Vulpine Ultralight Thermal Jacket – First Impressions

A lightweight thermal jacket has been on my list for awhile. Something suitable for both on a off bike to either wear continuously or to carry in a pack and wear during food/mechnical/scenery breaks.

After some research I shortened my list to the Alpkit Filoment or the Vulpine. I own a fair bit of Alpkit items already and I’m very satisfied with them so I tried the Alpkit first as it’s a fair bit cheaper than the Vulpine jacket. The Filoment is a down filled jacket with a slimmer fit which I didn’t like from the moment I put it on so I ended up returning it.

The vulpine website list their ultralight thermal jacket as:

A quick-drying, breathable, packable and water resistant lightweight thermal jacket for cold days.

The outer is weather resistant to rain and snow and the shoulders feature a harder wearing material to protect against wear from backpack straps which is a very useful and well considered feature.

Rather than down the jacket uses a synthetic fill called Primaloft Gold, while this means the jacket will not pack down as small as a down jacket (it still packs small), it will still perform (and not be ruined) if it gets wet through.

When worn the jacket feels light but not insubstantial and is a good length providing good articulation around the arms and shoulder without lifting up as your arms are raised. The neck provides good protection and the top of the zip features a snag/beard guard.

On the bike the jacket pools a little around the waist but does not hinder movement and the cut at the back is long enough to protect down to the saddle without getting in the way. The cuffs are made from soft, ribbed cotton and provide a very comfortable fit that stretches easily to fit over gloves and with the generous (though not over long) arm length, prevent the arms from fleeing your wrists when riding.

There are two hand pockets on the front which do pool around the waist when on the bike so I will stick with only storing a phone in them when riding. There is an internal chest pocket as well.

Vulpine describe the jacket as:

Perfect for touring or commuting in the wind, snow or drizzle. Suitable for fast paced riding in freezing temperatures. Suggested temperature range -2°C – 12°C.

So far I’d agree with that. Riding into/out of town on my commute, at around 3 degrees C on mistys mornings and evenings, the jacket kept me plenty warm. When I picked up the pace I did get hot and a bit sweaty around the armpits (no venting) and back (under a backpack) but not unsually nor terribly so.

The jacket will suit slower paced or colder weather rides and fits own nicely to carry in a pack for coffee/mechanical stops and I’m really happy with it.

Year Ahead : 2015

As last year was ending I sat down and thought about what I wanted to achieve in 2015. These goals centred around my chosen four areas of focus, personal, professional, cycling and photography (cycling kinda comes under an overarching theme of outdoor adventure, but it forms the core of that theme).

I am setting myself goals in each of these areas, targets I feel are ambitious and will require me to push myself, but ultimately should be achievable while allowing myself the flexibility to increase my target if possible.

My cycling related targets for this year are based on more riding, more fun, more skills and more social notworking.

Leadership Award

At the start of 2014 I joined British Cycling in order to work towards the Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Award. Having made little/no progress I want to kick myself into action and complete the training necessary to complete this award. There’s a bit of cost involved but mostly it’s my fitness, my confidence and lack of planning that have held me back.

Starting fresh this year I have 4 rides in my course logbook and now need to increase the duration and geographical spread of my future rides to meet the attendance pre-requisites for the course (11 or more rides of 2-3 hours and 4 or more of 4-5+ hours in suitable terrain).

Mileage

I’ve never set a mileage target before so I’m a bit unsure about this one. Things like fitness, weather, holidays etc will all affect what I will be able to achieve here. With that in mind I’ve decided to aim for 2000km (1242 miles), which is less than an original (and arbitrarily picked) target of around 2500 to 3000km.

I’m counting any miles I spend commuting in my yearly total so in the back of my mind I’m still really aiming for 2500 or more but I’m sticking with the more conservative figure of 2000 to keep it achievable. It’s still a fair bit further than I believe I rode last year.

This equates to around 24 miles a week and at the end of January I am already somewhat behind that target (bad weather, laziness and so on). Hopefully this should be much easier over the summer and I’ll catch up and perhaps even raise my target mileage as the year progresses.

Community and Events

Riding socially is fun. Riding alone is great too, but it’s nice to have the option to ride with friends, or to meet other people and ride with them. Last year Mel and I rode the Great Manchester Cycle Ride with friends Steve and Lisa. It was the first event we’ve ridden at and we had a great time riding the empty streets and enjoyed the atmosphere of riding with a lot of other people.

To give myself someone to aim (and train) for this year I’ve entered the Batch Burner event. Taking place over the Long Mynd in June it is 48k of riding, mostly off-road, with around 4000ft of climbing – meaning 4000ft of great descents.

Last year I planned to take part in a trail building day though this didn’t happen (no excuses). This year I want to make the effort to attend at least one build day and put something back into the trails at Cannock that I have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) riding.

Explore

The more memorable rides from past years have always been the experience of riding somewhere new, usually on natural trails. A mix of natural trails and trail centre riding in a number of different locations is another goal for this year. Hopefully riding somewhere new each month, even if it’s not that far afield, there’s plenty of places reasonably local to me that I haven’t ridden.

Essentially want to get out there, to explore and ride new places and to make more good memories.

Bikepacking

When I rode the WRT a few years back with friends I enjoyed most of it, but couldn’t relax and enjoy it fully due to some anxiety issues and low mood at the time. I still have some hangups but I worry less now, which is good so now I’m more relaxed I’d like to organise and ride a 3 day trip with the first night wildcamping and the second night either wildcamp/campsite/B&B depending on how I feel.

Tracking Progress

I’m recording mileage and rides using Day One (a journalling) app on iOS. Rides as part of my progress to the British Cycling award are being recorded in a course logbook. Other than that I’m using Strava to record most of my rides, including to and from work, so I can track my progress of the year. I’ll also be posting updates to here and Twitter.

Thanks for reading, and good luck with your year too. I hope we all have many two-wheeled adventures and make some great memories.

Bontrager Duster Tubeless Setup

Given the time of year, the first thing I purchased for my new Trek Fuel EX 8 (29er – 2014 model), were some tyres I felt would better suit the current seasonal conditions.

The Bontrager XR3 Expert tyres (tubeless ready) that come with the bike as stock look fine, but may be more suited to summer and autumn trail conditions. A quick internet search reveals some favourable feedback on them but confirms this.

Normally I would go for something from the Maxxis range having had good experiences with them in the past. New bike new tyre choice perhaps? With that in mind I researched other options and recalled having recently read a positive review (in Singletrackworld magazine by Benji Haworth) of the Bontrager XR4 Team Issue. Benji rated the tyre very highly as a good all-rounder, just what I was looking for for the front-end. Fit and forget.

The XR4 comes in a 2.3″ width (only) in the 29er model and is tubeless ready (TLR). All boxes ticked.

After a further quick search on the internet I decided to try the XR4 up front and use a mix of the XR3 and a more mud specific tyre on the back depending on the conditions.

Mud Tyres For Winter?

For more muddy conditions I’d just bought a Bontrager Mud-X 2.0 for my 26″ hardtail (before making an unplanned purchase of a 29er) and though I had not ridden with it on my LBS had sold me on using them in muddy conditions. Simple choice then, I decided to buy the 29er version of the Bontrager Mud-X (not in stock) over something like the Maxxis Beaver (in stock) that the shop also suggested.

After I picked up my new bike I gave it a quick ride and then decided to swap the front tyre to the XR4 before riding that weekend.

The rims are tubeless ready, as are the tyres fitted but the bike comes with inner tubes fitted as stock. No big deal, I’d just swap over the tyres and go tubeless at a later date.

I found the Bontrager tyres more difficult to seat than Maxxis tyres I’d use in the past. Getting the bead over the rim was more of a challenge and required the use of some sturdy Pedros Tyre Levers. With most Maxxis tyres I’ve used in the past I’ve been able to seat them by hand.

Get on there you Fecker!

Once the tyre was finally on I had trouble getting the tyre bead to seat correctly against the rim, at certain spots. A number of attempts and some frantic pumping later I still couldn’t get the tyre right at one spot. When mounting the tyre with no air in the tube (or just a little) the stiff rubber bead (for a folding tyre) continously caught in the deep centre well of the rim and despite inflating to higher pressures I could not easily get the rim to ‘pop’ into the correct position.

Given the awkwardness of mounting the tyres and getting them seated I quickly dreaded having to change a tube on the trail. Going tubeless would mitigate some of that risk (though not eliminate it) so I decided on going tubeless sooner rather than later. In the meantime the LBS helped get the tyre seated correctly, more great service from Leisure Lakes Bikes – thanks guys.

Tubeless Ready

There was some confusion at my LBS on whether the rim tape (unseen by the shop) as stock on the Trek models (they are an authorised dealer and apparently sell a lot of them) were suitable to go tubeless at stock.

Though the rims and tyres come as ‘tubeless ready’ as stock, turns out you have to buy a set of rim strips and valves from Trek in order to actually run a tubeless setup. For the price of the bike you could argue that these should/could have come supplied, if not fitted, but regardless a little over £20 and almost a weeks wait I had the necessary kit.

Stans do a kit called Flow which they specifically state will work with these rims, but since Bontrager do something specific and they made the rim I decided I might as well go with that. Especially since I recall reading the Flow kit required using a drill to widen the inner valve hole on the rim (no thanks to voiding a warranty in the first week of owning a bike).

For any readers with Bontrager Duster 29er tubeless ready rims then the parts I ordered were as below (confirmed with Trek dealer by phone first).

  • Rim strip #406892 (x2)
  • Rim strip valve #250324 (x2)

Fitting

Trek have produced a handy 5-part video guide which helps make fitting straight forward. I’ve converted the front tyre to tubeless following the videos. The tyre seated itself correctly (without a loud pop) at around 50 psi and I checked it was seated correctly all the way round before using the recommended amount of sealant (around 120ml for a 29er). I got the sealant into the tyre by removing the valve core as suggested in the videos, though I used a smaller syringe and the funnel from a hip flask. Not as ideal but it got the job done.

The tyre hasn’t lost any pressure yet so I’ll be testing it out this weekend.

I’m holding off doing the back tyre. Despite the weather the last few weekends haven’t been too muddy out on the trails so I might hold off on the mud tyre on the rear for now.

Blank Slate

Wipe the slate clean – to forgive all past mistakes and start over. Sounds good.

There’s a good many things I wouldn’t mind erasing from history, it could end up with a long list. Ultimately I think moving on is more about being forgiven, forgiving yourself and giving yourself permission to put things behind you.

Maybe that’s a bit melodramatic in this case though, here we are just considering the scrapping of a previous unsuccessful attempt on blogging about riding bikes. Yeah, a bit.

Permission given, maybe one day forgiveness (from myself) too.