Member review

Bikemagic Bikemagic

OK, let’s get this straight. Map cases aren’t the most exciting pieces of
kit. Most are verging on useless – won’t keep maps dry in anything but the
lightest rain and start to crack within a few months. If you can’t find a
decent case laminated maps are one solution. If you do it yourself it has to
be done very well if it’s not going to crack and bubble after a couple of
years. Or you could let someone else do the hard work for you and buy
laminated maps such as those from Aqua3 but they are rather bulky and cost
about £12 a sheet – a lot of money for a map you may not use very often.

Boil in the bag for maps

Or you could invest in an Ortlieb, the pinnacle of mapcase technology; the
XTR of mapcases if you like. It uses a tough rubbery plastic and a roll-top
velcro seal to separate maps from the elements. It’s a very simple design
and it really works. It’s been underwater a few times on canoeing trips. It’
s endured Cairngorm blizzards and the heaviest rain that Wasdale could throw
at it. It’s had encounters with rocks, trees, car keys and crampons and
survived for 8 years. It’s never leaked. It’s the business. Even when the
car and pub let in water my map stayed dry. At £14 you only need to save a
couple of maps from a soaking and it’s paid for itself.

The document bags are the same basic design and come in sizes from A6 (just
big enough for a wallet and a small mobile phone or a first aid kit) up to
A3 (handy as an extra-large mapcase). They are just as waterproof as the
mapcase. Prices start at about £6 for an A6 case (or £11.50 cheaper than a
duplicate driving licence).

Downsides? The mapcase only shows a couple of panels of OS map on each side
(about 12km x 10km on a Landranger map). There’s a little Ortlieb logo on
one side that always seems to sit over something important. The plastic
yellows over time and is quite tacky – the case doesn’t slide into a
Camelbak all that easily and squeezing a phone and a wallet into the A6 bag
is hard work. All pretty minor. In short, if you expect to get a soaking
this winter you’d be mad not to have a look at Ortlieb kit.

It’s okay, I don’t need a map to find my way to the Ortlieb website.


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RST's new Aerosa BAS forkRST
SDK Aerosa BAS forks

Initial thoughts as I removed the forks from the delivery box – these
are the wrong forks, I’ve been sent some Marzocchis to try out! These
forks are nice and chunky at first glance.

On closer inspection
I noticed some very nice one-piece lower legs – rather than the 3-piece
bonded at the cantis affair of latter days, these are now a full one-piece
lower leg set-up, the major bonus is a stiffer fork as there are less
places for the fork to flex. The lower legs are a very large diameter
and the brace is plenty thick enough. The fork crown is also of reasonable
thickness and diameter to visibly instill confidence in the fork, the
upper legs weren’t finished as evenly as say an Rock Shox Sid as some
of the coating appears to be thinner in places. The steerer tube is nice
and long and leaves bags of room for stem adjustment before finally chopping
the excess off – my only suggestion here is to leave plenty of room in
the steerer in case you ever need to adjust your stem height – use 2-4

Doing the floor-pushing
test, the forks seemed very soft and I think they needed some more air
in them before riding them. I then decided out of curiosity to find out
how much they weighed – I was very surprised to discover they were over
3 lbs (3.1lbs), these forks feel much lighter than 3lbs but it is reassuring
to know that the weight is there and therefore the strength is to.

The rear of the forks - note the brace is moulded into the leg for a disc.Once
you have the fork in your hand, you can’t help but have a closer look
at the finish – in stunning white (perhaps Arctic White?), the lower legs
are a one-piece assembly with very smooth lines. The top crown looks and
feels suitably beefy but the underside of the crown isn’t as well finished
as the rest of the fork.

The upper legs are
finished in a standard look similar to Manitous and Rock Shox legs, but
I did notice that the right leg didn’t have such an even finish as the
left leg – time will tell if they wear at an even rate.

The brake bosses are
nicely sculpted into the rest of the fork so instead of them looking like
add-ons, they blend very well into the whole finish of the fork. The disc
mounts are also an excellent thought-out area, with a gusset added to
the left leg to support the additional forces a disc brake brings with
it, this appears to be a new addition from the 2000 range.

Valve Caps are nice touches to a classy looking forkThe
valve covers are nicely shaped and almost mimic the lightening bolts found
on Hopes DH4 rotors, nice touch as it looks more attractive than standard
valve caps. These caps simply screw off to reveal a schraeder valve in
each leg for adjusting the air pressure in each leg – be careful though,
I overtightened the valves by accident and ended up removing the shraeder
valve and some air!

Even from the side, these forks look goodThese
forks seem to have a lot of upper fork leg exposed, with full compression
you get 75mm however if the forks use maximum overlap then the actual
travel is almost 150mm. Obviously maximum overlap is advantageous as they
make the fork stiffer, but this
fork is beefy enough to not have to worry about lateral flex until the
going gets real tough! The only other thing I did notice was that compared
to my Pace RC-36 forks, these forks raised the front-end of my bike by
about another 2 cms.

I was pleasantly surprised
with these forks, my only other experience with RSTs was a few years ago
and it was terrible, the wheel flopped about; it couldn’t keep a line;
the flex was unbelievable and the travel was either on or off – these
forks were a complete revelation, very smooth operation, tracked very
well (perhaps even better than my Pace EVO IIIs!), felt very stiff and
didn’t feel much different from the extra height. The other bonus was
that my DH4 Pro disc simply slid straight on without any spacers and worked
right from the beginning!

The first few rides
were over general trails and the forks responded very well, not much vibration
came through the bars and the steering remained positive. The next few
rides were over the clifftops in North Third where the knocks tended to
be slightly bigger and more often, again the control was spot on, and
the steering remained precise. I did notice through these sections that
the forks were working very well as the ride ‘felt’ far smoother than
other excursions down the same tracks.

So far so good with
these forks, they clean up very well indeed, they don’t appear to be affected
by weather or by riding conditions. The only problem I have had with these
forks was the right leg discharging the air while cycling over Stirling
Bridge – no serious effort as there are a couple thousand cars driving
over that bridge daily. I heard a sound like riding over broken glass
and the forks sagged.

I’m still unsure what
caused the discharge but a quick pump with the fork pump (rather nice
piece of kit as well), and the forks returned to normal. I’m running them
with 6p.s.i. in each leg so I don’t think it was due to excessive pressure.

In conclusion, I’d
be happy to ride these forks, I’m not 100% sure of the price of them,
but I believe they are in the region of £200-£300 (pretty
broad price band I know!). If I was in the market for a new pair of forks,
these would definitely get a look-in – they are very stiff, reasonably
light (3.1lbs – not THAT light for an air fork, but they are strong),
track very well and feel very strong.

The only other compalint
I have about them (alongside the discharge – which so far has been a one-off)
is that the hose guide for the disc isn’t slotted – you’d have to actually
remove the hose from the brake and thread it through – not a huge hassle
if you are servicing your brakes when changing forks but a small pain
in the backside if the brakes are working.

I hate giving things
top amrks simply because I believe everything can be improved, so these
forks will get a 4.5 out of 5 overall, they are very good performers and
seem to be holding up to the weather and conditions they have been subjected
to so far – the seals seem to be pretty good as I ended up jet-washing
the bike due to tiredness/laziness after a particluarly muddy ride – jumped
on the bike and they still felt plush!

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Bikemagic Bikemagic

Much is said about tyres, each season the manufacturers bring out new treads and claim these are the best since, well the last ones I guess. I have invested in tyres that should deliver in the conditions that I ride, clearly the Mud Mad are for winter (Oct – May) riding.

Bonty Jones AC tyre wire £14.99 and folding £29.99 from Trek UK 01908 282626

A bit skiddy up front

I brought a pair of these this spring to replace my original Jones on my Trek 7000 and have covered about 1000km in this country, Lake Garda and Pyrenees. All reviews said these wre great, and could cope with all conditions – hence the AC. Partly true…..

In the dry they are great, they do not slide and grip rocks really well. The trendy grooves on the lugs (forgot the proper name) wore off after 2/3 rides and the tyres in general are wearing fairly quickly. I am confident in the dry with these on. In the more prevalent muddy conditions however the story is different. They slide far to easily at the front (how many times can I possibly wash out the front at walking pace?) and the tyre is full of mud after about 10 yards of riding, turning into something like a solid smooth tyre about 4 inches wide.
So AC?……. No, summer only

Now to real winter tyres, the IRC Mud Mad tyres are brill. I have just come back from Northumbria where I subjected myself to 40km through farm style bridleways – yes the really muddy, deep and smelly sort where the whole tyre, rim and an inch of spokes disappear into gloop. The tyres refuse to hold mud for more than one revolution and in wet ground they dig right in and will not slide or wash out, even when climbing out of ruts.

Unfortunately, on the road they are a little slow rolling and a bit sketchy on corners. This is my second winter with these and I am really impressed by them. If you are fed up with your tyres being full of heavy mud then buy a pair – they do exactly what they say on the tyre wall.


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Why fit a Suspension Seatpost?

· You can’t afford a full-suspension bike, but want the comfort of suspension;

· You have a perfectly serviceable hard-tail and can’t justify the cost of adding a full-sus rig to your stable, or the second-hand value of your hard-tail would barely cover the deposit on a full-sus bike to replace it.

· You prefer the light weight and simplicity, less to maintain and less to go wrong, of a hard-tail;

· You prefer the performance offered by a hard-tail, especially for racing; instead of absorbing power in compressing the rear suspension, a hard-tail transfers the power more efficiently, especially when standing on the pedals to accelerate or climb.
Suspension Upgrades

Front suspension helps to keep control on rough downhills and helps build confidence, this enables anyone to go faster down hill and tackle drops that they would never dare to attempt on rigid forks.
The problem is that the faster you are going the harder the tail hits you in the butt, unless you are out of the saddle. Sometimes you want to remain seated and peddling, or can’t avoid coming down on your saddle, this is when a suspension seatpost comes into its own.

This would be even more important on an aluminium hard-tail, because larger diameter aluminium tubes are stiffer and give an even more unforgiving ride than steel [or titanium] frames which tend to flex more.
So are suspension seatposts any better in practice?
An article in MMB stated that “They are different from having rear suspension, because they are suspending you and not you and the bike. So they work well for making you more comfortable, rather than making you go faster or stick to the ground better.”

This is the crux of the issue: suspension seatposts do not help to keep the rear wheel in contact with the ground over rough terrain.

Where this is achieved, such as on Paul Lazenby’s cross-country winning Marin, the extra traction of full suspension can compensate for the power-absorption resulting from compressing the rear suspension.

Alternatively, some full-suspension rigs have lock-out to prevent ‘bobbing’ when climbing out of the saddle to get the power down.


There is no doubt that the suspension seatpost does make the ride over rough surfaces, particularly rocky tracks, more comfortable.

On fast rocky down-hills riders usually stand up, so a suspension seat-post doesn’t give much benefit – except when you land hard on the saddle.

Where seat-posts also help you to go faster is where you want to stay seated and keep pedalling, but the discomfort caused by repeated hits slows you down.
The best example of this in the area where I do most of my riding is a level rocky track known locally as Pro-Flex Alley, where a suspension-post makes it easier to remain seated and pedalling. It also makes long, or even all day rides more comfortable and consequently less tiring.


There are some drawbacks: the main one is that, like any other suspension, there is an initial amount of ‘sag’ that has to be taken up. This is the amount that the suspension compresses just as a result of sitting on it, before it has to absorb any shocks.
The problem is that, to keep the saddle-to-peddle distance the same when sitting on the saddle, the seat has to be set slightly higher than normal when not sitting on it. This makes it a little more difficult to get back over the saddle when you need to get your weight back over the rear wheel, especially if you haven’t had time to lower your saddle before a steep descent…

On the USE seatpost the saddle clamp is a little bit fiddly to fit. It works perfectly well, once it is fitted, but looks a bit Heath Robinson compared to some other neat seat-clamps.

Ideally, a seatpost should fit the frame seat-tube exactly, without the need for any shims. Some seatposts are available in a variety of diameters and there may be one to fit your frame, but many of them, including the highest-rated USE XCR only come in one or a limited range of sizes and need shims to fit other sized seat-tubes.

In practice the shims for the USE are long enough to give good support over sufficient length and grip well, so there is no problem with them.
More of a problem was finding shims to fit a seatpost mounted RaceGuard [thanks to Cheltenham Cycles for helping out with this one] and reflector!


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Some of the topics in the Forum recently have touched on the topic of road bikes from mountain bike manufacturers. Earlier this summer, I took the plunge, and purchased a Sintesi Enigma frame, from the Italian manufacturer better known for its World Cup downhill team. And the verdict? Read on.

The frame is manufctured in Oria 7020 aluminium, and features STI bosses, 2 sets of bottle bosses, oversize tubes, an aero downtube, and a very neat replacable rear mech hanger, all finished in a very nice blue with airbrushed detailing. This particular frame came complete with carbon fibre forks.

A nice touch is the numbered handbook, unique to each frame, which certainly gives the impression that these manufacturers take pride in their work.

The ride, compared to my previous steel rides is stiff, but not harsh, putting the power down with little frame flex, and being comfortable for rides up to 4 hours in duration. Frame quality to this unqualified eye seems good, a fact supported by a favourable reveiw of another Sintesi road bike, the Spy, in Cycling+ November 2000. The carbon forks, a departure from the frames’ usual fork, are quite stiff, and are perhaps less suited to the longer rides from a comfort perspective. Built up with ITM and Campagnolo Veloce (what else would you use on an Italian frame?) it has built into a moderate 23lb ride with few vices. Steering is fast, without being twitchy, although the bike is fitted with a stem that is slightly too long at present. It climbs well, even with its rider being on the verge of unfit, and holds no nasty surprises back for the fastest of downhills.

So can a MTB manufacturer build road bikes? From the Enigma, it would seem that some can, and at a price to rival many other established frame manufacturers.

With thanks to Peter at Thatto Cycles for supplying the frame, forks, and select components.


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Roach Indy Freeride Pants £60

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have an aversion to wearing Lycra on its own. This is probably because I know I’m going to end up looking like Max Wall !! I’ve even tried leggings under my baggy shorts and believe me that looks even worse.

In my search for a solution to keeping warm in winter I considered buying downhill pants but decided that they were a bit over the top for my “mainly xc with a bit of looning around” requirements and most of them are pretty lurid at the best of times. Pace & Kona seemed to offer alternatives for me, but in both cases you have to spend nearly £100.

I finally decided to go for a pair of Deviate pro pants, as worn by the Spooky & Pashley Teams so I took a trip up to Singletrack Bikes in Gloucester. Now I may be getting old, but I tried them on and frankly, I looked ridiculous. Personally I don’t see how anyone can ride in a pair of trousers that are so immensely baggy, if you’re 14 years old they may “look wicked”, but when you’re pushing 30 ?!?

The guys at Singletrack suggested I try the Roach Indy pants on, they were £60 and at the time were only available in one size, mine – lucky huh ?! I bought a pair in black & grey, or more accurately my wife bought me a pair for Christmas.

Fed up of looking like Max Wall?

The things that persuaded me to get these were:

· Price – they are cheaper than most equivalent products.

· Fit – They are a sensible(sorry!) cut for cycling, with ankle zips and straps.

· Colour – no Fluorescent options available.
· The Guarantee – If you rip them or wear them out, Roach will repair or replace them, for life!

Having looked at them fairly closely, well I have had them for over a year, they seem to be almost identical to Kona’s freeride trouser and both products have the same, unusual crotch area!!

How do I rate them ?

Well they can be a bit on the warm side, but then I did buy them for winter use and they were a little stiff when they were new, but now I honestly cannot fault them.

You can wear them in the pub without fear of ridicule, and they are comfortable, warm and waterproof enough for a full day of winter riding, but you do need to wear padded shorts or underwear underneath them as they have no internal padding. The thing that has really prompted me to tell everyone else about them was falling on Sunday at the BMX track (I was on a mountain bike!). My pads underneath the trousers took the shock of the fall but it was the trousers that landed in the dirt without a mark on them. It seems that the Roach guarantee is not going to be called on very often…

The Bottom Line – A comfortable, stylish, very hard wearing and relatively cheap alternative to Lycra…and now they make them in different sizes !!

Link section
See the Indys in their natural habitat at

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Bikemagic Bikemagic

The Karrimor Vail jacket is a classic piece of kit that many mountain bikers have in their wardrobe. A full length zip, no hood, no pockets and drawcords at both hem and neck. The original Vail was made from ripstop pertex, and packed into a stuff sack only 6 inches by 2. The reason that I rarely use my windstopper vest was that my full-cover Vail jacket packs up much smaller.

Well, the Vail is a superb product, and earlier this year Karrimor released a version produced in Activent material, the “Activail”. Activent is a material from W.L.Gore; a water-resistant membrane for active sports. The breathability is several times higher than that of Gore-Tex but the fabric is only ‘almost’ waterproof, and the seams are un-taped. The end results is a garment that can withstand a couple of hours of persistent rain or a half hour monsoon, is totally windproof, but breathable enough to wear continuously in cooler weather. Ideal for mountain biking.

My previous Activent garment – a Berghaus smock was hindered by an absorbent polyester face fabric, which tended to wet-out rather quickly, causing it to leak after half an hour or so of rain. Friends of mine have had no similar problems with Gore Bikewear or Freestyle Activent jackets.
I bought my Activail from Biketreks in Ambleside at £45, reduced from £59, a bargain (get one while they’re still there!), and it got a thorough testing in the following couple of days.

The jacket takes up more room than the standard Vail, with an eight by three inch pack size. It has a semi-drop rear flap, a reflective logo on the tail, a windproof stand behind the full-length zip, and a fetching blue colour. The seams are intelligently placed to avoid leakage across the shoulders. On Saturday it coped with 6 hours of miserable drizzle & mist , with a couple of hours of real rain thrown in for good measure, as well as the usual river-bed riding and fords to cope with. No problems. On Sunday the weather was better, with mist in the morning but loads of surface water spraying up from beneath. Again no problems.

Two days is a minimal test period, but from friends’ experience with Activent, it can replace a waterproof in all but the worst weather, and it is certainly many times more weatherproof than the pertex Vail. And anyway, Karrimor have discontinued the Activail, hence the price, so if you don’t buy one soon they’ll be gone! To confuse matters even more Activent itself will be known as windstopper from now on, as they were both the same membranes anyway (useful to know if you own any windstopper garments).

The good news for those dosh-laden among you is that the Activail will be replaced next year with the Vail Paclite. i.e. Paclite Gore-Tex fully waterproof, and not much heavier, but £130. Still a snip however, compared to the £200 stretch Gore-Tex Easton jacket and this year’s £240 Paclite offering from Berhaus. Other Vail jackets for next year include a lined four season jacket, and some horrible beige smocks, in a cotton-like material (think Rohan) that look fit only to walk to the pub in.
Anyway, I’m extremely happy that I’ve got one of these superb garments before they disappeared to be replaced by something less practical. If it is anywhere near as useful as the original pertex Vail, I’ll be wearing in on every ride between October & April for the next 6 years!

Function 5/5
Value 5/5

Check out the whole Karrimor range on their website, go on no-one’s looking.


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I’ve had these lights since November 1999, so I suppose this qualifies as a long-term test. However, as far as I can tell this year’s models are basically identical to mine. Lumicycle only sell direct: their products can be viewed on their website:

So, what do you get for your money? Good presales advice and suitably swift delivery (less than a week after my telephoned order) for a start. First impressions are that the system looks, er, a bit homemade. Don’t let that put you off though: the build quality is excellent throughout. Lumicycle will put together virtually any system you want from their range of components. The basic system I bought has 12W spot and 20W flood CNC’ed black anodised light units which fit on the bars using reusable zip ties, controlled by a robust switch on the back of each light. Side-to-side adjustment is by loosening a screw on the light mount. The lights each contain a removable lamp unit: you have a choice of 5,12,20, or 35W spot and 10,20 or 35W flood. Comprehensive instructions are provided, along with plenty of spare zip ties!

The lamps are powered by a 13.2V 4Ah NiMH battery in frame or
bottle-mounting form. The frame fit battery I ordered is in a tough Cordura
pouch with Velcro straps and hangs easily under bars or top tube. A choice
of “slow” overnight or “fast” 5hr charger (which I opted for) is provided.
The whole system weighs about 800g.

A couple of technical points make these lights stand out from the crowd. The
nickel metal hydride battery is lighter and more compact than an equivalent
NiCad or lead-acid one and lacks the “memory” effect of NiCads, a bonus for
frequent users who want to top up their charge often. Just don’t run it down
completely: this can damage the cells. The lights are 12V units but are run
at 13.2V so they give a brighter, white light at the expense of a slightly
shorter lifespan.

Current model starts at £139.99

How are they in use? My lights have performed faultlessly in daily use
through the rain, hail and snow of last winter and are in daily use again
now: they have survived several crashes and still look like new. Fitting of
the system to the bike is quick and easy. The light these things give off
has to be seen to be believed: the contrast from my previous Cateye halogens
is incredible. To be honest on my daily commute (road/poorly lit cyclepath
mixed) the 12W spot is enough alone. With both lights offroad you can ride
almost as fast as in daylight. The 12W spot gives me about 4 1/2 hours burn
time. When I use both lights I get about 1 1/2 hours burntime. The only
(very minor) niggle is that I have found that the switches can be a bit
fiddly with gloved hands when you’re moving offroad, but I suppose sensible
people switch their lights on before they start off anyway.

Well, what’s the verdict? You’ve probably got the impression that I like
these lights. Oh yes. I’d not hesitate to recommend them to anyone looking
for a set of quality rechargeables. Equivalent NiMH-based systems like
Vistalite’s Nightsticks are now appearing, but are less flexible in their
lamp combinations than the Lumicycle ones. Sure, the Lumicycles cost a bit
more than lead-acid or NiCad equivalents but I think the advantages of the
NiMh battery are worth it and they’re a top quality product. Oh, and they do head-mounted and rear lights too if you’re interested. In conclusion,
well-made, light, bright and reasonable burntime. Reclaim the night!

All the current models and buying information can be found on

Email them directly on or telephone 01202 269863.