Custom Built Push Industries Shock by RBC.

So today a parcel arrives at home for me.  I haven’t bought anything or am I waiting for anything so it was pretty cool and a huge surprise.  I opened the parcel, and the thick bubble wrap tells me about the contents….precious cargo!  After getting halfway through the roll of bubble wrap I notice what it is, it’s a sleek black rear shock!  Now I remember, Robbie (suspension guru of note and my suspension sponsor) had told me he was going to build a rear shock for me, from the ground up.  Here it is, in my hand and I’m like a dog with two tails!

IMG_9938

 

RBC is a small company from Port Elizabeth that imports/distributes and services Push Industries Tuning kits/parts and Shocks.  But don’t let the “small” part of the company sway your opinion of this company.  Small means that every customer is known by every employee.  Personal service is the name of their game.  Robbie Powell is the captain of this ship and he has an impressive racing history.  Robbie has ridden most things two wheeled, he’s a legend in observe trials and has represented RSA in DH!  Robbie has experienced the revolution of the mtb with suspension forks becoming prevalent in the 90s.  He has seen the good ideas become standard and the bad ideas fail.  Robbie has years of riding experience, shop experience and mechanical experience that you just don’t find nowadays.  In short, when it comes to understanding suspension, Robbie’s the real deal.

In my previous Review I had my standard rear shock tuned up by Robbie……read the review, because it was awesome.  This article is to explain the huge difference I experienced with my shock today.  When Robbie told me he was going to cook something up for me that was bespoke for my riding style, he wasn’t kidding.  What Robbie did was take a standard Fox RP23 Rear shock, and throw away the following parts: Normal Alloy Annodized Shock body (normally the gold coloured shaft that you see on your shock that is the thinner part of the shock), Plastic Independent Floating Piston or IFP (the pistion that sits between the oil and the nitrogen), Fox piston (medium flow), Medium Shimstack tune for Compression and rebound.  He replaced all these parts with Push Industries upgraded components, the Shock body on my new shock is Epoxy coated for durabilty and smoothness, this coating is more scratch resistant than standard annodizing plus it’s way more slick so the shock is more responsive on small bumps.  The new Push IFP is ceramic instead of plastic so it doesn’t buckle under the opposing pressures of the oil vs nitrogen inputs.  The magic with only starts happening now though as Robbie knows my style of riding, my weight and what type of suspension my bike has.  He fits a high flow piston kit and then fits a FIRM tune shim stack to get the desired ride feel, but he’s not done.  Knowing my weight and what “feel”  need, he fills the shocks nitrogen chamber with a custom pressure for me!  So now the effect is sublime.  I’m such a unique rider you see, I like a plush suspension (meaning I like it soft so it can gobble up small bumps and float along) but I don’t want it banging through it’s travel on medium and big bumps.  So what happens on standard tune off the shelf shocks is, you control the shock movement with air pressure, which means you lose sensitivity and traction.  So Robbie knows I like running low air pressure and has used the valving (custom valve and shim stack tune) to control the shocks movement, but then has tuned the nitrogen pressure to keep the shock riding at the right height in it’s travel.  So this means if a 80 kg rider gets on my bike and sets air pressure for his weight, the shock still won’t ride correctly for that rider.  This truly is TAYLOR MADE SUSPENSION. 

 

My bike ride today was so composed and balanced today, I forgot I had a new piece of hardware attached.  It was such a incredible ride, I had forgotten about the shock, and that is a good thing.  Think about what I’m saying, it did it’s job so well, I didn’t notice.  It didn’t have any situation that it didn’t cope with.  It’s so hard to nitpick here, there’s just nothing to report that is negative.  I set my desired sag on the bike, and I tweaked my rebound feel, and I rode my bike.  Why is that such a big thing?  It is because I’m “Mr stop and fiddle” when I ride, I like tweaking and faffing with the settings.  This ride was bliss, the shock didn’t need faffing…….Robbie has built me a Taylor Made shock.

 

In the weeks to come I will review more and give me detailed feedback.

For now, keep it rubber side down.

IMG_9719

Advertisements

PUSH Industries Upgrades Review

I love riding my bike, it’s a massive part of my day.  I’ve passed the stage in my life were lightweight equipment is the answer, I want products to be light, but functionally perfect for the job of MOUNTAIN BIKING.  This involves anything from long rocky descents at speed, to slow technical on the brakes type of drop-offs with your bum buzzing the back tyre.  Most of the XC/Marathon products out there are lacking the “MTB Tough” approval nowadays. My own equipment choice is based on performance, functionality and reliability.  If the product is better for a certain job and is heavier, I’ll put it on within reason. I mean I won’t fit a DH fork to my XC/Trail orientated bike, I’ll rather choose a fork suited to the bike.

Recently, due to some bad luck, I had to upgrade my trusty old Rock Shox SID XX WC 100mm.  My first instinct was another Rock Shox, as I’ve been a fan for a while now.  My bad luck happened during the amazing three day MTB Stage Race, the Wine2Whales, in my hometown. I took my bike to my friend, Robbie Powell, for inspection. Go check out RBC.  The news wasn’t good.  So my choice was to replace my fork, but with what?  Robbie is the PUSH Industries FOX Service Centre in RSA, and supplies forks and upgrades to FOX forks and rear shocks.  He services any suspension fork you can think of and he works his magic, in particular, on FOX suspension.  Upgrades that Robbie does vary from Push Industries Dustwipers to shim stack and valve tuning. While my fork was out of commission, I had a planned service on my FOX RP23 Kashima rear shock, which was custom tuned to my bike from Niner Bikes and the FOX engineers.  I watched as Robbie stripped my shock in front of me.  I told him that my rear shock wallows under hard hits and packs down after repeated mid-stroke hits.  Meaning that it damping gets over worked on big hits, and it barely copes to return the shock to full travel on repeated mid-stroke bumps like a flight of stairs.  We measured the Nitrogen pressure in my shock at 300psi, which for a 68kg rider is way to hard, I wanted my shock more plush and this was one place to tune that. We tested a few different pressures and settle on half that at 150psi.  The other thing we noticed, was that my rebound setting was on it’s fullest adjustment, meaning I could dial off the rebound (to make it faster) because it was at the end of it’s range.  All these issues add up to the factory tuning these shocks to the “Average” rider, meaning 80kg.  Once we had tuned this with a shim stack to accommodate all this, Robbie replaced the Shock body with PUSH Industries own Epoxy coated body, which is harder and smoother Kashima.  This sexy little black number promised to be slippery and longer lasting, increasing small bump sensitivity and longevity of product.  BONUS!

Fork wise he suggested I get, taking my riding style into consideration, a FOX 32mm Factory Fork 100mm sporting the FIT4 damper, with a PUSH industries firm tune.  I was hesitant at first, I heard the word “FIRM” tune and I wasn’t convinced.  I’ve known Robbie 25 years odd, so I trusted his expertise and judgment. I told Robbie that I love a plush fork with small bump compliance (so soft air pressure) but I hate how my current fork dives through a high speed corner or berm.  The nose of the bike would just dive down at the most inopportune time, so to counter this I had to firm up my air pressure to fight this, leaving my fork not so plush with very little if no small bump compliance.  Well, my fork arrived at the agreed deadline, and I fitted in earnest.  In my Fork box was, a card of PUSH Industries stickers, the manual, the star-fangled nut, front brake hose clip, a fox fork sticker and a number of fork air tokens. (these are plastic spacers that clip together and are inserted into the air chamber to reduce air volume and in so doing, increase spring ramp rate making it more progressive and less linear) On Robbie’s recommendation, I fitted an extra token, the factory fit 1 as standard.  I followed the manual’s recommended air pressure for my weight and off I went on my first ride.

 

img_6664

My first impression was that the fork was way to soft for me.  It was ultra plush and moved on every small bump.  On the first downhill near my house are 3 speed bumps, these normally kick the back end of my bike up and leave my hands rattled from the impact.  I hit the first one at full speed as per normal.  I heard “shooshing” sound and carried over the bump without leaving the ground.  I pulled over quickly expecting to see a very soft tyre.  Both my tyres were perfectly inflated!?  I was confused, Did my bike just float over that now when normally just riding into the bump sends me air borne?  I set off again hurtling towards the next one, this time making myself light as hit the next bump and the bike took a little air and landed, but so gently as if gravity itself was greatly reduced.  At the bottom of this hill is a T-junction, so I slammed on anchors at the latest possible moment, only to find I had to release brakes and roll forward more.  I chuckled to myself.  Was my old fork so bad?  This new fork had just outperformed my trusty old SID on speed bumps and braking.  This fork had not dived under a sudden hard braking force and therefore also stopped me in a much shorter distance, and I can prove, from a higher speed.  My old fork would dive and “brake-away” under hard braking and my weight would transfer onto the handlebar, which upsets the bikes overall balance bios to mainly frontal balance.

img_7007

Out on the trail, I noticed how clean my cockpit was.  No pesky extra cables, and thus giving my cockpit a very clean and tidy appearance.  Riding wise, I was very keen to push my bike to test the fork and rear shock.  I sprinted and bounced and slammed the wheels into every hole and bump I could find.  I bermed and railed every corner in reach, and found none of the old characteristics of the bike.  The bike was reborn, and felt like MY bike.  I can’t quite explain that statement without equating it to having a suit tailored to you by an artisan.  The fork would smash a gap jump and land like I was riding off a pavement.  I could rail hard and push through a berm and the bike stayed balanced.  I could brake hard facing downhill without the rear wheel lifting.  After riding myself to exhaustion, I went home.

img_7064On arriving home, I got off the bike and just starred at the machine.  I suppose I was looking for answers.  The facts were, the rear end stuck like velcro to the terrain and never fluttered or packed down.  The fork isolated so much of the terrain from my hands and steered so positively.  The fork seemed way to soft to start off, but it was so plush out on the trail, and despite jumping and going crazy, I still had more travel left in reserve!

img_7065img_7066img_7067img_7068

What I can conclude is, it’s been 2 months, and I can tell you that my bike hasn’t skipped a beat since.  It has done 2368km with 37890m of climbing and descending.  The conditions have been super hot and dry, on powdery dust and rock. I have done 169 hours of riding! I have cleaned the wiper seals with a rag and I store my bike upside down to let the juices flow to the seals to keep them wet for the next ride.  The performance and the behavior of the bike is just sublime.  Single word adjectives that describe my experience riding this setup: Smooth, Compossure and Balanced.

Why should you have your current shock tuned by Robbie’s Bicycle Concept? Robbie has years of riding experience, I mean since MTB hit South Africa, and he has ridden every type of fork invented.  He has pinned it and binned it in every mtb discipline you can imagine, including observed trials, DH, Dual Slalom and XC.  Robbie brings years of riding knowledge together with years of running a bike shop, designing bikes and bike parts for the overseas market and companies, he consults to engineers and factories in the industry and has spent time with PUSH Industries to learn specifically how to get the most out of each shock.  Robbie in a word is a guru.  How Robbie can help you is simple, take your fork or shock in for a simple standard service and you’ll get it back better than you sent it in.  More than though RBC can tune your suspension for you to get the most out of your bike.  Most of you are the “Average” weight (80kg) which is how the “factory tune” is, but this doesn’t take in consideration terrain which they also “guestimate” so what you end up with is a fork that works for 50% of the Average people, and lets not forget riding style that also effects your suspension setup.  RBC will ask you questions about where you ride, how you ride, tyre pressures and all sorts of things to get clues and a bigger picture of how you ride.  He even has an electronic shock setup gadget to attach to the front and rear shocks to suggest how to dial in your suspension even more!  RBC has decked out their workshop to look after suspension in a drool worthy fashion, having spent R300 00 on the suspension servicing specific tools ONLY.  Which is the upper level in his workshop, downstairs has an equal spend of standard bike repair tools all set out as tidy as you can imagine.

Go visit his site, and see what a difference he can make to your ride.

 

robbiesbicycleconcept.co.za/index.php?route=suspension/servicepricing

 

Suffering

We’ve all had those days when we feel good.  Those days when you may not be the fastest, but you feel like you pedal with ease and you can suffer all day.  I’m not talking about those days here, I’m going to talk about those dark days on a bike, when you feel like you’re done.  Like what you’re doing to yourself is not good for you.

Understanding why we suffer during a race or training is difficult, but only because of the many factors that influence it.  Things like, starting to fast, or poor sleep, nutrition, illness and even lack of form.  Look, any of us are open to the dangers of the above at any time, but limiting those factors that you can control can greatly reduce your possibility of suffering during a race, with a negative outcome.  What do I mean here?  I mean that not all suffering ends with a negative outcome.  Think about suffering to a point of wanting to give up but you eventually win your race?  Suffering ended up with a positive.  In this vein of thought,  suffering during training is the point here.  If your suffer in training, you should race more positively.  The idea I try keep convincing myself during intervals!  I try associate the bad with being good for me.

IMG_1661

Getting back to the suffering during an event now, I have often wondered to myself what exactly got me through that.  I have done a few 24Hour races solo, I’ve done them on a singlespeed and stood on the podium amongst riders with gears.  I suffered like hell during that event.  I’ve done them in better condition and a more equipped bike and I’ve had to give up.    What made the one suffering more overwhelming than the other?  Who knows, but with each instance I like to think I learned a few things about myself, and the situation.  With careful reflection, I was able to see my own mistakes, and how I can avoid them for next time.  Basically making me better at my race craft.  It’s an ever changing goal post though as I get better at racing.  My last 24Hour I struggled to eat or drink for 6 hours, which required me to keep going on an empty tank.  My motivation and pride is what I used to get me to keep going.  I was slumped in a chair at 07h00 that morning, struggling to hold myself up, when I suddenly just got up and flopped back into the saddle and carried on.  I know that last year I would have thrown in the towel.  Learning about my character is what let me overcome my suffering.  It was a mental state of mind, an attitude.

IMG_7278

Every person has their own suffering and motivation.  They are somehow inter-twined.  What I call suffering may be normal and easy for another.  Or visa versa.  Suffering is personal.  You learn a lot about yourself in those moments of suffering.  One thing I’ve learned is to never give up.  Not that I’ve used to, but my bench mark of where the point of throwing the towel in is has moved substantially.  We all have that battle to fight.  This is what makes sport so wholesome and amazing.  Sport is the closest thing to war we can get.  It’s special for me to watch my heroes race their bikes, because I can relate to the training and suffering they’ve gone through to race as that level, and I can relate to good and bad days, but most of all I marvel at the beauty of an athlete suffering and fighting back.  Even if he comes stone last or first.  Overcoming ones own suffering is honourable.

Next time you are suffering, be it in training or racing, remember that this to shall pass and you will be better for it.

 

Keep it rubber side down.

Les Alps, a dream and a bike.

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

IMG_3935

I’ve had my sights set on riding in the French Alps for a long time, maybe 15 years.  I’ve had friends go and then torture me with their pictures and stories of their adventures.  I smile and pretend not to be hurting deeply inside with jealousy.

This year,  I got the opportunity of a lifetime to go and ride in the French Alps, in La Tania in the Courchevel Valley.   It falls part of the the Famous 3 Valleys, Courchevel-Meribel-Val Thorens.  To describe to you what the place is like is difficult, but imagine you have 360 degree sights of mountains that are all almost 3000m in height.  Not all are but the lowest in the region is 2300m.  Mont Blanc is not very far away from our chalet, it’s a megalith climb and we get to stare at this fabled mountain from our balcony. We don’t have places like this in South Africa.  Our Chalet was at a height of 1400m above sea level.  All around us was either mountains high or valleys low.  Literally a steep climb up or a deathly drop down.  This may scare you, however the chairlifts dotted over the valleys make getting up there accessible to everyone, no matter fitness or skill.  This truly is a magical place to be.  The French town ambiance is tangible, the people are very outdoors orientated.  The amount of hikers, bikers on the trail this time of year is surprising low, I mean it’s busy, but there is so much mountain to ride that you hardly bump into people.  You see them at the chairlifts and that’s about it.  This particularly makes for a fantastic experience, no traffic!

IMG_3162

IMG_3139

So Why would someone come and do this every year instead of something like the Absa Cape Epic?  The cost is similar.  Right?  Not at all, actually this is cheaper.  Currently the entry fee to the Absa Cape Epic is R30 000 per person.  Just the ticket.  You will need to pay for a mechanic during the race (I mechanic at the race so I can tell you with confidence that things go very wrong daily at Epic), a mechanic will charge you around R4800 (average) per bike for the week.  You will need to have message for the duration of the race, or your legs will seize on you and that’s not good, a massage package is R2700 per person for the week.  That’s R7500 on top of the R30 000 ticket price.  None of this going to cover the cost of training, wear and tear on tyres and equipment.  Oh and let me just say, the Epic requires teams to have matching kit!  So throw some extra into the pot for matching team kit, nothing less than R10 000 here for the two of you.  The company I went with is called Msaro.  What they offer in 950 Pounds(R17100) for the week, includes a chef and massage!  Inclusive!  You get 2 solid meals (breakfast and supper) which are massive spreads and are occasions for sharing stories.   Lunch is not included as you are actually on the mountain.  Taking some cash to buy something up there is advisable, but I took fruit and made a sandwich at breakfast for the trail and this worked out perfectly.  The Chalet we stayed in has a hot tub.  Yes a friggin hot tub to soak the body in and is a great place to exchange stories of the day.  There is a TV downstairs and plays so many channels and is linked to the web, so we caught up on some of the Olympic events while we were there.  The place is magic, but the Msaro staff didn’t let us lift a finger while we were there.  We got yummy protein shakes post ride without fail.  We were given water ,juice, coffee and tea all day.  You want for nothing while you are there, which is a huge contrast to Epic.  Epic you rush through breakfast and get home midday and start scrounging for food.  You recovery zone is hot and full of other bodies who are grumpy.  Nobody helps you with your bike until you hand it over to the mechanics, every service you need at Epic such as clothing washing is an extra cost.  You have to bloody well do everything for yourself.  And you pay more for this.  This Msaro trip is also very forgiving if your fitness is not up to climbing to much, you can just take a chairlift.  Simple.  The ticket to fly to France from Cape Town was R14 000 on Emirates, which was very comfortable. If you do the numbers, the trip to the Alps next year is looking so much cheaper than just paying for Epic.  Msaro arrange a shuttle from Geneva Airport so that’s included.  Financially it takes more than the entry to do Epic, you are going to spend another R20 000 to get to the start line of Epic, and you can’t avoid those costs.  The volume of training and riding is going to suck your bank balance dry.

This trip into the Alps opened my eyes, riding my bike is about adventure and trying new things.  Experiencing new places.   Meeting new people.  The Epic crowd race the same guys, and that is quite cool, to catch up with guys but really it’s also getting boring now.  This trip was many things for me, exciting, scary, adrenalin, sense of achievment, altitude, friendships and dreams.  This trip has left me planning to do this next year, with new routes and new adventures.  In my time there, I climbed up a peak of 2500M, swam in a glacier fed dam, descended singletrack for more than 20km in one go, rode so many berms that I could still feel them in my sleep and sat in a hot tub looking at Mont Blanc.  This is a special place.  I left a piece of my soul in those mountains.  cropped-img_3522.jpgIMG_3536IMG_3148cropped-img_1382.jpg

If you are interested in more detail, go to http://www.msaro.co.uk  you won’t be disappointed.

Image

I’m going to ride the Alps

So today as I repack, my repacked luggage to lose any unnecessary weight to make my flight baggage limit, it finally hits me.  I’m flying to France to ride in the Alps. My friend, Gila Joffe owns and runs a touring Company called Msaro. The Name is derived from her beautiful Daughter Aria.  MS ARia Overton.  Talk about a mothers love!  Speaking of which, Gila has got 9 of us to mother and look after while we are there on this 7 day training camp.  Gila knows how to put it in, and we are being put up in a very luxurious chalet in La Tania.  The experiences so far has been so amazing, with feedback of what to expect and weather forecasts,shuttle and transfer arrangements.  Gila has kept us informed every step of the way.  She has gone the extra mile. Which for a novice traveler like me, is a massive bonus. She has never been to busy to answer my inexperienced questions.
As I sit here, bags finally packed and now at the correct weight, there are clothes and redundant outfits lying everywhere.  The realization is so cool.  My stress is over to a large extent.  I can’t wait to sit at the airport now to relax into the journey to get there.  If been anxious since this trip became a possibility. From Passports that got lost in office, and having to re-apply with little time left to them get the ticket and ten apply for the visa, for me it’s been these little hurdles that made this trip seem like a pipe dream.  Well my dream of riding my bike in the Alps is coming true.

For those of you who want to follow what this place is like, I will blog about it daily. I’ll take pics and let you all know what you’re missing.  Also go to http://www.msaro.co.uk to check the site and bookings for next year.  Yes next year!
Ok I’m going to have a nap now, I’m going to be flying some 20 hours, so I’m gonna need some rest.  Chow for now.  And keep it rubber side down.

INSIDE :The Bearded Ninerds Bike

Tags

, ,

IMG_2604

This is my weapon.  I’m going to give you are description of my parts and WHY I chose them.  Let me start off by saying, I’m a Brand Ambassador for Niner Bikes, but I pay for my bikes.  I’m not influenced by sponsorship on this, I am a discerning rider who is rewarded with a slightly better price for loyalty to an amazing bike company.  That said, lets move on.

 

Niner JET 9 RDO ( full carbon frameset, with 12mm Maxle lite Through axle and with carbon rocker link) 100mm.  I chose this frame for it’s trail plush suspension, it’s an XC/Marathon bike that climbs with poise and grace, but downhills like a savage. Pure bliss. The geometry on this bike is flawless, and has been copied by many “big” brands.  There’s something special about the way Niners all ride.  It’s like chocolate cake, you can follow the same recipe your Granny uses, but it’s not the same if you made it.

Rock Shox SID XX World Cup 100mm, 15mm Through axle.  I chose Rock Shox for their proven reliability in RSA conditions.  Where other brands of forks have had premature stanchion wear and costly service and repair costs, Rock Shox have had the mix right.  Hardy seals that keep the trail shit out, and are cheap to replace regularly.  Services are simple enough, basic home mechanics can do them.  Other brands are more fiddly and expensive to service.  The SID XX WC 100m is a very light fork, and I chose this model for it’s weight and performance.  Being a light rider, I can ride light equipment.  Mine is 3 years old now, and it’s smoother than it’s ever been.  No signs of wear. 

Corse Components 29er Carbon Rims with E*Thirteen Hubs laced with Sapim CX Ray Bladed Spokes.  I chose these Carbon Rims for their proven robust construction.  There are lighter carbon rims out there, by a few grams only.  But this rim is unrivaled in strength.  In the time I’ve ridden them, they have been my everyday rims, I’ve landed badly squashed down on rocks, hit ruts super hard all with low tyre pressures and the rims are literally unscathed.  If these were ally rims of the same weight, I would have tacoed the rims or dented them with flat spots.  These are well worth the money!  I chose E*Thirteen Hubs for there Large Hub Flanges (to lace the spokes through and use shorter spokes) and the Freebody Engagement system.  The hubs anodizing is still pitch black and smooth, some other products out there fade over time in the sun and from solvents when washing them.  The CX Ray spoke, being bladed is more aero, but also way stronger.  This wheelset is the most important thing on my bike, it is the first thing in contact with the ground (with the tyre on) and strong, fast rolling, precise steering and stiff wheels are what any mountain shredder wants.

Specialized Purgatory 2.3, Specialized Fast Trak 2.2 Tyres.  I chose these by accident, and I’m a convert.  The new casings in these tyres are a vast improvement on the old ones which were paper thin and sliced to easily.  Another upside to the newer casing is that the casing is more stable.  This allows you to run a lower tyre pressure (1.1FR, 1.0RR) which gives incredible grip.

 Groupset XX1 11speed, Trigger shifter (instead of Twist shift) because I have a dicky right wrist and triggers rule. I ride the 34 or 32T front blade (depending on the course) and the standard XO level cassette (it’s actually lighter than XX1, and lasts longer).  The chain is a Sram PC 1171 Chain, it’s shifting on the SRAM gear is the best in my opinion.  I love the feel of Sram, most of my riding mates run Shimano bikes, and they talk about the “light” action over Sram.  I just laugh, because, even though my shifting can feel more industrial and solid, it works everytime without fail.  Shimano riders often over shift.  I also prefer SRAM parts, because they are rebuildable.  Shimano let you service only a few pieces on a few groupsets and that is just crap.

Sram Guide Ultimates, 180mm/160mm.  I chose these brakes because of the unparalleled level of braking performance, power/modulation and feel.  The build quality is outstanding.  The Carbon brake lever blades run on bearings (which rids it of the horrible brake flop all brakes get), the finish detail is amazing too.  The Ti bolt kit is also light and rust free.  Keeps things clean. The matchmaker simplicity and neatness it offers the cockpit from an aesthetics point of view is also a major feature.  These brakes offer tool free Bite point adjustment and tool free lever reach.  Both work even with a full finger glove on. You can only go as fast as you can slow down!

Niner RDO Flat top Carbon Handlebar, 9 degree sweep.  Because 9 is a magic number.  This truly is a magical bar, with oodles of flexy comfort, which makes the ride sublime. It is light as hell.  The etchings at the stem and tips of the bar allow for precise setup too!

KCNC Arrow 2, 100mm negative 17 degree stem.  I chose this for it’s angle and stiffness.  It’s light and stiff.  To setup my 29er (which are known for high headtubes) I used this negative rise stem to get me low enough over the bike.

Niner RDO Carbon Seatpost, I chose this for aesthetics reason, so it would match my bike and cockpit, and it was a good decision.  It’s built with a huge amount of flex to it, which is very good at saving your ass on small stutter bumps.  It’s been a faultless addition to my bike.

Specialized Carbon Power Saddle 153mm,  I chose this saddle for it’s claimed comfort and posture improving stability.  It works for me.  I can say that with confidence and I have done a whole 24Hour MTB race without getting a rash, which is the first time I’ve had that.  It’s a short saddle, and that hasn’t bothered me.  You sit in this saddle, not on it.

Stages X9 BB30 Power meter. I chose a cranked based power meter because I like the simplicity they offer at a very low weight.  Accuracy is also high.  It’s affordable compared to other offerings and that really sold it to me.  Being able to track my training accurately was the goal, doing so less expensively was a bonus.

Time ATAC XC 8 pedals.  Because there is no equal.  I love it’s big platform base and stability.  It has a nice comforting “thunk” noise when you clip in.  It offers more float than other pedals, which are healthier for your knees.  The quality is perfect.  I’ve always had TIME pedals.  My oldest pedals (still in service) are on my road bike, and are in perfect order.  15 years old!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the insights, my parting comments are that I chose my bike and it’s components for their longevity and ride quality.  Not because they were “light” or “strong” but because they offered me all of those in the right doses.  My bike hasn’t let me down, the choices of equipment play a massive part in that.  My bike must work, and work well.  Let me say that, servicing my bike regularly is factor here.  Without service things will not function to their fullest or last.

 

Happy trails, keep it rubber side down.

 

 

ZEN art of Cycling performance

I’ve been cycling for many years, 20 odd in fact.  I’ve grown up pretty active, climbing trees, swimming, running and cycling.  I’ve done Judo, Life Saving and even Rock Climbing, but Cycling has been my biggest sport.  You can say that my body is shaped by a bicycle.  And I don’t just mean my “big” legs or skinny upper body, I mean my posture, and flexibility.

At some stage, most people who cycle have experienced back pain.  Maybe you still do. I’ve spent loads of money on Chiropractors and Physios.  I get great relief from my symptoms, but only for short periods.  The problem is I haven’t been addressing the cause of the pain.  I have a strong body, and I have a six pack.  So I have a strong core, right?  Wrong!  My cycling has made me so strong in one type of movement. Any movement to the side or twisting, I’m rubbish.  My hamstrings are short, my ITBs are tight and my quads are way dominant.  My physical balance was out.  Now, as a cyclist you want a light body and hugely strong legs to go fast, but this doesn’t allow for anything else to be strong.  Well, as a coach, I’ve realized a few truths.  One being that a healthy and well rounded body out performs a starved under utilized one.  I tried Pilates. I tried doing gym work, but none of these gave me the dynamic movement that I seek, to keep my interest and as a workout.

I found yoga by mistake really.  My wife went to a class,  I wasn’t interested.  The next week she asked me to join her again, I caved and decided to go.  It was very different to my perception of what I thought it would be.  The movements were balance and flexibility orientated whilst remaining dynamic in movement.  It took huge strength and coordination to pull off some of the moves.  I tell you, I struggled so much with hamstring stretches.  Man, I hate them, but that alone has reduced some issues I’ve had on the bike.  Our Yoga teacher is a 40-something year old lady, tiny thing, and she can literally shove her legs behind her ears and do a handstand.  That’s not as easy as it sounds.  As a guy, my upper body strength is good, so when we have “planking” type poses to do, I do well at them.  This week, I was introduced to a handstand with your legs twisted outwards to the side, and to my surprise I managed both sides.  The only one in my class to do so!  PROGRESS!

Since starting yoga, I can tell you that my balance on the bike is WAY better.  The standing poses that require balance are a huge help.  These poses recruit stabilizing muscles in your feet, ankle, thighs and hips.  They recruit your pelvis and lower back, all the while also requiring flexibility.  It’s astonishing how much this has helped.  In Cycling, force production in muscles is key.  We train muscles to be strong and to force pedals around, but we never workout the stabilizers.  It’s a silly thing, because I’ve found a lower level of fatigue and a much smoother pedal stroke since yoga.  I have a power meter and base these facts on Perceived and Scientific data.

Yoga is a very peaceful form of exercise and will leave you feeling peaceful.  It does this by teaching you breathing.  Yeah right, I’ve been breathing fine for years!  No seriously, there is a correct time to inhale, or exhale depending on the movement you are doing.  Teaching you this promotes better oxygenation to the body, and brain.  It also makes you execute the movements way better.  On the bike I have found my rhythm way faster, as well as finding more oxygen.  I’ve also found a relief in my Asthma on the bike.

The benefits of Yoga are numerous in my opinion.  From better breathing during exercise to better overall flexibility and mobility (who doesn’t want to move more fluidly) and strength and also stability.  The last reason I enjoy Yoga, it’s peaceful.  And it balances my adrenaline driven cycling habit so well.  A little Yoga after a ride is great, it’s better than other static stretches and it really sorts out that foreign position our bodies sit in on a bike.

For those keen, our Yoga Teachers name is Jo Steinhobel.  Contact number 083 5026541 and she always does the first class for free.

Nameste!

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED, HAVE THEY GONE TO FAR…………………………….

Tags

, , , , , , ,

If you’re familiar with my blogs then you’ll know I’ve recently published an article on 1×11 vs 2×10/11.  In that article, I wished to provoke thought about why we make the choices we do.  I left quite a few gaps in my arguments, about singlespeeds, 3×9 and mostly 1×12.  I did so, because without understanding  those first points in that article, most of my readers may find this article to techie to follow.

To open, I think the Eagle is superb.  The offering of a cassette that has a gargantuan 50T granny gear on whilst maintaining the same ratios (which are proven to be perfect) as the 11 speed predecessor is pretty cool.  I idea behind this setup is simply, that on a 1×11 setup, the only way you could change the ratio was by fitting a new chainring in front.  The same can be said for Eagle, the difference is that you get a wider spread of gears out back that make up for you “weakness” on the old 1×11 system.

What are you talking about Lance?  Let me explain quick, if you run a 30T front chainring (considered small-allow for nice climbing cadence) you end up cruising nicely uphill, but find it difficult to keep up on the flats and downhills were you effectively run out of gears.  And if you put a larger ring on the front say a 32T or 34T, you are fine on the flats and downhills, but never find an easier or light enough gear to spin uphill.  Problem.  The Eagle groupset has smashed a 50T cog on the back the cassette changes this completely.  With this 8T increase in size over the 1×11 cassette, Eagle gives the rider the ability to ride a large enough chainring up front, say a 34T which allows the rider to keep up on the downhills and flats, but also climb with a comfortable and easy cadence.  Simple!  Genius.

sram-eagle

The Eagle groupset sports it’s own chain (narrower), which is a masterful piece of engineering from SRAM, and a new Derailleur that sports 14T pulley wheel to acommodate that large 50T cog.  The shifter is furnished with 12 speed index system and the Eagle Carbon Crankset is hollow form. (Previous cranksets had foam cores).  Groupset prices are around R22 000 +/- in RSA.

In my opinion, this is a Mountain Bike Groupset of note. Clever, very simple and quiet (new sync chainring design sheds mud better and last longer as a result).  Less to go wrong, and does away with pesky front derailleurs.  The ratio is 500%, this means it’s the equivalent gear range from top to bottom as a 2x system!  It’s brilliant, but have the engineers gone to far?

Why do I ask this?  Well, that rather large 50T cog on the back has a hell of a lot of leverage on the hub, axle and freebody.  Have the engineers thought about this?  I’m sure they have but you’ll recall that Shimano had an issue with 2×10 systems when it made a cassette range for the weaker riders (SLX level only) that ended up cracking freebodies.  The gearing was to strong for the hub engineering!  Chicken before the egg stuff.  They had to change a few things to get that right, and they did.  But it’s just a thought.  How many other manufacturers have seen this coming and beefed up their designs to handle this new load?  I’m sure we are going to see hub failures in the not so distant future, and I’ll bet it’s due to this problem.  Will this be enough to stop the masses buying it?  No.  That is a fact.

So there is an alternative,  lets say you already have invested in a SRAM 1×11 groupset and you absolutely love it’s simplicity.  It’s like running a singlespeed, very little to go wrong and quiet.  But you run out of puff uphill, and downhill you can catch your friends?  E*Thirteen have come up with a plan, that solves this problem.  SRAM’s cassette ratio is 10-42T, and what E*Thirteen has done is manufactured their own cassette that is a 9-44T! How does this help?  If you stay using a 32T front chainring, you can keep up downhill and able to climb more effectively uphill.  Is this a nail in the Eagles coffin?  It certainly a lot cheaper! Alot.  It’s only the price of a new cassette, which I think is maybe R3800 (uncomfirmed) vs the R22 000 bill to gain around 8% more ratio.  Is the difference in price the extra gearing?

E Thirteen cassette

Only the consumer can tell.  Personally, I’ll replace my cassette with the E*Thirteen system thank you very much!

 

 

 

Training without a goal.

Can you stay motivated and train without a goal?  I personally find this difficult. I end up giving myself far to much leniency for my own good.  “I’ll ride tomorrow, or I’ll do those intervals tomorrow” seems to creep in.  I end up finding a few weeks has gone by and, well, you end up having to start from zero.

The answer is to have a goal.  Something to give you accountability for your actions.  Something to measure yourself against.  It can be simple, like achieving a personal best up your most hated climb, or to lose a few kilograms.  ANYTHING is good.  The only excuse I allow is the excuse to go ride.

Another very helpful thing to help keep training in the absence of an upcoming event, is to have a training buddy.  A person who holds you to a commitment.  Even if you guys don’t have a set program, but just ride and stay ticking over on the bike.  This is way better than sitting dormant for days on end and losing fitness.  Riding with a buddy is also way fun, because micro competitions always creep in to a ride.  Who can reach the stop sign first before blowing or who can drop the other guy.  You know the old saying, ” If there are 2 riders on the road, it’s a race”.  The other guy may be 3 km up the road, but if you can see him, even without noticing, you lift your pace.

Consistency is the key to maintaining fitness.  If you can manage to ride every day even for an hour, you will be better off than someone who does nothing for 4 days on end and then goes and does a marathon ride in one day.

Some days you’re the hammer, other days you’re the nail.

Here are a number of things I use as motivation to ride, even when I’m not training towards something:

  1. That view on top of the mountain
  2. Group ride to talk rubbish with my mates
  3. Remembering how much easier it is to stay fit, than to start from scratch
  4. New Kit
  5. Knowing how good I’ll feel after the ride
  6. The wind in my face
  7. The smell of the soil
  8. The taste of a hard earned Ice Cold Beer (rewards always help)
  9. The hot shower after
  10. Remembering that riding my bike is a huge privilege

It’s not always easy to stay on track, I know, but get out there and ride your bike.  Don’t call it training, just ride because it’s the first true freedom we ever got as children.  We were able to escape the nest once we could ride a bike.  We could go meet our friends, ride to the beach, and build shady jumps to try out.

Get out there, ride and keep it rubber side down!

1×11 vs 1×10/2×11

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So this is still one of those topics that has no right or wrong answer, hopefully my insights will help you decided whether 1×11 is the way to go for you.

 

I’ll start by saying this, the groupsets we’ve been riding on for the passed 20 years, were based on the gear ratios that Shimano had deemed good for Touring, and were adapted for MTBs.  Yes adapted, not refined perfectly based on the need actual ratios we needed for the discipline.  Over the years it has been rectified by both Shimano and Sram.  Shimano brought out 2×10 and Sram brought out 1×11.  Both these groupsets set the MTB world on fire with excitement.  FINALLY, as groupset for us on the rigors of MTBing.  Right?  That’s the right question.  You see, Shimano produced different ratios of cassettes to allow for different requirements as well as chainring size configurations to “cover their bases”.  SRAM produced something so outlandish with it’s single ring up front format, and at the time, one cassette ratio.  It promised the range you needed for any situation as long as you swapped your front chainring in the front to the appropriate size for the situation.  It promised massive weight saving and slick, quiet and simple use.  Now  the average Joe can be tempted by all these things, and most were.  But was this right for them?

ace10_stg8_sm_09783_20100328_203243_large

In South Africa, we have the world’s most amazing mountain bike race.  It’s called the Absa Cape Epic.  It’s a grueling 7 day MTB stage race, that takes the 2 man teams over a vast variety of terrain over the different stages.  Often these stages will be hilly, and on such a variety of gradients, that the athletes would need to ensure they have enough gears to get them over these hills and save their legs for the next days challenges.  Now in saying this, you may already see the problem.  Especially for the Average Joe who completes each day as a Bucket List check list.  If the Average Joe is on the wrong gear ratio for the day, he is going to be slower, and more importantly worn out form the gears being to hard for him to push.  His partner may be sitting on a bike equipped with a 2×10 set up, and may be finding the days tough, but manageable because he can spin and save his legs everyday. In such a case, one rider is struggling everyday and gets more and more fatigued whilst his partner fatigues less quickly and, well arguments occur.  Riders often pull out of this event, finding it way to tough, others have to pull out to overuse injuries (caused in part by the massive volume and intensity, and wrong equipment choice).

 

Whats you point here Lance?  Ok, simply put, the average rider has less athletic ability than the pros right?  Yes. They have less time to train right? Yes.  Then why does the average rider pick the equipment aimed soley at the top tier of  athlete spectrum?  The weight savings seems to come up as the argument a lot.  I find this a terrible and very poorly thought out argument when the rider is usually above his ideal weight for his height anyway.  Others try and be smart and say they’ve worked out the ratios and have deemed their choice ideal.  I have to commend them on knowing enough to argue this, but it highlights an ignorance worse than the uneducated.  The knowledge in theory is wonderful, but can you actually push that gear ratio for 7 days without fatiguing?  Have you ridden the exact course for the whole race, 3 or 4 times over, to discover the “perfect ratio”?  I don’t think so.  Product testers don’t test their new test goodies in theory, they go and thrash it out in the field.  For good reason.  Look, I’m not bashing anyone’s right to choose, I’m hoping to open their eyes to facts.  chainringsGo

My arguments above, will have holes in them.  For every rider choosing the wrong equipment for the right reasons, there will be riders choosing the right equipment for the wrong reasons.  That is a fact that will never change.  I’m getting to my point here now.  The way to sort this argument out is to say this, or ask this.  What is the event am I entering?  If it’s a 1 day race, 1×11 and 2×10 can be the perfect option for you.  Is it a 3 day stage race, again the choice of one or the other can also be good.  The thing that dictates this the most is the fact that, in a 1×11 setup you have a set (unchangeable) size chainring while in use, with a set cassette ratio in the back.  Meaning, if you choose a ratio that is fast on the flats, you have a ratio that is hard to climb with.  Whereas a 2×10 System integrates this ratio option with a dual chainring size up front.  Is this better?  Well, if you are super light rider with a power to weight ration of 4.5watts/kilogram and you are superbly fit, then you can run a 1×11 system in a gear ratio that is fast on the flats but also easy enough to climb any climb efficiently.  But knowing that the average rider out there, struggles to have a power to weight ration above 3.5 watts/kilogram, the argument is already lost for 1×11.  It’s proven to be far more efficient to spin and save your legs using a 2×10 setup for these riders.

My closing argument, is that knowing what your event holds in store for you is important, so you can train for that and choose the right equipment for the job.  If I was going to race in the Alps over the rockiest terrain imaginable.  I wouldn’t train on the smoothest flattest roads around. I would train on rocky and steep trail to get used to it.  Choosing your gear ratios, is the same.  Choose it correctly, or have a groupset that allows you to be flexible during the race, so the decision never has to be made.

As a side note.  Pro Athletes that have ridden and won at the Absa Cape Epic have raced on 1×11 and 2×11 groupsets.  Both 5 time winners of this event namely, Christophe Sauser and Karl Platt have competed against each other on opposing groupset options.  Sauser on the 1×11 (in his last win) and Platt on 2×11.  The average Joe will now say, “AHA” but remember they are sponsored athletes that not only have to race these groupsets but they have Personal Mechanical Backup after stages to change their equipment to suit the next days rigors. AND, more importantly, these guys are world class athletes that are superbly strong and genetically superior to the rest of us, and they can win on pretty much any groupset/gear ratio anyway.