Eight-speed cranks

I’ve just bought an old GT Backwoods. While the frame is in good nick, the same cannot be said for the crankset and cassette. It currently has a Shimano STX 8-speed derailleur and shifters, which are in good condition.
I was after some advice regarding a possible replacement crankset and compatibilty issues with an 8-speed cassette. I am thinking of getting a Shimano XT-752 Octalink Crankset and ES71 bottom bracket (mainly because they seem like good value for money) for use with a new LX 8-speed cassette. Will this cause a problem, as the cranks are apparently only for use with 9-speed cassettes and a thinner chain? Should I get an 8 or 9-speed chain? I was thinking about a SRAM PC890.
Graeme, forum

If you’re going to spend money on new cranks, you really should look at going for an external bearing version. In our experience, Octalink bottom brackets were stiffer than square taper, but the smaller bearings that were necessary to squeeze into the small bottom bracket shell didn’t last well. Hollowtech II has been a big improvement — the Deore version is a real bargain at under £55, including BB.
So will it work with an 8-speed drivetrain? You betcha — it wouldn’t work the other way round, but a wide chain on a narrow chainring is fine. If you’re replacing your cassette, you definitely need to change your chain, and assuming you’re sticking with an 8-speed set-up, this must be an 8-speed chain. The SRAM PC890 will work fine, and in fact we’ve seen shops offering three of these chains for under £20, which is a very good deal. This should also encourage you to replace your chain regularly; do this and you won’t need to replace the cassette as often, so you’ll save money in the long run as well.

What to wear?

What do you reckon are the basics of a decent trail wardrobe? I’m relatively new to all this but I’m happy to spend a bit of money on keeping myself comfortable, warm and dry in
all conditions.
Terry Testham, Lancaster

Wow, where to start? Hopefully you’ve already got a helmet, so what’s next? Well, first things first, invest in some decent shorts — baggy of course. If you get good shorts, you’ll be supplied with a padded liner — always opt for the removable type, not the stitched-in variety. If you’re going away for a weekend, you can normally recycle the outer baggies on both days but use a clean liner on every ride. Obviously that means you’ll have to buy a couple of pairs of liners, or just some roadie bib shorts if you prefer.
Some of the mbr team disagree, but this particular mystery shopper swears by knee warmers. You only get one pair of knees and keeping them wrapped up on cold days is a good precaution against injuries. Knee warmers are just lycra tubes that slip over your legs (so you can remove them if you get hot) and sit over your knees. Most manufacturers make them and they’re well worth the £20 they’ll set you back.
For the upper body you need layers — start your wardrobe off with a couple of wicking base layers, add a jersey or two, with a combination of long and short sleeves, then opt for something like a soft shell as an outer layer.
A soft shell will be water repellent and windproof, as well as highly breathable, so it suits the generally damp, blustery and changeable conditions we have in the UK very well. Gore and Endura both make excellent, well-priced soft shells so check them out. It’s also worth having a proper waterproof for really wet and/or cold days, but generally we find we start rides in a waterproof and end up stashing it in a trail pack after the initial warming-up phase of the ride.
Gloves should always be long fingered for off-roading and we’d recommend at least two pairs — one lightweight summer pair, and a warmer pair for winter riding. Our current winter faves are Scott’s Neoprene winter gloves, which have kept our hands warm on even the coldest days that this winter threw at us.
Footwear is a personal choice and most people will be perfectly happy with one pair of shoes. If that sounds like you, pick a pair you like and go with them, but maybe pick up some waterproof socks to keep you warm in the winter. If you can run to two pairs of shoes, it’s a worthwhile option as it will mean you always have a dry pair of shoes to ride in. Our favourites include Shimano DX shoes, which are highly winterproof despite not being specific winter shoes, and Specialized’s range of Body Geometry race shoes. Whatever you do, though, make sure you get the right size, and ensure that your cleats are in the right spot.
Go for all the above and your wallet will be a good £500 lighter, but it’s a good idea to shop around — there are plenty of bargains to be had. Happy shopping!

Youngsters these days

Unfortunately, I have damaged the rear derailleur mount-adapter that fixes my rear derailleur onto my frame, causing my whole derailleur to nearly touch the spokes on the wheel. What should I do? I hope you will be able to help.
Jacob Edir, email

Jacob, this is why manufacturers make replaceable gear-hangers; if they bend, you replace the mech hanger, not the frame. You don’t say which brand your bike is, but if you pop along to a dealer, they will be able to sell you a new mech-hanger. Get it fitted and your bike will be good as new.