You can see it instantly turns any ugly bugger right into a hardcore bike ninja supermodel!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t hide wrinkles or the fact that I’m bald. I rely 100% on people looking from far away and not taking a second glance. You can see in this side on photo that indeed, on second glance, even the overpowering mojo of the Metah can’t screen everything.
It does, however, snug my cranium snugly and feels nice and safe. It’s coverage is well on par with the Bell Super 2 it replaced. And it is just as cosy to wear. Those huge vents are a plus over the Bell – Australia is bloody hot, making head ventilation is a winner in my book. I have to wear my pirate bandana to prevent helmetburn in summer anyway, so moar vents is moar goodness – to a degree. I don’t want a large log to be able to fit through them.
I expect the clever magpies will find a way to peck my head in new and more painful places come springtime. I don’t do that zip tie porcupine thing, it looks stupid, wastes zip ties, doesn’t work and risks poking them in the eye, enraging them further. Fox designers clearly don’t live anyplace near magpies, hence massive magpie-penetrable venting – but I still think the massive vents and the instant mojo are a plus. Mostly the mojo. And the vents.
My summary? I like it, I don’t notice it when I’m out riding, and it looks the biz. Three stars for the Metah! If I ever test it in anger, I’ll let you know exactly how many metres shorter the mountain is afterward.
…but if you’re like me, make sure you ride fast. As awesome as the Metah is, the ninja rockstar mountain biker mojo field it exudes can only cover so much for so long. If you are an actual ninja rockstar mountain biker, then this is your helmet. Well, really, any helmet is your helmet unless your head shape is totally wrong for it – but the Metah is a winner from the fox folks in my book.
A month or two ago my absoluteblack CX oval chainring passed it’s 3 600th kilometre of week in, week out, all weather commuting plus a few longer road rides and gravel grinds. One of these was 82 km and 1800 vertical metres. A ride to the corner shop in the European alps, but a pretty big deal in Australia.
How’s it travelling? Check the photos. Even in a ‘just got back from a dirty ride’ state I’d say it’s doing just fine for a while longer. Tooth profiles still look good, anodising worn off but that happens. And it is still nice and straight – despite it’s feathery appearance. It’s solid!
That’s really all. It’s pretty, fuss free, and still lets me keep a good cadence just that little bit longer up hills. I’d say worth the fuss. It’s now up to 4 200 km and still doing just fine.
I’m getting my rear brake rebuilt – so while my actual bike is in sick bay, I have a totally different style of machine on loan to play with. It’s a Breezer Supercell Team from 2014. These are Breezer’s hootin’ tootin’ ‘trail’ 29er bikes, with the team machine being near the top of the tree. It retailed for over $AUD4000 back in 2014, and a current Supercell team is going to tick just over $5k. Naturally, this is a level of bike where you expect it to function extremely well.
Here’s how it went – and bear in mind I’m coming from the viewpoint of normally riding a purpose-built gnar devourer, so the supercell is a big step back into ‘normal’ mountain biking.
Let’s talk first about geometry – you can read the link above to get the. The tl:dr version is that the Supercell is a conservative bike, winding back a bit from the LLS (long/low/slack) steamtrain that I usually travel on with a first class ticket . It’s very upright, quite steep, and bit hard to wheelie. This, however, managed to not translate to a terrible ride. Which we will get to.
My one main gripe with the M-link is that it is hard to clean. This gripe is shared among many, though. Cleaning the beast takes second fiddle to some ideal about suspension rates and curves.
Read the details here – basically reliability is the go. Top-of-the-tree suspension for people who just want to not have to care about it, the ever reliable shimano XT groupset (down to hubs), and Fuji’s house brand bar/stem/seatpost. The shop had wisely installed a 50 mm stem, a long way shorter than the stock 100 mm unit. Modern rims would be a bit wider,
How does it ride?
Suprisingly well. With close to 100 mm less wheelbase than usual I totally killed all the uphill switchbacks. It handled cruisey flowy trails really well, and was stable on rocky parts – although finesse is required. 29ers are definitely adapted to rolling along, and the supercell did just that – really easy to keep momentum up.
At moderate speeds it’s a spritely, playful machine up and down hills – I agree with every other reviewer of the breezer range here, once underway its slight portliness in the grams department seems to melt away. Irrelevant.
Pointed down, it handled predictably. Fast enough to be fun, but definitely not stable enough to balance on that ragged millimetre between speed and destruction that my usual ride handles so well. In the Supercell’s defence, it also flies OK – hucking the odd double and doing some smallish drops. The rear suspension gets through travel quickly – but really, the Supercell prefers to stay grounded, keep your bum comfortable, and let you swing it sideways on the odd occasion when the mojo strikes.
Who is this bike for?
It’s for anyone who wants a fuss-free ride that doesn’t need wrestling through uphill switchbacks, or thinking too far ahead, and is happy to just take it to the mechanic when they want a service. You can ride it sideways, but it’s most comfortable and most fun when you’re not pushing the boundaries in to the absolute limits. In other words, you want to just head out and chew up some cruisey, fun trails and ride all day if you want without any fuss.
Yes, this is a standard question for all my reviews 🙂 So this bike – for me personally it helped me to see mountain biking in a different lens. It was actually a lot of fun to go ride a normal-ish, not cutting edge exotic mountain bike. So it was nice. I got to see the world from a less rushed point of view. For a potential buyer? It’s going to give you the confidence to just go ride – I really can’t see much going wrong here. Keep it clean and maintained, and I think it’ll let you stress less about heading into the wild.
A well-built, well thought out, old-school-ish package made for riding trails. If you baulk at all the newfangledom and want a bike that is fun and you understand, Joe Breeze has your back.
Because my old boss still gives me a great deal on parts, if you like this bike and live in Australia go talk to Cycle Canberra ( who sell whatever in the Fuji/Breezer stable makes it to Australia). If you’re nice, I’ll even drop in and watch them build it for you while making glib comments about back when I was a full time mechanic…
I recently replaced a pair of Shimano M163 mountain bike shoes. So I thought I’d get to giving them a really, really, really long term review. I’ve ridden them more than 9000 km. They’re my daily commute shoes as well as getting a good workout on in the mountains.
Yeah, yeah, they’ve been reviewed a lot when they were new and shiny – but since when do normal people ever get stuff in time to do a proper long-term ‘pre release’ review? Never – so here is the ‘non-current model’ version.
Cutting to the chase – my pair are black (and were when I got them), had two opposing velcro straps and a ratchet strap to help snug feet into place, and a spot underneath to put cleats. At size 46 they fit my size 46 feet.
What I liked most about them was Shimano’s adoption of the ‘way back is way better’ approach to cleat positioning. They also solved a problem with the previous M162 – which had a seam in the ratchet strap that pulled apart in very short order. I got these M163’s as the second warranty replacement for my M162’s.
What can I say after 9000+ km? They are still alive. Well done Shimano! Also, you can still buy spares for them. Well done x2! There’s an extra vent ( ie hole where the mesh material has been devoured by my nasty foot sweat) forming between the toe cap and the crank-side strap holder bit on both shoes, and the sole is looking pretty beat up – exposing the cleat if I walk around. But that’s pretty much it – the 163s have been a solid, reliable shoe that is still kicking and will now be my wet weather/spare/?? pair of kicks. Thanks Shimano, well done x3.
Finally, I’d like to welcome my new SH-ME5’s. They are also black and have the same super far back cleat positioning. Straight away I see that Shimano have fixed things so that the new vent will no longer appear – the front of the shoe is one continuous piece of material. Shimano also solved the dangly strap thing, with very neat hidden ratchet straps, and added some inside cuff protection from menacing cranks. Here’s a stock photo of them from Shimano’s product page:
First impressions? Very solid feeling, comfy, a little slimmer fitting than the 163s but the wear in is proceeding well. A wide version is available, and if you found the 163 a super tight width it may be wise to consider those. I like the reverse buckles, and I think these are a great iteration of a fine bike riding shoe. I’m looking forward to another long and dependable relationship.
Being able to paraphrase Michael Franti in a blog post title is awesome. And even better, this post is relevant to one way of interpreting the song. For those unfamiliar with his work, google ‘If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics’, ‘Disposable heroes of hiphoprisy’ (yes it’s an old song by now), and ‘Michal Franti and Spearhead’ (and probably more). It’s a song that has stuck with me for decades now – but really, the message has taken a really long time to start sinking in. Let’s look at one small part:
If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics
I would tell you that the personal revolution
is far more difficult
and is the first step in any revolution
What does that mean? And where does it fit into the context of a web page which is ostensibly about bikes (so far)? And why am I writing about this now?
To answer the first question, Michael Franti echoes an ancient anecdote to speak about the difficulty of evolving oneself to look inward from the outside. To see ourselves as active agents in our destiny, rather than passive drifters on the seas of chance. The second question is easy – we’re also talking about evolution here. As for the third? It follows from the recent US election, which on the surface is the tip of an iceberg of ignorance.
I care about this, although I’m half a world away, because it represents an enormous challenge and an even more enormous opportunity. I’m certain many analysts will dissect the reasons for Trump, brexit, successive conservative governments in Australia, the rise of nationalist right wing movements elsewhere, the retreat from humane, empathetic approaches to refugees, the almost-frenzied destruction of our living planet.
I’m going to simplify it a lot, and boil many essays down to one word: Fear.
Specifically, fear of the future, fear of uncertainty, fear of the other.
…and fear of our own selves. How can this be so? How can we be afraid of ourselves? Look again, consider – what holds you back? Why do you get angry about stuff? If you believe that other people are somehow different from you, what drives that belief?
Consider the words quoted above. The hardest step is an internal revolution, which must be undertaken before external change can thrive. We must first evolve ourselves, our attitudes and outlooks, before the change we wish to see can take root and thrive.
Speaking for myself, yes, I’m awash with fears of various things.. and my journey to evolve is only proceeding slowly. Fatherhood has helped. So has passing through the eye of a needle in terms of the unemployment/stability/PhD/family/reemployment matrix. Growing older, and of course, spending time in the wild, breathing the air, being with the wind.
So why is this internal revolution the hardest? Ever been rock climbing? How hard do you try to hang on to that hold, realising you’re about to fall, before you let go, relax, and fall into the safety of the rope. That’s why. It’s that same kind of hardness – the difficulty of letting go, of shedding the old. I’ve fought many unnecessary battles for precisely this reason. I could not just relax and let go.
Back to politics – viewed one way, things look pretty grim. Viewed another, these times may just be the motivating spark that we need to start our internal revolutions!
How can we make change? Start in ourselves. Taking from another great source of inspiration:
A warrior trusts other people because, first and foremost, he trusts himself.
– Paulo Coelho, the manual of the Warrior of Light
This is actually really difficult. To trust that everything will be as it is meant to be, and to trust wholly that we are here for a purpose even if we never gain any form of conscious knowledge of what that is. There’s always something we are here to do.
For now, my task is to shine a light within, find my fears and let them pass through me – so that I can shine a light for others too! To trust myself, and the universe. To speak out honestly, kindly, and firmly. And encourage everyone I can to do the same. I might never become a politician, or a billionaire, but that doesn’t mean I have no power. I have more power than I can imagine! My question is: what is stopping me from using it?
And the same goes for you. We are made from exploded stars. What could possibly be more awesome?
We are the best and most powerful tools for our own evolution. So right now, in these crazy times, take courage. Change will come, and we will bring it – so long as we can begin first with ourselves.
I hope this kind of potted philosophy has lightened your day. Go listen to some of Michael Franti’s songs – or some other awesome music. Treat your soul! Ride a bike too. Catch some wilderness time, go see what really matters. And then come back, refuelled and ready to see a different world take shape.
Oh – I never answered the second question. Why write about this now? No idea – seemed like the right time…
I’ve been running an absoluteBLACK oval chainring on my mountain bikes since late May 2016. Winter hit, and PhD deadlines hit, and I really haven’t been out on the big bike enough to give you a great impression. My first ride impressions on that chainring still stand – except I’ve adjusted my timing for technical bits and now, well, I just pedal more smoothly with less stress on my old man bones.
The acid test, however, was always going to be an oval ring on my daily drive. This has a few substantial testing benefits:
My commuterbeast is also a 1×11 system, but it has a 42t chainring. The chainring is likely to be subject to quite a bit more structural stress
It clocks up vastly more kilometres than my mountain bike
I like to point it up longish (for Canberra) hills from time to time
Now I’ve put in 919 Strava km, so I feel like I can tell you how it’s been working out. You can see here that the ovalness of the 42t ring doesn’t seem extreme, and I didn’t really notice it when I first took it out for a spin. This is likely based on acclimatisation using my mountain bike – but there was, and still is, a subtle difference from pedalling a round chainring.
I feel this difference most when climbing. Getting the pedals over the top of the chainring is just smoother – there’s a point where I would really have to push on a round ring, and that spot has disappeared. The end result is that I can hold a cadence for longer up hills, and I’m going to repeat myself a lot here – put less stress on my hips and knees. This is important once you hit 40! So I’m really happy with my absoluteBLACK oval chainrings this far in. My daily drive has become that bit less wearing on my body, and I can steam up hills on a single 42 tooth chainring.
The photos at the top show the chainrings in their current state after a relatively normal springtime commute to work and back (yay Canberra). The anodising has stripped from the sides of each tooth, but shape wise the teeth look pretty fresh. I’ve had zero issues with chainring flex or creaking noises, and haven’t taco’ed it yet (yes, I have turned chainrings into tacos… Hefalump!).
Performance aside, they are also some serious bling. I have yet to be mobbed in the streets by adoring admirers of good taste in bicycle parts, but I feel that day will come.
This morning I went for a pretty fun commute to work – up Mt Stromlo on the road, down on the trails, over to dairy farmers hill via pine forest and dirt roads, up the road, across through the cork oaks to the bike path, then a lap and a half of Black Mountain. Made possible by an awesome cyclocross bike!
It was also my first venture up Black Mountain on the oval ring, but that’s another story. My main point – I think curly wurly bars and good times can go together – and modern CX/gravel bikes have evolved to make that happen. Win!
This is my last bike, and the most recent addition to the stable. It’s a roughly 2013 Eastern Thunderbird, made for doing massive whips on massive dirt jumps. It’s a chromoly frame, and those forks have 36mm diameter chromoly stanchions. The front axle is 20mm, with a 14mm bolt at the rear. Ohyeah, chromoly 3-piece cranks with a spanish BB complete the picture. The front wheel is the original, the rear is a novatec DJ hub on an Alex Supra-FX rim I stuck on it. Unbreakable! It has one brake.
It’s the cyclist equivalent of ‘do you even lift, bro?’, and pretty much gets cobbled together out of spare bits when something goes wrong.
So why is it here?
It’s main reason for being was to ride with Joe an Oli, who had also bikes with one gear and terrible brakes – so whenever we go someplace to ride we are on a pretty even footing. They’ve also grown to like riding and scootering at the skatepark, so I obviously needed a new bike to suit!
…and what does it do for me?
It’s my proper training bike. It doesn’t teach me how to get Strava KOMs out on the Uriarra road, it teaches me how to get better at manuals, bunny hops, riding transitions, pumping, and landing sideways. It also makes my shoulders and biceps bigger – no need for a gym with this beast – and sometimes teaches me that my ideas are not yet matched by my skills.
This translates, of course, to riding other bikes. I’m a better mountain biker because I learn to handle a bike properly, I’m a better cyclocross/gravel monster because my core and upper body is stronger, and I’m a way cooler dad because I can get involved with my kids, help them learn the ways of the skatepark, and I also have to get off and walk wirth them when the hills are steep.
…and I occasionally manage to bust out an impressive move. Winning all around.
Would I recommend you buy one?
Of course! I know next to nothing about dirt jump bikes, but every grown up should own one and learn how to use it (respecting your limits, of course). I can’t tell you the subtleties of why the Eastern is better or worse than any other dirt jumper. I know I’ll never break it… but if you are wishing to evolve your life/riding/relationship with kids, it is potentially a great tool*
*Caveat and disclaimer – ride responsibly! These things can also be quite dangerous when concrete gets involved.
Two weeks on the road, with chain factory grease still going hard.
So I recently gave my daily driver a big birthday – including an absoluteBLACK oval chainring and wider bars.
Two weeks in, I think the oval thing has well and truly stuck. I didn’t notice a huge difference – likely because I’ve been oval’ed on my MTB for a while now. However, the summary of my experience is:
Hills are still hard. Damn.
I can keep a cadence more easily – essentially if I’m riding flat and come to a hill, I can push a little longer before dropping gears
My hips and knees are very much less stressed
Standing and mashing pedals feels more effective
It’s a very bling bit of kit! The attention to detail is amazing.
So far, I’m really liking my family of notround chainrings. It’s safe to say the kool aid glass is empty here. I haven’t tested other oval chainrings to see if there are benefits to different ovality or clocking – but I’m so far very happy with absoluteBLACK’s design choices.
I’m pretty tall, at 187cm, and broad shouldered. Switching from 44 cm to 46 cm bars has been immediately noticeable – I can open my chest up more and breathe better! I’ve also noticed the extra leverage off road. It’s really nice to have that slightly wider lever when rattling along singletrack with a laptop in my backpack. Canberra – what a place to commute!
I’m pretty stoked on riding to work and back right now. Which is a nice place to be. Happy trails!
My Fuji Altamira CX 1.3 is just about 9 000 km old now. 8 700 officially on strava, and quite a few off the books – so not precisely 9000, but very nearly or maybe more.
So it’s time for a big birthday service! And a look at what 9 000 km of commuting and gravel riding does to a carbon fibre wonderbike with curly wurly bars. My pre-rebuild photo in the workstand came out blurry, so here’s one from out on the trail.
Far from the highly tuned racing life this bike is made for, she’s (yes, it’s a girl!) been my daily driver – logging kilometres in all sorts of weather conditions, on all sorts of trail surfaces. I haven’t done any epically long rides, but with new slighly lower gearing coming that will probably change. So what’s happened to it over nearly 9000 km?
The first part of the drivetrain to go was the bottom bracket. I replaced the SRAM unit with a wheels manufacturing/enduro BB set at about 3 500 km (after the first winter). The replacement is still spinning like the day it was installed, and has remained creak-free. It’s been through 3 chains – two KMCs and a shimano Ultegra chain that I threw on because I couldn’t get anything else at the time. All shifted acceptably on the SRAM cogs.
The chainring and cassette have had an extraordinary life! I was expecting to change both at around 5 000 km. So well done SRAM, the 1170 cassette and Force CX chainring have gone the distance. The cranks have had no issues – no creaks, no oddness, just reliable transmission of power.
I should mention the clutched rear mech. This is a superb addition to a 1x drivetrain on what is essentially a rigid MTB-lite. SRAM were exactly on point transferring their mountain bike system to a cyclocross oriented group.
Frame and forks
Not much to say here. No cracks – only a few stone chips and and unfortunate loss of clearcoat after catching a nail in my rear tyre. I’ve had minor niggles with the headset vibrating loose, because the tensioning nut slips loose inside the carbon steerer. I’ve replaced the alloy topcap bolt with a steel one, so if I notice any play I can quickly and easily fix it. This is not surprising, given the rattling Fuego gets out on the trails. Headset bearings still smooth, no unusual wear on any internal surfaces. Good work, Fuji!
Wheels and tyres
The Oval 527s have been excellent. They still roll like new, no crunching or grinding. The rims are true and strong and easy to set up tubeless tyres on. I haven’t cracked the rear hub open before – it was nice to see clean grease in there. One minor niggle is that the drive side endcap works loose every now and then, which lets a little moisture in and contributes to minor corrosion on the axle (shown below). The freehub bearings could use replacing soon, although the main wheel bearings are still rolling like the day I built this bike. I replaced the rear wheel spokes with DT Alpine IIIs, because I mashed the drive side spokes with my chain at about 3000 km old. Since then, lots of abuse and no dramas at all.
Tyres – I’ve used a few sets. The OEM Challenge Grifos lasted about 1500km, then their replacement Vittoria GX Pro did around 2 000 km, then some Maxxis locusts for about another 1 000 km, some random cheap tyres just for fun for another 500 -1000km, and for the last 3500 km I’ve been using Vittoria Revolution city G+ tyres. These have been great for daily driving on all surfaces, even mountain bike tracks. I would not race CX on them and can’t run them tubeless, but I am very happy with 3 500 km and one puncture. Yes, just one! I’m looking forward to Vittoria’s new G+ semi slick CX tyres, but I’ll stay on the revolutions until then.
Cockpit, controls, brakes
I really, really like SRAMS exaggerated horns out front. When I’m riding down hills that are not made for CX bikes, I can stay confidently on the hoods or go to the drops – either way feels safe. The Oval bar tape has held up exceptionally well, and the 310 bars are still comfortable.
Braking is still precise – I haven’t felt the need to bleed the brakes yet. Gear shifting is still precise, and I’ve finally stopped accidentally up shifting on the double tap or looking for something to rest my left fingers on.
My butt did not like the Oval Concepts 710 saddle, it was replaced early on with a Pro Condor – essentially a touring perch – which has been much more agreeable.
Upgrade time – what’s going on, what’s coming off
So now it’s time for a full drivetrain swap, what’s the program? Given the durability of the SRAM driveline, it’s another PG-1170 cassette in 11-28. I also really like the ratios used on this one. Up front is an absoluteBLACK 42t oval direct mount chainring. I’ve really liked how the oval ring has worked on my mountain bike, so I’m looking forward to some less stressed knees and hips on the daily driver.
Also, dropping a couple of teeth from the front will open up new horizons. I’ve avoided long rides in the hills around Canberra simply because 44/28 is a hard ratio to push up a hill at the end of a long ride. I’m not brave enough to go much faster than I can pedal the current gears, so I’m pretty happy that I’ll be OK on the downhills too. Connecting them up is a SRAM red 22 chain.
New rotors and brake pads have been installed front and rear. The rear 140mm had a fair bit machined off it in 9 000 km. The front rotor is still safe to use, but it’s birthday time and I’ll keep the old one as a spare.
Finally, a new gear cable and housing is a good excuse for new bars! I wanted to go a little wider so I’ve gone from 44 cm Oval concepts 310 bars to 46cm Oval concepts 310 bars. I was happy with the stock bars, and they’re great value. The new bars also feel slightly lighter, have a deeper groove for cables, and a 4 degree outward sweep on the drops as well as the 4 degree sweep on the top. I’ve also used Oval concepts bar tape again, it was excellent.
Would I recommend this bike to my mother in law?
Oh yes I would!
Summary – 9 000 km of Altamira CX
This bike is designed for CX racing. It is very light, stiffer than the equivalent road version (far less buzz absorption in the seat stays), very quick handling, and strong. I’ve repurposed it as a daily drive/gravel grinder, and it has been truly amazing at that job as well – making commuting a lot more diverse and fun than it would otherwise have been. I really don’t know how I’d improve this bike – maybe put thru axles in, but I’ve never felt the need for more direct steering out on the trails. Very occasionally I get a small brake rub, which thru axles might help. But really, it’s been a no nonsense machine that is very capable and a lot of fun.
I’ve found the ride excellent, and the geometry really sorted – quick handling but not twitchy, stable at speed, and predictable in absolute rocky chunder.
I don’t ever catch the external brake hose (and to be honest, I prefer it there). As a ‘buy it and ride the hell out of it’ proposition, all the bits are in place on this machine. For the cash outlay, though, it’s what you would expect. If you can make the stretch to get a hold of one, it will take you further than a road bike should, while letting you travel the world efficiently and in style.
Where can you buy it?
These beasties can be had from any Fuji dealer, or click and collect from the importer Oceania Bicycles. Unfortunately Oceania don’t have any 2017 CX bikes in the standard lineup, but you can get a great deal on remaining 2016 and 2015 models. And a brand new aluminium frame gravel ride is coming in – the Fuji Jari. These actually look pretty exciting as an all terrain, all the time cycle riding machine – and would tick the ‘can I tow trailers’ box that the Altamira CX is way too badass for.
Mine was supplied by Cycle Canberra – who can help you to source one too.
When I built this bike I worked for Cycle Canberra, who sell Fuji bikes. I left in January 2016 because PhD = done! I’m not obliged to write anything either good or bad about Fuji products, and I’m not being paid by the shop to write about Fuji bikes. However – I do like to support people who support me, and Cycle Canberra still give me pro deals on parts.
I am on the absoluteBLACK ambassador program – so I am supposed to write about my experiences (good or bad) with them.
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