Friday, February 27, 2009

How rigid is rigid?

Last night I spun out for one of my favorite training loops. I grabbed the SS Monkey, clipped on the lights, and pedaled away. The first few miles is a paved section with a fair amount of climbing so I locked out the RST M29 fork. When I hit the dirt (which was a bit ahead of my usual time to that point) I decided to leave it locked out.

Ed the Tall has been running his new XXIX with the factory rigid fork and has been fairly happy. Many SS riders swear by a rigid fork and I have had a hard time coming to terms with that set up for myself. It can get pretty fast and bumpy here, but for long, smooth fireroad sections it would be great. I am not sure my old wrists would be very happy. Near the end of the ride I found my wrists were a bit tender so I cracked the compression damping open juuuust a bit. What a difference even 1" of travel made.

I found that the overall ride experience was not conclusive, but if I could get a compliant fork, a large tubeless tire, and a bar with some sweep I may be able to deal with it. I am wondering if the burly full sus fork is actually more abusive locked out compared to a well built steel/carbon non-sus fork? Not sure.

Still, it has me thinking. I may even set up the next SS with both...a rigid for some days and a quick swap to the M29 for rides that I know will be more beat-on-me.

Oh, one more thing...I cut 10 minutes off of my fastest time for that loop which means that either I was having a great day or my fitness is up. VQ awaits.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

One week to go.

Vision Quest is one week and a couple of days away. Pretty much in my lap. I figure I have two good rides left before I taper a bit. Tonite I will get a decent loop on the SS and Sat I will get a few hours around the local hills. That is all my situation allows due to work obligations on the weekend.

I will be riding the Lev of course. No SS. I have decided to not run the carbon fiber Edge wheels. Even though they are a bit lighter overall, I cannot help but choose the tubeless set-up of the Flows over the svelte Edge rims. I will run an Ignitor front and Crossmark rear. That is a pretty fast but good sized combo that I know works. I was going to buy a 20T small chainring but I never got around to it. I may regret that 10,000 feet into the 11,000' of gain in that race. We shall see.

I have my food and prep all worked out. I will grab some Gu, but of late I have had really good results with Snickers Bars, Oatmeal cookies, trail mix, Pop-Tarts, and Payday Bars for ride food. I have not used a Power Bar or Clif Bar in ages and I do not miss them at all.

Accelerade in a bottle, plus a couple of baggies of powder to resupply during the ride, S Caps for electrolytes (2 per hour max), and of course, the always awesome Fluid recovery drink for the after ride glow. HAH!

Depending on the weather, I am wearing as little clothing as I can get away with and the Octane XC will be on my back. I just can't wean myself off of a hydration pack. Camera? Not sure. Still debating that one.

Ipod for sure.

I have a goal of 8 hours as a finish time. Realistic? Not sure, but it will keep me on point better than just "I want to finish".

That said, I want to finish.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tour of California-meh!

With apologies to Team Dicky

The Amgen race, stage 7 I think (I am not really keeping count), began in my neck of the woods. I honored it by going for a ride instead of standing around for hours at the mall watching a bunch of guys in lycra do whatever they do before a race (I snapped those pics from my car as I was heading home after my ride). However, I am not completely detached from the race so, to be as supportive as I could be and still get a ride in that day, I dusted off the road bike that morning and hit the tarmac.

I am such a mountain biker. I wore my visored helmet (still mud spattered) and my Camelbak Octane XC. No baggies though. I do have my limits.

Road riding is sooo about pedaling. Of course you pedal a mtn bike too, but on a road bike it is all you do as far as I can tell. Spin spin, pedal pedal, crank, crank. I can see why the road guys are so anal about getting fit kits done, etc. But the cool part is the way it works my legs differently than the mtn bike. It really hurts me more. Not sure why, it just does and basically I am a waaaay better cyclist off road than on. On the road bike I am slow climbing and slow descending, but I make it up on the flats by being slow there too.

But, it is still riding a bike and that is all good.

The next day I got on the FS and did 3 hours on the local trails. I felt very strong even after yesterday's ride. Fluid recovery drink is a lot of that. Simply amazing stuff for recovery. Vision Quest is just around the corner. I think I will survive even though I would feel better if I had longer days under me as of late. Well, it is what it is as I can't accomplish much in the next 2 weeks that I have not already done.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Joy of Discovery

The other day I was out in the local back canyons on the SS Monkey doing my best to avoid the mud. After working my way up to the towers, I was kinda toasted. The extra drag of the saturated soil was like riding with your brakes on and every hill was twice as hard, and with only one gear, it hurt. Which is fine, actually. A lot of the soil here is very heavy with clay. The rest is sandy, so you don't actually make a bunch of ruts, but if you are in the clay area, you just turn into a rolling gumby ball as the wheels pack up till all forward motion stops. Geared bikes are doomed. SS is the deal, but it costs ya.

I met up with a group of the boys at the towers and after a bit, we went our separate ways. Now I had planned for several hours of riding, but the ground was just too muddy to be fun in any of the normal hillclimbs that tie everything together. This area is crisscrossed with tons of roads, firebreak bulldozer cuts, doubletracks and singletracks. Between the oil drilling history of the area and who knows what, there are lots of choices to ride and there are old road cuts slowy going back to the earth on every hillside and canyon bottom.

So, once I hit the bottom of the singletrack, it was a short fireroad ride to pavement and then back home. Too soon, too soon. I had recovered from the sloggy climbs and I was kinda bummed by the shortened ride. Then I saw it. An old road cut heading off to the right. I had been on this before, but not for a long time.

It was kinda weedy, but open enough to ride and it looked like it was doable SS. I took the road less traveled. Up I went. More climbing is good. I recognized the route as something that I had ridden the other direction a few times. Then, off to the left was a spur doubletrack. Huh. Never saw that, since, traveling the other direction, you would blow right past it. Well, alright. Left turn, Clyde.

It occurred to me how much I love discovering new trails. Now this was a stones throw from routes I ride all the time so it was not like a Lewis and Clark thing. But it was new to me and it was a mystery to be unraveled one knobby print at a time. Mostly riding, sometimes pushing, I topped out at a familiar spot. Cool! I built a cairn at the tie in so I could find it in the reverse direction and considered my options. Then, I saw it...another old road cut that I had noticed the last time I was here, but had not the time to explore. Well, let's go, since we are in ramble-about-the-country mode.

In So Cal, it it kinda common to take a bulldozer and cut a swath along the crest of a ridgeline as a fire break. In time, they settle in to fine riding routes, usually dipping and rising quickly, sometimes very fast, typically lined with parallel ruts, rocks and other joys. Good fun. Want to know why we West Coasters don't like twitchy front ends on our bikes? Ride these for a while.

I could see ahead and below and there were all kinds of options and road cuts going off to both sides of the main road and dead ending...maybe. More stuff for other days, I kept dead ahead until, about 500' lower than I began, it all ended in the brush...or did it? A single track continued on between two sagebrush bushes. Well, alright!!! What followed was a twisty, narrow, all greened up for spring bit of joy that dropped me down a rutted chute with juuust enough room to thread the needle with a 29" bit of twine and then I was done, popping out in a spot that I never would have seen from the other direction. Huh! How about that?

Happily, I hit the pavement and rolled home, feeling like I got my money's worth of quality bike time. I like the road less traveled, even if it is in my backyard.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Budget Build?

Well, this is going on over at The Bike Lab and it has me thinking a bit about budget builds. Frankly, for me any build needs to be budget so I am quite skilled in looking for deals on-line, eBay, Craig's List, etc. However, the Lev, even though I hardly paid retail for any of it, still cost over $2000.000 to put together. Budget is relative, of course.

For instance, enter the King of the Budget Build, the rigid single speed, in this case a 29er cause that is all that makes sense to me. Here is a good example: The Monocog. Cheap, SS 29er goodness.

But, it does not have to be cheap and SS, does it? Nope. Consider this scooter.

Blingy, eh?

This all factors into my choice as a replacement SS for the Karate Monkey. I certainly cannot pop for the Ti goodness of the Bling-mobile, so that is out. But what about the thought of a handmade steel frame vs a production one? Is double the cost worth it? How about used King hubs vs. new SS only cheapies like Surly disc hubs? Avid BB-7 or better $$ hydros?

Part of the dilemma is the little voice in the back of my head that says "do it cheap and enjoy the ride". It is fighting with the other voice that appreciates the more blingy stuff in life. Ed the Tall picked up a sweet deal on a Raleigh XXIX for under 500 clams. He swapped to lighter tires and off he went. Tempting. But can I put up with BB-5s and cheap hubs? Not sure. For one thing, I need a sus fork, so I will carry over the RST M-29 and that means I am much more likely to pick up a frame only and swap some parts over from the Monkey and add some new parts into the mix.

Right now the Vassago Jabberwocky has my attention.

Everyone that has that thing seems to love it. The El Mariachi or a S.I.R 9 is tempting, but slightly pricier. A bit more of a $ bump and I could order a Curtlo. Meh? Not sure where that fine line lies. The $$ difference between the Curtlo or a Waltworks over the Jabber buys a pretty nice set of wheels so I can go tubeless with confidence (don't trust the DT Swiss rims I have on the SS Monkey for ghetto tubeless).

Well, time will tell. Meanwhile I am squirreling away money and I will wait for a good deal to come along. What will I end up with? I have no idea. It depends on which voice in my head that I listen to.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chasing the Storm

The storms that have been rolling through broke just as I was getting home from work. Grabbed the SS and the camera and rode to the top of a local hill to try and get some pics of the latest snowfall. Our local mountains top out at under 6000', so to see the snow at the 3000' level is always a treat. Feels like Montana, or what I imagine Montana feels like since I have never actually felt Montana. I think there are laws against that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, spring is just around the corner.

Falling Behind

I had a pretty good plan leading into Vision Quest and I have worked pretty hard until this month post Camp Lynda 2.0. Rain. Cold. Busyness. Work. Everything but plague and pestilence have cut my saddle time down to Average Joe Weekend Warrior fitness, not Average Joe Who Very Soon Has To Ride For Hours Up Lots Of Hills All Day Long fitness. I have a very good base, but I need to keep throwing in longer rides to remain accustomed to it and that has been lacking in a big way.

Not much I can do about it. It is a 3 day weekend. Sat is the only day with no rain forecast and I am totally committed from dawn to dusk with family stuff. Sigh. Thank goodness for singlespeeds. The ability to ride in crummy conditions and the toughness that SS'ing brings to the table has been a saving grace. Honestly, if I actually make VQ, it will be largely due to that one geared device. I am not brave enough to take the SS on VQ, but I think she will forgive me for that. I will need all the gears I can get.

Meanwhile, the rain continues to fall.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Green After the Rain

It does not take much for So Cal to green up a bit. After the cold storm that rolled through on Monday, there was snow on all the surrounding mountains above 3500'. It did not last, but the rain that accompanied it is really bringing the grass alive. No wildflowers yet.

Lev in repose, caught during a quick after work spin o' the legs.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Another Worthless Thread

Yes, I know. 'This post is worthless without pics'. Sorry. Camera at home. So, despite the lack of proof that it all happened, Ed the Tall and I lit out on a ride in between the rainstorms. There are only 2 or 3 rides in this area that can be done in wet weather. The rest just clay up the bike till you cannot move.

It was totally an SS kind of day. The route is 10 miles of climbing up along Sawmill Mtn, not hard on a geary and really not that bad on an SS, but today...well today was pretty hard. The soft, sandy soil was like rolling over carpet padding. You did not really sink, per se, but there was juuuust enough give to the soil to make it sllloooowwww going. We were even pedaling on the downhills. I wanted to make it to a saddle about 10-12 miles up ahead and then finish the loop, returning down a fast fireroad descent to a pavement return. It would be a killer workout on the SS and I had never done it that way before.

We began in overcast conditions, climbed into the clouds, and turned around only when it made sense to do so. The saddle and the bigger loop would have to wait for another day. Man, it was getting cold up there, but I would have preferred it a bit colder. Then the ground would have been frozen. Instead, it was soggy/spongy. We began at 3000' or so and climbed for 90 minutes till we hit enough snow/ice that the grade, the snow, and the lack of low spinny-spinny gears called an end to the ride.

But, despite the weather and conditions, and, to a large degree, because of it, we had a great ride. The SS thing is just so hard sometimes that it makes you shake your head and grin. "Ya know, they have gears for bikes these days!", your inner self says. "Yeah, I have heard about them."

I love riding into the clouds. The wind was up a bit and the moisture hung on the leaves and branches, the clouds passing over me like a ghost. When you can't see more than 100' up the road, it makes it that much easier to put the head down and just pedal. The top is an illusion, the road traveled is given out in bits and pieces, one section at a time. Behind you, the mist. Ahead, the mist. Only the chunk of road where your wheels are at any given time is reality. The rest are vapors.

2 hours in nature's stairmaster arena on a single geared stepping machine, all in a gym setting that no work-out club can match.

Thanks, Ed. Nice ride.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bringing Back a Classic

Recently 29".com has been very busy testing new bikes, building new bikes, etc. and sometimes I get to help with that duty. Hopefully, soon there will be some new bikes from the Big S coming my way to report on and I am looking forward to that. I really enjoyed the brief ride I had on a 2008 Stumpjumper FRS 29er and I would love to throw a leg over one for an extended time. I came really close to buying one of those framesets before I found my Lev at such a great deal $$ wise.

When I was researching the Specialized website to see what was up for 2009, it was apparent that they have a good selection of 29ers this year. Even the aluminum hardtails will convert to SS from what I read. But, as many bikes as they have, and as complete as it may seem, there is one thing missing IMO. This was brought into focus this week with the time I spent looking at the classic Stumpy (see previous post). Back in the mid 90s, my buddy had a steel Stumpy. He loved that bike and rode it till it finally broke at a chainstay, had it repaired, rode it some more. Steel may not be as real as it used to be, and while I don't have a great deal of use for a geared hardtail these days (too much abuse on the old bod), there is one place that steel is still king: Single Speed 29ers...the last bastion of ferrous-ness (apologies to GF).

So, Mr. Big S, if you are willing to take suggestions from an old timer, I offer this.

Bring back the steel hardtail. Bring back the classic Stumpy as a 29er SS. Keep the lugged frame. Yeah, I know it is more costly and such to make smaller/larger frames, but they would set the frame apart from the pile of TIG'd up framesets. Lugs are classy and the Big S has the resources to pull it off.

Small diameter steel tubes are graceful looking. Make it ride nice, give it all day geometry. Leave the racey attitudes for the fatty, Scandium stuff. Back off the angles a touch and let it flow down the trail. Offer two fork options. Sell it with an updated version of the bi-plane fork from the classic Stumpjumper. Make it work for the sus fork of your choice, 80mm travel, 43-45mm offset. Remember the Breezer steel frames from the 90s? There ya go. Classy, elegant. Better still, how about a Japanese built MB-1 Bridgestone? Wish I had never sold the one I had.

I would be happy with SS only, but, to make the best use of the effort, offer a geared conversion kit. What would be cool? Removeable cable stops and a replaceable hanger for clean SS-ness. EBB, sliders, track ends, pick one for tensioning.

Give it a classy powdercoat/paint job. Maybe a tribute to the OE decal from the classic version. Finish it off with a metal headbadge that looks like the Specialized 'S'.

Well, just a thought. What do I know? I know I would like one in an XL.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Classic Stumpy

Last night I got a chance to look at an old Stumpjumper Sport that an acquaintance had in his storage shed for years. He thinks it was an 1983/1984 era and the pic shown here (clipped off of the net) is pretty close to the right bike, but his had Bullmoose bars. This is even before my time beginning in mtn bikes.

Pretty cool really. The chainstays are almost as long as the top tube! The bi-plane front fork, chrome Bullmoose bars, big ol' Shimano brake levers...what a rig. Heavy too. Easily over 30 lbs. 5 gears in the rear, and the big ring is a dinner plate sized 50T dealie! 50T!!! Good lord. OE tires too.

I think he would give it to me if I asked for would fit me, I bet it is a 21" frame, but really, what would I do with it? It is a neat bike path/beach path/conversation piece, but I would never ride it off road.

Now one day, I will find a Ritchey Timbercomp or Fisher Mt Tam. Those were always on my hot list back in the day but I could never afford one. Still, it was fun looking at the bit of history and what was once considered a pretty good bike!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Calm Before the Storm

Rain coming in this week. But not this day. Evening mellowness, So Cal style.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Do you inspire others?

They other day I was having a conversation with a thoroughly good fellow who was stuggling with some changes toward a more healthy, sustaining, lifestyle. Near the end of our conversation, I complimented him on the choice to make the changes that needed to be made. Most people choose the easy path but he took the path less traveled. Change is hard.

He looked at me and said that I was a lot of his inspiration to make those changes. He listens to me talk about long bike rides, sees me eat fairly well, I treat myself as an athelete, no smoking, etc. I am 15 years older than him and in better shape.

Now I am certainly not all that there is behind his willingness to affect the needed changes in his life. There is a loving family to care for and a spiritual part of this as well. But the life that I live, and quite possibly that you live, can be a mirror held to the faces of others. What they see reflected in that mirror may not be so pleasing. They are out of shape, fading into poor health, and are following the trend of overweight, unhealthy Americans. You are the guy or gal riding over the mountains on weekends, looking thinner and tanned, fit, happy. You are going places, they are going nowhere.

Some of them will be inspired by you toward a positive change in their lives. Some will remain indifferent. Some will resent you.

Regardless of their response, we will still be doing what we we do: Riding bikes, pushing ourselves harder, farther, longer, breathing deeply and smiling more. And, in doing that thing we do...riding a bike with passion...we may never now how we have affected the lives and hopes of others.