Going, going, gone

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After many years and many thousands of miles my Mojo will visit Stanmer no more. It has died from internal injuries probably due to old age so it is time to be put down like a faithful hound or aged grandmother perhaps. Many hills, many trails, slightly less jumps perhaps but in all seasons and it has coped pretty well.

It can be a little flexible but a Lopes link improved this considerably and improved shock bushes kept it smoother for longer. Local chalk and clay does kill bearings so they have needed frequent replacement but quite a simple job to do this. Integrated headset was fine and needed just bearings when winter grime had leached inside and started tinworm on the ball bearing surfaces. Bottom bracket eventually struggled to cope with many changes of bottom bracket furniture but this was needed due to the high mileage and the poor conditions rather than any weakness or design fault.

Paintwork has been robust and solid but protective tape, lots of washing and little touch ups from the supplied pot have kept up appearances. Seatpost insert has been solid and outlasted a Joplin dropper post and is not creaky or a poor fit however it likes a little pot of magic carbon grease and lots of winter wiping.

It is a little old school in its’ geometry but it climbs well, traction is excellent, front wheel sits and steers on the ups and downwards it takes bumps well, it does not fall through the suspension travel if set correctly and has a light touch over the bumpy stuff. It jumps fine but squirms a little unless it lands dead straight and although the head angle seemed slack when new current figures make it seem steeper now.

As an all round bike it has coped with anything local and national but I never threw it off an Alp and it has not needed to suffer many jumps to flat at low speed but it has managed a couple of races, been lead bike in the dark a few thousand times, managed dozens of long distance rides with aplomb and been through and over most of the local flora and occasional fauna.

It was very expensive and only the longevity has justified spending the same on a bike as you could on a car so the law of diminishing returns establishes itself once more. The extra cost gets you newer, lighter, stronger and great quality but it is not twice as good as something half the price but it is a bit better. Everything is made to size and replacement bits fit nicely. Tolerances are tight but this a good thing allowing the bike to feel a bit tighter than you expect on rough stuff.

As an early adopter of the carbon frame the early question was always strength, especially on impact, however the ibis has been grounded over obstacles, had flint chunks fired at it, been dropped more times than I would like to admit and the frame has shrugged it all off. Keeping any frame for years and years and in use rather than hanging forlorn on the garage wall is not a common thing but better, lighter frames are not that common even if price is not a factor. The suspension using the DW link is super for pedalling and better than my previous Nomad or Marin suspension systems in most situations that I usually ride.

As it has had a long, hard life I expect the wear and tear marks are commensurate for this but if you were considering any second hand frame, especially carbon there are a few detailed photographs to aid your inspection.

IMG_3974This is the insert for the lower link and is is loose inside the frame. I have heard of this in frames of other makes so checking really carefully is required in order to notice the slight initial movement of an assembled bike. Under no shock force and link removed it wobbles with your fingers.

IMG_3975Upper link point is fine despite a million movements so carbon itself does not wear out if there are no friction surfaces.

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Bottom of the rear triangle which is the lowest bit of the bike and which bottoms over logs and rocks. Super solid, seemingly very, very thick and not covered with dings and dents – part of the price paid here.

IMG_3979Running a fatter tyre in wrong conditions caused a little wear when the mud built up however prudent tyre sizes avoided a repeat of this and this was years ago so no time based fatigue of the carbon matrix

 

 

So great bike for me and a difficult problem in choosing a replacement with the obvious criteria of colour paramount. Thursday nights in the dark just don’t seem right without an orange flash somewhere in the trees.

Ronnie

Tuesday’s ride – painful with a difference.

WP_20131123_006 It started off as a regular Tuesday ride with Tom’s warning of gales and mud reducing the field to half the regular size. With Ash in puncture land somewhere on the SDW Tom re-jigged a route to allow a rendez-vous and avoid a headwind or the remnants of the travellers and their detritus. So tarmac, orchard, hill that hurts, horseshoe and another hill that hurts. Definitely not a Thursday ride but not getting dropped and not everyone else found the pace easy.  Finding Ash we turned with the wind and rode the ridgeline. Continue reading

today’s prizes

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no longer orange enough

Steve (steveW rather than steveA) seems to have usurped the orange prize of the day. He nearly won the really awkward little jumps but was beaten to that by John (F that is) who popped everyone to be the only success. Rob wins the “I know I can do it but you think I will die prize ” on the big jumps but only managed the first couple. His back wheel wins the strength prize of the day.

I did think a big fall could result in injury and death and Rob was the only trier however Lou was there and had already won the photographer prize despite her protestations that her expertise is blunted by people moving and she is only expert in the dead people category. So Rob would have had a great photo at least.

Mark (P that is) won the best big jump of the day eclipsing Rob in the success stakes by jumping high, jumping long and landing perfectly softly. Andy (L that is ) wins the most lives lost in a single jump (eight out of 9) as he landed completely flat on his hardtail and shot sideways off the trail in an upright but pedal free position. Bravely he attempted the same jump several times using the novel technique of landing with the brakes on. His justification was that it reduced the walk back up the hill.

Luke (T that is) , David (B that is) and John (F that is) vied for the hesitation prize but all lost when they all managed a first jump missing the hole of doom. Luke wins the overcoming uncertainty prize as only he thought he lost all his jump skills. John also won the somersault prize earlier and Rob awarded him the yard sale prize when he surveyed the helmet, glasses, bike and body spread all around. Rob at the same time won the “lack of sympathy” prize.

The mountain bike climb secret weapon prize was won by David as he has the biggest beard as it seems that climbing prowess correlated directly with beard length. Andy argued colour (beware ginger content) but Laurie (absent that is) proves the negative so his theory was shot down in flames (reddish). Everyone seemed unaware of the Andy Hamilton (old harry’s game that is) reason for ginger hair.

Mark also won the ” do not practice what you preach” prize by not wanting to remove his gloves for the sweet share. His justification as an expert in how to poison yourself he was sure he would be fine as my hands would be clean and he may be right but leprosy is not that obvious to some. Lou won the cake prize easily again.

My strava signal was lost in the aether so started at the tail on the first run through the bombholes and won the “when you change fork settings and hurtle foolishly into a bombhole as if you are invulnerable and about twenty five then you will almost certainly wheelie out the other side so fast that you will take about a year off your life” prize.

I will never do that again. I do not have nearly enough years to gamble a day now.

Good conditions, good trails thanks to Friston Fairies, good weather and great company.

Thursday Night Lights

Since discovering them online the BrightonMTB Facebook group and forums have proven to be an incredibly useful resource. Plenty of great tips on places to go riding and all things pedal powered. But it wasn’t until Thursday night that I actually had a chance to join the group for a ride. And was I glad I2015-03-05 20.42.00 did.

There’s always something equally exciting and daunting about heading to a ride you’ve not taken on before. Despite riding around Stanmer Park on a number of occasions since becoming interested in riding trails rather than going cross-country all the time, I’d never been out on a mountain bike in the dark.

Oh well, there’s a first time for everything. Continue reading

A review! Banshee Spitfire v2

It looks like it rides – big, fast and generally bad-ass. An anodised matt black alloy frame with the decals in satin black – if you have to ask, you’ll never know. “Born on the Shore” in full colour. Tidy welds, hydroformed tube shaping, some neat gussets, sensible external cable routing, easily adjustable geometry and a zero stack head tube and low top tube for getting rad newspitfirein the corners. Takes a front mech, 140-160mm forks and 26 or 27.5 wheels with a choice of dropouts. Build it your way. My way is 27.5 Flow EX rims, 142×12 dropouts, 160mm Pike and  CCDBair – downhill weapon! We’ve done getting on for 1000 miles together in our first year, with very little easy mileage, lots of climbing (and some uplift) in the pursuit of good descents.

Don’t buy this bike if you like staying glued to the ground, avoid going fast or shy away from steeps. Point it downhill and it shouts “STRAAAAAVA!!!” Tip in over the edge of a seemingly vertical plummet and it’s totally like yeah, whatev’s. Hit a jump and it’s an exhibitionist – higher and further than you’ve ever gone before. It took me a while to get my head around its abilities after years on a 140mm hardtail.

 

It climbs weirdly well – the steep seat tube puts you in a good position and it doesn’t go all squishy when you stand up and stomp, tyre just digs in and bike springs forwards. Loves pedally trails as long as you don’t try to get the first stroke in too soon out of a corner because the bottom bracket is pedal bashingly low. Definitely better with 170mm or shorter cranks unless you’re very tall.

jumpyspitfireThere is such a thing as too slack – on my local trails it’s happiest in the neutral setting with a head angle of just over 66 deg. For uplift days with faster rougher trails and less pedalling it’s awesome slackened and lowered to about 65.5 deg HA and it’s literally a 10 minute job to switch the drop out chips. How can a 140mm bike be so good in the rough, so plush yet never bottoming out harshly? The KS-link suspension must be magic (looking at some linkage analysis I believe it’s actually a combination of lots of anti-squat, progressive leverage rate, rearward axle path, minimal shock bushing rotation, stiff frame with short forged links and good bearings and a really great shock).

Running 1×10 with an 11-36 cassette there’s too much chain growth (~40mm at bottom out) for a super short Zee mech to be happy so I swapped that for a medium cage SLX (with clutch obviously). No guide (though there are ISCG-05 mounts) but a 32t narrow-wide and bash. Acres of mud clearance with the 27.5 dropouts so if you prefer very short chainstays you could run the 26 dropouts with a 27.5 wheel. Don’t underestimate the bigger wheels – despite all the marketeers’ hyperbole they do roll a bit quicker and grip a bit harder. The more obvious difference is the extra stability – like slackening the bike by about a degree or running bigger heavier tyres but with no detriment to climbing.bermyspitfire

Go too burly with the tyres and/or run too much damping and it becomes a straight-lining monster truck – unstoppable but hard to move around. With quicker rebound and less huge tyres (Trail King 2.2 Protection in my case), it’s a much lighter livelier ride, easy to adjust your line mid corner, find that pop to clear roots or rocks or double up rollers and make gaps – and it still has that high speed stability that dares you to ignore the brakes.

Ironically the famously complicated Cane Creek has required almost zero tuning effort – one benefit of being average height, weight, quickness and jumpiness is that their recommended base tune with 28% sag is bang on for me. I slowed it down early on because I was finding the bike a handful on bigger jumps but as my confidence grew I reverted to the faster base tune and it feels amazing. The Pike has taken much more tweaking to balance with the rear – varying sag, bottomless tokens (aka volume spacers to add spring progression), low speed compression and rebound. The end result of 25% sag, two tokens, quite a bit of compression damping and fairly fast rebound gives it the grip in the turns and the pop on the jumps.

This build is all about reliability, strength and stiffness (and is zero carbon) so it isn’t the lightest bike in the world – about 31lbs. The frame and shock is 7.7lbs of that. Only feels heavy when doing the one-armed bike-in-the-air gate/stile shuffle, so that’s good. With the bigger wheels and slack head angle it needs wide bars and a short stem – 750 and 50mm. And with the speed it carries into corners, good brakes – Hope Tech 3 E4 with 183mm discs. Started out with a 160mm disc on the back and it wanted more – brake later, brake harder, use all the grip that great suspension offers. Dropper post because it would be madness not to – Gravity Dropper Turbo LP (reliability trumps aesthetics!) Lizard Skins Logo grips (if you’re looking for a grip that isn’t super skinny nor mega fat, not super tacky nor really hard, try these). Charge Scoop saddle – like a Spoon but nicer. DMR Vaults (thin, concave, nice pins, really big platform). Hope headset, hubs and bottom bracket (been flawless on the other bike for years).

dirtyspitfireWhat would I change? I’d quite like it in an obnoxiously bright enduro-compliant colour but can’t deny the uber stealth look is cool (especially since de-stickering the rims). One of those integrated moulded rubber chainstay protectors would be nice – I have a neoprene one plus a few thick zip-ties where the chain is closest.

The geometry is just so right – long, low and slack but not too extreme so it still rides well on flatter trails. Sizing is good – I’m 5’10.5″ on a spacious but low slung medium (16.9″ seat tube). The short seat and head tubes mean you can size up and run a super-short stem for a longer wheelbase ‘forward geometry’ feel. The KS-link suspension and CCDBair are sublimely good. If you have the skills there’s no doubt this could win enduro races. If, like me, you don’t then you can have awesome fun fighting for mid-pack places. For my riding it’s better at everything than my Cotic Soul – thankfully the hardtail is still fun, switching between the two makes me a better rider and I feel happier neglecting my unwashed Soul through the winter mud and wet on my local rides.

Should you buy one? If you’re after a 6″ish enduro bike that can descend like a bigger bike but is still fun on flatter singletrack then I can’t think why not. If you’re in Brighton have a word with Freedom Bikes – you’re welcome to try this one (which they built up) as long as you promise to give it back…

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I could have just said “I really really like it!” 😉

Alex

Continue reading

Introducing the Surrey Hills to new riders

Last Sunday I led a “slow paced” ride in the Surrey Hills, specifically aimed at those who perhaps only ride with the club during the week and never join us on our away days.  This was also an opportunity for those who had gone into hibernation over Christmas to emerge from the sofa and get back on the bike. Surrey Hills 2

The Surrey Hills are one of my favourite places to ride and subsequently I’m up there with others from the club most weekends. If it wasn’t for the local trail fairies, the Surrey Hills would just be a network of fire roads in some pretty stunning countryside. Fortunately, since the early days of mountain biking the locals have been gradually building up a forever-expanding and forever-evolving web of trails in the woodland and heathland between the fire roads. Continue reading