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My MTB construction project continued with the installation of the second of three sets of contact points – the bar and grips. I had already got the frame (part 1), the forks and stem (part 2) and the seatpost and saddle (part 3) assembled. I had an idea that the additions of bling could be continued, but not at a ridiculous cost. Now the Velominati Rules also state in Rule #8 that saddles, bars, and tires should be matched. One must adhere to the rules 🙂

On my new MTB dualie steed (my BMC Fourstroke FS02) I have carbon 3T Xida bars, and the comfort is seriously noticeable in the difference between a set of standard alloy bars. The other main thing about these bars is that they are not very wide, 640mm in width. I like the gloss black look.

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For the grips, I have tried many types and landed on a set from an American company called Oury who are famous for making BMX bar grips and also for motocross. They are clamped grips and have these big cushy patterns on them which leave funny marks without gloves but with them on are super comfortable and responsive.

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This bike was going to have bar ends on the ends on the outermost position against the grips. Bar ends are fantastic for climbing and give me that same sensation to grabbing the hoods on my road steed. The basic ones are big, ugly, and oversized. These ones from PRO are slightly smaller in size, but big enough to grip and angled in slightly. They also have an oval cross-section – a little more aero.

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So I started with installing the bar within the stem. The 3T Xida has micro measurement marks for accurate placement and the white paint is all for the logo of the stem faceplate. My wife took this photo.

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Installing the faceplates and the bolts, it is critical to apply even tightening against the bar so it maintains its position. So diagonally opposite bolts tightened first. My Park Tool torque wrench came into use as there is a maximum torque setting of 5NM on the faceplate bolts.

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Next was attaching the clamp ends to the Oury grips. On my other bike I had to pull out the mallet on these, but for whatever reason I just had to apply some muscle and they popped in.

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My son, AKA ‘The Pok’, wanted in on the action and was begging me to allow him to help. So I told him that he could install the grips on bar. He loved it, but got an icky sensation when he felt the carbon alloy assembly compound that I placed on the bar for the clamps to grip.

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Installing the bar ends was next. This bit was tricky because you have to get the angle of the ends right, on both sides. No doubt I will be adjusting the angle after I take it for a spin. The bolt that you see on the bottom tightens the ends in place.

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The bolt that tightens the bar end again required the use of a torque wrench to tighten. The torque tightness required for these bolts was 5.5NM.

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The Oury grip clamps also needed to be tightened into place, with smaller 2.5mm hex bolts. The torque tightness on these ones was 5NM. I was worried about snapping the bolt heads.

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The final bit of the installation was plugging the bar with the caps that came with the grips. This required a bit of cutting as they were slightly over sized on the plug inserts. But once in these babies were not coming out again any time soon. Here is the finished installation. The cockpit looks quite clean, but it will quickly get cluttered when I installed the shifters, brake levers, light, and computer mount.

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Here is how it looks blinged up against the saddle. Remember – red stripes make you ride faster.

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Next part is the rubber and wheels. I have an interesting choice up my sleeve. The project continues!

 

I haven’t posted anything cycling related for a while, and I think we could all use some inspiration. I hope to be riding in another 40 years time too.

BikeWar

Something for all of us to look forward too.  What will our grandkids think of our carbon bikes then?

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My new MTB Project had taken a pause with… life, but super sales from online cycling shops allowed me to acquire two key components for the contact points. The seatpost and the bar (handlebar). So construction was able to continue on from where I left off on the previous two stages of the build (part 1 and part 2). While I thought the next components of construction were going to be the wheels, I couldn’t resist installing a bit of bling with the saddle.

The frame that I acquired was quite unique in that seatpost clamp is built into the frame within the seat tube. The other aspect is the way the top tube and seatstays are connected to the seat tube is quite unique as well. I guess it is typical BMC Swiss design style.

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My saddle of choice for this build is the same as the one that I ride on my other MTB (VTT), a fi:zi’k Gobi XM. But not just in black, the one I acquired on eBay is bright red! Bling! I intend to match the colour to my bar grips. The Gobi XM is an awesome saddle, and perfect for anything off-road. It has the “wingflex” capabilities of the other fi’zi:k saddles and has that little bit of extra cushioning. On my second 200km Around the Bay in a Day, I swapped out my road saddle for the Gobi to get that little bit of extra comfort and it worked (i.e. my butt was not sore from the ride). So from a comfort point of view it works on the long distance haul too. The other great characteristic of this saddle is the clip system that allows me to connect up my saddle bag directly into the clip under the saddle. I have no intention of grabbing another saddle bag, just swapping it out between my two off-road rides when needed.

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Being a hardtail ride, I wanted a bit of additional comfort for my rear contact point. The frame is alloy, so I chose to spec up the seatpost to carbon (flex and strength rather than just strength). Keeping with the Italian component theme, I found a heavily discounted 3T Ionic Seatpost in the team edition colours (i.e. with a bright red stripe). It looks the business, if only they made it in white…

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To assemble the seatpost into the frame, I was going to need both my Park Tool torque wrench and a special fluid compound for carbon and alloy assembly. Again I sourced the Park Tool stuff for the job – the SAC-2 compound. This stuff is critical for two reasons, primarily it provides extra grip between the two different material types through silicon bits in the fluid, but secondarily it provides a waterproof seal down the seatpost.

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After first measuring the distance between the centre of my crank and seatpost to saddle clamp, I liberally applied the compound around the part of the seatpost that would be inserted into the seat tube. I then inserted the seatpost to give me the same saddle height. It felt quite different inserting the seatpost with the assembly compound, and straight away I knew it was already doing the job.

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The 3T Ionic is again unique in being able to set micro adjustments to the saddle forward angle with a series of concentric teethed cyclinders providing the mount. Some of the online bike store reviews call this a gimmick, but for me it allows me to set the exact same saddle forward angle between all my steeds.

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I tightened the inbuilt clamp bolts to the specified 5 N m of torque. This is critical not to over tighten carbon components, otherwise they quite literally collapse under the pressure. You can see my assistant mechanic, The Pok (AKA my son), in the background. He once again attempted to “steal” my hex keys.

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Next I set the saddle into place, using the measurement from the centre of the headset cap to the tip of the saddle as my guide. I will probably still have to adjust my saddle front angle after I have the bike parallel. The saddle bolt clamps were specified to be tightened to 7 N m. Again the torque wrench came to use.

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The frame is looking a bit frankenstein-like, but with the installation of the bars, that should make it look a lot more like a “bike”. Having said that, it is coming on! This is from the front…

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and from the back…

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The build continues 🙂

 

Work has been rather busy of late, leaving me not much time to continue with my passions being either riding, photography, or this blog. But I am snatching an opportunity on a Sunday night to kick on again.

The next and easiest parts to assemble for my new MTB build are the forks and stem. The forks have been canabalised from another one of my bikes (my new BMC Fourstroke FS02) which were replaced by a set of kashima coated Fox Racing suspension forks. As a result, these forks are a reasonably high and recent spec being Fox Float 32 RL 100. These were pretty much standard on the medium level 26″ bikes and are a pretty decent set of kit. As the name suggests, the forks have 100mm of travel. The other aspect of the fork spec is that the fork stem is straight at 1 1/8″ in width – again standard at the time, but a lot of the newer forks are now tapered (I assume to allow for more stability and force to flow through the forks and subsequently the headset).

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Being canabalised from another bike, one of the trickest parts of the construct – install of the star nut – had already been done. In addition, the length of the fork steerer tube was pretty much cut to the desired length, so no tube cutting required.

This is a star nut not installed.

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And this is where it sits within the steerer tube.

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The other parts that would be going on are the stem, for which I grabbed a 3T ARX PRO at 110mm in length. This component is not uber light, but then again I could stop eating sweets and lose a few kgs to achieve a more efficient weight saving.

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There is one thing that is fiddly with this component, the torque setting on its six clamp bolts. For that I would need the first of many specialised tools that I will need to use to build this bike, a torque wrench. My Park Tool TW5 Torque Wrench is my new pride and joy in the tool box, though it does take some getting used to (that is another story).

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And of course I would need a headset top cap with compression bolt and a couple of headset spacers (again recycled from old bikes). I will replace the cap with a bit of personalised bling, but I have to procure that part first.

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The next part of the assembly was to place the lower crown race onto the top of the fork crown over the steerer tube. This is an important part to keep both the headset bearings sealed and fork into position (it is effectively a big washer).

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I then pushed the fork through the headset, but without the wheels this was tricky because the wheels and weight of the frame were not pushing the forks up – I had to apply pressure on the frame to keep it in place.

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The final step of this part of the assembly was to place the spacers, stem, and then compression bolt / cap onto the steerer tube and tighten everything up. I must admit that I had to do this a few times, as the first couple of times I either hadn’t got the components compressed down tight enough or spacer combination sorted properly. I used the torque wrench to tighten the clamp bolts to the required 5NM to ensure everything was the “right” tightness. The Zinn MTB maintenance bible also noted that it is important to put grease on the inside of the spacers and the stem so that they don’t seize up onto the steerer tube.

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I will probably have to check the alignment again once I get the handlebar in place.

Here is the build so far, it is starting to look like a bike :-). I probably would have preferred to colour code the forks to the frame, but the second hand forks are too good to not reuse.

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Next part of the assembly will be the wheels, and I already have a head start – that is for the next post.

Over a year ago I started on a dream of mine to build my own custom mountain bike from the ground up. I had sourced a carbon hardtail frame (after getting approval for my home’s minister for fun and finance – I know, a confused portfolio and one I continue to fall afoul of), and over the course of 9 months sourced every single part from all over the world for half price or better. This project was my custom Trek Elite XC 9.8 – and it got stolen! The NSW Police caught the drug addicted thief and my insurance company came to the party and replaced it with my wonderful BMC Fourstroke FS02 – which is better than its engine (me). But it is such a good bike that I don’t want to ride it to work, or even get it scratched for that matter (I know what some of you are thinking – it is a mountain bike for crying out loud, it is going to get PLENTY scratched).

More importantly, I want to build something again that I can say is by my hands. I had plenty of assistance from my LBS on my last build, but this time I’m determined to build this one as much as is feasible by myself. I had recently acquired a copy of “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance”, which is practically the bible for fixing MTBs.

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But this book is so gorgeously detailed that it goes beyond maintenance and will be my guide to my new project. My new project being a custom build hardtail MTB. Time to build something!

The New Project

So I searched high and low for a frame, and found one. This is the base for the new project. I don’t have the skills (yet) to fabricate a frame from scratch, and even if I did I would probably want to fabricate a cyclocross / tourer. In all practicality I was not going to find an affordable carbon fibre hardtail frame like my last beloved. eBay was the source of my find, and it was a good one – even though it was from a couple of years ago. I grabbed a BMC Team Elite TE03 hardtail alloy frame from 2008 from a seller in Singapore. It probably “fell off the back of a boat” on the way from Taiwan to Europe, but they don’t sell these babies anymore. She is a looker with silver / white / dark red scheme. For an aluminium alloy the frame is reasonably light at 1.6kg, but definitely heavier than the old Trek hardtail. Here is the start of the project, the naked frame:

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I was a bit nervous acquiring the frame online from a seller in Singapore, as this was a few hundred dollars of investment. But the bloke who sold them had a 100% record and the frame came shipped in immaculate condition.

The build has effectively commenced with the first component installation being the headset bearings (an FSA headset that the eBay seller provided with the frame). I had to get my LBS to press it in using the specialist tool that costs about $600 to purchase, and therefore not practical for a one build owner to ever buy. I could have used the old wood block and mallet trick, but to be honest I don’t have vice that can lock in the frame while I bashed the bearings in. But this is probably the last component that I intend to get assistance with. I might need rescuing with the black art of cabling, but I will give it a go first.

The high level spec for the bike will be a 26″ alloy MTB hardtail fitted for urban and gravel trail type riding. I will detail the specification as the build comes along.

The whole mantra for the bike is going to be the best for the cheapest. I already have the forks, wheels, brake discs, and rear cassette. I have acquired 75% of the other components, and looking for the sales on the online sites to finish procurement of the components. Most importantly I now have the tools to undertake the assembly with the prize being a Park Tool torque wrench (the best tool a man could own).

I don’t just want to be a dumb consumer. I want to know how to build something and then do it. I don’t get this fulfillment from my day job. More importantly, looking at the way my son has taken to ‘building’ things, I want to show my boy that there are skills that shouldn’t be lost – even if he is growing up in a disposable consumer society. By the time the new build is finished I will have hit S-1 in the stable (if you don’t know what I am referring to then look up the Velominati Rule  #12).

I have been keen to get some kilometers in the legs over the past couple of days, but the Sydney weather has decided to turn it on. Yesterday I went to do a 40km time trial on the road steed to see how I was going recovering from a nasty bout of viral bronchitis – and my ride was met with 40km/hr winds that nearly knocked me off the bike at one point with my front wheel slipping laterally on some downed leaves. It was a good hit out, and even in the bad conditions I was able to maintain a good pace. I was keen to back it up today, but was greeted this morning to this (and that was when it was lightly raining):

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I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fair weather rider, but putting down 60-80km in these sort of conditions on Sydney roads is a bit nutty.

So I thought I would write up two component reviews that I swear by and have already installed onto my new MTB steed.

Oury Lock-on Grips

Oury Grip are an American company based in Arkansas who specialise in making grips for motorcross and ATV, but also MTB and BMX. Grips are a funny thing, and like all your contact parts are peculiar to your personal taste and comfort. I had gone through three different sets on a previous MTB steed (my old Trek 4300 – solid horse, but as light as a draught horse), before I found the Oury Lock-on grips.

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Oury Lock-on grips feature two clamp rings on both sides of the grip itself. The grip itself has a great rubber pattern to its outside surface which is both comfortable and strong as well. The inside of the grip is made of a different material which provides a strong inner core. Its the connection of this inner core to the clamps which makes the whole grip unit quite strong and rigid on the bars. The only difficulty I have had installing these on the bars has been in getting clamps onto the grip units, but with a mallet and a flat surface this is sorted pretty quickly. I suppose the burning question is how do these feel on a ride? I have ridden with these grips on 3 hour rides and never once felt any discomfort through the hands. While the rubber squares have a tiny bit of give in them, you never feel out of control and in continuous contact with the bars. But without gloves it will leave square marks in your palms after a long ride, though I never felt discomfort.

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So when I got my new MTB steed I had to get a set of these onto the bars. My wife’s flat bar road bike has these grips on too, and the testament to how well they feel is when I was cheeky enough to ask if I could swap over the grips from her bike onto my new MTB steed she put her foot down and said “get your own!” Great component, looks good and does the job with comfort.

3T Xida carbon bar

When I built my previous MTB steed I was trying to build an uber-light rig so the frame, seat-post, and bar were all carbon. I managed to get 3T components for the seat-post and bar on special online for 40% of the retail price and I was very impressed. The bar is the 3T Xida, which is a compact bar – meaning that instead of the 720mm width they are narrower at 640mm.

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You are probably thinking to yourself ‘this guy is writing a review about a bar, what is so special about this overpriced italian component?’ Well this is one slick piece of kit! For starters the bar weighs in at just under 140g, which was half the weight of the alloy bar that came with my new bike. It has only a slight sweep at 3.5 degrees, but with the eccentric connection to the centre oversize tubing you can also rotate the bar at the stem to have a slight upturn. The centre point of the bar has a rougher surface to provide the connection point with the stem a better gripping layer. As with all 3T components, it is all about precision and there are marker points around the centre point to ensure that you can measure the rotation of the connection exactly how you want it.

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Again the ultimate point is how does it ride? It is initially a strange feeling riding with carbon bars. You do not realise how much you get used to the transfer of vibrations through alloy bars into your hands (even with suspension forks). There is a strange amount of flex yet rigidity in the bars, I suppose the carbon at work. It means that the smaller jolts that your forks are never going to take through the suspension don’t transfer to the same amount to you the rider – making it a more comfortable ride. And given the fact that I clock up most of my kilometers on my road bike, I suppose that I am used to a narrower width bar. Plus I am a strong enough bloke to be able to yank the front end around with only 640mm width on the front. This bar looks slick on the bike, but it does make your cockpit that much more compact. As soon as the online “specials” came up again, I had to get this onto the new MTB steed.

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I definitely recommend these, at the right price they are a good buy and are a bit of sleeper as to how much more comfortable they will make your ride.

How does the cockpit look with the both of these installed? Check out the photo below:

Cockpit

And yes that is a bell on the bar, with my only excuse being that my MTB Steed doubles as my Urban Steed too.

 

One final thought… I hope that justice will be served to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. We were captivated last night watching the coverage of the manhunt for the two (and there may be more) suspects. It will not bring back those that were lost, nor repair the injuries that the many other victims have received – but for the victims, their families, the athletes, and the city of Boston the Police and Anti-Terrorism Forces did their jobs and caught the suspects. I never understand why sports like this are targeted, because the sacrifice made by those athletes just to get to the start line is the most human of endeavours – which should never be tarnished by war, politics, and mindless extremism. I hope that next year, the Boston Marathon will run proudly and safely once again.

I never thought I would be writing this, but the man who stole my bike has been identified and caught. It turns out his brazenness and stupidity in not trying to hid his identity coupled with leaving the tool he used in crime behind has led to his apprehension.

I was contacted last week by the NSW Police from my Local Area Command and asked to come in and provide a statement. The Police Officer quickly told me that my custom MTB had not been recovered (I had already resigned myself to it not coming back). The officer asked me to bring in the “bike specification” sheet that I had provided to the Police and the my local bike stores. I provided my statement at the same time as identifying the thief from many previous mugshots – fifteen to be exact. It was easily matched to footage from our apartment’s CCTV cameras. Fifteen mugshots means he has been arrested fifteen times.

Bike Thief on entry

 

So who is this guy? Turns out he is a drug addict who resides in Sydney’s Western Suburbs. He is about the same age as I am. A single fingerprint lifted from the adjustable wrench he used to break into my locked up cage was matched to a string of other outstanding thefts in which he has also been implicated. He has a string of other thefts in his “work history”, and previously had a history of stealing automobiles and “chopshopping” them. All of this in the name of maintaining his drug habit. When the Police apprehended him after raiding his residence, they found his shoes and trousers that he wore in the break in. He admitted to the crime, and his hearing will be later this year.

Will I get my bike back? Probably not. He doesn’t even remember where he offloaded it. It was only when the photo was shown to him that he admitted to the incident.

Life is full of choices

At some point this guy made a choice, or series of choices, to take on this life. This is what I will never understand. I grew up in a house where the only two drugs consumed were coffee and alcohol, and both in great moderation. None of my immediate family members smoked, and most of my extended family members did not either. When I was growing up at school and through university some people would have a go at me for being boring… for not trying this or that. I could never understand this, because how many times do you have to be told that this is the path that leads to nothing good.

I got a real education lesson when I provided my statement. Sitting with the Police Officer at the station provided me with the opportunity to ask some questions about how the theft likely unfolded. The officer told me several things that got me thinking a lot since that day.

As it turns out, bike theft if rife in Sydney. Apparently there is even some huge guy who loiters around the suburb adjacent to ours who through sheer brute strength can bust open bike locks with his bare hands. The thieves, while not the sharpest tool in the shed, do know the difference between a top end bike and run of the mill.

The officer told me that the Police could probably attribute 90% of thefts to the support of illegal drug activities. Theft in the aim of hocking the goods for cash. I was even told that most thieves do not steal so as to contribute to a future positive outcome – like use the proceeds of a theft to help them go on a holiday.

We spoke about the fact that the thief probably didn’t even get paid in cash, but got a stash of drugs for his fix in exchange for the bike. And he probably offloaded it to a ‘house’ before he even returned back to his place of residence. As it turns out, if someone ‘innocent’ lives in one of these ‘houses’ and cannot be proven to be directly implicated in the stolen goods operation they will not get charged. Aiding and abetting in this case  is not how it is like on CSI.

And here I was thinking that he might try and take it into a bike store to get the busted spoke in the front wheel fixed.

The Police have a thankless job

I can’t comprehend why the Police receive constant criticism and apprehension from the general public. Sure there are bad seeds in the bunch and there are examples of corruption, but this is a vocation that deals with the worst side of society and is often not backed up by the legal system. Plus, I could probably tell you of many worst examples in the corporate world of unethical behaviour.

The Police Officer I dealt with told me about the first six months spent on the job. About the countless dead drug addicts that the officer encountered, who had overdosed on some chemical concoction or another. And about how the legal system does not support them in doing their job by locking the criminals up, or the lack of support groups to try and rehabilitate the addicts to bring them back into society. I asked if there was hope for this thief, but the officer responded that he has hit middle age and this is probably the life he will lead until he is six feet under.

The Police have a pretty thankless job. Yes they are not perfect, but nobody is.I was dealt with in nothing but a professional manner by all the officers I dealt with, and was never bullsh!tted to about the reality of the situation. I want to thank them for taking the effort in apprehending the thief, and I wish they got more support to be successful. As for the thief, right now I can’t forgive what he has done to myself and so many others. He will probably see jail time for his crimes and I am indifferent to that. Based on the life he has lead so far, he has shown no appetite to make a different choice – and everyone has the ability to make the tougher choice.

Does all this make me feel good? No. I just think about what a waste of the opportunity of life.

I brought my new MTB Steed – the VTT – with us on our recent camping trip to Patonga to let it rip properly for the first time. I was very much looking forward to seeing how it would handle and to get it properly dirty. The first long ride I had on it was on the road, and I realised that I had the seat up too high, almost the same position as what I had for my Road Steed. So I made a few minor adjustments to the bike before setting out. To get to Patonga we had to drive through the Brisbane Water National Park. Coming in on the road from Umina Beach and rounding the corner of Broken Bay we went steeply up to the ridge line in the national park. I could tell just from the gearing in the car that I would be climbing – a lot. I marked the area that I was to explore for the first time on the park map below.

Brisbane Waters National Park map

Day One of Riding

The first day I set out after pitching up our tent. I didn’t realise how late it was when I set out, but it was after 17:30 and we were in the last week of daylight savings for the South Eastern coast of Australia. This would prove to be a daylight miscalculation on my part. I decided to pack my trusty new Canon Powershot G15 in the back pocket and chuck on the front and rear mud guards too. I knew it was going to be steep before I reached the trail, but not 1.6km at over 8% gradient – with some parts hitting over 14%. That was with less than 2km of warmup in the legs and lungs. I suppose this was the test for how well the new MTB Steed would climb. It performed impressively up the climbs, and the Shimano XT shifters did their job very well. It’s no mountain goat going up inclines (it definitely felt it heavier than my former hardtail XC bike), but with its short wheelbase for a dual suspension bike it is was at least a mountain lion. Once again, the bike is better than the engine (me) – for the moment! By the time I had hit the entrance to the trail, the sun was descending rapidly towards the horizon.

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It had rained most of that first day and the trails were puddled and damp. There was running water across every one of the firetrail water breaks, which meant getting dirty at every crossing. The mud guards would come into their own and did their job well, but it was still fun hitting the water at speed with the spray going everywhere. What I wasn’t so sure of was how well the new Maxxis Ikon tyres would hold, particularly in the loose but wet conditions. But the wheels and tyres have turned out to be quite solid, quickly regripping after my back wheel slid out and very sure footed.

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I realised from the GPS that I would run out of light before hitting Pearl Beach. So with the light fading I decided to take in the beauty of the National Park and capture a few shots of the surroundings. The views from this trail are beautiful and there are many natural features of large sandstone blocks, waterfalls, and running streams through the bush shrub.

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Even with a bit of mud, my new velo looks cool!

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Daylight very quickly disappeared as I turned around to head back to the campsite, and what greeted me at dusk were some of the locals. I saw two wallabies go across the trail, both in front and behind me. There was a superb lyrebird running around strutting its stuff when I got to the valley. And finally a couple of hundred metres into my return journey a grey kangaroo bounded across the trail and disappeared into the native shrub before I could get my eyes on it again. There was absolutely no chance of me snapping these animals in what was very near darkness.

Animal Count:

Swamp Wallaby Superb Lyrebird Eastern Grey Kangaroo

The scariest part of the ride though was not the return on the trail, but the descent back to the campsite down that incline that I rode up at the start. The miscalculation was that I forgot to chuck on a set of lights, thinking I would be riding in daylight. I was bombing it down the descent in pitch black darkness on a slippery road – and it was exhilirating (if not entirely stupid)! I decided immediately after I hit camp that I would return for a second run the next day.

Day Two of Riding

The next day was much brighter and drier. I set out a good hour and a bit earlier for this run, determined to reach Pearl Beach. I did a couple of warmup laps of Patonga village before hitting the climb out, which proved to be a good idea. The view from the ridge line on the trail was awesome as I was able to get my eyes off the path this time with it not being so wet.

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I was determined to get to Pearl Beach for this trip, and was duly rewarded with some spectacular rock and waterfall features.

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Finishing up at Pearl Beach was when I found the Crommelin Native Arboretum. I also got the chance to get some views in of the Northern Head of the Hawkesbury River from the Paul Landa Reserve, where you can also see across to Barrenjoey Head and the back end of Palm Beach.

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Descending down to Pearl Beach meant a trail climb back up to the ridge line for the same Patonga descent that I rode in darkness the day before. But at least this time it was dry and I could gather up a bit of speed to enjoy the drop in.

I mapped out the trails I rode below on the map in solid lines, with the first day getting only halfway to Pearl Beach. Next time I ride here, and there will be a next time because camping at Patonga is fun, I want to explore the trails on the Northern side of Patonga Drive (marked out as dotted lines). These look like a bit more climbing to get to the trail, but a longer trail as the reward. Next time I will also bring a few riding buddies with me to get dirty.

Brisbane_Waters-NP_MTB_Trail

I want to thank my wife for letting me hit the trails on the second day – which also happened to be our 5th wedding anniversary. What can I say, she is awesome and I love her to bits.

It makes me quite happy to be posting about my new arrival to the stable. I picked up just in time for Easter my replacement MTB steed, and it is awesome! I have finally got my hands on a BMC Fourstroke FS02 XT / SLX 2012 dual suspension beast. The first thing I did when I got it was ride over some curbs and jump some gutters on the way back to putting it on top of my car to take home.

BMC_FS02-#01

The paint job is the business and in line with cool Swiss graphic design. When I first saw the sales shots, I thought that the lime green was a bit wrong (green is not my colour). But now I have seen the lime green highlights, the subtle metallic grey, and the angular paint lines I have really taken it too heart. Not sure about the white colour on an MTB (mud and dirt magnet), but it is striking.

BMC_FS02-#10

I made sure that I up-specced it to match what I was replacing and take advantage of the high performing, but reasonably priced, Shimano XT components. In fact the only thing that is SLX about the bike is the front derailleur, which shifts just fine. It comes with a pretty decent spec sheet, and with my new Shimano XT MTB wheels and the Maxxis Ikons that are shod on them it will be a sweet ride! The Mavic Crossride wheelset it comes with will end up losing the Schwalbe shoes for a set of Michelin slicks so I can tow my little man or ride urban.

BMC_FS02-#02

I totally changed the cockpit to what I had managed to find comfortable after much trial and error – namely Oury clamped rubber grips and short PRO bar ends, not to mention the K-Edge Garmin out front mount. Fitting the speed and cadence sensor took some fiddling, particularly with the rear suspension mech, but I managed to get this installed.

BMC_FS02-#04

BMC’s whole Advanced Pivot System (APS) on the rear triangle is quite an impressive piece of cycling engineering. It looks quite robust, and appears to be slightly over-engineered – which gives me a lot of confidence. I can’t wait to test this on the trail, again, and again, and again.

BMC_FS02-#07

This is the first time I have owned a dual suspension bike, and it will take some work to dial in the front and rear suspension. I am missing the lock out feature for the front suspension forks that I had on my old bike, but I can get around that. The new Fox forks are very high quality, with the finishing on the metal being right up there. I can’t imagine what the Kashima coated forks are like. The only thing that doesn’t quite fit at the moment is the 720mm bar, as it feels way too wide. I guess I got used to 640mm 3T bar that I had on the old bike, and I might end up swapping this component out as probably the final up-spec for the new bike. But I will take it off-road first to see how it goes before I make up my mind.

I have decided to name him VTT, after the French word for mountain bike – vélo tout terrain. I will call it a “he”, because no doubt he will contribute to some additional cycling scars at some point on my body. I still miss my old bike, but this new one has already got a special place in my heart. I took the photos of it before I had the chance to get it dirty, and this is probably the cleanest it is ever going to be. Now I am looking forward to some off-road spinning!

OK – I can’t hide the fact that I am a little bit excited. I will be getting a new MTB steed!

After the emotional rollercoaster of having my custom made from scratch MTB steed being stolen by some dodgy [#!{/?#$ insert expletives – multiple], I waited nervously for the insurance company to do the assessment and see if they could fix me up with a new ride. Having never had anything of value stolen before, it was uncharted territory for me. I did not  know how to deal with the guys from the insurance company and everything I had heard before was that insurance companies would do everything in their power not to pay the sum insured. I felt terrible writing up the claim form and attaching all the documents for the assessment, reliving all the memories in my head of putting the steed together. I think they were a bit shocked when I was able to provide them with a full specification of the bike – and if you asked me over a beer I could probably recite it back to you, tyre valve and all. I had a receipt for pretty much all of the components too. In all, the claim assessment form was 15 pages long. But they came through, though they did note that mine was an unusual case as the steed was bespoke (no pun intended). In some respects I wish the [#$@%*+~ use different expletives this time] thief had stolen my road steed, it would have been a straight swap for a new model of the same ride.

Requirements for a replacement …

Here is where the next challenge commenced. There were two complications with my replacement requirements; 1. it had to be a 26 inch wheel ride, and 2. it had to come with QR skewers. If you know your bikes then this reads pretty straight forward (and you think to yourself hmmm…), but for the non-riding geeks here it is in more detail and why these two requirements created complications:

Complication #1 – 26 inch wheels

It seems that in the few short years from when my old bike frame I purchased was made (2009), the whole MTB world has flipped and invented new wheel sizes. This shouldn’t be a surprise to cyclists because from the time that Gary Fisher was creating custom MTBs back not long after I was born, mountain bikes have evolved in leaps and bounds. Innovations have included the evolution of rigid frames that then copped suspension forks, then the rear triangle copped a suspension rig too (and this whole suspension thing is getting uber complicated if you check out this system from Lapierre). Brakes have gone from caliper brakes to… V brakes to… disc brakes – and pretty soon these discs will be made of carbon, ceramic, and silica composites instead of metal. And wheels have gone from 26 inch to… 29ers to… 27.5 inch / 650B. Confused? Yep – me too! Here is a graphic that explains the sizing, and it is not as simple as measuring the diameter dimension of the wheel (this article explains it in detail)

Wheel Size - illustration

It would seem that the world is moving away from the wheel size that pretty much lead the growth in the sport so that riders can roll better. My challenge was that I had a second set of true off-road wheels with tubeless tyres being made up at my local bike store that set me back over $600 (mostly funded by my boss as part of a work bonus – give me MTB wheels instead of a ridiculously overpriced bottle of wine I said). And they are 26 inch wheels, which would go to complete waste on anything other than a bike that is made for this wheel size.

Complication #2 – Quick Release (QR) Skewers

The secondary purpose for my bike is to tow my son in his trailer when we go riding as a family. It is one of the main reasons I go recreational riding and requires a QR type axle on the rear so that I can fit the socket joint for his trailer. As this article from Bike Radar clearly states, “Gone are the days when all mountain bikes had 9mm quick-release skewers front and rear. At the front, 15mm and 20mm through-axles are now common, along with 135 x 12mm or 142 x 12mm setups out back.” What is behind this is that the thicker axle setups are stiffer and offer the rider more control, rather than flex. This one like the first seems a bit of a ploy from the manufacturers to generate reasons for upgrading your ride, no matter how solid the mechanical principles are. Still didn’t change my requirements, I just want to use a set of these.

QR skewers

The Search has born Fruit!

I searched the local bike shops for what they had on offer and it was a bit concerning. Giant had moved their entire MTB range to 29ers. Trek were going all funky with 29ers as well and with some out there axle mounts that no doubt will sell them a few more expensive bikes. Specialized, Yeti, Cannondale, GT, Scott… more of the same. I was getting worried that the MTB universe had moved on from my needs. I was getting more worried that I would have to revert back to an alloy frame, a kick in the guts after waiting for years to get the green light to move into the world of MTB carbon. Then I went to Velosophy in Moore Park – and the heavens peaked open slightly. I spoke with Klara at the store and asked her about some of the BMC mountain bikes. She told me that the entire range doesn’t get shipped out to our antipodean shores, but she ran me through some of the models. Klara then told me that BMC were trying to get rid of last years stock and that there were some stonking bargains to be had (as it turned out I was significantly under-insured, I insured myself for the cost of the components which were purchased at anywhere between 40-60% off the original price i.e. I had built a $6,000 ride for just over $2,500). The one ride she know about was a BMC Fourstroke, though she did not have all the details. Klara said that she would call me back on Monday to find out the specs and if they met my requirements.

When I left the store, I was not expecting a call back at all. Poor customer service is a hallmark of Australian businesses. To my shock Klara called me back like she promised and had the details direct from the BMC sales rep. There was one missing specification (for the forks), and she said that she would follow this up the next day. Again Klara called me back and had provided me with the further specifications. After a bit of thought, maybe two minutes, I told Klara to get me that new bike and the insurance company would be in contact soon. It just goes to show you how taking care of your customer can reap you benefits. Sure the ride is a dual suspension, and not all the groupset components are to the same spec as what I previously had, but the sum of the overs and unders is pretty much spot on. Below is a photo from the internet of my new ride, and I can’t wait to take my new steed for a spin. I will pick it up later this week, which should give me a chance to get over the nasty bout of bronchitis I have contracted. Who knows, it may even get a name. I may learn to love again – ha ha! Can’t wait!

BMC Fourstroke FS02 XT / SLX 2012

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