Britcpower's Blog

The Ramblings of One Mad Dog and His Master

Clement X’Plor MSO 120 TPI First Ride Impressions

Posted by britcpower on January 31, 2014

I did a maiden voyage on the Clement X’Plor MSO’s today on a route taking in smooth roads, broken pavement, dirt and gravel.

Rough Road…What Rough Road ?

Running them at 55 PSI front/back they were super smooth and quiet on all surfaces and they felt like they rolled pretty quick.  They couldn’t mute out every single pothole but on the whole I was very impressed by the ride.

They felt like they  had very impressive grip off road but with the rain we had overnight creating superb trail conditions I will need more time to draw firm conclusions.

I tried some pretty rough stuff and they hooked up well and inspired great confidence.  I am happy these will be the right tires for the tainthammer.

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Clement X’Plor MSO 120 TPI Adventure Tire aka “Fat Tires For The Tainthammer”

Posted by britcpower on January 25, 2014

Not only is this years Tainthammer longer than last year but it also has a lot more dirt and rough roads.  I am currently running Continental Speed CX’s on the Vijae but after reading reports of just how rough things were going to get I decided I needed some new tires. After much searching I finally decided upon  a pair of 40c Clement X’Plor MSO 120 TPI Adventure Tires. All the reviews I have read for these tires say they roll really well and that they have a real smooth ride when the going gets rough.

Clement X’Plor MSO 120 TPI Adventure Tires

I was expecting these tires to be pretty heavy and somewhere around 485g each but was pleasantly surprised to see them weigh in at only 360g or do they………

First Tire I weighed was a very impressive 360 grams

When I weighed the second tire I was pretty surprised to see it was 30g heavier (checked and double checked). That does not bode well for manufacturing tolerances.

I decided to put the heavier tire on the back as i assumed it had beefier rubber.

Fitting these tires was an absolute doddle on the Volagi E7 rims. I would have concerns that they may be a little loose for a tubeless setup but that is something for the future.  I don’t want to start messing round with tubeless before the Tainthammer  as I don’t have many spare days to try these tires out before the event.

According to the label on the sidewall, the minimum pressure for these tires is supposed to be 55psi.  I am going to have to experiment with pressures but that sounds a little high to me for a tire with such a large volume.

Fit Nicely on the Stock Volagi rims

The tread pattern looks like it will work well off road and these tires as supposed to be pretty fast on road too.

Quite an aggressive tread pattern

Mud clearance on the Vijae:

(Pictures Taken before riding with 55PSI)

Fork

Fork Clearance

Seat Stay

Seat Stay Clearance

Chain Stay

Chain Stay Clearance

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Bethany Aqueduct on The Volagi

Posted by britcpower on December 14, 2013

Fall into this and I doubt you would be found for months

If ever there was a bike built for the California Aqueduct bike trail (Great overhead Picture of the Tracy section) it is a Volagi Vijae. The surface requires a bike with exceptional road damping and the Vijae fits the bill nicely.

Volagi Vijae near Tracy

The trail ranges from uncomfortable chipseal to some pretty gnarly railroad crossings like the one below.

Nasty Railroad crossing

It is a very desolate trail but with many signs of urban mischief such as broken bottles, Graffiti, shotgun shells, motorcycle tracks etc.  I cant say I ever feel totally safe on the trail on my own but if you ride it early in the morning on a weekend you are lucky if you see another person. The further you get from Tracy the more desolate things become and the better your chance of seeing Coyotes and other critters.

A bit remote to have a mechanical mishap

The downside of riding such a lightly traveled trail is that you are stuck if you have a mishap. The chances of someone passing to lend a hand seems pretty remote.  I got a flat today (flint) and realized I had only one tube with me and that if I got another I was going to have a pretty long hike to civilization.  I normally have a couple of tubes and a repair kit when I go exploring but today I forgot.

Motorcycle deterrents are a real annoyance.

The worst part of the trail is that they put lots of motorcycle deterrent crossings that are really awkward to go through and I always seem to end up bashing a shin or an ankle. I also end up wishing for a lighter bike :)

One of the Nicer Railroad crossings

I plan to ride the whole trail one day.  I estimate this to be around a 140 mile round trip.  I will have to choose a day with light winds as this trail can be absolutely brutal on a windy day.

“Part of the California Aqueduct
Bikeway begins at San Luis Creek and goes
70 miles north to the Bethany Reservoir
State Recreation Area. Rest stops are ten
miles apart, and bicyclists can camp overnight
in the Bethany Reservoir picnic area.
There is no piped water, but chemical toilets
are available. “

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Continental Top Contact Winter II 700c Tire

Posted by britcpower on December 7, 2013

I was looking for some CX tires for the winter commute with reflective sidewalls and puncture protection. I like to run such tires over the winter for safety and reliability. This winter I  decided to give the Continental Top Contact Winter II a try.  Here is the advertising blurb:

Commute year-round with the Top Contact Winter II. Continental has updated their hearty design incorporating all-weather tread technology perfected in their automotive tires.

Even at a glance, it’s easy to spot the differences between the Winter II and the standard Top Contact tire. Though they share the same water channeling grooves, the Winter II tread uses hundreds of biting edges, which help it conform to practically any surface. The result is a tire that handles reliably in wet, or even slightly icy road conditions, without slowing you down on dry pavement.

The tread compound has also been optimized to improve grip and handling in cold conditions, while the Poly X Breaker protection barrier prevents punctures without impeding rolling resistance or adding too much weight. DuraSkin sidewalls provide additional cut protection. Supple three ply, 180 TPI casing is reserved for Conti’s highest quality tires for an excellent ride quality and extended durability.

The Top Contact Winter II is available in Black with a reflective side wall stripe. 700c x 37mm (37-622 ISO) and 700c x 42mm (42-622 ISO). Maximum pressure: 85 PSI. Recommended pressure: 58 PSI. Wire bead. Handmade in Germany. Claimed weight 580/680g.- Biketires direct.”

TOP CONTACT WINTER on my Masi

From the description they sounded pretty promising. I wanted to go with the 42mm but they were out of stock so I went for the skinny 37mm.  You are probably wondering why I am calling a 37mm tire skinny but compared to some 33-35 CX tires I have, these things look positively anorexic. On my regular rims they measure in closer to 30mm than 37mm. I reckon these would fit on many bikes that have clearance for 28mm.

37mm??? Looks closer to 30mm

Compare this to the Continental Speed 35 on the same rims

CX Speed 35′s measuring in at a true 35mm

The Contacts also are not particularly generous  in the volume department so the ride isn’t as forgiving as true cyclocross rubber when the going gets super rough.

True CX rubber with a generous 35mm wall height for generous volume

Compare the above to the Contacts below

Not much Volume for a 37mm

Out of the box the Contacts feel well constructed and heavy.  They are almost twice the weight of the Continental Speed CX tires they replaced, weighing in close to 600g (580 advertised).

Initial Ride Impressions:

When I first rode these tires I thought my brakes were rubbing as the bike seemed to have lost a lot of it’s zip.  After a week of commuting on them and fiddling around with the tire pressures I noticed a consistent 1-2MPH drop off in my average commute speed to work. Pumping them up to max didn’t seem to help and just made them feel overly harsh (manufacturers recommended 58PSI seems to be about right). I know if I leave my house at exactly 7:18 I will get to the train station with 2 minutes to spare but I had a few close calls after fitting the “Contacts”.   I went as far as doing a major overhaul on the Masi drive train just to make sure something else wasn’t wrong but I am sure that it is the “Contacts” that are to blame for my speed drop off.

I suspect there could be three reasons for the speed drop off.

  1.  The “Contacts” might have a smaller rolling circumference than my previous Continental speed CXs and as such will give me a lower speed for the same pedaling cadence. My seat of the pants indicator tells me this is not the reason as I have felt that the 42 x 18 (I have been riding this gear for 12 months) to be a little tall on the ride into work since the change.
  2. The “Contacts” have a special siped tread to provide amazing grip in bad weather and this tread does seem to be very sticky. You can feel how grippy they are compared to a regular tire just by rubbing your finger along the tread.  They pick up small dust and gravel like a vacuum cleaner. I can’t imagine that they have a very good rolling resistance.
  3. The “Contacts” are really heavy tires and this must contribute to their sluggish behavior.

Running a 58-60PSI gives a nice smooth ride and there is almost no noise from the aggressive tread pattern.

In the Wet:

They feel very sure footed on wet roads and they don’t seem to throw up much spray.

In the Dirt:

I frequently ride gravel paths and dirt roads and the the grip was well above expectations and I would go as far as to say that in the dry they would put many CX tires to shame. The tread does fill quite quickly in wet mud but the grip remains and they shed the mud very quickly once things dry out. Once things start getting super rough the lack of volume hurts these tires and forces you to back off.  They roll pretty quickly on hard packed dirt and grip is exceptional.

Well siped for grip but rolling resistance not good

The beefy construction means that they pretty much plough through any of the road debris that it is hard to miss on a dark wet commute.  The above picture is of the back tire after 300 miles and it looks like they are wearing well but I have concerns that the compound may be more biased in terms of grip rather than longevity.

Pro’s

  • Leech like grip on all the surfaces I have tried them on
  • Very Tough
  • Great reflective Strip
  • Run silently

Con’s:

  • Heavy
  • Narrower than they should be
  • Poor rolling resistance.

Reflective Side Walls Very Effective

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Breathing Life Into an Old Garmin

Posted by britcpower on December 7, 2013

The SRAM “QuickView” Garmin mount is such a fantastic idea. The old Garmin 305/705′s  had a nasty mount that was fragile and always seemed to end up breaking off the release tabs when it wasn’t convenient. A broken Tab meant that you had to fiddle around with a screwdriver to get your Garmin off your bike which was no fun. This meant that I had a Garmin 305 and a 705 that pretty much sat round gathering dust since I got the 500 with it’s fancy 1/4 turn mount.

SRAM QuickView with a trusty old 305

SRAM came up with a fantastic cheap adaptor that allows you to use your 305/705 on the newer 1/4 turn mounts. Once mounted to your 305/705 there is no need to ever worry about the fragile tabs again.

QuickView Computer Mount Adaptor

The mount is very easy to use and only adds around 5mm of stack height to the installation.  It seems that the 305/705 is actually held more securely than the original mount and it installs and removes as good as any 500. This has to get my vote for best product in 2013.

Garmin 305 on my Masi commute bike

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Pictures of the Volagi with the Gravel Setup

Posted by britcpower on November 24, 2013

Volagi Vijae with Continental Speed CX tires.

Brushy Peak

I have logged quite a few rides on roads and trails with this setup. The Continental Speed tires are a really good all round tire.  I did a fast paced group ride over Mount Hamilton with this setup and didn’t really feel  as if they were holding me back.  The disk brake setup on the descent of Hamilton was as good as I hoped it would be and the fat tires and compliant frame made even the miserably bumpy San Antonio valley road tolerable.   I am still not sure if I would use them on a full double century as they  have to be slower than road tires but I am considering it.

Continental have some new tires that I  am hoping will be on sale before the Devil Mountain Double. A dream tire ? 700x28c.

http://www.conti-online.com/www/bicycle_de_en/10_racetyres/GrandPrix4000SII.html

Nice Graded Trail

3

A great Adventure Bike

4

Single Track

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My new Volagi Vijae Gravel bike.

Posted by britcpower on September 22, 2013

My new Volagi Vijae Gravel bike.

Shakedown ride with road tires on. It weighs 21.7 lbs with pedals, bottle cage and Cyclo Cross rubber. (Picture soon)

Nice day for a ride on Calaveras road.

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Clement LAS second impressions

Posted by britcpower on September 7, 2013

I have about 200 miles on the tires now and that has been roughly 25% Dirt 75% Tarmac. They roll really well on Tarmac and give a magic carpet ride but I don’t think they are quite as fast as the Continental Speed CX’s.   I have done a few fast group rides and had no trouble keeping up with this monster rubber.  The only time they really feel a bit draggy is on out of the saddle efforts.  On hard packed dirt these tires really fly and they grip well too. The generous sized casing helps soak up bumps and I found 60 psi to work really well on both dirt and road (very handy for mixed terrain rides).

All is not perfect in the Clement camp however and today highlighted a few chinks in their armor.  I rode today a some trails with lose dust and gravel and had a few scary front end washouts. By the end of the ride my confidence in the their grip in such conditions was seriously blunted. I think the Continental Speed CX’s work much better.  My other big concern is that after 200 miles the tread on the back tire is showing serious signs of wear.  I dont think these are an every day adventure tire like the Speeds (still good after 1000 miles).

100f and very dusty trails

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Time to test new rubber

Posted by britcpower on August 21, 2013

Bike Tires Direct were having a sale on Clement CX tires and they were dirt cheap so I decided to give them a try. I raced on Clement tubular tires back in the 80′s and always had a fondness for them.  First impressions are that they feel really light, run very true and roll quickly. I will update my thoughts after I have had more time on them, 60PSI for road feels just about perfect.

“Clément is back in the game with the quick rolling LAS Cyclocross Tire. Taking its name from CrossVegas–the most entertaining and exciting cyclocross race in the US, the LAS delivers blazing speeds on grass and hard-packed dirt.

A unique nail file tread pattern is short and fine at the center of the tire and gets progressively taller and coarser as it approaches the shoulder knobs. The result is a tire that handles predictably in corners and rough conditions while keeping rolling resistance to an absolute minimum. Additional side knobs are lifted straight from the more aggressive Crusade PDX model to ensure complete cornering confidence. 120 TPI casing. 45-75 recommended PSI. Folding bead. 700c x 33mm (33-622 ISO). Available in All Black or All White. 350g. [Bike Tires Direct]“

Clement CX on my Salsa CX bike.

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How Much Does Your Cross Bike Weigh?

Posted by britcpower on August 21, 2013

Never mind all the online  claims of bike weights without pedals and stuff. What does a real world cross bike actually weigh ?

I am lucky enough to have 3 cross bikes that perform the roll of commuter, adventure bike and fast paced road bike.

Masis Speciale SSCX (Steel)

I ride the Masi to work most days and ride it on the dirt levee trails quite regularly. It is one of my favorite bikes and it has never seen a cross race. Being made from Steel it feels pretty heavy but the scales show it as a pretty respectable 22.3 pounds.

Masi Single Speed Steel Frame

Kona Jake The Snake (Aluminium)

Out of my 3 Cross bikes, Jake is the only one that has seen any service as Cross bike. Lately it has been used as a bad weather commuter and lunchtime Levee ride machine. It rides great and with Continental Speed CX tires it absolutely flies on the dirt. I have done the the odd race team road ride on it and even ridden over Mount Hamilton but it is happier off road.  I am looking to replace Jake for a disc brake cross bike.  It is testament to Kona’s build quality that after a quick wash and polish the bike looks like new. It weighs in at 22 pounds.

Jake The Snake

Salsa Chili Con Crosso (Scandium)

I originally bought the Salsa as an endurance machine and even rode the “Death Ride” on it. Despite the Scandium tubing and carefully shaped tubing I found it to be too aggressive as a 200 mile  road bike and it was put back into service as a cross bike.  It did work well as a gravel bike on the 100 mile “Tainthammer” so I think it has definite gravel bike tendencies.  I still do road rides on it and even manage to keep up on the local noon hammerfest (using 28c road tires) but this winter I hope to ride some cross races. It is no surprise that this beast is the lightest in my stable. It weighs in at 19 pounds

Salsa with 28c Road Tires

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