Friday, May 30, 2008

Tale of the tape.

I have been keeping track of the most recent bike's measurements for a while just to see how the 29ers compared as I morphed over to the bigger wheels.

I had three bikes built up to measure at one time and I just added the Lenz to the group, so now I have four. It does give me a perspective to go by when setting up bikes.

Karate Monkey/ Prophet/ ActionTec SS/ Leviathan

back of saddle to center
of stem 34.25 33.5 34.25 33.25

effective toptube 24.25 24 23.5 24.5

top of saddle (middle)
to center of BB 30.75* 30 30.5* 30.25

back of saddle to
center of BB
measured horiz
with plumbline 12.5 12.25 12.5 13.5

BB height 12 12.75 12.5 13.5

h-bar height
from ground 40.5 41.75 39 41.5

wheelbase 42.75 45.25 42.5 45

Front center 26 28.75 25.75 27.125

chainstay length 17 16.5 17 18

* suspension seatposts

The Lenz falls kinda in the middle ground, the Prophet being the longest bike despite having the shortest CS length, owing to the 69* HT angle and the pretty generous fork offset, and the KM being the shortest. I really don't count the Action Tec SS as much as the others as it was built when 150mm stems were in vogue back in the 90s. The 23.5" TT shouts that out. I would consider a 25" TT on the next bike.

I was also curious as to how the straight up seat post on the Lenz would affect the saddle position relative to the BB. It actually placed me farther behind the crank than the other bikes with lay back posts, apparently the slacker ST angle is the culprit. I like that. I do notice the shorter cockpit just a bit, but it is OK, falling somewhere between the all-mountainish 5" travel Cannondale Prophet and the more XC Monkey.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Maiden Voyage of the S.S. Leviathan.

Why not, Leviathan has that nautical ring to it, don't ya think?

But first, the build up.

So it began. The Monkey would provide the wheels, h-bars, stem, and pedals.

The carcass of the poor Monkey, soon to return as an SS.

The Lev. The tape is to protect the frame where I filed out the rear brake cable stops for hydro lines to go all the way through.

From here, it was just a matter of adding the parts I chose (more on that here)

Ran into a snag with the crank. I have a couple of sets of 180mm XT Hollowtech cranks I have had on a few bikes and I have used both XT and Truvative chain rings on them, no issues. So, much to my surprise I find the LX middle ring will not sit on the spider due to interference between the little cast in ledge on the cranks and the ends of the 4 tabs under the bolt holes (see arrows in pic). Huh. Shimano conspiracy to make me buy the XT rings? Dunno. 30 minutes of careful grinding with a drill motor, stone, and flat file and it went into place. Sneaky Shimano engineers.

From here, I decided to not run the big ring and see how it works out on the FS. Since I have more high speed potential on the FS, I may change later, but I doubt it. It soon looked like a bike.

The SRAM XO rear der is almost jewelry. Very pretty.

I bought a sweetly priced bash ring off the net. I really don't 'bash' stuff in my neck of the woods, not too many big logs or ledges, but it keeps things tidy without the big ring.

I ran into a real snag with the brakes. I had bought some blowout priced Deore LX brakes from Jenson USA for the Karate Monkey but never used them. I figured they are not fancy-schmancy but would do the job. I had to order regular rotors since they came with 160mm centerlock rotors. Since I was doing that, I asked about a larger rotor for the front. The guy on the phone suggested a 170mm rotor, not much of a change, but OK. The adapter was ordered as well.

Turns out the 170mm Shimano rotor is some special application that does not apply for my fork mount, the Avid adapter they sold me did not fit the shape of the Shimano caliper, and, although I can get a 180mm Shimano rotor, the adapter from the big 'S' is $65.00. Phhhaaa. No way. Send me a 160mm rotor and I will see how it works out.

That stopped work and I went to see a movie with the family, the latest Narnia Chronicles.

A couple of days later I installed and bled the brakes and waited for the new rotor. I threw it up on the trusty bathroom scale and it said 28lbs. Not bad for what $$ I spent. Very acceptable for an XL, XC/Trailbike, 29er FS.

So now, when the new part arrived, I could bolt it on and go. Today, it showed up in the mail, a few turns of a wrench or two, and off I went in a blue blur of Lenz happiness.

So, the first ride impressions? Pretty sweet bike. I think we will be friends. It actually feels spunkier when seated pedaling than the KM did, of course it lacks a bit when standing and pedaling compared to a hardtail, but not much. It seems to be a very stable, light, responsive, and nimble platform to spin through the countryside on. Of course, the first ride is always a bit sidetracked by small cable adjustments, adding air to the fork, taking air out of the fork, etc. After a bit, it will just become riding and I will really get a feel for the bike.

God willing, I have all the time I need to do just that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

First puff of the Lenz

What was it that some guy said, "I smoked pot but I did not inhale"? Kinda like that tonite. I ended up with a mismatch of brake parts that snafu'd the Lenz build, but until the brown santa makes that happen with a new part, I decided to do what I could and get the brakes all installed and bled, etc.

When I was done, I had the rear brake only, but I spun around the street with who knows what pressure in the fork/shock and checked the overall feel of the bike. Feels a bit close in due to the straight seat post...we shall see. Maybe a higher stem too.

No pics though till she is fully clothed. Would you show yourself with no front rotor on the internet? Of course not.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A camping we will go.

Not bike camping, just family in the pop-up camper kind of camping. With the Lenz buildup on hold till I got back, we headed off to the Southern Sierras above Kernville to spend some time sitting around campfires, hiking, geocaching, and a bit of mtn biking with my son.

We were to camp at a high elevation spot that we had reservations with, Quaking Aspen. We left on a Thursday under cloudy skies and the chance of rain. Last weekend it was 100 degrees. Now it was snowing in the local mtn town of Big Bear.

The drive up into the Kern River Cyn is always dramatic, with the river having cut a chasm out of the granite rock walls. Up we went and then it began to rain, and as we gained elevation, I noticed the rain was looking more like sleet. About then, my wife looked at the thermometer built into the rear view mirror and said, "Oh...36 degrees!" Then it began to snow. We still had 1800 feet of elevation gain to go before we got to camp. Not! There was no way we were ready for camping in 30 degree temps, not to mention the nights and how cold that would be. No bike riding, no geocaching.

I turned the truck and trailer around, put it in 4 wheel high and headed back down to an uncertain weekend.

Memorial Day weekend in So Cal means you better have reservations or forget it. Too many people, not enough campgrounds, but we hoped for the best and began trying campgrounds along the river, where the temps were in the 50s and it was lightly raining. One after another were full. No room at the inn.

I was getting a bit downcast. Here we were all dressed up and no place to go. We swung into one last CG and the tale was the same. All full. We drove the CG loop to turn around and try further down the river and we met the CG host coming out to speak to us in the rain. She had just remembered there was one spot. Just one. And, it happened to be right behind me. A quick glance to see if we could fit, and we said, "sold!". We had a campsite. No Aspens, no geocaches, no high mountain riding trails, but we had a river, a campfire, and a place to call home for a bit until the weather cleared. It never did. It kept raining off and on, never hard, and the snow was clinging to the peaks above us letting us know that the original destination would remain outside our grasps for the weekend.

A few days later, as we prepared to come home, I reflected on the events of the trip. It had been great, really, and it could have been a real disaster. We had a campsite, the only one along the whole river that had any facilities to go with it. We had cool days and nice nights, we had quiet neighbors. We had pancakes. We caught exactly 3 fish one for each of us, and one was even sized nicely for the wifey's petite appetite. We read books and took as much of a bike ride as we could, my son and I, and he is just now beginning to feel his oats on a mtn bike and was practicing jumping off every rock and bump in the road. The sound of his joy and excitement at getting both wheels off the ground is still ringing in my ears.

I am thankful for it family, the means we have to take a vacation, the timing of the one, open camping spot, and the 3 fish we needed to have a fresh, fish lunch. Thanks, God. It was great and I am smart enough to know that I had little to do with it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In the recovery zone

So, I had not ridden since the Saturday big ride. Tuesday came around and after working a normal work shift on Monday and going back in on Tuesday 12:01 am to work until Tues morning, I came home, napped a bit, and then hooked up with a local ride on Tues eve.

I really felt pretty good after the weekend, I even went on Sunday and did some volunteer trail building work. I figured I was ready to ride a 4 mile climb, pretty steep and constant.

I figured wrong.

Man was I slooooooooooooooowwwwwww. Criminy.

I guess I need a bit more time in between hard efforts these days or some of it could have been the lack of sleep....dunno. Likely both. I should have just spun around town for an hour or so, then slow would have been OK!

Ah, the joy of approaching 5 decades of life on earth. So what is that saying? "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was."

Apparently I need more space between the "once" moments these days.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

40 Something Postscript

Well, it is a done deal, in the bag, finito. And so, in honor of the day, a bit of detail if you please.

First of all, it was a bit of a carnival getting it to happen. I sent out quite a few invites. Right up to the last minute folks were in, then out. Out, then in. A wedding waylaid the most serious guy out of the ride, so I was thinking it would just be me. No biggie. I figured I could ride a great pace and see how fast I could do the ride, looking for a 5 hour time. Then, Chris decided to give it a shot. Thing was, he had never ridden this far or this long before and this would be a tough day. There were a couple of bail out options where we crossed roads, so we made a plan. We would ride at a more relaxed pace and, if need be, Chris would cut it short at his ropes end and wait for the SAG wagon (my wifey in the family Suburban). I would welcome the company and Chris had never ridden up there, so I was looking forward to showing him the back country range.

It was gonna be hot, though. Record breaking heat wave in So Cal, so we began at 06:00. Looking back, we should have started at midnite.

OK, we got a plan.

Sunrise on the Old Ridge Route.

We began at the ruins of Sandberg's Resort on the Old Ridge Rte, just above Hwy 138. We rode a bit of historical pavement and turned up into the dirt to begin the 6 mile climb up onto Liebre Mtn.

The climb is very mellow, but longish, pretty much middle chainring if you feel good, and the top is really a special place in the forest. The oak trees, grassy slopes, and rolling fire road never cease to please me. This is right where the Golden Eagle trail runs.

Soon enough, we drop over the end of Liebre and climb up over Sawmill Mtn. The flora really shifts here on Sawmill, moving to a mix of Manzanita and evergreens. Here we begin to see over the Lake Elizabeth area. Our pace was constant but leisurely and Chris was pretty stoked at the countryside he was crossing. I was feeling pretty good and I was thinking all the riding I had done to prep for this had paid off. I did walk a few small sections where I wanted to save my legs (no small chainring on the KM 1X9). Chris was hanging and we had a big downhill coming up.

From Sawmill, we dropped about 12 miles down to Lake Hughes Rd where we connected with civilization and a water cache I had stashed the night before. It was getting hot. The 2000' elevation we had lost would be mostly gained back in 90+ degree temps.

Just where we hooked up again with dirt, we came upon a SAG stop for a road ride. We stopped and chatted and a blond lady with charity in her soul offered us a slice of cantaloupe and a GU packet. God bless you, sainted lady. Chris wanted to stay there. I asked a couple of roadies about the ride they were on, us being brothers of the wheel and all. All I got was a terse reply and a backside of his jersey. Guess I am too dirty or something. Jerk. True to the roadie/mtn biker stereotype.

It got hard from here. I felt really good, but it was getting hot. The climb up behind Grass Mtn past Tule Ridge and Portal Cyn is a bit steep and right in the sun. Chris had his first taste of leg cramps. We had stopped and his quad just cramped up solid. Been there done that. I had been telling him about the times I had battled leg cramps, always my achilles heel. Once at the Downieville race I cramped so badly I could not walk. I fell off my bike when I stopped and just layed there with riders passing me. To bend my leg I had to get over the saddle, hook my instep on my pedal and force my leg to bend. Then I could click in and ride, each stroke a cramp/un-cramp deal.

With the encouraging words of "pain is temporary, quitting is forever", Chris nodded, smiled and clicked in and began pedaling. Views into Portal Cyn and back over the direction we had come from.

It got hotter and Chris was really feeling it. We made a plan to ride to the crossing of San Francisquito Cyn Rd and see how he was doing. I was feeling amazing. I kept thinking how this 40 Something compared to past years. I am 10 years older, on a bike with one front chainring, and I feel like I could ride all day. Huh.

Chris made a good decision to stop here at 35 miles and over 5000' of elevation gain. We called for the SAG wagon. I knew we had 10 miles of riding left and it would be only getting hotter. I think if it was not for the heat, he would have made the whole ride, but once we began the next section of the ride, it would be a commitment and it would have been just as hard to keep going as to turn back. This was a smart move. I slammed a GU, ate another cookie, and bade Chris farewell. Now I could turn it up and see how fast I could finish.

Crossing at Green Valley.

I figured an average 8MPH pace would be right. I pedaled strong and took off. About 2 miles later, it began to unravel a bit. It was hot, but I had not really felt it until now. OK, maybe I will slow down a bit. I knew that I had 3 climbs and drops till the last 2 miles of downhill. It is never steep, but I was finding it increasingly harder to push any kind of a gear. I would pedal till I began to feel the strain, then dismount and walk to the next corner, remount and repeat, always keeping the top of the climb in sight. There were some nice views, but I was not too much into taking pics at this point. Last pic looking over Bouquet Reservoir.

The first climb was conquered, and I had about 8 miles to go. The next one was not too bad, about like the last, but I was slowing down even more. Each summit brought a breeze and a downhill to the next crucible. The last drop brought me into the final twisting uphill section. It was very, very hot now and the air was still. The knob on the thermostat was turned past hot, hotter, and hottest to the hell setting. I was reduced to pedaling until I was about to get nauseous, then I would push to the next shady patch of scrub and lean my head on my saddle, feeling the heat rise off my body, all tingly. I was a bit concerned. I knew my wife and Chris were waiting at the bottom of the hill and at some point would come get me, but that would not help if I passed out and died.

I had just a few corners to go, so I continued the death march, knowing that the top was close. If I had not been familiar with the ride remaining, I would have crawled into a shady spot and waited out the afternoon till evening. I had plenty of water and food. I will say that it was the closest I have been to being scared about my physical condition on a ride. Leg cramps are painful, bonking is humbling, but heat exhaustion or heat stroke is another thing all together. Quitting never really seriously entered my mind though. For some twisted reason, I find a peace in these moments of self torture and find them a bit defining. I would just as soon die here than in a Barcalounger with a remote in my hand.

Finally, the last climb was over. The breeze returned and I was moving along with gravity on my side, but oddly enough, I was going even slower, unable to push a gear. It came to me that the heat had masked the obvious fact that I needed to re-fuel and I was bonking. I was swallowed the last GU and pedaled on, a bit revived.

The downhill to the truck came none too soon. The wife and Chris were there, waiting with Gatorade and ice cold chocolate milk. Ohhhh man was that good, The temp in the shade was 103. I have no idea what it was back in that canyon. I don't want to know.

The last pic and one for the tally books. 45.2 miles, 6883' feet of climbing, 7hrs.

email me for a .gpx file of the ride iffn' ya want.

One last thought. I had fueled myself on water, two bottles of Accelerade, about 5 GUs, several oatmeal raisin cookies, some trail mix, and one slice of cantaloupe. I was worried about leg cramps, always an issue for me over 4 hours of hard riding, especially in the heat. I added one thing to the mix, S!Caps, an electrolyte replacement supplement that I took at a rate of one per hour. No cramps. Not even a hint of cramping. Thank you, thank you oh S!caps. I look forward to a long and happy relationship.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Almost build-up time

Thought I would share a bit about the parts I chose and the cost, reasons, etc. See pic:

Reba SL - used, MTBR classifieds. $260.00 shipped. Not my first choice. That would be the NEW 2009 Reba with a stiffer crown, maxle axle, and more offset. But the White Bros stuff is chancy and is $$, the Manitou *clicks* its way down the trail and is $ & 1/2, the Fox is $$$, etc. The 38mm offset out to be interesting with the approx 70 degree HT angle on the Lev. the plan is to replace it with a new Reba next year and until then, the old Reba is the king of reliable, light weight, and affordability.

Gripshift X9 - I have been a gripshift fan ever since they stopped making thumbies. It works forever, is light and simple. Besides that, I just like it. Paid $55.0 bucks on eBay

SRAM chain - I like the quick link and I have never had much to love about the chains from the big 'S'. $32.00, Jenson USA

Tires - Every 29er I have spent any time on has been shod with Maxxis Ignitors. Just worked out that way. So, I bought another Ignitor for the front and I will try a Crossmark for the rear to see if it rolls better as a driving tire. The Ignitors have been just excellent and I have not felt I needed anything more out of a tire for So Cal riding. $27.00 ea @ Jenson.

Derailluers - Went cheap with a used take-off Deore LX. Functional, but not chi-chi. $23.00 shipped from the MTBR classifieds. Rear der is a SRAM XO, pre carbon fiber. Used, but still absolutely like new. What a beautiful piece of hardware. Very nice.
eBay = $70.00

Headset - Cane Creek S8. I did not pop for another used King this time. the Cane Creek stuff is getting great buzz and this S8 was $30.00 brand new. Stainless bearings, easily replaceable with less stack height than a King. No fancy bling colors. Another eBay item.

Brakes - I bought a set of Deore LX hydros when Jenson USA was blowing them out to use on the Karate Monkey. I stayed with Avid cantis, so these will go onto the Lev. Not Hope flyweight high-bling, but another good, no-frills part. I did upgrade to a larger front rotor. Cost? Can't remember. Around $150.00 for all of it?

Chainrings - Deore LX. I like the steel granny ring and the rest works just as good as the more expensive stuff. 22-32-42. I am thinking of staying 2x9 and not running a big ring. Still pondering that one.

Cranks/BB - Some old XT Hollowtech 180s. I have two sets of these that I keep moving from bike to bike. Still working after all these years. Pedals will be some newer SPDs off of the Karate Monkey (not shown).

The Rest:

Wheels will come from the KM. The DT Onyx hubs/butted spokes/alloy nips/7.1TK rims have been just dandy on the KM. Not fancy, but some day I will have some nicer wheels built up. I have always wanted some King hubs just cuz. The wheels were $275 shipped with tires off of the MTBR classifieds.

Hbars will be the Easton carbon XC bars from the KM and the Bonty stem will transfer as well.

The Lev came with a Thomson post and I will use a WTB Pure V saddle I have.

The frame, well the Lev of course. $1200.00 out of the MTBR for sale pages.

The build will commence after this weekend.

I am very pleased with the cost vs. performance balance I struck. I had a limited budget and I added value and spent money as wisely as I could. eBay and the want ads are not always a bargain, but if you know your market and have patience, you can score nicely.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Parts, Parts, Parts.

Well, the buying has ended. The auction frenzy is behind me. Paypal saw a flurry of activity, now it is silent. UPS and Fed Ex are spinning into action. C'mon brown santa. Bring me Baby's new shoes.

All the parts are ordered for the Lev build up. Now it is just time. Likely I will wait till after the 40 Something ride. A new, unproven bike on a long ride is bad Ju Ju.

So, I wait.

More thoughts on the Less is More approach

So, as I prepare to turn the page into another chapter of bikes and leave behind the 29er HT and 1x9 setup in exchange for a FS 29er with a grannygear, I have a few thoughts.

What began as a struggle to deal with no small chainring and no rear squish (save for the Thudbuster seat post) has ended with an enlightened and much stronger rider.

Case in point. There is a local trail that is very popular and is quite steep in the front half, all singletrack and switchbacks. I had last ridden it when I was getting back into riding late last year and I was on my triple ringed Cannondale FS (recently eBayed). It was a grind, just like I remembered it and I suffered quite a bit.

So just this week an invite went out for that same ride and I only had the 1x9 Monkey to ride. Well, I can always get off and walk the steep sections and so off I went. Not only did I ride nearly 90% of the trail, I made every switchback except the one I never make anyway and I cleaned the 'top of the trail' challenge climb. I was blown away. A lot of this is increased fitness, but some of it is simply getting used to dealing with the gears you have to use.

You push harder on the pedals. You stand a lot. I suck at standing climbing, or I should say, I used to. I am getting better at it cuz I had to. I really look at hill climbs differently now. I always preferred pushing a bigger gear, but now that has really opened up.

Then there is the hardtail thing. I could not stand a 26" HT bike. No way. I have one and I do not care to ride it off road, but the 29er HT? I sure am spoiled by the solid response and the way they go up hill and scoot forward when prodded. And it is soooo close to being all the bike I need.

But not quite. When it gets rough and fast, the HT has its limits and begins to beat me up a bit. We have rocks and ruts here in this hardpack clay and rocky creekbeds of So Cal and I am not a spring chicken any more. And, I learned my lesson on the Julian race that a grannygear is real nice just before you die.

So the Lev marks a return to FS and lower gears, but it is in moderation. 3" of rear travel, a light frame, 2x9 gearing to keep things tight in the drivetrain department.....well, we shall see. I do fear that I will miss the HT 1x9 and fall into the trap of spinning that hamster gear.

So, to help keep me honest, I think it is only right to revive the Monkey as the latest incarnation of the versatile beast and make it a single speed. I am actually looking forward to stepping it up and seeing what I can get away with on that thing. I have no illusions of making an SS my 'only' red 'S' on my underwear, but I bet it will keep me out of the saddle and increase my leg size a bit more. I can always use that.

I am looking forward to the Lev, but for now, I will say that in 20+ years of owning lots of bikes, I have never enjoyed one more than the Karate Monkey and it cost me less to build up than any bike except the first cheapy I ever bought.

That amuses me and is strangely satisfying. Truly, less can be more.


Way back in the day, before I had even heard of Endurance Racing, I am sure that lots of folks were doing long rides on mtn bikes, like multi-hour stuff. But to us, 2 hrs was a typical ride so a 5 hour day in the saddle was pushing it. I envisioned a ride spanning a local section of forest, layed out the route, and invited some folks. I did not know how long it was for sure, I figured between 40 and 50 miles. Hence, the '40 Something' ride was born. We did that every year for a few years, then stopped. It was always hard especially the sandy climbs at hour 5 just before the last, long downhill finish.

So now, likely 10 years since the last one, I am resurrecting the ride. Gonna be great.

Looks like a small group, mostly newcomers. This time I will bring a GPS and Topofusion will spell out the stats, so I may have to rename it. Or not.

Anyway, even though it pales in comparison to the 100s and ultra 24s that riders do these days, it has history and tradition going for it. The only thing is, I think it needs to be longer. Now there is a thought!