Gareth Sheppard, Author at Wye MTB

Used and Abused 2019 Part 2!

Sorry this is a little late. Christmas celebrations took over, and we have been having fun out on the mountain bikes!

We are blessed with so much great riding locally. Obviously the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean have some of the best trails in the country, but within half an hour, we also have places like Cwmcarn and Pontypool, as well as the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains.

We did our Christmas Party with an uplift assisted ride around the South Wales Valleys…..We can’t tell you all the trails we rode, but let’s just say the boys in Risca have been busy, and it is a rad place to ride.  South Wales is really where it’s at!!! : )

Sunset over South Wales


Anyway back to the kit we have been abusing! This is the kit we have been riding all year. They have clocked over 150 MTB rides and over 3320km so far!

Crankbrothers Synthesis Wheels

We are very lucky that Pedalabikeaway is the only UK demo centre for the Synthesis wheels, so we got to ride a set for the year!

Like a lot of people we might have been a little sceptical about ‘tuned’ wheels for the front and back of the bike, but boy do they work!

The idea is that the front wheel has more give (or compliance) to help filter out trail chatter and to better track the terrain. It also has a wider rim, so it gives a more rounded profile for that bigger front tyre, and less spokes (28) than the rear wheel.  You can feel the difference through the handlebars, especially when ridden back to back with some standard Aluminium wheels.

The rear wheel is built narrower, stiffer and stronger, with more spokes and a different carbon lay up.  This allows for a more responsive feel when putting down the power, and helps keep the rear wheel keep tracking the front.

We have been running the rear wheel with a Cush Core (more on that in another blog) and Maxxis DHR 2  2.3 DD and the front with the new Maxxis Assegai DD Maxigrip.

They have been out to the French Alps and ridden in Morzine, Let Gets and Chamonix, raced around the UK in gravity enduro, MIJ and Mini Downhills and obviously on our guided rides and coaching sessions.

They have been through countless rock gardens, jumps and drops, roots and loam, and we haven’t had to touch them.  We have not had to change a bearing (yet) nor spend a second on a spoke key.  Zero Faff Factor there.

Gareth racing at the Mini Downhill at the Forest of Dean (with the Crankbrother Synthesis Wheels)

As a comparison, Windy has been running the Stans Flow on Hope rims with the same tyres and the Cush Core and has gone through 2 rims and spent many an hour truing his wheels. Given he is also 15kg lighter, it would be fair to say his wheels have had a easier time of it!!!!

Yes, we know that you can buy an entire bike for the price of these wheels, but they do come with a lifetime warranty and handle some serious abuse.  If you have broken every other set, they give these a go! You can demo them for a whole day for £40 at Pedalabikeaway by clicking this link.

Rapid Racer Product Mudguard

How can a bit of plastic make such a difference to your ride? We have been running the Max guard on all our bikes all year. Not only does it fit really well, give plenty of clearance on the tyres and protect the seals on your fork legs, but more importantly it keeps your vision completely mud free!

Windy and I both wear contact lenses, so there is nothing worse than getting mud or grit in your lenses. Personally I don’t like wearing glasses or goggles when riding – I find they fog up and are useless in the wet when you need them most. The RRP has no such problems. At under £25, it is one of the cheapest and best upgrades you can make to your machine!

Worx Portable Pressure Washer

Most of our guiding and leadership courses in South Wales take place away from the luxury of the trail centre, so being able to wash and prep the bike before the next day’s riding is a must!  The beauty of this Worx portable pressure washer is that it is battery operated, and can run off any water source. We have used streams, buckets, water bottles and even a really deep puddle!

It packs down super small to store in the van, has an adjustable spray and power settings, and you can pick it up online for less than £100. It’s been a lifesaver for us this year!

There have been loads of other great products that just missed the cut this year, including the Woof Tool pliers, Camelbak Repack bum bag and the Garmin Fenix 5 watch…What will make our 2020 list of must-haves……?

See you out on the trails!

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Used and Abused – Gear Review 2019

We are in the lucky position that we get to ride our bikes almost daily in some amazing terrain in Wales – alright I know that is rubbing it in – which means we really use and abuse our kit!  We have picked 6 of the best we have used for our guiding and coaching this year;

Here are first few of the standout bits of kit….!

Orange Bikes 

I know their looks divides opinion, and that people think the suspension design is simplistic , but these bikes really do just keep on working!

We have had 2 this year, Windy’s Five and Gareth’s Stage 6.

Both have done over 150 big days out, and the only maintenance has been one set of bearings each. That’s a massive £40 spent between both bikes to keep them running sweet, and less than an hour on the tools. Compare that to some of the fancy linkage bikes out there, the Oranges just keep handling the abuse we dish out with no complaints.

The angles are super sorted too, which means you can grind them up the hills, and then have a smile for miles all the way down, and we all know there are some epic downs here in South Wales!

Yes the single pivot means that it can ‘jack up’ under braking, but choose your braking spots, anad learn to keep the throttle open and these are as fast as anyuthing else out there!

Burgtec Grips and Pedals

We have been using a range of the Burgtec products, from the bars, stems, chainrings, pedals and grips, but the two stand out products have been the grips and pedals.

We have used the new Greg Minnar grips. First thing we admired was the price…..£19.99 is mega competitive for some grips.

We really got on with the shape – 31.5mm seems to be the perfect width for our hands, and the tapered core means our hands sit really comfortable on them. The 25A rubber is supersoft (when you think the softest tyres are 42A) and this seems to really help absorb vibrations and help maintain grip, especially in the wet. All in all, they are the best £20 upgrade we have spent on our bikes!

What can I say about the pedals?

The composite ones below have been on the e-bike all year. £44.99 and they haven’t missed a beat!

They have the same great shape as the Penthouse ones, and have the same bearings and sealing too. The thinner pins, means they aren’t quite as planted as their more expensive brother, which means when we have been getting rowdy on the trail bike, the Penthouse have been the go to pedal of choice.

More to the point though, we haven’t had to touch them all year. Sure, they have some great battle wounds, from some of the rocky descents in Wales, but they just won’t die!

Still running the same bearings from new, and still super smooth!

Madison Flux waterproof Jacket

This has been the ultimate guiding waterproof, and we have given it some testing! It has a lovely soft shell construction, and a 4 way stretch to the material, which makes it super comfortable to wear, and a great fit!

It’s also super light and pack down really small, meaning there is never an excuse to not pack it in the guiding bag!

I think this also helps with it’s versitility. You don’t get too hot in it when cuaght in a summer downpore, but it’s great with a few layers underneath in the winter too.

The soft shell material, together with it’s great breathability, means we wear it a lot as a wind jacket when it’s not raining as well.

We really do think we are going to be hard pushed to find a better one, particularly for the money (£119)!

You’ll have to wait until Friday to find out what the other 3 bits of kit are!!!

Happy Shopping

How to deal with an accident while Mountain Biking

This is a really good video from British Cycling, with some top tips on how to deal with accidents when Mountain Biking;

Tell a friend 

Make sure someone knows where you riding and when you are going to be back! Especially when riding solo!

Always carry a phone

Allows you to alert the emergency services. Did you know that if you are more than 50 metres from the road you should ask for the Police not the ambulance?

The Police will co ordinate with the relevant emergency services – Mountain Rescue, SARA (Severn Area Rescue) etc to get help to you as quickly as possible.

Also if you are riding at a trail centre you should contact Forestry England or Natural Resources Wales. There will be a contact number on the information boards at the start of the trail. Put the number in your phone.

Carry a Map 

How many people carry a map when your riding? Your map never runs out of battery, so allows you to to locate where you are if you do have an accident.

Mini First Aid Kit 

Pedalabikeaway sell a great mini waterproof first aid kit that will you to allow you to deal with most minor injuries out on the trail. Most importantly know how to use it!

We run the 2 day outdoor first aid course, which help provide you with all the skills in event of an accident. You should always try and be self sufficient when you are out on the trails!

Obviously you are going to need something to carry it in, so pack it in your Camelbak and check out our previous blog on what to carry in your backpack

Why should I have mountain bike coaching?

Trying to get faster between the tapes is a key goal for some from coaching

Mountain bikers have been slow on the uptake to get a coaching session. Most people would never just go down the local golf course and start just hitting balls or hacking at the turf, but they will just pick up their MTB and start riding.

Surely I will just get better if I just ride more?  Maybe…but it will depend on how much you ride, what you ride and how you ride it!

One of the fundamentals of skill improvement is repeated practice. In mountain biking terms this means ‘sessioning’ a section of trail you find challenging, repeatedly until you nail it with consistency!

How often do you just go on a ride, and never cover the same section of trail more than once?

When you make an error, or get a section wrong, do you go back up and ride it again or just carry on?

How many times have you had feedback on what you are doing right and what you could improve on?

There is the 10,000 hours rule with skill development. To turn from beginner to world-class in a particular skill or sport will take 10,000 hours of repeated, focused practice.

That isn’t just going out riding, that is working on a particular technique – cornering/jumping/drops/body position etc. and really focusing on that technique until it becomes natural (i.e. you can do it without thinking about it!)

This is where coaching can really help.

Having someone to show you the correct techniques, break them down into bite-size chunks, practice with you but more importantly give you the feedback on what you are doing and how you are doing it!

This is one of the major difficulties in self-coaching, the absence of the feedback loop.

To give you an example, a client we were working with had been working on his jumping for years, but could never really get the ‘pop’ and height he wanted on a jump.

He knew what he should be doing, and thought he was doing all the right things, but when he came for coaching, we quickly realized that while he thought he was standing tall on the bike to unweight and release the energy to create the ‘pop’, he was staying relatively low on the bike and ‘squashing’ the jump. With some video feedback, he could immediately see where he was going wrong!

Once we had identified it, slowed him down and done some repeated practice on this particular element of his jumping, it really started to come together!

Do you need coaching? That is a question for self-reflection, but every rider, beginner through to world-class, can really benefit from that feedback loop and repeated practice!

British Cycling Mountain Bike Leadership award