Category Archives: Riding kit

Gloworm X1 review

A recent ride back from the pub a strategy meeting recently highlighted that my current AyUp lights are now indeed 5 years old, when the battery ran out after 5 minutes. Lighting has progressed quite a way since I did the research for my first set of decent off-road lights and light output and run times are now significantly higher. The top end lights still cost the same, you just get enough light to turn night into day, and the next price bracket down gives you more than enough light (and more than my AyUps) for around half the cost.

Upgrade or replace

I considered getting the AyUp LED’s and batteries updated as AyUp did and third parties do provide an upgrade service. I would have used the AyUp service to refresh them to something more powerful but it seems they no longer do this for UK customers and I don’t have the time to send them away. As the bar light has a 6hr run time, I guessed this might last for 2 hour long Mayhem lights so I decided a new helmet light would be perfect for my immediate needs.

After much research and contemplation I decided on the Gloworm X1, a pretty easy decision really as it ticked all the boxes – Lightweight – A lot of light – A decent run time – Well priced Gloworm are a New Zealand company but have a UK distributor so after a few days of pondering I put in an order. I decided on a spare battery and a bar mount while I was at it and applied my Singletrack Premier discount code and sat back and waited. 3 days later nothing, no lights, no emails, not a sign of anything. I dropped CRGMoto (the UK distributor) an email and left a voice message. A week after ordering, still nothing, and I was starting to get concerned. More messages and I finally got an email saying that they were due to ship the day after having waited for a new batch of bar mounts before shipping my complete order. So, customer communication could be improved but sure enough they arrived the next day. Since I got my lights CRGMoto are no longer the UK distributor after failing to fulfil orders and have been elusive in being contactable.

First impressions are good. The box is small and light so the light must be as well.

The light looks lovely, a CNC’d block of Aluminium on a minimalist bracket with a pair of cables coming out of the back. The light is held onto the stand by a single hex bolt (allen key provided) with rubber washers to allow it to be tight but still tweaked once secure. The bracket has slots in the base to allow it to be attached to a helmet and plenty of velcro straps are provided for this purpose. One cable provides power via one that has a weatherproof connector that attaches to the battery, the other has a sealed switch on the end, backed with velcro. This is used to turn in on/off and control the various settings that the light supports. It’s a good solution as the button can be located on the side of the helmet onto a velcro pad allowing easier access to the functions compared to reaching for the light itself. An extension cable means the battery can be located in a backpack if desired.

Attaching the light to a helmet is fiddly but not too difficult. finding an appropriate vent and routing the velcro strap takes a bit of time but it’s easy to secure and find suitable positions for the light, battery and switch.

In use the light lives up to expectations, the switch allows 4 different output levels that are easy to cycle through and I did find myself turning the output down on sections of trail that didn’t need it as it’s easy to do.

Conclusions

These lights do well in groups tests and it’s easy to see why. They are well made with good light levels and easy to use. You can program them if you want and are physically light.

I’m considering buying one it’s bigger brothers to replace the bar light but the uncertainty over distribution is making me look elsewhere. If this is sorted before I decide to buy then it sums up what I think of them nicely – by over £200.

Upgrade Update

The Yeti is back, serviced and rejuvenated.

Al at PHC did the work and the bike looks like new. It had the bearings replaced and a general strip down, clean and rebuild. A few minor upgrades were done and the weight is down a bit to 25llbs. Not very light but that’s never been the intention – quality, reliable bits without spending an absolute fortune was the plan and that’s what I have.

The bike was nearing 5 years old and ever since I bought the cheapest build kit I’ve had this re-fresh in mind. The chainset was upgraded to 3×10 XT, with XTR shifters. The SLX brakes were proving to be a pain requiring a lot of bleeding and squealing after a few rides so were udpated to Hope tech X2 and the Mavic wheels were replaced with Hope Pro2 Evo hubs on crest rims and shod with tubeless Nobby Nic tyres.

A quick spin up the Long Mynd was a real joy – shifting with the new XTR shifters is so light and precise, the

The Yeti on the Long Mynd

The Yeti on the Long Mynd

feel is a mile away from the old SLX but then it’ should be as it has far better internals compared to the work plastic ones in the old ones. The brakes have the race leves with less power than the trail ones but more than enough for me and the bike ran smoothly on the new wheels.

It was like riding a new bike that just felt so familiar, but then that’s what I was riding – a lot of the parts you interact with were new and more recent iterations – the shifters are top of the range Shimano  yet the frame and forks are the same I’ve been loving riding for the past 4 years.

This will be it on upgrades for the Yeti – it’s as good as I’ll ever want it and will be the choice for all day rides (and more of course)

… now what do I do with the old wheels…

Garmin Forerunner 305

I’ve had my Forerunner 305 for several years now, so time for a review.

I started doing triathlons a few years ago and bought into the idea of a HRM to record my efforts. Much research led me to decide a GPS/HRM was an essential purchase and the 305 was the most reasonably priced one out there. It’s designed to be worn as a watch and has multiple modes for cycling and running. You can even setup modes for transitions.

Setup was remarkably easy if I recall, it pairs itself with a Garmin HR strap and then just works. It’s waterproof, although not for swimming, quite rugged and although at first it appears to be on the bulky side, it’s fine when worn as a watch. I’ve since bought a couple of quick release kits that give a velcro strap with mount plus a mount and zip ties to go on the bars of the bike. These work really well and allow you to have the device on the bars to it’s easier to see than wearing on your wrist. It’s very secure on the bike and hasn’t come lose of fallen off.  A more recent purchase is the cadence accessory. Yet again this was very easy to fit and just worked.

Key Features
GPS

It’s a GPS device so it will show you where you are, with limitations. The screen is a small greyscale lcd and doesn’t show maps. It shows a trace of where you’ve been and it has been very useful when doing a circular route as you can tell the general direction to get back to where you started. if you’re following a route then it shows you where on the route you are.

It can take a while to lock onto the satelites so I now have the habit of turning it on and leaving it on the car bonnet in the drive while i get the bike out of the garage. It can take a few minutes to get a lock in the area you last turned it off and slightly longer if it’s been off and you’ve moved it a significant distance. Overall it’s not a problem. In use it loses reception in tunnels as you’d expect but it’s always been fine in trees when riding in the forrests in Wales.

HRM

The 305 talks to a Garmin HRM worm around the chest. It needs to be moist to get a good contact with the skin or you’ll get odd readings. I usually don’t bother as a warm up will provide enough moisture to get a decent contact. It just works and I’m still on my original HRM battery many years of using it 2 or 3 times a week for an our or 2 each time.

Monitoring

The device allows the display of a large range of data – it’s quite impressive and comprehensive and you can cycle over 3 screens worth of displays that are all configurable.

There are 2 general screens and one specific to the type of use (running, cycling, other) and each one is configurable to have between 1 and 4 data items on it. 

As I’m mainly cycling, my current preference is to have the first screen show 3 items with Speed as the largest at the top with HR and cadence below. Second screen shows current time, elapsed time, distance and av speed. The third screen shows gradient, and all the averages.

Training

You can set up your HR training zones if that’s of interest but I’ve never bothered but I do often follow an existing route when riding on my own. In this mode you can follow your virtual self on the ride you originally did and can see if you’re ahead or behind yourself. I’ve used in when doing a route for the first time when someone else is leading as you can toggle to showing a screen that directs you with a large arrow. This is OK if you keep an eye on the route but it’s too easy to ride past a junction and later find the arrow pointing backwards.

Overall

This is a cracking piece of equipment and I wear it on pretty much every time I do exercise. Battery life is many hours and I’ve onky every had an issue when doing Mountain Mayhem (a 24hr MTB race) where I’ve failed to turn it off between laps as it died after 15/20hrs or so. It charges via mini-usb so plugging it into a car is easy.

Downloading to a PC is simple and I’ve used sporttracks and Strava as well as the Garmin  software. I’ve ended up using it to record all my rides with occasional route following when I’ve returned to an area after being guided. Fantastic vlaue for money when I bought it but it’s now end of life and has been replaced by the 310XT I believe.

10/10

 

 

 

 

Shimano MW80 Winter Boot Review

I bought these boots so long ago I’ve forgotten the exact year but it must be around 4 years ago now. My only pair of Sidi dominators didn’t stand up well to winter riding and the choice of decent boots was slim.

First impressions were good. Buying from a local shop, I got them a tad bigger than I would normally wear so I could wear thicker socks and I hate tight shoes. The velcro Shimano MW80straps and neoprene cuff make them easy to get a snug fit. The soles have a decent grip with an aggressive tread and the Goretex lining meant they should be waterproof. They seemed perfect.

They are comfortable to ride in, so much so that I often choose them when the weather is nice, but they are the only ones I wear when it gets wet and cold.

I’ve had mixed experiences in the wet. I did find that water got into the boots and I ended up with freezing feet, to the point of almost throwing them away. I originally put this down to water running down my leg, soaking into the neoprene cuff and entering the boot. More recently though this hasn’t been much of an issue and it’s certainly been very wet the past few months but paired with a decent pair of On-one merino socks my feet have stayed dry and warm on every ride.

Durability

After spending over £100 on boots you want them to last, and last they have. They have been abused a fair bit and often get left full of mud. When they do get cleaned it’s usually with a jetwash  from my Nomad, filled with newspaper and left to dry naturally. I had concerns about the velcro wearing but it’s still OK after all this time and it only has problems if it gets full of mud.

Talking of mud, I wore the boots for all 3 of my laps at Mayhem in 2012. 6.5 hours of riding and walking in ankle deep mud is as good a test of a boot as you’ll get and they were pretty Rather muddy bootsgood. They had decent grip for most of the course and where they struggled everyone else was struggling. By the third lap the velcro had become clogged and was barely working but I didn’t lose a boot and my feet ended up warm and dry.

A quick hose down and they look almost as good as new.

Verdict

I suppose the ultimate test for kit is if you would replace it with the same when it wears out.  As things stand at the moment I probably would, but then Shimano might nit make them any more when they need replacing.