Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Letting the genie out of the lamp?

Regarding wishes come true:

A few months ago I was thinking this:  What is Missing.  The idea being that there is nothing in the 29er FS market that hit all the buttons for an All Trail bike if you also wanted light weight.  Basically, like the old blog Ibis Mojo 29er with less travel.

Well, it has been no secret that Ibis has been working on a 29er FS even if they did do it kicking and screaming along the way (seems that they are not...or have not been...ardent big wheel fans).  Here it is.

It is, at least at first glance, just what I wanted it to be.  If the geometry is 'in there', then I just may have to begin saving up big time cuz a CF Ibis is darn expensive.  But, I could trim the quiver a bit, eh?  This could replace the Epic AND the FSR and be as light or lighter than the Epic is.  Hard to argue with that one.  But that cost is daunting.  Well, you can't have it all.  Pick two, as they say.

Time will tell, but I am stoked and I bet more than a few companies are looking at this one through  squinted eyes, wondering if they should have rubbed that magic lantern just a bit harder.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Living the Low Life..

...Or "How I am learning to love being dropped".

The area I ride in is not typically that steep or super-techy. But every so often there are times when it makes a lot of sense to get your weight back behind the saddle or taste the wrath of gravity. In the early days, we had a product called a Hite Rite. It was a simple spring that, when you were riding along and needed a lower seat position, allowed you to open the seat post clamp quick release and push the saddle down with your body weight, then close the QR again. Opening it up again allowed the spring to pop the saddle back up and off you went. I still have one of those in a box somewhere.
In case you need to be convicted about your descending.

However, as time went by and everyone got in a weight weenie state of mind, we ditched our QRs and just went to single bolt clamps.  So much for the Hite Rite.  And, I basically learned to ride steep things with the saddle up.  No biggie 99% of the time.

So fast forward about 20 years and here I am, still not dropping the saddle, although baggy shorts (when I wear them...which is not often), are an incentive to drop the saddle or get caught up in the web of crotch material and die.  But a new product has arisen in that time that really is the logical evolution of the Hite Rite, something basically referred to as a 'dropper post'.  They give you a multi position option for lowering the have a bar mounted control so you do not have to ride with one hand to enable it, and pop the saddle back up to normal whenever you are ready to go.  A bit heavy and sometimes mechanically challenged, the dropper post changed the game and no one with an all mountain or heavy duty trail bike would be caught dead without one if they had their druthers.  I basically ignored them.

So about a year ago I was sent a Specialized Command Post to try which is Specialized's version of the dropper post.  The product manager was pretty stoked about the bennies of the post and how it transforms some aspects of riding.  I was skeptical, but I mounted it on the Epic Marathon and gave it a shot.  It did not last long on there.  One, I was bummed at the thought of adding any weight on the bike.  Two, when I did drop it, I felt out of balance, like I lost some control of the bike.  Three, well, I really did not need it.

The Command Post came off and went back into the box.

A year or so later, I am chasing the rabbit of a Global Marketing wonk down a trail in Colorado on a new FSR 29er with 5.5" of travel and a dropper post on it and I have one of those 'light bulb' moments.  On that trail, littered with tight turns, root drops, etc, and with all that travel in the suspension that encouraged speed and daring, the dropper post was once again back in my mind as something worth having.

And now, as I have been on an FSR of my own over the last few months, the Specialized Blacklite dropper post has become indispensable.  Really, I would not want to ride this bike without it.

Of course it makes sense that for rough and fast trails, getting air, etc, the nature of the bike is accentuated by the ability to get the saddle down and out of the way.  The bike becomes a big BMX-er then, and you can soak up bumps with the knees and, of course, get behind the saddle and then quickly back over it again.  It encourages fun and a 'stunty', playful feel that I do not get, say, on the SS hardtail with 80mm of travel.

The high life.  Now it's up.... it's down.  Low and loving it.

But the other day I was dropping down a typical So Cal singletrack, steepish, loose, rutted, and bermed in the turns.  I did not really need to get behind the saddle...not that steep...but the dropper post allows you to get LOW.  And, I am here to tell 'ya, LOW is where it is at.  The ability to lower your body weight on the bike in turns and downhills is golden.  In fact, I think many times when we used to get behind the saddle on steep parts, what we really wanted to do was get lower, we just did not know it.  getting lower allows you to stay centered on the bike and retain better steering, where being totally committed to be behind a raised saddle takes away too much steering and braking control.

Think about this.  If you could flip a lever and turn you bike into a recumbent, where you were seated at just above the BB level, you could stay right in the middle of the wheels and never go over the bars.  So getting low allows for your body weight to be centered and low AND you can still get behind the saddle and have the option of scratching your butt on the rear tire if you need to.  I actually (despite the pic above) seldom use the full 'slammed' position, but the 'cruiser' setting is about perfect.

I predict that more and more XC Trailbikes will be spec'd with dropper posts.  If I was at 100-120mm+ of travel and I had any pretenses of rough trail use, I would find it hard to run sans a dropper post.  It really is that good.  For a pure XC race bike?  Well, no need for that on a groomed race course like the Leadville 100 dirt road race, but for something like the Breck 100?  Oh yeah.  That I can see.

I also predict that there are other old dogs like me who will begrudgingly try a dropper post and learn to love being dropped.  Who would have thunk it?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The week in review.

Clif Bar sent some new flavor samples.  Mojos are awesome with a glass of cold milk.

Some new products are getting wrung out.  The 2012 Camelbak Charge LR and the White Brothers Loop 29er fork.

The HDR on the iPhone 4 still continues to impress me.  Morning sky giving way to the day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Filters in the photo program

Well the App Store must have sweetened the pot during the last bunch of app updates and I found a new group of photo effects.  Some are pretty interesting.

This one is Film Stock.  Pretty cool.  The Spot Rocker taking break.  I was not tired at all.

Friday, August 5, 2011

No Bikepacking Allowed...sort-of.

After watching this very cool video, it brought back to me the painful reality that I have gotten in zero meaningful bikepacking trips this year, other than one early outing to try the new tarp shelter.

SO for me, this pic symbolizes the whole thing:  No bikepacking for Little Grannygear.  Sigh.

Part of it the fact that it is darn hard to get anyone committed to doing it with me.  Yeah, talk is cheap and that is all I and promises.  "That sounds like fun!  I would like to do that sometime..."  And just when is 'sometime', anyway?  Later on then this year, it would seem.

Bikepacking is a decent solitary endeavor, but it also is better with two, both for safety and sharing the experience.  In the meantime, I will keep refining my kit.  I need to get a warmer yet light bag and I think I am a good candidate for a quilt.  I am pretty sure I can do it from an inexpensive down sleeping bag re-sewn into a quilt.  I saw this on the net and it was already in the back of my mind too.  Someone beat me to it.  If I could get a good enough deal, I would just buy one all done, but criminy they are costly.  I want it to be under 2lbs and good to 30 degrees.  I have the bivy, so that takes the rating into the high twenties and that is good enough to me.

The next big thing is a better sleeping pad than the old 3/4 Thermarest I am using.  A good pad is $$ too but I appreciate more pad comfort these days as the bones grow older.  No dashboard/windshield guards as sleeping pad for this guy.  No thank you.

I still am looking for some CF pole sections about 4' long that I can cut and sleeve to rid myself of the center pole set-up on the SilShelter.  I know how I want to do it and it should work really well, but I need to get the material and CF is perfect.  I have the ti tent stakes now and the rigging worked out pretty well for the tarp.  I still need to get a piece of Tyvek for a ground cloth and that is just a matter of ordering it off of ebay, etc.  No biggie.  Then I am pretty set unless I want to cook hot meals or tea and that will mean a ti cup and UL stove.

Of course, the irony of all this is not lost on me...that being the act of buying and refining gear that I am not using.  Well, I have been ironic before, so nothing new there. The bad thing about being in So Cal is the summer is not so great.  Hot, dry, and buggy, Spring is short and really Fall is likely the best of all.  So, in some ways, I look for better climate or higher elevations to do this stuff.

Well, I will press on following that tiny dream and make it happen at some point.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An excellent night.

The forest trail begrudgingly gives way to our upward progress, pedal stroke by stroke, noses dripping sweat and forearms straining.  Single speeds and single tracks, especially at altitude, take their pound of flesh for the right of passage so we stepped onto the butcher's block and let the cleaver fall where it may.

What fell away in hunks was weakness leaving the body in the form of pain.

The pain produces a reward that is a great buffering agent.  The top, the view, the cruise.  The flow.

One good friend.  One good gear.  One good ride.

An excellent night indeed.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Week's Roll Call in pics

Last week was more of the same in the middle of a mild So Cal summer.  Mid week local loops, a road ride (gasp!) Taco Friday, and one good ride on the weekend with multiple snake/lizard options and lots o' climbing.

Yes, I do have a road bike.  An old, steel custom frame that I just recently upgraded to 8spd.  Cutting edge stuff here.

Along the road ride, this stood out as a humble marker of time's passing.  Reduced for the web here, the iPhone4 takes some surprisingly sharp pics with nice color and contrast.

Taco Friday ride, Ed the Tall actually can still ride a bike after a lot of personal challenges lately.  Riding a bike is cathartic. 

Tacos with Dean the Machine and Ed the Tall.  Everyone gets a name.

Been testing a couple of Lezyne packs lately.  Excellent organization and well worth a look if you are hydration pack shopping.

Snake number 1.  A friendly country cousin in the form of a 2.5' Gopher Snake.  We also saw two Horned Toads but they were too fast for the lens.

Got trail food?  Clif Bar rocks.  Also, been playing with the HDR camera setting on the iPhone4.  Like this pic, it can really sort out the contrasty images.

Sat's ride was a 12 mile climb to the high point of the Angeles NF Backcountry.  The views were just alright ;).

Eric the Red.  Viking, mtn biker, all around good egg.

Hard to see here (in the blue circle) was the surly relative of the Gopher Snake we passed earlier.  He...or she...slithered off to look for a fight with a smaller adversary.  How can anyone NOT know the difference between a 'good' snake and a 'bad' snake?  This bad boy looked all business.

Out on the Epic again.  Crazy good all day bike unless it is really rough out there.