Bucket List Bike

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WTB Vigilante / Trail Boss

If you find a list of “10 things a mountain biker should do“, building a bike is there among them. I honestly didn’t understand why you would do this. I had been looking for a new hard tail for some time and often came to the same conclusion most do, that “you couldn’t build that spec for that money”.  The buying power of bike manufacturers means that its very hard to beat them on price if you want to go down the self build route. Continue reading “Bucket List Bike”

Shimano AM45 MTB Shoes

Shimano AM45 SPD Shoes
Shimano AM45 SPD Shoes

Having spent much of the Winter riding with Endura Overshoes on it was time to switch to something that looked a little better with shorts! Me vain???

After much research (and finding a seriously good price) I decided to go for the Shimano AM45 SPD shoes. The AM45 and the AM41 (flat pedal version) are a pretty common site these days and after a ride or two its easy to see why. There’s not much to say really other than they are a solid pair of shoes. They clean easily due to the tough synthetic leather and rubber construction and the huge flap that covers the laces keep splashes and dew off your feet.

If you remember to put the sticky panel inside over the cleat (I forgot on ride number 1!) they are also pretty good at keeping the puddles at bay.

I find them to be stiff soled perfect for the SPD M530 pedals I am currently using, yet they are also comfortable with plenty of padding around the ankles. They are pretty heavy if I’m honest and I will possibly look for a lighter shoe for the summer however for the moment these are doing a superb job. Get them soaked and the already hefty shoe becomes very heavy, which isn’t a surprise as all that padding soaks up the water like a sponge.

As you can see from the photo above, all the reviews on The Gear Factor are real and products are bought (unless specified) and used by me (your average mountain biker). You will notice plenty of trail riders wearing the AM45 and their flat pedal counterparts when you are out and about – and take it from me, in this instance you could do a lot worse than follow the crowd.

I must have a screw loose

Shimano SPD Screw Missing

The plan today come rain or shine was to ride around 15k to join another ride, do that ride and then ride another 15k back home. My wife thought I must have a screw loose!

An ambitious plan to ride 50k considering the conditions and my current level of fitness.  The plans to have some company on this ride failed and for various reasons (mainly the poor weather) meant I set off on my own. I should have gone with my instinct which was to have put the kettle back on, have another cup of tea and watch the ladies Slope Style in Sochi.

The rain was cold and the short steep climb out of Heddington was as tough as its felt in ages. Though after the climb the fun starts as you get to the cheeky bit of single track and the descent in the woods on the Roundway.

At least the fun was supposed to start here!

When I got to the top of the climb I was ready to keep going but decided t o stop to put my glasses away safe as I couldn’t see through them anyway (misted up and rain soaked)! At this point I realised I couldn’t detach my right foot from the pedal. With a bit of wiggling I managed to free it to find that I had indeed set off with a screw loose (see what I did there?)… The cleat was swiveling in the shoe and this meant I couldn’t rotate my foot to get it out easily.

With some tightening of the remaining screw and checking the other shoe I decided it was time to turn back. I didn’t want to damage the shoe or risk a dodgy dismount because my foot became stuck again.

The first ride, albeit short one, in the Shimano AM45 shoes was hardly a test but they were certainly easier to take off than my others and overshoes.

Congratulations to Jenny Jones by the way on the Bronze! – http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/winter-olympics/26056289

pic courtesy of the Telegraph
Jenny Jones wins Bronze

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Yes I will give the SPDs another spin tomorrow. I have 3 rides planned to give them a little workout:

1. To work via Avebury and over the Ridgeway

2. A lunch time spin out to Smeathes Ridge and maybe Barbury Castle (need to check the timing)

3. Home. This journey has some flexibility as if my wife is doing Zumba tomorrow night, it may be a spin home on the road. If not it could be via the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Look Before You Leap

Shimano Disc BrakesLook before you leap is a great motto to live by, especially in mountain biking. Not only does this apply to your trail riding and being aware of upcoming obstacles, but also when buying parts. Any part / component that you can change or replace on your bike will have many manufacturers all fighting for your pennies.

My first attempt (some time last year) at any sort of bike upgrade was to change my troublesome AVID Elixir 5 disc brakes to something that provided me with a little more confidence. For a while I was having trouble with the “Devil’s Brakes”, as a friend of mine called them; the front brake was leaking and after a brief attempt at bleeding them I decided to stop fiddling and change them.

As is the norm for newbies to this “sport” you ask your peers and those that generally have their own experience or informed opinion what you should replace them with. There will be a resounding favourite, a close second, a few wild cards and someone who is more than happy to take the ones that you are not satisfied with because they “have never had any trouble with them”.

Shimano SLXWith mountain biking there is always a battle between what you want and what you actually need. The more you spend, in general, the better quality you end up with. However, as with any product, it is possible that are going to pay for a name. While there can often be a very good reason why a product has a good name, there is also a chance that you are paying a higher than necessary price for consumer level products because that manufacturer is a recognised professional component manufacturer. this is no bad thing but just becareful you don’t by too much technology for your level of riding. This is something that you will learn when talking to your friends, reading magazines and visiting bike shops.

Shimano SLX RotorIn this instance (upgrading my brakes) I went for a well-known brand. Shimano SLX products are safe bet components for the discerning bike enthusiast. They are reliable, inexpensive and readily available in most bike shops and online retailers. You may not be able to buy spare elements (Hope for instance will sell you screws and washers and caps etc) of these components but at a wallet friendly price, it isn’t too painful to replace the whole set if you have to.

I am no expert but the Shimano decision hasn’t let me down yet and I would recommend SLX to anyone who asks and doesn’t have a bottomless pit of funds.

(By the way the main reason for this post was to show off some of my nice black & white photography..)