As my hardtail mountain bike evolved from the Vitus Nucleus to the Orange Clockwork Evo it became a much better mountain bike, but also too valuable to use for running errands around the city. So a new bike was needed! I started off looking at retro mountain bikes, from the nineties, but wanted something low maintenance – ideally without suspension or gears. In any case, for running errands around town I did not really need a mountain bike, although I was not too keen on a roadie-style bike with dropped handlebars. I eventually narrowed my search down to a Mongoose Maurice – a single-speed, flat-bar urban bike, and set up eBay alerts and started daily checks on Facebook Marketplace.
Before long, a nice bike popped up in York at £120 – usually, I would consider that too far to travel for a bike, but we had a trip planned to York, so I decided to make a mental note to check if it was still available at the time of our trip. I stupidly forgot. Only realising a few days after our return when I came across the advert. A few weeks later another one popped up on eBay – a twenty-minute drive away, with the auction starting at £60. I put in an early bid and waited. I was the only bidder!
I picked up the bike from a fellow VW Transporter owner on my lunch break, it looked to be in decent condition, albeit with a few paint scuffs, a bargain at £60. Even though the frame is a size medium, it is slightly too tall for me, the reach is fine but I guess that is part and parcel of having short legs. I took the bike for a quick shakedown ride, and other than the grips being a bit worn, and the front wheel being mounted back to front, all it needed was a good wash. I had some spare DMR Deathgrips in my spares box, and a black Charge Spoon saddle, so I washed the bike, then fitted those. Fitting the wheel the right way around was not quite so easy, as the brakes rubbed the wheel when it was fitted the correct way around. My options were to flip the tyre around, or to dish the wheel over. I chose the latter, more confident in my abilities with the spoke key than refitting such narrow tyres. The one good thing about bikes with rim brakes is that I did not even need to remove the wheel to adjust it.
Coming from mountain bikes, it is a very different ride! It is so twitchy, which I think is down to the thin tyres, long stem and narrow handlebars, of course without suspension it is a bumpy ride. Also, the brakes are rubbish. Despite that, it is still fun to ride and is perfect for running errands around the city. Coventry is fairly flat, so only having one gear is not a problem for me, it is slower than riding a bike with gears, but I like the simplicity.
I do not have any specific plans for “Maurice”, other than just riding around Coventry. Hopefully, it can stay out of the workshop for a bit, as I am rebuilding a commuter bike for Jen – that is a much bigger project, requiring a full strip down to the frame, thorough cleaning and reassembling, so expect another bike check post soon…
After what feels like the world’s slowest rebuild, I am finally back on an Orange Four mountain bike. Except that it is not my old one, well mostly not…
My last ride on the Four was on the 31st of December 2021 – a session at the pumptrack, it was feeling tired and in need of a full rebuild. The next day I swapped the wheels and brake pads onto my other bike and left the Four hanging in the garage for a few months. In what was to become the norm for this project, work was in fits and starts, the first bit of progress being after I struggled riding my hardtail at Woburn. At the time I thought that my difficulties were due to all of the roots across the trail and riding a hardtail, but I did also test positive for Covid the following week. At least it gave me some motivation, and the enforced time at home gave me the opportunity to strip the bike down. After the tedious job of removing the stickers, I could send the frame to the Orange factory for a repaint, and the suspension to Fox UK for a full service. The suspension came back quickly, but I had not heard anything from Orange. Until a large box unexpectedly arrived at the door, but it did not have my frame in, it was an updated warranty replacement, still painted the new colour I had asked for! I still do not know what was wrong with my old frame, but the new one looked great in the lighter “Norlando” grey colour.
The worst part of the build was fitting the headset cups, as the tool I have does not seem to play well with Hope headsets, which is all I use on my mountain bikes. Hitting setbacks like these seemed to put me off spending time in the garage and are probably the reason that the build took so long. As the wheels from what I am now calling my old Four, had been fitted to my hardtail I needed to build up some new wheels. I had one decent Hope rear hub from the hardtail, after an expensive trip to my local bike shop, Albany Cycles, I hard the remaining components to make my perfect wheelset for trail riding – Hope hubs, DT Swiss XM481 (30mm internal) rims and back DT Swiss spokes/nipples. The bike shop recommended using the Squorx nipples, which needed a special tool, but it made the build a lot easier. Unfortunately, the rear wheel of the hardtail (which was the wheel originally fitted to my old Four) died last autumn, and could not be repaired, so it seemed logical to pinch the new rear wheel that I had built up for the Four, and fit that to the hardtail to keep me riding. Meaning another expensive trip to Albany Cycles for the parts to build another wheel.
This took us into 2023, and realising I had been without my bike for a whole year motivated me to spend more time in the garage, and the bike slowly started to come together, until there were two main jobs left, both of which I had been dreading: servicing the dropper post and fitting the rear brake, which now had to be routed through the frame. As I stripped down the dropper post, I began to remember just how bad it had been the last few times I rode the bike, it needed a full service, including an oil cartridge – the parts for this came to over £100. The dropper post I had fitted on my hardtail had not even cost that. However, remembering that the dropper post on the hardtail was not great, I did the sensible thing and bought a One Up dropper post, more expensive but with better performance than either of my existing dropper posts. As the One Up post did not come with a remote lever, I also ordered a Wolf Tooth remote – I have one on the hardtail and it works well, spares are readily available and it can be mounted to brake levers directly, rather than adding another clamp on the handlebars. I did manage to resist the version with the purple anodised lever – it worked out as twice the price of the standard black version I bought. On the subject of purple bling, purple tubeless valves and a black/purple version of my go-to saddle (SDG Bel Air 3) also found their way onto the parts pile, along with the purple parts removed from the old Four. I also have some fresh DMR Deathgrips to fit, also in purple.
The dropper post and remote proved easy to fit, which gave me some hope for the rear brake. I decided to buy a new hose, as although the new frame was the same size as the old one, the hose routing was slightly longer, and this was one job I did not want to do twice! Routing the hose was not too tricky, but getting the rubber grommets to fit was an absolute nightmare, which I am dreading having to do again. I made a last-minute decision to fit the same brake pads as on the hardtail, which were originally on the Four, Shimano finned sintered pads, as I was fitting new brake discs – when it came to bedding in the brakes I was glad of this decision, as have bedded in nicely. Every mountain biker seems to swear by a particular brake pad, I have tried a few over the years, but keep coming back to Shimano pads for Shimano brakes.
The final step was fitting the tyres and setting them up tubeless. I made the decision early on in the build process that I would use the Maxxis Minion DHR/DHF tyre combination. For years it was almost the defacto choice for mountain bikers without a tyre sponsor (and occasionally even riders sponsored by their competitions rode DHF/DHR tyres with the Maxxis logos Sharpie’d out), Continental and Michelin seem to have caught up with Maxxis, but their tyres are only available in a 2.4″ width, which I fear may be a bit too wide for the rear end on the Four, so I have stuck with 2.3″ Maxxis tyres. The front, DHF, tyre is the only part of the build that I am unhappy with – it has a wobble. I noticed on the first ride, just up and down the road to bed in the brakes, and worried that I had messed up the wheel build somehow. Putting the wheel back on the wheel-building stand vindicated my skills, the rim was perfectly true, it was just the tyre that was deformed. Online research has indicated that this is a fairly common issue with some models of Maxxis tyres.
Parts in italics are carried over from my old Four:
Frame: 2019 Orange Four, size medium.
Fork: Fox 34 130mm travel
Shock: Fox DPS
Wheels: Custom build, DT Swiss XM481 laced onto Hope Pro4 hubs. DT Swiss spokes, nipples and washers and Muc-Off valves.
Cockpit: Renthal Fatbar Lite. DMR Deathgrips. BrandX 50mm stem (temporarily to confirm size). Wolftooth ReMote dropper post remote. One Up v2.1 150mm dropper post. Ride Works seat clamp (made in Coventry!). SDG Bel Air 3 saddle.
The First Ride
After all of that work, what was it like to ride? Bloody awesome!!! The suspension is not quite fully set up to my liking, but on my first proper ride, at the Forest of Dean, it felt super fast, to the point I was carrying too much speed into some corners, after being used to a bumpy ride on the hardtail for the last sixteen months. Fortunately, the new brakes and grippy tyres allowed me to reign in the speed and make the corner safely. I hit a variety of trails – starting on the blue-graded Verderers Trail, then switching to the new red-graded Adit Trail, which is more natural (read as muddy) with a fun final descent. Then after a short stop for lunch, some suspension tweaks and swapping to my full-face helmet, I hit the downhill trails. After the long ride/push up the hill I hit the Countdown and Launchpad trails – both fast, flowy and seriously fun trails. I was really tempted to hit them again, but on the push back to the top, I decided that as fun as they would be, I would get more benefit from riding the last sections of the Verderers Trail, which are not quite as fast, but still flowy and fun. I felt like a bit of a wally riding down the blue-graded trail with a full-face helmet and goggles, but re-riding some of the sections from the morning let me confirm my updated suspension settings. And it was good to ride the longer, slightly rougher, Verderers Final descent to get experience with the bike on a different trail. As you can see from the muddy image below, the Four has been suitably christened!
The ride was split into three Strava sections, as my Apple Watch was running low on battery, so I had to switch to recording on my phone, then a third for the downhill session after lunch.
Owen got a new bike for his fifth birthday – an Orbea MX20 Team Disc. It is a proper mini mountain bike, with gears, fat tyres and hydraulic disc brakes. Orbea have discontinued this model, so I bought a 2018 model secondhand, then gave it a refresh.
Of course, during the refresh there were a few upgrades, mostly to fit with the green colour scheme Owen has had on all his pedal bikes. The changes from the standard specification are:
SDG Slater Pro Kit in green (pedals, saddle and thinner handlebar/grips) – the handlebars are trimmed to 590mm.
40mm BrandX stem
Green gear cable housing
Hope stem cap in orange (fitted by the previous owner)
RRP mudguard in green
Decathlon bottle cage
Owen has now had a few chances to ride his new bike, and the verdict is that he “loves it”! He is getting the hang of the gears, and already finding how much easier they make riding up hills. The larger wheels and much more powerful brakes also give him more confidence to ride faster on trails. It is slightly too big, but at the rate he is growing that will not be a problem soon.
As I am a bike geek, there are a few jobs still to do: I was not able to set the standard wheels and tyres to run tubeless. The wheels are already set up for tubeless, but the tyres seemed to be too loose on the rims. Hopefully new tyres will help. I would like to replace the brake levers – Owen has smaller hands than me, but bigger brake levers. My other concern is the rear derailleur – it is too close to the ground and does not have a clutch mechanism to keep the chain in place. This will likely drive an upgrade to a ten-speed drivetrain – fortunately, I have some of the components spare, freshly removed from my hardtail.
For me, the best thing is the opportunities it opens up for Owen and I to ride together. Even after a few weeks on the bike his pace and confidence on blue graded trails have increased, and he is also able to cover more distance. This bike, combined with our TowWhee tow rope will allow us to ride more trails together, so I am looking forward to a summer of adventures with Owen.
This was meant to be a post introducing my new bike, however – I have already ridden over 500km on it… Life has been busy and unfortunately blogging has taken a back seat this year. Regular readers of this blog may have already noticed the Clockwork Evo popping up in some other posts throughout the summer, as I have taken it on a few adventures already…
Rewind two years, I blogged about the upgrades to my Vitus Nucleus hardtail, and the how the next upgrades would need a frame swap. I had an idea of what I wanted – a “modern geometry” frame with 130mm travel, boost axle spacing and dropper post routing. This would allow me to replicate the set up on my Four, with most parts being interchangeable. I had narrowed it down to two options, the Marin San Quentin 2, which a few of my riding buddies have or the Orange Clockwork Evo. During the first lockdown of 2020 I noticed that the Marin had sold out in the UK, and also that there was only one 2019 Orange Clockwork Evo frame left in stock. Luckily it was in my size, so I had to buy it! Fifteen year old Lewis would have been impressed that I have one Orange bike, his mind would have been blown by having two!
The build took longer than I would have liked, mainly as I had stripped down my Orange Four for a full service, and I needed to strip my Vitus Nucleus hardtail for the parts to build up the new frame. The main new parts that I needed to source were headset and rear wheel, as these could not be transferred. Fortunately my local bike shop, Albany Cycles, had the headset in stock and were able to fit it for me. I took the opportunity of needing a new rear wheel, and not having much else to do in lockdown, to learn how to build bike wheels. The advantage of this was that I could pick the hub/rim/spokes I wanted, even if it was tricky to find parts. The wheel build went smoothly, I found the process quite satisfying, but could lose hours at the truing stand in my garage making the wheel perfectly straight and round.
After the Four was serviced and the Vitus Nucleus stripped of parts the build could commence. I enjoyed the build process, the only hitch was almost at the final stage when I needed to fit a seat post to measure which dropper post I would need. I realised that the seat tube diameter was smaller than any of the seat posts I had – except for the dropper post on my Four. Keen to order the last part needed to complete the bike, I removed the seat post from the Four and broke it in the process – leaving me without a ridable bike. Disaster! At least I was able to measure up for a dropper post for the new bike and my boss came to the rescue, lending me a post so I could ride Four. It also confirmed my feeling that I would rather ride a hardtail with a dropper post, than a full suspension bike with a fixed seat post. I had wanted to buy a One Up dropper post, but they were out of stock everywhere by the time I was ready to buy, so ended up with a BrandX post. Once again, Albany Cycles came to the rescue with the parts to get the Four back on the trail.
With the bike built up, I was able to give it a few local shakedown rides before Owen and I had a day planned at 417 Bike Park. The Clockwork Evo was great on the pump track, I only got to try it on the downhill trails at Owen’s pace, so could not really get a good idea. Unfortunately I managed to put a huge scratch in the top tube – Owen had a pretty big crash, so making sure he was OK was my priority. It probably took me longer to patch up the scratch on the bike than it too the doctor to patch up Owen’s chin in A&E!
After a few commutes and local trail rides, the next big trip was our summer holiday to Dorset, I did one ride on my own, then a couple of family rides on blue trails, with Henry on the front of my bike (in a Thule Yepp Mini seat), including at Moors Valley. The Clockwork Evo proved itself to be a flexible allrounder, perfect for taking on holiday – exactly what I wanted from it!
After our holiday the Clockwork Evo was pressed back into “do it all hardtail” usage, commutes, school runs, pump track sessions, family rides and even a Strava KOM! The only problem was with the crankset – which originally came fitted to my Vitus Nucleus when I bought it in 2014, and after almost 7,000km, was ready for replacement with lighter/stronger part. Trail rides were shared with the Four, until a particularly tough ride for the Four at Cannock Chase meant that the Four needed a strip down. And thus the hardtail was my only bike for a few months. Whilst the Four was stripped down, I had the idea of seeing what the Clockwork Evo would be like with the wider handlebars and shorter stem from the Four. Swapping the parts was not as easy as I had expected, but it was worth it – the riding position felt right straight away. The only downside was having to buy a new handlebar and stem for the Four. It also meant that there were no parts from the original Vitus build left on the hardtail. There is only one thing I can think of that I would like to change, which is the gearing – it is on a 1×10 system, which is perfect for my local trails, but not the best for climbing, switching to 1×11 would help there, but it can wait until the current cassette wears out.
The Clockwork Evo has exceeded my expectations, I would have been happy with a direct replacement for the Vitus Nucleus, but the Clockwork Evo is more than that – it is such a capable bike and is the perfect stablemate to the Four. There is a lot of overlap between them, but I have set the Clockwork Evo up with faster rolling tyres (Continental X Kings), for pump track and commuting. However, I still feel I could do a family ride with Henry on the front of the bike on a Saturday, hit the bike park on a Sunday, then ride it to work on the Monday. I met my friends, Partho and Ali, for a ride at Hicks Lodge, to celebrate my birthday (fortunately riding bikes is one of the few things you are allowed to do with friends at the moment) and despite the Four being freshly serviced (with new handlebars fitted), it was the Clockwork Evo that I chose to ride, knowing that on those trails, it would like be faster, more fun and easier to clean afterwards that the Four.
I probably spent as much time researching Owen’s first bike, as I did my Four. Buying a balance bike is a bit of a minefield, there are loads of different options, made from wood, plastic, steel and aluminium ranging from £20 to £200! Fairly early on in the search I decided that I was going to resist the expensive, but clearly better aluminium balance bikes, my logic being that if I’m going to splash out on a bike for Owen, I should wait for his first pedal bike. I also didn’t want to go for a cheap rubbish one, Owen probably wouldn’t know any different, but I want to nurture his love of bikes, not kill it with a crap, heavy first bike! There were a few options in the middle ground, the Vitus Nippy was an early favourite as it had an aluminium frame, and the bonus of being the same brand as Daddy’s bike. However, the more I looked into the Striders the more I liked them and especially the community around them – something which has made my Orange ownership experience even better.
The plan had been to buy it for Owen’s second birthday, but Owen seemed ready for it, and I was impatient, so ended up ordering it early. Inadvertently ordering it on the first day the new 2018 models were available. I went for the middle of the range “Sport” model, as it was cheaper than buying the base model, then the upgrades, I had been expecting free entry to a Strider Cup race, but annoyingly that had been discontinued for 2018 (in lieu of a price rise, so I can’t complain). The aluminium “Pro” version was just a bit too much of a price jump for me.
I had the bike delivered to work, and managed to sneak it into the garage to build it, which was just a case of fitting the front wheel/fork assembly, fitting the handle bars and tightening up the clamps. I then leant the bike up next to my Orange and went into the house to see Owen, like any other day. Then, just like any other day, Owen asked to go into the garage to look at bikes and “Daddy sportscar” (my MR2) – his little face was a picture when the door was opened to reveal a small bright blue balance bike propped up next to my bike. He knew exactly who it was for!
We got Owen to sit on the bike, he looked very pleased with himself, but he wasn’t keen to ride it. For the next few days he was happy enough just spinning the wheels, or asking to borrow my Allen keys, so he could “fix” it. I guess that is what comes from him seeing me fettling my bike more that riding it, as that happens when he is asleep! I was slightly disappointed and concerned that maybe he was too young for the balance bike. To remedy this I thought I’d go through how to pick up the bike and walk along with it, using my bike and getting him to copy – it didn’t take long until we were racing each other up and down the garden! After I’d put my bike away, Owen was riding down the path to the house and cracked a massive smile when he realised that he could go so much faster on the path than on the lawn.
Since then he has been getting more confident, but still calling the balance bike “big” or “wobbly”, so I have a bit more work to do – especially as I have entered him into a race on the 15th June! Hopefully more garden races and maybe a few sessions on the Strider track at Birmingham BMX track with Ready Steady Riders will prepare him for the race. In any case, I’m sure he will be spurred on by seeing other children on bikes!
As a note, we bought Owen a Scuttlebug trike late last year, after seeing how happy he was sat on our friend’s trike when we were in York last summer. Owen called it his “bike”, and loved sitting on it, but it is very much a plastic toy, rather than a proper bike, unlike like his Strider – which I am classing as his first bike!