Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Read a good book lately?

I have not. In fact, I really do not read anywhere near enough books. So, for Christmas I asked Santa for this one.

I began reading Jill's blog after stumbling across it linked from another blog. I found she had a nice way with words and natural skill behind the lens, but it all comes into focus with the rugged and harshly beautiful Alaska countryside at the heart of her explorations.

So, now I have something good to read and, if the first chapter is any indication of what is to come, I am in for a great time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Highlights: It's the People, Stupid

Someone once said that "It is the economy, stupid". That is fine, I suppose. But we as bike nuts can be all twitterpated about the latest blingy bike gear or the next great ride. But when it is all said and done and the shiny bike parts are no longer shiny and the next ride is just that...another ride, you realize that what it is really all about is the people in your life, and in this case, your cycling life, that make it all worthwhile.

I met some great folks this year and remade some old acquaintances. But one new person for 2008 has been a real blessing to meet and get to know, even if it is at a distance.

Guitar Ted, international man of mystery. From that fated meeting at the Salsa booth at the 2008 I-Bike to today's relationship as writer-editor, it has been a blast getting to know GT in all his cycling wisdom and knowledge.

I hope that some day we will meet again and ride some gravel road, some singletrack, or just pedal down the street somewhere. Whatever it is, it will be another chapter in what really matters with all this bike stuff.

Bike people.

And that is the final highlight for 2008. May you have a prosperous and happy 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lumens and Drivers and Volts: The headlamp and final results

Here is the headlamp part of the build. Cool camo, eh? It is pretty light and courtesy of an old cut up inner tube and a velcro strap, it sits nicely on top o' the helmetto.

I went on a ride last night with a buddy (I built a set of lights for him as well) and we were both totally stoked with the way the lights worked. With the helmet light on and the bar mounts on high, I never even came close to outrunning the lights.

I have the first series of articles on the DIY build-up on The Bike Lab right now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cutting Edge wheels

Are you sure that Guitar Ted is not Santa Claus? Hmmmm...

These showed up just before Christmas.

When I took them out of the box, they were wrapped in plastic. I picked one up and thought, "Wow, that is a light front wheel!" It was the REAR wheel. Oh!

As soon as the Lenz is back in action after the 100 Dollar Ride (see previous post), I will fit-up these gossamer examples of composite goodness and ride the wujeebies out of them.

Ah, what a chore it is.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A gift is given....

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men
Luke 2:11-14

Merry Christmas and may you have a blessed New Year.

pic courtesy of someone else.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Hundred Dollar Ride

Last night I wanted to get out and test my new lights before the rain came in to town. I went to the garage and stood there before the bike rack, looking at the SS Monkey. I always ride the SS during the week, especially when the weather has been wet and muddy. For some odd reason, I had forgotten that it had rained yesterday. So, I decided to take the Lev out to see how the battery pack fit on the frame. Off I went.

Up the canyon singletrack, it began to get muddy. Hmmm...real muddy. Ridden when wet, the clay soil out here does not make ruts in the trail very often, mostly it just packs up on the tires, etc. So, after a bit I am struggling to keep pedaling. I stopped once when the bike began ghost shifting, but decided to keep on riding. I thought, "I should have ridden the SS Monkey".

About 10 feet further along I heard a sickening 'crunch' noise and then no forward progress. I looked down, knowing what I would see...a pretzel where my rear der and chain used to be. The lovely chunk of aluminum that was an XO SRAM der was sitting nicely on top of my cassette, the chain was lodged behind the cassette and twisted forever, and the der hanger was dead.

I would post pics, but it was dark and I was too depressed to get out the camera. I walked a ways to where my wifey could rescue me in the Grannygear-Family Truckster and rode home on the tailgate of the Suburban, the muddy bike half in-half out.

I ordered a 2008 X9 take-off der for $52.00 on eBay and picked up a new chain from a local shop. Sigh. Luckily I have a spare hanger, but I need to replace my spare as well.

Next time it is muddy (at all!!!) I will look at the Lev, take $100.00 out of my pocket and put it in a drawer safely away, then I will get the SS down and go riding.

Next time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Highlights: Epic/Classic rides

While it may seem like this is just like the Road Trip blog entry, it is different. You can Road Trip to a riding location and have a great time but not do any world class rides. However an Epic and /or Classic ride is one of those routes that folks talk about in excited tones. Mere mention of the ride brings nodding heads and murmurs of agreement out of a group of mountain bikers.

Trail 409, Crested Butte

Porcupine Rim, Moab

Flume Trail, Tahoe

Downieville downhill

WRIAD, Virgin Rim, Colorado Trail, Kokopelli, etc.

Iy may be because of the way it hurts you real bad when you attempt it or it could be that it is so scenic or historical that it deserves the epic/classic moniker. Or it could be the way it has its groove on and how it just simply flattens you with how good it feels to ride it.

If I had to pick one ride this year it would be Thunder Mountain trail in the Red Cliffs area of Southern Utah. Not that long or difficult, it is a 15ish mile loop that takes you through some of the best red rock countryside in town. Smooth, sinuous, sexy and downright fun, the trail will challenge all to get in the groove and flow, baby, flow. The last 2 or 3 miles just may be the most fun I have had on a bike in recent memory...heck, maybe distant memory.

Thunder Mtn. Epic/Classic ride of 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lumens and Drivers and Volts: It Works!

Well, I dood it! After all the mad scientist stuff, I flipped the switch and had success! More on that later as I have had only a quick ride as of yet and I still have to build the helmet light. For now, some pics. I have a DIY series including sage advice and details headed to The Bike Lab, so I will let that cover most of the questions, but I will post up my overall thoughts here.

Darkness, fear me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Southern Cal is under the icy grip of an early winter storm. I am sitting at 2000' elevation and it looks like it may snow any minute now. The area I rode this last weekend sits about 2000' feet higher than this and the weather report from there says 27 degrees and -7 degrees factoring in the wind chill. I think I will pass on riding there.

Last night I snuck out before the rain started and rode the SS into the clouds up an eight mile paved climb out of town. I thought about bringing the camera, but the light level was pretty low, etc, so I did not.

Dang! As soon as I topped out I caught the last few minutes of pinkish light coming across the backcountry mountain range (the -7* area), covered in snow with a cloud layer obscuring the top most section. With the brown hills below the snow layer and the clouds on top, it looked like a great big dessert of some kind, albeit a cold one. Wish I had the camera cuz it was an awesome sight. Sorry.

The coast back down was a descent into ice cube-ness. First the feet, then the toes, core pretty good, but I was juuust beginning to shiver when I hit town. My right knee was really unhappy for awhile. No pics of that either. Sorry again.

The hot shower brought me back to life. Definitely no pics of that. Not sorry at all.
It was also the last venture on the Fast Traks as I will be going back to the Mtn Kings to deal with the sloppy trail conditions. I will say that they totally rocked on the paved climb. It really points out how well they do roll. I still could not run the skinny dudes all the time, but I have come to respect them for what they are.

I have come to respect the cold too. I was talking to Guitar Ted and he said it was -3 with a wind chill of -30 or something like that. Good lord! +30 is cold to me. Since I have more of a commitment to training this year, I have been getting out more despite the weather and it points out that I need better shoes and gloves. Thicker tights would be OK too. Still, the fingers and toes are the challenge since it is very hard to layer them. Too many levels of protection and you cannot feel the controls or pedal. Well, I will figure something out.

Meanwhile, the rain has turned to sleet.

Am I now the King of the Mountain?

Look what the UPS man brought me! I could not pass up the coupon deal from the Interbike Demo Days. Continental was offering a great deal on a limited order of Mtn King tires, so I opted to try some 2.4" 29er tires.

I mounted them on the SS Monkey running tubes on the DT Swiss 7.1TK rims and they are hardly a 2.4 to the calibrated eyeball. I have not actually measured them, but they are a decent enough size for winter/spring riding and the open and generous knobs should work well.

So far I like them. Tremendous traction and hook-up in corners, especially now that the soil is kinda moist and packed down. They roll pretty well for an agressive tire too, much better than the Eskars IMO and they are rounder in profile so I like the way they turn in when used as a front tire.

Longterm we shall see, but so far they were well worth the $.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 Highlights: Single Speeds

"...One Gear to rule them all, One Gear to find them,
One Gear to bring them all and in the darkness bind them..."

Very loosely taken from the Lord of the Rings, with apologies to Mr Tolkien, Gandalf, Frodo, and Middle Earthers' everywhere.

Gears were invented to make cycling better. They allow us to compensate for uphills, downhills, headwinds, steep and gnarly climbs and tired legs. Mountain biking without 27 gears is silly. It would show we have not evolved. It is stupid. It is hard. It is also fun, challenging and addicting.

Just like that Ring of Power, it kinda calls to you and whispers things into your ear. "Come to me and pedal. One gear is all you need. One gear of power. One gear of fun." Your friends will not hear it at first. As time goes by, some will join you on your quest. Some will never understand and as they see the hardened body, the far away look in your eyes and the spittle dried on your chin from the last heart crushing climb, they will be afraid. They will run away from the power of the One Gear.

But not you. You will hold it closely, keep it safe, keep it secret. The One Gear of Power.

My Precious.

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 Highlights: Road Trip

All packed up with someplace to go.

I love road trips. I have a goal to do at least one a year to ride somewhere new. This year I had planned to head to the Brian Head area of southern Utah and get on some of the stuff like Thunder Mtn or part of the Virgin Rim trail. Then, an offer came up to head to Moab with a group of slickrock newbies. They had never been there, I had, so I was the de-facto tour leader. I had one condition in going, and that was that I would arrange to ride as much of the Whole Enchilada ride as was practical for our group. I had never done that ride before. If that was around when I was in Moab years ago, I bet it was secret or not even blessed by the gov'mint powers that be.

So we were off and the results are here. Road trips are potentially fraught with peril and ripe for discovery. What a killer combo. Road trips get ya out of 'da hood and into new horizons, new trails, new faces. They may be across the state or across the nation, but they all promise the same thing: Come away to me and ride here. Here is where adventure begins.

It is a siren's call.

So, some advice for your own road trips:

  • Do enough research to have a good time. You cannot know everything before ya go, but too much ignorance can ruin a trip before it gets going. Maps, good fitness prep, etc.

  • Be flexible. Keep an open mind and be ready to change plans or modify stuff to fit the moment. We were planning on riding Gooseberry after Moab, but ended up here as a change of pace. It was a last minute thing, but it was a great decision.

  • Choose your co-road trippers carefully. This is not the best time to head off into new and strange places with folks you cannot get along with or are not up to the quest in fitness or ability.

Road trips. Gotta love 'em.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chillin' on a Saturday morning

No pics. Sorry. My Sat morning opened up a bit so I joined a group ride in the mtns north of home. With a cold storm coming in for Sunday, today was chilly up there. The ride began in the low 40s and dropped to the upper 30s up on top of the hill. 3 singlespeeds this ride and I set a new record for a long ride with one gear...4 hours, mostly singletrack, lots of climbing. Very cold. It was a good ride to try out the Specialized Fast Trak tires. More thoughts on those later, but they are named well.

Getting late and I think I am still thawing my toes from this morning. Man, my feet were bricks of ice. Gotta fix that.

To bed now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...

The fat ol' goose may be me if I do not get out more often than I have been. Holiday banquets, dinners, charity events, weather, etc, have all conspired against me lately. I have plans to be here in January and I really would like to get some longer stuff under me. I have been doing short and hard...that is pretty easy. Just point and shoot toward the hills on an SS. Long and moderate to hard is more difficult to achieve.

I had someone ask me the other day if I had ever done a long ride on the SS and I have not yet. I think 2.5 hrs is about the most right now, but there was only about 10 minutes of flat terrain in that 2.5 hours. I would like to do something longer. Right now I am 2 to 1 SS to geared as far as ride time. I still pull out the Lev for epic stuff or a ride that is very digital, especially among other geared up riders. I still do not have the fitness to hang with a faster pack of riders on the SS over a typical So Cal ride. Maybe I will some day. No biggie. That is why I have more than one bike.

I have time over the week following Christmas to get a couple of good rides in if we get decent weather. It looks like a pretty good rain storm is coming in and it will bring snow to above 3000'. If we stay cool through December then the snow may stay for a while. Well, So Cal means that there is always somewhere to ride.

Cold weather is all relative, ya know?

One of my favorite blogs is Jill's blog from Alaska. I am always in awe of the daily challenge that riding a mtn bike presents in winter conditions.

Pic from Jill's blog page -

Doesn't that look all cozy and inviting, hmmm? I get whiny when it dips below 50*. Below 20*? Not this boy! My house is warm, thank you, and I think I left the water running in the other room...and my mom is calling, etc. Part of that is not really having cold weather clothing for riding. Functional, bad weather technical clothing is pricy stuff and to spend that kind of money when you can just wait a day or two to ride when the weather clears...well, it makes poor sense to a family guy on a budget.

But Alaska...or Colorado or Michigan or Iowa or anyplace that gets really COLD and stays that way for months? I am not sure how I would deal with that. I am not a bike commuter, so riding is about the fun and fitness, not a get-to-work necessity. I guess I would learn to do it anyway, but maybe I would just hibernate or hit the gym for spin class and kickboxing/pilates/yoga with the rest of the over 40 folks.

Props to you guys and gals who brave, or in some cases, celebrate the frozen rides of winter. I would love to ride with you, I really would but I can't find my mittens (I think the cat had them), and I am sure I hear the phone is ringing. You know how my mom hates to be kept waiting.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2008 highlights: Good shoes

Earlier this year I finally put aside my trusty old Answer Speeders. The tread was about gone and the fabric at the toes was blown out. So, to replace them I ordered some shoes from an on-line discount store. I guess it was their house brand, but the price was right so I tried a pair. You know the old joke about the Volvo looking like the box the car came in? Well I might as well worn the box these shoes came in as wear these on a ride.

So, I eBayed the discount shoes and hoofed it over to the local bike shop. They happened to be a Specialized dealer, so I tried on a couple of pairs of the Body Geometry mountain bike shoes.

Wow. Those felt good, like someone who HAD feet actually designed them. Actually, Specialized is heavily invested into the Body Geometry concept, that being products that have a high amount of ergonomic technology in them. So basically they are supposed to fit well and feel good, along with supporting the foot and relieving hot spots and unwanted pressure points, etc.

Well, all that aside, I like 'em. They have been consistently comfy and seem to be wearing well. They are quite decent to hike-a-bike in with nicely agressive lugs and a more flexible footbed than the carbon racy-type shoes. These are not the high end ones designed for ultimate stiffness, put at over 100 clams, they are not cheap either. I have the 2008 version of this model.

Perfect? No. I am not too crazy about the buckles. They are kinda glitchy, not always indexing or releasing cleanly. I think I may try some dry lube on them, or, I know I can replace them with the buckles from the higher end versions of the shoes.

If anything, it made me realize the value of a good shoe. Some day I may be able to afford a really high end shoe, but for now, these are getting me down the trail just fine.

Just riding.

Something crossed my mind that has me bothered. I think it was yesterday, the day after the Liebre Mtn ride. Now, that was a great ride. The climb was hard on the SS, but so what? It was what I wanted for training that weekend. The trail itself could hardly have been better. Miles of singletrack, brushy in places, but with perfect soil conditions and nearly magical in the way it weaves underneath the trees, you would think I would have been just blissfully in the groove, just dancing along. Not! I was thinking too much.

What was I thinking about on the way up the mountain? Well, in between the times I stopped for a cardiac break, I was thinking about why I packed too much stuff. Why I had not been riding more. Why I was so slow. I was nagged by the thoughts of some upcoming medical tests that could be less than wonderful. I was thinking a lot. Too many doubts. To quote Niner bikes, "Pedal Dammit!"

What was I thinking about on the singletrack? Frame geometry, fork offset, tire performance, SS good or bad, steel VS. carbon/ti/alu, lean back more, lean forward more. Overdressed? Underdressed? I actually had to force myself at one point to relax and smile as I entered yet another swoopy corner. What is the deal?

It was not always that way. Now, I have a tendency to overanalyze stuff. It is just a personality trait. Kinda like the character Monk in that crime drama on TV: "It is a blessing...AND a curse" It is what makes me the guy you want sweating the details and prepping stuff. But I remember in years past just riding and not thinking. Just riding and feeling the simple pleasure of the rolling wheels being driven along by gravity and one-rider horsepower. Just riding.

Just riding.

The ride is what it is...the bike is what it is, and to some degree I am what I am. I think it is too much time spent on internet MTB sites debating the merits of this or that bike part or set-up. Too much product analysis. Or, maybe it is bigger than that. Maybe it is the cares of age and the loss of the free feeling of youth and maybe...just maybe it is just a reflection of my life's attitudes overall. I am not sure. But, I am very sure that I need to get back there somehow, back to just riding once I am on the bike and save all the pondering for the garage bench and the fireside post-ride discussions. I need to leave the doubts at the trailhead, forget about rebound settings, fork offset, stem length........

Just riding once again.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More planned obselescence?

This post from GT and this post from GNAT along with this opinion on the Bike Lab site have been very interesting reading.

So who asked for expensive parts that cannot be serviced?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Learning to love the whip.

There is an area of the local forest that is so seldom visited by bicyclists, that it is almost weird. I have never, ever, ever seen anyone else there that was not part of the group I was already with. But I am not complaining, mind you. We will just keep it between you and me, OK? OK. Today I rode with KT and Purple Pat.

It begins on an old, paved road with tons of history (see post

This is KT. Loyal readers may recall I mentioned him in previous blogs. He is still rebuilding his strength and fitness after a serious leg injury and his left leg is still about 2/3 the size of his right. KT did a road century yesterday...a pretty hard one...and then brought out his 29er Orbea SS and proceeded to spank me in the climb and really, the whole ride. Mercy. Here he is happy because he is unaware that I am considering pushing him over the culvert behind him.

Snacks at the top.

Soon we hit the singletrack and spent the next 2 hours winding up and down and around the shoulder of the mountain. The recent rains had packed down the sandy soil and green grass was just beginning to show. Dark and almost primeval feeling in parts, the trail stays under a canopy of old oaks for most of the ride, swooping and twisting and diving like a good trail should. It is not a cruise though and on the SS, it purt the hurt on us more than a few times. 3 hours of great stuff and a morning well spent with friends on bikes in a beautiful place.

The SS is such a cruel and tantalizing mistress. It promises to be simple and quiet and easy and whispers things like "I am all you need" in your ear. Then, once you get it out on the ride, it brings out the whip. I mean, why do I do that to myself? That is not really a terribly hard climb on a geared bike. Not at all. On the SS it is another thing altogether. Once at the top, the pain is forgotten and the challenge of finding the right line, less braking into the corners, sitting, standing, keeping momentum and attacking the trail all are such a part of the game on the SS. I am not really good at it yet, but I am working on it.

I still fear the whip, but I am getting to like the sound it makes when it cracks across my soul.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Next time you think YOU have skills...try this.


2008 highlights: GPS gizmos

I had long ago put aside any cycling computers, heart rate monitors, etc. I really did not care how far it was, how fast I went, etc. It was just me on the bike going riding. It took as long as it took and rides were measured in minutes/hours. It worked for me.

Then, completely unrelated to cycling, I bought a hand held GPS unit for family use and geocaching.

It was pretty cheap to buy and I enjoyed learning about how they worked and what you could do with them. In 2008, I began reading that many cyclists were bringing their GPS units with them on rides and downloading the data to web sites or software programs. It would spit out all kinds of numbers like distance, average speed, elevation gain/loss, heart rate (with the right GPS unit)and more and lay it out over maps like you would see on Google Earth. Now, THAT was cool. I love maps. I used to pour over old maps of the surrounding forest looking for old roads, trails, etc and planning rides.

Better than that, you could share the resulting files with others and everyone with a GPS could re-trace the rides you did. Excellent!

Unfortunately, I had chosen the wrong brand for this kind of stuff. Garmin is the king of the hill for athletic based GPS use and I had a Magellan. Many of the programs do not talk Magellan speaky. Then, I found Topofusion. A free download with option to upgrade for $, Topofusion was written by an endurance bike geek and fellow blogger and it totally rocks.

So now with Topofusion and my GPS, I am a fount of statistics and ride info. I can download a file from the net, pop it into my GPS and, along with some good maps, ride anywhere in the country with confidence. I now know how high, how far, how fast and I can lay it out on mapping software and check it all out.


I don't bring it on every ride. I still prefer to be pretty gadget free, but I always have the option of gathering all that info courtesy of billions of dollars of space hardware and a funny looking cell-phone-type thingy on the h-bars.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What a year it's been.

So, I figured I would take a few posts and highlight some of the highlights of 2008 as it draws to a close. There were some victories, some losses, some great new products, clothing etc, and some new friends and relationships that added up to a unique year as a mtn biker.

More to come, right now it is bedtime.