Stories of Zane riding his Mountain Bike in New Zealand

Product Reviews

New Shoes – Mavic Alpine XL

Finding shoes that are good for both riding my bike as well as walking up hills has been a bit of a challenge for the last few years. I had a pair of trusty Lake 165s that did well for a few years before the stitching went and while they were ok with a good grippy vibram sole, a reasonably comfortable upper for walking and a stiff enough sole that did not flex on the pedals I wanted something better.

I tried a pair of the Pearl Izumi X-Alps. They certainly look like they are built for what I want but I have been pretty disappointed with them. The upper fabric tears easily, the heel cup design gives me terrible blisters every time I walk up a hill and the soles are too flexy and give me sore feet on long downhills. Also having a ratchet on the side of the shoe is a silly idea if using the shoe for walking or blasting down technical trails. I hit the ratchet on a rock on about my 4th  ride and busted it off the side of the shoe. A bit of ingenuity had it reattached but things like slippery rocky river crossing bash the ratchets into the side of my foot.

I was looking at the Shimano MT71 shoes, or even the Shimano MT91 boots, but did not want something as big and clunky as a boot, and the shoe did not look aggressive enough for my taste.

I finally decided on getting a pair of the 2012 Mavic Alpine XL shoes. While they look a bit gay with all the white on them at least they have a decent amount of tread on the sole and look like they were designed to be good on the bike and walking up hills.

I have had them out for one decent ride, but have not yet walked up a hill carrying my bike. First impressions of them are good. The sole seems stiff when clipped into the pedals but comfortable walking around. The cleat is recessed enough that it does not touch the ground on the flat. The heel cup holds onto my heel very well and I am unable to get my heel to rise out of the cup which is great. There seems to be plenty of room to wiggle my toes in the toe box while the lace and strap system holds the shoe fast on my foot. My foot has no “float” inside the shoe unlike some other shoes I have.

I do intend to wander up a hill in them sometime soon and I will report back with my findings, but so far I am impressed with them!

Ok, first ride/walk impressions here


Handlebar width – how wide?

So back here I ended up with a set of 750mm wide handlebars on my 5 Spot. I really like this width for riding technical trails as the extra leverage of wider bars gives great control of the front wheel through rough terrain. I find this width works really well on purpose built mountain bike tracks or tracks that are out in the open, but if you get onto trails in forest that were not specifically built for mountain bikes there are often squeeze points between trees and this is when the wide bars become a liability. These sort of trails are my favourite as they often provide many good technical riding challenges simply because they were never designed with a mountain bike in mind. With the 750mm bars I was finding I was having to slow down too much for some gaps, and there were other pinch points that I was unable to ride and so I decided to go back down to a 711mm bar. I bought a new set of the Easton Haven alloy bars and put them on my bike. 711mm seems to be a good compromise between having bars wide enough for good control and being able to thread through the trees on the tracks I love.

The 750mm bars were absolutely fine on the purpose built mountain bike tracks through forest, as purpose built tracks clear the vegetation back on either side of the track to allow bikes to pass easily. I do really like 750mm as a handlebar width, but because of where I ride I have gone to the slightly narrower 711 mm to get through the trees.

If the terrain allows you can actually “slalom” wide handlebars through gaps in trees that the bars would not fit front on. To do this you basically ride up to the gap and quickly push one side of the handlebar through, and then quickly lean the bike over to the side you just pushed through allowing the other side of the bar to fit through the gap. This technique works fine when the terrain is reasonably flat and there is not a tight switchback on the approach to the gap, but with many of the squeeze points I was trying to fit through being in the middle of a steep drop or halfway through a tight switchback I was not always able to use this technique.

Another technique that can be used is to manual or wheelie through the gap and simply turn the bars enough that they will fit through (dont turn the bars so much that the wheel wont fit tho!!). Again, this technique works in places that the terrain allows and if you have good skills!!

I really like the feel of the Easton Haven alloy bars. The 9 Deg bend and 5 deg upsweep feel good and the 20mm rise is what I wanted for my riding position. I considered going for the Easton Haven Carbon bar, but my budget and my slight fear of carbon handlebar failure made me decide on the alloy bar. My only complaint with the Haven bars is that I got them in the Magnesium colour, and man are they shiny!! If it is sunny out you definitely need sun glasses on to keep the glare off your bars out of your eyes!!

New DW 5 Spot

A few years ago when I was looking at which bike I should buy I started a thread on Vorb asking some opinions. Back then I did not actually know who Dave Weagle was, but Dave gave me some advice in the thread

(note: I was working in the bike industry at the time, and those 2 brands happened to be what I could get at wholesale prices and so were obvious choices)

The advice Dave gave me was:
So for Inzane, whose thread got all polluted.
No matter what you do, ride before you buy. That will help you to make decisions more than anything. There is all kinds of marketing hype and BS out there. There are 5 vastly differnet suspensions on the market all claiming the same thing. Riding will let you cut the BS and you can see for yourself what really does what.
If you get a chance to, take a MKIII or 7POINT for a rip and see what you think. The bikes are right in line with the others that you mentioned. I can’t guarantee that they will be the bike for you, but I can guarantee that they will put a smile on your face when you ride. Thats all theat really matters in my opinion.
Just have fun and ride!

Well it turns out that I ignored Dave Weagles advice and went and bought a second hand Turner 5 Spot frame without even taking it for a test ride. It is now 4 years on, and I have had the 5 Spot out on many missions and definitely think I made a good bike choice with the Horst Link Turner. It has been perfect for the sort of riding I enjoy and just keeps on going. One reason I went for the Turner was the minimal amount of maintenance the pivot system requires. Just squirt some grease from a grease gun in there every so often and keep riding. 4 years later the bushes need replaced, which for the amount of riding I do is fantastic longevity.

In the meantime, Dave Weagle and Dave Turner have collaborated and the Turner 5 Spot now has DW link suspension, which is supposed to be a step forward in suspension design from both the Horst Link and the TNT suspension design that Turner bikes previously had.

Recently a deal came up on an ex-demo 5 Spot frame in med, which had me considering a new bike, even though the currently bike is still going strong.

Turner 5 Spot

5 Spot Frame

The new bike considerations made me do a bunch of reading and I listened to Dave Turner talk about how he designs bikes etc.

Interview with Dave Turner from September 08 – it is over an hour long!!

After all my reading and listening, my decision was that although my current bike was adequate for the riding I was doing, a new one could be nicer! I once again ignored Dave Weagles advice of test riding before buying. I also ignored my usual advice to people of

  1. Test ride before you buy
  2. Never buy a first year production of a new design
  3. Always buy a complete bike, as you get the parts much cheaper

Knowing Dave Turners reputation for thoroughly testing a bike and suspension design before being happy to release it to the market definitely helped me make the decision, as did hearing all the good reviews that DW link bikes get.

Having had the DW Spot out on a few rides now, I am very happy with the new frame. I transferred all the bits from the previous Spot over which means I get a very good direct comparison of the 2 suspension designs! The good things I notice about the new suspension design.

  • It feels plusher on the way down the hill, and yet the bike does not squat as much from pedal input on the way up.
  • There is plenty of traction when the going up gets steep or technical.
  • It feels nicer to “pump” on undulating fast trails and generally feels smoother through the rough.
  • When going off drops it feels like there is more travel with the DW Spot than the HL Spot.
  • The DW rides better uphill with the fork at 160mm than the HL did, probably due to less squat.

Things that could be better.

  • There is a lot of chain noise when speeding downhill in a big chain ring due to the elevated chain stay. I am about to go to a double ring set up, which should quieten things up!

Yes, I am loving my new bike and I cant wait to get it out on some good back country summer missions!!

I fear I might have upgraditis though. I am starting to think I want a nice set of U-turn coil Lyriks for the front rather than my Talas 36’s. I miss the feel of a coil fork!

Happy trails!


New frame ready to go!

Grease zirks

The old faithful. Could do with a spruce up!!

Rubber Queen Review – 1 month in

So a month ago I mounted a couple of Rubber Queens (2.4 Black Chilli, non-UST being run tubeless with goo on DT Swiss 5.1D rims) and now that I have had the tyres out on a few trails I though I would give you a quick run down on what I thought of them. Back on my blog here are some photos etc from when I first mounted them

I have run a number of Continental Tyres on my bikes before as well as a range of Specialized, Shwalbe, Intense and Maxxis tyres. The first things you notice about the RQ’s is that they are big. Continental tyres have generally been a lot smaller than their stated volume, but these RQ’s are big for their stated 2.4 inch size. They are also a very tall tyre. The photos on the original blog post show that in comparison to a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5, they are about the same width, but are a bit taller.

I have found running the tyres at about 22 to 25 psi to be optimal for traction, without worrying that I am going to pinch the tyre on the rim, or roll the tall tyre off the rim. At about 70kg I can get away with less pressure than a lot of people. The “Apex” technology that Continental have used in the sidewalls appears to add some stiffness to the sidewall. I have been riding the tyres on my 2005 Turner 5 Spot, which is set up as an all day, all mountain rig.

5 Spot with 2.4 Rubber Queens

So the big question – What are they like to ride?

The large volume of the tyre combined with the ability to run at a reasonably low pressure means that they are very good at absorbing rocky and rooty trails. The tyre appears to deform around trail obstacles nicely which makes for a smooth ride, and for good traction. The sidewall of the tyre appears to be stiff enough that the tyre does not roll on the rim when pushed hard through corners, even with it being a tall tyre being run at low pressures. As I have not been riding on the purpose built DH tracks here in Christchurch in the last month I have not pushed these tyres to their limit on some of the fast, bermed g-force inducing turns. This sort of corner usually shows up if a tyre is going to squirm, and so will be interested to try this over the next couple of months.

In the loamy beech forest trails that I really love riding these tyres seem to perform exceptionally well for a trail tyre. The tyre casing is large and round with a good coverage of reasonably spaced knobs that appear to hook up well in the soft soil conditions, but are also quite happy hanging onto rocks and hard packed corners. Cornering in looser conditions the RQ also felt very good, with a predictable drifting feel as you got to the end of the traction. Flowing down a swooping trail these tyres rail very nicely.

In the dry most tyres stick ok, so it is when there is some moisture on the track that I start to find out whether a tyre is really working well or not.  When wet I found the RQ’s to be quite slippery on exposed beech roots. Mud and gloop however seemed to be no problem. Compared with the Maxxis Minion super tacky DHF 2.5 2 ply tyres that I sometimes ride, there is no where near as much grip on the slippery roots in the wet, but then the RQ’s weigh about half as much and roll a lot easier than the Maxxis DH tyre!

I have one trail in mind that I have yet to really test the tyres out on. The first couple of times I tried the trail out I was on some Specialized Eskars, and I did not have enough traction on the super steep trail to stay in control. A run down the same trail with Maxxis Minion Super Tacky DH tyres made the ride seem easier, and I was able to ride a number of challenging sections that had previously beaten me. A run down that track with the RQ’s will be an interesting test for them.

Some other observations

I do not know how well these tyres will wear as I have not ridden them far enough.

The rubber compound used does appear to be stickier than the normal Specialized/Maxxis/Intense/Shwalbe trail tyre compounds, but it is not up to the grippiness of a super tacky DH tyre.

The RQ is a reasonably heavy trail tyre, but the rolling resistance is acceptable for the amount of grip the tyre gives.

The tyre is so big that some bikes may have problems with clearance on the 2.4 RQ.

With RQ tyres costing almost twice the price of some of the other brands, you would want this to be a tyre that performs well. I think it is a great tyre for people who want to be able to ride to the top of the mountain, and then take the most interesting trail back down again. The tyre is not as fast rolling as an XC tyre, but it has oodles of grip for climbing and descending. The traction stays with you whether you are braking in straight lines or cornering, and the large tyre volume gives a very smooth ride.

A right pair of Queens

Tyres! Oh so many to choose from and every person you talk to has a different opinion on them! Every mountain bike forum I know of has a “What tyres for” thread running! After a bit of research and many recommendations from other people I decided to try out a pair of the Continental Rubber Queens in 2.4 folding.  With each tyre being almost twice the price of what I can pick up a Maxxis tyre for, they had better be good!!

Good tyre with a silly name?

A few months back I was getting sick of my Specialized Eskar 2.35 2Bliss tyres as they were constantly getting cuts in the sidewalls from riding on the Port Hills tracks. Running them tubeless with goo means I was usually able to get home on the tyre, but with all the flexing of the sidewall the plug of goo would often dislodge and so I would end up with slowly leaking tyres and would eventually run out of goo to seal them up!

Sidewall cut in an Eskar, plugged with goo

I then tried out some Intense 909 DC EX Lites back here

The tall knobs certainly grip on a wide variety of surfaces, especially when conditions are a bit soft or loose. However coming into Summer on the Port Hills tracks means the track surface is setting up a bit like concrete in many places, and I was finding the tall knobs rather squirmy when pushed hard through fast bermed corners on the hardpack. Also, the tyres were not new when i got them, and the sidewalls had stayed constantly wet since I had mounted them up. This is probably due to tyres being well used and the sidewalls being a bit worn out. Anyway this meant that the goo inside the tyre soon all dissappeared. To be honest I did not find these tyres to be anything special on the beech forest tracks that I often ride. The harder compound center knobs were very slippery on the wet roots. The softer compound side knobs stuck better when I had the bike leaned over in corners, but I need grip in straight lines as well!

For a couple of the carry up, ride down missions I had an Eskar on the back and a Super Tacky 2.5 Maxxis Minion DHF on the front. The difference in grip between these 2 tyres is incredible. The DHF stuck to absolutely everything including the wet slippery roots, where as the Eskar was skating all over the show. If the Super Tacky Minions rolled faster and did not weigh so much I would be tempted to use them everywhere… but they are super slow and super heavy to get up a hill!

From reports the Black Chilli compound of the Rubber Queens should be almost as sticky as the DHF super tacky, and yet should roll like the Eskar (Tui ad anyone??). I have yet to be convinced. I mounted the tyres onto my bike on the weekend, and have not yet taken them for a proper test ride as I was busy coaching a Mountain Bike Skills Clinic

I will reserve my judgement of how the tyres perform until I have had them out on some of my favorite (and most challenging) beech forest trails. There are a couple of trails out there that I was unable to ride using trail tyres like the Eskars due to not having enough traction, but was able to ride using tyres like the Maxxis DHF super tackies. From the little bit of riding I did in Victoria Park while coaching on Sunday I have to say that the tyres do feel good so far, although they seem to like picking up stones and throwing them up into my face.

I have set both tyres up tubeless using the DT 5.1 specific rim strips and using the tubeless goo recipe from this previous post.

I decided to experiment with whether I needed the rim strip to get my tyres to set up tubeless. There has been a bit of discussion of using just the yellow Stans rim tape to set tyres up tubeless. I have other friends who are running the Rubber Queens on the DT 5.1D rims that I have. My friends had been telling me that they were tight and hard to fit onto the tubeless rim strip, so I thought it would be a good chance to try setting the tyre up without the rim strip.

I cleaned up the rims and put a layer of duct tape across the spoke holes first, as I did not think that the PVC sealing tape would be strong enough to hold over the spoke holes on its own. I then completely covered the duct tape with PVC sealing tape (electrical tape).

With the tyres being new and foldable, I mounted and inflated the tyre on a spare rim for a couple of days to make sure that the beads would be sitting nice and straight for when I tried to set it up tubeless. The tyre fitted onto the rim sealed with sticky tape quite easily by hand, and with the normal amount of tyre goo and plenty of soapy water I tried to get them to inflate using a track pump… but no go. I probably could have got them to set up if I used an air compressor, but I decided I would rather put the tubeless conversion kit rim strips back in. I think the main reason for this is that I had heard it was easier to burp a tyre if there was no rim strip present, and I would rather stay away from tyre burpage!

With some double sided tape applied inside the rim (over the sealing tape) I put the tubeless rim strips back in and tried mounting the tyre again. A bit harder to fit, but I could still mostly get them on by hand. Again I filled them with the goo and applied the soapy water. This time the tyre was easily inflated using the track pump.

Cleaning the rims and rim strips and reapplying the double sided tape probably helped. It seems that after a while of running the rim strips with goo that the goo works its way in between the rim strip and the double sided tape, letting the rim strip slip out of the center. If you try and set the tyre up with the rim strip out of wack, then the tyre bead will not sit where it should in the rim and you end up with big wobbles in the tyre when spinning the wheel.

Rim strip well off-center

Initial impressions. The 2.4 RQ’s appear to be a very tall tyre on the rim. I have taken a couple of photos that compare the sidewall heights.

Rubber Queen and Eskar sidewall comparison

Rubber Queen Minion DHF Super Tacky comparison

However, looking at the width of the tyres, the 2.4 Rubber Queen is just slightly larger than the 2.3 Eskar, which is just slightly larger than a 2.5 Minion DHF.

Rubber Queen top, Minion DHF middle, Eskar bottom

As with many other Continental tyres (I used to run Explorers in 2.3 and Gravity’s in 2.3) the profile of the tyre is very rounded and there appears to be little to no large gaps between rows of knobs meaning there should not be any ‘transition” points when leaning the bike over to corner. I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing!

I will post up my thoughts once I have spent some time on these tyres in a variety of conditions… Which means I will have to go ride my bike plenty!! Happy trails people!

My bike with the new rubber, all ready to go ride!