Monthly Archives: September 2012

Winter Riding

Winter is on its way, the nights are drawing in, there’s a bit of a chill some mornings and I’ve been contemplating riding in the wet and cold.

Some of my favourite rides have been in winter. A group weekend in Shropshire 2 years ago, riding the Long Mynd at -14°C, setting off on a ride in the pouring down rain and coming back covered in mud but having had an amazing time and heading to north Wales  to Ride Penmachno and the Marin trail a couple of time. All of these are group rides so there’s no bail out option. You make the commitment to ride so you do.

Riding on your own in winter is much harder so my midweek rides are mentally going to be tougher over the next few months. When the weather is nice it’s been easy to throw on some riding gear grab a bike and head out for an hour, knowing that I need very little while out and the bike needs nothing doing to it when I get home. In anticipation I’ve been thinking of options to keep riding so I thought I might as well write them down to see how I get on.

Option 1 – Arrange more rides

If I arrange to ride with other people I always turn up. Always. I’m never the one to bail out, no matter  what the weather, so, if I arrange to ride more then I should get out more. I’ve recently started riding with a local group who do a Thursday night MTB ride so I could go along to that, except that the one time I’ve been out with them was a minor disaster from my perspective. More riders mean more mechanicals, more punctures and more waiting around resulting in what should have been a 90 min ride and back home at a reasonable time took 3 hrs. I’d rushed home and gone out without eating properly so my dinner was cold and I was starving.
Riding with my regular riding mate is hard midweek due to work commitments, so I might have to see how this goes. I’ll give the group ride a couple more chances and report back.

Option 2 – Stay Indoors

Buy a turbo trainer/rollers. I’ve ridden a turbo many moons ago when I had a broken wrist and while it’s not the nicest way to train it means there’s no bike cleaning to be done. It involves more cost but there’s room in the garage and it means buying another bike-related gadget (which is a good thing). I’m liking the look of the Lemond Revolution as it means no tyre wear and it is very well made and gets cracking reviews. A decent trainer will mean I’ll be tempted to use it more often, stay/get fitter so everyone wins.

Option 3 – MTFU

MTFU. I should probably just do this, make the time, and just get out to ride. I need to make sure the Nomad washer is full and then clean the bike as soon as I get back. I’ve enough kit for several rides so I can get a full load for the machine and I enjoy riding on my own. Route-wise I’m lucky to have a canal on my doorstep so I have a puddle rather than mud option available. Our normal rides tend to get very muddy but it’s only 10 mins to clean it off.

I’m lucky enough to own a few bikes so I should always have a clean, working one and a family that think I’m mad to go out into the wet and cold to ride but are happy for me to do it.

I have a lot of essential winter riding kit – decent waterproof lights (a review to come), goretex jacket, leggings, waterproof boots, gloves etc so there really are no excuses.

Watch this space for ride reports…


Van Nicholas Tuareg 2010 Custom Build Review – Part 2

Having bought a Van Nicholas Tuareg frame, including Ti seatpost and collar, during winter 2010 I embarked on the specification of the rest of the build for my dream Ti hardtail.

Many years ago specify a bespoke build was a relatively simple(r) affair, sizes and components were standardised and the number of options were limited.

These days it’s a much more complex affair so after a weekends ride on the Long Mynd with friends I enlisted the help of Al at Plush Hill cycles to help suggest, guide, validate and ultimately do the build for me.


I didn’t set a budget for this build which might have been a bad thing. If I had I suspect it would have been too low and I’d have tried to justify breaking it anyway so I decided to just not go mad and spec top end gear. While a full XTR/SRAM XX

Decisions, decisions

There are many decisions when looking to do a custom build but many are reduced in scope as the frame will dicate the sort of bike and it’s ride. The Tuareg is an XC frame which lends itself to a racy build. The raw finish of the frame and black decals lends to an understated black/silver look.

Forks are a big purchase and as an owner of Fox RLC forks on another bike I was keen to stick with the brand. Al managed a discount on the new F100 RL forks with the kasmina coating and the reduced compression settings wasn’t a big issue as I never really used them on the other forks. To keep with the colour theme I decided on the white fork legs.

Headset was a no-brainer with a Black Chris King. Not the cheapest but regarded as the best.


Groupset is the next big item and Al came up with a deal on 2010 XT 3×10. All my other mountain bikes run Shimano and the step to XTR is a large one financially so a XT drivechain with a decent discount ended up being a sensible option. Weight -wise it’s similar to XTR and quality wise it’s a decent step up from SLX.

XT is it then

Brakes. After a lot of reading around I decide to break from Shimano as I have SLX on the Yeti and while they started out fien have started to require bleeding and a lot of looking after the past year or 2. They are a bit of a budget option and look like it so having looked at all the options, and I mean all, having read reviews on trade and consumer sites I decided to go with the new Hope Tech X2 with upgraded braided hoses and floating rotors. They look great, are British and price wise not stupidly expensive.

Wheels proved to be the hardest decision. There is so much choice and without a set budget for the build I felt lost in trying to work out what to buy. After many conversations I decide on Hope Pro 2 Evo hubs. They are the same as Pro 2 but with the better bearings as used in the Pro 3. Cost wise they are less than the 3 but weigh slightly more. I decided to go tubeless so Stans Crest rims seemed sensible.

The Pro2 Evo hubs were due for release in Jan 2011 but were delayed until March time with factory builds a while after so Al hand built a pair using black spokes and nipples. Tyres were Racing Ralphs, being great in the dry and just about Ok in the mud on the local trails.

Cockpit was an easier decision and I went with all KCNC parts. The Scandium parts they make are super light in weight, strong and ooze quality. The build was meant to be ‘racy’ which meant I had to specify flat bars so an SC Bone flat bar was perfect. Stem was a SC Wing and after a lot of time with a tape measure on the Yeti and Team Marin I plumped foir the 80mm one. Bar ends and spacers were added and I bought their QR skewers which are super light and look fantastic.

Saddle I went for an SDG Ti Fly as I use one on the Yeti, grips the ODI Tomac and XTR SPD pedals

So one day in April 2011, I took a day off and drove to Shropshire with the bits I’d bought to add to the pile Al had supplied. I took some biscuits and buns and made the tea while Al did the build.

The result is below. It comes in at 23lbs with pedals and I took it for it’s first ride up the Mynd.


Build Specification

BarsKCNC Scandium SC Bone flat bars 31.8

Frame Tureg Ti
Seat collar Van Nicholas Ti
Seat Stem Van Nicholas Ti 15mm setback
Fork Fox F100 RL
Headset Chris King no threadset black
Grips ODI Tomac
Stem KCNC SC Wing Scandium Stem 31.8 80mm
Bars KCNC SC Bone Scandium Bar Flat
Bar Ends KCNC Scandium BE1 bar ends
Saddle SDG Ti Fly
Wheels & Tyres
F Hoop Pro 2 Evo Front Stans Crest
R Hoop Pro 2 Evo Rear Stans Crest
 Tyre X 2 Schwalbe Racing Ralph 26×2.25 Tubeless
Sealant Stans Sealant
Skewers KCNC Titanium Black
Shifters Shimano Deore XT 10 speed shifters
Chainset C/SET XT M770 10s 42/32/24 175
F mech FD-M770 XT 10-speed front derailleur, top swing, dual-pull
R mech RR MECH XT M773 shadowT/N SGS
cassette CS M771 XT 10speed cassette 11-36
Chain CHAIN HG94 10 speed 116L
Front & Rear Hope Tech X2
Floating Rotor upgrade
Braided Hose upgrade
Pedals Shimano SPD XTR

Van Nicholas Tuareg 2010 Custom Build Review – Part 1

The n+1 formula is well known by cyclists, and is often quoted and used when attempting to calculate the correct number of bikes to own.

Around 2 years ago I applied the formula myself when, after around a year of contemplating, on-one got a batch of Ti Frames from Van Nicholas. I’ve always fancied a Ti hardtail since the days when I bought my Team Marin (there was a Ti version of the frame which was out of my price bracket at the time and ever since I’ve been drawn to reviews and forum posts about them) but their cost has always made me think twice.

Two frames were on sale (46% off) the long travel Mamtor and the XC Tuareg. After a few days deliberating I decided on the Tuareg but it wasn’t an easy choice as the Yeti is a XC full sus bike. Adding in a seatpost and seat collar, the order was placed.

Delivery of the frame was faultless, emails, tracking numbers, date and time slot – the way it should be if you do business on the internet.

The frame was well wrapped and the post and collar had been attached to the frame so it all arrived in one piece.

A quick unpack, inspection and a few photos and it was re-packed and put into the roof of the garage.

Then followed a long process, over the next 5 months of researching and specifying the build…coming in part 2.

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.