Trek 920 – second impressions 

So I’ve had the bike for nearly two weeks now and had time to rack up some miles and more thoughts on it thusly:

Tyres – fucking useless. I’ve just picked up my fourth puncture on the bike. Admittedly the one at weekend was on sharp flinty trails which even a full mtb shod in chunky tyres might have struggled with but four in less than a fortnight? Mostly I’ve been riding roads and gentle trails, nothing downhill or extreme. Yes it’s Britain, in autumn and we have gnarly hedges but even so, the tyres are from Treks mountain biking range and for an “adventure” bike this simply curtails any attempt at adventure. 

As tyres for riding they do a good job, quick rolling and grippy but the quickest tyre in the world is sod all use if it’s flat. 

I’m swapping to schwalbes and taking advantage of the tubeless ready rims, hopefully that will sort things. 

Rack mounts – I’ve found when standing up on the bike these can sometimes rub against my calf. Not a major problem, they don’t get in the way when seated and would probably not be an issue if I removed the rack but an annoyance nonetheless. 

Racks – So far so good with the actual racks. I’ve taken the front one off and not actually done any real touring yet but have loaded up the rear rack with a bag which was lovely not having to get a sweaty back! 

I’ve purchased some Ortlieb Back Rollers which fit well and look solid. Long weekend coming up so will report back.

Ride/capability – as mentioned I’ve yet to fully test this bikes adventure credentials fully loaded but in general day rides it’s great. I’ve taken it over all sorts of terrain and it’s handled it all well (apart from the punctures!). Yes, there are sections where I need to be careful and ease off a little to ensure I don’t wipe out or bugger the rims and yes there are times when my plusbike would be quicker/safer/more fun but overall I’ve not found myself feeling “underbiked”. For every section of trail I have to slow a little and pick my line, there’s another that I can totally crank it up on and go a lot quicker than I could on a pure mtb. 

Throw in the odd road link where the bike clips along at a reasonable pace and it really is a bike that excels at covering varied ground quickly.

Components – other than the useless tyres, no major quibbles with the group set or brakes. The gear ratio despite being mtb oritentated doesn’t have much of a granny gear considering the heft of the bike, I’ve suffered winching myself up some long steep road climbs and that’s with the bike unladen! But, it’s doable and an incentive to get fitter! The flip side is that on undulating road I’ve never spun out. 

Short term conclusion 

Taking the tyres out of the equation for a minute then this bike gets 10/10, it’s bloody brilliant. I love the drops and variety of hand positions, love the feel and way it rides and love sniping mountain bikes on the trail! The look of shame as they get dropped by a drop bar bike gives me a wry smile every time! 

However, the tyres truly are abysmal. Everything about the bike is set up to allow you to roll out the shop and cycle to Mongolia if you were so inclined but make sure you stock up on tubes and patches as you’ll likely have it belly up and be fixing a puncture before you get round the first bend. 

The good news though is that tyres can be swapped and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’ll let you know how I get on with the new tubeless set up. 

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First impressions – Trek 920

Every cyclist knows the most important thing when buying a new bike is how it looks! Cycling is as much an art and passion as it is a mode of transport or way to get fit and so just like an oil painting, a bike has to look right. Yes technical specs and build quality are obviously important but if you don’t love your bike, you’re less likely to ride the thing! 

😍


Despite picking up my wonderful plusbike earlier in the summer, I’d found myself thinking about more than just pure off-road trails riding. Despite being a trail slaying beast, my attempts at commuting to work on the Pinnacle Ramin 3+ had left me wishing for a bit more pace on the tarmac and so with this thought pinging around my brain I found myself in my LBS enquiring about cyclocross bikes. I wanted some degree of “out the door, ride almost anything” ability and was directed towards the Crossrip range – a bike designed for road with a bit of light off-road ability. 

The Crossrip looked good and would likely suit the roadier side of riding but then I was shown the 920, decked out in a subtle but menacing gunship blue, armed with full racks front and rear and rolling on 29x 2.0 tyres. It looked like a Land Rover, beautifully functional and ideal for the type of riding I do – straight out the door and off to a bivvy/wild camp spot. As an “adventure touring” bike it was clear it wasn’t going to be as quick on road as the Crossrip but it looked ideal for loading up with camping gear and hitting both the open road and trails. 

I promptly put in my order and after a thorough bike fitting earlier in the week, I picked it up on Saturday and have been on two quite different rides since. 

My plan for a longish ride on Saturday was promptly curtailed when I got a call from my mate suggesting an afternoon in the pub. No long ride then but instead a first chance to test out the 920’s ability as a utility bike. 

nights are drawing in – riding home from the pub


Although ready to load up with gear on the racks I don’t yet have panniers so decided to load up my usual mtb backpack with a change of clothes and the usual bike maintenance spares and strapped it all to the top of the rear rack. 

To say it was a joy to ride without getting a backpack induced sweaty back is an understatement! 

The pub was only a short 3 mile ride away all on roads and the bike clipped along at a reasonable pace. The burly 29x 2.0 tyres aren’t going to set any speed records but they rolled well enough. 

Sunday saw me heading out on a longer foray around my back yard, ticking off a decent 21 miles of road and off-road including some singletrack! 

The bike took it all in it’s stride, on road I was buzzing along, the speed and turn of pace made me feel far more confident amongst traffic than I usually feel when lumbering along on my MTBs. 

more Tour Divide than Tour de France


Admittedly it’s certainly no TDF winner and if you’re after a Strava KOM hunting machine you’ll be better off looking elsewhere but that’s not what this bike is about. After screaming along and churning out the road miles I soon spotted an interesting looking Bridleway. On a purebred road bike such an opportunity would have to wait for another day, on another machine, not so with the 920. Point it at a bit of mud or gravel and the Trek doesn’t shy away, instead relishing the chance to get those big tyres stuck into something a little more taxing than tarmac. 

Running some of my regular off-road trails I didn’t notice any discernible difference in speed compared to my plusbike, in fact on some sections I was considerably quicker. 

Again, as with road sections it’s not going to be as good off-road as a pure out and out trail machine, there were certainly sections that I had to pick my route carefully, whereas with the plusbike I often just bulldoze my way across any obstacles but I actually found this enjoyable – it gave a much more engaged experience, relying as much on my own technical skill as of the bikes. 

So it’s certainly not a bike built for pure on road speed and certainly not one I’d take for a days off-roading across steep technical routes. 

But it is a bike built for covering a lot of terrain quickly and efficiently. If your adventures require a mix of road riding to get to wilder places then this bike is well worth a look. 

A note about the gear shifters…

I’ve read a few reviews which didn’t speak too fondly of the bar end shifters. They were certainly a new one on me, located as they are right at the end of the drops, rather than the more familiar road style of being integrated with the break leavers. 

unusual shifters but great fun offroad


Complaints ranged from worries about breaking off in a crash or transporting the bike through to one rider knocking them with his knees, promptly putting an end to a hill climb. 

Admittedly they do seem quite vulnerable to breaking and I’ve been careful when storing the bike, thankfully no crashes yet to be able to comment on how they stand up to an impact. 

When riding however, I actually quite like them. As a touring orientated bike it seems unlikely you’d be riding in the drops for too long, meaning the more conventional break leaver positioned shifters would perhaps not be in the most convenient place for where your hands are likely to be most of the time. 

Yes, shifting does require a change of hand position and sometimes a little thinking about but they actually remind me of my first racing bike which had the shifters on the downtube! Albeit a little easier to access. 

A firm push or pull will see you shifting up or down a gear and the action, whilst a little clunky and agricultural is reminiscent of operating a tractor with their big mechanical leavers. It’s kinda fun! 

Early days obviously but once I’ve had a chance to put more miles under the wheels I’ll report back, however for now I’m well pleased! 

Night rider 

The nights are drawing in. Tomorrow marks the Autumn Equinox, the point at which day and night are equal in duration. After that it’s a dark slippery slope towards winter. 

But that’s just fine by me as it means a chance to get out and ride in the dark and I love it! 

Even the most familiarly mundane and benign trails in daylight somehow come alive at night, like some nocturnal beast, awaking with an empty belly and a need to snatch the first sight of prey that happens upon its path. 

Trails which could be ridden backwards by day take on a whole new dimension, the smallest lumps and bumps seem magnified and trees which you wouldn’t give a second glance by day suddenly become axe murderers. 

But you’re well armed with a gazzilion Suns blasting from your head torch and you start to ease into the ride, nipping through switchbacks, ramping it up on the descents until, without warning, the trail beast reaches out and grabs you, ensnaring you with a stealthily placed rock which sends you flying over the bars. 

The brain works overtime and in the split second between hitting the Rock and the ground you find yourself running through a series of thoughts – “what the fuck?!”, “this is gonna hurt”, “hope my bike’s not busted” before finally landing in a heap on the ground. 

You take a moment to check you’ve not broken any bones and then quickly on to more important matters – how’s the bike? Bones can be reset, muscles repaired but bikes, well they cost money! 

The rest of the ride is spent at a slightly more conservative pace, pride and confidence knocked a little. Until tomorrow night… 😉 

Cycle to work day 

This Wednesday was national Cycle to Work day and what a hump day treat it turned out to be. 


Up at 5:30am I was out the door and heading towards the train station in time to witness sunrise on what would turn out to be one of the hottest days of the year. 


I’d opted to split my commute between bike and train, partly due to fitness and partly due to not fancying a 40 mile round road ride on my ramin 3 plus bike! Don’t get me wrong, I love the big chunky beast of a bike for offroad trails but those big wide tyres do drag somewhat on tarmac. 


It was a nice change to be able to enjoy a beautiful sunrise whilst heading to work without worrying about traffic jams or my broken air con. No need for that when racing through the cool morning air on a bike. 


I arrived at the station in good time, allowing me a while to relax and enjoy watching the London bound commuters rushing in the opposite direction whilst I caught my breath. 

The final section from Pluckley station to the office was just a short 4 mile blast down some quiet rural roads and I spotted two points of interest en route. Firstly, a rather nice looking pub just outside the station which I promised myself I would stop at on the way home and secondly a sweet looking Bridleway which I would also be sure to make use of coming home. 

not London bound


The Bridleway turned out to be a fun cut through but alas upon arrival I found the pub was shut! But I wasn’t going to let that dampen my spirits, I simply hopped on the next train and used my allocated drinking time to take an extended route home. 

no pub but enjoying a well earned beer


All in I clocked up 25 miles of riding, not a huge amount but certainly more than I’d usually get on any given Wednesday (and certainly more than I’d get before work). 

The feeling of arriving at my desk having already had a mini adventure was great and I’ll certainly be looking to do more of this in the future, especially as I’ll be picking up my new road/touring bike next week 🙂 

Week ???

Well I’ve lost all track of time and all momentum, week 9, 10? Who knows. 

What I do know is that London to Brighton is just two weeks away. Yep, 74 miles of mud, gravel, road, ups and downs is just two weeks away. And I’m not gonna be there. I think. 

Basically having just come back from two weeks holiday and about three weeks off the bike dealing with a hip dysplasia flair up before that, I’m having to give serious consideration to whether I’m able to ride the L2B. 

I’ve just been out on my bike, a gentle 8 miler, mostly off road, but 74 miles? Hmmn. I reckon I could do it. But I’m not really in shape. It would be a suffer fest. And could balls up my hips for another three/four weeks after. I’m not really prepared to go through that agony again just for a t-shirt and a finishers medal, no matter how shiny it may be. 

I think setting goals with my hip dysplasia is counter intuitive. Yes goals are good (and I wouldn’t have nailed the South Downs epic earlier this summer if it wasn’t for my L2B goal) but the commitment (and expense) kinda writes a cheque that my hips can’t always cash. 

I’ll see how I feel when the weekend in question comes around, I did after all complete the South Downs epic and managed (just) all the hills over what was a seriously hilly 40 miler. 

But my thinking now is more along the lines of just get out and ride, without ambitious goals pencilled in the diary. Sure I’ll still have goals and still will attempt some ambitious rides as hip pain allows, but they will be on my own terms, at a time and date of my choosing and with the option to back out without being out of pocket. 

And that (to me at least) seems more in keeping with the ethos of mtb anyway – of riding (and finding) your own path, rather than a pre set, signposted and marshalled course. 

Hanging around – 12 nights in the DD Jungle Hammock 

It’s the morning after the night before (and the one before that and the one before that etc) I’ve just jumped out of my hammock and I feel… nothing. No aches, no pains, no discomfort in my crumbling dysplastic hips and none of the searing back spasms that so often follow a nights sleep in my bed at home. 


I’ve just spent a fortnight holidaying at my folks place in Italy and rather than sleep indoors, I decided to take advantage of the good weather and sling my DD Superlight Jungle hammock up in the garden for a total of 13 nights (12 in a row with one night indoors feeling rough post travel). 

The superlight is a light(er) weight version of DD’s modular jungle hammock – double layered hammock, removable mosquito net and lightweight waterproof fly sheet/tarp. The whole thing including suspension (whoopie slings) weighs 1500 grams, not ultra light compared to some shelters but not bad for a one stop shop. 

full set up earlier in the year


Due to flying with only hand luggage, I was unable to bring the poles which are used to shape the mosquito net and also provide structure to set up the tarp, so was just hanging in the hammock with the mossie net tied up to keep it off my face. Fortunately Italy, unlike the UK, actually has a proper summer so didn’t need the tarp. 

Having only previously used the hammock with it’s full compliment of poles, I was intrigued to see how it would hang without them in place. 

The general consensus to getting a comfortable nights sleep in a hammock is to aim for a 30 degree hang (plenty of sag) and to sleep on the diagonal, avoiding such issues as leg hyperextension and pressure points around the ankles. 

When using the DD with it’s poles and net/tarp in place, I’ve found that too much sag affects the structure of the hammock resulting in a tarp that is baggy, thus creating folds of material for rainwater to pool in. I therefore tend to set the hammock up with anchor points a little below head height and set the whoopie sling suspension relatively taught, creating a flatter hammock and smoother tarp. As well as provide structure for the net and tarp, the poles help to spread the hammock out creating enough width to be able to sleep on a shallow diagonal.


On this occasion without the poles, I decided to hang in accordance with conventional wisdom and set my tree huggers up at head height and the suspension relatively relaxed. 

Initially I struggled to get comfortable, without the poles acting to spread the hammock it felt somewhat coffin like. The sides of the hammock would pull up taught making the whole hammock very narrow and difficult to get much of a diagonal lay. 

I spent much of the next week tweaking the suspension until I’d ended up with a “hang” that was reasonably comfortable. The DD is not a particularly wide hammock and so achieving a full diagonal lay wasn’t really going to be possible but despite this I was still able to get a mild diagonal which allowed me enough space at the head end without feeling enclosed and enough support for knees, legs and ankles that I didn’t wake up aching. 

Certainly compared to ground sleeping whether in a tent or bivvying, the jungle hammock is far superior in terms of comfort and even against my bed at home provides a degree of support and comfort that just seems to lend itself to a good nights sleep. 


Without the poles though, I found myself yearning for a little more space to achieve the ultimate diagonal lay and have bitten the bullet and ordered a Warbonnet Blackbird xlc which is a wider hammock and by all accounts one of the comfiest and best equipped hammocks around. 

One minor gripe was the placement of the integrated kit pockets. The hammock has four pockets which easily take a phone, head torch or other smallish bits of camping kit. The only problem being that (for me at least) the placement of the pockets was inconvenient. Having achieved a comfortable lay I found the pockets at the head end were exactly that, located right where I wanted to lay my head. At the foot end they were just too far away to be able to reach easily. This meant I was only able to effectively use on pocket at the head end opposite to where my head was resting. 

The Hammock does come with a ridge line and a kit organiser attached to this which for this trip I didn’t use but in the past I’ve found useless for all but the lightest of items, otherwise the ridge line and organiser would sag too low. Minor gripes and I’m sure I could make better use of the foot end pockets but for me they just don’t work. 

That’s not to say I’ll be getting rid of the DD though. It’s modular “all in one” approach lends itself well to my bikepacking wildcamps, being simple to set up and take down for quick stealth camps. It’s also adaptable and can be used as a ground shelter/bivvy should you not be able to find suitable trees, it really is an extremely versatile sleep system.

It’s built well, looks the business and I was impressed with how it handled a very windy last night in Italy. A thunderstorm blew up with high winds (thankfully no rain) which ended up giving the suspension a real test as the hammock bucked not only sideways but also up and down! Despite this I was snug as a bug and the hammock kept me hanging until the first drops of rain in the early morning. 

Despite having ordered the Blackbird I would still recommend buying the DD jungle, particularly the superlight version. It might not be the absolute best or comfiest hang on the market (it’ll be interesting to compare when the Blackbird arrives) but for the money, convenience and weight it’s certainly a serious bit of kit that’s not only very comfortable but very adaptable, suitable for beginners looking for a no fuss solution to hammocking as well as serious hangers looking for a multi function solution to all their camping needs. 

A wild school night 

If you’re anything like me, a serious lack of organisation and procrastination , not to mention the usual excuses (family, friends, work, tv, comfy bed and other such commitments!) can be a big barrier to getting out for a little adventure, especially when it comes to adventuring on a school night.

Despite the very essence of Microadventures being to keep it simple and maximise those hours of freedom between the end of one working day and the start of the next, I’d not managed a midweek wild camp for over three years but with a small window of opportunity presenting itself this week, I was determined to jump through it head first and grab myself a little hump day treat… 

good to go


I’d spotted my intended camp – a former quarry now reclaimed by a beautiful wood – whilst out on the bike recently and having packed and loaded the bike the night before, I was quickly changed out of my suit and on the trails within an hour of getting home from work. 

hitting the trail


Keeping it simple I packed only the essentials – hammock, down jacket, buff, waterproofs (you never know in Britain), water, bike spares and of course some Peroni 😉 

bear essentials…


The wood in question was only about 5 miles away (something my hips were grateful for) and I took my time, just enjoying being outdoors on my bike, no need to rush. 
I had the woods all to myself, save for a few noisy badgers, foxes and owls who made an appearance once darkness enveloped the trees. 

alone in the woods?


I love the transition of life and noise in a woodland environment, the day crew eventually settling in for a good nights kip at sundown, only to be replaced by the denizens of the night, scurrying and scuttling and screaming (blimmin foxes!) around their darkened playground. 


But even the night owls have to get some shut eye and there’s often a moment of quiet tranquility that descends upon any woodland. This moment usually happens at about 3am when you suddenly need to clamber out of your cosy hammock to answer the call of nature but it’s a beautiful moment to witness, if only until it’s shattered as you curse and swear and shuffle yourself back into the hammock. 

do i have to get out?


Awoken by sunrise and the dawn chorus (is there a better alarm clock?), I was packed up and back at my desk bang on 9am, perhaps looking a little dishevelled, a little wild but certainly feeling more alive.