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Jeff’s Bike – Curing 1x. Sram 1x to 2x shifting conversion

 A resource on how to reclaim your gears, from the evil “clutches” of the 1x cult, and general messing with the internal organs of Sram road levers

Keywords: Sram 1x, Sram Force, Sram Red, Sram Rival, Sram 1x to 2x conversion

This post is divided into 4 parts

1. The rant
2. Sram Force 2x transplant
3. Sram Red, cable brake organ extraction
4. 2x dropper-post actuation

Not a great idea

is a great thing but I would have thought stopping people from having a decent
range of gears on gravel bikes was a foolish move. Currently, Sram only makes
clutched rear deraillers for 1x usage, unlike Shimano who now have GRX
and the Ultegra RX. The Shimano stuff was a very long time coming, but at least it works with 2x. Before 1x we didn’t have clutches, wide-range cassettes or narrow-wide chain-rings. We did have 2 chain rings up front and a derailleur which did double duty as a chain-guide.

My recently purchased bike came with Sram Force
1x, but after realising that it was just a gutted 2x lever, I tried to
track down some internal organs for it. Easier said than done. I put the word out
on the street, on the forums, on the FB, and signed up to the donor

6 months later my plight had reached Australia, and my friend
Paul brokered a deal through his buddy Grover. At last, I had a match. I
just had to wait 2 months for the gizzards to make it to my house
because of the Covid lock-down !

I already had a couple of sets
of Sram Red cable shifters, so I found some tutorials online and
practiced on them, using it as a chance to compare the cable gizzards with the hydro gizzards. Only the red coloured shifter-drum appeared to
be identical in both variants, but the word on the street is that between variants they are compatible. Eg, the Hydro stuff will all fit inside the different Hydro bodies, (Force, Rival, Apex) and the cable stuff will all fit inside the different cable bodies. Someone has said that an 11 speed shifter drum will also fit into a 10speed Hydro body. The Sram S-700.

My aim was to install a 2 speed Rival Hydro gizzard into my Force Hydro body, which was devoid of internal organs. To gather confidence in this project, I dismantled 2 different sets of Sram Red cable brake/shifters, for practice. I learnt a heap doing this, the most useful thing being the order of putting the stuff back into the brake/shifter assembly body.

Sram Force 1x has a Rival 2x transplant

With the Hydro brakes, like the Force, you don’t really need to remove the brake lever blade. You do on the cable brakes, as it gives you a better shot at access to the “skewer pin” that goes through all the organs inside the brake. The shifter-drum and the shifter mechanism are held in by this pin. Forcing it out is a major PITA on the cable brakes, BUT, on the hydro brakes, the pin is hollow with an internal thread tapped into it….  there must be an official tool for screwing into the back of this pin, for its removal, although given that you cant buy these small parts, I don’t know why you would sell such a tool.

None of the above is relevant anyway, as my existing assembly is devoid of organs. I can just back off the retainer screw that stops the “skewer-pin” from backing out, and drag it out with some small pliers, after I have taken off the cover.

Top left, undo 3 screws and remove cover. Top and bottom right loosen retainer screw. Bottom left, see back of skewer-pin.

This is what you see when you take the cover off a 1x assembly.

Checkout the “skewer-pin” , your 1x should come with skewer pin still installed.

See below the gizzards Paul and Grover sent me from Australia. While its true I dismantled 2 sets of Red cable brakes for practice, I also wanted to check  how different the internals from the Red cable brakes were from the Hydro Rivals.

I just made these names up, so don’t go looking for them at Sram HQ !

See the photo-grid below for the order of assembly. Left to right, in two rows.

Install the giblets in this order. Top left, the pawl with its little spring and axle. Carefully put the tiny circlip on. Don’t do this in an area where you could lose the circlip if you slip.

Bottom left, pull back the pawl, and slide the shifter-drum in, being careful that the drum’s springy bits are in the right place. Its pretty obvious I think. Jiggle the shift-drum around while applying pressure on the skewer-pin, which you have inserted into the skewer-pin hole, (at the back of the assembly) until the skewer pin “skewers” the shifter-drum.

Oh yes, you should adjust the reach on the brake blade so that it is as forward as it can be, this gives you more wiggle-room when inserting the paddle mechanism. When you have adjusted the brake out, you can try to insert the paddle mechanism.

Here is my technique for inserting the paddle mechanism, the last time I did it, everything went into place on my first try.

Rotate the shifter-drum upwards quite a way, maybe 90 degrees? (you have already lined it up so that the skewer-pin is holding it in place) so its not that hard to hold.

When you have rotated it up far enough, the cut-out in the drum gives you room to slide the paddle mechanism in. When you are at this point, the pawl usually slips down below the shifter-drum, into a position that is not ideal. Don’t worry about it. Jigger the paddle mechanism around until you can skewer it with the skewer pin, but making sure that you hook the little spring at the top, into its proper slot. (see red arrow below).

When you have done that, rotate the shifter drum forward again, and hook the pawl out from below the shifter drum, into its proper position.

Top, red-arrow shows where the spring fits into the body.

Use the paddle a few times to check that its all good to go, then put the cover back on !

I put some grease on the skewer pin. I’m sure I could add more, but at the moment I’m not sure how much to throw around, as it has potential to trap dirt in there. Google it ?

NB.  You should be able to do all the above without having to mess with any dirty hydraulic hosiery and related bleeding.

Disassembly of Sram Red, 10 speed
As mentioned earlier, the difficulty with getting the guts out of the cable braked variants is all about forcing that central skewer-pin out. It can be very tricky finding the hole at the front of the brake assembly. 

To make it a lot easier, you really need to remove the brake blade (lever) for better access, before you start on removing that skewer-pin.

There is a small circlip holding the pin that the brake blade pivots on. As usual, be careful you don’t lose the circlip when you flick it off. The pin that the brake blade pivots on can sometimes get a bit stuck. Support it from below and tap it out gently with an allen key, or if stubborn, a nail punch.

Sram Red 10 speed with the brake blade pin removed.

On the top of the brake body assembly there is a small allen headed bolt. This is an adjuster that pushes a plastic block up and down inside the brake body. With simple elegance, the plastic block contacts the side of the brake blade altering its position (lever-reach). You want to wind that allen head anti-clockwise, this shifts the plastic block down it’s pin, thus giving you a better line of access for when you try to push the central skewer-pin out.

On the first brake I messed with, the lower cir-clip was gone, the spring was gone, and the bolt was seized. In the second one, it worked perfectly, but while I was playing with it while writing this, it completely jammed up….. If it jams, or is already jammed, in the wrong spot, my condolences. It just means you are going to have to “jimmy stuff around” until you force something down that little hole, which you can’t even see, and barely feel. It’s a pretty crappy system for sure.

Some jewellers screw-drivers are really handy for all of this stuff, in particular flicking off circlips. In fact, I’m going to say, if this allen-headed bolt is still working correctly, don’t mess with it too much, as in, putting it at extreme ends of its range, maybe just set it up in the middle while you try to get the central skewer-pin moving.

The position on the right is the best, as it gives you more room to jam your allen key in, when trying dislodge the skewer-pin, but given that I just managed to fatally jam the one in that photo, maybe go for a compromise and set it up in the middle.

Remember, you cant force the skewer-pin out until you have partially screwed out the little phillips screw at the back, which serves as a backstop, so the skewer-pin can’t back out.

Top, the little phillips screw that needs to be backed out a bit. Bottom, the chrome skewer-pin poking out a tad having been attacked from the front end of the brake assembly. Once there are a few mm of skewer out, grab it with some small pliers.

 So jam your skinny allen key into the hole in the front and force that skewer-pin out. If it’s hard to do, flip the allen key around and use
the shorter end to get it started. If that cant get you in, try a
jewellers screwdriver. This is the only hard part to the exercise. Have patience, dont panic, do swear. 

At this point you pull the pin out fully with some pliers.

So this is what it looks after you have pulled the central skewer-pin out. Clean it up and reninstall, or replace it with newer donor organs. The instructions for reinstalling the Hydro brake guts earlier up the page are exactly the same as for the cable brakes.

 Here is a shot (below) of a reinstall of the cable gizzards for the right hand shifter, its actually easier than the left hand shifter, when you are trying to fit the shift paddle in. Just keeping snicking the shifter drum up and up until its in about 4th gear, and it will stay there, leaving a gap for you to slot the paddle mechanism in. Easy peasy.

Stick it in 4th or 3rd gear to make room for paddle mechanism.

Big time 1x weight weeners are probably going to save 34 odd grams if the right hand gizzards weigh a similar amount to the left, why not do it, and go singles-speed ! These are lighter than most single speed levers WITH the guts installed…. 144 grams minus 34 grams is 110 grams. I dont know of any levers that are that light.

Doing a 2x dropper post
I watched Joey Mesa’s dropper post tutorial below, and long story short, its a complete doddle. All you need to do is remove the circlip and pin that holds the little pawl in, and remove the pawl. Put it away someone safe. You wont need to do anything else, other than take the cover off so you can get access to the pin, and I guess remove the assembly from the handlebars, so you have room to back the pawl-pin out. Just wire it up as you would for any other cable. Long term I dont know if these components will be up to the rigors of dropper-post actuation. I have my doubts but what would I know.

Everything I’ve learnt about Sram 2x has been picked up in one week. Joey may have a follow-up on his dropper stuff long-term.

Everyone says that the Sram internals are elegantly simple compared to other shifting innards, and I can tell it’s pretty resilient, given the amount of missing or broken circlips that I am finding MIA.

Have fun dithering, and remember, I am just a backyard mechanic with luddite tendencies.

Relevant links
Sram tech-docs

Cable braked 2x Sram gizzard dithering
Padraig at Red Kite prayer
Joey Mesa double-tap stuff
Joey Mesa double-tap swap (shorter).
Joey Mesa Sram dropper post activater

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Jeff's Bike

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Techno-bum-bag

Is that a disco in your bumbag, or are you pleased to see me !

What do yo do when you have weapons grade tail-lights and it’s a waste to have them mounted on just the one dynamo bike? Mount them on your bum bag and you are good to go!

A truncated handlebar, with a Qube atop.

I just got 108 hours continuous flashing out of one 18650 rechargeable battery encased in this 2 cell power-bank case. Probably not what the inventor of the Qube, Kerry Staite had in mind when designing ultra efficient tail-lights for dynamo rigs, but I never leave the house without my bumbag anyway, so it makes sense to me. With quite a few bikes to choose from, it’s now no longer an issue, as far as rear lighting goes.

I should state that this is an unsanctioned hack, as power-banks all work differently, and Kerry’s Qube lights have such a tiny drain that most “proper” power banks don’t notice when a Qube is even connected after a while, and they automatically switch off.

Kerry uses some clever super-capacitors in the flashers than mean that they will keep flashing for 3 minutes after being disconnected from their power-source, obviously a very cool set-up for a dynamo scenario.

Anyway, it worked for me with this particular combination of 18650 cells and the power-bank case that I used, so if you want to give it a crack, details are below.

If you think this is overkill then you likely don’t commute (like I do) on the highest trafficked heavy vehicle route in New Zealand. Despite lobbying since 1904, there has never been a cycle lane for cyclists riding from Wellington City to the Hutt Valley.

Bits and pieces
1 bumbag with loopy bits on the back. Purchased in Japan.
An old Salsa carbon handlebar.
4 handlebar plugs.
4 zip-ties.

This is my favourite 18650 battery, but you can harvest them any older dead lap-tops, early model Nissan Leafs or Teslas you find at the recycling centre.

Power Bank case from Aliexpress. These cost a few bucks, $3 US. They probably work because they are unsophisticated and don’t try to be too clever. These cases are also chargers, so you could put the batteries in and use it to charge them if you wanted. I don’t, I have a separate charger that is faster, and that I would trust more, but even then I would not leave the house while leaving any batteries on charge.

K-lite Qube lights.

Recycled 18650 batteries from a dead lap-top battery pack.

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Jeff's Bike OPEN OPEN UP

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: OPEN U.P. and say aaaaaaaaaah!

The dentist, the luddite and the Superbike.  
Glossary here.

I suspect it’s no coincidence that OPEN make bicycles with model names like OPEN UP and OPEN WIDE. If this is not a clever subliminal marketing attempt at the well-healed “dentist” portion of the bicycle market, then I don’t know what is. Unfortunately I do not fit into this demographic in any way, so the following review you may like to take with a grain of salt. Some might say I am more in the Luddite category, but then they would, wouldn’t they.

This will be a pretty wide ranging post, because it covers a lot of new ground for me. My first 1x groupset. My first complete through-axle bike, only my second Press-fit bottom bracket, and my first SRAM hydraulic system, vs Avid, or Shimano.

The OPEN U.P. could be regarded as the first high-profile, modern, carbon “All-road” bike, if we disregard the bikes of old, that allowed the use of wider tires than was deemed normal at the time, and may have even been called touring or rando bikes. The OPEN U.P. (Unbeaten Path) was styled so differently to anything else out there at the time, with its fat frame lines and minimalist branding. Most people see it and say, “What brand of bike is that? Oh, never heard of them, where is it made? Switzerland?” It was the complete opposite of the cycle-tourist look, without rando bags or racks, appealing more to the Rapha ethic of minimalist gear, travelling with a credit card, a C02 and a Shakedry in your pocket.

OPEN’s timing looked to be perfect with the resurgence in supple and fat tires, 650b wheel-sets, and a move away from road riding where riders have to share with an ever increasing number of cell-phone distracted car users – #gravgrav was becoming a thing.

The running gear out of the box.
Out of the box, the
OPEN U.P. came with the Easton/SRAM Force 1x kit. A pretty solid build.
Easton EA70ax wheels and bars, Maxxis Rambler tires, a Thomson
seat-post and stem, and a very sexy, but painfully narrow Brooks
Cambium saddle. The 130mm perch was a good 40mm too narrow for my butt so it was eventually swapped out for a Selle San Marco Regale FX, an acceptable compromise between weight and comfort, but not a serious saddle for back to back long days in the saddle. I also swapped out the Easton bars
for some Thomson KFC cross bars which have a very fat and wide feel to
them, and a weener UNO stem.

The frame
The frame alone costs more than 3 times the cost of the previous whole bike I bought, so it’s pretty much a superbike by my definition. Normally I’d go for a more fiscally conservative option, but the stars lined up and a demo bike became available, along with a “dream-bike-build” pass, from my long suffering wife. My favourite and most adaptable bike up until now has been my Surly Karate Monkey The OPEN U.P. could not be further away than the Karate Monkey, at 1040 grams the OPEN’s frame weighs less than the Karate Monkey’s fork, but is still 160 grams heavier than the OPEN U.P.P.E.R model, which is significantly more expensive. Be prepared to OPEN UPPER your cheque-book even more for that model. Given the amount of off-road riding I am doing on it, I am happy to have the beefier frame of the U.P., although the designers say the UPPER’s frame is no less robust. The guys at OPEN, Andy Kessler and Gerard Vroomen get credit for the dropped chain-stay design that gives them clearance for fat tires and yet still obtain road-bike levels of Q-factor. Q-factor is very on-trend in marketing circles these days, although Shimano seem to be bucking this trend recently with their wider GRX groupset.

The OPEN U.P. is a massive change for me in terms of the technology that passes for normal on many bikes today. It is supposed to be a “quiver killer”. You could in theory get rid of your CX bike, your road bike, your touring bike and your bikepacking bike and replace it with this machine. This is assuming a few things. One of the things it assumes is that you have a spare set of wheels and enough gearing to cover all the different scenarios. I did manage to get rid of all of the above bikes, except the road bike, it’s just not worth trying to sell.

The OPEN frame has 3 separate bottle cage mount points, which is a must for bikepacking, and a slightly sloping top-tube, which is also great for a frame bag, or even better, a half-frame bag, if you want to use all of those water bottle mounts. It also has mounts on the top-tube which make mounting of a gas-tank very easy, (or even another water-bottle).You can either bore holes in you current gas-tank for mounting, or use magnetic mounts.

The frame fit is interesting. I am 5″ 10″ and I have short legs, and a long torso, and yet I have a decent amount of seat-post sticking out on my medium sized frame. Typically, I would end up with not much seat-post showing on a medium. I know several people who have accidentally ended up with the wrong sized frame for their bodies, so a bit of research needs to be done to make sure you get it right. I think I have more work to do on nailing my position still. There is plenty more to read about the internally routed cabling of the bike below, but one thing that I found disappointing was that the rear derailleur cable exit point from the chain stay is only really compatible with a road styled derailleur, not a great feature for a bike that you might like to throw an MTB derailleur on. I wonder if it would be possible to have multiple cable exit points? I know of one guy who has managed to by-pass this by routing his cable out the bottom of his bottom bracket and running it on the underside of his chain-stay so he can use a clutched XO 10/11 speed MTB derailleur . A lot of fuss just so he can get clutched 2x shifting, in SRAM. SRAM 11 speed road shifters work with SRAM Exact-Acuation derailleurs in Road or MTB. Not a problem if you are a Shimano GRX user of course. Shimano still believes that there is a place in the world for 2x thankfully. The geometry seems pretty standard by current gravel norms with a 71 degree fork angle and a 73.5 degree zero-set-back seat-tube angle. All I know is that it feels good to me.

Stealth gas tank mounted on the provided location.

All of my experiences so far relate to the SRAM Force 1x groupset that it came with, so bear this in mind. I am sure another group-set would yield a completely different result. At this point the gearing is still a bit of an issue for me. Much time has been spent poring over gearing calculators, weighing up the pros and cons of 1x vs 2x. There is plenty of info on the OPEN website about the options, but so far my glass of kool-aid remains full. I still want at least the equivalent of a 44 front and an 11 rear, to nail the long tarseal descents on my commute to work, AND the ability to climb a hill with at least 21.8 gear inches down low, thats a 36/46 front rear climbing combo on 700 wheels.

When delivered, the OPEN came with a 42 tooth chain-ring on the front
and a 36 on the back. That is not going to get you very far in
Wellington NZ. That’s not even 1 to 1. Actually, I found one scenario
where it was acceptable, the Tour de Gravel in Marlborough was quite
doable with a 42 on the front, for my fitness at the time anyway.
Commuting on the flat was alright as long as there is not a lot of
extended downhill. The steepest climb I am likely to do is called the
“Tip-track” and it is mostly made up from two 15% sections on loose 4wd.
With a 650b wheelset on with a 36 on the front and a 46 on the back, it is doable. But then if a couple of days later I wanted to do a local
bunch ride, I would have to take the 36 front ring off and replace it
with the 42, and swap the wheels. Unfortunately the standard short-length
cage Force 1 rear derailleur was pretty hopeless, it only allowed me to
shift to a 36 on the back. It was
replaced with a medium cage Rival version, which incidentally weighed the
same, a portly 271 grams. That’s quite heavy for a derailleur that is only supposed to work in 1x mode only. A SRAM Red derailleur weighs in at 145
grams, almost half. Not that I am ever going to buy a new SRAM Red derailleur, but there are plenty of people who will.

SRAM medium-cage Rival derailleur on left, Force short-cage on the right. Rival shifts to a 46, the Force only to a 36.

Bottom bracket
My fear of technology is at its zenith with press-fit BB’s and it was no surprise to me that it started creaking pretty much straight away. Bear in mind that this was a demo bike, so it already had some miles on it, you might even think of this as a long-term test, rather than just the 6 months that I have had it. It was a plastic SRAM BB, more on this latter, but it has been perfectly quiet since its replacement. I’ve not looked up the actual BB height just yet, but it has never been a problem in any of the riding I have done, even on the most technical trails I have never had pedal strike. I am pretty sure the SRAM Force crank-set has 175 long arms.

Is Force 1x or mostly 1x?
Over the time I have had the OPEN I have managed to use a bunch of different front sprockets on this bike, a 36, a 38, a 42 and a 44, with 2 different rear cassettes, an 11-42 and an 11-46, all running the same length of chain, so I started to wonder if it was truly a 1x derailleur . According to the “internet” and the little diagram SRAM did, it’s 1x only. I started to experiment a bit with running two different chain-rings on the front in “shift-with-a-stick” mode. On the front I had a 44 and a 36, and on the back I tried 11-42, and 11-46 cassettes. The drive train seemed to deal with it very well. The 44-46 combo was pretty ugly, but everything else was acceptable. So that’s an 8 tooth gap on the front. Is that enough to warrant keeping the existing porky derailleur, or would you rather go for a more typical wider range front combo, 46/34 up front, with less of a dinner plate on the back, and a road based derailleur? If you are a weight weener you will know that that the monstrous 1x rear clusters can weigh more than a front double ring and front derailleur combined. This is still largely “1x talk”, but relevant in the choices that the OPEN gives you, to deal with the different options as you will see below.

Maxxis Ardents front and rear. Not really enough room for the 2.2 on the back. I swapped to a 2.0 Specialized.

Tires and wheels
I can safely say, I don’t have another bike that handles as well as this one. On the road with my 38 mm Compass Barlow Pass tires it inspires a ton of confidence. These really are the default tires on the OPEN for me, as they are still a very capable compromise off road on the dry hard-pack trails around Polhill or Belmont where I do a lot of riding. “Quiver killers” are all about compromise….

The 700 x 43 mm Panaracer Gravel Kings are a very robust tire which I used for the recent Akatarawa Gravel Fondo. They obviously lack the suppleness of the Compass tire, but there is no place for suppleness when riding on parts of the Karapoti Classic course anyway. I probably should have had the 650b wheels on for the Aka Fondo, but I was hoping for an easier ride on the faster stuff. The Gravel Kings still track really well on the road when heeled over at speed, but they obviously feel a lot slower than the Barlow Passes, with their substantial tread. They are a really solid grippy tire. With the 700 wheels it’s a good idea to put some tape on the back of the seat-tube as you can get scuffing from the tire, maybe there is a bit of vertical flex in there, I was quite surprised to see it as it appeared to have plenty of room. In fact, I’ve just checked, and that is my error, the OPEN UP is only specced to accept 40mm tires, not 43mm, because of the diameter, NOT the width. Of course all tires are different in the real world.

SP dynamo hub in 650b. Easton ARC 24 rim.

In 650b mode I am running a Specialized Fastrack Control on the back at 2.0 inches, and a 2.2 Maxxis Ardent on the front. This is a ridiculous tire for a weight weener bike like the OPEN, and at 730 grams the tire weighs 3/4s the weight of the bike’s actual frame. (They were cheap). The fat front 650b tire had quite an impact on the handling compared to the 700 tires. Not bad, just different. You get used to it, but it is just obviously more “MTB-like”. There is something about the accurate steering of a narrow tire that I enjoy when on the trails on a gravel or cross bike. Despite the weight of the front tire, in 650b mode, the whole bike still weighs less than my carbon road bike. I enjoy the 650b wheels in the weekends on the trails but the default wheelset is the 700c Easton EAX with the Barlow Passes for commuting and unplanned excursions. I’ve recently swapped the Ardent out for a Specialized Fasttrack S-works 2.0 on the front and it feels really nice.

One of the rear Easton wheel bearings has worn out already and the Carbon-Ti X-12, 12mm  through-axles have taken a bit of getting used to. Once or twice I have failed to torque the rear one up enough and it has come loose mid-ride. It’s usually only noticed when shifting deteriorates or you hear a clunk from the rear. Once I had over-torqued the front and was not able to undo it with a multi-tool so I definitely need to re-calibrate my arm.

I have a dynamo wheel built up in 650b and used the 47mm WTB Horizons for a short time. They felt quite dead and slow to me, actually, a lot like an old Specialized Armadillo. The Horizons do look very robust, so it would be a hard decision to pick between them and the 700c Gravel Kings for bikepacking. Having the dynamo in 650b mode would likely swing it. I guess there are plenty of other fast rolling 650b tires to look at as well. The Horizons just look like they should be faster than they actually feel.

K-Lite dynamo lighting kit on the 650b SP hub with an Easton rim. Looking forward to the dark again

I was initially very apprehensive about the
having had only bad experiences with Avid hydraulic brakes. The “Easter
Island” styled flat-mount brakes have on the whole been a pretty good
experience so far. Currently the front one sometimes rubs/squeaks, and sounds like a Grey Warbler under braking, and the rear
brake has developed a bias towards one side, which I need to deal with
properly. But they are very powerful, which means I tend to ride more on the
hoods than I
normally would. The high vertical profile gives me confidence
that my hands wont bump off in the rough stuff. The discs are 160mm at
both ends, and it is very easy to accidentally lock up the rear. In fact,
on my first ride off a very steep and wet street, I accidentally locked up
and slid into a major road-way. The organic brake pads have not lasted well for me, even in dry weather so I will be going back to sintered metal. One thing I have noticed about the brake levers is that the lever surface is way more robust than that of my buddies Shimano GRX, which seems to have the surface covering peeling off it in a very short time. The fork feels strong
and flex-free despite only weighing 390 grams and I have not had a peep
out of the Cane Creek head-set to date.

Sram Force. (Easter Island) Very high profile, feel less dorky than they look. No left shifter. DOH! 

Tinkering with bikes
I’ve always been a tinkerer, its part of the enjoyment I get out of personalising my bike, for aesthetics or performance. It’s not unlike the satisfaction that my wife gets out of planting and maintaining her garden. I kind of expect most people to be like this, but I know they are not. This is why I have mostly rejected running tubeless tires for so long. It’s not uncommon for me to swap my tires 3 times in 2 weeks, depending on what I am doing, commuting, a Hill Climb, a Gravel fondo. I just cant be bothered with the mess of tubeless. I suspect it’s also what happens when you join the “One-bike-for-all” team. But now I’ve bitten the bullet and got a “tank” and tubelessed my 650b wheels. The 700’s had gizz in them when running the Gravel Kings for the Akatarawa Gravel fondo, but a few days later I de-gizzed them and went back to the Barlow Passes with tubes for commuting.

Top, 2x shift with a stick, 44 and a 36 (hidden). 11-42 on the back with Rival medium derailleur. 

The OPEN is a very pretty bike, and to date, I have never read a bad thing about it, apart from the price. But the aesthetic comes at a cost. After swapping out my rear derailleur to get a better gear range, my cable was now deformed, it would not thread back into my new long-cage derailleur. No problem, I will just replace the derailleur cable. Not so fast….

There is a good reason why “dentist bikes” all use electronic shifting…. the cables are all on the inside of the bike. Any time you want to change a derailleur cable on the OPEN, you will need to remove the crank, and bash out the press-fit Bottom Bracket.

This was a very new thing to me. I could not believe it. I emailed OPEN to confirm this, and Andy Kessler, one of the owners of OPEN, to his credit, replied in minutes, (they really are a 2-man company) but I was gob-smacked. To make matters worse, at my local bike shop, the proper extraction tool was not working on the stubborn plastic BB. Eventually we got it out by bashing out one of the bearings independently, as it was causing a very tight fit. Once that was trashed, we were able to whack out the plastic BB shell. This was a very traumatizing experience for someone with a $5,500 dollar light-weight frame, and repeating the procedure every time I need to replace my derailleur cable, or change from a 1x to a 2x set-up does not encourage me to want to tinker with this bike’s shifting mechanisms. So yeah, maybe there is a use-case for electronic gears after all. Probably SRAM AXS. It’s just a shame I am not a dentist.

Enter here if you want to change your derailleur cable. But first remove the bottom bracket.

I don’t think the design of the OPEN has changed much since it first
popped out of the mold in 2015, and it’s a credit to the designers that
it is still one of the most desirable bikes out there. I suspect that
other more recent arrivals to the #gravgrav train like the Hakkalugi MX are encroaching on its
territory with a dropper-post ready 31.8 mm seat-tube, friendly cable routing
access and a better rear derailleur cable exit point to allow the use of
MTB derailleurs. The Hakklugi also has a screw-in T-47 BB and mudguard
mounts. If I was a dentist with a healthy practice this is one of the
bikes I would also be looking at.

Whether you take your OPEN bike-packing or not probably depends largely
on your running gear and personal inclination. If you have a cafe/weener
build you might like to replace some of those light-weight carbon
accessories with alloy ones, and make room to stow away your derailleur
charger. I know of a few
people who have used theirs for bike-packing and they seem very happy
with them. You probably would not want to do the Old Ghost Road on one,
but the Tour Aotearoa or the Kiwi Brevet would not be a problem. Not
having accessory mount points on the fork is a downside, but I guess you can always buy a new fork for bikepacking, and leave this one looking pretty.

The brave new world of direct mount chain-rings. Kill all your spiders and save a few grams !

The OPEN is an amazing bike. It has become my goto bike for everything. Commuting, hitting the trails, and all manner of events. It’s crazy light, it handles like a
dream, on and off road, and I do love the colour. For me I feel that it
works best in most situations with the 700 wheels, but then again I seem to be using the 650b wheels a lot right now, commuting with the dynamo front wheel. It doesn’t make sense that you can have so much fun off-road on a bike like this, that looks pretty much like a road bike.

So I think that covers most things. A lot of what I have mentioned
relates to 1x and SRAM’s groupset more than it does to the OPEN itself.
Initially I was a bit peeved at the 110 BCD SRAM Force crank with its hidden
chain-ring bolt nonsense but once I realised how easy it was to remove
the crank, and access the chain-ring bolts that way, I got
over it. This crank has probably been on and off more times than all the cranks on my other 10 bikes over the last 2 years. The direct drive system for mounting sprockets without spiders
was all new to me as well, but rather than getting out an allen key, and
a torx driver to change gears, I’m more likely to opt for one of those
old fashioned front derailleur things. I guess I am a bit of a Luddite eh?

Tire nerdery appendix
Some recent events ‘Ive done in the last 6 months and the tires I have used.

Original tires – Maxxis Ramblers 40mm, (435 grams)
The Tour de gravelCompass Barlow pass, 38 mm, (360 grams)
The BoganduroPanaracer Gravel Kings 43mm, (490 grams)
Short test rides – Panaracer Pasela 38mm, (420 grams)
Short test rides – WTB Horizons, 47mm, in 650b (505 grams)
Vets Hill climb – Specialized Roubaix 32/30 (390 grams)
Akatarawa Gravel FondoPanaracer Gravel Kings, 43 mm, (490 grams).
Vets Hill climb – Compass Barlow pass, 38 mm, (360 grams)
Casual weekend trail riding, in 650b  – Maxxis Ardent 2.2 (730 grams) + Specialized Fasttrack 2.0 (530 grams).
More Casual weekend trail riding, in 650b  – Specialized Fasttrack 2.0 (485 grams).
Commuting more recently, 650b  WTB Horizon on the front, and a Barlow pass 700 on the back, reverse mullet.

OPEN website
The OPEN website, is one of those frustrating one-page ones. Google is not that kind to OPEN as OPEN is a very common word, as is UP ! The best part of the site is the “Customer build showcase”  and the “blogs” where punters ask Andy and Gerrard questions about gear compatibility and where they announce new initiatives.

Gearing geekage
Combinations of gearing with a SRAM Rival medium rear derailer and a 44/36 shift with a stick double on the front. Running the one length piece of chain. Black cassette is 11-46, silver is 11-42. It seems to tell me that a range of 8 teeth between your front 2 rings means you can get away with a 1x rear derailleur. This could be an acceptable hack for bikepacking.

More disturbing links from a weapons-grade nerd

Drinking the koolaid: Something that people believe, despite obvious evidence indicating that its not a good idea.
Derailleur: A device that derails and re-rails your chain into an appropriate location in your drive-train – Mentioned 32 times in this post.
1x: A marketing initiative to simplify the drive-train of a bicycle by giving the rider less choice in gearing and creating heavier, more complicated and faster wearing componentry, while simultaneously creating a bad chain-line.
Dentist: A disparaging term for a cyclist who is usually not quite young anymore, and has a job that enables purchase of highly expensive cycling equipment, even if their dedication to cycling as a hobby is not intense or long lasting.
BB: Bottom bracket. What the crank-arms attach to. Conveniently located towards the bottom of the bicycle.
Q-factor: Quack factor, relating to the width of the bottom bracket, and how it might make you feel like a duck when pedaling.
Tubeless: A clever marketing initiative by BIG LATEX to wrest control of the “inflated tire” sector of the market from the conservative tubed area and spawn a massive new component industry around fixing flats, without actually having to touch a tube. Based on the clever
Sea Monkeys marketing model of topping up your ever-fattening tire until you can observe (feel) the “latex-monsters” inside. Changing tubes can be complicated and dirty, compared to owning a compressor and blowing gizz all over yourself, at home, on the trail or on the road.
Gizz: Sealant, Stans, tire milk.
Gas-tank: Bento-box, tool-bag that sits on top-tube.
#gravgrav: The new phenomena that is breathing life into a bicycle industry marketing teams. #egravgrav will be next.
#allroad: The predecessor to #gravgrav. A lot more about “spirited riding” than “shredding the gnar”.
#gnar: That which must be shredded.
#grinduro: A special event for millenials where it doesn’t matter if you get dropped. Everyone is a winner.
#boganduro: A grinduro for bogan millenials.

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Jeff's Bike

Jeff’s Bike – Cleetus on his Cherubim on Ikigai – Polhil

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Jeff's Bike

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Akatarawa Gravel Fondo

This event was the brainchild of Upper Hutt svengali Kim Hurst. It was an awesome event with a short and a long course. 50 kms and 87kms. I patched up some amateur footage from my Gopro.


2677 metres climbing. I rode an OPEN UP with 700C wheels shod with tubelessed  Panaracer 43mm Gravel Kings. Gearing was a 38 tooth on the front and an 11-46 Sunrace cassette on the back. Fitness and traction were more limiting than the gearing.

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Boganduro grinduro Jeff's Bike

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Boganduro

Update 1. Weather is looking good !
The Welly contingent will go for a beer to the Sprig and Fern on Tinakori road after the ride.

If you have any questions then email me using the contact form.

Cheers, Jeff

Details below…

The Boganduro is a casual gravel grinder in the Grinduro format with self-timing based on the STRAVA app installed on your phone.

It will be on gravel where possible, with around 1600 metres of climbing. The Boganduro starts in Wellington, or the Hutt Valley, and takes in Battle Hill and Belmont Regional Parks.

This is a chance to catch up with your buddies and have a good old chin-wag, and if you are up for it, lay down the hurt on a couple of climbs or downhills, if that’s your thing.

Don’t forget to dress sensibly, it could get cold, bring food and water, tubes and tools. Have the course at least on your phone or GPS. ( you may like to download the GPX file below ). Familiarise yourself with the course in the event that you get lost. Course notes  below. Please read them at least once.

Starting point:
Wellington Train station. 8am and
Petone Wharf 8:40am, Saturday November 23rd.

Cost: Free
Food availability: Pauatahanui Cafe / Dairy enroute.
Bail-out points: Judgeford, return to Hutt Valley via Haywards on the road.

It’s fully self supported, bring tools and a couple of spare tubes and kit.

Be prepared for all weather and to ride for up to 96 kms max, but around 74kms if you are only starting in the Hutt.

Use #boganduro to share  related bumpf in your social media if that takes your fancy.

To give you an idea of the terrain, here are the STRAVA timed segments that will most likely be on the course. My suggestion is that you will want at least 35mm tires.

The full ride on Strava can be seen here:

The Strava timed segments are shown here.

I have done a couple of reccies on the 3 of the 4 sectors of the #Boganduro.
The downhill segments are both mint, and the climbs are… climby : )
the major climb (Puketiro/Cooks Road) you should be able to do in a 1 to 1 gear, so a 32/32 or
similar, but YMMV. Strava tells me that there is at least 1 km at 20% on this first sector,
but overall it is 8%.

96 kms from Wellington to Wellington


The latest NEW stuff is here now (just below).

*Course GPS (GPX file) here:
*Course notes here. (Dropbox)
*A large map here.  (Dropbox).
A large live zoomable map here:  (Web)

*Read comments below on Dropbox.


* WARNING. Dropbox have deliberately made the download procedure confusing so that people THINK that they need to join up and login to dropbox. You do NOT need to.

When the big white login button appears, click the small grey X in the top right, and continue on, repeating what you have already done.

the file is saved you can Drag n drop the file onto your GPS or smart
phone. I don’t know what you do if you have an Iphone but I heard
recently that Apple were going to invent “drag n dropping” of files.
Fingers crossed!

There are plenty of phone apps that allow you to view a GPS file. The one I use is called New Zealand Maps.

Youtube of the Bull Run track here.
This is the only technical part of the course. Slow down if you are not
a confident rider. There are only a couple of small drops in the
course.  Another version of it here with better lighting.

Looking at your segments
After you have finished your ride you can upload the file using Strava. Go to the Boganduro segments under your results, look under the “LEADERBOARDS” for “Todays” results.

Results from last years Boganduro are here.

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dynamo Jeff's Bike k-lite

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: K-Lite 2nd impressions

I was very excited to get a hold of the latest kit from K-Lite
to run through its paces recently. Kerry is constantly iterating his designs but recently he has launched a
couple of very cool additions to his line-up. His new rear flashing lights, (QUBE) and a new
USB converter with dual outputs.

If you followed
the world’s gnarliest bikepacking events, like the Tour Divide, or the Silk Road Mountain Race you
would have noticed that many of the riders were using various models of K-Lite
kit. These guys are using the kit in the crucible of fire, if anything can possibly go wrong, it will.

Dual-port USB-charger, QUBE flashers, switch wire/loom and front light.

The flashers
Kerry makes the only dynamo powered flashers, in
the world, called the QUBE, available in 1x or 2x formats, or front and rear sets, for attaching to the seatpost, seat stays or bars.

Runs for 3 mins after a 15 second spin of wheel.

he has crammed little super capacitors into them so that a 15 second
spin of the front dynamo wheel means your rear flashers will go for 3
mins before needing more juice. Not many traffic lights take that long
to change. 

The QUBE flashing pattern seems
quite random, but in fact, the LONG/SHORT flash-pattern is
actually what NASA use. It is the best for judging the distance to the rider, and also catching the eye from a distance.

are very bright and yet Kerry tells me they draw less than 30mA
intermittently, a typical rear dynamo light draws 110mA at all times. That’s a big difference. If it means anything to you, the standard
bikepacker’s GPS, the Etrex 30, draws 50mA-110mA (back light dependent)
at 5 volts. 

Even in the daytime the QUBE’s are a great addition.

Kerry has also done something smart with the optics, so that the further you are away, the brighter
they look, the idea is that the rider behind, sitting on your
wheel, is not blinded, but a car, in the distance gets full blast, clever stuff. These QUBEs are the only item that Kerry is building by hand these days,
so he only does a run on them when he has a big enough order. Check
your local K-Lite dealer for stocks.

The switch / wire loom

Mount the switch on bars, stem, or steerer

switch wire/loom comes in two styles. The first one is where the USB-charging out-puts are active all of the time, and you just toggle the front light off and on. This is the mode you will need if you are wanting to run the QUBE flashers.

In the second style, you just flip back and forth between front lighting, or USB charging.

The USB charger

Kerry has some clever smarts hidden in the new dual-port  USB-charger to help with
charging supercap systems like the QUBE. He has more smoothing caps than any of the other USB chargers out there. This does make it a little larger, but it allows safe direct connection of phone or GPS to USB charger, should your USB cache battery stuff up.

Normally connecting a sensitive USB device direct to a dynamo charger (without an inline cache battery) is not advised, as the output can be a bit “choppy” due to the AC conversion done on board. This can cause re-sets and crashes of sensitive USB devices. In the new K-Lite charger with its extra smoothing, it offers another layer of back up, in an emergency situation.

The new design retains the little LED activity light
introduced in the previous model, so you know if the power is making its way from the dynamo to the charger. Apparently the new USB charger lets you run
your SPOT-tracker and charge your USB cache battery at the same time, because the SPOT trackers draw so little power.

The SPOT-tracker will run from the dynamo all day and automatically switch to
it’s own battery only when you have stopped moving. You can even power
your SPOT tracker with no batteries in the bay, just plug it in to the
USB-charger and get pedaling. I haven’t tried this out myself as I
don’t have a personal SPOT tracker. As in his previous model Kerry has all the plugs going in and out of the USB-charger at
the same place, this is great for space saving in your gas-tank, if
that’s where you store your electrics.

Here are a few potential scenarios that you might hope to run from your dual USB-charger. Obviously
it depends on whether its day or night, and the terrain, as the front
lights will use a lot of the power coming from the dynamo hub at night time.

Night-time riding

  • Front lights and QUBE F and R flashers
  • Front lights and QUBE F and R flashers and GPS (Etrex and Edge as they are low powered)
  • Front lights and QUBE rear flashers and GPS and SPOT tracker. In this scenario you’d need a USB splitter as there are only two out-puts from the USB converter. It’s not until the demand exceeds 500mA that you start to rob power from the front lights. Flashers+SPOT+GPS should be under 500mA if you are moving at any kind of pace.

Day-Time riding

  • Charge cache and run SPOT tracker
  • Charge cache and run QUBE F and R flashers
  • SPOT tracker and GPS 
  • SPOT tracker and QUBE rear flashers 
  • SPOT tracker and QUBE rear flashers and GPS (need a USB splitter).

Obviously the idea is to charge your cache battery in daytime if you can as there is a lot more power available when the front lights are off.

My experience with the USB charger and the Etrex GPS was pretty good. Basically, if you have it plugged in to the USB-converter, and you are moving, it defaults to the dynamo for power. I found that it wasn’t until I dropped below 9 kmh that I got the nag-screen. However, if you run the GPS via a cache battery you don’t get the drop-out at all. Etrex AA batteries last for 4 days anyway, and are easily available at most stores or gas-stations, which is why they are so popular.

My buddy ran his Garmin 1030 without a cache battery in the Japanese Odyssey last year with no problems using his K-Lite kit. It would just drop down to the internal battery when the dynamo power was too low. The 1030 is a much more sophisticated piece of equipment than the old Etrex though and you have to look at the pros and cons of each device. Matt pointed out that in Japan a lot of the riders used phones instead of GPSes for navigation. In an event where most of the people are topping up their devices in accommodation over-night it’s an option.

The lights
lights have undergone a weight-loss programme that shaves a bit more
meat off them but they still share the same internals as the previous
model. Coming in 2 variants, the Gravel/Road and the MTB, the major
difference being that the MTB has a wider more diffuse spread for the
great outdoors, vs the more punchy beam of the Gravel/Road light which
has to compete with urban light pollution.

In both variants the outside lights come on first and are supplemented by the centre beam at higher speeds. Everytime I go out I am amazed at the strength of these lights.

The new K-Lite kit also contains an adaptor for the Universal fork crown mount, allowing easy connection to Supernova or B&M style mounts. The GoPro mount is still a very popular mounting mechanism, and rightly so, with thousands of cheapie variations of it available online.

I did a bit more field testing in the weekend with a proposed trip down south to do the Old Ghost road. There was always the chance that the weather was going to be bad, so I had to be open to other options, and I had plans to visit my parents 120kms away in Nelson. As it happened, the trip was cancelled and after some local riding, I rode over the Mangatapu Saddle that links Nelson to Marlborough. I had installed the Dynamo Kit on my Santa Cruz Tallboy mainly for safety as I knew I would be on the seal for at least 60 kms. The dazzling brightness of the rear QUBES made me feel a lot safer on a main road with no shoulder, on a Sunday afternoon. What really impressed my though was the low speed at which the QUBES kicked in. I confess I haven’t checked it with a computer, but for most of the 14.3% hike-a-bike section on the Mangatapu saddle the little buggers were flashing away maniacally. That was an average speed of around 3.3 km/h. Impressive.

Kerry is always tweaking and launching new stuff, so if you want to get the heads-up on his next thing, its best to follow him on  He has quite a few things going on in the back-ground just now.

If you want to get a feel of what is behind the K-Lite ethos then tune in to this podcast, I guarantee you will be entertained. Warning, contains occasional expletives.

Related links:


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concussion head injury Jeff's Bike tbi tmi traumatic brain injury

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: A hidden epidemic

I walked out of the office the other day and saw one of my workmates chilling in the hallway. She was wearing a peaked hat and dark sunnies, and yet it was overcast and raining outside. She’d just stepped out of a crowded meeting room for a break, she was overstimulated and needed to get out for a few minutes to relax.

I hadn’t seen her for quite a while, but I knew the reason behind her absence as I’d heard the rumours. She’d had what is often called a “concussion” or a TBI (traumatic brain injury) depending on how you want to call it. Her fatigue levels had reduced down to the degree that she was able to do some work, but exposure to artificial light, and even computer screens had her feeling nauseous, hence the hat and sunnies.

We had a chat and she talked about her progress and the advice she’d been given by another woman scientist at my work who is still recovering from a head injury she received one and a half years ago. The advice was to take the time to come right slowly, don’t try to come back too work to soon.

These are highly achieving people who typically find this kind of advice hard to take. Another buddy of mine, also a woman scientist, but not at my work, was also badly concussed recently in a cycling accident, but her recovery has been pretty swift, by comparison to the first two. The first weeks were pretty bad, and being the co-leader of a 12 million dollar project, she’s not the kind of person who thinks its acceptable to take a nap half-way through the day.

If I do a tally up, I can think of 4 people I know of at my work, or who work with the scientists at my work who have received head injuries in the last 2 years. All of them very highly intelligent professionals. None of them risk-takers, all of them with access to good medical advice and an understanding work-place.

What if you didn’t have access to all the support systems that a well paid professional with a PhD has? What if you were young and bullet-proof and a risk taker by nature? What are the chances that somewhere along the way you are going to get a good smack on the head, give someone else one, or get head-injured in a car accident? What percentage of people in jail have undiagnosed head injuries? Do you know what some of the side-effects of a head injury are?

Disinhibition, low tolerance to stress, depression, emotional lability, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to noise or light, aggression, impulsivity, irritability, confusion, sleep disturbance, visual problems, memory problems to name a few.

If you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, with poor support, these behaviours could easily see you in trouble with the law, especially if you medicate with drugs and alcohol.

I’ve also met a few cyclists on social media who are recovering from head injuries, and sadly as time goes on, I watch new people join them. Hitting someone’s wayward dog at 50kmh has that kind of an effect.

So what can you do, not go outside? It wouldn’t have helped the two women at my work, one banged her head on a cupboard and the other slipped in the shower. Just look after yourself, the best way you know how. And if you come across someone who has a head injury, try to understand what might be going on on the inside.


  • NZ’s ACC’s statistics show that in 2015 most brain injuries happened at home (5674) or on the sporting field (5394).
  • The major causes of brain injury are car crashes, sports injuries, assaults and falls.
  • Shockingly, the highest risk groups of New Zealanders for traumatic brain injuries are not our rugby players or our boxers – it’s our toddlers

Reference. The hidden epidemic of brain injury, Stuff, 2016.

Artwork by Ash Lyall

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Jeff's Bike Litespeed NZ singlespeed champs Single speed SS wildgripper

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Wildgripper homage saddle

With the single-speed nationals coming up I needed to get a bike ready. I didn’t have a lot of choice in the end and it came down to repurposing my 1993 Litespeed Ocoee. The Compass Rat Trap Pass tires had to go, and I figured the drops could go too. The obvious tires to use were the Simworks Homage’s which were currently on my 26 inch Santa Cruz Superlight.

Once the tires were mounted it seemed fitting to me that I needed a matching saddle, and I had a dead Michelin Wildgripper that was screaming out to be repurposed.

I cut one up and glued it onto a spare carbon weener saddle that had been doing nothing. I thought it looked alright. The carbon base was very very stiff tho….

Michelin Wildgripper Homage version 1. Carbon base.

A couple of days later I decided I better do my first single-speed ride since the nationals in 2013 and I went out for a 3 hour ride with Mossieur Veganburger. I didn’t use the Green saddle, but used a yellow Tioga Spyder knock-off. It was very very comfy.  What if I could combine the comfort of the Spyder with the looks of the Wildgripper Homage?

There is a lot less surface area in one of these saddles, so I would have to sew the pieces together first, with mint flavoured dental-floss, then glue it on.

It worked better than I thought. I’m not going to put Busymanbicycles out of a job anytime soon, but it was a lot of fun.

Michelin Wildgripper Homage version 2. Plastic base.


Fingers crossed it hangs together for the nationals in Te Mata peak this weekend !

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bikepacking Brevet Dirt brevet Jeff's Bike Le Petit Brevet

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: Le Petit Brevet

Le Petit Brevet is one of those rides that both entices and scares at the same time. I’m not getting any younger so when Scott Emmens announced he was going to organise it this year after a 3 year gap since the last one, I thought I better hop on board. The thing that you struggle with from looking at the stats, is how you can get so many vertical metres into that many kilometres. Well, all I can say is, you do.  There are only about 50 kilometres of flat in the whole ride. Typical Dirt Brevet type rules apply and you have to finish inside 36 hours.

24,888 freedom feet of climbing. If you don’t enjoy climbing, it’s probably not for you.

I was lucky to have my buddy Ian and his family host me, and quite close to the course, in Mt Pleasant. After unpacking my bike I noticed I could no longer get big/big in my gears and my rear disc was rubbing. Something must have shifted in the travel process.  I decided to adjust the limit screw and reset the rear caliper. I tootled off up the hill to make sure everything was meshing, it was. Up ahead I saw a couple of MTBers so I caught up to them to say hello. The older of the two checked out my bike and asked if I was doing the LPB, as his workmate was organising it. When I asked what his name was, and he said “Guy”. The penny dropped. I don’t think we’d met since the 2010 Kiwi Brevet when our crew came across Groundeffect’s Guy Wyn-Williams and Laurence Mote heading into Darfield, or thereabouts. They had the “local knowledge” so we were happy to get on board with their suggestion of a pretty comfy spot sleeping on the porch at the Oxford Pony Club Domain. The funny part was when they got a small head start on us in the morning and we watched them cycle down the road and take a wrong turn in front of us! I don’t think we saw them again. Small world anyway!

22 nervous riders, wondering what they just signed up for.

I digress. The next morning Ian and Lucy kindly dropped me off at Hansen Park where around 22 riders nervously waited for the start. Someone named “Tad” hadn’t turned up, but he was on the list, so we waited a bit longer and eventually left without him. There was the usual array of completely different bikes, all of which would be perfect for the job at one stage or another during the ride. I was seriously doubtful of the kit that some people were carrying. They either had their mum waiting ahead fluffing the cushions for them in Akaroa, or they were planning on having balmy weather for the whole ride. As usual I was packing my fears, with a puffer jacket, buff, beanie, rain pants  bivvy sack and quite a few other things I considered bare essentials in case I had to sleep on the roadside.

The initial pace was a bit hot I have to say, and eventually I found out it was crusty Andy the Badger Beale who was the culprit. I struggled a bit on my rigid drop barred bike as we entered Kennedy’s Bush, but the single track there was the only single-track I did at pace anyway.  I ended up riding with fellow Wellingtonian Dr Nick Kennedy. Nick is pretty fit so I asked him lots of leading questions about his medical specialty to make it harder for him to pedal and talk at the same time. Nick countered by asking me at what point old people noticed a measurable decline in their performance – he was about to find out. Nick had spent a bit of time in Christchurch so he had a bit of local knowledge and was nailing the sealed descents we rode early on. We stopped at the first cafe we saw and Nick quickly downed a pie and a coffee. I hadn’t developed a desire to eat at this point so I stowed a couple of pies in my back pack.

Nick Kennedy. On a sensible bike. Cannondale hard Tail.

We carried on at a pretty good pace and got through a fair bit of climbing. The climbing was pretty constant. There were two main types of climbs. Steep, and bloody steep. After a while I pretty much stopped even using my big ring, just to save the hassle of changing gears. My little gear of 24 on the front was not that much smaller than the big gear of some of the 1x set-ups out there anyway.

Eventually we got back onto some gravel, some really steep gravel, I suspect it was Pettigrews road. We had been riding very solidly for about 70 kms at this point. I was using my new Compass Antelope Hill 2 inch slicks, and even on this crazy steep stuff there were no problems with traction. We did see Andy Beale up ahead, pushing his bike up the road. Probably a victim of his early pace and his big front ring. After about 5 minutes it turned out that riding was marginally quicker than walking, and we caught him. He was in good spirits and was fun to ride and walk with for a bit. He was on a hard-tail like Nick so as soon as we hit the off-road leading into the Double Fenceline track I told them to go on,  as I seemed to be in energy deficit and I needed to get one of those pies circulating through my system.

Taking a breather before the Double Fenceline Track.

My first pie still had little attraction for me but I forced most of it down and left the rest for the birds. It was good to take my first “breather” in about 4 hours, and after that I concentrated on taking a few photos. There was a small problem. The higher I got, the better the views were expected to be, but the tops were often enclosed in cloud. On the other hand, if it had been full sun the whole time it would have been even more brutal.

Stiles were the reason I didn’t put all my gear in a frame-bag.

The Double Fenceline track wasn’t particularly enjoyable for me, and my bike seemed to be getting heavier with each stile. I was surprised to see people out riding this trail for fun. The going was very slow, but after a very long time (2.5 hours) I was temporarily down on the flat again making a 2km return diversion to the Little River gas station to stock up on fresh Pies and Lolly-water. On the return I had my head down and after climbing 2 kms up SH75 I realised I had missed the turn off to Puaha Road. DOH !

Another pie stop after a foolish distraction on the smooth tarseal. What was I thinking? I need more kms?

I stopped a little way down Puaha road for a break and to get some food in before the next major ascent started. A lot of the climbs so far seemed to be around 6 to 11 %, and I think there was only one of the 10 major ones that was under 400 metres (1400 feet). Little Akaloa was beautiful, with amazing views all the way around to Okains bay.

Heading up along towards the Double Fenceline track. I think…. Looking out over Duvachelle Bay.

As I was just about to get stuck into “Big Hill” coming out of Okains bay, I met up with another rider, Andrew Laurie. Of course, I didn’t know it was Big Hill, and Andrew was surprised to see me, not knowing that he had passed me when I’d taken my 4km diversion up SH75. Andrew and I enjoyed riding together for a good while, but his head was a lot stronger than mine and I had to drop off the back when I ran out of concrete pills on a particular climb. Andrew seemed to know quite a few of the climbs which was helpful.

I knew I was getting close to Akaroa, but I couldn’t believe how long this 65 kms from Little River was taking. I’d left Little river at 2pm, so it looked like it was going to take me at least 6 hours to get to Akaroa. In my head I had broken the distance to Akaroa up into 2 segments, the start to Little River, about 100 kms, and Little River to Akaroa, another 65 odd. I was hanging out for the smooth tarmac descent down into Akaroa when I checked my GPS to see that I was hanging a left instead….

I got seriously flummoxed at this point. I was making hard work of the directions on the cue sheet, and how they related to where I was going. I back tracked a few metres and eventually worked out that I shouldn’t have crossed the style. I had just jumped onto the correct trail when I was surprised by a rider coming up behind me. It turns out he had missed the start by an hour, starting at 8am. He wasn’t carrying much gear, in fact, he wasn’t even using gears. It was Tad. Some how I put two and two together and worked out that he was the guy we were waiting for at the start, and he was the World Singlespeed champion! Cripes, riding that course on a single speed sounded like the definition of insanity. He admitted to doing a bit of walking. He was on a very cool purple rigid Surly Karate Monkey. I was trying to pick his accent thinking that maybe he was Irish, but it transpired that he was originally Czech but has been in NZ for some years. There must be something about Czechs as there was another on the ride, Martin, currently living in Nelson. At the beginning of the ride we laughed about how difficult it was for Martin to get a visa while a Czech drug dealer currently in jail had no problem getting his okayed!

Gorillas in the mist

The Purple Peak Stock Track trail down into Akaroa wasn’t exactly flowy and I was starting to despair of getting into town before the shops closed. I got in at just after 8pm I think and was lucky to find a fish and chip shop that while it was officially closed, took pity on me and took my 37$ for a scoop of chips and fish,  2x Powerade, 2x juice and a couple of water bottles.

Andrew Laurie. Great company.

I was so intent on getting food that I hadn’t really thought much about the option of staying the night in Akaroa. It made a lot of sense, but I hadn’t booked anything, and I had come with the intention of riding through, even though I knew that I was very under trained for that kind of an effort. I figured that if I wanted to I could have got accommodation, or if I blew up spectacularly in the last leg I could jump in my bivvy sack in a hedge somewhere.

The last “leg” was around 100 kms and I would be doing it in the dark. From memory it had 2 large hills in it. I figured that if I took enough food and rested up if I needed to, I could get through, and there was the promise of… joy of joy, some flat riding before the hills. So I turned on my head-light and rolled out of Akaroa at about 9pm and bang, straight into some more hills….  I saw a sign on the side of the road that said “Camping Ground”… I weakened for a moment….. no turning back now.

I lapped up the flat stuff when I eventually got to it (after the first major hill) and I’m pretty sure I even had a tail wind. Before long I was climbing again and seeing up close what a massive problem we have with Possums. I must have seen at least 50 on the trails. The problem with riding in the dark is that there is not much to see. I was starting to get bored and it was messing with my motivation. There was still a lot of climbing happening. Funnily, for someone who loves climbing, I had for the first time in my life discovered there was such a thing as too much climbing. I remembered my phone, I was Stravaing the ride so I had brought two sets of 2×18650 DIY power-banks for it. For the first time ever I was using the phone in airplane mode and was amazed at how little battery it was using. I turned on my Podcast app, if I jammed the phone in the top pocket of my pack’s strap I could hear it loud and clear, and it was less intrusive than headhones. For the rest of the ride I treated myself to stories on such diverse subjects as Lab-grown meat, Fake illegally imported aphrodisiacs, to a critique of Madonna’s album “Like a Prayer”.

Christchurch looms.

It was getting cold so I started wearing my buff, and even put my emergency shower cap on, as well as my rain jacket, for the cold descents. The lights of Christchurch came into view, and then the day started to break. I’ve only even ridden into the morning once before, and it is quite a buzz. The only problem I had with navigation the whole time was getting back to Ian’s house at the end, using Google maps. Scotts LPB GPX file was perfect. So good in fact, that most of the time I am ashamed to admit that I just followed the line and didn’t need to use the cue sheets at all.

I had no idea who else had ridden through the night like I had, only 3 other nutters as it transpired, and unlike me, they hadn’t mucked around.

First in was Josh Aldridge in a mind blowing time of 14 hours and 56 minutes, he had finished by 10 pm ! That is insane. Next was another Nelsonian, the Czech Martin Strelka finishing at 11:40 pm. His ride was very impressive, on a very nice looking Salsa Cut-throat. Then there was Andy Beale at 1:44 am. I’m not sure what I was doing in the 3 hours between Andy and my time, I guess just riding very slowly ! The other 15 riders that followed the exact course finished the next day.

Plastic fantastic with bald tires, Compass Antelope Hills.

I’ve done a few interesting one-day rides over the years, but none as hard as this one. If you love the hills, are up for a challenge and want to take in some amazing views, then Le Petit Brevet just might be for you. Scott did a great job organising this for us, thanks again Scott!


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