To get the most out of your mountain bike trip to the Portes du Soleil, it’s crucial to have a properly set up bike, so here are a few tips to get the most out of your brakes…

First of all, the position: modern brakes are so good that you can use only one finger to stop but you need to be sure that your finger reaches the end of the lever (to get the maximum leverage) without any effort. To achieve this you will need to move your controls inwards on the bar, then adjust the reach of the lever, either with the dedicated knob (as on the Hope Tech levers) or via the little Allen bolt on the inside of the lever; finally, make sure that the lever angle doesn’t twist your wrists.

Don’t tighten your controls too much, so if you fall they will turn around the bar without being damaged.

Keep at least one pair of spare pads in your backpack.

Don’t forget that heavy braking (the ones that make you skid) are damaging the trails and are pretty useless at slowing you down… and RideAbility is here to help you brake more efficiently!

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Good news! Nigel, Nathan Rennie’s official mechanic, will be working this summer (apart from during the World Cups, of course) in François Baud’s workshop, right here in Morzine, at the bottom of the Pleney. If your bike needs a bit of World Cup standard TLC, just pop in… apart from being a highly skilled mechanic (there are easier jobs than wrenching for “the beast”!) and a fast rider, Nigel is also a top  guy.

As promised earlier, here are my first thoughts on the new offering from Fiveten, the Karver.

A few explanations first for those who’ve not heard of Stealth Rubber. Fiveten (5.10), the climbing shoe specialist, changed the little world of mountain biking a few years ago, introducing a sticky (yet resistant to abrasion) rubber to a Mtb shoe range. The grip provided by these shoes on flat pedals is unbelievable, giving you almost all the advantages of clipless pedals without the inconvenience (clipping/declipping can be tricky sometimes).

A big fan of the clipless, I tried the Fivetens last year and have never looked back! The freedom and extra confidence they gave me added loads of fun to my riding.

Last year I tried both the Low and High Impact2 and chose the latter for the protection they give to the ankles… mine are pretty fragile. After 3 months of daily use, the only criticsm I could find about last year’s shoes was that they were a bit heavy/hot when it came to pedalling up and that they were a bit of pain to put on……..

Tah dah! Bring on the Karver… designed by Kris Kovarik, they feature an ankle protection on the crank side and a removable “flap” to cover/hold the laces.

The lower design, gives more freedom around the ankles and an easier fit but still offers good protection. The “flap” is a really cool feature, no need to tuck the laces in the shoes anymore! It’s also more convenient to use than the one you find on Shimano’s. I think I will still use my High Impact for Downhilling though, as I really apreciate the extra hold on the ankles.

If you dig technical trails, go and get a pair, you really won’t be disappointed!

A girls’ version is also available starting at 6.5 US size.

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Karver with/without the flap. Difference in heigth betwin the High Impact2 and the Karver.

SRAM just posted 23(!) “how to” videos to help you give your SRAM parts (Avid, RockShox, Truvativ) some TLC. The videos, in true american style, are here.

They aren’t a million ways to improve your speed. You can book a skill session with RideAbility to improve your riding technique and/or send your suspensions to… logo fast

Fabien Glatre, owner and suspension guru, has masses of experience in suspension technology, aquired on the moto circuits and with some of the top french downhill racers, he’s even worked for Specialized Europe.  Fast recently moved to a new “lab”, equipped with nothing but the best equipment to tune and customise your suspensions.

Fabien in his lab.

The benefit of fine tuned/customised suspensions is obvious for a racer but will also be a great help to the “average” rider, giving him more grip, stability and security, in a word… FUN! Fabien’s always ready to give advice over the phone or email, you don’t need to speak like an engineer, just explain what you are looking for, the rest is Fast’s job!

Fast is supporting RideAbility for 2009, so I will have the Fastboxx kit installed in my Boxxer, and a new, as yet unnamed, kit in the DHX. The Rfx’s Lyric and RP23 will also get some special treatment… I’ll have a full report after the first rides.

The Fastboxx cartridge.

Check this out: Singletrack n°47

Now, guess who is one of the “fully qualified french guide”…

That’s right, I (Joseph) will be there to guide you on the best trails and to help you get the most out of the test bikes… well only if you are part of the “fortunate few”, of course!

After loads of discussion and scratching of heads, the jury (my girlfriend and I) has chosen the winner of the 2008 season photo contest. Here is the winner, Xavier Bascot from l’Alpe d’Huez with a photo taken during our trip in the Queyras, so ok, it’s not a perfect shot, but we like the action in it and it brings back some great memories.

Congratulations Xavier, a WideOpen DVD is on its way!

I am delighted to welcome a new sponsor for 2009, Fiveten (5.10) shoes, sticky rubber specialist.

5.10 is originally a climbing shoe specialist but have offered in the last few years a range of mountain biking shoes featuring the infamous “stealth rubber”. What’s so special about them? An unbelievable grip which allows your feet to stay on the pedals whatever you are riding on (Sam Hill has won 2 senior world champion titles with these shoes, a title which had been unobtainable without SPD’s until then). It has been a real revelation for me who had been riding on clipless pedals forever… give it a go, you wont be disapointed!

Expect a revue of the brand new Karver this spring.

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So, once again, I’ve been pretty bad updating the « news » page… I’m having a very busy off season.

First off I went for an “Enduro trip” with the Rocky sport guys from l’Alpe d’huez. What’s an enduro trip? Well, take a great location like the Queyras regional park (famous for it’s wild wolves population), if possible with steep mountains and windy singletracks, add an old battered Land Rover plus trailer, fill it with a bunch of singletrack rippers, a professional guide and hit as many runs as possible… we did between 4000 and 5000m vertical drop every day… yes, it was that good! Oh, and the bar in the chalet had a nice range of beers too. And you know what?! It’s SO nice to follow a guide… you should try it too!

After that, I was back in the Pyrénées where a delegation of Morzine riders came along to try out the “Perfect Pyrénées” weekend… I reckon it went pretty well, but you’d better ask them!

Since then, I’ve been in intense exploration mode, hunting out fresh trails around the family home… I’m trying two 1000m vertical drop singletracks tomorrow… as you can guess, I’m pretty excited!
I also had a quick trip across to the Roc d’Azur, one of the biggest bike shows in Europe, I managed to check out the new Hope brake levers…and find time for a few drinks (I even have a few memories from “New World Disorder9”).
And finally I’ll be doing more guiding/hosting next week with the “Perfect Pyrénéées” weekends.

So that’s all folks… for now, as there are a few more things to come before it’s time to swap bikes for skis… it’s all fun and games really!

Photos should be online very soon…