Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Rise of The Monkey Bike

The venerable Karate Monkey has been hanging in the rafters as a frame and BB combo ever since the SS Jabberwocky replaced it for singlespeed duty.  I was pretty sure I would never use the KM as a MTB again, although I did consider making it a HT bikepacking rig.

But it is just too useful to get rid of.  So, I had a vision of sorts the other day when I realized I wanted to go cruise the bike paths and the MTBs all were a bit ponderous and the road bike...well the road bike gets no love from me.

But, the that would be a killer bike path-street cruiser-rapid deployment errand runner bike.  So I pulled it out of the rafters and opened up the box-o-parts to see what I had to build it up.  This is going to be a dirt bag build for sure and if I can hang some classic parts on it, mo'  better.

This is the vision:

1x8, drop bars, barcon shifter, Vs, go-fast 700C commuting tires (burly but smooth rollin'...just like me).  Hah!

Taking stock, I found some 175mm 5-arm XT cranks with about a million.five miles on them.  Still good.  They did not play well with the World Class Ti BB though...too narrow.  Bummer.  I am going to use that BB on something one day.  More digging led to a Phil Wood BB, maybe a 122.5mm or wider, and that went in.  Gotta' love chainline adjustability.

I pulled the stack of chainrings off the wall.  Hmmm..still have some Biopace stuff.  That will go back onto the wall! I found a 44T ring that tucked in at the chainstay very nicely with the cranks. A 27.2mm seatpost that was a bit short for most MTB frames these days, but not the stand-over challenged KM, fit just fine.

The shifter and drivetrain will come off of my old drop bar Schwinn Paramountain frame from circa 1987-88.  It has some Shimano XT 8 speed stuff on it, Bar Cons, etc.

So what do I need still?

I need a fork. I would like to run V brakes to keep it light and ensure compatibility with the drop bar/road levers I have.  I need a used KM fork for a large 20" frame.  Or, I could get any rigid fork and run some BB7s I have sitting around...not sure about the cable pull of the road brake levers though.

A stem.  Something short with a lot of rise.

A saddle.  WTB or Specialized most likely.  I love the groove. Gotta have that for the soft under-car parts.  Or I may just borrow the SS Jabber set up when I want to ride the KM.



Oh, and a new name befitting the renewed purpose of the KM.  Gotta think about that.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Every so often I like to revisit old trails and locations that I had not seen in years.  This was the case for Saturday's ride #1.  I did not want to stuff 20 bucks worth of gas in the family truckster to get across town, so I looked into the map-in-my-head and came up with a route that I figured would get me about 4 hours of riding.

I had to be back by mid day for a potential bit of bike testing business, so I got out a bit later than I had intended, but still I was on the road by 08:00 AM.  I grabbed the SS Jabberwocky just to up the difficulty a bit.  Gears are sooo easy (sure) and besides that, I just like to ride the SS every chance I get.

The Chinese calendar has the timeline broken down into odd things (to this Westerner's reckoning) such as the 'Year of the Rat", etc.  OK, fine.  In that case, I will call 2010 the Year of the Bee.  We always get hives placed in various canyons and such in the local area from spring to early summer, but this year was intense.  Many rides were like some hideous video game where you are trying to avoid hundreds of flying targets in your path.  It did not always work out so well.

So, on the first section of dirt, it was the same scenario.  Bee city and the keepers thereof.  I gotta get me one of those suits, maybe with an 8 panel chamois in it.

Bee keepers..a blessing and a curse.  I heart honey.

A bit farther along the road I played hide and seek with a coyote.  It always amazes me how agile animals are.  He (or she) was bounding through the brush like it was nothing.  Then it hit the road and would run a bit, stop and look.  I would pant and pedal a bit closer and then the pattern would repeat.  Neat animals, unless you are a chicken or house cat.


At the top of the first 8 miles of climbing, I took a Snickers break before it melted.  I was melting too.  Kinda warm today as the June gloom seems to be giving way to July roaster.  I was also wearing the Bonty shoes I have been testing and a new pack...yes, another Osprey Manta 25.  It was bigger than I needed for the day, but the mesh panel kept it cool on my pack.  Nice pack and ready for hiking and scrambling as well.  More on that later on The Cyclist Site.

Comfy shoes and Swiftwick socks.

Osprey Manta 25 hydration pack.

It must have been 15 years or more since I was on top of this Townsend Peak.  When I was doing a couple of Ride Guide books for mountain biking, we hit every trail on the map and some that were not on ANY map.  This trail showed it taking off of the peak and heading west toward the town of Piru and the lake there.  Then we drove a truck up a good road and parked at the hitching rail circled in the pic.  The trail takes off just behind the rail and heads down and to the right towards the far right arrow, ending up at the middle arrow far below.  The lake is behind the hills here.  I could still see the trail and I remember it was a good ride, passing through cattle grazing areas and lots of wildflowers.  I also remember pushing 50% of the way back up.  We never came back and I don't think this one made the guide books either.

Like many USFS roads, this one has been falling into ruin.  At one point, there was a wash out that prevented any vehicle from getting through and now the road is brushed in and narrow.  Actually that is good for me...more fun...but bad for anyone else who might want to get a horse trailer or other vehicle in there.

Spring clings.

We drove a truck through here?

The goal achieved.

I celebrated my peak bagging by laying under a Yerba Santa, getting  my head out of the sun, and listened to the frenzied buzzing of myriad buzzy things...files, bees...dunno...but they were the insect equivalent of superbikes and sounded like Suzuki Hayabusas on the pipe.  No wonder insects have short lives.  I was much less stressed then they were and cloud watched a bit before heading out.  

One gear pedaled, one bike pushed, one peak bagged and reconnected with.  See ya' in another fifteen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Truisms, Part Three

"Never try something new before a big ride or race."

The classic for me is the time a buddy entered a race at a nearby snow ski area that held XC races there in the summer.  He was a really strong rider and regularly kicked butt on anything that went uphill, only topped by the very young and Expert/Pro level racers in our group.

He would have been an amazing SS rider, but no one was doing that then that we knew, back in the 90's.

Race day comes and he is a nervous nellie for some reason and must have felt he needed some kind of 'edge' that morning.  He borrowed a package of sports drink, mixed it up in a bottle, and began the race.  DNF.  Stomach cramps.

Maybe it was mixed too strong, or maybe it just did not agree with him bio-chemistry wise.  Dunno.  But he made that glaring error to try something new and unproven the 'Day Of' a big event.

When I try a new part or product, I always give it a spin around the local hills first before I jump into some epic ride only to find that it...well in the parlance of Texas, that is either "sticks, stinks, or stings".  Seems like most things in the Lone Star State do one or the other (or all three).

That is why I never try something new on a big ride without testing it a bit first and also why I don't ride in Texas.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tuggin' at the heart strings, Gary.

Most of the cycling world has heard by now of the hoo-hah surrounding the falling-off-the-face-of-the-planet of Gary Fisher bikes as a brand name separate from the parent owner, Trek bikes.  If you have been away, read more here.

I remember Fisher bikes most fondly from the era when the Mt Tam was still fillet brazed, circa the late 80s.  I still want one.  I have met Gary Fisher a few times, sat and had tacos with him and listened to him tell stories of the old days and talk about why he likes bikes and what the future holds for other folks like us who like bikes.

Gary, as far as I can see, is a genuine person and a cool guy.

So now we have the Gary Fisher collection by Trek.  You can speculate about what is good and bad about this 'absorption' of the GF brand, but I hope that it allows Gary to continue to be the visionary that he is at heart and we can benefit from that.

At least we will have this coming down the pike:

The Sawyer retro looking sweetness of a bike.

Dear Santa Gary/Trek - I likey.  Send me an XL please.  Even just a frameset.  I got parts.

Keep dreamin' GF.  The world needs more cool bikes and cool bike people.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolls.

It tolls for thee, Big Ring.  I while ago I penned this missive, "Double or Nothing?", on whether the trend toward 2 ringed cranks on MTBs was the deal or not.

I still think it has some limitations, but now after a couple of years on 2x9 and 6 months down the trail on 2x10, I am more sold then ever.

What brought this back to mind was a conversation I had the other day with a well known person in the MTB press that was singing the praises of his recent change to a 2-By crank (9spd rear) and how, while at first it seemed a bit over-geared, he had come to appreciate the lack of gear duplication and direct shifting response that a good 2-By set up offers.  He even went so far as to say that the new Shimano 3x10 felt like there were too many choices, too much shifting, and you always felt like you were in the wrong gear.

Today I did 3 hour ride on the Giant XTC 29er-1 that was mostly bike path and roads just to break up the normal drill of MTB rides of late.  It was so odd to think in terms of threes.  Looking down just seems odd with that big ring on there.  It was nice for the bike path, but there was nothing it did that a 2x9 set-up would not have done.  It was odd not to be able to run big-big combos, something that I tend not to do at length with the 2x10 XX, but it does it with absolutely no complaints.  Big-big on the Giant was a no-no and did not feel good at all.  Now that used to be a 'well, duh' kinda thing as in, "hey dummy, shift your bike properly", but now it seemed inconvenient to not be able to run the rear cluster in any chainring I was in.

How times change.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Truisms, Part Two

Here is one that works so well for me:  "Never change more than one thing at a time".

This applies when you are trying to sort out a bike fit issue or component set-up, etc.  As someone that tries to read the tea leaves of bike performance as a test/reviewer person, I will sometimes need to tweak things here and there to see what is causing an issue.

A typical error would be to raise your handlebar height AND change the saddle height too.  Or slide your saddle back a bit and change to an alt bar with lots of sweep.  Now your back hurts.   Which is the problem? Aaacckkk!  One thing at a time please.

How about a new front tire and a shorter stem?  Now you are finding you are washing out on corners that were not an issue before.  The tire maybe?  Or perhaps the stem has moved your weight too far back now?  See?

Keep it simple and keep it singular.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Truisms part one.

Ya know, those little sayings like "A penny saved is a penny earned"?  Those truisms like grandpa used to spout out; little bits of truth and wisdom, hard learned over generations and distilled down into as few words as possible.

I have some of those that may not be so well known, but work nicely for my purposes.  Here is one.  If something all of a sudden begins to work poorly that has been working well for ages, ask yourself "What changed?".

Example - for the past two weeks I have been working my way through some knee pain in the right knee.  That is the one I tore up in martial arts training so I am not surprised if it complains every so often.  This was a bit different.  It was hard to pin down the why and what of it.  Did I push too hard on a ride?  I do recall twice where I was working too big a gear for a quick rise in the trail and I had brief, burning pain under the kneecap...oops, time to shift down here.  I thought maybe that was it but the pain that was lingering was not in that location.  It seemed as much muscular as anything with an odd bit for referred pain to it.  Since nothing came to mind as to a cause, and riding did not seem to hurt any more than not riding, I was trying to work my way through it with the uneasy feeling in the back of my mind, that, if I could not figure out a cause here, maybe I was just wearing out and this was the first signs of diminished abilities?  That scared me a bit as I had not increased my miles or efforts lately.

I stayed off the SS but standing on the geared bike felt OK; so did sitting and spinning, but afterwards...pain and discomfort.  Then, it hit me.  I had forgotten the old adage, "What changed"?

New shoes.  Yep.  About the time this began I had done a 4 hour ride on some new shoes I am reviewing.  Could it simply be a cleat/shoe alignment thing?  How simple!  Why did I not think of that right away?  Last night I slipped into my old shoes and that was that.  Immediate improvement even though I could not feel any significant change in foot position between the two.  What a dope I am.

Truism #1 - If what's always worked before does not work any more, ask yourself what changed.

More truisms to come.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

3 speeds all you need?

SS guys have little sayings like "one gear is all you need", etc.  And, that is true depending on what compromises you are willing to make.  There is still a place for a wide gear spread just like there is a place for full suspension.  But I find the SS approach to be fun, hard, and rewarding.

So the other day on a 4-ish hour SS ride with Ed the Tall, I once again found myself thinking about how much I love the simplicity but often find myself wanting juuuust a bit more gearing.  I am a reasonably strong rider for my age, etc, but long, long climbs on the SS will get me.  Then, as this day's miles added up, the trail had a couple of places in it that were a push zone for me as they were slightly out of reach fitness and knee health wise to ride them.  As well, we had a pretty fast pavement cruise to close the loop and then I would have loved to have a taller gear.

So once again I find myself thinking about the IGH...Internally Geared Hub...but not with the intent of duplicating my fully geared bikes range, but rather extending the range of the SS bike's one gear.  If I had 1:1 and then two more gears, one taller, and one lower, then might that not be the perfect set-up?  If I was about two gears lower in 'first' gear, then had the 34/21 I have now in 'second' gear, and added to that the equivalent of 2 cogs higher in 'third' gear; that could be the killer app.  A three speed IGH, 135mm spacing, disc ready, an aluminum shell,  hidden shift cable routing, standard splined cog, 32 hole drilling, and a decent axle set-up that uses the size bolt that would be in any multi-tool....add a good couple of shifter options like a Gripshift style and maybe a thumbshift style....well, now you have something.

That does not exist.  Yet.  This is pretty close: The SRAM i Motion 3 hub.

If the weight is trimmed and it is pretty efficient in the most used gear, that being the direct gear number 2 (1:1), then this type of IGH would be something I would build up for sure.  I would take a slight weight hit, but if it was more than a pound...likely not.  If it was a half pound increase and had more of the features of a modern MTB hub instead of a utility or commuter would be a hit.  If I can do it cheap enough, I still may play with one of these iM3s soon just to see.

But they can begin selling the i MTB 3 anytime as far as I am concerned.  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Paperboy in me, I guess.

Now, I like this. It hits a soft spot in me somewhere. Cruiser style bikes with the arched TT, loss of clearance and added weight do not make any practical sense. Meh!

The F-K-R from First Flight Bikes.  All I need is the newspaper carrier and a route.  Oh yeah, less gears.  No self respecting paper boy had more than one.

29ers too mainstream for ya? Try this.