Tag Archives: gear

Trek 920 Рsecond 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! 

ūüėć


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! 

Week 7 

Not much to report. No biking, no adventures, no strength training. Nothing. 

On a brighter note, the ton of prescription meds I picked up from the doctor have taken the edge off, so much so that I’m contemplating a short ride/bivvy tomorrow. 

The upside/downside (depending on whether or not I’m currently looking at my bank balance) is that with all this spare time on my hands I’ve been busy buying essential bike related stuff, retail therapy if you will. 


One such purchase that will certainly get some mileage if/when I ever get back in my stride is a pair of gorilla cages. Similar concept to the Salsa Anything cages, you simply clip them on to your forks using a clever quick release bolt thingy, load them up with up to 1.5kg of gear in a dry bag and away you go. 

Obviously I’ve not tested them in anger yet but so far I’m impressed with their simplicity, practicality (the qr feature means you can easily detach and reattach the cage as needed) and versatility. 

test “carry” with a dry bag full of bike tools


They add a real extra dimension to schleping gear for a bikepacking trip, particularly those awkward items like cooking pots (or bottles of beer) that don’t really fit in a seat post bag or handlebar set up. 

That’s it, hopefully I’ll have some more to report back next week and hopefully it will be less of the moany injury type and more of the “I managed to ride my bike” type! 
 

Pinnacle Ramin 3+

I’ve been angling after a new bike for a while now. In just four short years since buying my Boardman hardtail, 29ers have become mainstream, 27.5 (or 650b) diameter wheels have entered the foray and just to confuse matters, you can now get both wheel sizes in “plus” flavour. 

Compared to the old standard 26 inch wheels, the new sizes promise more grip, more speed, more control over rough terrain, more everything really, I had to try it out! 

plus size – that’s a lot of rubber!


Looking at the pros and cons of the various options, I’d landed at the decision that a 27.5 “plus” bike was the way to go for the type of riding I do. I’m not an out and out XC speed machine/racer, nor am I an all mountain or trail centre gnarly type. Sure I like single track and sure I’ll hit my local trail centre occasionally but most of my riding is either bikepacking or riding out the door for fitness/fun and maybe trying to blag the odd offroad KOM. 
I didn’t want to spend a fortune, nor did I want a cheap and cheerful rig. I needed something that would stand up to the rigours of bikepacking and let’s face it, the general neglect it’s likely to experience over the years. 

Step forward then the Pinnacle Ramin 3+, a bright orange, plus sized, rigid mountain bike costing ¬£750 from Evans Cycles. Ordered online over the weekend and took a half days leave to collect today (Wednesday). 

box fresh


In the shop I couldn’t escape the fact the the tyres were HUGE! This would certainly be something very different to my old Boardman! It also looked gorgeous, the rigid forks and single chain wheel giving the bike a clean, sleek and purposeful look. It’s painted orange (my favourite colour) and did I mention the huge tyres? 

big tyres need decent rims


The ride 
Rushed home from the shop, frantically scarfed down some lunch and hit the trail. 

On paper this bike is not built for speed. Weight is a good couple of kilos heavier than the Boardman (11.5 vs 13.5) and those huge tyres were certainly going to need some leg power to get them rolling. 

Out in the real world though, this thing flys! Hitting the road before the trail the bike barrels along like a Land Rover, the big tyres humming and buzzing over the tarmac. It’s not going to win the Tour de France but that’s not the point. 

not gonna be Froome’s choice of ride


Hitting the rough stuff the benefits of the big, grippy, bouncy rubber immediately became apparent. The tyres literally eat up mud, gravel, stones, rocks, ruts, fallen branches, hikers, anything! The grip and traction is phenomenal. 

Up the first hill, Strava showed I was a little slower than PR speed but not far off the pace. Halfway up I noticed the seat post slipping down which probably accounted for a loss of power. Quick adjustment and tightening of the QR clamp at the top and I was off again. 

slaying offroad climbs


Over a 9 mile loop I set PRs on a number of sections both flat/twisty and also uphill, including a particularly gnarly uphill Bridleway. I rode this hill on Sunday, setting a PR and beating my previous best by nearly a minute. On the plus bike? Faster by another minute and a half! 

respectable average speed


One other unexpected benefit was on the road. Whilst slow on flat and uphill sections, on the downhills the extra grip and stability meant I could really let loose and fly down without worrying about the front end washing out.  

check out that top speed!


The finishing kit is solid. Nothing flashy but it does the job. The shifting is responsive and I found having a single chain ring/ten speed set up to be a lot less hassle than the twin ring/twenty speed arrangement on my Boardman. One shifter and a full range of gears with no wasted overlaps – simples. 

keep it simple stupid


So, it’s only been one ride and I’ll no doubt add more thoughts once I’ve ridden it in more varied conditions but so far I’m ecstatic. The bike feels comfortable in a way my Boardman never did (just couldn’t get comfy on it) and I came back grinning from ear to ear. 

I think it’s love


I had been considering an Alpkit/Sonder Broken Road but at ¬£1600 I just couldn’t justify the expense. I’m sure it’s a great bike but not so sure it would make me smile more than twice as much as my ¬£750 Ramin! 
Second ride update – short blast tonight, certainly not giving it the full beans and just enjoying being out on my new rig. Even so, across my local Strava segments I was still pulling a good few “podium” times so seems as though the “roll over anything” benefits of the big tyres really do make for a rapid off road machine. 


Only slight dampener was that I noticed a bit of clicking/clacking from the bottom bracket, hoping nothing serious and will flag with Evans when I take it back for its post shop service. 

Kit list – top three

Thought I’d share some of my favourite, “go to” bits of kit used when bikepacking… 

1) Boardman HT Pro

Not gonna get far without one of these. 2012 model, nice and light (11.5kg) and keeps plugging away despite some serious abuse over the years. 

me and my bike


2) Alpkit Kraku

Tiny, lightweight and super powerful. Perhaps doesn’t give the most even burn (narrow hot spot) but for the weight and price you can’t go wrong for a one or two night trip. 

Kraku pulling coffee duty


3) DD Superlight Jungle Hammock

If you’re going ultra light then a bivvy bag is the way to go but if you like a bit of comfort after a long day on the bike then it’s a hammock every time. 

The Jungle Hammock is a modular system combining the hammock itself, a mozzi net and rain fly, total protection from the elements for a combined weight of 1.5kg. Compared to my lightest bivvy set up  (alpkit hunka bivvy bag, 400g, and lumo mat, 450g,) you’re only paying a small weight penalty in exchange for a huge amount more comfort. You could even leave the mozzi net poles behind and hang the net loose to shave some more weight off. Of course you will need to find two sturdy trees! 

just add trees!


I’m always on the look out for shiny new kit to try out, shout if you’ve got any tips for great “go to” gear worth taking a look at. 

Gear 

Ok so after my first bikepacking trip, I thought I’d do a quick round up of the kit I used, what crossed over well from general camping and hiking – what worked & what didn’t! 

The set up for this trip was basic and I guess not ultimately geared up for biking. A few months back I got a factory seconds airlok drybag (20l) from www.alpkit.com, ideal with its two buckled straps for attaching to the handlebars. Unfortunately the stitching on one of the straps broke just as I was getting my gear together, a little disappointing as had only used the bag once before but it was a factory second, it was cheap and it wasn’t anything a bit of sewing couldn’t fix. I did though decide to keep just light (ish) gear in here – sleeping bag, liner & bivvy bag. My sewing held up and the bag worked a treat, kept everything dry and it had room for a bit more kit if needed. Could probably do with a bit more length in the webbing straps as they were right at the limit to close the buckles but overall for the price (even full price they are good value) this bit of gear was a winner. 

 Edit 

airlok drybag in action

  

The rest of my kit went into my berghaus extrem ar√™te 45 rucksack. Now, this rucksack is rather minimal, is very light and has limited padding. It’s not especially comfy when fully loaded & hiking, even less so when riding off-road. In fairness it’s designed more for climbing, with just one main compartment, a bladder sleeve & a decent lid pocket. I’m very disorganised so the lack of compartments is a downside for me but it does swallow a lot of gear. However with 4 litres of water plus food, cook gear, sleep mat etc the thin straps were just too uncomfortable on my shoulders and dug in to my arms when I tightened the chest strap to prevent wobble whilst riding. Having said all that the bag is – despite its minimal build – very tough & has seen lots of use over the years with no signs of any serious wear. This was a compromise arrangement and it’s certainly not a bad pack, just not good for bikepacking! 

Inside the pack I had my cooking gear and my newly acquired mountain equipment helium 2.5 self inflating mattress. The mattress was a new bit of kit, bought from Cotswold outdoor the day before to replace my old foam mat that I’d been using since cub scouts (I’m 31 now!). At ¬£40 and weighing just under 700g this thing was a revelation, I’m sure it kept me alive on the cold wind swept hilltop and certainly gave me the comfiest nights bivvying I can remember! Ok so it might not be the lightest inflating mat out there but it is full length, packs down reasonably small & at ¬£40 you can’t really go wrong. 

My stove on the other hand whilst perfectly functional is simply too clunky. It’s a campingaz twister & like the berghaus it’s served me well but it’s just too big, too heavy and too restrictive being suitable only for campingaz canisters. Time to retire this bit of kit. 

nice view, shame about the stove

Moving back to the sleeping gear stored on the front of the bike, my army surplus bivvy did the job as always, again not the lightest bit of kit but plenty of room to move around inside and not feel too claustrophobic whilst at the same time has a useful flap that you can pull up over your head to keep wind & rain at bay. I’m always tempted by the alpkit hunkas but until this one needs replacing I’ll stick with it.

cant go wrong with army surplus

My sleeping bag must go! It’s an old synthetic karrimor global 900 and although it’s served me well, the allure of a nice warm & light down bag is getting stronger. Paired with a liner and my buffalo teclite smock (amazing outdoor clothing) I was just warm enough but it’s definitely time for something a little more snug.

Hardwear wise my bike is a 2012 boardman ht pro, nice and light, good forks and generally a pleasure to ride. The only changes I’ve made to it have been to swap out the saddle for a bontrager saddle from my old trek & I’ve fitted schwalbe marathon plus mtb tyres. These things are Kevlar lined, weigh a ton but, touch wood, are seriously puncture resistant. I’ve had them on for over a year now and so far no punctures riding country roads, tow paths, byways, singletrack, you name it, I’ve ridden over it. I’ll take the weight penalty if it means not having to stop to fix punctures. 

in her natural environment

So what’s next? Based on this trip and with further bikepacking trips in mind I’ve decided to replace my stove with an alpkit kraku (¬£25) a tiny stove weighing just 45g. This will suit both bikepacking and general hiking use.

Bikepacking specific, I’ve again turned to alpkit & ordered a Koala seat post bag (¬£65) and a Stem Cell accessory bag (¬£18). The Koala attaches to the saddle post and provides 13 litres of storage whilst the Stem Cell attaches (as the name suggests) to the stem of your handlebars, providing handy storage for things like snacks on the move. 

I’m hoping that this set up coupled with the airlok bag up front will reduce the need for such a big pack on my back and that with the majority of my kit stashed “on board” the bike, I can make use of my smaller camelbak HAWG hydration pack which has a bike specific fit and will be used primarily for food & general kit like first aid. 

Trespass Manaslu – first impressions

Living in the UK requires a certain degree of weather protection at any time of year but non more so than winter time.  I’d previously relied on fully waterproof hard shells to keep me dry when biking or running but having grown tired of quickly becoming a sweaty mess, I thought I’d give the soft shell concept a try.

Enter the Trespass Manaslu http://www.trespass.co.uk/mens-manaslu-01931 soft shell which I picked up for £40 in the Trespass winter sale. The jacket features a 8000mm hydro static head waterproof rating, is breathable, windproof and comes with a fixed hood.

First impressions in the shop were that the fit was excellent, fitting snuggly but with enough room to move and also fit on over a microfleece (hardly likely to be needed for running or biking but ideal for winter bivvying!).

image

On its first proper outdoor test, a 30+ mile mountain bike ride, I was extremly impressed with both the breathability (never really overheating and sweating despite some difficult hill climbs) and the windproof properties, the jacket keeping me toasty on a number of long and fast downhills during the ride.

On the bike the jacket was comfortable and although the cut is quite short and not bike specific, this didn’t seem to matter, the jacket moving well with my body through the twists and turns of the trail.

image

I like the fact it has four pockets (two waist, one chest & one internal) meaning you have plenty of storage space to store snacks or other small items that you might need to access whilst on the move. My only criticism would be that the chest pocket is quite small but its not unusable.

For what seemed like the first time this year it didn’t actually rain during my ride so I’m not yet able to comment on the waterproof properties but I’m sure it won’t be long before an opportunity arises!

From this first test I’d say that for fast and light travel (mtb, running etc) where breathability is more important than keeping dry, a good case could be made for swapping the hard shell for this great bit of kit although a lot will depend on its ability to shed rain. For longer hikes you’d probably still want the security of a dedicated waterproof but for now this jacket looks like a winner.