WTB Ranger Fast Rolling Plus Tyres

I’d had my eye on these tyres for some time after searching around online extensively for something other than the massive chunky affairs that seem to be popular on e-bikes (which typically use 2.8 tyres), the reason being that they have a relatively tightly-spaced tread pattern which should provide a faster rolling experience more suited to the typical hard-packed trail surfaces I usually ride, compared to the more open tread patterns of the OEM tyres Purgatory and Ground Control that came with the bike.  These two OEM tyres are fine, and visually they certainly look like a higher quality tyre than the WTBs, however the OEM tyres didn’t seal when I tried to go tubeless with them and they’re perhaps more useful for muddy / wet conditions (i.e. winter riding) than hard-pack / dry summer riding.

These tyres were a bit of a chore to get on my rims, the rubber certainly wasn’t slippery so perhaps that bodes well for mechanical grip, especially over wet stones and rocks.  I had to use the technique of starting at the valve (I am running them with innertubes to start with) and then pushing the tyre down towards the other side, this helps quite a bit when trying to get that last part of the bead to push over the rim.

Once on and pumped up to about 35psi they look good, the treads are not as sharp as the Purgatory or Ground Control, they do look a little cheaper to be honest (although they were not cheap!), but perhaps this sloped / slightly rounded knob shape will help them roll a bit easier.  I will run them at around 20psi to start with, see how it goes.  I’ll lower the pressure to around 12 or 15psi once I’m confident enough with them tubeless.

It took a few seconds for the bead to settle on the rims fully, observable by looking around the rim and checking that the bead pattern is uniform around the entire tyre.

Bead still in the process of seating fully.

Bead fully seated.

The tyres are noticeably narrower than the 3.0 OEM set from Specialized, being 2.8 this should be no surprise but just confirms that the OEM set were genuine 3.0 tyres and not less as some 3.0 tyres turn out to be in practicality.  I have read in some reviews that these WTB Ranger 2.8 tyres can be closer to 2.66, however I think this may depend on the width of the wheel rim.  I have not measured the width as fitted to my rims, it’s not that important to me, they are what they are.

I’ll be riding them very soon, most likely tomorrow, so we will see how they compare to the OEM set and how they ride my local roads and trails.

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Big Let-down

A couple of weeks ago when I rode my Plus mountain bike I noticed half way through my ride that the rear wheel rim seemed to be bouncing off bumps on the trail, I stopped and put some more air in and set off again on my merry way, not thinking any more of it.  A week later I came to ride the bike again and discovered that the rear tyre had gone completely flat.

I had converted these wheels to run tubeless last summer so I knew it wasn’t going to be due to a traditional puncture, it would require some time to investigate the air leak, it would most likely be one of three things – air escaping through the tyre sidewall, a tiny gap at the rim (possibly caused by the tyre burping at low pressure, something which I don’t think was the case now), or a faulty valve; I pumped up the tyre to 20 PSI (max riding pressure) to see how long it would take for the tyre to go flat, it took about a day or so, so I knew it had to be quite a slow air escape.

Today, being several days later, is the first chance I’ve had to spend some time looking at the problem so I set to with pump, tyre levers, and spare sealant at the ready.

First thing I did was remove the wheel from the bike and pump it up to 20 PSI, then listen and look closely at the tyre, paying particular attention to the sidewall.  After some time I narrowed down a slight hiss to an area of the tyre near the valve, though it was not coming from the valve but through the sidewall, I could see some tiny bubbles of sealant leaking out where the canvas pattern was in the sidewall.

After confirming where the air was escaping I popped the tyre off to check the sealant level, and I was astonished to find that the inside of the tyre was bone dry!  The sealant had adhered to the inside of the tyre and probably just run out, leaving one area without enough sealant to properly seal the tiny holes in the sidewall.  There was only one thing for it – add a load more sealant and hope for the best, so that’s exactly what I did.  After refitting the tyre and pumping up to 30 PSI (installation pressure), then tilting and swirling the tyre around to ensure the sealant moved over the entire inside surface I listened again – no air escaping sound could be found.

I checked the front tyre and found almost the same situation, although this time there was a tiny trickle of sealant and the inside of the tyre looked wet at least; I added another dose of fresh sealant and put the tyre back on the bike.  Time will tell if this has cured the problem, fingers crossed!

In conclusion, if there’s a ‘slow puncture’ on tubeless tyres then first thing to check should be the tyre sidewalls, look for a tell-tale diagonal stripe pattern and sealant escaping along lines following the pattern of the canvas that makes up the tyre carcass.  Check that there is enough sealant sloshing around inside the tyre (at least one inch depth), add more if it’s running low or dry.

It’s interesting to note that I haven’t had this problem with my Vittoria Barzo 2.2 tyres, only the Specialized Ground Control / Purgatory 3.0 tyres; no doubt their construction differs, if I had the luxury of being able to try a different 3.0 tyre pair on the Plus bike I would, however after plenty of internet research the consensus from users is that this Specialized tyre combo is perhaps one of the best so it’s worth persevering with for now.  Hopefully with more e-bikes using 3.0 size Plus tyres the available selection will improve in time.

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Autumn Road Riding – Damp / Changeable Conditions

Today is one of those uncertain days where the forecast (mainly the cloud / rain radar) shows a few definite blobs moving across, chances of getting caught in a shower are high but temperatures are supposed to stay above 6 degrees Celsius.  I gambled on the following:

  • Windproof outer (also light shower proof)
  • Merino wool thermal base layer (long sleeves)
  • Regular tights
  • Thin wool socks
  • Overshoes (waterproof)
  • Thick winter gloves
  • Merino wool skull cap (also covers ears)

This turned out to be the best choice, as although I did get caught in a shower which lasted about 15 minutes it was only light so didn’t penetrate the windproof top and quickly dried off while I was moving, my body and limbs remained warm and I didn’t end up damp with sweat.  The temperature actually dropped to about 4 degrees when I was higher up in the forest and the sun was in, so despite my thick gloves and overshoes my hands and feet still got rather cold.

Moral of the story is to keep moving and try not to spend too long free-wheeling when the temperature dips below 6-8 degrees Celsius.

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Autumn Cycling Attire

I’m quite enjoying autumn so far this year, temperatures have been nice and mild, the sun is still shining and the beautiful colours of autumn are in full swing.  Despite the sunshine I have had to adjust my cycling wardrobe to suit the lower temperatures, so what have I been wearing so far this season?

With the temperatures dropping to around 16 degrees Celsius I didn’t really need to change much – maybe if there was a cool wind then wear full finger gloves and for road riding a long sleeve jersey, but that’s about it.  Below that magic 15-16 degrees marker though I added a Merino wool base layer (Endura BaaBaa, works a treat for me).

The temperature did drop to around 5-7 degrees for a week or so, a cold snap during which I went full winter gear – neck buff, thick winter gloves, Merino wool base layer, middle layer, windproof top layer, Merino wool skull cap, and for road my waterproof overshoes for added dryness and wind protection.  All worked a treat, even if I did sweat a little.

So that pretty much brings us up to this weekend, we’ve had a bit of a reprieve in the temperatures as they’ve been up as high as 16 degrees in some places during the week, today as the Easterlies are bringing colder air from Scandinavia and Russia it’s back down to around 9 – 10 degrees, so what to wear for my mountain bike ride today?  I decided to go half-way on my winter gear, here’s my choice which seemed to work well for today’s sunny but cool conditions:

  • Ear protection wind proof head band
  • Long finger gloves
  • Thermal base layer
  • Short sleeve jersey middle layer
  • Long sleeve jersey outer layer (same one as for summer riding)
  • Long wool socks
  • Regular canvas top flat pedal Five Ten shoes
  • 3/4 Waterproof baggy shorts, leg vents zipped up
  • Neck buff carried in jersey pocket in case needed
  • Transitional cycling glasses (in and out of forested areas which can be quite dark during the winter even when the sun is shining)

There was a little bit of sweat going on but mainly where I had things in my middle jersey pockets, generally I keep moving so if I do sweat it doesn’t get a chance to cool down much, that’s when the cold can really start to grab you.

I could have worn thick winter gloves but for sure my hands would have sweated, but they would also have been warmer.  If I had worn a windproof top layer then I would have sweated more, even without the middle jersey; in my experience a windproof is never as good as a regular top for allowing sweat to escape despite any claims by the manufacturer, I generally only wear a windproof or waterproof if there is a cold biting wind that I need to keep out.

The forecast is for much lower temperatures in the week to come, we shall see what the next ride entails!

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Time to do some house keeping

It’s been a long time since I did anything with my own personal website and web pages, they have languished on my host gathering technological dust in pretty much the same state they were over ten years ago, well now I have decided to use some of my recently acquired web design and coding skills to update those old pages.  

My plan is to maintain the look and feel, but make the code slick and perhaps add some subtle cool things; some areas might get a visual overhaul too, and I might add all of the pages under one top menu system, who knows where this might lead!


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11-32 Cassette and 11-28 Derailleur are a Mismatch

It has been almost a year since I fitted an 11-32 cassette and new chain to the bike, in order to make this work I had to screw in the B-limiter screw all the way which I have now been told is a bad idea as it puts extra strain on the derailleur and hanger.  Although the system worked brilliantly for at least 8 months I think it was optimistic of me to think it would be fine as I have now learned that the strain and a couple of knocks to the derailleur have weakened the hanger to the point where it has twisted, resulting in poor, erratic shifting and the loss of some gears entirely.

As the warm weather suddenly appeared at the end of May this year, up until which point it had been freezing cold or at best merely mild, I jumped on the chance to get some dry mountain bike riding done in the forest, and did so for several weeks while the dry warm weather lasted (and apart from a few odd downpours, is still lasting now), my cyclocross bike sat at the back not seeing any use; when I eventually decided to give it a run out I discovered that the gears were not shifting properly and no amount of adjustment would cure it, I did notice that the derailleur sprockets appeared to be pointing slightly in the wrong direction but dismissed it as being caused by my viewing angle.  I took the bike in for a cable replacement (internally routed, not something I’m familiar with doing) only to be told by the bike shop that I should be using a long cage derailleur, and that the hanger was bent.

One replaced hanger and nicely set up gears later, I took the bike home and put the original 11-28 cassette and chain back on the bike, in theory I could have configured it again for thew 11-32 but the thought of having to pay another £40 to get a replacement hanger fitted didn’t appeal (I looked, they apparently can’t be bought from normal sources).  I decided to give the poor neglected bike a good long test ride, however I soon noticed that the rear pads were brushing against the disc (noted by a ‘swish swish swish’ noise as the rear wheel turned), a quick pit stop at the nearest bike shop to borrow a long shafted Allen key and it was sorted, then there was also the tell-tale sound of a particle or two in the bottom bracket, I knew I could not fix this out on the road but luckily it went away after about 20 miles of riding.  The final discovery was that the front derailleur now needed adjustment to accommodate the spacing on the different cassette low gear sprocket, unfortunately the adjustment there has rusted up so it’s not possible to turn the adjustment knob; assuming the part is available and that I can extract the old one, I should be able to replace or refurbish this one myself, I really can’t afford to spend more money on labour for this bike.  If worse comes to worse then I’ll just have to live with it (it’s just scraping when on the large chainring and lowest cassette sprocket, technically not a wise thing to do but I know it should be possible to run in this gear ratio without scraping).

While that is being sorted I will go back to the mountain bike, the tubeless Plus tyres have held their air superbly and await their first test ride!



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Maverick iON DT – Knocking Sound

I’ve just taken delivery of this nifty little 4WD desert buggy and taken it for a spin in a local patch of scrub, with the current extended heat wave the ground is very dry and dusty, perfect conditions for a desert truck!

After bashing around in circles and bespoke figure 8 patterns for a while the truck started to cut out at random, however leaving the truck for a minute or two seemed to clear the problem.  I would put this down to some sort of overheat protection, I noticed the motor was very hot when I accidentally touched it while reaching in to turn the power off.

So that was one thing I learned to be aware of, the second was to come next – after bashing around this dusty patch which had some piles of rubble and other bits and pieces around, suddenly the buggy started to produce an alarming knocking sound when running, as if something was stuck in a wheel spoke or rubbing against a drive shaft; I pulled out a few small twigs but the knocking was still there, I would have to take a closer look back home.

After unscrewing most of the screws I could find and examine the innards of the mechanism I eventually noticed the fault, and realised I only needed to remove one screw to get to where the problem lay – in the pinion gear chamber.

The screw in question is the one nearest the tyre in this photo, once removed it allows the pinion gear chamber cover to be removed.

I discovered a tiny stone lodged in the pinion gear itself, which I easily managed to remove using a sharp blade; I made sure that I remove the stone completely from the chassis then reassembled the buggy, tested it and the knocking was gone.  Success!

This is a fun little buggy that performs very well, I was amazed at the bumps and clumps it managed to get over without too much trouble, when it did flip it landed on all four tyres more often than not and there were a few exciting side wheelie moments to boot!  Highly recommended for kids big and small.

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Specialized 2Bliss Tubeless – A Saga In The Making – Part 2

After having tried numerous tricks to get my 2Bliss Ready Specialized tubeless wheels and tyres to seal I decided to clean them up and start again.

Before continuing I did a little shopping, as it turned out the guys over at Chain Reaction Cycles had everything I needed and at a very good price:

  • Stan’s No Tubes Rim Tape 9.14m x 33mm
  • 250ml Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant
  • Effetto Mariposa Tubeless Valve (x2)

There is actually a full kit available from Effetto, I have used their tape and valves previously with success, however as I already had the valves I purchased just the Stan’s tape (mainly because everyone raves about it and I wanted to try it for myself) and Effetto sealant.  My Plus rims are 27.5″ with an internal rim width of 29mm (according to the 2Bliss rim ‘band’ that came with them).

Using a washing up bowl filled with warm soapy water (actually washing up liquid) I cleaned away all of the old sealant, using a normal scouring pad to scrub off any dried sealant from the rims inside and out – I wanted this thing to be spotless like it was a new wheel, with nothing to get in the way of a good seal.

Scrubbing away the old sealant

Wheel being scrubbed in a washing up bowl

I also needed to remove the old sealant from the inside of the tyre, who knows how that would interact with new sealant (I purchased a different brand to replace it, I wanted to eliminate the old sealant as a potential cause of the previous failed attempts).

Scrubbing the old sealant off the tyre

I removed any traces of dried sealant around the tyre bead, the best way to do this is with some good old fashioned dry friction – a wet sponge won’t be nearly as effective as a dry scourer, but it will get hot so use caution!

I made sure I left the wheels and tyres to dry thoroughly, a few hours to be certain (this hot dry weather is good for drying things at least!)

Dried sealant on the tyre bead

That’s the hard and messy part over!  Had I not already attempted to seal the wheels using the 2Bliss rim tape system (which I do not rate at all now) then I’d be at this stage from the beginning.  Armed with my new Stan’s rim tape I started to apply it and get these wheels sealed.

There are many videos on YouTube demonstrating the best ways of applying rim tape, I loosely followed these and the advice I’d been given from a bike shop to ‘pull the tape tight and hard as if drawing an arrow in a bow’, I did this in sections of approximately two feet or so, smoothing down the tape between applications so that it sat in the grooves and corners of the inner rim.  One key piece of advice from one of the YouTube videos helped things along, and that was to use a dry microfibre cloth as trying to push the tape into the grooves with bare hands would probably result in very hot fingers from the friction.

Applying the rim tape

Starting about six inches to the left of the valve hole, the end of the tape was cut off using a sharp knife and the tape smoothly pushed down flush with the inner rim and the corners pushed in with my thumbnail.  Once I’d gone all the way around I continued to about six inches past the valve hole, then cut the tape using my sharp knife to leave a smart finished article that would hopefully be air and sealant proof.

Rim tape applied six inches on either side of the valve hole

When it came to inserting the valve stem I cut a slot almost as wide as the valve hole then let the valve stem open it up as much as it needed to as I pushed it through, the rubber block lined up with the direction of the wheel.  I applied the washer and nut finger-tight so that it pulled the valve stem and rubber block flush with the tape and tight up against it, but not so tight that it distorted the rubber block in any way.  It does not need to be more than finger right.

Valve stem fitted.

Valve stem fitted

This wheel is pretty much finished at this stage, all that’s left to do is fit the tyre (leaving a small opening to pour the sealant in), inflate to the tubeless install pressure as marked on the tyre sidewall, tilt and shake it about a bit then fit the wheel back on the bike and go for a ride.

I used about 80ml of sealant in these tyres to ensure sufficient to cover the entire internal surface with plenty left over for any leaks.  I inflated the tyres quickly using my track pump to 25 PSI, I didn’t see any sealant nor could I hear any air escaping, success!

Wheel finished

I actually decided not to ride the bike straight away, instead electing caution to see if it would lose pressure overnight – it lost a little on my rear tyre (Specialized Ground Control) so I pumped both tyres up to 30 PSI and went for a 15 mile ride on a route that covered tarmac, bumpy dirt tracks and potholed forest roads, a good combination to get the sealant jumping around inside the tyre, and not too far from home should anything go wrong.

As it turned out there were a few tiny areas on the tyre sidewalls where sealant escaped but these did seal eventually (with the current hot weather the sealant is thinner than ideal), it’s been a few days since that ride and the tyres haven’t lost any noticeable amount of pressure so I’m going to call this a success.  I will lower the pressures to ride levels (about 15-20 PSI for these 3″ Plus tyres) and ride the bike on trails where I would normally go, when conditions turn slippery I will try lowering the pressure perhaps as low as 10 PSI for a larger contact patch.

It occurred to me later that I might want to ride with a Purgatory up front (no change needed) and also a Purgatory on the rear for extra traction in muddy conditions compared to the Ground Control which I fitted; it should be a simple matter of transferring as much of the sealant as possible from the Ground Control to the second Purgatory once on the rim and just topping it up if necessary, then cleaning the remaining sealant off the Ground Control ready for the next summer season; certainly a cheaper option than having another whole wheel!  That is unless I could find an unused / new one going cheap somewhere, hmm!  A handy method I devised for extracting sealant from the tyre without getting too messy is a large syringe with a piece of flexible tubing, enabling me to suck up the sealant without actually putting my hands inside the tyre, as I would have to if using a scoop of some kind (which also might grab any dried blobs of sealant that I would not want in the new tyre).

Looking forward to riding tubeless on this Plus bike!

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Specialized 2Bliss Tubeless – A Saga In The Making

I have had a Specialized mountain bike for a couple of years now, it came tubeless-ready so in theory all I had to do was remove the innertubes, fit tubeless valves, put some sealant in and away I go… It has not been quite so easy.  

I purchased some Mariposa tubeless valve stems (which I have used previously with success on another mountain bike) and set to converting the wheels, they already had “2Bliss” tubeless rim tape (2Bliss is what Specialized call their tubeless system) and 2Bliss tyres so I didn’t pay much attention to that, all looked hunky dory, but after adding some sealant for the life of me I could not get the wheels to seal; sealant kept bubbling up the side of the valve stem, nowhere else.  I shook the wheel up and down with the valve at the bottom, I wrapped PTFE tape around the valve stem before and after installation (which actually gave a little bit of success but I didn’t trust it), I even fitted an o-ring around the base of the valve stem (seated against the rim tape inside the wheel) but nothing would stop the bubbles coming out, this eventually led me to believe there was a problem with the valve stem itself so I replaced that, same thing happened.

I was about to order some Specialized 2Bliss Roval Valve Stems and 2Bliss Rim Tape when I happened across a forum post about the 2Bliss Rim Tape, and how some people have had problems and do not rate the tape at all; this changed my thought pattern – perhaps it is the tape after all that is leaking, no amount of valve stem jiggery pokery would fix that, and it made sense too that when I managed to seal it with PTFE it was only by winding it around the stem between the wheel and the washer / nut on the outside of the wheel.

A plan was hatched – I would look very closely at the rim tape for any tiny slots or gaps where the air and sealant could be escaping, starting at the valve hole.  I soon discovered that the rim tape was not actually tape at all but more like a large elastic band that had been fitted over the wheel, and while it did form a nice tight fit it was the join at the valve hole that disturbed me, and gave me the firm believe that this was the weak point where the air and sealant was leaking.  I decided that I would go the traditional route of sticky rim tape so set forth to remove the 2Bliss rim tape and sealant.

Continues in my next post!


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Nearly there…

This winter feels like it’s been the coldest and longest for a number of years, yes there have been a couple of freaky weeks when we’ve had cold spells with lots of snow in previous years, but this winter has seen months of freezing cold winds, ice, heavy snow, then back to ice, more snow, heavy rain, flooding, fog, the works.  One could say that’s what winter used to be like, and it may be true, but we are living in a time of freaky weather; next winter could be very mild (which is better for cycling, so long as it isn’t raining all of the time).  On the plus side, I did get a chance to try out my mountain bike in a variety of snowy conditions on the roads and in the forest, the general result was ‘not really ridable and damn cold!’, there was also the sense that not many other people were out so if I did have a fall on my own then I could be stuck for a long time, not a very sensible thing to do unless you can go with a group.

The current forecast is for much warmer weather on its way, I really hope this will be the last of the cold weather as the mild spell we had a few weeks ago was followed by yet another freezing cold blast which resulted in ice and frost again, not good for the wildlife that may have just decided to come out of hibernation.

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