Serious ENDURO gear fever alert here – Yes, there is no escaping the fact that you can’t do a mission like EuroEnduro-slash-Trans Provence and not talk equipment for a moment. So, for the next instalment of the very drawn out wrap up series, today its all about the GEAR. Look away NOW if you don’t get wet by Dirty hardware talk.
I’ve wanked on about the scenery, the people, the trails and even where to stay… So, with all the cuddly stuff ticked off, its time to literally get down to the nuts, bolts and carbon of the tech side of 3 rad weeks in Europe. I would like to start with thanking all the companies that don’t sponsor me, lucky for you I’m sycophantic enough to still froth it up about your gear below.
Before we get started with the rant about the Great, the Good and the WTF moments, here is a list of shit that I wrecked on EuroEnduro/Trans Provence, which lets face it, is the part people want to know the most ultimately:
- 1 x 180mm Shimano Disc rotor – Killed off by a rock on Big Alpine day I suspect, it managed to get itself bent well out of shape.
- 1 x Enve M70 rear rim – More on this below, but absolutely the highest profile casualty of the trip
- 1 x XTR 11 speed rear mech – Whilst it was killed by rockzilla on Stage 12 during TP, it held itself together long enough to get me to the end of the stage, thanks Japan
- 1 x Rock Shox Reverb stealth dropper post – Its true it made it through Dirty Mega March, and most of EuroEnduro, exploding just in time for the first
leg openingstage of TP. Pretty much the worst time to go
- 1 x DT Swiss 12 x 142mm rear axle lever – Not something you fuck every day, but that solid swiss lever was somehow no match for a rock at some point in the final days of TP
- 1 x KS LEV seat post – Granted, it still worked, but intermittently and it did have a full melt down at the start of day 6 on TP.
I’m only going to focus on the things that really stood out on the trip, or where one or two of you may have a strange fascination with a particular item. Roll on the break down of the Hero’s and Villains of the gear world…
The legends, the hero’s, the shit you can’t leave your ENDURO home without… Here is some shameless plugging of shit I happen to own…
1. Oakley Jawbreaker glasses – Trail Prizm lenses
Oddly, these are possibly the best item of the whole trip in the equipment ranks. If you find that a strange call, I’m not going to disagree with you, but until you try a pair of these things on a trail, you probably won’t get where I’m coming from. I hated these things when they first came out, and it took a solid 45 seconds of Herr Doktor peer pressure before I caved and wanted a pair.
My original eyewear plan for all of EuroEnduro and TP was of course to run Oakley Goggles, main driver? They look fucking cool with a full face helmet, lets face it, its basically mandatory. However, one run was all it took with the Jawbreakers to realise that these things had to stay. Yes, they even made me break the cardinal ENDURO fashion rule of running glasses with a full face… A clear win for function over form:
Holy fuck, Dok had raved on about these glasses, but given he was coming from Jawbones I took it with a grain of salt, but once again, Science was right. The new Prizm lens isn’t just marketing hype, these are genuinely awesome glasses! Roubion sealed the deal, where they massively outperformed goggles in the rainy fucked conditions.
The way they sharpen the image of obstacles on the trail is unique and they’re also one of the few pieces of eye wear that actually keep working in the wet. Whilst I hated the look initially, once you head out with these on, there is no going back… Even with the reference to them being cum goggles. To be noted, may be best to not wear them with a cap backwards to avoid confusion…
2. Shimano M200 shoes
I saw a LOT of shoe carnage on TP. Yes, people trail side with rolls of tape wrapping it around their shoes to be able to keep going, holy FUCK that. Giro Terraduro and 510 ENDURO shoes seemed to be the two worst offenders, some falling apart within days. Shoes get a mega beat down on TP.
Add to that mix the legendary tales of blistering happening and I was quite pleased to be rocked a pair of kicks that everyone generally agreed were the best to be rolling with:
Ok, so I got a little blister on the left, but suspect thats more to do with my strange flat footedness than a shoe malfunction. These things were absolutely awesome. And it wasn’t me frothing, any time a fellow TP comRADe wearing a pair saw you had them on, there would be the knowing nod and thumbs up, universal love was in effect. 5 stars.
3. Santa Cruz Nomad 3
Ultimately deserves a whole review on its own (watch this space), but what can I say about this machine? I have worn out normal superlatives with pages of wanking on during the TP posts, so best to just say that there is no other bike in the world I would want to own at the moment. In fact, if we were invaded by uptight aliens who enslaved us and forced us at Plasma Rifle point to only own one bicycle, the rest of the fleet would be kicked out the door with the Nomad 3 reigning supreme:
I wasn’t alone either, I lost count of how many Nomad’s were on TP, but I think it was close to 25? I’m prone to mild exaggeration yes, but honestly there were a shitload there. And put me at the centre of a marmot gang bang if this wasn’t the most awesome bike to have on TP. I lost count of the number of times that it saved me from a helicopter ride to a French hospital, its capabilities still vastly outstripping the size of my balls. I already loved this bike before arriving at TP, so by the end the bond was verging on straight up creepy.
Is my frothing warranted? Well, considering that I have ridden through the same ranges on the older Nomad 2, then yes, I think it is. The new Nomad handled the terrain significantly better up and down, based on a direct comparison two years apart. With the strangely soft set up it ate the terrain and allowed me to just focus on what was coming next. Not once did I worry about the bike, and more than a few times I just held on and let it carry me through something that I thought was going to end the day/week.
Also worth noting – This was the first time I actually used the CCDB climbing switch, like, all the time, so Dirty Tip would be to make sure you had this feature, unless you enjoy bobbing around on fire trails for 1.5 hours. This may not mean much to readers, but I ran about 40% sag on the CCDB air, which of course makes shorter cranks mandatory, not to mention second hand looking at the end of the trip.
4. Evoc ENDURO pack
Would be fair to use the word ‘ubiquitous’ here, mainly as we don’t get to roll it out very often but also because this thing was everywhere amongst TP comRADes. Sure, there were some other packs floating around, but Evoc have this whole epic back country genre firmly sown up. I was rolling the ENDURO FR pack, yes the same one from two years ago and it hasn’t aged a day.
Its worth bearing in mind you have to ram an unreasonable amount of shit into these things for each TP day, so much so I started to forget what was in mine. It was always a bonus finding 3 day old bags of lollies in a side pocket when you were a bit fucked and still had an hour to go. Full face helmet carrying function heavily utilised as well, more on that below:
5. IXS Flow knee pads
I previously announced these as the Dirty World Champions of my knee pad fetish shoot out, but TP was going to be the real test for them. Based on my knee pad OCD, I took three different pairs to Europe, but these were used on every ride except one. Yes, they really are that awesome – Most days I didn’t even realise I still had them on (awkward in the shower block), which included the 3.5 hour climb on Day 3. Even when the tranny’s had me on my knees a few times, they did their job perfectly – Highly recommended.
6. The 30T XTR chainring
Yes, I absolutely did run a 30 x 42-10 combo and every day I was exceedingly thankful that I did. Its a strangely pussy combo, but you can either let your ego get the better of you and have a super shit time going up, or you can face reality and go with the gear that best reflects what your body can manage. Sure the PRO’s were running 34T rings, but unless you’re PRO its probably better to keep it real.
I did run out of gears once, on the Grey Earth stage on day 3, but to be honest, I’m not sure I would have wanted to go much faster even if I could, I had already stopped breathing at that point.
On to the Goldilocks brigade, not too hot, but not cold and fucked either – These items did a solid job throughout the trip and are worth a mention.
1. MET Parachute helmet
At times this thing could have been in both the above and below category… So based on that bipolar nature its ended up here. So, what’s the deal with this thing? There is a LOT of on-line love and praise for the Parachute, which claims that its absolutely well vented enough to wear full time when out riding:
I’m not where those reviewers were riding, but it was either in Antarctica, or a cold Bike Park with high speed chairlifts… Either way, they may have missed the part about testing the helmet in the South of France in the middle of summer. Let’s clear this up now: Its definitely a full face helmet. Yes, its light, yes, its well ventilated, but it can’t escape the fact that when you’re in the mid 30’s temp range, it wants to microwave your brain like its a pie and you’re so drunk you’re prepared to firetruck while waiting for it to finish.
I’m not just talking about climbing here, I’m recalling the racing stages where sweat started to run down my face and off my nose mid stage… Yeah, still trying to work out how the dudes with Troy Lee helmets got on, but I suspect there were some nasty TLD helmet liners by the end of the week.
Unless the climb was less than 5 minutes, the MET needed to come off… Not usually a faff if it was a constant climb, but when it was undulating this became a pain in the ass. It was also probably the reason I ended up near the back during liaisons on a few days. I also never managed to master that insanely annoying moto style latch system without taking my gloves off, saying ‘cunt’ repeatedly apparently not helping the process either. So, why then have I put it in the good category?
Simple – Confidence. Yes, having to race this terrain blind for the week means that you (I really just mean me) want to have a full face helmet, especially when you see the damage done to those that hit the deck without one. Its different for everyone of course, but every time I was hitting another section of French gnar that was set to ‘maim’, I was exceedingly pleased to have my head encapsulated.
Its also so light you don’t even notice it when you’ve strapped it to your Evoc pack for the 6th time in a day, so a massive upside. Yes, I did look on longingly when the Bell Super 2R guys got to the end of a liaison and within 20 seconds had their face guard attached, but those things won’t fit me and the MET fitted beautifully, so in the end you can only do what your melon will allow. I still endorse this thing as a helmet, but with a distinct temperature caveat slapped all over it S&M styles.
2. Mavic Charge & WTB Breakout tire combo
Possibly a very strange tire combo, but one that worked flawlessly nonetheless. Whilst the Magic Mary’s were blowing so much we renamed them the Magic Monica’s, this pairing just kept on trucking.
I ran about 28-30 PSI all week, which was probably a bit more than others, but I decided to trade a bit of grip and comfort for reliability. Plus, I had a front Enve to protect and get to Menton. Better to lose 30 seconds with less grip than 10 minutes with a flat was my thinking. I’m not sure if soft suspension and slightly firmer tires were the way to go or not, but I got through the whole trip and TP without a puncture, so seemed to work for me.
Like condoms, tires are a personal preference, but I recommend absolutely running a dual ply casing and I think on reflection I would have liked to have had a 2.5 DH front tire, yes it would have been heavy, but I think worth it overall.
What the Fuck cunt
And now, for the not so good… The Villains… The parts that should have known better… Seriously, what the actual fuck?
1. Enve M70
Its pretty obvious we start with these… Let’s face it, people LOVE it when a high priced product fails. Yes, the higher the cost, the more the Roman’s cheer when it utterly shits itself in the field. Nothing gets forum cuntbags more delirious than a failed Enve at the end of the day.
Before I went away, I did have a thought about whether or not these were up to it, but then I was reassured that the M70 was “basically last years DH rim” and the marketing assured us that “you can’t dent them“. Well, there was one rock in Finale that was waiting to show the engineering and marketing teams that perhaps they both needed to put down the hash cookies and get back to their respective design boards…
Apparently I am now told that this has been traced back to a ‘bad batch’, too much baking soda mixed in? Yes, rims between number range ‘XX to FUCKYOU’ have been imploding it seems, I’m not sure how accurate this all is, but it was the word that came my way nevertheless. If this is true, can anyone say “Well then, where’s the recall?”
To provide a little bit of balance… The warranty claim has already been approved and the replacement wheel built up, so whilst I know we would all like to stand around and piss lighter fluid on the hating bonfire, that’s pretty good turn around. Point of note – The replacement rim has slightly thicker sidewalls and is a little bit heavier… Hmmmm… Today’s lesson kids is: Systemic failures.
So, would I head back to Gnarville with the Enve’s on? No… I know its only one example, but confidence is everything and I don’t feel that these things would stand up to a rock dominated trip. Having said that, the Nomad’s rode their M60 wheels all week to top 10 results on TP without a drama, so perhaps I’m just really hack?
Hard to know, but until you experience the moment where hype is stoned to death by Roman rocks, its difficult to understand. Yes, these are awesome wheels when its all going well, but when its not the sense of being let down feels as amplified as the price. My advice: Go Mavic XL’s, hard to beat on price, performance, looks and durability. And yes, they happen to have the best mechanic dudes around!
2. Rock Shox Stealth Reverb post
Ahhhhh… I had cut the only SHAM product on my bike some slack given it had worked flawlessly since arriving on the Nomad 3. My first experience with Reverbs was rocky when one came equipped on a Cannondale Jekyll I had, it blew up within 2 months. It then got repaired (slowly), then blew up on the first or second ride. The local dudes then couldn’t explain when I would get a new one, so it was consigned to the cunt bin and replaced with a KS LEV.
It wasn’t the Nomad 3 came along that I was manipulated into heading back into Camp Reverb. And, I was pleasantly surprised! Still the best dropper lever in the business and it worked flawlessly through Dirty Mega March, the EWS round in NZ and all the build up shredding. Indeed, it had the foresight to wait until right before Stage 1 on TP to completely implode and melt down internally. Dirty tip – Always make sure you carry a reverb choker collar around with you for these exact moments:
This was perhaps the biggest let down of the trip, failing just when it was needed the most… Apparently when it was opened up back at the cHub service centre they described it as though a hand grenade had gone off in a pigpen internals wise, with many selfies taken with a Reverb that made its way through the Maritime Alps in a Fox gear bag. My SHAM prejudice has been given its annual top-up booster.
3. KS LEV post
Like a 5000 Euro per night Cannes call girl, if there is one thing a dropper post absolutely has to do, its GO DOWN. If it refuses to do so, you instantly wonder what the point is? Why are you going to all this hassle and now you face the dilemma of being barred up heading into dangerous situations.
I won’t bag the LEV too much, as it was a gift from the MTB gods that saved me for a few days, but the fact that on the last two days it developed a penchant for refusing to perform its core functions led to more than a bit of dismay, culminating an a major OCD plot loss on stage 23 during Day 6.
Yes, dropper posts remain not only one of the most essential items on your bike, but also the achilles heal for the industry. They all seem to grapple with some aspect of getting it right, and ultimately no one does so reliably. As much as I want to cut my own fingers off as I type it, the Reverb does get the closest, and still has the best lever feel of the lot.
So… That’s a RAP on all things EuroEnduro and Trans Provence, its now into the Shrediting Room for some solid wading through so much Dirty video footage I had to buy a new hard drive. Stay tuned…