Sunday, March 30, 2008

Respect and amazement

I have been following the Moab Rim ride posts with eagerness as I ponder what it takes to complete 100 miles across Moab terrain unsupported. Maybe even with one gear. Maybe with a HT or perhaps, gasp, a fully rigid SS. Amazing. So, 10 hours and 40 minutes to complete the route for the winners?

What can I say. It makes me want to ride longer and plan stuff that I know will never approach the level of this Rim Ride, but I can push myself anyway and bring others along for the ride, thinking that one day I will show up for the White Rim in a Day, or the Rim Ride, or Camp Lynda.

Likely never happen.

But I thank all you that set the bar so high. A guys gotta dream, ya know.

Rethinking geometry

So I went on a nice Sat morning ride with buddy Steve. I wanted to hit a good three hour ride, but we needed to stay close to home base. So, we headed up a nice local climb that works ya pretty good. 1 hour and 45 later, I topped out, ate a P-Bar and headed back to gather Steve who was nursing some strained muscles and walking a bit.

The whole ride I had been considering my options that the last post hit on, what bike to buy? There is nothing like a ride to bring stuff into focus. You can chart numbers, internet debate, posture, and guess, but putting a wheel in the dirt is worth a lot more. I definitely need a sharp climbing bike. Most of them are that. But I also need to contend with, not really super techy descents, but fast and techy descents. We can climb for hours out west and then turn around and drop down an abondoned old doubletrack at speed. Not too many trees to dodge out here.

So, as I hit the singletrack, peppered with loose rocks and small drops, I was reminded of the you-better-pay-attention geometry of the KM. 72 degrees is a nice temp for a beach vacation, but it can be demanding for a head tube angle. I really don't find it scary, but when you are tired and things get sketch, you can be pinged off the trail real quick like. Better be on your game cuz big wheels will only do so much.

Makes me wonder about the Canzo and the 72/74 angles. Not sure that is in my best interests and I really don't get an FS bike with those numbers, not with the newer forks coming with increased offsets and reduced trail numbers. Of course, that is for my riding area and needs. YMMV.

So what FS bike climbs like a hardtail, is stiff, has a less than 70* head tube angle and a low BB height PLUS under 18" chainstays? Only one I can think of and has got a big 'S' on its chest. Hmmm.

Well, I am real sure that I don't have an 'S' on my chest. I am tired from that climb, but I was faster in the last 45 minutes than I was in the first hour, so my fitness is up. I have the Julian race coming up and I think I will be ready to survive the first loop and maybe...maybe the second. We shall see.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Boutique or Off-The-Rack?

So here I am, saving pennies for the next bike, an FS 29er. None of them are cheap, in the true sense of the word, at least not like my Karate Monkey frame was cheap, but most of the FS frames are really-really not cheap. Since 29ers do not have the depth of choices like 26" bike shoppers have, there are no blow-out deals at Jenson to get a swell ride on the low ball special.

That is OK, since I like boutique bikes anyway, but the age old question that is bouncing through the back alleys of my cerebral cortex is, what value does that boutique bike offer to justify the cost? Now if it is truly a custom fit, then it is pretty obvious. But the Turners and Lenzs and such are pretty much a done deal as far as dimensions and such. Ventana does true customs but you pay dearly for it.

So here I am, a guy with the means to build a high end bike, but just barely. I ride enough, and have been riding long enough, to appreciate a good bike, but how much am I really getting in a practical sense to justify the cost?

Case in point. A VooDoo Canzo 29er FS frame is a good, well built frame and it is an exceptional value....around $800.00. Compare that to a Turner Sultan for $1800.00.

OK, a bushing instead of a single row bearing main pivot, zerk fittings, both 4" of travel, both aluminum, both weigh the same. One may be stiffer. One may require less service. Both can break. One may fit me better...that is a key point, but besides that, is it worth over twice the price? That $$ is a very nice set of wheels and a good fork or a great set of wheels and a great fork if you can get them slightly used. eBay, etc.

On the other hand, I feel that the Turner will satisfy me emotionally better than the Canzo. I somehow feel that it will deliver more, but I can't really quantify that. Not sure I can trust my feelings. Some of it is pride in ownership. It has to be more than that, though. It has to really be better when I ride it, not just this week, but 52 weeks from now and beyond.

Still struggling with this, this $1000.00 'better' part. Meanwhile I am scheduled to ride a Pivot Cycles bike this weekend and hopefully a RacerX 29er the week after. Maybe by then I will have some idea of what that extra grand buys.

We shall see.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A stroll in the country.

Well, I found a couple of 'volunteers' to go along with me on my little tour of the Sawmill/Liebre Mtn loop. Phil and his buddy Rob are training for a high altitude Colorado trip that requires them to harden their bodies like Navy Seals and be able to survive on nothing but plants, roots, and Wrigley's gum while riding all day. Thus, I decided to begin their path to ultimate-ness with a nice loop.

We began at a friends house on Pine Cyn Rd and pedaled uphill back on the pavement toward a fireroad climb to Sawmill Mtn. I was thinking as I drove this route to begin the ride, "Hmmm, there sure is more pavement climbing to get to the dirt climbing than I remember." I don't think anyone noticed. Shhhh...don't tell.

Once on top the 5 mile dirt climb to Sawmill Mtn., we hit high winds and snow patches but nice views. There must have been a LOT of snow up here for it to still be on the ground. This pic is looking over the Leona Valley toward Palmdale. Probably 1 hour and 15 mins to here. Rob is a tall guy and he deserves a 29er. Just thought I would mention that. Back to the ride.

From here we dropped some elevation and then climbed back onto the Eastern shoulder of Liebre Mtn. A couple hours into the ride, there was a bit of walking here and there as these are some of the steepest grades in the ride. I only walked to set an example to the others of humility and self sacrifice. It had nothing to do with fitness. Really. I am a giver. Pic below of Phil and Rob, Rob on that silly tiny wheeled bike. Think 29er, Rob.

Finally we hit the top and had lunch at around the 3 hour mark, maybe less. Phil and Rob had nice little sandwiches. I questioned whether or not this fell into the training regimen they were undergoing for their trip. I suggested they forage for roots and pine nuts, but they clutched their P B and Js with animal ferocity and bared teeth. Navy Seals are defensive when it comes to Weber's bread. Phil took a moment to lay back and meditate, slowing his metabolism and allowing his body to completely regenerate and refresh itself, an amazing technique learned over years of study in a Himalayan yurt. His meditation was only broken by his snoring.

Running along the top of Liebre, we found Golden Eagle trail. Tons of snow and lots of overgrowth met us and slowed our flow a bit. I actually crashed twice. Amazing. The snow got me once and the branches the other time. Maybe I should slow down? Naw.

We dropped out onto the Ridge Route and pedaled back on Pine Cyn Rd. For the next hour, we would see not one car on the awesome country road that was taking us back to our car and awaiting coolers full of cold drinks. It was not easy with three good climbs in it. Phil was getting strung out a bit. He suggested that if it came to it, and he could not continue, we could use his carcass for a food source. What a good fellow.

We made it finally, coasting into 'home base' with 5 hours and 15 minutes on the clock. Not bad at all. Rob and Phil immediately hoisted a log onto their shoulders and ran around the property chanting military songs:

"I am tired and I don't care,
cuz my legs, they have no hair.

I rode with Mike and he is swell,
he just took us straight through Hell

Sound off...1...2, sound off 3...4..."

Ah, those Navy Seals. What a bunch of fun loving guys.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Weekend Stoke

Man, I guess we are all getting older when you get together to celebrate your friends 50th B-day parties. Sigh. Still, it was great seeing old friends that have been waaay too distant these last 10 years or so. We all assured ourselves that we had not changed one bit!

Unfortunately, we had to suffer by staying in a mountain home with a view like this:

After we all arrived and hugged and such, we got down to assembling bikes. Doug C. of CURTLO Cycles had his bike-in-a-box that needed some erector set engineering. 29er, softtail, S&S couplers, Roloff hub, ActionTec fork, steel is real tubes. MMMmmm...tasty. Me? I just had to fix a flat. Again. The front. Again.

Of course, we HAD to ride, after all, this was a mountain bike group reunion. There are miles of roads and trails around here and I need to come back and hit it when the snow melts. VERY nice area.

29ers at rest in their element. I tell ya, the trail began as a mellow, swoop fest but soon turned into huge ruts and lots of biggish rocks. The 29ers just ate it up but I had about four Thank-You-God moments where it could have been bad, but I pulled it off. Too much, too fast to take pics of the nasty stuff.

What a great weekend it was. Old friends, bikes, food, good times revisited. God has been good.