one headlight


Almost 6 months has passed since I built my latest bike and in that time, we’ve covered a couple of thousand miles together over various types of terrain so I reckon it’s high time I gave an initial report on life in (and out of) the cycle lane with a Surly Troll.

Regular readers will remember the trials and tribulations of the build but if you missed it, you can relive the excitement packed stage 1, the agony filled stage 2, the despair ridden stage 3 and the triumphant I-finally-get-to-ride-it-up-the-hill-of-death stage 4.

Those of you eagerly waiting for a report on how it works as a tourer will just have to wait until next Spring or Summer but you can see how we got on when I decided to take the Troll quite literally over the Pennines on a 2 day mini-tour with rigid fork, rear panniers and road tyres here.

What’s that you say, “How does the Troll perform off road with a suspension fork and knobbly tyres?”… well, wonder no more and read my report on the ridonculous Diggle Jiggle. Nettles… so many nettles…

Today, dear reader, I would like to give you an update on how the Troll has been performing in its main intended use; as a daily commuter in and around rainy and miserable Manchester:

The geometry of the Troll is… well, downright weird; somewhere between a tourer and a mountain bike, it’s sort of upright but sort of racy whilst sort of relaxed and kind of nimble. Now, bike sizing is one of those highly subjective things and is going to be affected by your height, leg length, torso length, riding style, saddle, stem and handlebar choice. To be quite honest, it’s all witchcraft to me so my advice would definitely be to get yourself down to your local friendly bike shop and get some advice. The good people over at Keep Pedalling, Manchester set me up with an 18″ frameset which happens to fit me just perfectly, even if Geordie constantly tells me I have “a lot of seatpost showing”… yeah, well, he has a lot of bald showing. So there, nyah.

Thanks to the odd geometry, I’ve had an annoyance ever since building the bike with the 800ml water bottles I use hitting the frame every time I take them out of the Lezyne Power bottle cages I bought on a whim. I mean, it’s not like they were doing any damage or I couldn’t get them out at all but it was annoying enough to make me want to replace the cages.

And replace them I have; after much research, I splurged on a pair of Cube HPA-S side loading cages which look like they’re going to work out great. Sure, I’ve had to relocate my pump from the seat tube to the downtube but, if anything, I think it looks cooler! Time will tell how well the cages work out in the long run but it’s certain I won’t be hitting the frame each time I take a slurp.

There are many other things to report on including racks, panniers, tyres, mudguards, handlebars, brakes… the list goes on. But I think they each deserve a post of their own so I’ll be reviewing them over the coming months.

As the clocks go back, the mornings get darker, the days shorter and cycling home in daylight becomes a distant memory, it’s time to talk about lights. For a long time, I’ve used inexpensive (less than £10 a unit) battery operated LED front lights on my bikes and I suppose they’ve served their purpose well; I remember having a pair of Electron 1 watt single LED lamps which really impressed me but, whilst the units were cheap enough, they ate their way through batteries like I do sandwiches.

This year, I decided it was time to step up and invest in something a little more expensive that I could rely on day in, day out and not have to replace every year. And so, after lots of research, I came across a set of Niterider Minewt 700 lamps for a ‘mere’ £150. What’s somewhat disturbing, dear reader, is that £150 is something of a bargain for an entry level ‘serious’ commuter light… what with me being a serious commuter these days, it was a bit of a no-brainer to pull the trigger and spend the money.

One thing I really love about these lights is that the lamp units are really small; you can see here how they mount nicely out of the way on the bars with a simple quick release rubber band thingy – bike parking at my office is nice and secure but if you were worried about them going missing, they’re a snap to take off.

One thing you may dislike (it doesn’t really bother me) is the size of the remote battery pack; it contains 4 Li-ion cells and is connected to the lamps with a really nice, waterproof splitter cable which can be used to power just one lamp or both. The unit itself is big and has a fair amount of weight to it so you’ll need to strap it to the frame somewhere; I chose to go with the top tube to keep it out of the way of the water bottles etc. elsewhere.

Things I love about the battery pack:

  1. It delivers up to 700 lumens (that’s a lot) of power up to those tiny little lamps and, it helps keep them tiny, of course.
  2. The single button on the unit cycles through the 3 light modes (bright, very bright and uber bright) and, if you hold it down for 5 seconds, switches on the epilepsy inducing ‘daylight running’ flashing mode; simply hold it down for 3 seconds and darkness is restored.
  3. Said button is big, waterproof and easy to operate even with chunky winter gloves on and has a cool blue glow to let you know it’s on; it turns red when it’s time to recharge too so you can switch to a lower setting until you reach home / the office.
  4. The bottom of the battery pack has a nice rubbery finish so it won’t wriggle around or mark your frame.

Things I hate about the battery pack:

  1. The stupid velcro straps provided in the box are easily twice as long as they need to be and the stupid little plastic buckles they come with will snap at the stupid drop of a stupid hat.


To prevent my battery pack flying off and smashing into a million pieces, I replaced the rubbish velcro with the only thing I had lying around which just happened to be a couple of faux leather toe straps! I think they look pretty cool.

So yes, despite the stupid straps, it’s fair to say I really like my new lights and, so far at least, I’ve been more than visible to other road users.

Stay safe out there.


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