Liquid Force 2011 Envy 12m Review…

31 01 2011


I test rode a 2010 Liquid Force Envy 10m last season and liked it a lot. Bellingham Kiteboarding [aka Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham] lent me a 2011 Liquid Force Envy 12m kite to demo in La Ventana.

Super beefy wing tips for long life and no stress...

This worked out ideally as the wind dropped when I got the 12m Envy.  I don’t have a 12m kite I love in my quiver so having a big kite that rocks was perfect.  The 2011 Envy is even nicer looking than the 2010 model I tried last year. The graphics and colours work together well.  Some people don’t care what their kites look like, but I figure if I have to look at my gear for hours and hours I want it to be a pleasant experience…=-)

Kick ass bag...

The first thing you notice when grabbing the Liquid Force Envy as you walk down to the beach is the killer bag they provide.  It’s super burly and very comfortable if you have a long hike from your car to the launch.  Again some people don’t care about kite bags, but my kites spend a lot of time traveling from kite beach to kite beach and get thrown into my garage between trips.  Having a tough bag means I don’t have to worry about my kites getting damaged by something sharp or from UV.  These are the best bags I’ve seen in the kiteboard industry.

Leading edge protection...

Out of the bag these kites are extremely well made with an eye towards durability.  Many companies reinforce the edges of the wingtips, but Liquid Force uses uber beefy fabric for the whole wingtip.  Sewing and reinforcements including leading edge bumpers are all first class.

Pulley detail...

Pumping up the kite is easy with only the leading edge and 3 struts needing air.  I self-launched and self-landed the kite using a post on the beach.  Like the 2010 model this kite is very user friendly and doesn’t cause you any drama.

Leading edge bridle attachement detail...

On the water the 2011 felt a lot like the 2010 Envy.  That’s a good thing!  It’s easy to fly and very stable.  The light 3 strut construction means that the kite will just float back in the window if you ride under it.  If you have an epic crash you’ll come up and the Envy will be floating there waiting for you.

Inflate & deflate valves...

One thing I appreciate now that I didn’t in 2010 is that since I am more into riding a surfboard and cranking out turns on a wave it’s great to have a kite you can forget about and focus on your wave.  If you ride towards it too much it just floats back into position….nice!  It’s also great to have a kite that isn’t going to crash on you easily so that the chance for having an “incident” in the waves is way less than a nervous kite.

Single point inflate connector from leading edge to centre strut...

Like the 2010 Envy the 2011 model isn’t the fastest turning kite, but that buys you stability and confidence. I’d buy Envys for Sharon as her first kites because they are so user friendly for a new kiter and so I could use them when I wanted an idiot proof kite in the waves!

Click on photo for a video review...

Click on the photo above for a nice video review with more details about the Envy.

Here is the Liquid Force marketing spew for the Envy:

“Rock solid stability, directional float, pivotal turning and effortless re-launch highlight the Envy’s “beyond delta” design for all around performance.This ultra lightweight three- strut platform gives light, responsive bar feel with impulse pivotal turning.

The Envy’s flight characteristics blend to produce a distinct “set it and forget it” feel.This makes it the perfect kite for everything from progressive wave riding to kite low freestyle domination.

Land a jump a bit too hot, under run the kite in a bottom turn… forget about it! The Envy’s lightweight design allows the kite to float directionally, enabling you to forget about the kite and concentrate on the important issues: making grabs, spotting landings and reading waves straight into the pit.?

Got Ortliebs? Got Pockets?

30 01 2011

My LHT loaded on tour...

One criticism I hear frequently about Ortlieb panniers is the lack of pockets to organize gear.  I figured I’d share my technique since I never find myself unable to find something. First off I have an external pocket on each pannier plus a handlebar bag [most of the time]. That gives me 4 pockets plus the bar bag to keep small items or stuff I need to access fast.  I could add two more external pockets…one on the front of each front pannier for a total of 6 pockets, but I don’t feel the need.

Left Rear Pannier

  • holds all my clothes
  • I use mesh bags for small items like socks and underwear
  • I organize my stuff logically depending on what’s happening that day
  • if no rain is expected I’ll fold all my rain gear up and put it on the bottom
  • I tend to start the day wearing warm clothes and take them off as I warm up…these items are put inside the bag on top so if I cool off I can easily grab a warm layer
  • this bag’s external pocket will hold something I don’t need often, but want fast access to when I need it like a First Aid kit
  • I often hang a safety triangle from this bag to make myself visible night and day

Dusty Ortlieb rear panniers with external pockets...

Right Rear Pannier

  • sleeping bag in compression sack
  • thermarest air matress
  • sometimes a tarp
  • sometimes part of a tent with remainder on top of rear rack or shared with touring partner
  • this bag’s external pocket contains something I don’t need on the bike like toilet paper and hand sanitizer or stove fuel

Front Ortlieb with external pocket...

Front Right Pannier

  • contains my cooking equipment and food supplies
  • extra water bottles
  • this bag gets hung up at night in bear country or stowed in a metal storage locker at a campground
  • this bag’s external pocket contains snacks

Top view of Ortlieb's on my Pugsley...

Front Left Pannier

  • tools and spare parts like tubes/tires
  • a 6′ x 6′ piece of sil nylon to sit on at camp
  • extra water bottles
  • extra food if supplies are scarce on this tour
  • this bag’s external pocket will hold bear spray if I need it on a trip, but it’s not a high risk area [in that case the spray is ziptied to bars [like in photo above]

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus panniers have an external pocket on the side...

Handlebar Bag

  • maps
  • wallet
  • camera
  • snacks
  • headlamp
  • knife
  • cell phone
  • GPS

Can you tell I love my Ortliebs?

Even though my load is a bit different for every tour by keeping this organized in a similar way for each trip it’s very easy to figure out which bag or pocket something is in. I load each bag or pocket so that what I’ll need most is on top and what I don’t need until an emergency or breakdown is on the bottom.  Where it makes sense I use mesh bags to organize stuff inside a bag.

Another trick I use to stay organized [day to day as well as on tour] is to always put stuff back in the same spot right after each use.  That way it’s always where I expect it will be.  If I’m camping for a while rather than pack and unpack my bags all day long I use a few dumping points for frequently used items like my tent’s pockets or my bar bag stashed in my tent. When I pack up camp everything from these dumping point goes back in its proper spot before the bike starts rolling.


Carbon Belt Tikit is Ready to Roll…=-)

29 01 2011

Carbon Belt Tikit...

Bike Friday is selling their carbon belt drive IGH Tikit starting Monday.

Here are some specs:

Carbon Drive tikit with Alfine 11.
Polished aluminum mountain bike handlebars, sealed bottom bracket, Tektro V brakes, 118-tooth Gates Carbon Drive belt, Shimano Alfine 11 internal hub, Phil Wood front hub and Schwalbe Marathon tires. Price: $3,292

Gear ratios for the Alfine 11:
60 x 24 = 21″ to 86″
60 x 22 = 23″ to 94″

Carbon Drive tikit with Alfine 8, Nexus Red Stripe 8 or Nexus 8.
Polished aluminum mountain bike handlebars, sealed bottom bracket, Tektro V brakes, 118-tooth Gates Carbon Drive belt, Shimano Alfine 8, Nexus Red Stripe 8 or Nexus 8 internal hub, twist shifter and Phil Wood cog, Phil Wood front hub and Schwalbe Marathon tires. Price: $2,595

Gear ratios for 8-speed hub:
60 x 22 = 23″ to 71″

NOTE: For comparison to chain drive tikits:
Standard 8-speed tikit: 53 x 11-28 = 30″ to 77″
Capreo tikit: 53 x 9-26 = 33″ to 94″

This version of the Tikit looks very sweet for the all weather commuter who wants zero hassle with maintenance.

I’m excited!…=-)   I’ll definitenly be askling for a test ride on my way home for Baja!

The problem with mechanical disc brakes…

28 01 2011

Avid BB7's on my Surly Big Dummy...

I must say upfront that this post is a bit of a rip off from an article Jan Heine posted in Bicycle Quarterly.  However, it’s something I was thinking about before I read that article and I’ll add a bit to what Jan discussed.

All of my initial experiences with disc brakes were with Avid mechanical discs.  This was simply because they were popular and easy to work on at home since they used the same brake housing and cables I was used to.  That meant I could overhaul my bike at 3am without a visit to a LBS for help bleeding hydraulic brakes. To their credit these brakes work well. I find the stopping power of a set of quality v-brakes and Avid mechanical discs comparable.  In the dry I can flip my bike over with both and in the wet they both stop the bike well albeit not as well as when dry.

I won’t argue there is no difference at all between a good set of v-brakes and a good set of mechanical discs, but the difference has not been in the range that it matters to me one bit which I use.

One issue I’ve had with mechanical discs is that after the initial part of the lever travel that does stop the bike reasonably well there is a very mushy feel to the lever as you keep pulling that seems to have little additional braking effect.  It’s worse on the rear wheel although that wheel isn’t particularly important for stopping the bike.  Since they work fine it’s not something I’ve spent too much time worrying about.  Then one day Bicycle Quarterly published an article that explained why I was experiencing this.

If you imagine that a rim brake is really a disc brake with a very big rotor.  This gives it a lot of leverage to stop the bike.  So that generating the same braking force  on a disc brake bike takes more pressure on the brake pads than for a rim brake bike.  Just the same as if you used a long and a short pry bar to open a wooden crate you have to push harder on the short pry bar to generate the same force at the far end of the lever.  In some ways the higher pad pressure of a disc brake system is a good thing since this is what is supposed to give it better wet weather braking as the pads squeeze water off the disc rotor more effectively than the lighter pressure from the rim brake pads on the bigger rotor that is the rim.

The problem is that the housing used for the mechanical brake cable is only able to resist the compression forces of the brake lever to a certain point.  Before that point most of the power you put into the lever gets to the disc pad and squeezes the rotor resulting in good braking.  Beyond that point more and more of the extra force you put into the lever goes into compressing the brake housing.  This means as you double the force you only get a small increasing in brake effect at the rotor.  This explains why after some good initial braking the mechanical disc brake lever feels mushy and doesn’t seem to have much effect.  It also explains why you can brake effectively with rim brakes since they don’t require the same high forces. Rear disc brakes also tend to use a long full run of cable housing which exacerbates the problem.

So what can you do about it?

  • if you want to stick with mechanical discs use some high quality brake housing that resists compression better.
  • if you’ve got $$ to spend install compressionless metal cable housing like the one made by Nokon.
  • if you are buying brakes go with hydraulic disc brakes since they don’t have this problem
  • the cheapest solution is to understand the issue and use the braking your mechanical discs provide…when you get to the mushy part of the lever’s pull don’t bother squeezing harder since you know not much will happen.

Rain Jackets PT 2…

27 01 2011

Gore Bike Wear Alp X Jacket...

So based on feedback I’ve rec’d on my rain jacket post and some additional reading I’ve done online here are the contenders at the moment.  If you’ve had any experience with ’em good or bad let me know.

Gore Bike Wear Alp X Jacket [image above]:

  • the Gore products seem to get good reviews from cyclists
  • very breathable
  • durable
  • checking on fit
  • easily packable in a handlebar bag
  • average cost of a quality rain jacket @ $279USD
  • comes in a variety of colours, but nothing super bright
  • not a lot of reflective material on it
  • limited venting options [relies entirely on fabric’s breathability]
  • I can order this to a friend’s place in the US and confirm size before taking it home to Canada

MEC Derecho jacket...

MEC Derecho Rain Jacket:

  • confirmed that it fits me well
  • probably a bit less breathable than other jackets, but offers a ton of venting options
  • durable
  • more bulky than other options
  • can return if I’m not happy
  • high visibility colour option and decent amount of reflective material [could use more]
  • under $200 so a bit cheaper than Gore jacket

REI Novara Verita Jacket...

REI Novara Verita Jacket:

  • I can try this jacket on at a REI on way home to confirm sizing [I tend to fit REI brand stuff]
  • eVent fabric is highly rated by endurance cyclists
  • limited venting options [relies entirely on fabric to breathe]
  • cost is under $200 – same as MEC jacket
  • can return on next trip to US if not happy
  • hate the colour and this is only option

Rain Shield 3Flow Performance Jacket...

Rain Shield 3Flow Performance Jacket:

  • not sure about fit
  • gets good reviews online for breathability
  • not rated very highly for durability
  • low cost at under $100 so durability less of a concern
  • light and packs well

At the moment I’m leaning towards the Derecho for the great fit and decent breathability [fabric combined with venting].  The moderate cost makes up for the bulkier size and worst case this will be a decent commuter/touring jacket even if it doesn’t meet my rando needs.

If the fit of the Gore jacket looks good [thanks for checking Val] than I may go that route and suck up the extra cost for better breathability and lower cost.

I’m going to try on the REI jacket if it crosses my path and see how it fits and how F-ugly the pumpkin orange is in person.  It has an outside chance at the present time.  For now the uncertain fit and low durability of the Rain Shield jacket are keeping it out of contention, but if I ever see one in person I’ll try it on and if the fit is good I might grab one to try out.

Help I can’t stop!

26 01 2011

Rim brakes? they still make those?

I read with much amusement people posting online that rim brakes don’t work well when it’s wet out.  If you mention you ride a bike in a wet climate like the PNW or costal BC you are advised that you gotta get disc brakes.  Apparently rim brakes don’t stop your bike well and you’ll wear through your rims at an alarming rate.  Disc brakes on the other hand stop your bike on a dime and never wear through a rotor.

It sounds great – except for the fact it’s not true…

When I look around at 10 bikes I pass riding around the wetness of a Vancouver Island winter 9 out of 10 bikes I see use rim brakes.  These folks are stopping just fine. I haven’t seen anyone ram another cyclist for lack of braking power or plow through a stop sign while pumping their brakes furiously.  Keep in mind these are not all top notch bikes tuned to within an inch of their lives.  There are a lot of beaters out there who see very little maintenance.  Even these mediocre rigs stop without issue in the rain.

My two go to rain bikes are my Surly LHT and my Bike Friday Tikit.  Both have rim brakes.  Both stop fine in the rain.  I often carry cargo on my LHT and it still stops fine in the rain.  Not just fine as is in I am barely able to avoid a problem, but fine as in I don’t really think much about my brakes since I pull the lever and the bike stops when I want it to.  If they didn’t work I can assure you I’d be riding different bikes when it was wet out.

I own a number of bikes with disc brakes.  They work fine as well.  I can’t say that there is any practical difference between the two systems.  I don’t ride my Surly Big Dummy with hydraulic discs and think to myself “…this baby stops on a dime compared to my LHT…”

Both my LHT and Tikit are on their original rims.  I’m sure they’ll wear out – someday, but it’s hardly a major issue. I just checked my LHT’s front rim and there is no visible wear on the brake track.  This is my oldest bike that has seen a ton of Kms…many of which were loaded touring in the mountains.  My Tikit doesn’t see the mileage of my LHT, but it was my winter city bike for 2 years and has tiny 16″ rims which should suffer accelerated wear.  However, my Tikit rims are in excellent shape as well.  The Tikit’s drivetrain is worn out so I do ride it a lot and I have to brake a lot for city riding, but so far no rim wear issues.

When I contemplated building up Sharon a new commuter bike one of the issues was what type of brakes to use.  To be honest I started down the “…I guess I better use discs…” train of thought myself until I really thought about it point by point:

  • v-brakes are powerful
  • v-brakes are cheap
  • v-brake are light
  • v-brakes are easy to adjust
  • v-brakes are easy to examine [condition and adjustment]
  • v-brakes allow for a more vertically flexible comfortable steel fork
  • v-brakes work well wet or dry
  • rims don’t need replacing often even with wet weather commuting KMs

Sharon won’t be getting a new commuter bike for a long time after this so I wanted to make a good long term choice. In this case that was v-brakes.

So if rim brakes do work in the wet and rims don’t wear out in a few months of riding why is there so much pro-disc & anti-rim brake nonsense going around?

The two most basic reasons are:

  1. bike companies want to sell you new brakes, frames and bikes
  2. we live in a culture where new technology is worshiped irrationally

I won’t be shocked in 10 years when most bikes sold in a LBS have discs if we see bike companies tout the advantages of the “new and improved” rim brake.

I figure I’m pretty objective since I’ve lived all over Canada and ridden all sorts of bikes year round.  I own and like discs so I’m not a technology hater.  I ride rim brakes and discs back to back on the same day so I can compare them readily under the same conditions.

Now don’t get me wrong if you give me a free bike with disc brakes I’ll happily ride it.  If I want a specific frame [like a Pugsley] that only works well with discs I’ll use discs.  Good quality discs work great.  They stop your bike fine.  My only concern is that we don’t lose sight of the fact rim brakes work great as well.  Picking discs because they are a good fit for your needs is smart.  Picking discs because you think they are the only viable brake option is silly.

Slingshot Tyrant 6’2″ Review

25 01 2011

The new board grin...

I’ve been riding a sweet Slingshot Tyrant 6’2″ thruster fin surfboard down here in La Ventana.

This board is too good for me...

Let’s be honest it will still be a couple years before I’m a good enough kiteboarder to really get the most from this board.  So I won’t bother trying to tell you how this board will work for you – I’ll just let you know what I think about it and share some board porn!

Glamour shot...

I got this board from Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham.  They’ve got killer prices and have always treated me great.  I chatted with them about what directional board they recommended and I got a unanimous Slingshot Tyrant 6’2″ from three different folks at the shop.


The Tyrant is big enough for me to surf unpowered.

The bamboo and carbon construction is lovely to look at...

Slingshot marketing spew:

“Cherry picking the favorites from our test boards and developing what is the best 6’2″ tri fin shortboard model to date. Fractionally thicker over the stringer under the chest with flatter entry for paddling, than last years BW Pro. The NEW TYRANT 6’2” has a much smoother blend of curve, bottom contour (single double concave) and outlines that harmonize for clean release and drive.

The all NEW incorporated WVS Bamboo construction and the only board with parabolic CARBON rails, delivers a more crisp feel and spring when loading and unloading the rail. WVS and the carbon rail also makes the Tyrant the most durable kite surfboard offered today to handle everything from hard lip smacking to aggressive ariel moves.

This board will blow your mind in good surf! Kiting or surfing reigning as a dominant force to be reckoned with, the NEW 2011 Slingshot Tyrant meets the needs of expert kitesurfers looking for all out hard core performance.”

Carbon rails...

The carbon rails and bamboo construction makes for a very strong precise board.  I knew it was tough, but what blew my mind was seeing several of the pro riders in the big air competition this past weekend riding Tyrants.  Landing jumps of 40′ and 50′ on a surfboard shouldn’t be possible without coming back with several different pieces, but the proof was in the pudding.

The Slighshot surfboard lineup for 2011...

The 2011 Slingshot surfboard lineup looks killer – something for everyone.

Checking out the Slingshot booth at the Kite Expo...

I was stoked to see a bunch of Slingshot boards at the kite expo last weekend.  I wanted to try the Dialer [2nd from the left], but was too busy riding my Tyrant to get down there when it was windy.

I like the Dialer quad fin on the right...

What I like about the Tyrant:

  • light and strong
  • infinitely adjustable foot straps
  • removable foot straps
  • large size provides lots of flotation so you can use a nimble small kite
  • turns on a dime and responds to your every input
  • looks great and is taking all my abuse without complaint
  • rides toeside with straps no problem
  • goes upwind well
  • very smooth on chop
  • big enough I can try paddle it into waves [I say try because I’m not a shortboarder!]

Carbon wraps around the whole board...

I’ve already managed to ram the nose of this board into the ground when I dropped it…doh!…, but the carbon tip was barely scratched and I just wiped it off and went riding.

Comfortable foot straps on a sliding rail...

Both the front and rear foot straps slide on a rail for infinite adjustability.  If you want to pull the straps Slingshot gives you some rubber inserts to plug the rails for comfy barefoot riding.

Riding on rails - literally...

I’ve got my front strap/pad adjusted almost all of the way forward to keep the board flat and fast.

Tri-fin thruster setup for a lot of drive off the tail and maneuverability...

The fins bolt in from the top with burly hardware so they can really take all the pressure you can load them up with when you drive the board with a ton of kite power.

Fin porn...

I need to find some spare fins for this board.  I would be crushed to destroy a fin on day 1 of a 2 week trip to a remote beach.

A record of the serial #...

I got the 70th Tyrant 6’2″ they made…=-)

Return if found!

I haven’t lost a board yet, but just in case I always put my name and email on them plus an offer for some $$$.  Giving some one $100 is way cheaper than buying a new board.

A little more porn...

Okay got go ride!

Bamboo baby!

BTW – KPS has these boards on sale at the moment for $569USD [ Feb 2012]