Tuesday, 10 September 2013



I'm really exited at the moment as along with my girlfriend Debs we have been accepted as  Alpkit Shaker Makers at Alpkit's Bigshakeout Festival 2013 which is a celebration of getting out into and enjoying the Great Outdoors.

Alpkit are a fantastic online outdoors retailer based in the UK selling some of the best value for money outdoor gear money can buy.  I own quite a few bits and pieces myself like their Hunka bivvy bag,My-TiPot,MytiMug and Numo sleeping mat and in winter I practically live in their Filet Down gilet which they have stopped making for the time being. One of the most versatile products is their Airlock XTra dry bags which are brilliant for strapping to your bike for bikepacking trips, something that I love doing and it's fair to say that Alpkit were instrumental in me getting the bug for bikepacking in the first place through the Daring deeds Spotlight sections of their website. Alpkit are making a big move into bikepacking at the moment with their bikepacking range of goods, especially the brilliant & affordable bikepacking luggage which is set to smash the UK market.

Daring Deeds highlight's the exploits & adventures of people using Alpkit products, from Mountain climbing expeditions, kayaking & bikepacking to adventure racing and a whole lot of other outdoor activities & adventures. The Spotlight section shows you how you can best utilise the Alpkit products for the various activities that they have been designed for which helps you to get the most out of their equipment.

As a Shaker Maker we will be "hopefully" helping the Alpkit staff to make the event  run smoothly and for that you get a free weekend pass & a place on one of the half day School of Adventure courses that are running throughout the weekend.

Here's a list of just some of the courses over the weekend

Navigation skills
Girls only navigation skills
MTB Core skills
Girls only MTB core skills
Lead climbing
Canoeing & Kayaking

There will be talks & Q&A sessions with adventurer Alastair Humphreys which is going to be really interesting and which I'm particularly looking forward to.

There's going to be live music on the Saturday night which will help give the weekend that festival feel along with all sorts of other activities all weekend from cooking to photography and plenty more that are too many to mention.

So if this is your kind of thing and you think you would like to come along too, follow the links and get booking your tickets but be quick because they are selling like the proverbial "hotcakes" .

Hope to see you there...

Monday, 2 September 2013

Another Lurcher Update

The Lurcher has had some of the planned upgrades in the shape of the Blackspire Super Pro chain rings and the uber light hollow pin & slotted plate black & red KMC x10sl DLC (Diamond Like Coating) chain that comes in a nice box, and so it should for a £60 chain.  I replaced the FHM mixer headset which was showing signs of rust in the cups already, with a beautiful Chris King Inset 1.8-1.5 headset which I don't think I need to worry about rust after 3 months.

nice jewelry box for the chain

kmc black&red x10sl dlc
The KMC chain retails for about £89.99 rrp and by sourcing from Taiwan I managed to get it for £56 posted which is a bit of a bargain if you ask me. Now I'm sure there are plenty of people thinking I must be mad to pay that much for a chain let alone think it's a bargain but I did a lot of researching before I bought it. I don't think you could use anymore acronyms to describe a chain but KMC have certainly packed a lot of technology into it. The pins are riveted  with "Lat step" processing, which supposedly uses 350kg of force to seal the plates together making what is claimed to be the strongest chain connection on the market. Both the inner & outer plates are slotted to reduce weight with the outer plate using X-Bridge technology and due to X-SP friction reducing coating and the precise manufacturing tolerances gives it a longer life.

What makes the X10SL DLC differ from the rest of the X10SL chains is the Diamond Like Coating which is a process KMC uses to get a coating of carbon on to the chains to make them harder/smoother making the chains more resistant to wear which causes chain stretch and causes the wear to the rest of your drive train. So what seems like an expensive initial outlay could save you money in the long run and at least prolong the inevitable of replacing chain rings & cassettes.

Blackspire Super Pro
I have used Blackspire Super Pro chain rings before and know how good they are, and that they shift every bit as good as Shimano, they even improved the shifting of the Truvativ chain rings on my girlfriend's Deb's Inbred, but what they do best is give your bike a nice bit of colour and bling. But with my groupset being the new Dynasys with a directional chain which I have to say is definitely the smoothest shifting I've ever used I wondered is it worth sacrificing that smooth shifting for the sake of trying to make the bike as nice looking as I could.

I took the gamble in the name of bling and I'm glad to say I didn't need to worry, everything is just a smooth and crisp shifting, but possibly a little bit noisier but that's negligible . I have stuck with the 38t middle and 26t inner size's that the XT crankset came with. I had already experimented with a DIY 2x10 setup on my old Inbred and found that it made more sense for me and my XC riding , but these new dedicated 2x10 systems have taken it to a whole new level with the big range cassettes.  The new drivetrain with the red aluminium kcnc jockey wheels,red Blackspire chain rings and the black & red KMC chain in is looking pretty cool, even if I do say so myself.

Chris King Inset 1.8-1.5 mixer

As you can see in the pic above I leave a lot of steerer above the stem for which I get quite a lot of stupid remarks when I've posted pics on forums before especially Singletrackworld about taking my eye out with it and about being careful with my manhood. Ascetically a tall steerer doesn't bother me as it seems to a lot of other people but the main reasons I like to leave it tall is that if ever I want to swap the forks out on another frame I shouldn't have any problems and if I ever want to sell it it makes it a lot easier with a longer steerer. I've never understood why you would want to take what is an expensive item and chop it down to make it probably useless to use with any other frame ?

A Lurcher in it's natural enviorement 
There have been a couple of more changes to the original build but they have been because I haven't been happy with them, the first is the ESI Chunky grips which I just couldn't get on with, they were an absolute pig to get on the bars but in use they were a big let down. I had read that they were comfy & shock absorbing, well for me they weren't, they gave me wrist ache and I just couldn't get used to them so they have been replaced with a pair of Oury Lock On's in white. I had these on my old Inbred a few years ago when they only came in black and they are much comfier, soft & sticky and were my first choice but after reading all the hype about the ESI's I chose them, a lesson learnt, stick with what you know works for you where comfort is the issue!

The second of the changes as been the most disappointing and is the Look S-Track pedals. I'm a big fan of the Look Quartz pedals, I had them on my stolen Inbred and have them on my Pompino and really like the amount of float you get with them and how easy they are to engage/disengage when setup right,but I know a lot of people have struggled with this as you have to use wedges to get the cleat height right but I have always had no problems and the bearings last forever so for me they have been great.

The S-Track is the new model so I was expecting good things especially as the tension of the retention bars is adjustable  but I just haven't been able to get them set up right. It seems I have had the problems with these that I had read about other people having with the Quartz. I would struggle with getting clipped in and out which as been a nightmare at times because Deb and I have been riding a lot of very rocky trails and I have had a couple close calls clipping out just in time. I'm sure they are good pedals if you can get them set up right but I have had to go back to the Quartz and have been much happier with the positive feel I get with them so I shall be sticking with the Quartz.

I'm just starting to really gel with the Lurcher and it's 29" wheels, it definitely gives you more confidence and makes up for any lack of skill a lot better than a 26" wheel bike does and I certainly feel faster than I did on my 26" . I find it better for riding up hill too as you just roll over stuff that would stall you on a 26" and downhill those big wheels give you more grip. It felt weird at first almost as if you are sitting on horse but I'm really starting to feel like I'm part of the bike now and getting a good feel for how far it can be pushed, which is a lot further than my skills can take it I'm sure.

I've been asked if I'm a 29er convert ? I think I have to say I am and long may it continue,  bigger wheeled bikes are definitely the future for me.