Sunday, 27 March 2016

A New Fork - DT Swiss OPM Team Edition

I’ve recently been lucky enough to ride a couple of different bikes, which has provided me with the opportunity to compare them against my own Stumpjumper HT. One area where this has really opened my eyes, is the performance of the suspension fork on the other two bikes. Or actually that should be how harsh the ride of my existing Rock Shox SID fork is in comparison. My Rock Shox is fitted with Specialized Brain Fade technology which locks the fork out until the inertia valve detects a bump, at which point it opens to allow the suspension to move. The Brain does a good job of differentiating bumps on the trail from rider input, but it isn’t fool proof. When out of the saddle I like the fork to lock out securely to avoid it ‘bobbing’ up and down, therefore I have the Brain setting fairly firm. This might be a factor in the perceived harshness. To try and maintain the small bump sensitivity what I have ended up doing is using the Brain Fade adjuster more like a convention lock-out, rather than set and forget as it is intended. I back the setting off for descents and turn it up for the climbs, but this largely defeats the purpose of the ‘automatic’ Brain. I have heard that Specialized team riders requested the Brain fade dial was moved to the top of the fork for this very same reason. On race day one of my weaknesses is technical riding and my experiences riding with more supple suspension got me thinking that a more capable, compliant fork might help improve my lap times.

I hit the world wide web for reviews and user feedback on lightweight, compliant cross country forks. The MBR forum repeatedly, time and again came back with the same response, which eventually lead to the decision to swap out my existing Rock Shox for a DT Swiss OPM ODL. That’s a whole lot of acronyms!

OPM : One Piece Magnesium
Describes the lightweight magnesium fork lowers with their distinctive reverse arch. Reviews rave about the advantages of the stiff chassis when tracking through rough terrain.

ODL : Open / Drive / Lock-out
Describes the three compression settings. What attracted me to the fork was the number of reviewers who have commented how supple the fork is descending in Open mode. Drive mode offers increased damping support for technical trails and climbing under power. The lock-out is for bob free climbing and out of the saddle sprints. These modes are selected using the handle bar mounted remote lock-out, which is described on several websites as the best in the business.

This all comes in an extremely race friendly sub 1500g package. As well as the positive reviews, a certain Nino Schurter rode this fork to the 2015 World Championships - and if it is good enough for him....!

Having made the decision, my Rock Shox went onto ebay and all was looking good until the DT Swiss fork went out of stock world wide overnight! Now I didn’t have a bike and with suppliers quoting expected delivery dates like August I thought it was going to be time for plan B. However, at the last minute my contact at Strada Wheels discovered the lesser known Team edition fork in stock at UK distributers Madison. (Thanks Darren!) 300 of these limited edition forks are being made and only a  handful are making it to the UK, so it seems I have lucked out!

DT Swiss OPM O.D.L Team Edition
  • 100mm travel
  • Weight: 1458g including 15mm axel and handlebar lock-out.
  • Carbon tapered steerer
  • 15mm RWS axle
  • SKF bushings
  • Team Edition decals
  • Supplied with shock pump
Review coming when I have had a chance to put it through its paces.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Missing Out

Sunday saw the 1st round of the Southern XC series. It isn’t the first race I have sat out this year, but this time it really felt like I was missing out! It was dry and there was the great news that a friend got his first solo podium finish. As I checked the results online I really regretted that I hadn’t been there racing against him. The truth of course is that given where my fittest currently stands he’d have collected his trophy and been half way home before I crossed the line. My fitness is as good a reason as any to save the entry fee, but I didn’t have a bike to ride anyway. I still need a pair of forks to complete the build of my race bike for 2016. Hopefully more on that in my next blog.

So maybe I wasn’t racing, but I was still out riding my old fully rigid Stumpjumper. There are so many aspects of my fitness which are lacking at the moment. I’m overweight and my heart rate quickly peaks, but it was the scary lack of stamina demonstrated during recent rides that worried me most. Endurance is usually my strongest asset, even when top end speed is lacking. The truth is before Sunday I hadn’t completed a 4 hour ride since a road ride way back in November. With this in mind I joined a friend who is training for the 7 day Trans Pyrenees race. This meant a steady (for him) 4 hours hunting for elevation gain in the hills around Duncton. 

It was disappointing to hit the wall before the 4 hour mark and today the ride is still heavy in my legs. However, no pain – no gain! There are two races in April which I might use as tuning events, but my first dead cert diary commitment is the Kawasaki 100 on the 1st May. The 100km race distance probably means 6 to 7 hours in the saddle. As it stands forget about racing, I’d be happy just to finish!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Weighty matters with Strada Wheels

As a new Dad with added mothers day duties this Sunday, the weekly mileage continues to be a bit lean. Judging by how I was dropped like a stone by the rest of the group, on every climb the other week, my Diesel engine is more 1.1 than 2 litre at the moment. I also made the mistake of stepping on the bathroom scales the other night, it was bad news! 6kg above the 68kilos I maintained through 2015. Lets just say there is work to do!

On the bike side of things I blogged previously here about new rims from Light Bicycles, that I bought to replace my previous battered hoops. Darren at Strada wheels has worked his magic and laced them to my Stans 3.30 hubs using Sapim CX-ray spokes. They look stunning and the weight weenie in me just loves the 1470g weight - taped and valved! Ok its only a weight saving of 50g over the previous wheels, which seems insignificant when I'm carrying the equivalent of eight spare wheels around my waist, but its great motivation to get out there and do them justice. Expect a review in the coming months....