Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First night ride of the year

As the days grow shorter, a guy's mind turns to lighting up the trail to extend the riding time.  Last night was my inaugural night ride.  Lights were charged, plans were made.  Darkness is no show stopper when your carry your daylight with you.  The newest LED lighting is a cool, white, sunrise that weighs next to nothing and lasts for hours.

Everything changes at night; morphs into a dance of shadow and tunnels of light that tease with quick glimpses of trail, rock, and scattering field mice.

Ah, the poor field mice.  They have an unfortunate tendency to run out into the middle of the trail, stop, dazzled by the lights, and just stay put, perhaps putting their furry little mouse paws over their little mouse eyes hoping for the best.  "Maybe if I just hold still, they won't see me?"  Poor strategy, in my opinion, based on the results.

This pic shows the sentiments of the mouse community to night riding.  "Just Say No to Night Riding".  Hmmm...about as effective as 'War is not the answer'.

Sometimes it is.  And sometimes ya just gotta ride at night.  Mice are a lot like Doritos.  They will make more.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The annual post Interbike post

Yeah, I have been a slow blogger lately.  In fact, I have even been slacking on all the social media Facebook, Twitter, etc.  It is freeing.

But I have been working hard on article writing, email writing, video editing, and picture tweaking for and, so it is not like I have been hiding.  I am pretty caught up now.

So, that said, let us talk about I Bike.

Vegas sucks.  I think I have said that.  And to get there to all that suckage, it is a 5 hour drive across the desert for me.  I never did get around to getting the AC repaired on my family truckster, so I left at early evening with temps in the high 80s and the radio turned up.  No worries.  At 9:00 at night I rolled through Baker, CA, home of the world's tallest thermometer, and it was 100 degrees F.  Ooofh!  thanks goodness that did not last long

At the airport, I collected GT and we headed to the Strip to get to our 99 cent hotel room.  It is amazing at 11:00 at night, just how many people are walking around the Strip in Vegas.  Crazy.

The trails of Demo Days are held at Bootleg Cyn, a dedicated mtn bike area that rocks...and rocks of all sizes.  Crashing here is a really, really bad idea.  The heat this year was just killer.  Temps into the low 100s, wind, dust, wind, dust, heat, etc.  By the time you rode a few bikes, you were pretty done for the day.  Tuesday afternoon the winds really cranked up and guys were hanging onto the pop-up shelters to keep them from flying away.  Riders were actually crashing from being blown off line on the XC course.  Nice.

I really enjoyed a  few bikes this year, but my fav was the Giant Anthem X 29er.  It really will be a contender in the 4" fast trailbike world.

One of the highlights of the show was talking for quite a while with Joe Breeze.  The Joe Breeze as in Breezer bikes.  He is all over 29ers right now and had just turned the fastest time ever on a Fuji 29er FS that is five pounds heavier then his 26" hardtail.  Joe is getting pretty stoked on 29ers and his Cloud 9 Pro carbon 29er hardtail was a unique ride.  I liked it.  It is not a me-too bike.  I am expecting a test ride on an aluminum version soon.  Looking forward to that.

Overall the show for me was a lot of work.  Riding, walking, talking, filming, networking, etc.  It really is a chore to review things in that you hardly ever can just relax and ride.  You are always thinking about how this is working (or not working) and why or why not.  Only on long term tests can ya just lay back and let time leave an impression on ya.  30 minutes per ride is just a quick peek.

But, the work is balanced out by the great people you meet.  Bike people are most always cool.  Hanging with GT, the Salsa Guys, Joe Breeze....and all the guys and gals that took the time to meet and greet and talk.  It was all good and it buffers the pain and sore legs and feet.

  • Finding the best bakery in the known world (or at least on Tropicana Ave) on the way out to Demo Days.  The health nut cookies and the raspberry tarts were unreal.  Thank you, kind bakery ladies.
  • Getting back on a bike...ANY bike...after surgery recovery at Bootleg was tenuous at best, but it was still a great feeling.  Man I missed riding bikes.  Thank you, God.
  • Seeing people like Joe Breeze that, after all these years, are still unashamed bike nuts.  I hope to make that mark as well.
  • Seeing my editor and international man of mystery, Guitar Ted, again.  It is always so weird and surreal at I Bike.  We talk all the time, then see each other once a year for a couple of days, then back to a thousand miles of separation.  I sure wish we could just go for a ride some day.  Make it gravel, OK?
  • Getting a lot of bikes and equipment set up for the next year to review and talk about.  New stuff is always neat to play with.
  • Finding out that we are well thought of in the industry as fair minded, honest reviewers.  That speaks of not only skill and knowledge, but integrity and consistency.  That means a lot to me.

So now I am back to the life at home.  Back to work and family and riding bikes.  It is good to be home.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Men on a Mission and other things of national importance.

Guitar Ted is on the right, me on the left.  Pretty sure.
Well pretty soon here Guitar Ted and I will descend on LV-town like two men on a mission, not like a mission from God, but a mission to seek out the goodness of what is new in 29er stuff on display at Interbike.

I doubt we will look as cool as the two righteous dudes in the pic and my Suburban is certainly not the chariot that theirs is.  Regardless of all that, we will do our best to suffer through the few days of bike riding and walking the show, taking pics, talking bike stuff, arranging tests or product, etc.

It is fun and I would not miss it for all the tea in China (which, I take it, is quite a lot...I dunno).  But it is a lot of work.  Relaxing it ain't and it is just part of the job of keeping your finger on the pulse of the 29er world.

This season will see huge interest in Europe for big wheels.  The coverage by c_g on was pretty deluxe and the difference between last year over the pond and this year is stunning.  It seems to be mostly hardtails, as everyone tests the waters with biggy toes dipped in 29" deep pools of water. There is a lot of carbon right off the bat, something that took a while here in North America.  The Euro market seems very, very performance focused, like everything has to be weighed and engineered within a fraction of a nano-gram or it is verboten.  Interesting.  Is everyone over there a hardened (or wanna be hardened) racer?  Maybe.  Don't they just ride for fun?

I wonder if, in order to get around the lingering impressions that 29ers are slow and heavy, that they are overcompensating with euber-stiff and light bikes to get folks looking and riding?  I mean, where are the EU versions of a Vassago Jabberwocky?  I imagine they are there, somewhere, but maybe not getting the press right now.

The boon to 29er riders will be huge from this.  Already there are getting to be a lot of tires that I have only seen at EU-Bike.  Some of them will stay over there, but not all.  More bikes to put parts on means more reasons to invest in new parts and products, things that we will get to buy as well, perhaps even resulting in falling prices, but I would not hold my breath for that.

I am going to I-Bike in waaaay less than prime shape.  My fitness is OK, but my mobility and strength is nowhere near Bootleg Canyon ready.  Shame, that, but it is what it is.  I will do what I can do.  Maybe I will need to be a bit more selective in my riding or take more pics/vid than ride bikes. 

The Rockhopper SL 2011 SS frameset is going back to the mother ship as testing is wrapped up on it.  Even though I had limited time on it, Ed the Tall came in and pinch hit for me, logging multiple hours of trail time.  He had some kind words for this budget frame as he compared it to his much beloved Selma SS.  No, he is not stepping off his Selma for the Rocky, but it was not a huge loss for the $440.00 frame from Specialized.  I wanted to see if I could solve the twisty steering issues the 2010 complete bike had, and I did.  the Recon fork and my own decent quality wheelset made a huge difference in ride performance as far as coloring between the lines with confidence.  I was actually considering making this my primary SS ride to replace the Jabber, but I just have not been able to feel the love from either of the alu SS frames I have spent time on.  There are good things about them, but I just cannot get past the ride and nearly intangible quality of steel over alu.  I guess I am set in my ways.  Until Ti romances me or I give in to carbon, I doubt an alu hardtail is ever going to be my dance partner.

This showed up on the doorstep the other day.  A 140mm Reba RLT Ti 29er fork with 20mm Maxle Light.  Wow.  Surprise, surprise, surprise.  Now I am working on obtaining suitable test platforms.  A Lenz Moth is in the works, but that will take a while.  Not sure what will be up first, but I sure would not mind building up a Speshy FSR frame.

I kinda consider the 140mm Reba a long travel XC/AM fork rather than a real heavy Freeride fork.  Lots of room for forks like this Reba.  I can totally see having a bike like this in the quiver; something at 30 lbs with long legs and the hope of riding to the top of a hill.  Moab, baby.  It would be a killer bike for Burro Down. 

What is interesting to me is the continued interest in bigger duty 29ers.  MC's thoughts on the MTX-33 rim and bikes like the Lenz Lunchbox and especially the PBJ are pushing the limits of 29ers as DH bikes.  If there is a rim now, and perhaps even a tire like the WTB Dissent that will survive, the Manitou Dorado fork converted and the White Bros 150mm are pretty much the only game in town.  I am not sure if that will change at I-Bike.  I bet we will see a longer travel fork from Manitou in some way or another to compete with the Reba 140mm, but anything bigger?  Not sure.  Where is Marzocchi?  They are the AM/Freeride guys, aren't they?  We shall see, now that White Bros is re-doing their forks for 2011.  Maybe there is a surprise there.  I bet this will not hit harder till 2012, but I could be wrong.  I have been a skeptic regarding 29ers and 7+ inches of travel as a good idea.  It looks like I will be eating crow.

Speaking of skeptics, the belt drive is once again seeing improvements and refinements from Gates.  I hope this gets sorted out, even though I take issues with many of the talking points that the belt drive proponents spout, I would like to see it actually work for the masses, should they choose to use it.  Hopefully I can swing a leg over one at Demo Days.  I am not sure that this channeled belt and cog is that much of a change as there still are the issues of tension, racheting, cost, 'cog' selection and sizing, and getting a frame built around the girder like chainstay specs that Gates calls for.  I dunno.  It still sounds like a lot of trouble to just NOT have a chain.

Well, more later from the quest for knowledge, knobbies, and schwag at I-Bike.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Legs are a terrible thing to waste

Good thing I began looking like THIS!  Legs courtesy of Sean Kelly, superman.
Not pedaling is hard to do.  Of course, pedaling is hard to do also.  It is, "a predicament", as referred to by the King of Siam in the well known play.  But between the two I think NOT pedaling is harder.  It has been 2 weeks and 2 days since my surgery to enhance my fragile body with synthetic mesh panels, guaranteed to make me less bulgy and poofy around the...aaaahhh...lower middle of me, and although I am sure I will enjoy the performance bennies once it all comes together, right now it sucks.

I can't remember any time in the last 16 years where I was off a bicycle for this long.  The last time was my back surgery, and I had little choice there either.  So, in order to not turn into an SPD cleated jiggly puff by the time I saddle up again, I have been hiking and walking.  First it was walking, now hiking, actually as, around here, any hikes pretty much go UP!  I did a 5 mile hike about last Tues or so and it was OK, but tenuous for soreness.  Thurs eve I did another few miles of digital bi-pedal-ness in the dirt and that felt better.  This morning will be more a local walk, but hilly too.

It is not pedaling and it is not anything NEAR what a good singlespeed ride does for ya, but at least it is something.  At least I am moving forward and up, and every so often, I come home with dusty socks and a dirt line on my ankles.  It reminds me of the old days.  **sniff-sigh-wipe away small tear in corner of eye**

Soon I will be back and once again my legs will be as the gods...and as in the pic, Sean Kelly.  Something we have in common.  Oh, did I mention I am Irish? 

Me and can hardly tell us apart, at least from the waist down and allowing for my slimming mesh panels.  Sean ain't got a prayer in that regard.