Here at Pinkbike, we get inundated with all kinds of questions, ranging from the basic "Can I have stickers?" to more in-depth, soul-searching types of queries like if you should pop the question or what to name your first child. Ask Pinkbike is an occasional column where we'll be hand-picking and answering questions that have been keeping readers up at night, although we'll likely steer clear of those last two and keep it more tech-oriented.
Sketchy Carbon Bars...
Question:@Fenwick458 asks in the Road Cycling & Touring forum: I recently discovered my bars are too wide, so I started looking for some 420mm (it's a road bike but this carries over to MTB), and stumbled across a 'Toseek Chinese carbon integrated bar and stem' for only £38 delivered on eBay. I did a few searches and found a few other bits on the web about them, some saying they are terrible and dangerous, and some saying they are fine. I thought, "What do I have to lose?" and bought some to see how good they were.
They arrived cracked, but eventually I received a second set...(long story). I made a jig I could fasten into the vice and test them before fitting. I tested the 1st set to destruction on the cracked side (which was easier than I thought, I was led to believe carbon fiber wouldn't shear off in a clean break, but it did) and tried as hard as I could to break them by pushing down as hard as possible on the unbroken side, and with both hands on the top of the bars, but couldn't break them. A friend also tried and couldn't break them, they seem strong.
Whenever I think about what the worst bike part to fail while on a ride is, it's a road bike handlebar or a headtube. Take those bars off your bike right now and throw them out! Seriously. What are you going to do if it breaks mid-descent at high speed? You're going to get really hurt or possibly die.
Carbon parts are expensive for a reason - they're not overly straightforward to make. Now it doesn't matter so much as where they come from (US, China, UK, etc.) as to how they were produced. Anything that arrives in packaging, as you described, has a chance of being damaged in shipping and it could be in a way that you can't see.
Companies have had recalls over seemingly insignificant issues with carbon because when it's not made correctly, it can fail. And those failures can be catastrophic, as you described. The testing and engineering that goes into any reputable carbon product is extensive. Companies invest lots of money into ensuring that their products are safe and reliable. If shipping a product somehow caused its failure, I don't think I'd trust the jig and test you made (although it's cool) in any way, especially once you consider all of the impacts, vibrations, temperature variables, and more that your handlebars will encounter even just over the course of one ride. Check out this article from a couple of years back when I visited Zipp's facility in Indianapolis for an idea of what their testing and manufacturing look like for carbon wheels and other parts.
Zipp test their carbon at every step throughout the process to ensure things are done precisely. Any other reputable carbon manufacturer is going to do the same because of how critical proper construction is. This machine measures tolerances of the rims down to microscopic levels.
Gas Container for Trail Building?
Question:@mattfisher22 asks in the Trail Building: For maintenance and building new trail, sometimes I need to pack in a chainsaw. Has anyone had a good experience with the aluminum MSR bottles? They get mixed reviews on Amazon. I'd love to hear how you carry gas/bar oil for a chainsaw in your pack.
I've been using the same MSR bottle for 14 years now and it's still going strong. Yes, the seals do break down over time, but otherwise, it's good to go. Depending on how often I'm out on the trail, I'll change what mix I have in the can. Typically, I'll make my own mix, but if it's a little more sporadic, I like to use the way more expensive but far more stable, Stihl Motomix (or similar) pre-mix. Some of the Lowe's or Home Depot stores even have cans of the pre-mix that fit in the side of your pack just like a MSR bottle. Of course, the MSR bottle is still good for bar & chain oil as well, just make sure you don't mix your stove fuel with your saw fuel...probably a fast way to ruin both.
One other thing that came to mind that's worth noting is that it's a good idea to carry a spare bar and chain with you if you're only taking in one saw. That way, if you get the bar pinned way back in the middle of nowhere and can't wedge it out, you can usually pop the motor off, add on the other bar, and fix your mistake.
Alas, if it's in your budget, I'd highly recommend some of the new electric setups. Long runtime, high torque, and really awesome. Plus, you just have to carry a spare battery and bar oil.
Who Gets the Right of Way?
Question:@speed10 asks: Oooold question. It used to be that uphill got the right of way because losing momentum on the climb sucks, and restarting can sometimes be tricky. Obviously restarting on the down is as easy as letting off the brakes.
Now I hear people saying “enjoy the down” and yielding to the downhill traffic so they can stay in the flow. Seems less people value the challenge of cleaning the climb without putting a foot down. More people wanna bomb the hill and I’m cool with both. I just wish it was consistent.
What is the consensus? Who gets the right of way, uphill or downhill riders?
To me this is very straightforward, yet it's met with a lot of debate. Uphill riders get the right of way. Hikers and horses? They get the right of way everywhere. If you're on multi-use trails, bikes are at the bottom of the food chain. This does change when you're on bike-specific trails or directional trails, however, the bottom line is that you should be nice and say "Hi" when you encounter other trail users. Everyone is just out in the woods trying to have fun. Nothing gets to me quite like someone rude on a descent with what I call 'Strava face' - you know, the totally gripped rider, on the edge of control, going for a PR while others are just out trying to enjoy their day. C'mon. Get a life, dude. Grow up. Unless you're on a closed race course or someone's life is in danger, there's no reason not to chill out and be friendly. If you can't do your workout that's so important without being a jerk, you should probably go somewhere else or re-evaluate why you even ride.
Now, if you're in the middle of a fast descent on a multi-use trail and you can't safely stop, you're probably going too fast, but I always do try to get out of the way of a descending rider and let them keep going, if it makes sense, even though good etiquette says I should have the right of way. I feel that even though it could add to the confusion of who should yield, I'd rather add to being nice and saying hello.
Just be nice. Horses can be annoying and there are bad apples in every bunch but the horseback riders around where I live do a large part in keeping some backcountry trails open.
New Bike or Upgrade?
Question:@dazzer20 asks in the 29'ers Forum: I'm looking for advice on what is best to do - upgrade or buy a new bike? I have a Felt Nine 60, 2014 29er MTB. The frame is still in relatively good condition minus a few marks and dings, I did recently upgrade the drivetrain to NX Egale 12, but now my front suspension has gone. I could get an upgraded fork but I would need to buy a new front wheel for the dropouts to fit...Something to also consider is I am in the UK and I am not hopeful to be able to get a new bike at this time because of covid as there seems to be a shortage from the shops online and I would need an XL or XXL frame size. I would probably spend up to £1000 for just the front suspension if I were to purchase that.
It's a hard time to be in the predicament that you're in. Bikes and parts can be challenging to come by right now worldwide and your location certainly isn't helping you. If I were in your shoes, I'd see if you could get your fork rebuilt and sit tight with what you have. New seals and even bushings could make it feel a lot better. If it's beyond repair, I'd try to find a used fork and wheel to tide you over until later in the year. If you can get what you have running long enough to give you some time and you keep your eyes open, I'm betting you can find a new or used bike, in good shape, that'll be a little more up to speed. Especially since you just put a new drivetrain on.
While there's nothing wrong with your 2014 model bike (that I know of, other than the fork), a newer bike is going to give you more longevity, better compatibility with modern parts, and probably a little more fun on the trails in years to come. It'll be easier to maintain and you won't have to worry about it working on a day-to-day basis if you keep it in good shape. Good luck in your search!
Sometimes, fresh seals and grease will keep that old fork going for miles and miles.