Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Burro Down.

I don't typically care for POV videos of bike rides.  I get bored or dizzy and the music usually sucks.  The stuff that Mike C does is awesome...he is an artist, but this vid really is a cut above most and it took me back to a classic of all classics in Moab, the Burro Down ride.  Technically speaking,  The Whole Enchilada refers to riding to the trailhead and THEN down the trail back to town...that is an epic day.  But in any case, whatever you call it, it is a great ride.  A couple of years ago we did the ride from Hazzard down but this begins higher in the Aspens of the La Salles at Burro Pass.  So have a look and enjoy.  Makes me want to ride Moab again.

The Whole Enchilada: Top to Bottom - Moab, Utah from Phil Shep on Vimeo.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Well, that stirred the 650B pot

Always controversial, the subject of wheel size and what is best.  My blog was picked up on MTBR and I made the mistake of commenting on it...should have just stood back and watched.

MTBR post

Some interesting comments from Walt at Waltworks on what is possible with 29" wheels and longer travel.  I have seen his, what looks like Ventana based rear FS, steel frames before.  Very creative.  And Devin Lenz has had the PBJ out there too.  So in this case the small guy works around the issues of stuffing it all in there.  I know the Lenz stuff works very well , I have no idea how the WW stuff is in FS but Walt is a pretty smart guy, so I imagine it is good too.

But.  That is a long ways from being a viable solution to the bigger bike makers woes, that of getting 29ers to make sense and behave in bigger travel designs.  His point that if a small guy can do it, then the big guys should be able to as well may be true.  I am sure that they have smart guys too and engineering resources that a garage guy can only dream of.   But the idea of bigger travel 29ers may not scale up well when it needs to work across a broad range of suspension designs and drivetrain components.  It may well be that, at the end of the day, when the prototypes are built, ridden, broken, tweaked and re ridden, that they may not be all that good, especially when you have to face the wrath of the bean counters who forecast sales numbers.   The thing it WORTH IT? 

Maybe not for any real numbers of bikes, but maybe for a small builder like Lenzsport.  Meanwhile, Walt had some thoughts on big travel 29ers.

So the thing about 650B and whether it is the solution to getting the biggest wheel reasonable underneath you on a real AM/DH bike may well be the real deal, even if it is not the biggest wheel we ride.  We shall see.

SS stands for Singletrack Singletrack

Three of us took off at 0-dark-Thirty and drove a couple hours North to a trail I had been told about for a couple of years now, but had never made it to.  The Kern River trail offers 20 miles of singletrack goodness as it follows the contours of the hillsides above the Kern River in the Kern Cyn.

Well, I finally dipped my toe in the stream of dirt and it was good.  We sampled about 15-16 miles of it as an out and back so we could plan a longer ride later in the Spring.  Wanna' do 40 miles of singletrack?  Wow.  That would be a good day.

We, myself, Navy Mike, and Tony the Tiger, all were riding singlespeeds.  I had a new scoot to break in, the Carve SS Pro, all 23.25 pounds of it.  Speedy, yes?  Yes.

When we began, it was in the mid thirties and frost was all on the grass.  After one hour of climbing, we caught up with the sunrise and things warmed up nicely.  The trail was really nice for singlespeeds, although the grades took a toll.  A bit of pushing took care of the real soft, steep sections....pushing, the other SS gear...and we moved along smartly.  Only one crash that I wish I had a pic of.  Navy Mike ended up upside down and mousetrapped by his bike like a big bear trap on his leg, keeping him nicely wedged into a rock pile.  I would have snapped a pic, but I though he was hurt since he was not moving and I ran back up the trail to recover the body.  Not dead...just laughing and needing a helping hand.  Oh good.  No place to land a helicopter on this trail for an airlift.

We ran into a group of riders about half way back to the truck, three of them on singlespeeds too.  One straggler rode up to us as we were talking, looked at me and said, "Hey, I watch your videos on You Tube!  You are Grannygear!".  Wow, that was kinda odd.  I declined an autograph or picture opportunity and rode on, living legend that I am. 

Great day despite the cold start and yeah, we will be back for more.  I may even sign an autograph next time. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

650B - Finally a reason to exist?

When I first heard about 650B, I figured that it would replace 26" wheels at some point, but I did not expect 29ers to be so quick to take over XC duties, basically making 26ers antiques as far as a hardtail or shorter travel XC/Trail applications.  That rapid acceptance killed any momentum that 650B had gained.

26ers are done...stick a fork in 'em (to paraphrase a bit...sorry RC).  But where is 650B?

650B seemed to die on the vine as an XC app, offering less than the full bennies of a 29er wheel and only slightly more than a 26" wheel, but vastly complicating things for a bike shop or manufacturer who had to stock a whole bunch of new SKUs.  Then, tire selection, fork options, etc, never happened in any real numbers.  Brands that made 650B bikes were few and Haro dropped them, leaving, what, Jamis?

So here we are in 2012 and 29ers are poised to take over the hardtail to 120mm XC/Trail bike world.  But the clamor for bigger travel 29ers has been loud, even though it may be a small group doing the yelling.  130mm and above seems to be a place where the complications of a 29" wheel and tire really start to be a bother.  Forks get tall, swingarms and wheel bases get long, front ders get in the way, wheel are heavy and a bit fragile, and a true DH ready 29er tire is heavy.  Want a 6"+ travel 29er that is ready for heavy trail use?  You have one choice in frames (Lenzsport) and hardly any forks or tires to match.

But, 650B may be the solution to all that.  If the biggest wheel that makes sense for any application is the right one, then 650B as a 'big wheel' for AM/DH may just be the niche it was looking for all along.  It could allow frame designers to fill all those needs into a reasonable package as far as keeping things tidy and manageable.  It would allow for a lighter and stronger wheel/tire combo (well, it could...when they make them) compared to a 29er, but still give a bit more of that big wheel feel to the bike.

I dunno...I bet it will happen, but it will take a major player to believe in it and forge the initial cost, then the middle players and smaller builders will follow suit,  Will 2013 be the year of the long travel, 'big wheeled' bike, even if the wheels are only somewhat bigger?

I think so.  Ready for a 150mm travel 650B bike?  I might be.  Sounds like fun.

New motto:  Ride the biggest wheel that works for you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Ya gotta' know where you came from, so I present the original singlespeed rider.  We have not come so far after all.

Darwin got it pretty wrong, but in this case....well, I wonder?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The grateful dead ride

Saturday was my 'rising up from the dead' ride after the plague visited my sinuses for a few days.  The drugs were working miracles and I was either going to enjoy a ride or die trying.  I sent out a few invites for a singlespeed only ride on a local trail that is a crown jewel of the forest.  The oak trees up there are not the typical Live Oak that stays green all year, but these trees turn color and drop their leaves in big drifts of clutter that gather in all the sweeping corners of the trail, or, at least they do that just as soon as they are done placing acorns on the rest of it.  So what you have then is a stratified layer of detritus that is deadly and lovely all at the same time.

The loudest thing in the forest was our tires rolling through the leaf piles and the occasional "brrrrraaaaapppp" of one stuck against the tire like a paper boy's bike laced with playing cards.  Well, that and our SS induced wheezing and breathing and panting.

It ended up just being Navy Mike and I as all the others were unable to come out and play.  It is great to ride with someone that is at the same level of ability and fitness as you and has nothing to prove.  We rode-pushed-rode-pushed-rode until we were close enough to the top to call it good.  And it was good.  Out of the wind, under the oaks, in the sun, on the grass.  We were unhurried on purpose.

Not dead...just rusting.  New steel and old steel.

 Singlespeed 29ers are just amazing beasts of conveyance.  I never tire of the challenge and the rewards they offer.  I never tire of the amazing creation I get to ride them on, this earth.  Flawed as it is, it is a special place.  Today was just a couple of old guys on simple bikes in a lovely place on a great trail, and we had the good sense to slow down and enjoy it.

Yeah, that could happen way more often than it does and it would be ok with me.  Label me alive and grateful, not dead yet....just resting.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Elves in the garage and keeping up with Santa

Been bike building again.  I swapped the fork on the bikepacking Lenz and my wife's 29er.  I have the new SS test bike 95% built up with some things old, some things new, some things borrowed from other bikes, and a fork that has blue stickers on it.  Perfect.

The garage has become a loosely organized bin of bikes, bike parts, tires, wheels, forks...oh my.  The box of hydration packs alone is big enough to be a small row boat.  My cup runneth over.

So what do you do?  Get a bigger cup?  That is the typical response for today.  Accumulate.  The only good thing is the next thing.  More is better. 

Hmmm...too much or not enough?
 Fah!   If it were not for the situation I am in for the time being, I would have two bikes.  A 29erSS and one bike with gears and FS.  No spare wheels.  I would be looking for deals on tire sales, not packing them into milk crates in the corner. 

My natural man tends toward complication and I need to remind myself to keep it simpler.  It helps that I can pass a lot of this stuff on to those who need stuff, stuff that I have too much stuff of.  Keeps me from being too stuffed with stuff.  And really, that is the way it is supposed to work anyway.  We should be conduits of our gifts and blessings to those around us who are in need.  None of this goes with us in the end and none of it really belongs to us, in that we did not get any of this stuff completely on our own.

One of the neat things about Christmas is the gift giving.  I know it gets beat on as crass commercialism and it does burden the lesser fortunate with the guilt of not being able to give as they would like, but it allows us a scheduled reason to give, even if that is only a little.

Giving is far underrated.  I think we need more of it.  Pure, unadulterated giving;  ourselves, our talents, our possessions, our surplus.  Christmas, where the ultimate gift of all time is recognized as hittin' town, gives us a reminder or excuse or prodding or whatever, and lets us participate in, and receive in turn, gifts and well wishes from those we know and love.

I was shopping for the wife and buying some cuddly, snuggly things to keep her warm in winter (no, no jammies with feet in them, although she would wear them if I could find them) and I realized I was truly enjoying picking them out and thinking how she would receive them, enjoy wearing them.  When I got back to the car, I called her and said, "I sure like shopping for you".  I realized I hardly ever do that.  Budgets, busyness, boredome...who knows.  Life tends to lay down the trump card and bends us down under the weight of the daily grind. 

Christmas changes that for a short time and I am grateful.  So I need to decline the bigger cup option and pour out a bit of that overflow to others.  And I really have too many tires anyway. 

I sure want to see the look on my wife's face when she opens that gift bag of 29er tires.  Man, will she be surprised. Merry Christmas, sweetie.

Check out these elves...nice bit of charity work, it seems.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Brought to you in a non-bike moment cuz there is more to life than pedaling.  There are tiny bunnies and truths to be spoken.