Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Weighing in on things.

I read a post the other day written by a good friend on bike weights and how important that is or is not, depending on how you look at things.  I have struggled with this as well and debated with myself on how much bike weight really matters in the grand scheme of things.  And, after all this time, I have come to a conclusion.




Pretty decisive, eh?  Let me take them one at a time, hmmmm?

Yes:  It matters a great deal.  A heavy bike is simply more weight to accelerate, stop, turn, and flick around.  Mtn bike riding is all about all of these things repeated over and over and over and a lighter bike is better at all of them.  Physics?  Dunno.  But after riding quite a few bikes over the last few years, nearly all of them 29ers, I can only remember one time when lighter was not better and that issue only applied to a narrow section of the ride experience.  This applies especially to wheels.  Light wheels are pretty boss on a 29er.  In fact, I had an engineer for a big bike company tell me that "cheap 29ers suck" as the wheel weight gets ponderous.

No:  It is largely irrelevant.  A heavy bike will get you there with only a little bit more effort in nearly the same time and likely do it for a lot less money.  Lightness costs a lot these days...well, it always did really and that is not likely to change.  The sky is just as blue, the air just as sweet on a heavier bike, and there is no pretense or keeping up with the joneses in the gram wars.  Want a lighter bundle to get up that hill with?  Lose some weight, fatty.  What is cheaper...losing 5 pounds off the middle or losing 5 pounds off the bike?  It is the rider that makes the real difference.

Maybe:  If light means weak or fragile, that is bad.  But heavy does not mean strong either.  If you are in no hurry and there are no Strava aspirations in your plans, then a heavier bike is no biggie.  Who cares if you take a couple of minutes more to get around the trail?  But if your buddies are a pack of rippers, then you better be a beast to be a contender on a heavier bike.  I have both seen it done AND had my butt handed to me by stronger riders on a porker scooter.  If light means overextending your wallet to the point of stress about it, then be content, work on you first and let that bike do for now.  If a bike is more of a tool then pegasus to you, then the heavier bike is likely more practical.  And so on.

So between ridiculously light and unbelievably heavy lies a wide range of bikes.  I have never been one to drill holes in my crank arms (yes, I have seen that done too) and ride unpadded carbon saddles, etc.  At some point, the scale of justice tips away from good sense and the money spent to drop those last few ounces is foolishness.  Where is that tipping point?  When the bike stops being reliable, strong, practical for the purposes it is intended for, and fun to ride.

Fun, after all, is why we do this.  Sure some folks do it for a living and maybe they are not having fun at the same time, but that is such a small minority that it is not even on the radar.  Bikes are all kinds of things...practical, efficient, affordable to own, providing great exercise and contributing to our well being.  But above all other things they are fun to ride.

And I have more fun on a lighter bike, more often as not.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Just another So Cal winter weekend.

The storm blew in Friday and chilled the air enough to drop the snow level to well below 2500'.  So Sat AM we headed towards the coast to get into a warmer place and to ride a section of the Backbone Trail that I had never been on before.  It was a section of trail that Walt Disney might have made...buff, swoopy, mildly graded...it danced and dipped through the chaparral and was an absolute delight.  JeffJ and Navy Mike came out to play despite the cold.  It was 32 degrees at the gas station in the early morning and 36 degrees at the trailhead at 09:00.  Brrrr.  We warmed up fast and stripped layers, but tights were good all day.

I don't think we broke 20 miles for the day, and we failed to find the trail connector at a road crossing, instead riding some pavement to a nice viewpoint anyway.  We really did not care.  The Pacific Ocean was on our left...the snow covered mountains above to our right.  Why hurry?

That was Saturday.  Sunday was a family ride day so we headed up Warm Springs Mtn and made it about 3/4s the way up the 2000' climb before snow and rocks turned us around.  Lots of loose rocks are bad on doggies feet, especially Sophie's delicate paws.

All in all, two good rides despite bike building frustrations back at home.  Too many projects going on right now with details needing sorting.

Nature works to create art with frost as the medium...car roof top as canvas.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blackbuck as Phoenix...rising from the ashes

The OS bikes Blackbuck single speed has been my fav steel SS that I have owned or even ridden, really.  It is not the stiffest or the most expensive or the lightest, etc, but it is smooth looking (el sueno, perhaps?...muy guapo?)...anyway, those 40's coupe' bend seat stays and elegant steel tubes are stitched together in angles and dimensions that make for a lively trail bike SS.  The EBB is solid and quiet.  I liked it very much.

But it was a casualty of newer and shinier frames as testing required me to get on a couple of other bikes for the last two seasons of riding.  So I had no use for the little dear and had pilfered some parts off of it leaving it like a half-picked over carcass.  Gruppo buzzards, as it were.  On the hook it languished, ribs all exposed.

So I thought about building it up, even began spinning wrenches, actually, to be a bike path SS cruiser but I came to realize that the old Karate Monkey was better suited for that.  So the languishing continued.  I thought about getting it back on trail but it had some things that were stopping me.  The wheels I had built were super solid and rolled great, pairing the White Industries SS hubs (freewheel type...old school) with Stan's Flow rims.  That was an over 2000g set of wheels with the freewheel on there.  Ooof!  It also had a non-tapered HT so I had no fork to replace the 80mm travel Manitou Pro with.  Not that the fork sucked...it was a great fork...but I wanted to go to a 100mm fork and I wanted to get to a 15mm axle dropout for future proof-ness.

So, I needed some parts and a plan and a reason to do it at all.  Not like I need another bike to ride, you know?  Then, while I was riding the new Stumpy carbon SS on a couple of more techy, winding trails, it came to me that it might be interesting to have a slightly tweaked SS option compared to the racy but very tasty Stumpy carbon.  What if I had a slightly slacker HT angle, maybe 70 degrees static?  Then keep the back end as short as the settings allow for, not really all that short, but just under 17.5".  I would also gear it down a bit as well and run a long 180mm crank to help in low and slow sections of trail.  That would give me a bike that would give up something in overall weight, but may be juuust a bit sweeter on steeper, more demanding trails.

Then some hubs and rims showed up and they needed a place to go.  The new build will drop some weight off the hoops.  I wrangled a fork, a new handlebar and stem, oh, and some brakes too.  So now I had a plan and a reason in some new wheels to test.  Ok then..off the hook it comes and into the work stand.  Stand by.  Should be fun.