Welcome fellow Mountain Biker to a Bristol and South West based blog containing local routes, rides and reviews. Brought to you by locals to the area with additional publishings from further afoot. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Product reveiws (Fox 36 Van, Aireal switch 2, mavic 729, Raceface Impact, Shimano Saint Crankset, Hope Mono 6 Ti)

Fox 36 Vanilla RC2 2006

Right lets talk forks.
These are my first fox's ever and from being a RockShox and Marzocchi pilot previously I have to say that I'm impressed, very impressed. I have just changed from some Z1 Freedride 04 Bombers which were awesome themselves. But I required some more travel up front. After scouting round and comparing specs. and all that I had my heart set on the 36's. And I opted to go for the RC2's instead of the R's cos I wanted the high and low speed compression dials so I wouldn't have to mess with the oil weight. Let me at this point inform you that I don't know too much about suspension forks and all of their jargon. Check out the Fox fork website for the spec. http://www.foxracingshox.com/fox_bicycle/bike_index.htm

Blimey. I just wrote one stonker of a long, amusing informational review about these forks and my computer effing lost it. Rounded up. Fox's 36 Vanilla rc2's allow the rider to not worry about what his/her front wheel is upto as the forks read and position the wheel exactly where it needs to be. This boosts a riders confidence extremely. They just wont let the wheel off of the ground. Unless you want them to. Uphill is a breeze as they hardly move and because they are light you wont feel them. And oh boy are they strong. With their easy to use and stiff 20mm bolt-thru they would make any Toff's upper lip quiver and flap. A fantastic fork for all round use, which are a delight to use, maintain (spring weight change can be done in around 2 minutes), and look at. Pricey but genius. They retail at £649.00.
Any questions relating, post a comment.

Aireal switch 2 20mm front hub on Mavic 729 disc rim

The Aireal Australia hub is an interesting one. It is produced in a small machine shop in the depths of Australia by some dude called Mick. I first heard word of their quality on the MBUK website pages and after doing some research I decided that I wanted one to grace my nex Fox forks. The hub is machined from 7075 T651 which is used to make gun parts and some car bodies don't you know. For starters the bearing quality is fantastic. The hub runs smoothly and quietly for ages. It comes as a 20mm hub with a Q/R convertor which can be changed from one to the other in seconds. Quality wise they are sexy as. They way the flange slopes into the hub body is smooth, finished off with smart cnc engraving for the logo.

Weight isn't too bad either at an estimated 346 grams (with Q/R convertor I believe) and the anodising finish is spot on (available in Black, Blue, Gold, Orange and Silver). Been running this hub for a month or so now with no problems apart from the fact that I want one for the rear cos their so good. They have lots of nice components and widgets at
http://www.airealindustries.com. Cheers to Mick, a fine CNC craftsman . And all the peeps down under at Aireal.

It together or intertwined with the Mavic 729 disc rim is a superb combo.
As the rim is DH/FR specific you can throw it at anything and it will stay true and round. Given a qualified and skilled wheelbuilder built it well. It comes in glossy black or grey (CD) with the option of 32/36 holes as does the hub. For more info look at http://www.topshelfcomponents.com which is where I ordered mine from. The guys there are very friendly and helpful. Or http://www.mavic.com. The pictures of the hubs are from Topshelf.

Raceface impact gloves

With the freerider or downhiller in mind Raceface has developed these new embosed carbon knuckled mittens. Which enable you to knock the tree down when you run into it on those tight tree sections, instead of snagging yourself and breaking your momentum. Firstly, they are extremely well made using a mixture of neoprene a 3D mesh, rubber for the vents and synthetic leather for the palm protection. Along with silicon patches for you peace sign fingers, to help traction on your levers and switches/devices. The moment I tried them on I fell in love with them. I felt as hard as. I felt like looking for a fight, as I knew I'd win with these suckers on my paws. Honestly these are great gloves whatever your flavor of riding may be, because they are comfortable and protecting. Although I will have to say due to the vast amount of ventilation they have they are more suited to the warmer seasons. That said I've been wearing them instead of my 661's (J Taylor model) for a few months now and not been cold in them. They come in black only in X-small to X-large. The finish is topped of with a nice Raceface logo. Nice work Raceface. Snap em' up from your LBS for around £45-50.

Shimano Saint Crankset 22-32t w/bashguard

Now after being out of the game for a few years, upon arriving back I notice a few changes. Like ISIS bottom brackets have pretty much replaced the square taper axle design. Great I thought. The square tapered version always had a habbit to eventualy be less square through wear. So when my new bike turned up with it's ISIS b/b and crankset installed I was presuming that it would be bombproof, with it's sealed bearings and star like axle flanging providing spot on crank placement. Oh how wrong was I. Don't be fooled they are ok, so long as you enjoy disappointment, play in the b/b area and buying a new one every 4-6 months or so. Not being a fool I went the same way as a friend of mine (the Sandman) who upgraded to a new X-type b/b. It was light and ever so smooth. So I ditched the supplied Raceface set and invested in a new Shimano Saint crankset. Which for the price is unbeliveable.

It features Hollowtech 2 crank arms forged from aluminium. The drivechain side is attached to a hollow axle, this is guided through the b/b cartridges and the non-drive crank is slotted on to it. The bearings are preloaded with a special end cap. And last but not least the cranks arm is tightened onto the axle with opposite facing allen key bolts. There's a four arm spider for the chainrings, which keeps the weight down. Aluminium chainrings and ali and steel chainring bolts. The overall weight is just over a kg for the 175mm set, and the b/b impressively weighs about as much as maybe four sheets of A4 paper, consisting of two sealed bearing alloy cartridges which screw into the thread on the b/b shell and a plastic shim.

Upon the set arriving I was couldn't wait to fit them. But with the X-Type b/b Shimano recommend that the b/b shell in the frame is faced. This is to guarantee that the bearings run symetrically to each other, it also prolongs their life. For this as I didn't have any facing tools, my bike experienced it's second ever trip to the bike shop (Mud Dock Cycleworks). After half an hour of helping the mechanic face the frame and install the chainset costing 10 quid, it was ready to test. Mmmmmnnnnnnnnnn. Smooth and stiff. I was instantly impressed with my decision.
My opinion of this crankset is this, chuck away your ISIS and get X-Type for starters. The Saint chainset itself is a very pretty thing. So much so that it is mountain biking art. As with a lot of specialist products these days. The crank arms are amazingly profiled. Looking more like a concept carved from wood and painted to look like metal. With their bad ass raven feather black look and cool curves, they are becoming a popular choice with many bikers as they can of course be used for all diciplines of riding with their chainring variations. But with all art that you thrash around the countryside you have to be aware that someday you will scratch it. Mine have a few scratches already after a couple of months. And the finish tends to rub off where your shoe rubs against the middle of the crank faces.
So their look is flawless and the overall fit and forget design and quality this chainset offers feels like tranquility. Even in the thick of it (mud/grit) it will keep on spinning. Yes the finish rubs off the more you use them, but strangely I like that. Every rose had it's thorn my friends. And if that's it's thorn, so be it. This chainset smells great.

Light stiff, sexy and easy to install (with appropriate tools) the Saint chainset is a wise investment. Oh, before I forget. The chainrings provide smooth effortless shifting and the polycarbonate bashguard will fend off the rocks and roots and cover the rings when things get jagged and edgy.
Crank lenghts in 165mm/170/175 and 180mm. For 68/73mm shell widths. Supplied in either single 34/38/42 or 46T chainring (FC-M800-1), double chainring 22-32t with bash (FC-M800-2) and triple 22/32 and 44t chainrings (FC-M800-3). The b/b needs to be installed properly as do the cranks, so taking it to you LBS in advised.

Mendip Mayhem

Shot over to the mendips today cos it had been a while. There was a descent that I had come up before that I wanted do bomb down and because I wanted to take my lovely bike for a spin and use the 36 vanilla RC2's some more as I had just stuck a heavier spring in. You know, see what it's like.
Usual procedure. Go up Link Lane, park at the top and take the lefthand route to the top. Quite a slog, but a great view. Once at the top there's a chute like trail that runs almost along the spinelike peak of the hill (below left). It's red in colour and usually dry. Not today. It was a red, icy cake mix. And within minuites my wheels and frame (including all gaps and tyre clearance)and legs were caked in this cake mix. After a slog I made it to the point and took 5 to admire the view and the quite. Couldn't find a damn stick anywhere to de-cake my bike, so bouncing the back wheel on the ground and prodding with a tyre lever.

Did I mention how nice the weather was. No. Well it was nice. After all was taken care of I had a quick natter with an some old dudes that were strolling along. They said that it was slick (slippery) at the bottom and an ex-local who mentioned a couple of new routes to me, but my mind was made up and said I'd do them next time, but thanks anyway. I got on my bike and buggered off down the hill which was dry but my eyes weren't. Trying to fly off drops and negotiate rocks at speed with watery balls (eye) can be fun. Not a bad run, but done better up here. The forks felt alot stiffer, thus the ride was bumpier. I'll try them at Still woods tomorrow before I decide what spring to use in them.
I quickly decided to take a left and head towards the car, thinking that I should have a look at some trails which the ex-local mentioed over the road. Those old dudes speak no lies. It was like black ice. You could cycle easily but there would be no warning and the bike would slide away from under you. This happened about three times before getting back to the car. Once on foot. Here are some shots of the formentioned area.

Even the easiest looking of trails were watched by the devil himself. Waiting to kick your tyres out from under at any time. All good fun though.

After putting the bike on the car and having a fag, I jouneyed down Link Lane and up the combe to the layby which was full of horse boxes and horses and horse and horse box owners. No messing around as I was already warmed up and dressed for the occasion. I entered the trail. Much to my suprise it was as effing slippery as the other side of the combe. Did a bit of a downhill, slipped off. Laughed for about 4 seconds and took a route to a frozen pond. Looked at that for a bit and decided to head back to the car and curse the ex-local for his suggestion. WHO'S THE FOOL EH!. When I'd had enough of not being on an actual path and peeling myself off of thorn bushes, I found a trail which seemed to lead over to some rocky mound in the distance which was sparkling in the afternoon sun. Of course a couple of near slips came about before I had found myself on the edge of the combe. WOW. I had thought about riding down the side a couple of times, and had thought this from the bottom. Now at the top the idea didn't enter my mind at all. Jesus. That's some slope.

I admired the view for a while in awe. Then continued down a path which occasionally had you right on the edge of a steeper drop. Easy govenor. Photo's never do the drops or slopes any justice. That looks tame from here.

After getting lost and caught on thorny bushes again I reached the rocky mound. Sat and watched the world for around 40 minuites, looking in the distance at all of the ground I had covered and took many photo's (below). Rode what I could of the mound and followed the paths back to the car.

I love the mendips because they are local and if the weather and surface conditions are good then you are never dissapointed. The routes that I took today were a variation to my normal rides up there and although they were not as rewarding as the forest runs and downhills that I usually stick to, they were fun. Fun because I fell off loads and that teaches me more about how to attack such a trail and how to fall off. Fun because it's refreshing to get lost and think no, I wont turn back, what's round that corner down there. Fantastic scenery too and the people I bump into are always red faced and friendly. Here's the rest of what I saw. Peace.