, it is incredibly stiff and the bearings are silky smooth.
The suspension can be adjusted from about 100mm to about 150mm, it is simple task that involves moving the upper shock position into one of a number of pre-tapped holes in the swing arm. For me adjustable suspension adds no value to a frame, I wanted 150mm of travel so put it in the maximum travel setting and have left it there. I figure a 150mm travel frame lends itself to a particular build that is wasted on a 100mm setting, if you want 100mm of travel buy a different frame and build it with light-weight components. The suspension is a Horst link design with the upper shock position fixed to a swing arm dropped from the top tube, the suspension action is very smooth and works well – nothing more to say on it.
The build is my usual tried and tested components many of which have been donated from the spares box and other bikes in the garage. Wheels are Mavic 719 built onto Hope ProII hubs with Maxxis 2.5 inch high roller tyres and Dr Sludge tubes. A Fox 32 140mm float R fork with 15mm axle, Formula brakes with180mm rotors front and rear, SRAM X9 shifters and rear mech, XTR front mech, cassette and crankset (outer ring replaced with a bash guard), Thomson seatpost and stem, Fizik Gobi saddle, CK headset and Azonic bars ‘high rise and wide’. The frame is a large size and came fitted with a Fox RP23 shock. It weighs in at 27lbs, it rides well and thats what matters. The fork and shock sag were set and that was it, build finished.
I’m not one for fiddling with shock or fork settings etc, I set the sag and rebound (2 clicks from maximum speed on the fork and 3 clicks off slowest speed on the shock) and leave everything else alone, the RP23 ‘Pro-Pedal’ is left in the open position.
The large size frame fits me very well and my favourite components mean there are no surprises. Cruising along it feels like a bike, it is comfortable the suspension is invisible not over active and not wallowy, it smooths small bumps nicely and the bike is very comfortable. I have done a few 35 mile rides with no signs of discomfort such as sore shoulder or lower back, neither do I feel like I’m dragging a dead-weight along. A 150mm travel bike is designed for more than cruising and I like technical trails, not steep or smooth but technical eg rooty, rocky and full of awkward stuff. Basically the faster I go on this bike the more alive it feels. On contour hugging singletrack it whizzes along, the bottom bracket is fairly low and the bike feels glued to the ground, all humps and bumps, roots etc are dealt with without any drama, it just gets on with the job. On my favourite technical terrain I have clunked the bash guard a few times but thats what its there for. Big obstacles and fallen trees are no problem and can be taken much quicker and with much less caution than on my hardtail. I feel confident on steep rooty descents. The front is reasonably relaxed without being like a chopper. As I said as the speed increases the bike feels better and better, it just flows along, around and over everthing and encourages me to find roots and rocks etc to launch off. The ride is awesome on the Surrey Hills trails.
The Helius AC was a replacement for a SC Blur LT2. The Blur was nice to ride aggressively but was heavier and felt more sluggish on slow stuff; however the main problem I had was that the lower swing link was proud of the bash guard. This meant that the swing link and lower grease nipple regularly clunked on trees and rocks resulting in a couple of replacements. Also, the head angle of the Helius AC is slacker than the Blur LT2, increasing confidence on steeper stuff. These two factors together with the lighter weight of the Helius AC mean that for me it is the better option. I have an Intense Tracer which is an absolute blast on anything technical – a total hooligan; however the weight and ride position of the Tracer are noticable on longer cruising rides so it is reserved for playing and twating about when I want to get carried away. The Helius AC is the bike I reach for if an all day xc ride is planned or if I’m going somewhere new as I happy doing everything on it. A great all round bike.
I like the Helius AC a lot, a real lot and I can’t see me getting rid of it for a long long time – coming from me that is a great compliment!
A couple of days after our return from Scotland and reflection reflection on the trip and trails. To summarise; not all trail centres offer the same riding experience, pick one that suits you and a great time can be had, on the other hand one that doesn’t tick your boxes isn’t really going to enthuse you or your riding.
The weather during our trip was hot – mid 20 degC – with absolutely no wind and the trails were bone dry, lovely.