The frequently bonkers and often backwards bicycle industry has a problem of getting too big for its britches and while it may seem a strange thing to comment, smaller is and always will be better. Small, local bike shops aren’t going away any time soon despite what some of the major online retailers would have you believe and are still the best place to get the no nonsense information about what works and what doesn’t. Smaller component manufacturers are also where to go for your next fix. A couple decades ago to the present and well on into the future no doubt, Hope Technology has always been producing gear well beyond what you would expect to see from the big boys with the only sting coming from a rather large bill at the end of the meal. Thankfully though, there is another equally good but less bank account damaging way.

Why BB mount chainguide? Not every bike these days has ISCG tabs and if like me you value components that are cross compatible with other rigs in your fleet, a do it all guide for any occasion is just the ticket. Available as an upper mount only (which is all you need) in their signature green, black and now orange, it comes with several shims to dial in the guide to suit your particular chainline for total noise free chain security. When I say noise free, I mean completely silent.

All I can hear while pedalling is the two derailleur pulleys spinning away and my creaky knees. It’s a refreshingly simple design that is still stout enough to be used for any big mountain ride and light and drag free enough to be suited to Cyclo-cross. It’s been intelligently designed to use as few parts as necessary, keeping cost and maintenance down. I’ve used oval and non oval narrow wide rings and standard singlespeed rings and had no dramas. It really is a do it all guide for the people.

The oval chainring. Don’t call it Biopace because it’s not, even though the concept is similar. The two biggest differences between Shimano’s attempt at oval rings back in the day and modern ones is the timing of the oval relative to crank position and the need to only have a single cog up front. I was pretty skeptical at first thinking that each pedal stroke would be lumpier than a teenagers face but it provides a surprisingly smooth cadence. Climbing with the oval ring is where it really comes into its own though.

When your pedal cadence slows down for a climb, the sharp ends of the oval do seem to add a small amount of leverage during each crank rotation. I will say that for me, it’s not a hugely noticeable change which begs the question why have one at all, but it’s good to try these things out if for no other reason than to know what works for your own style.

The new 11 speed Shimano XT is simply the nuts. The ergonomics of the shifter, the double upshift, the serviceable and fully adjustable clutch are all proof positive that those little industrious Japanese really know what they’re doing. I think I’m also right in saying this is the first time in XT history that three cassette sizes are on offer to tailor your gearing to suit a single or double. The only way to further improve the range is by adding a One Up expander cog into the mix.

I’ve been using their Shark 50 tooth for some time and the only drawback, despite being necessary to make the huge leap, is needing to swap the mid cage for a long one, but it’s a very small niggle considering you get the range of the much more expensive 12 speed Eagle in an 11 speed package. The 45 tooth expander cog is intended to be used with the 11-40, the smallest of the three cassette sizes (and more commonly used as an OEM part) and because the mid cage XT rear mech is designed to be used with the much larger 11-46, there’s no need to add a longer cage. Shifting is seamless with the final 5 tooth jump from the 40 to 45 easy. There are other wide range cassettes out there, but none that offer the compatability to really dial in the gearing range you want. Like I said, not just a different colour.

We’re going to keep our ears to the ground for more out of the loamy Pacific Northwest but in the meantime, go out and ride your bike!