XRAY T4F – First impressions

I’ve been running “Frontie” for a couple of months now, and really enjoying it. Numbers are increasing, so it seems others are enjoying it too.

The Tamiya FF-04 EVO I bought has been going well – zero complaints about the handling out of the box, and I’ve only made a couple of changes to get it where I want it on the local carpet tracks. This seems to be the case with all the Frontie cars I’ve seen – they just drive very well.

But I’ve had a niggling doubt in my mind about the car’s ultimate pace. Several people on t’internet have mentioned losing time to other cars, and it is pretty obvious to me that the FF-04 is overweight with a high centre of gravity – problems you can’t realistically resolve.

So after getting beaten by a very well-driven XRAY at the CWIC series, a change was only a few clicks away…

The build

This is my first XRAY. People do seem to rave about the build quality so I was half-expecting to be blown away…

Quality is good, no doubt about it, but in terms of component design it feels a step behind Tamiya, just in little details like the shock piston sprues being on the side of the pistons rather than the bottom, meaning you need to do a lot more finishing on the parts.

However what they have got right is the tolerances, the weight, and the (apparent) durability.  Everything fits together really well, the car is extremely light, and the parts are substantial. XRAY have gone down the route of chunkier parts made from a lightweight composite, and it seems to work.

There are however a couple of mistakes in the manual – one of which is really significant and they should have done a better job of fixing.

The layshaft problem

When the car was released, quite a few people had an issue with the belt falling off the front pulley. The reason was pretty simple – XRAY hadn’t done that step of the manual properly, and (maybe) hadn’t included all the needed parts in the kit either.

My kit came with all the required parts – but no addendum for the manual. Fortunately the shop I bought it from (MB Models) were able to email me the updated diagram (although it still isn’t very clear):

Front pulley supplement

The diagram misses out a number of parts. The correct assembly order is as follows:

  1. Layshaft (305522-K)
  2. RH layshaft bearing (940610) (not pictured)
  3. 4x metal shims (962060) (insert the layshaft into the RH mount at this point)
  4. Plastic spacer (309319)
  5. Pulley fence (305570) (make sure the belt is around the layshaft at this point)
  6. Drive pin (980210)
  7. Pulley (305576)
  8. E-clip (965050) (insert the layshaft into the LH mount at this point)
  9. LH layshaft bearing (940610)
  10. Metal shim (962060)
  11. E-clip (965050)

This is one of those jobs that needs at least three hands!

There are a couple of other confusing points in the manual, the most important of which is the diff  position – it absolutely needs to be low (as per the text) rather than high (as per the diagrams), because otherwise the belt will skip. Personally speaking, I find the diagrams too small (despite the manual being A4 sized). Oh, and I also think their setup tips are utter nonsense!

To finish the car off, I fitted an new Surpass V5R motor (because I was down on power at the CWIC), a Hobbywing XR10 Stock Spec ESC (which is remarkably small and performs really well), a full-height IP shorty LiPO, and another 55 grams of lead to get the car up to 1200.

The first run

What really matters is how the car runs. First race was at the Forest Raceway one-day meeting.

This is an awesome permanent venue on the northern edge of the Forest of Dean. The track is quite small (about 15m x 10m), but the facility overall is great with plenty of pit space. There were four Fronties entered, and the challenging, twisty layout would keep times very close.

Practice was my first ever run with the car, and it felt pretty good. Until I crashed it head on into the barriers. This knocked the motor back, took a chip out of the underside of the chassis and bumper, and ground a fair amount of material off the spur gear…

Fortunately, there was no other damage, and after a change of spur gear the car was good to carry on.

Grip was pretty low in the first round of qualifying, and I made a few mistakes which resulted in second place out of the two runners. In round two, we had a full field of 4. Grip was a lot better and I finished in second again. In Round 3, I managed to TQ (by chasing a car across the line to win on the stagger), and I managed to take advantage of being the first off the line in round 4 to take a second TQ and secure pole for the finals. The whole field were within by a lap of each other with fastest laps within tenths. Really good fun, but a lot of focus needed to avoid crashing during the 5 minutes.

Fortunately I managed to get clean runs through the first corner in both finals, and just about kept the mistakes to a minimum to take two wins (and a little plaque!). Despite the changing grip level throughout the day, I kept the T4F setup the same. It just worked.


I’ve got a few more things I’d like to try (spring rates and toe settings to start with), but overall I’m very pleased. I don’t think the FF-04 would be this fast.

(PS I damaged another spur at my second race meeting after another head on crash – I’d recommend keeping spares!)

I heart IKEA

You know what, I REALLY like building IKEA furniture.

A change of circumstances recently means that I have furnished a two-bedroom house from scratch, and almost all of the contents have come from IKEA.

The experience of building IKEA furniture has a lot in common with building a Lego set or Tamiya kit:

  • The quality of manufacture is exceptional. You almost never get a faulty component or a missing part. I can think of only two items that have caused me trouble in 15-odd years, an “Aspelund” wardrobe mirror and bed frame, both of which are still in use today after a few tweaks and three house moves.
  • The packaging is ingenious. It is much more than just a set of parts. Just as much thought goes into the packaging materials themselves, and even the design of the furniture itself to allow it to be flat-packed. As a single example, the “Kallax” drawers use a one-piece folding hardboard insert to create the structure for the drawer runners.
  • There is a unique design language. You can always tell a Lego set from brick-a-like alternatives, and you can always tell a Tamiya kit from the rest. IKEA’s designs are frankly weird at times, but somehow it emboldens you to try something different. More often than not, the weird design works.

By way of contrast, the Argos TV stand I bought was little more than a set of boards and some dowels.

It may seem strange to say this, but I would happily build IKEA furniture all day long!

The Sony Smartwatch 3 – a brief review and a couple of tips

At launch about 2 years ago, these were £250. I picked it up for £70 at Currys in their “Black Friday” sale.


I’m not sure whether that heavy discount is related to the popularity of Smartwatches in general (which it seems have passed their peak), or the popularity of this particular model. I was actually in the market for a GPS running watch – and this is half the price of any Garmin!

In no particular order, here are my thoughts:

  • It’s not really a looker – but it is discreet, and I think it is suitable for the office (more so than a running watch). It reminds me of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Google Fit can’t cope with me riding a scooter to work and adds loads of steps (or cycling) to my daily total because of it. I have no need for a fitness tracker but the info I get from it is nonsense.
  • Loading music onto the watch is more of a pain that you would expect. It’s well known that “pure” Android doesn’t like external SD cards. So if you have an external SD card with music on it in your phone, transferring music to your watch via Google Play Music doesn’t work. Don’t waste your time trying to trick Google by transferring music to your watch with the SD card removed as it will go wrong again as soon as you put the SD card back in. I chose to remove the SD card and just put a few favourite albums onto the phone’s internal storage. Android Wear is happy to sync these (although syncing over Bluetooth is slow – save it for overnight while the watch and phone are charging). I listen to Spotify or internet radio 95% of the time anyway.
  • Strava now tracks your activity using the watch alone. There are lots of complaints on “the internet” about Strava’s lack of support for GPS-enabled watches like the Sony – but these are all pretty old posts. Strava now supports watch-only tracking. Just tick the “Use Device GPS” option under the “Wear” section of Strava’s settings. It works well enough – certainly I have had no complaints about the data it creates. It is also a lot less hassle than using Ghostracer to track your run and then uploading to Strava separately. Strava’s average speed on the watch is not that accurate (it is rather unresponsive) – but neither is Ghostracer’s (which varies wildly).
  • I don’t like talking into the watch and it isn’t as good at understanding me as the phone.
  • Very few apps offer a rich experience – most just invite you to open a page on the phone. The hardware limits are pretty obvious.
  • The best feature is the notifications – this is the one feature I would not want to give up on a day-to-day basis. My phone is usually silent – and getting a vibration on my wrist when it rings means I have picked up a lot of calls and messages that I would otherwise miss.

A testament to Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen has left us. I have no reservations in considering him a genius who will never be replaced.

2016 has been marked by the passing of many genii (Bowie, Rogers Nelson), but that is simply a coincidence. What matters is that Cohen brought a unique voice to music and it will be missed.

My love of Cohen cannot match that of many. Fundamentally, it was restricted to a battered copy of “Songs From a Room” that cost me a quid or so twenty years ago. But there were times that the lyrics and, more often, sounds from that album spoke to me, and I thank Leonard for that.

I don’t think there is anything more that needs to be said. Rest In Peace, dear friend.

You and your bicycle

(From https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/annex-1-you-and-your-bicycle)

Make sure that you feel confident of your ability to ride safely on the road. Be sure that

  • you choose the right size and type of cycle for comfort and safety
  • lights and reflectors are kept clean and in good working order
  • tyres are in good condition and inflated to the pressure shown on the tyre
  • gears are working correctly
  • the chain is properly adjusted and oiled
  • the saddle and handlebars are adjusted to the correct height.

It is recommended that you fit a bell to your cycle.


  • ensure your brakes are efficient
  • at night, use lit front and rear lights and have a red rear reflector.

Laws PCUR regs 6 & 10 & RVLR reg 18

Cycle training can help both children and adults, especially those adults returning to cycling to develop the skills needed to cycle safely on today’s roads. A new national cycle training standard has been developed which the Government is promoting and making funding available for delivery in schools.

All cyclists should consider the benefits of undertaking cycle training. For information, contact your local authority.