Tag Archives: MTB Equipment

Glentress Day Out – A #Nov100 Treat

Taking Advantage

I was in Scotland on business last week, spending a couple of days up at HQ with my team.  I’m normally back in Lancashire by midweek when I’ve been up to the bonny land, but last week I wasn’t due to head back down south until Saturday.  So, I had an idea…


The 7Stanes trails at Glentress are a fairly short diversion from my usual drive back from near Edinburgh to the top of the M6 before heading home.  Last Saturday I had the Fat Boy in the back of the car and took that diversion.  What a great idea that was!

Before you even get onto the trails at Glentress, it’s obvious that you’ve arrived somewhere special.  The facilities are exceptional, with a large bike shop, great cafe, great car park (only £3 all day) and informative signage all visible before you even get out of your car.  Hungover from a previous evening spent in the finer establishments of Edinburgh, I headed for the cafe first.  With change from a £fiver for beans on toast and a pot of tea, I was delighted.  When the enormous portion of “beans on” arrived, I was chuffed to biuts: this was proper man-sized mountain biking fuel!

The Trails

If you read any of the MTB press, you’ll know that a lot of investment has gone into the 7Stanes networks, and into Glentress in particular.  Getting out onto the trails at Glentress, you can tell.  I picked the Blue Route, as this was my first visit and I was feeling somewhat delicate.  Hearing of over 2,000 feet of climbing, I was not looking forward to the upward slog.   Having ridden at Gisburn Forest in the past, I was expecting a vomit-inducing fire road drag up to the top.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  At Glentress, you take in the fantastic views and the scent of fresh pine as you climb along red paths between the tress, dodging left and right through many, many switchbacks on your way up.  There are a few short fire road bursts, sure, but it’s almost a pleasure putting the hill beneath you.

About two-thirds of the way up, there’s a car park (for cheats) next to a skills area and freeride zone which looked like loads of fun, but which was too much for my limited bike and more limited talents.  So, I pushed on upwards to the top of the Blue Route before the long journey back down to earth.

And what a journey.

Glentress In 20 Words Or Less

Swoopy.  Jumpy.  Fast.  Dark.  Trees.  Red.  Rocky.  Loamy.  Grass.  Ferns.  Exciting.  Plush.   High.  Manageable.  Fantastic.  Friendly.  Organised.  Clean.  Fun.

That’s 19.  Can you add one? 😉


Schwalbe Smart Sam Review – New MTB Tyres

New Mountain Bike Tyres

I noticed last week that my Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres, which came with my Focus Fat Boy MTB, we wearing desperately smooth.  The front tyre in particular was looking pretty bald.  On wet rides, the handling was getting very sketchy and I was spending more time clipping in and out of my pedals, waiting for a washout.

So it was time to do something about it.  Especially as I’m off out on a ride with Joby, Chris and Adrian on Saturday.

Schwalbe Smart Sam

I bought the tyres from On One Bikes, a bike store who retail some special bikes as well as carrying perfect stock for the conditions I ride in.  I got a 2.25inch tyre for the front and a 2.1inch for the rear.  I’m hoping that the big front will stop the bike washing out on me (my greatest fear when clipped in) and slow down the rate of wear, too.

The tyres are made from a hardwearing compound which means they shouldn’t degrade on the miles I do on the road.  Added to that are some nice big shoulder lugs which should bite on corners and in the slippier gloop away from the traffic.  Since I also hit the canalside a lot, the hardwearing central tread should hold up well on the gravel surface of Rochdale Canal towpath.

Fitting And Riding

Putting the tyres on to the bike was simplicity itself.  I chose the “light” flavour of tyre, and the bead was very easy to get onto the rim.  I just left a few psi in the inner tube and thumbed the bead onto the rim, using a tyre leve for the last couple of inches.  No sweat.  My only advice would be to check that the bead is seated properly all the way round, as previously I’ve experienced a “ran over a snake!” bursted-out innertube after a rushed tube repair with the old Racing Ralphs!

When riding, the tyres roll fast on tarmac – a real blessing on the way to your favourite trail if, like me, you’d rather not throw the bike in the car to get everywhere.  I got them up to 28mph on a downhill road stretch where I usually hit around 26, so they’re at least as quick as the Racing Ralphs on the black stuff.

Off the road I felt much more confident on wet & slippy mud, as well as the limestone and gravel trails on my usual autopilot loop.  I don’t think this was new tyre bravado as I’m pretty sure I was being scientific about it!  At this stage I’ll promise to post a follow-up comment below after our Saturday ride 😉

In Short

These Schwalbe Smart Sam MTB tyres are not expensive: a very reasonably-priced, hardwearing, all round MTB tyre.  If you ride mixed surfaces like me, I think you could do a lot worse.  If I change my mind, I’ll post below so check the comments for updates once the initial post-purchase euphoria has worn off.


Superstar Components Brake Pads

Fitting My New Superstar Components Brake Pads

Last week I spent £5.48 on a pair of Superstar Components brake pads.  Now that’s cheap!  Shimano or Ashima were all the wrong side of £10 so I took a chance and ordered one set to see how they were.  If they were rubbish I’d only have wasted £5.48.

They’re not rubbish. They’re bloody marvellous so thank you @Mattmbr !

Fitting The Brake Pads …

… was easier, but took longer, than I expected.  Le me explain.  Extracting the old pads was simple:

– Remove the wheel, squash the split pin on the brake unit and pull it out (easy).
– Push the old brake pads out with a small screwdriver (easy peasy).
– Put the spring clip and new brake pads together and push into the void left by the old pads (pretty easy)
– Re-insert the split pin and bend the end with the small screwdriver (lemon cheesy)

So far, all good. No issues. Hunky dory. Five minutes top end. Smiling.

Then put your wheel back on.  No, hang on, the new pads won’t let the brake disc rotor back in. Oh no, now what?  Drop back wheel, put the small screwdriver between the pads, work them apart, put the back wheel in again.  No?  Repeat several times, with swearing.

Eventually, to be fair, the wheel went on.  Just remember that your brake pistons gradually work their way further out when pads are worn, so when you fit new pads they’ll be too close together unless you force them back in with a little bit of grunt (and of course some care).  Once the wheel’s back on, you should be laughing.  And, more to the point, stopping.

Don’t forget to wear your new pads in with a few long, hard stops to get the rotor and pad heat up so they form to the shape of the rotor.  Then you’ll stop properly.

I’ve ordered the second pair today, so I might let you know if the second fitting is better 🙂

Spot The Difference Plus #Nov100 Update

November 100 Update

We’re halfway through the month now, and I’m amazed to have seen daily updates being put into the Nov100 spreadsheet.  Three people have already completed more than 100 leisure miles this month, and 23 people have logged some mileage. It’s awe-inspiring stuff, and without it I know I wouldn’t have gone out for 12 miles in the pouring rain a fortnight ago, nor would I be planning to get out into Rochdale’s darkness tonight.

Spare a though for Matt though, who took a tumble on a trip out and mashed his face quite badly.  Get better soon, mate.

Spot The Difference

I’ve not cycled for over a week.  A combination of bad weather (ok, it’s not the weather, it’s me being a big girl’s blouse) and too many things to do has kept me off the bike.

Thankfully though, Wiggle never sleeps.  I spent some money on a bit of bling for the Fat Boy and invested an hour in some minor upgrades.

I’ve got to be honest, that’s £50 I’ll never see again, but the fat Boy does look rather smart with his new accessories 🙂  I’ll review the gear when I’ve had a chance to test in properly on a ride.

So, if you haven’t done this on Twitter already, what differences can you spot?

Beginner Bike Tweaks: Bar Ends on Grip Shifts

You might have read this post before – It was first published in February 2010 and it’s just had a brief update in September 2011. 😉

Why Fit Bar Ends?

My boy has a 24″ Mountain Bike. Ever since he knew he was getting it, he made it clear he wanted some bar ends like his Dad’s to help pull the thing up hills and rest his weary wrists on the bouncy trails.

I know bar ends are a love or hate thing. Frankly I’m not going to discuss it.  I love them. With crappy sore hands like mine, anything that helps you move your hands around the bars makes it easier to keep riding.  They’re also a boon on steep easy descents, where they help you to get down low into the bike and eek a few more mph onto your maximum reading for the day.  Simple!

How’s It Done?

It’s easy, really.  Grip shifts look pretty unmovable, but really they’re just slipped onto the handlebars and screwed into place.  So grab a cross-headed screwdriver, some allen keys, a little elbow grease and your new bar ends … then get stuck in.

The first job is to loosen the collars of the brake levers and the Gripshift mechanisms.  The Gripshifts have a screw concealed which, once you’ve loosened it, allow the units to be easily slipped along the handlebars.  Use the depth of your new bar ends as a guide so you know how far to move them inwards along.  Then tighten them a little.

Using a good craft knife, cut the end of the rubber grips.  Don’t overdo it, you can always take a little more off; you can’t put any back!  Then use your elbow grease to move the rubber grip along the handlebar, to make room for your shiny new bar ends.

Attach the bar ends, being careful to get the angle right.  If you’re using a stand to hold your bike, now’s the moment to take it off and sit astride the bike to get the angles right.  Tighten up the bar ends, then the Gripshift units and brake levers.

You’re done!  You can now pull your bike up big hills and lean right down on those fast descents.  You can’t, however, use the brakes without a swift alteration of your hand position.  This fact is sort of important.

As an added bonus, your grips don’t get busted when leant against walls or scraped (accidentally of course, Joby) against passing cars.

If you end up in Accident and Emergency, don’t tell ’em Phill sent ya! 😉

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