‘Tis the season of rain, sunshine, rain, storms, rain, and mixed days right now, but soon it will be the season of cold and dark rides too. So, to help get you ready for the impending winter months, we’ve selected a range of kit that’s ideal for this colder season. Cheap turbo trainers and deals on indoor training kit How to ride into a headwind | 10 tips to battle blustery conditions Cheap winter cycling kit, our favourite deals: Altura Men’s Pocket Rocket 2 waterproof jacket: £44.99 Castelli NanoFlex+ arm warmers: £19.25 Buff Merino wool multifunctional headwear: £13.29 Shimano S3000X NPU+ overshoes: £9.99 Cateye Volt 400 XC front light and Rapid X2 rear light: £49.99 Ass Savers clip-on rear mudguard: £5 Muc-Off Ultimate cleaning kit: £46.99 Schwalbe CX Pro Cyclocross tyre: £13.96 Altura Men’s Pocket Rocket 2 waterproof jacket £74.99 £44.99 A packable rain jacket is a must. Altura Don’t get caught out with soggy kit in an unexpected downpour. A packable rain jacket should be top of your list, and right now you can save £30 on this Pocket Rocket 2 from Altura. The fact that it’s a bright yellow is just a bonus if you’re hoping to be more visible on the roads. Buy now from Cycle Surgery (£44.99) Castelli NanoFlex+ arm warmers £35 £19.25 Arm warmers are great for regulating your temperature in changeable weather. Castelli Arm warmers are one of the key items of clothing you need for transitional seasons and they’re perfect for popping on when it’s cold, then whipping off when you heat up. The NanoFlex arm warmers from Castelli feature a water-resistant fabric so they’ll help keep off a little light rain as well as keep you warm. Buy now from Merlin Cycles (£19.25) Buff Merino wool multifunctional headwear £22 £13.29 You can wear a buff in all manner of ways. Buff This is a neck gaiter, but is more commonly known as a buff — much like you’d call a pen a Biro or a vacuum a Hoover — and it just so happens that this one actually comes from Buff as well. There are plenty of ways to wear it, from minimal neck warmth to full ninja-style coverage. The best thing about it is it’s made from Merino wool, which will keep you cosy, dry and fresh. Actually, the best thing is it’s an absolute bargain right now. Buy now from Amazon (£13.29) Shimano S3000X NPU+ overshoes £44.99 £9.99 Don’t get to work with cold feet or soggy shoes and socks. Shimano No one wants to get cold feet or get to work with soggy shoes and socks. Grab a pair of waterproof overshoes and that’ll never be a problem for you. These ones from Shimano are made from thick neoprene that’s treated with a waterproof PU coating, which means warm and dry feet whatever the weather. Buy now from ProBikeKit (£9.99) Cateye Volt 400 XC front light and Rapid X2 rear light £88.94 £49.99 A decent set of lights will keep you visible on the roads. Cateye Shorter days mean darker commutes, so make sure you’ve got a decent set of lights to hand. You can buy these two separately, but together they make an excellent all-round set for most urban journeys – so you might as well take advantage of the savings. Buy the Cateye Volt 400 XC front light from Amazon (£20) Buy the Cateye Rapid X2 rear light from Amazon (£29.99) For more light deals head across to our bargain bike lights article Ass Savers clip-on rear mudguard £9.99 £5 Keep your behind happy and dry. Ass Saver The Ass Savers clip-on mudguard does exactly what it says on the tin, meaning your behind can stay relatively mud-free as you navigate sloppier surfaces. It’s quick and easy to clip onto your bike, and while it won’t give you the full coverage of a mudguard set, it doesn’t require the same amount of fiddling to set it up. Buy now from Wiggle (£5) Muc-Off Ultimate cleaning kit £74.99 £46.99 Your bike deserves the full spa treatment. Muc-Off The winter months can mean more grime and grit on the roads and mud on the trails, which can also mean more wear and tear to your drivetrain. So keeping your bike clean is essential for prolonging the working life of its components. Give it the full spa treatment with this discounted kit. Buy now from Tweeks Cycles (£46.99) Schwalbe CX Pro Cyclocross tyre £23.49 £13.96 ‘Cross is coming, get your bike ready! Schwalbe The best cyclocross bikes of 2019 | 7 top-rated CX bikes We couldn’t finish off this list without mentioning cyclocross, the cycling sport of autumn and winter! Grab yourself a pair of CX-ready tyres while they’re practically half price and get yourself out on the circuit for some muddy mayhem. Buy now from Chain Reaction Cycles (£13.96)
We are well into the swing of things for the new riding season here in Australia, and there is plenty for Aussie mountain bikers to get excited about! A date has been set for the opening weekend for the new St Helens trail development in Tasmania, which you might have already read about in our weekly Flow Mail newsletter (if not, drop us a line via the Contacts page, and we’ll be sure to get you setup). It’s all kicking off in St Helens on Friday the 22nd and Saturday the 23rd of November, so be sure to get your skates on and book yourself a summer riding holiday to experience one of the hottest new destinations in the country! And there’s more exciting news for Tassie this week, with the announcement that Derby has been awarded with the Enduro World Series’ ‘International Trail Of The Year’ for the raucous ‘Kumma Gutza’, as voted by the world’s fastest enduro racers and industry representatives. Of course, they’ve really only just realised what all us Aussies new all along Back on the mainland, and Wil had the chance to ride the Red Hill mountain bike trails for the first time, where he was escorted by the crew from Canyon Australia, who are located about half an hour up the road from Red Hill. There’s also been a wad of new 2020 bike releases recently, including Giant’s lightest ever mountain bike and the 2nd generation Specialized Kenevo, which as we discovered, is an absolutely hulking piece of kit. We also published what has quickly become the most-read news stories of the year, which identifies an emerging theme for production mountain bikes that are coming with a $10,000+ price tag. Wowsers! We’ve since had to add a few bikes to that story too, though we have a sneaking suspicion they won’t be the last… Enough of the news though – let’s get stuck into the latest edition of Flow’s Fresh Produce! 2020 Fox 32 Step-Cast Factory Series Fork The new 2020 Fox 32 Step-Cast fork isn’t actually lighter than the 2019 version, but it is meant to be a load stiffer. Fox’s lightweight XC race fork has received a facelift for 2020 to improve chassis stiffness. Based upon the 32 Float fork, the Step-Cast (SC) version is pared right back to the bare essentials to chisel away as many grams as possible. Named after the stepped magnesium lowers, which are externally relieved on the inside face of the dropouts to reduce weight, the 32 SC is a purebred race fork that features just 100mm of travel, and with Boost hub spacing. You do have the option of 27.5in and 29in sizes though, and there’s also the option of a 44mm or 51mm offset. What’s new for 2020? The crown assembly has been beefed up considerably. And unlike most new product releases, that means the 32 SC has actually gotten heavier. Though only by about 30g or so. According to Fox, this added material increases overall stiffness by 20%, which supposedly brings it inline with the regular 34 trail fork. This increase in stiffness is a good thing, as while we’ve found the previous 32 Step-Cast to be a very smooth and svelte performer, we’ve also found it to be on the twangy side when pushing hard. You can get the 32 SC fork in a cheaper all-black Performance Series version, as well as the Factory Series model we have here, which gets the gold Kashima coated stanchions for slippery sliding. Inside is the new generation EVOL air spring, and the latest FIT4 damper with external low-speed compression adjustment. Fox also runs the lighter Kabolt thru-axle at the lowers, instead of the usual QR15 lever. Because grams. Speaking of grams, our test fork with a steerer cut to 165mm weighs in at a confirmed 1406g. That’s almost 200g lighter than the 34 Step-Cast fork that came off there! From: Sola Sport Price: $1,489 Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS Computer The Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM is the brand’s first GPS to get a colour screen – a 2.7in ‘Gorilla Glass’ display at that too. Wahoo has bolstered its line of GPS computers with the addition of the very slick ELEMNT ROAM (sorry for shouting). The first GPS unit from Wahoo to get a colour screen, the Roam is designed to offer new navigational abilities that includes clever functions like ‘Route To Start’, which is useful if you find yourself a somewhat locationally-challenged and in need of a quickish return back to the start of your ride. There’s also a ‘Retrace Route’ breadcrumb function, where you can reverse the route you’ve just done to retrace your steps back to that singletrack turnoff you should have taken. Being a high-end GPS unit, the Roam comes with all the Bluetooth, WiFi and ANT+ wireless connectivity you’d expect, including the option to pair with your phone so you can receive notifications on the 2.7in Gorilla Glass screen in front of you, without need to take your phone out of your pack or jersey pocket. The Roam and the associated app will also happily pair with partner apps like Strava, Komoot and Today’s Plan, and Wahoo claims you’ll get over 17+ hours out of the internal rechargeable battery. From: FE Sports Price: $599.95 K-Edge Adjustable Stem Mount The K-Edge Adjustable Stem Mount is CNC machined from 6061-T6 aluminum, and comes with a lifetime guarantee. To fit the ELEMNT ROAM to a range of different test bikes, we’ve received a couple of slick machined alloy K-Edge mounting brackets. Shown here is the adjustable stem mount, which sits above your stem while attaching to the fork’s steerer tube. There’s a hinge in the middle for adjusting the tilt of the mount, and the plastic receiver chip can be swapped out to fit different brand computers – like those from Garmin, Cateye and Lezyne. From: FE Sports Price: $59.95 K-Edge Gravity Mount The Gravity Mount is the lightest and cleanest GPS mount from K-Edge. Ideal for shorter stems found on Enduro and Downhill bikes, the K-Edge Gravity Mount replaces your standard headset top cap, allowing you to mount your GPS head unit directly to the top of the steerer tube. It’s CNC machined in the US from 6061-T6 alloy, and features the same modular design that allows you to replace the blue plastic Wahoo GPS chip with one to suit a Garmin, Cateye, or Lezyne GPS head unit. From: FE Sports Price: $39.95 SRAM Level Ultimate Brakes Same name, all-new beach body. Earlier this year, SRAM rolled out the replacement for the Guide 4-piston trail brake, which is now called the G2. Not long after, SRAM also rolled out the new version of its 2-piston XC brake, the Level, though you could be mistaken for missing that announcement as it was a pretty quiet one for SRAM. Unlike the G2, the Level carries its name over, and actually carries over the same lever design as the previous version too. What has changed is the calliper. Instead of being made from a single piece of alloy, the new Level brake gets a two-piece body that is bolted together. This supposedly increases stiffness, while affording more power too. The calliper is more open around the top for better cooling, and it comes with a larger friction puck and a more ‘aggressive organic pad compound’ as stock. The model we’ve got here is the top-end Level Ultimate, which comes with a carbon lever blade, a sealed bearing lever pivot, and titanium mounting hardware. As such, the claimed weight is a feathery 318g per end. As to how they compare to the previous version? We’re taking a set of the old Level Ultimates off to bolt these new ones on, so we’ll have a direct comparison coming for you in the very near future. Stay tuned. From: PSI Cycling Price: $399.95 per end (excluding adapters & rotors) SRAM Centerline 160mm 6-Bolt Rotors Our new SRAM Level Ultimate brakes are clamping down on a set of 160mm stainless steel Centerline 6-bolt rotors. Of course disc brakes are a little useless without something to grab onto, so we’ve put a set of 160mm SRAM Centerline rotors in between the Level Ultimate brake pads. These are a little heavier compared to the claimed weight of SRAM’s 2-piece Centerline rotors, but they also cost $40 less for the pair. From: PSI Cycling Price: $79.95 per end Thule VeloSpace XT 3 Bike Rack Poorly hand-painted number plate not included. With a rapidly increasing number of riding adventures on the cards for summer, Wil’s just got his hands on a rear-mounting Thule bike rack that’s designed to take three mountain bikes weighing up to 60kg in total. Thule reckons the Velospace XT is one of the most versatile bike racks going, with the large and extra-long wheel trays designed to accommodate everything from a kid’s bike through to a fat bike. It’s modern geometry compatible too, with enough length to take a bike with a huuuge 1300mm wheelbase. Adjustable wheel straps allow you to cinch each end of the bike down nice and tight, while independent rubber clamps hold onto your bike’s frame to keep it wobble-free on the back of the car. And if you need to access the boot, the whole rack can be tilted down and away from the car. Found yourself a new riding buddy or popped out another kiddo since first getting the Velospace XT? Thule sells a separate adapter that turns this into a four-bike rack. From: Thule Price: $1,249 Shimano M7100 SLX Groupset Also new at Flow HQ this week is the arrival of Shimano’s latest SLX M7100 groupset. Somewhat flying under the radar when it was unveiled back in June, the SLX groupset was largely out-shadowed by the arrival of 12-speed Deore XT M8100. The thing is though, while both SLX and XT draw heavily upon the latest XTR 12-speed groupset, SLX comes in at about a third of the price. That makes it bonkers value for money, given it encompasses many of the same technologies. And from our early experience, the on-board ride quality is eerily similar to Shimano’s top-end groupset. Check out all the individual component prices, confirmed weights and details in our first look story here. From: Shimano Price: $999 (1×12 drivetrain & brakes) Mo’ Flow Please! Enjoyed that article? Then there’s plenty more to check out on Flow Mountain Bike, including all our latest news stories and product reviews. And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and sign up to our Facebook page and Instagram feed so you can keep up to date with all things Flow! The post Flow’s Fresh Produce | New Fox forks, Super Light Brakes & A Fancy GPS Computer appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
While mulling over the component spec for my Nicolai G-1 build, I was looking for lesser known but light weight and durable option. Wandering around at the Sea Otter Classic, Rotor’s Kapic cranks caught my eye as a great looking and well priced option. The Kapic cranks, named for the Cape Epic XC endurance race held annually in South Africa are claimed XC light and enduro strong. We’re getting used to XC-light carbon cranks with enduro credentials but their high cost and minimal performance gains make them largely expensive eye-candy. The 6082 aluminum alloy arms of the Kapic cranks on the other hand are all business without the eye-watering price tag associated with carbon. Words and Photos: Toni Walbridge The components of the Kapic crank set include crank arms completely separate from the 30 mm spindle, a direct mount chainring interface, and Rotor’s own BB. Kapic arms are available in 165, 170, and 175 mm lengths and the spindle is available in 3 sizes to suit standard, boost, and super-boost chain-lines. BB support is equally flexible with options to suit BSA 30, BB30, PF30, BB86, and BB 386 EVO. With each piece available separately, it’s possible to move these cranks between frames of different chain-line spacing and BB styles by purchasing only the specific parts that are different. Rotor’s chainring interface is equally as innovative as it’s modular crank arm and spindle solution. Rather than bolt the chainring to the drive-side crank arm, Rotor employs a spline interface to attach the chainring. The drive side crank arm, then sandwiches the chainring in place. The whole system is incredibly simple and allows chainrings to be swapped by simply pulling the drive side crank arm via it’s captive, self-extracting 10 mm bolt. It’s a brilliantly efficient design that remained absolutely creak free during our test. Another feature specific to Rotor’s oval Q-Rings is the option to make small adjustments to the clock position of the chainring to suit individual rider preference. Leveraging the spline interface which allows for micro-adjustments, Rotor marks each ring with 5 different position options. With a street price of about $320 for Kapic crank arms and spindle, you get more features than and save around $100 over a typical set of carbon cranks. Surprisingly, the weight penalty for that savings is minimal and hardly worth worrying about. At 560g for arms, spindle, spacers, a 32t oval chainring, and even a set of crank boots, you won’t be able to blame your cranks for not beating your friends to the top of the hill. From a performance standpoint, I have nothing to complain about. I’m not the heaviest and certainly not the most powerful peddler but I’ve been able to lay down enough torque to flex more than one set of cranks into the chainstays of test bikes. I can’t detect flex worth mentioning in the Kapic arms. I did have an issue with the arms coming loose which, unfortunately occurred while riding these cranks right at the limit of their intended use. This caused the crank / spindle interface to deform and the arms required replacement. Rotor indicated that my crank arm bolts should have been prepped red-loctite which was determined to be missing from review set. After receiving a replacement setup which was installed with the specified thread locker, I’ve had zero issues. In fact, just to make sure this truly addressed the issue, I installed the cranks with loctite, torqued to the specified value, and proceeded to run the cranks hard for hundreds of miles without checking or re-torquing them. At this point, I feel confident in saying the cranks are plenty robust and the issue I encountered was isolated. In terms of other wear, the BB now has entire summer of riding on it and is still spinning quietly and smoothly. The chainring is starting to show some wear but within the normal range considering I’ve been pedaling 10 to 12k+ vertical on a weekly basis this summer. This week alone, I put over 21k vertical feet of climbing and descending on them. Overall, I’m fairly pleased from a durability and wear perspective despite the hiccup and plan to continue to run the Kapics for a long time. In conclusion, Rotor’s Kapic cranks are a feature rich, cost effective, and unique option. Whether you’re looking for flexibility to move frame to frame, the ability to quickly swap chainrings or just stand out in a sea of SRAM, Race Face, and Shimano spec’d bikes, Rotor’s Kapic alloy cranks are worth a look. Specs Crank Arms Model: Kapic Sizes: 165, 170 (tested), 175 mm Spacing: Boost and standard Spindle: 30 mm Material: 6082 Aluminum Compatibility: BSA30, BB30, PF30, BB89/92 Colors: Black Other: Rubber crank arm bumpers Axle Sizes: L135 (standard), L141 (boost) (tested), L144 (superboost) Diameter: 30 mm Other: OCP chainring interface Chainring Sizes: 26 – 40t Compatibility: ROTOR DM, SRAM GXP, SRAM DUB, Race Face Cinch OCP: Optimal Chainring Position – 5 clock positions – Available only for Rotor cranks BB Available Sizes: BSA30, BB30, PF30, BB86
Looking for a cheap turbo trainer this winter? While some folks will happily battle the elements, cold and wet riding isn’t for everyone. That doesn’t mean you have to spend the next few months undoing this year’s hard work though, time to invest in an indoor trainer. Turbo trainers come with a variety of features and at a range of price points, from simple setups that provide resistance, to smart options that monitor your output and link up to apps and even online training programs. Best smart turbo trainers for indoor training We’ve put together a selection of indoor trainer deals to help you save money while you work out your legs. There are some significant bargains to be had, but be quick, these offers don’t usually last that long. Once you’re all set up, check out our selection of training videos to help you focus your workout for maximum gains. Cheap turbo trainers and accessories, the latest deals Minoura Mag 60R Turbo Trainer: up to 27% off £149.99 RRP Tacx Bushido Smart Trainer: up to 49% off £549 RRP Elite Arion Parabolic Rollers: up to 25% off £199.99 RRP CycleOps Fluid 2 Turbo Trainer: up to 36% off £249.99 RRP Tacx Trainer Tyre 1.25 folding bead: up to 37% off £34.99 RRP Muc-Off Bike Mat: up to 18% off £10.99 RRP CycleOps H2 Direct Drive Smart Trainer: up to 36% off £1,000 RRP Minoura Mag 60R Turbo Trainer – up to 27% off £149.99 RRP The Minoura Mag 60R comes with seven levels of resistance. Minoura A great turbo trainer for those who don’t need all the frills. The Mag 60R from Minoura generates 425 watts of magnetic resistance over seven levels, and has a 600g freewheel. Latest deals Tacx Bushido Smart Trainer – up to 49% off £549 RRP The Tacx Bushido smart trainer is currently half price on Wiggle: £275, down from the £549 RRP. Tacx A wireless trainer that powers itself with resistance courtesy of a virtual flywheel. Smart trainers like this from Tacx allow you to sync your training with various online programs such as Zwift and Training Peaks. Latest deals Elite Arion Parabolic Rollers – up to 25% off £199.99 RRP Once you’ve got the hang of them, rollers are a great indoor training option. Elite Elite Arion Mag Parabolic rollers review Once you’ve got the hang of rollers, they’re are an excellent training tool that helps develop pedalling technique and balance. This version from Elite is formed from three thermoplastic drums on an adjustable frame, so you can adjust it to suit different bikes. The slight parabolic shape helps the wheels stay centred. Latest deals CycleOps Fluid 2 Turbo Trainer – up to 36% off £249.99 RRP We loved the CycleOps Fluid 2 turbo trainer so much we gave it 5 stars. CycleOps Scoring a whopping 5/5 when we reviewed them, the CycleOps Fluid 2 is in a class of its own. It offers broad, steady support, smooth resistance and has large metal rollers that are less damaging on tyres. The flywheel may be a little noisy, but it also provides a welcome cooling breeze. Latest deals Tacx Trainer Tyre 1.25 folding bead – up to 37% off £34.99 RRP Don’t wear out your precious tyres indoors, use a trainer-specific one. Tacx Indoor trainers may be great for the body, but they can wear away those expensive road and mountain bike tyres quicker than is ideal. Tacx has produced tyres specifically for use with indoor trainers for exactly this purpose. If you have a spare wheel, pop this on it so you have a training wheel ready to use. Latest deals Muc-Off Bike Mat – up to 18% off £10.99 RRP Buy now from Wiggle Keep your floor sweat-free with a bike mat, like this one from Muc-Off. Muc-Off A good mat helps keep your turbo securely placed, and of course means less mess to clear up after a hard training session. This one from Muc-Off is waterproof and foldable, so you can also use it as a protective sheet for any indoor bike maintenance you need to do. Latest deals CycleOps H2 Direct Drive Smart Trainer – up to 36% off £1,000 RRP For the truly dedicated, a smart trainer is a no-brainer. CycleOps A trainer for the truly dedicated, with bags of features and a price tag to match. The CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer features direct drive with no physical transmission. It’s designed to provide an incredibly realistic road feel with a resistance up to 2,000 watts and simulate slopes up to 20 per cent. The lack of transmission makes it quiet, plus it’s ANT+ and Bluetooth device compatible. Latest deals
No matter how nice you are to your bike, at some point it will likely need some TLC. While you can take it to the bike shop, in the long run it will likely be cheaper (and more satisfying) to learn how to maintain your bike yourself. There are a few key tools you can invest in, or you can go the whole hog and get a complete tool kit. Below are some great deals on essentials like tyre levers and a puncture repair kit, as well as bargain Allen keys from Bondhus, a great-value Joe Blow track pump, an 18-piece X-Tools kit, great quality Birzman Travel kit and the premium Park Tool Event kit. So you should find all the tools you need to strip your bike down. Add in a Muc-Off cleaning kit and you’ve got everything you need to look after your pride and joy. Gorilla Force Ultra Strong Bike Tyre Levers — £5.99 These tyre levers from Gorilla Force are a bargain. Gorilla Force Tyre levers are an essential part of any rider’s tool kit and these appropriately-named levers from Gorilla Force are designed to be as strong as those made from metal, without damaging your rims in use. They won’t break the bank, either, and also come with a lifetime guarantee. Buy the Gorilla Force Ultra Strong Bike Tyre Levers from Amazon Weldtite Puncture Repair Kit — £2.74 Get two puncture repair kits from Weldtite for less than a fiver. Weldtite Here’s a roadside and workshop essential that will give you change from a fiver. In fact, you get two puncture repair kits here, so you can have one in your saddlebag and one in your tool kit. Each kit comes with six circular patches, sandpaper and glue. Bargain. Buy the Weldtite Puncture Repair Kit from Amazon Bondhus Ball End Allen key set — £21.99 £11.95 Get yourself a premium set of Allen keys… you won’t regret it. Bondhus You’re not going to get far without a set of Allen keys – hey are indispensable for the vast majority of maintenance tasks. Bondhus actually makes the tools for Park Tool, so rest assured that you’ll be getting a great quality set of hex wrenches here. For the importance of investing in a quality set of hex keys, you can read more here. Buy the Bondhus Allen key set with a 46% discount from Amazon Joe Blow Sport III Track Pump — £35.99 £26.00 The Joe Blow Sport is legendary and now in its third iteration. Joe Blow The Joe Blow Sport is a legendary track pump which strikes a balance between quality performance and a sensible price. We were big fans of the Sport II back in 2013. The Sport is now onto its third iteration, with a rotating connector, longer lever and 3″ gauge, and you can get 27% off this workshop essential at Wiggle. Buy the Topeak Joe Blow Sport III Track Pump with a 27% discount from from Wiggle X-Tools 18-piece tool kit — £49.99 £34.99 This X-Tools tool kit is a great budget option. X-Tools We appreciate that not everyone can afford premium tools, and if you’re just getting into tinkering then you may not want to invest too much. While it may not be as durable as more expensive options, this compact X-Tools tool kit has just about everything you need to work on a modern road or mountain bike and will serve you well for occasional maintenance tasks — ideal for the budding home mechanic. Buy the X-Tools 18-piece tool kit with a 30% discount from Chain Reaction Cycles Birzman Travel 20-piece tool box — £199.99 £134.99 This Birzman tool kit is a great shout if you want something a little fancier. Birzman We’ve found Birzman tools provide excellent value for money, so if you’re looking for a step up in quality, this travel tool kit should fit the bill. While it isn’t as comprehensive as some other kits out there, it provides everything you should need for everyday tasks. Buy the Birzman Travel 20-piece tool box with a 32% discount from Pro Bike Kit Park Tool Professional Travel and Event kit — £828.97 £543.12 This Park Tool tool-kit is about as nice as it gets. Park Tool If you’re looking for some of the best tools out there and are feeling a little flush, this kit from Park Tool will outfit a decent workshop, and is portable enough to take with you on race day, too. It’s expensive, but these tools will last you a lifetime and you can save a chunk on the RRP. Buy the Park Tool Professional Travel and Event kit with a 34% discount from Bike-Discount Muc-Off Ultimate Bicycle Cleaning Kit — £64.99 £45.09 Why not do some preventative maintenance with this kit from Muc-Off. Muc-Off Preventative maintenance is just as important to consider, so while we’re at it, let’s avoid any further mechanicals and give that bike a good scrub. While a bucket and sponge will work to a certain extent, a decent cleaning kit makes life a lot easier, and this all-in-one solution from Muc-Off is among the best out there. Buy the Muc-Off Ultimate cleaning kit with a 30% discount from Wiggle
In the penultimate part of our Adventure Addicts series, confirmed roadie Sam Dansie heads onto the gravel for the first time. The fact that it’s at the country’s toughest gravel event, the Dirty Reiver, complicates matters… Gravel riding explained: Adventure Addicts part 1 How to have a gravel adventure: Adventure Addicts part 2 It was hard to know what hurt more. The palms of my filthy hands, which had been pummelled pink and raw, my cramp-infested calf muscles, or my back, which ached at the bottom and was excruciating at the top. Eight and three quarter hours into the Dirty Reiver and I finally made it to the crest of what felt like the hundredth hill. I’d seen a lot of single digit speed while climbing during the day, but the stubborn 7km/h I had seen for the previous 15 minutes was a spirit-sapping assault all of its own. Over the crest and a chance to sit cockeyed on my saddle. Let’s just say 182km on gravel does unspeakable things to a bottom unused to this sort of thing. Now I had a view of the descent. The dark stones seemed almost set, like a five-star section of Paris-Roubaix, and the road coiled around the next hill. Let’s just say 182km of gravel does unspeakable things to a bottom... I didn’t think things could get worse, but then I hadn’t come across a descent like this yet. It was too bumpy to sit and too fast to stand and halfway down, my saddlebag sheared off and bounced into the verge. I juddered to a halt 30m or so further on. I thought about leaving the bag where it fell. With slightly more than 10km to ride, 60 more metres felt like too high a price to pay for a multi-tool, a spare inner and a repair kit. But there was a gel in it and I did want that. I needed that. I dropped the bike, trudged back up the hill and sat beside the track and had my gel. God, I was fed up. Wild, wild world Man v nature: riders take on 200km of Kielder Forest. Mick Kirkman Kielder. Big forest. Lots of hills. Miles and miles of gravel roads. No wonder the Dirty Reiver is ground zero for gravel grinding in the UK. This sizeable pocket of the country is a remote forested wilderness with a big reservoir at its green heart. The event’s HQ is Kielder Castle at the northern end of Kielder Water. The castle’s not a castle, but a former hunting lodge built in the 1770s for the Dukes of Northumberland. It harks back to a time when the area was just heather, bracken and wind. In the 1920s, the Forestry Commission began planting the forest and in the 1970s the dam was built to provide water for the north-east industries. It’s an entirely man-made landscape. With 3,700m of climbing it’s on par with the Fred Whitton Challenge Prior to all this, it had been a lawless borderland infested with eponymous Reivers – the raiding parties who used the porous England-Scotland border to rustle livestock. Today, among Kielder’s numerous claims to fame are that the Water is the biggest by volume man-made reservoir in northern Europe; the forest is home to 50 per cent of the UK’s red squirrels; and that the night sky above it is so pristine and free of light pollution that the region has been designated a Dark Sky Park. It’s the biggest sky park of its kind in Europe. The Dirty Reiver takes a fraction of the open access trails used by the logging works and turns them into a well marked 200km course, though this year’s came in shorter because of a last-minute re-routing to avoid some bike-breaking trails. The route still held around 3,700m of climbing though, putting it on par with the Fred Whitton Challenge. But it’s exclusively on gravel. So it’s very hard and very long, and why, with less than 15km to go, I got out my phone to navigate a shortcut back to the castle. How to ride gravel: Adventure Addicts part 3 Best gravel riding routes in the UK | 6 rides recommended by Cycling Plus This wild landscape was in fact developed in the 1920s. Mick Kirkman A matter of survival Anyway, all that came later. At 7am, an hour before the start, the car thermometer registered -4°C. Hardy souls who camped in the teepee village put on to increase accommodation in this wilderness surely made early use of the top item on the Dirty Reiver’s essential kit list: a survival blanket. Other requisites included an emergency whistle and a first aid kit. The list also specified a good front light. Given that dusk fell at 8:10pm, just how long was this thing going to take? “Make sure that you carry essential spares and have the ability to undertake rudimentary repairs; parts of the route are remote,” stated the Dirty Reiver’s website. But at least the day was dry. A man queuing for coffee told me they had snow a couple of years earlier. A frosty start does not curb the riders’ enthusiasm. Mick Kirkman At the start, I was taken by the high number of gravel bikes. Bryan Singleton, the director of Focal Events, which puts on the Reiver, reports that when it was first run in 2016, cyclocross bikes were the preferred choice among the 600 debutantes. Four years on, the vast majority of the 1,000-plus field were on dedicated adventure machines. The Reiver also has a sizeable gravel bike expo to peruse before or after the previous evening’s pasta party. The exhibition is a testament, says Singleton, to the Reiver’s pioneering role in bringing gravel to the UK. Paul Errington, Focal Events’s co-founder who has now left the firm, had ridden Kansas’s hugely popular Dirty Kanza gravel race a few times and twigged that Kielder was the perfect place for a UK equivalent. Incidentally, my bike was a Scott Adventure Gravel 20 with a Shimano 105 groupset, so I felt I was swimming with the shoal. Road riding is all I’d ever done and my expectations were that the bike, with its slacker geometry and voluminous, lightly treaded Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres would feel sluggish and boat like. Wrong. It was a good deal lighter than I anticipated and on a road, it felt like a road bike. It was nippy and nimble, but also very smooth. I’d never ridden on gravel before, so judgement would be saved for later. Fast riders do the Reiver in about seven and half hours. Mick Kirkman The Dirty Reiver is not a race, but it is timed. Fast people do it in around seven and a half hours, and slow people do it in around 11. This year’s route was substantially different to the last few years. On a map, previous routes have been flatter along an east-west axis, this one was longer on the north-south axis. In fact, it went so far south it technically entered another forest – Wark Forest. Talking afterwards, Singleton insisted the gravel in Wark was “very, very fast”. I sensed Brian was a gravel connoisseur, someone who can discern notes of vermiculite among the fine gravel and knows about road metal – the hard-packed graded surface beneath the gravel. It was all just rocks to me. About the most sensible thing I did all day was take it easy at the start. Although it was cold and the legs were willing, I resisted the temptation to tag onto the back of some rocket in the first two hours. This gave me time to be at one with the bike and come to terms with the fact I would either be cycling very slowly uphill and freewheeling at terrifying speed down the other side for the rest of the day. This slow start also gave time for faster riders to lay down a fine white line in the road metal, which was free of loose aggregate and to which I adhered for the rest of the day. Kielder Forest is open to the public and anyone could ride a Dirty Reiver-like route any time they wished. Mick Kirkman Kielder Forest is open to the public and technically anyone could ride a Dirty Reiver-like route any time they wished. But the benefit of doing it on Reiver day is that the route avoids those parts of the forest where tree harvesters and hauliers are working. I saw one moving vehicle on the roads all day. My sedate pace allowed me to look around. Being a forest there are a lot of trees and lots of one species in particular: Picea sitchensis – sitka spruce. It’s the lumberjack’s preferred conifer. It is fast-growing and extremely tall when it thrives in wet, upland areas, which is what Kielder is. A sitka plantation is eerie. Light can’t penetrate, so at eye level it’s dark and still and very quiet. But a light wind – or even a stiff one, like the frigid easterly on Reiver day – moans through the trees’ upper reaches. Sitka follows sitka in this vast 650km square forest A plantation seems dead and alive at the same time. The other thing about a sitka plantation is that when you’ve seen one, you really have seem them all: perfectly spaced trunks, dark green fronds, the rusty red bed of needles are invariable. And then you come across an area that’s been harvested. What a scar. Sheared off trunks, the caterpillar tracks of the machinery that have bitten hard into the ground and the bleached dead remains of the branches and stumps that are slowly being encroached on by weeds. They say people would eat less meat if they understood intensive livestock production. I was left thinking people might go easier on loo paper if they knew what logging entailed too. Still, the endless fields of saplings –three and a half million new trees are planted each year – showed that while it had its ugly moments, at least it is sustainable. The best views come early and end at Kielder Head. Mick Kirkman The best landscapes came early. The views just before dropping down to the first feed station looked east over the majesty of Northumberland National Park. The roof of the route at Kielderhead, at 465m, afforded sumptuous views north west towards the wild Southern Uplands in Scotland. A curious sensation of the route is that it rolls on over hill and dale. Singleton said the organisation had been at pains to avoid doing tight little loops. “One thing we try to do with the Reiver is get it to feel like a constant flowing journey. We want people to go out there and feel like they’ve had an adventure; like every turn is a different vista and you don’t feel like you’re repeating the same old thing again.” They have made the most of their luxury of a large canvas. In the spirit of adventure, Reiver riders must be self-sufficient. The concession though were three generous feed stations. Participants were advised to make up a food parcel that would be transported to the second feed station just after 110km. I did, and voila, there it was: some squashed fruit cake and an energy drink. The organisation in general was super. A rolling route covering hill, dale and forest. Mick Kirkman If I made a good decision to start too slowly, it led to a questionable one 2km after the second feed station. Here, the 130km and 200km routes diverged. I should have opted for the former, but I was well sugared up and some light peer pressure from a friendly marshal – “Ha’way man, do the 200, there’s a good lad” – forced me to go right. Fifteen minutes later, grovelling up some interminable climb while I digested an ill-advised number of free jelly babies, the agonies began. The cold tickle that precedes cramp ran up and down my legs. My back ached and my heart rate had all the revs of a clapped out tractor. Each climb was a new torment. I cursed every chip that deflected the bike off the white line. The transformation into a stayer I had banked on never happened. Deep into the ride, when I looked forward or back in spots with a long view there was no one else. Keilder’s vastness had swallowed me up and the survival blanket was scant comfort. Nothing – not honour or a lost sense of achievement – was going to keep me going any longer than absolutely necessary I enjoyed a brief second wind in the 40 minutes prior to the final feed station, where indeed the gravel did feel fast. I told myself not to ruin my revival by eating too much, but there were delicious buttery new potatoes and sugary tea on offer and so, of course, I ruined it. So began the worst three and a half hours to the finish. I was too hot, then too cold. But mostly I was just creeping forward in pain. An addition this year was the Lauf timed stage, which came after 180km of riding. The fastest man and woman through the section would be rewarded with a pair of the sponsoring company’s suspension forks plus tickets and entry to more misery at The Rift, a big gravel ride in Iceland. The section was up a big hill on terrible gravel and down the other side. On the climb I had ample time to make up weak puns as I crawled upwards: ‘You must be having a Lauf,’ I thought; ‘If you don’t Lauf you’ll cry.’ I wish I remembered that one when my saddlebag sheared off. As I sucked up my gel I got out my phone to find a shortcut home through the spruces. Nothing – not honour or a lost sense of achievement – was going to keep me going any longer than absolutely necessary. But then this was Kielder, home to England’s remotest point, and of course I had no signal. Sam “swimming with the shoal” on his Scott Adventure Gravel 20. Mick Kirkman Though the final few kilometres were on Kielder’s smooth cinder bike paths around the reservoir, I stopped three or four times to give my wracked body a break. Eventually I made it over the finish line seriously wondering if I now had PTSD. Michael, the photographer tasked with capturing mine and the Scott’s triumphal arrival nine hours and 33 minutes after I had first left the place, was nowhere to be seen – he’d gone for a pee. The ignominy. He found me pushing into the queue for a beer and wrap and asked if I would mind re-staging the shot. I did mind, but assented on the bike’s behalf. Bar the saddlebag incident, it had been a flawless and sympathetic companion. If anything, I had let it down. The refreshments were a salve of sorts, as was the next morning’s massive, delicious, fit-for-a-Reiver breakfast at the guest house where I fell asleep in dusty, sweaty kit. But it would be a full four weeks before the thought hit me. Actually, I’d like to do that again. The Dirty Reiver is held annually in April, and next year’s is due to take place from 17 to 18 April. Check its website, The Dirty Reiver.
The Race Face Creator Series videos continue today with Scott Secco following Bill McLane, a trail builder. Scott Secco’s Billder Synopsis: Bill McLane is a trail builder. What started as a hobby between forest firefighting seasons became a career which has helped shape the mountain bike scene on Vancouver Island. Billder takes a closer look at the craft and dedication behind the trails we sometimes take for granted. It shows that when people pursue their passion, we’re all better for it. Why We Chose This Film: A legion of dedicated and passionate trail builders are out silently building the mountain bike trails that we just take for granted. Passionate and selfless, they dedicate their entire existence around creating something that an entire community can enjoy and benefit from. Bill McLane is one such trail builder – his effect on the community of Nanaimo, BC is immeasurable and we wanted to see Scott tell Billder’s story. Be sure to check out the other Creator Series videos