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Personalised Maps – Adventurers and MTB Riders Made Happy (and not lost)!

What’s Wrong With Ordinary Maps?

In the UK, we’re incredibly lucky to have the Ordnance Survey. The maps produced are well known for their accuracy, usability and usefulness for planning new adventures. Walkers, cyclists, MTBers and adventurers of all kinds have been using OS Landranger and Explorer maps for years.

So, there’s nothing wrong with ordinary OS maps. that’s agreed. What OS have done, though, is genius. They’ve introduced the ability for you and me to personalise Explorer (1:25,000 scale, so 4cm equals 1km) or Landranger (1:50,000 – 2cm equals 1km) maps. So the map you get is exactly the map you want – for you or for your favourite outdoorsy person.

How Does It Work?

The process is incredibly simple. You just visit the Ordnance Survey’s ‘Custom Made Maps’ page and follow some simple instructions.

– You pick where you would like the centre of your map to be – I picked home, but you might choose your favourite spot for starting your rides. For my sister, I picked her holiday cottage, for example.
– Next, choose your scale. This will be determined by how much detail you need or how much land you’d like to be able to see. It’s your choice!
– Now the fun bit. You pick your own Title, Subtitle and a little line of text. Obviously I wrote hilarious puns for my favourite people. AND you get to upload a cover picture! For me, this was the most fun part. Choose carefully as it’ll be on your map forever, and hopefully looked at on every great trip you (or your gift recipient) set out on!

So, Are They Any Good?

To be perfectly honest, I can’t understand why this wasn’t done sooner! I absolutely love my own map and I’ve bought them as presents for quite a few people already. For personal use, they’re brilliant and a cut above a bog-standard (but still awesome) OS Map. You need to buy one. I can also see how businesses should get them made up – imagine your favourite MTB or mountain guide having their very own maps – amazing!

Yes, they’re very, very good indeed. Buy (at least) one. Or get someone else to buy one for you.


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PYGA Onetwenty650 Review – Full Sus, Full Fun

Published on 3 April 2014 in Bikes, Kit Reviews

How did I hear about Pyga Bikes?

For reasons we won’t go into here, but outside most peoples’ control, a bike I ordered took an age to arrive in the country. To keep me happy, the lovely Paul at BikeSwanky let me borrow one of his demo Pyga Onetwenty650 bikes. Bit of a master stroke, if you ask me.

What Spec?

Running gear was all Shimano XT and felt as exact as you’d expect. Just two quarter-turns on the rear mech cable to take up the slack was all that was needed on a brand new 2×10 build, so no issues there. Once the brakes were bedded in, all squeal vanished and the bike stopped keenly, with great modulation when needed.

As you’d expect with a name like “Onetwenty650“, this is a bike with 120mm rear suspension travel via a Monarch RT3 shock, and 650b wheels. Paul put a pair of eye-catching Fulcrum RedPower wheels on this build, with an unusual spoke pattern laced to fulcrum hubs. A ‘too long’ XFusion Sweep fork with 130-160mm of adjustable travel sat up front, with a 50mm aerozine stem holding an Azonic 750mm alloy bar in place.

How Does The Pyga Ride?

Despite the long fork on mine, this feels like a playful bike. It’s designed for fun, with trails in mind rather than aggressive downhill or long XC all-dayers. Despite this, I found that the time just slipped away whilst I was on the Pyga. Afternoon turned to evening and family texts about tea were ignored as I winched up Gisburn forest roads before hooning downwards following red arrows.


… is a good word to describe how to ride the Pyga Onetwenty650. The geometry is excellent for sitting and winching up hills, with undetectable pedal bob with the shock wide open. When you stand up and head downhill though, the suspension just tracks the ground as the bike heads wherever you point it. Look after the front end and the back just skips into line. At first I found this disconcerting, with the rear wheel feeling very light until I got used to the idea of simply making sure the front was pointing the right way. The bike just keeps piling on speed and grip – and fun.

The choice of Conti Trail Kings front and rear are (so far) the best tyres I’ve had on an MTB. Grip was great on dry forest roads, rocky trail centre chutes or sat down in the granny ring pulling through soft mud by the stream where Hullly Gully and Dob Dale meet. The tyres seem to hold on to anything – and I’m sure the rear suspension helps a lot.

If I had one criticism, it would be that the front end of this bike (in my hands) seems reluctant to get off the ground. It could be that I just haven’t found the balancing point yet, or that my forks were too long, but so far I’ve struggled to get it to manual over little obstacles. Saying that, lifting the whole bike at speed off lips and bumps is no problem. I reckon that’s down to my choice of chopper forks if I’m honest.

Pyga Industries

If you didn’t know, Pyga is a South African brand founded by Patrick Morewood (of Morewood Bikes) and Mark Hopkins (of CSixx and Leatt). These are two blokes who know what they’re doing. The floating rear suspension design of the Onetwenty650 is no accident, born of experience and intended to make riding better. From my limited experience, it seems to work.

The bikes are proving popular in their home country and now that you can get hold of them in the UK, you could do worse than try one out. Bike Swanky have a demo fleet including the one I’ve been riding. Give Paul a call – – and tell him Phill sent you :)

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RSP Astrum Rear LED Light Review

Published on 20 November 2013 in Kit Reviews

Dark Mornings, Darker Nights, Dangerous Cycling?

It’s depressing reading about all the fatal cycling incidents on our roads this time of year. Like most MTB folks, I avoid roads most of the time but, let’s face it, there will be a time when you’re out on the road in the dusk or darkness – especially over the winter months. If you want to avoid becoming a statistic or going home in three plastic bags, the best thing you can do is make sure that you are seen when you’re riding your bike. Decent lights are a vitally important part of this.

I’ve never ridden without a rear light and usually don a small flasher on my helmet as well as a seatpost-mounted bigger light, but I recently decided to upgrade the power a little bit. Some searching brought me to the RSP Astrum rear light.

What’s The Light Like?

The RSP Astrum is a light made up of two 0.5 Watt red LEDs, which can be left on constant beam or one of two flashing profiles (both lights blinking or alternate). This is done with a big, glove-friendly button right in the middle of the unit: just press it again until it does what you want.

Visibility is advertised at “up to 1000 metres”. No doubt this was measured in ideal conditions, but it’s a very bright rear light compared to my previous rear blinkies. One thing I like is that there are two different lenses on the light, one for each LED. One allows the light to shine right through, giving maximum straight-line visibility, while the other has a diffuser and throws the light outwards much more effectively, for getting yourself noticed close-up.

The body has a fairly thick rubber gasket to give waterproofing and I have no doubt that it will do its job. You open it using a coin to twist the two halves apart and put in two AAA batteries which should last you all winter (for most riders). Simple and inexpensive power. The main body parts are fairly thick plastic and look like they will stand up well to being mounted on an MTB which sees some bouncing action.

The mount is a fairly simple, chunky plastic click-in-and-out job so I’m going to think about a security zip-tie as I’ve had lights lost on rocky trails before now. If you’re riding on the road, I don’t think this will be an issue for you. There’s an angle to compensate for your seatpost’s lean, so be careful which way up you mount it – it’s not adjustable once it’s fastened. This is a minor thing though, as once it’s on it will shine backwards and will help to stop you being mown down by other road users.

So: Should You Get One?

At well under £15 as I’m writing this, the RSP Astrum gives great shine-per-pound value. It looks well designed to cope with UK weather and MTB abuse, so I’m saying yes, you should. If being seen at night is a priority for you, it’s definitely worth a look. There’s a half-decent chance your LBS will stock it, or you can buy it from Amazon like I did.

Tell ‘em Phill sent you :)

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