twenty nineteen, the year of the revolution

Because it’s never a bad time to have a revolution, let’s make a new year a great excuse! In the last 12 months, the false peak of shitty politics has been summited many times, we appear to be living in a time where the shit has hit the fan, the walls, the ceiling, the floor, with a huge steaming blob right in the delicious mojito of your life.

Something has to give – so it might as well be us.

Wait what? shouldn’t we hit the streets and rage against the machine and all its fetid produce? Well yes. But two and a half decades of variously raging, supporting raging, watching raging, raging a bit more has led to an Einstenian conclusion:

We can’t change the machine using the type of raging the machine encourages and permits.

(that’s a terrible paraphrase of this quote, by the way)

So all that raging is useless, without first raging at myself and understanding how, where and why I fit with the universe, the machine to be raged at, and everything. It’s not an easy process – it’s like taking up running – it hurts, you suck at it, it hurts more, you suck at it more, then one day after much hurt and sucking you’re actually feeling OK about running.

…until you forget to run for a week. Then you’re back in the hurt/suck pit. For far too long.

Revolutions require discipline.

So in the year of twenty nineteen what’s my revolution? How can I legitimately call for the year of the revolution, unless I engage with it myself?

I took a small step in the last calendar year – at the ripe young age of 44, deciding I needed help with my shit, asking for it, and actually paying real money for it. I can already feel it’s the most valuable thing I’ve done in ages. In the next 12 months I’ll expand on that, and keep working on myself and all the stuff I’ve tried to ignore/overcome/bury for years.

I left a lucrative startup job in order to pilot my own boat as an independent consultant. I have to just trust that it’s going to work. This is huge for me!

I also leaped headlong into taking ownership of a community I’ve benefitted from for years, organising an open source geospatial conference – for me this was big and uncomfortable, negotiating serious challenges, having to push ideas past people who I’ve never met, fusing multiple strategies and priorities, forging something new with 14 other people. In the next 12 months, I’m excited to continue my journey growing and nurturing this community in the Oceania region.

Finally, I acquired running shoes… the physical hurt/suck is, for me, a powerful reminder of the emotional and spiritual hurt/suck we all put off, fearing that part instead of looking past to what we will become by embracing and owning it.

Realistically, I have no idea what 2019 holds, and how anything might even be achieved. I’ll need to use this little word spew to remind myself every so often, and see how far things have progressed, regressed, or stayed still. It’s all OK.

Revolutions happen when we’re ready for them to happen

Happy 2019 – let’s all have the revolution we need!

Memoirs of a crappy telemark skier, part 1

We all start at the beginning, and get better at stuff.

…and it sucks when we start something new, and we suck at stuff again.

This is the story of me and telemark skiing. I used to snowboard, a lot! I thought I was amazing at it, but the reality was that I was OK at not dying in huge mountains. Mid range, so so. And that’s great! I still had metric shit tonnes of fun and threw myself off some hectic lines and had amazing adventures in the snowy realms of Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Until I got tired of carrying a snowboard around in the backcountry, and realised after 20 years on a board it wasn’t doing my hips any favours. So a few years ago, I didn’t buy a new snowboard. I bought secondhand telemark skis and boots.

It’s been revolutionary.

Sometimes skiing goes uphill
Sometimes skiing goes uphill

This year marks the first time I’ve felt any good at it – and at skiing on two planks in general. I learned to ski backwards (well, snowplow backwards), I learned to not panic as soon as anything unexpected happens, and a key realisation – every turn is a committed turn.

Telemarking is a strange sport. It needs a perfect dynamic balance of power, and fluid ease. When things go well, telemarking is so easy. Incredibly easy – you use the forces already happening to you, and dance down the mountain.

When the mojolicious juices are not flowing in harmony, then it’s a mindfuck of epic proportions as seemingly everything goes wrong both in parallel and in series. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. With an engineering brain I try to get all the ducks lined up, constantly thinking of the perfect thing I should be doing now.

This is a bad approach.

Sure, think of the things you need to do, then let go. Who cares if that arc isn’t perfect? Did you whoop like a beast because you nailed a  telemark turn? I bet you did. And I bet you do every time, even if you’ve telemark skied all your life. Here’s me kinda janking a tele turn but grinning like an idiot anyway, because I’ve just janked my way down a nice steep pitch of Mt Twynam without making a tangled mess of myself!

On the same trip, I also janked myself down some of Australia’s steepest country – I got 5 or so turns in before cutting out thinking I was going to smash into rocks far below. I would have just pointed and pinned it on my snowboard – but I didn’t think about that at all – it was incredible just to make it that far! And a fantastic opportunity to see where the limits are. Here’s a photo. It doesn’t look steep at all! But try walking up the grassy patch – we needed hands and feet.

It never looks that steep from below

As well as pushing personal limits, making me feel like a complete numpty, forcing me to refocus, relax, let the mojo flow… telemark skiing makes access to awesome places a lot easier! Turning around from the last photo, here’s the view. As well as awesome viewness, you’ll notice it’s really late spring, and we were skiing soft, sun-affected mush. A great day to go bite of more than you can chew on skis – pretty safe from slides, easy to crash on, not too fast. Wins all around.

transformative tools help us get to amazing places!

One of the coolest things about telemark skiing now as opposed to ten years ago is the evolution of equipment and skis. Bindings get boots to flex in the right places, and skis themselves have come so far! This last winter I pretty much hired out the same skis each day – fat, full rockered tour beasts in the form of Volkl Nunataqs. I loved them, and I’m more or less a fully rockered convert now. Here they are.. sweet, sweet skis…

So what has all this to do with evolution and revolution? Everything

We rarely challenge ourselves supremely – in the form of abandoning something we’re good at and moving to a parallel (pun intended) path. Change and uncertainty are both critical to evolution, and if we’re not doing either, we’re not evolving. We’re stagnating.

Instead, we tend to build a nice safe bubble around ourselves and our identities, and stick with what we’re good at, stick with what is comfortable and predictable. We’ve been trained for our whole lives to seek certainty!

And when we do approach change, we do it the hard way. Like telemark skiing,

change is easy, and if it feels hard we’re doing it wrong! 

Everybody has different limits – I don’t suggest you need to take the extreme step of switching sports, or abandoning a thing you love. That is just an example – a way to demonstrate a point.

…which is this:

However we can, whenever we can – choose the path toward evolution. Ask ourselves what can we do to seek out change, and use that to build ourselves? How can we become more comfortable with uncertainty?

I think it’ll make the world a better place – returning to the adaptabilty that makes humans so amazing, and clearing out a stagnating society, for something… else.

As for skiing, I’ll report back next year. With some luck, I’ll be getting to slaying all my dragons on two fat, free heel, full rocker sticks. Seeya out there!

Hiatus, change…

Tools for the revolution has been in a bit of a hiatus lately. I’ve got heaps of half bake ideas drifting around I’d like to explore and write about – but putting fingers to keys is less easy. It’s a drift away from bikes dominating my life I suppose – but then, TFTR was never meant to be just a bike web site. It was meant to have an attached actual bike business  – but that hasn’t panned out either. Been saying ‘I’ll get that truing stand and torque wrench set next year’ for a few years now.

Hiatus. Plans hung up on a hook for a while. Time to stop chasing every butterfly, focus on the important one, and put everything else away.

In the meantime, I’ve left another job as an employee, and been handed an opportunity to work as a freelance geospatialista (see for the forseeable future. Which is awesome! I may finally actually get the workshop going as well!

Change. If we don’t change, we’re not truly alive.

Which is actually what this web site is all about. We are the tools for our own evolution, our own revolution. I’ve been forgetting that recently – and as a consequence, typing away at this website has felt pretty fraudulent. Until now.

Hiatus, change. Tools we can use to fuel our revolution. While building a bicycle business is still on a hook somewhere, this website will be a little more active as I move into a new phase of life. Maybe not about bikes – but to repeat myself one more time; the tools for our revolution can come from surprising places…

New kicks – Shimano GR9

A couple of years ago I decided to ride flat pedals on my mountain bike for a solid month. That month turned into about a year, until I killed my shoes. So I went back to clipped in mountain biking.

…but resolved to go back to flats – one day! I love riding in flats – it’s so dynamic, more physical  than riding in clips, and I feel like my skills just grow when I’m not clipped on.

And that day arrived two rides ago, with some shiny Shimano GR9’s turning up on my doorstep. Here’s what they look like:

I bought GR9s after a looong decision process around 5.10 freerider pro, or shimano GR7, or GR9s. I didn’t really consider any other shoes – I’m historically happy with shimano riding shoes and 5.10 climbing and approach shoes.

And making this decision was tough enough even between this limited range!

What won for the GR9 in the end was the lack of tie up laces, the funky lace cover and some to protection. The GR9 looks fantastic also, but has laces. As does the freerider.

I didn’t want to deal with tying shoelaces. Sorry. I can do that on my approach shoes.

Here’s another look showing the flat, knurled-ish michelin sole. Plenty of little spots for pedal pins to hook into.

So far, they’re riding great!

After a couple years off of flats my technique has awfulised again – so I’m losing a foot every so often when I mistime a jump or forget to dynamically weight the bike properly in rock gardens.

When it counts, they’re plenty grippy.

They’re also light, breathable and comfortable! I’m normally a size EU46 in pretty much everything (Scarpa and La Sportiva make their size 46 shoes to fit my foot exactly, bless ‘em); and these fit on point. If you have a high volume arch you might struggle to get into them – I usually struggle with fixed lace shoes (or, for example, climbing slippers); and I can get into these OK, but they don’t slip on like clogs. Once on, they’re perfect. Snug heel and a little toe box room to keep the rocks from punching my toes too hard.

I look forward to a long relationship with these kicks… and will report back after summer about how they’ve done!

thirty five – an overdue review.

This review has been a long time coming. Nearly a year in fact! Around June 2017 I strapped a pair of Formula 35 forks to the front of my bike. These have been reviewed by professional reviewers heaps of times – for example here; and here. I’m writing another one – after riding them hard on the front of a Liteville 301 for a while.


Here are some photos to help you out. Firstly, how they turned up in a nice, minimal box.
…which made me happy! They are incredibly, noticeably light. That was impression number one. Impression number two is that they are filled with neat detail. Most noticeably the steampunk compression adjustment assembly atop the damper leg. It’s sweet!

Here’s how they look fully assembled and stuck to the front of a bike. Classy and burly – the tubes on the 301 are fat – and the 35s fit in beautifully.

How do they work for me?

Forks are forks, right? They bounce and stop you from getting too beat up on the trails. Well sort of. At this level, a fork is a precision tool for controlling your ride. It’s not meant to smooth the trail out for you, it’s meant to keep your front wheel in touch with the ground, help your bike stay balanced as a unit, and ultimately keep you able to control your ride at speed.

I’m no fork expert – I’ve ridden Pikes, Yaris, Fox 36’s, and owned X Fusion Sweeps – but I don’t have a long term picture of all of them.

Having said that, the formula is the first fork I’ve jumped on and thought ‘wow. really. wow’. So why is that? To flesh the story out I’d been riding on XF sweeps for a while, and had most recently taken a demo bike equipped with Pikes for a good thrashing. On advice from the importer I had strapped the formulas  on, and pumped them up with no other adjustments. I took them to a trail I was very familiar with, and blew my fastest time out of the water.

I railed into the fist big berm, laid the bike over and instantly thought ‘what! something’s going on here!’ – the formula magic was at work.

What was the big difference?

Formula’s key system is allowing both the damping piston and air spring piston to slide when under lateral load.

All forks experience lateral load when you corner – and the formula solution simply works well to overcome fork binding when this happens. It is the key difference between the 35s and all of the other forks I’ve tried. I believe the hype!

How are the forks going a year later?

First impressions been and gone – I’ve ridden the forks at Thredbo, Stromlo, Majura – picked up some PRs, and had a heap of fun. The 35 perfectly balances the rear suspension of the 301 (super supple to sag, then progressive), making it an incredible platform for playing around on in the dirt.

The forks are stiff – I can hold a line and plow into all kinds of crap. Yet supple, and supportive, and magical. You know how you huck a 5 foot drop and your bike sucks it up smoothly, then rebounds with perfect pose at perfect speed? That’s my life. I’m one happy cat.

Here is how they look now

I now run them with the standard compression valve fully closed; about 10% less pressure than recommended for my weight; and I’ve recently installed a neopos – after running an extra 10cc of oil in the air spring to add some progression. I haven’t ridden them enough to really feel whether the neopos system is working magic or not – but they do feel incredibly composed – a little more than the usual, incredibly composed norm.

A lowers service is truly simple, and can really be done with some Ballistol and a 4mm allen key. I just replaced the dust wiper seals and air spring o-rings – really easy. And I’d recommend a regular service (see below), because a quick inspect and check is so quick.

What issues have I had?

Nothing that is the fork’s fault.

I ignored warning signs to replace the seals  overly long and have a minor polishing of the anodised coating after letting Stromlo grit get at for a few rides. Fortunately, Eightyonespices can replace the uppers and recalibrate the bushings for a really reasonable price. Something to consider in another 50 hours time.

How have they evolved my riding and myself?

Since this site is all about evolutions and revolutions, this is the standard question. Stepping up to these units has taught me a couple of things. Firstly, be decisive. I was planning to buy these when I built the 301 in 2015. I could have, but didn’t after much vacillation. That was a mistake!

Next, it’s another level of confidence and control I have on the bike. Which means I can play more, ride more, learn more and crash less. All good things.

Would I buy them again?

Without hesitation. Next time I’ll get the EX version, to keep my bar height level when eventually stick the -1.5 degree headset in my bike. Or a Selva if I replace the 301 with another 301 and 29 inch wheels.

In Australia, get in touch with Eightyonespices and get sorted out!


Measuring a hub

Imagine you have a hub. You don’t know anything about it and can’t find any manufacturer specifications. However, it’s a really great hub that you love, and want to build a wheel on it!

You can jump online and see how to find the parts you need to measure – this screen grab from the spoke length calculator shows what you need to know.

The key observations are PCD – or the diameter of the spoke flanges; OLD – or the distance between the two hub end caps; locknut to flange – or the distance from each end cap to flange centres; and flange to centre – or the distance between the centre of the hub and the centre of each flange. For reference, the DT Swiss spoke calculator uses the same data.

But how do you get these data if you can’t look the hub up online?

I use a few simple tools. Here, I have some hubs; a pretty basic set of calipers, a right angle rule, a piece of corrugated card, and things to write with. It helps if the card has at least two edges at a proper right angle.

First thing is to measure PCD. That’s simple – use the caliper. You could also create a tool to measure this out of card – get creative!

Notice I’m not trying to measure the middle of the hole – just measure between the top of  the hole on one side and the bottom of the hole on the other. It’s the same as centre-to-centre difference.

These hubs have different sized flanges, so I had to do this four times. Unlucky!

Next, measure the flange to flange difference. This is where the card comes in.

Here, since the flanges are different diameters I have the large flange off the edge of a table, pushed up hard against the edge of the card. I’m pressing down on the hub body hard enough that the smaller flange makes an impression in the card – you can mark each edge and hey presto – you can measure flange to flange!

Measure from the card edge to the far edge of the impression; and add the flange thickness (use the caliper to measure that).

If your hub has identical flanges, you can just push both into the card at once and make your life easier. Just ensure that your impressions are far enough into the card to allow for the whole hub to be measured up each side.

Next, taking the flange to locknut distance for one side. Here, use the right angle rule to ‘drop’ the end of your hub on the small flange side down to the card.

Again, for hubs with symmetrical flanges you can do this for both ends while the hub is still in it’s ‘impressions’ and save a bunch of effort. This time, however, we need to do it the long way and do some quick maths. Now that we know our OLD (hub spacing from end to end), our flange to flange distance and one locknut to flange distance we can infer the rest.

Mark out a couple of ‘axles’ and transfer your measurements across. From here, you can work out the hub centre; then the flange to centre from both sides.

In this picture, the rear hub is marked out at the top, and the front hub at the bottom. Note, I’ve transferred my measurements of the partial hub (from one flange across) from the other side of the card. This side also has a neat right angle to work from (upper right corner). Lining the hub up, it looks pretty good.

…and you’re done! Combined with your PCD measured at the start, you can go to a spoke calculator and determine which spokes you need!

So how did I go? I made:

PCD: (rear) 49/58 (front) 45/58

Brake side locknut to flange: (rear) 36 (front) 25

Drive side locknut to flange: (rear) 50 (front) 14

Flange to flange centre: (rear) 54 (front) 58

Flange to centre (brake/drive): (rear) 20/34 (front) 23/36

…and Novatecs own specs are here (from Note Novatec’s F2F measurement is from the outside of the flanges – not centres.

So not too bad! What’s the next step?

I usually use both and the DT Swiss calculator. If both are around the same, I go ahead and order spokes! If not, I check my measurements and try again.

For reference, I always use and recommend double butted spokes (or triple for heavy loads). Why? Because engineering –  which you can googlify for now. A non-structural-engineer explanation is another whole post.

Fox Metah Helmet

New helmet time is always amazing, because old helmets get worn to death. This time I grabbed a Fox Metah from Here is a picture of me wearing it.

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.

3 600 km of absolute black

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.

Weekend review: Breezer Supercell team

Breezer supercell team image

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.

Geometry/frame stuff

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.

Here is the link to current specs again (2017):

How is this bike going to help me evolve?

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…

Shimano SH-M163 RRLTR, welcome SH-ME5

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.