friends will be friends

Some time ago, I made the decision to buy myself a Surly Krampus. I’ve wanted one ever since I had the chance to ride an early demo (before they were available in the UK), so when the opportunity came up to bag a Krampus Ops frameset at a bargain price, I could hardly resist.

1463197_10154795386754863_7789395275549329617_nI’d been planning the build for a long time, and had picked out almost every component it was going to have, right down to the matching handlebar grips and saddle. It was going to set me back just shy of £2,500.

As it was, the frameset was ex-display (and therefore slightly cheaper than RRP), a friend was selling a wheelset with tyres and I had an assortment of other parts lying around in the garage. Even after splurging on a Hope rear hub and XT rear mech, the whole thing came in at around £1,200.

I also wanted to try out new things with this bike so I went for a 1×10 setup (a single chainring up front, and a 10 speed cassette on the rear wheel), with a really wide range cassette to still give me plenty of gearing options.

The Ops version of the Krampus comes with a rather clever interchangeable rear dropout system which allows you to run just about any setup from single speed / internal gear hub (IGH) to a standard quick release hub, to a bolt-through axle. I already have an IGH on my Surly Ogre and all my other bikes use standard quick release hubs, so I decided to experiment with the bolt-through option.

They tell me it stiffens the whole rear end up, allowing more of the effort you put in to be transmitted to actually driving the rear wheel (rather than being lost through flexing the frame). In practice, it certainly feels more solid bolting it all together, and when I’m riding the bike, it doesn’t seem to flex as much as other frames. I’ll have to try it out with a standard quick release axle on day to get a real comparison though.

12140687_10154798953009863_6949822147024172815_nThe build was simple enough, but not without its problems. When I first fitted the rear wheel and tightened the axle down, there was a significant lack of clearance between the brake disc rotor and the caliper mounting adaptor. As it turned out, the end caps that came with my axle were the wrong size, meaning there wasn’t the right amount of spacing between the end of the axle and the frame. One late-night emergency parts delivery from the amazingly helpful folks at Keep Pedalling, Manchester and all was good with the world!

surly-krampus-ops

I must confess I haven’t been riding it as much as I’d planned to, but whenever I do, it makes me grin like an idiot and reminds me that I have some good friends. The kind of friends who will not only drive miles out of their way late at night to bring you an axle spacer, but will also be there to tear up the trails, and berate you for running too much pressure in your tyres.

Here’s me and my friend Rich, enjoying a group ride with some of the folks from Surly Bikes when they were last in the UK. If only we could get paid for mucking about on our bikes all day long.

12524152_10153668442745028_6377085648602606313_n

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mr. jones

 

Last Friday I was promoted at work.

Last Saturday Karen and I had a lovely time with our friends over in Glossop selling cake to the masses.

Last Sunday I went mountain biking in t’ Pennines with the good folk from Keep Pedalling, Manchester.

As weekends go, it wasn’t too bad.

As my bruises from last week’s ride turn that sickly shade of yellowish purple, I’ve reached a few decisions about the Jeff Jones Spaceframe and Truss Fork I was riding crashing:

1. It’s a hardtail, no question.

This may seem an obvious statement but apparently a lot of folks out there are comparing it with full suspension frames. The Jones website may hold some clues to why as it states A Jones is a high-performance non-suspended bicycle. The ride is both efficient and comfortable and the handling is immediate and assured. With the default choice for off-road cycling nowadays seemingly suspension before anything else it might seem odd to ride rigid but that is the last thing my bicycles are – the geometry and construction provide an extremely satisfying and direct connection between the rider, the trail and the bike. It’s pure cycling and a lot of fun.”.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fatI think the confusion comes from all the talk of suspension. What Jeff’s trying to say here is that, despite being fully ‘rigid’, his bikes don’t have a ‘rigid’ feel; equally, he’s not saying his bikes have some kind of ‘suspension effect’.

Really good steel hardtails (in my humble opinion) are the best choice for off road riding because you really do get a direct connection between you, the bike and whatever you’re riding over. With a full suspension bike, the rear end is flopping about, you’re bouncing around and by the very design of the thing, you don’t have that direct connection. For me, this eliminates most of the experience and, of course, a certain amount of the energy you’re putting into the pedals is getting soaked up by the suspension.

It’s kinda like comparing apples & bananas.

2. ‘Half fat’ is fun but it isn’t for me.

The bike I was riding had been built up with a 29er rear wheel and a 26″ fat bike wheel from our good friends over at Surly. I don’t know the exact measurements but because of the extra rubber up front, the rolling diameter of the mismatched wheels ends up being almost exactly the same. Fat tyres run at surprisingly low pressures (they were after all originally designed for riding on soft stuff like snow and sand) which provides plenty of ‘float’ and they’re generally quite squidgy. I guess that qualifies as some kind of ‘suspension effect’. But again, comparing a rigid fork with fat tyre to a suspension fork is kinda like comparing a screwdriver to a hammer… both are perfectly good tools and, used in the appropriate application, will do a fine job. However, if you need to hammer in a nail, a posi #2 isn’t really what you want.

Jeff Jones Spaceframe half fat 2We were riding on fairly tricky trails with a healthy mixture of deep ruts and flooded bogs. In the ruts (and this is probably my lack of talent showing), I found the front tyre a bit too wide and a bit too eager to grab hold of the sides. Worse than that (and with more lack of talent showing), on the approach to a boggy section, the front end just floated over whatever I pointed it at whilst the rear schlurped into the mud up to the axle.

This is by no means the fault of the bike. I should’ve picked my line more carefully and I certainly should’ve put more effort into trying to drive through the bog… Looking down at that front tyre, I guess I just kept forgetting I couldn’t float the rear wheel through too.

3. Single speed is also fun but also isn’t for me.

215455_10150160090194863_1113944_nI’ve built a couple of single speeds over the years and for a long time, it was my ride of choice; the thing with single speeds is you need to have enough strength in your thighs to get the thing up to speed and then maintain it. These days, my body has become conditioned to maintaining a steady cadence using the full range of the 27 speed setup I run on all my bikes and, as a result, my thigh muscles aren’t actually that strong.

At least this is my feeble excuse for not being able to monster the Jones up the hills as impressively as I would’ve liked. People who ride single speed mountain bikes are the special kind of crazy. And, I salute them for it.

4. Jones Loop Bars are awesome.

Treat yourself to a Surly Troll, a Surly Ogre or (obviously) anything from Jeff Jones and chances are it’ll come with a set of Jones Loop Bars as standard. If you’re not familiar with them, you can read all about the various incarnations of the Loop Bar here.

Surly Troll Jeff Jones loop barOriginally, I built my Surly Troll with a set of On One Midge bars so I’ve only recently been lucky enough to own a set of Jeff’s horribly expensive yet incredibly excellent bars. For several months, I used them for commuting (mostly on road), making good use of the various hand positions and enjoying the stability all that extra width gives.

More recently, I’ve been using them off road and they’re transfomed my Troll into the highly capable mountain bike I always suspected it would be. I’m still getting used to them and on occasion I still find them a little too wide but coupled to the Jones Spaceframe and Truss Fork, they make perfect sense. Just the right width, all the hand positions you could possibly need off road and as cool as hell. What’s not to like?

5. I’d rather have a Krampus.

563530_10151458835669863_576432359_nI’m lucky enough to have had a sneak preview ride of the legendary Surly Krampus before it was freely available in the UK. The one I was riding had a 1×10 drivetrain, 29er wheels, wide handlebars and a rigid fork; making it quite a fair comparator for the Jones. What’s more, I rode the Krampus and the Jones on some of the very same trails in extremely similar conditions at the same time of year with many of the same people.

To the best of my knowledge, I didn’t crash the Krampus. I remember thinking I would’ve liked one more low gear and the bars were a touch too wide for my taste but otherwise I loved everything about that bike.

It’s also considerably cheaper than the Jones which makes the unavoidable justifying-buying-it-to-your-other-half conversation so much easier.

Odd, I thought I was going to love the Jones…

for what it’s worth

 

You can’t keep them all.

Correction: I can’t keep them all.

380924_10150419503169863_784234862_8039982_959727584_nMy girlfriend is quite patient with me and my bike obsession, bless her. But, patient as she may be, there was no mistaking the “Seriously, you’re actually paying money for that thing???” look she got on her face when I dragged her to an obscure corner of Oldham to pick up this beautiful old Falcon Panther.

425348_10150673432819863_784234862_8829403_132888241_nYou may even have read about the restoration of said bike here; like almost all of the bikes that enter my life, I pretty much fell completely in love with it and it’s been my ride of choice on only the warmest, driest days (except for those few emergencies where I needed to commute on it on grimy, rainy, horrible and / or icy days – an interesting experience, let me tell you!).

You will of course be familiar with the mathematical equation for working out the appropriate number of bikes to own:

n + 1
(where n = the number of bikes you currently own)

For me, that meant:

  1. Surly Troll touring / commuting / monster cross / fully rigid mountain / go-anywhere-do-anything bike
  2. Falcon Panther 10 speed warm weather hipster bike
  3. Carrera Epic flat bar road bike project (I haven’t told you about this one yet)
  4. Elswick Hopper Safeway 3 speed town bike project (Karen hasn’t realised I still have this one yet)
  5. Surly Krampus ridiculous dream bike (I haven’t convinced Karen to let me buy this one yet)

Kinesis Crosslight 4t NCN route 55So, when I examined n, realised I was running dangerously low on bikes and built myself my Kinesis Crosslight cyclocross / road(ish) bike, you can only imagine the look she got on her face… A word to the wise: No amount of pretending that bike frame shaped package the neighbours took in is actually a pair of diamond earrings is going to get that look off her face. I suspect an actual pair of diamond earrings might but we’ll never know because I’d just spent all my money on a new bike. Durr.

Before being struck down with a severe case of Man Flu, I gave the Kinesis a 100+ mile, week long shakedown of commuting, single track and high speed, Salford based madness on the roads. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I have a new love in my life.

All of this made me realise just how little I’ve actually ridden the Falcon. And, now I have the Kinesis, the chance of me wheeling it out of the garage have been cut in half (at least). So, it had to go up for sale.

Now, it’s been ‘up for sale’ before. I was asking silly money for it in the hope that either a) somebody would actually pay me silly money for it or b) nobody would actually pay me any money for it and I’d have to keep it. So this time, I put it up with a much more reasonable price tag; the likes of which people might actually consider paying, the likes of which might actually give me some more space in the garage and score me some much needed boyfriend points.

Now, I put quite a lot of time and money into that restoration (probably more than I should have) and, like any classic car owner will tell you, the chances of recouping what you spend on a restoration (let alone making any profit) are somewhere between slim and none.

I haven’t actually done the maths, but I figure I’ve probably broken even… but, the time I spent restoring it, the time I spent riding it, the knowledge that it’s going to someone who always wanted one when he was a kid and therefore appreciates the real value of the thing… well, that all makes it worthwhile to me.

This. This is how I’ll remember it.

545507_10151216346724863_732135669_n’twas a fine day.

sexy boy

It’s OK. You can all breathe again. No need to sit on the edge of your seats anymore. I know you’ve probably all got the shakes from missing out on a whole week’s instalment of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’ but worry ye not, dear readers, lifeinthecyclelane is still alive and kicking; we’re just broadcasting to you from a new undisclosed location somewhere to the West of Manchester.

So, with the madness of the move out of the way, whatever passes for normal service around here has resumed.

The usual suspects have been out in force this week…

…all of which is very interesting, I’m sure you’ll agree but the one which really caught my eye was:

“Route 54 porn”

One can only assume this person was referring to National Cycle Network Route 54 which is well known for being quite literally littered with por… no, wait. That’d be weird…

Well, whatever they happened to be searching for, it kinda got me to thinking about the time I spent on NCN Route 54 and, more specifically, the off road stretch of it known as the White Peak Loop – you can read a quick report here.

Route 54 sceneryHome to some of Derbyshire’s finest scenery which, on the day in question, was bathed in glorious sunshine, it’s fair to say the White Peak Loop is a beautiful place to be and you could certainly do worse than spend an afternoon there with a nice picnic and a loved one (or two, if you’re lucky). As per my initial report though, you are hereby officially warned against heading there with heavily laden touring bikes.

Whim AlesHead just off the trail and you’ll (eventually) stumble across Whim Ales; a very small brewery at the top of a very large hill. As we were on ‘The Brewery Tour’, visiting as many breweries as possible (and bagging as much free booze as possible), we stuck our heads around the door and were given an impromptu tour by the poor unsuspecting folks we met inside. Considering they’re not open to the public, don’t do tastings or sales and we were filthy, sweaty and wild-eyed, we received a warm welcome and a cold wine bottle full of one of their beers (for free). It almost made the hideous climb all worth it. Almost.

HartleburyHead off the trail again (free beer safely stashed in the trailer) and you’ll find yourself feeding the ducks in the delightful little village of Hartington.

OK, so there weren’t actually any ducks but the duck pond itself was very pretty and it made for a lovely little lunch spot. Oh, don’t be deceived by this rare patch of flat road, by the way; being Derbyshire, you’re never far from some kind of climb and / or descent… there’s one just down there around the corner as it goes.

TissingtonSo, head just down there around the corner and climb the hill (it’s a beautiful road cut into the hillside) and you’ll soon find yourself turning onto the traffic free (mostly) flat and extremely pretty (so pretty I didn’t take any pictures of it) Tissington Trail; so named because it runs through the equally pretty little village of Tissington which just happens to be an excellent spot to stop and nom some malt loaf.

Me & GC @ Ashbourne TunnelFollow it all the way to the Southern tip like we did and you’ll find yourself posing in front of the Ashbourne Tunnel for a rather questionable picture in your rather questionable shorts.

What’s not to like?

nothing else matters

 

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about this before (although it will probably come as little surprise to regular readers) but I don’t place a lot of importance on acceptance; in fact, I have been known to shun it, favouring a simple, quiet life instead.

Having said that, and I think this is true for all cyclists, there is something quite special about the feeling you get when a fellow cyclist compliments you on your bike. When said fellow cyclist happens to work in (or even owns) a bike shop, the kudos steps up another level.

Many bike shops actually host organised rides every weekend (normally just for roadies) and, if you’re a member of the club and you ride the right bike and you can keep up, you can turn up and head out for a group ride.

I suppose being part of such a group ride means you have been accepted. You are part of the clan. You have been deemed worthy of wearing the colours. You are fast enough not to get dropped off the ‘peloton’. I suppose this also means you can no longer acknowledge other cyclists on the road because they are members of some rival clan or, shock horror, don’t belong to any clan.

I should say at this point I’ve never been part of one of these groups and I know some of you reading this either have been or currently are. It’s really not my intention to cause insult but the ones I’ve seen out on the road have always been arrogant, superior and often dangerous. I’m sure not all groups and certainly not all members are like this but that’s just my experience.

I’m reminded here of a fellow blogger who was recently told “We don’t crash” when he slipped on the ice…

Anyway, it will also come as no surprise to regular readers that I don’t frequent the kinds of shops that host group rides because, again, my experiences of the guys who work in them aren’t good.

I remember mooching all around Manchester when I first moved here, looking for a decent bike shop. I went to the likes of Evans Cycles, Harry Hall Cycles, Bicycle Boutique, Ridelow and the now sadly closed GBH Custom Hacks to mention but a few. Each of these caters to very different needs and I still pop into Ridelow and Bicycle Boutique from time to time but the others just don’t provide what I’m looking for in a bike shop.

And then, one day as I was mooching around on my lunch break, I saw a simple sign above a window saying “bike shop”. Posing unabashedly in another window was a Surly Moonlander. I climbed the stairs and was greeted with a line of bikes from the likes of Surly, Salsa, Soma, Civia (amongst others) and a cheerful “Hello!” from what turned out to be the owner.

From that moment on, whenever I’ve needed anything for any of my bikes, be it an emergency repair, a replacement brake cable, a complete frameset or just some advice, my first port of call has been the independently owned and rather excellent Keep Pedalling, Manchester.

Owned and run by Rich & Shona (two of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet in my lifetime) and home to Shop Mutt Olive (one of the cutest dogs I’ve had the pleasure to cuddle in my lifetime), you’re always guaranteed a friendly greeting, heaps of knowledgeable advice and only the finest bike porn. I also happen to know nothing comes out of the workshop without being checked over by at least 2 people; you can’t say fairer than that.

644084_10151452375969863_1347449314_nIf you tuned in for this week’s instalment of ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’, you’ll know I was forced (very much against my will) into the bike shop for a chat, a cuddle with the dog and a sneak preview of the Surly Krampus a few days ago. So, I popped in, I had a chat, I had a cuddle and then the Krampus appeared and basically stopped me completely in my tracks.

I’ve been following the progress of this bike for a while now and I’ve seen heaps of pictures and even a few videos online; the slightly unhinged guys over at Surly have been riding various early prototypes around in the US and generally making me green with envy. I think this is probably why I put on my very best puppy dog eyes (rivalling even Olive’s) and asked blatantly loaded questions like “What size is that frame?”, “You say you’re out riding with it on Sunday?”, “Where are you going riding?” and “What kind of cake do you guys like best?” (my girlfriend makes cakes, incidentally).

Being the lovely people they are and having a weakness for my girfriend’s apple & cinnamon cake as they do, Rich & Shona invited me along for a ride in t’ Pennines on t’ Sunday.

That. That, dear readers, is what I call acceptance.

I’m supposed to be moving house in a couple of weeks; I was supposed to be packing. I’m exhausted this week, I was supposed to be relaxing. I’m [allegedly] getting older and wiser, I’m not supposed to be hurtling around t’ hills on t’ mountain bikes.

Bah. I’ve never been one to conform and I’m not about to start now!

45866_10151454569499863_85699737_nSo, I stripped as much superflous weight as possible (racks, lights, mudguards etc.) from the Troll, fitted my Fox F100 suspension fork and jumped on the Rochdale canal towpath heading north which just happens to be part of NCN Route 66. A little over 10 miles later and I was rolling into Littleborough, heading for Hollingworth Lake and the Pennine Bridleway.

On an unseasonably warm February day, I sat in the sun eating a banana, watched a buzzard hunt and just enjoyed the peace and quiet. The peace and quiet which was shortly to be shattered by the unmistakable sound of tyres on gravel. Large tyres. Larger than normal tyres. 29 x 3″ tyres.

“Get yourself sized up then!” Rich said as he yoinked my Troll away.

Within seconds I was tearing up the trail on the Krampus, trying to make sense of the hugely wide bars and the surprisingly nimble ride. Sure, I nearly dropped it when I leaned into a corner too quickly but I was soon throwing it around like I’d been riding it for years.

574703_10151459004474863_662423197_nWe headed for the hills. I pointed the Krampus at gravel, wet rocks, hardpack dirt, deep wet mud, up-to-the-axles flooded sections and everything in between; with a mere 10psi in the Knards, it just rolled over and through absolutely everything, smoothing out every mistake my rusty mountain biking skills caused. Eventually, reluctantly, I gave it back and hopped back on my Troll.

Whilst the Krampus had been epic, making impossible climbs seem simple and fast descents an incredible experience, my Troll felt small, sketchy and my On One Midge bars seemed narrower than ever. What’s more, my already heavily worn brake pads were fast running out of what little friction material was left. On the penultimate descent, I pulled both brake levers and… nothing happened. Sensing my impending death, I had to throw the Troll head first into the wall just to stop it from running away with me. Somehow, I managed to mince my way safely up and down the one remaining climb and rode the remaining 15 miles, feathering what was left of my front brake until finally I reached the safety of home.

It was one of those rare days… Awesome bikes to ride, awesome weather bathing awesome scenery and awesome company to enjoy it with.

Perfect.

563530_10151458835669863_576432359_n

are we the waiting

 

If you’re anything like me, you really don’t need an excuse to go to the bike shop; I find myself in there at least once a week whether I actually need anything or not. Very often I find myself buying things I didn’t know I wanted or needed… Most often though, I just find myself hanging out with the guys who run the place, playing with Shop Mutt Olive and drooling over bikes I can neither afford or (if I could afford them) justify buying.

So, when I heard a lot of crazy talk about there being something a little bit rare and a little bit special in the shop… well, it was a no-brainer! I was going in!

Despite many, many gems such as the following, we’re going to skip this week’s ‘Random stuff people were searching for when they landed here trivia!’:

  • Bruising for Marzocchi
  • porno sportwomen
  • How do I shift gears on a Surly Troll?

Sigh.

482411_10151452376954863_1180841035_nSo, instead, let me tease you with this shot of one of Surly’s new Rabbit Hole rims wrapped in a 29 x 3″ Surly Knard tyre.

Now, as you may or may not know, such things are something or a rarity in the UK just at the minute as they’re normally only found attached to Surly’s new is-it-an-MTB-is-it-a-fat-bike 29er, the Krampus.

So, what’s a Knard doing in a small, independent bike shop in Manchester’s Northern Quarter? And, more importantly, what’s it attached to?

644084_10151452375969863_1347449314_nWell, dear reader, everything you’ve hoped for is true! There is indeed a Surly Krampus in my favourite bike shop! Don’t ask me how they got, but they got it, know what I mean? Luckily for me, it’s not for sale which, considering it’s the only one in the UK at the moment that we know of, probably means it wouldn’t come cheap!

I didn’t get to ride it but I did get a good look at it and I’ve gotta say, what a machine! 29″ wheels, 3″ wide tyres, a 1 x 10 drivetrain and disc brakes give it a really simple, clean look and probably all the gearing you’ll ever need. I suspect those tyres are going to be awesome off road and will give you enough confidence and suspension effect to ride over just about anything.

The paintwork is a kind of deep green metalflake which really isn’t Surly’s normal style but it isn’t in the least bit garish and I think it works perfectly with the bike.

Want.

I’m told framesets will be available over here a little later this year and full bikes next year (I think).