Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Snakes in the Grass

And there is a lot of grass.  This has been a remarkable year in one way...the amount of poisonous snakes I have seen while out riding this Spring.  The tally so far is five.  Five rattlesnakes all in late March or the month of April.  That is crazy!  I can go an entire year and see ZERO rattlers but the average is likely one or two.  To see five is waaaay wierd.  In fact, last night while I was riding I saw a 2-3 footer stretched across the road in one canyon and a friend was riding an adjacent canyon and saw a different, but equal in size, rattler.  2 for 1 night.  I am thinking that this sign on the left should be standard issue on trails this year.

On another ride a buddy was riding in another semi-local area and one of the group stopped to set up a photo session.  He laid his bike trail-side...right on top of a coiled rattler....nearly squished him with a crank arm.  The buzzing gave his heart a good jump start.

I am not sure what to think, but I am pretty sure it is the Obama Administrations fault.  Or maybe the Teachers Unions.  Not sure, but they are in the news lately, so why not?  I am not really afraid of snakes.  I will pick up non-venomous ones on occasion and shoo gopher snakes off the trail.  I will even stop and look at rattlers, etc.  But I have to admit that I am thinking way more about where I put my foot off-trail or even when I am stopped on-trail for that matter.  Like this fella, I am getting snakes on the brain. 

I am considering a plan of action. 

One:  Stay inside.  I have never seen a snake in my house therefore I am good to go on the windtrainer.  Think of the savings in front tires that never wear out!  Being outdoors is overrated anyway.  After all, it is a big, scary world out there.  Home is sooo safe and cozy.  And there is a refrigerator.

Two:  Go roadie.  I get to avoid the grass and I have the added advantage of never having to take my hands off the handlebars to wave at other riders.   Also I will never be bitten on the nose as it is always pointed up.  Lucky roadies.

Three:  Nice accessories.  I hear that snake skin makes swell belts, etc.  Turn this into a profit thing.  When it rains, make lemonade...or something like that.  Here snakey needs some new shoes.

Four:  You bite me, I bite back.  Turn the tables on 'em and put snake back on the menu!  Grilled, BBQ, snake sushi, stewed, broiled, boiled, fried and sauteed.  It's all good.  Perhaps a new line of rattlesnake energy bars.  Lots of protein there.

Five:  Become a lawyer.  Snakes never bite one of their own.

Six:  Run this rear hub.  I figure it sounds just like a snake so they will be confused and not sure what to do.  As well, I could run a Hope hub and let the freewheel noise deafen the snake before I even get close to him.

I also have proof that snakes will crawl over to a parked car and let the air out of your tires so that they can ambush you.  They bite through the valve cap into the schraeder valve.  Another reason to use presta valves on your cars as snakes do not have thumbs.  Don't believe me?  It did not happen unless you got the pic.  Besides...why else do they call a pinch flat a 'snakebite'?  Case closed.

Know your enemy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Feeling out of place today?

Like you just don't fit in?  Is it difficult to soar like an eagle when turkeys surround you?

It could be worse. 

"Please...please...have pity. Take me out of here and away from these ugly...things."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It shouldn't outta' happen.

Imagine you are at the counter of your auto tire store purchasing new rubber for the family wagon.  The counter guy shows you a few tires to choose from and then asks you what wheel type you have on you car.  Not size...not it a TLR rim or a Stans?  Mavic UST?  Then based on that, he mentions that you may not have perfect luck with tires A or B, but should be 'OK' with tire C even though it is not suggested.  After all, he and his buddies have run that tire on your wheel type and it has been OK so far.  If it does not work out, you may, he warns, roll the tire off the rim when entering a steep driveway ramp or have issues with keeping air in it.

Right.  No one in their right mind would accept that.  Not on a car, not on a motorcycle...not on anything.  Except a bike.  Specifically a mountain bike.  But that is the crazy situation that we find ourselves in today.  There are several approaches at what makes for a tubeless rim.  UST, Stan's BST, Bonty's TLR, and others that either license one of those or have their own idea of what works.  Then the tires are a big bag of snakes as well.  Some are 'tubeless ready', some are 'tubeless rated', some are not suggested as tubeless (but are ok to use...wink...wink...we are just keeping the lawyers happy), etc. 


Today I was riding down a rutted, steep trail and enjoying the fun of that, playing by going in and out of the rut, weight back over the saddle, front brake on...when the rut closed out on me and I had to transition left across the face of the trail.  That loaded the front wheel a bit at an angle and *POP* went the weasel as the front tire blew off the rim.  Seriously?  30 psi, barely past a jogging speed and a very moderate loading of the sidewall was enough to endanger my health.  I was blessed to keep it together and ride the rim to the side of the trail, could have been otherwise.

It was a tubeless rated rim and a non-tubeless (but blessed as "OK" by the manufacturer in a personal conversation) tire.  It mounted up well enough and gave no indication of trouble till it just failed.

That should not be able to happen. 

There needs to be a standard or system or rating or SOMETHING that ensures parts play together well or do not play together at all.  And we should have the expectation that it just works and unless we do something really dumb like run silly low pressures, etc, it should not come off the rim unless we are so far along on the course to disaster, that a crash is just inevitable. 

This dance of whether the tire will seal or not, ghetto tubeless, tubeless rated vs tubeless ready (what does that mean anyway?)...this just needs to end.  And no, I am not convinced that UST is the answer either or at least so far the potential of it it has not been realized.

SO now I am back to wondering if the things I am supposedly OK to do are safe to do.  And, there is a lot at stake here.

I don't accept that from my car tires and I should not accept it from my bike tires either.

Friday, April 8, 2011

End of the Week Wrap-up

It has been a busy week and one full of wild weather swings.  Late last week it was in the mid eighties and this week it was snowing in the local mtns.  Still there were a few things that stood out:

Beware of snakes in the grass...and other places.  A new record of the most rattlesnakes spotted in a year was set in the last month.  Three so far, all in April.  Crazy.  It will be a bad year to be a field mouse.

I have been trying to keep up with bike reviews and I had the chance to toss a leg over this baby below.  Is it fun to ride a 22.5lb 29er hardtail?  Yes, yes it is.  Even with 1x10, it just flew up the hills.  And yes, that is a bamboo and carbon fiber bike, the bike equivalent of a Woody wagon.

JeffJ and I set aside a day to get out and and do a series of local moto trails that drop off of a high ridge in the National Forest.  The weird weather came in and changed that a bit, but we still got half of it done.  It was not without its difficulties, though.  I was stoked to be on this ride.  I had not ridden here for a while and one part of the planned big figure eight had not been ridden in years, having explored it when I was writing a MTB Trail Guide book with a friend.   We parked and began unloading the bikes and then I heard JJ utter a sound that never brings good tidings.  "Oh Nooo", said Jeff.  I froze and said, seemingly with some odd knowledge of impending doom, "you forgot your helmet, huh?"  Yep.  DUUUHHOOOH!  Jeff had done the classic 'I swear I had everything' move and left his brain bucket at home.  I had extra shoes with me, but no helmet.  I did that once too and I rode anyway, but this would be no trailride to be sans helmet. 

Emphasizing to JJ that there was NO WAY we could do this ride without that bit of armor,  I was pretty depressed, realizing that we did not have the time to go all the way back and then return, so we would once again miss out on a ride that got us out of our backyard a bit.  Then JJ remembered that, in a nearby house where he had been doing some work (belongs to a common cyclist friend),  there was a helmet sitting around.  Of course, there was always chance that no one would be home and we could not get in.

Off we went on our fools errand after reloading all the bikes and keeping our hopes up.  There was no one home, but we found a window unlocked.  OK, then!  JJ slid the window up and just looked at me. are suggesting I do this, eh?  Well, JJ is not a window sized guy unless it is a sliding patio door, so in I went, hoping that no po-po (or neighbors with guns, including the 'Cat Lady') were watching.  Yep, there was a helmet alright, but it looked like it belonged to a teenage girl.  Good luck, Jeff.  Out the window and back in the truck...back to our parking area with JJ adjusting the helmet to fit his decently large head.  It sat somewhat comically on top of his bean, but at least it was not a pink helmet.  Thumbs up!  We are good to go.

The climb was about an hour long and as we topped out, the wind was raging and the temps were dropping fast.  Jeff looked bundled up like an eskimo with a very petite helmet.

So, not really wanting to face the wind and storm clouds coming in, as the ride still had about 800" of elevation gain left and a long trail ride on the exposed ridge, we cut the ride short and dropped into the nearby trail.  Yeah, we could have been all manly, etc, but we were out to have fun, not be all epic and everything.  We were on some great FS bikes, JJ on the Anthem X 29er 2 and I on the FSR.  It was the second time I had taken this bike onto a trail that really was more fun on a scoot with some travel and a slacker HT angle.  Bouquet Jumps, as it is called, is a moto trail that is constructed with one big whoop after another.  They laid down interlocking concrete rails and then covered them with dirt so the motos climbing up the 1000+ foot ascent in around a mile and a half would not chew it up.  It makes for a hoot of a downhill on a bigger travel FS bike.

This was just what the doctor ordered for the FSR.  I am not really a high flyer, so I kept it close to the ground, but man you could really get in trouble on this trail with some pretty big air.

After we celebrated at the trail bottom, we brought the helmet back...once again in through the window and back out like safety minded, bike riding thieves in the night.  A post ride chicken burrito at Chronic Tacos and life was all good.