Monday, November 29, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things.

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things”

                                      From The Sound of Music.

I am not so sure about the raindrops and whiskers, and I have little use for copper kettles, but woolen mittens have some possibilities and brown paper packages typically bring bike parts from UPS and that is very cool.

2010 was a year full of product tests and trail time on various bits of bike components.  Over those months, there are things that stood out as something I liked enough to make it a regular part of my ‘kit’.  As well, some of the trends and technologies that came about or hit the market big in 2010 have left some favorable impressions.

So, that said, Grannygear presents his list of “A Few of My Favorite Things”, in no particular order except what comes to mind.

2x10 drivetrains:  I am no stranger to running without a big ring, but 2x10 is more than just replacing your big ring with a bash guard and heading out to the trail.  10 speeds brought an 11-36 cassette so the low and the high end were still well represented.  The SRAM XX 10 speed (arguably the best of the lot) is what I have been on this past year and the front shifting of the XX chainrings is exceptional.  I seldom miss the big ring, but I do think that there needs to be a lower geared crankset.  Unfortunately, SRAM, the leader in 2x10 stuff, kinda’ boxed themselves in by the BCD (Bolt Circle Diameter) of the new cranks and a 39/26 is as small as it allows for.  I have ridden 38/24 cranksets with 10 speed back ends on some Specialized bikes....I bet you will see commercially available cranks from SRAM in that gear range for 2011.  In any case, Unless I was building a bike for touring the world or climbing the Rockies, I would choose 2x10 on every geared bike I own.
      Wool rocks.  No wonder sheep are so happy.  This year I was able to sample some of the best clothing products made from Merino wool.  Swiftwick socks, an EWR jersey, the wool Buff headwrap, and just recently a set of wool knickers from Ibex clothing, all have made their way onto my finely chiseled body.  The new wool blends are not itchy, fit tightly and are easy to care for.  Nothing is as nice over a wide variety of temps and conditions and they do not pick up body odor.  The only downside is these fabrics do not pack down small like synthetics, but that is about the only bad thing I can think of other than initial cost.  They ain’t cheap, but they are good.

      Tubeless tires are blessed.  Yeah, I know that they can be temper mental, especially if you have a tire-rim combo that does not play well.  But the Stans’ Flows I use on two bikes are just so easy to deal with and when I add a good running tire like the Specialized 2-Bliss versions along with Stan’s goo inside...well, it is magic.  Enjoy the potential of lower PSI, thorn flats are a thing of the past, you save weight, and the bikes roll better over a rough trail.  What is not to like?  Honorable mention to the Bontrager TLR system as another shining example of doing it right.

      Classic parts.  This year I bucked the trend toward more modern freehub designs when I built up mynew SS wheels.  The White Industries hubs and ENO freewheel have been tight, right, and light enough.  Plus, they look absolutely gorgeous (NOTHING is polished anymore...really) and remind me of the Campy road stuff from years back.  They roll like crazy and fill me with satisfaction every time I look at ‘em.  Kudos to companies like WI, Phil Wood, and Paul’s for keepin’ it real and the classic hub alive.

      Steel bikes.  Man, what is it about steel that is so darn good?  I like to ride all kinds of bikes and every material has its good and bad points.  As well, there is more than just the chemical composition of the tubing that makes a bike what it is.  However, the bikes that just make me want to ride over the horizon and smile for years to come are always steel.  This year the SS Jabberwocky has been providing me with that grin.  Pretty cheap, pretty good looking, and pretty darn fun to ride.  Steel is still real. 
      Buff Headwear.  Yeah, it looks like just a head wrap thingy, but man, I love ‘em.  I can keep sweat at bay, stay warm, keep my ears protected, cover my face, wrap my neck, shade my skin, and play pirate....arrrgh, Matey...the possibilities are endless.  I would not want to go back to simple headbands again.

      WTB saddles.  If I was looking to cross the world on one saddle brand, it would be WTB and specifically, the Pure V model.  I own three of them.  It is a wide-ish, medium padding deal with a kicked up back edge that works nice for scooting back and getting those glutes into play on long climbs.  Everyone’s backside is different, so ya’ gotta’ run what makes you happy.  The Pure V was made for my butt.  I wonder how they knew?

      Singlespeeds.  One gear.  One planet.  The rest is up to you.  How can you not love that challenge?  

      The perfect hydration pack...does not exist yet, but until it does, I have been impressed by the new Camelbak Charge 450 and have been using it for every ride this last month.  It is feathery light, smartly designed, expandable, and really comfy.  Plus, the new reservoirs are well thought out and an improvement over the past versions.
      LED Lighting...has changed everything for night riding.  I built my own lights just because it sounded fun and I could do it, plus I saved some money.  Now there are lights out there that are so cheap, that I cannot build a set for what I can buy the others for.  Night riding rocks.  One little gem I use all the time are the FLEA lights from Blackburn, both the front and rear versions.  The rear blinky is bright and flashy, but the front lights are so darn useful for those rides that just need a little light to get you back to the house or car, or as a back-up to your Phaser Beam Bunny Burner 2000 lumen whiz-bang lights.  One of these Flea lights will get you off the trail at a slow pace and they charge via USB or solar.  I used two of them (one may have been enough...two was more than enough) on the h-bars to begin an endurance ride that had 30 minutes of climbing in the dark.  I did not want to haul my big lights around all day, so these were perfect.

      Elete electrolyte additive and Fluid recovery drink.  One keeps me cramp free during hard, long rides, and one keeps me able to get out of bed the next day without feeling destroyed by that hard, long ride.  Honorable mention to Carborocket, a performance drink for during the event itself.  I have not used it as often but when I have, it has been a solid performer for me  
                    KT Tape. This stuff looks like odd little bands sticky gauze and works like magic.  I only use it for long rides where I tape up my lumbar area.  It keeps me noticeably pain free, preventing the tightening up of those low back muscles.  Not for every ride, but for the right rides.

                        My wife’s oatmeal bars.  Seriously.  They are little blocks of gooey joy, provide energy that lasts and lasts and they never taste bad, even after a dozen of ‘em.  No, she will not make them for you...but the point is this - get into the kitchen and experiment with your own concoctions to use as ride food.  Power Bars are fine and all, but I eat these oat bars with Green Tea for breakfast, stuff them into jersey pockets for ride snacks, and even grab one with cold milk after dinner.  You can’t beat the cost of making your own bars and no one likes a Power Bar with tea for they?

                          So, there ya go...a few of the things I have used, abused, enjoyed, and have come to count on to make rides better.


                          uki said...

                          Would love to try some of those oatmeal bars! Could you share a recipe, or some ideas at least? Thanks!

                          grannygear said...

                          Hmmmm...I will have to do just that! Good suggestion.


                          robert said...

                          Ditto on the oatmeal bar recipe and/or ideas for the culinary challenged :-)