Frosty RC and new headlights

In recent weeks we’ve had a lot of rain, then some sleet, and now it’s all frozen.  The slush that fell yesterday has formed an inch-thick layer over the ground, the grass in the garden is frozen solid..  So what better time to get out with an RC truck!

Axial SCX Honcho

Although the sun was shining it wasn’t managing to melt away the frost and ice much at all, walking around quiet roads might as well be like walking on an ice rink so I’d rather keep my bones in one piece, forget cycling until it’s at least above freezing.  I considered driving on the frozen pond but a quick tap with the foot showed that the ice was easily broken, last thing I want is for my lovely RC to sink into the mire and probably explode in a shower of burning LiPo battery chemicals.

On my SCX Honcho I’ve replaced the front white LEDs with warm-white ones, I think it makes the headlights look a lot more realistic; I have further plans to boost the spotlights and (if I can be bothered to order the parts) try to set up some sort of nano Raspberry Pi to control them using one of the auxilliary switches on my transmitter, it involves some programming and a bit of electronics / wiring, shouldn’t be too hard but just takes a bit of effort.

I’ll also insert a resistor to the rear LEDs as they look too bright to me, as if the brake lights are permanently on.

I’m adding this post to the Wellbeing category as it represents me _not_ doomscrolling (or in my case, watching topical videos on YouTube) or otherwise fretting about world events over which I have no influence or control, which causes anxiety and stress and all the bad side effects that come from them.  Keeping the mind active is of paramount importance during difficult times.

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New Year, New Image Host

I’ve decided to switch to using postimage instead of Google Photos (formerly Picasa) for my image hosting needs.  I’ve noticed that some of my linked photos are showing as unavailable, it’s not because the original images are no longer there, it’s because Google have changed something so the link no longer works, and that’s not much use.  Admittedly Google didn’t provide image hosting officially for blogs and such, I just used a direct link to the photos but that’s obviously unreliable due to the way Google organises things.

I’ll be going through my old posts and switching over the images, it may take me some time and I might get bored and do something else for a while half way through, but I hope to complete the job eventually.  I also hope that postimage don’t let me down.

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WTB Ranger Tyres Ride Well!

After a few rides on these 2.8 plus tyres I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the rolling speed and grip that they give both over tarmac and over hardpack.  There isn’t that much by way of thick or sloppy mud around here (that I care to ride through), certainly the official forest trails are almost entirely hard when it comes to the surface (most of it is hard pack) and these tyres run superbly on it.  I think the only way these could be better would be if they were the softer, tackier compound but that would wear down probably a lot quicker, and generally only be an advantage over wet rocks… I’ll take the occasional sideways slip for that trade-off of longevity.

I haven’t ridden them in deepest darkest winter conditions yet, though being January now there’s bound to be plenty of opportunities, once the black ice clears.  I haven’t been out for the past couple of weeks due to the frozen conditions outside, an arctic blast currently keeping the temperatures at freezing or below (but no snow for Christmas).

I might just leave tubeless riding until the spring, it’s a lot easier to work with going tubeless when the weather is a bit warmer.

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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.

WTB Ranger Tyres

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.


WTB Ranger Tyres Fitted

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.

WTB Ranger Tyres bead seating

Bead still in the process of seating

WTB Ranger Tyres bead seated

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.


WTB Ranger Tyre Front

WTB Ranger Tyre Rear

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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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