A Long Weekend with the Fuji X100V

Part of the reason I switched camera systems to Fuji back in 2018 was that I wanted a smaller set-up. I thought I had achieved this when I bought the 23mm f2 Fujicron lens. I loved the quality of the lens and found I used it more than the 18-55mm “kit” lens and the 35mm full-frame equivalent quickly became my favourite focal length. However, it was still a “camera bag” camera, rather than a “pocket” camera, which meant I was not taking out as much as would have liked, especially on bike rides. This planted the seed in my mind about getting a Fuji X100V camera (Amazon affiliate link) and seeing the size comparison on camerasize.com convinced me – the camera with lens is smaller than my X-T2 and 23mm f2 lens. To make sure it would be the right decision, I used Fuji UK’s free loan service to borrow one for a weekend. To maximise the loan period I borrowed it over the Easter weekend, meaning I got a four-day loan, instead of two, Fuji also sent the camera a day early, so I had it for even longer.

My first trip out with it was for a bike ride and some street photography in Coventry city centre. I used it an excuse to check out the new Nauls Mill linear park, which is a nice way into the city centre – hopefully they will do a similar job at Spon End, which is our usual route. Photographically the trip was not that successful, but the camera was great – so small and discreet. I just needed to work on my street photography courage. I did get a nice bike portrait though in the revamped tunnel under the ringroad.

On the Saturday, I met my friend Partho, and his trusty hound Otto, for a photo walk around Birmingham. It was liberating only walking around with a tiny camera and as Partho also shoots Fuji I was able to lend him my 23mm f2 lens. As usual, Otto stole the show, we had to keep stopping for people to fuss over him.

I felt like I was getting more confident with street photography, the little X100v certainly helped – I can see why they are so popular. However, my favourite photo from the walk was this lamp. There was so much more to explore in Birmingham, so in the future, I will try to fit in some evening photo walks after I finish work on my office days in Birmingham.

In addition to specific photography excursions I also wanted to see how the X100v fitted into my life as a dad – it had to be good for taking photos of the boys! Of course, it was! The picture quality is better than my X-T2/23mm f2 lens combination, the autofocus is more reliable and it is such a small and portable package. When I am about and about with the boys I can just shove it in a pocket when I need to attend to a little fall or snack request etc. The photo of Henry at the top of this post is one of my favourite photos of the year so far.

The only problem with the X100v is that I cannot buy one anywhere! After trying it out, I had decided I would buy it as a reward for passing my next AWS certification exam (which I hope to take in the next few weeks), but I think that if I find one in stock I just need to buy it! I have alerts set up in loads of places and I am top of the list for one at my local camera shop. It would be great to have it for some trips we have got planned over the summer.

New Ride: Orange Clockwork Evo

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.