My favorite wheelbuilding tool

February 21st, 2015 [print] No comments

I just thought I’d pass this on for anyone who may be frustrated while trying to get spoke nipples into double-walled rims.

Instead of spending an hour trying to shake lost nipples out of the void, just use a Klein Tools Vaco K34 screw-holding driver to set them in place.  You just slide the sleeve toward the handle, hold the nipple on the tip of the driver, then slide it forward again to lock it in place.  Then insert into the rim, get a spoke on it, and release.

You can find one pretty much anywhere for less than $10.

Klein Tools Vaco K34

Klein Tools Vaco K34

Mid-Missouri Gravel

February 1st, 2015 [print] No comments

It’s almost like we’re inventing reasons to race gravel in Mid-Missouri the past few years.

In 2015, two new races/rides have been added (and I wouldn’t be surprised if more are to follow).  I’ll try to keep the list growing if/when more become available.  Until then, click the links below to find out more and get registered.


Sunday February 15: Rocheport Roubaix   **RESULTS**

Your pick of a 20mi, 30mi, 55mi, or 70mi course.  Expect mud.

Saturday/Sunday April 11 & 12: Tour of Hermann

1 or 2 day gravel grinder. 3 30mi loops Saturday & 2 50mi loops Sunday.

Sunday April 26: BoCoMo Fondo

Sponsored by Walt’s Bike Shop.  15mi, 30mi, and 80mi courses.

Saturday May 2: Cedar Cross

112 miles of gravel road and singletrack hell.  Or, a 36mi route called the Cedar Sapling, for those with less time or endurance.

Sunday May 17: The Hairy 100

A less intense race than the Cedar Cross, 95mi of mostly gravel and a little pavement.  Plenty of hills, though.

Categories: Racing Tags:

I’m back

July 14th, 2014 [print] 1 comment

After a few months of my site not working (host’s fault, but I was too lazy/busy to look into it), it seems I can post content again!  I’ll get around to that a.s.a.p.

In the mean time, here’s a photo of someone who apparently doesn’t get the "slam that stem" philosophy:

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Gold Alligators

March 9th, 2013 [print] No comments

I sold off my Avid BB7 (mtn) brakeset, so I can replace it with a more appropriate CX set-up.  Since the Shimano CX-75 calipers I have on order don’t come with discs, I got the prettiest ones I could find:

Alligator Crown Ti 160mm (front)
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Alligator Aries Ti 160mm (rear)
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I figured I’d try out a couple different models, and see which works best.  The titanium nitrite coating will actually wear off pretty quickly at the braking surface, which is good, since it’s used as a low-friction coating.  It’s the same stuff on my KMC chains.

I’m hoping to get my bike back together by the time the gravel roads dry up.

Categories: MTB Tags:

Strava for Android 3.3 Early Access

March 9th, 2013 [print] No comments

Strava Early Access” is for Android users who are willing to deal with a few rough edges in order to get their hands on functionality sooner.  We’re giving you a sneak peak at the improvements coming to Strava for Android, and are looking for your feedback to make the experience better. 

Go here to get it:

Categories: Software Tags:

Guess who’s stuck inside?

February 27th, 2013 [print] 2 comments

The mid-West got hit with 11" of snow late last week, and another 10" this week.  Since I’m not ballsy (or crazy) enough to try to ride my bike in those conditions, I’ve been making up for it by shoveling snow.  250ft of sidewalk, just to have something to do and burn some calories.

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And in the mean time, I’m still getting my dropbar 26er just how I like it.

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I plan on doing some long distance gravel training as soon as everything dries out enough, so I swapped to my trusty Carbon Cycles rigid carbon fork.  That dropped weight by a couple pounds.  I also sold my SRAM X.7 double crankset for an X.9 triple, then tossed the granny gear, and have it set as a double.  Why?  Well, because the X.7’s retarded 120mm BCD meant there were basically no aftermarket chainrings available, and I needed to move to a larger big ring to stop spinning out on descents.

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Now it’s set up with a 48T large ring which, with the 26×1.9" tires and 11T cog, gives me roughly the same top end gearing as a CX bike running 35c tires and 46×11 gearing.  But, since the tires are larger volume than most CX tires, I can run them at a lower PSI and cruise right over chunky gravel.

I admit, it’s still a bit of a weird set-up, but it’s incredibly versatile:  it’s competitive with a CX bike, but I can toss a suspension fork and 2.35" Nevegals on it, and still go anywhere.

Changes still in the works are Shimano CX-75 brake calipers, so I can lose the Travel Agent brake adapters, and Alligator rotors.  Once I sell some of my bike parts hoard, I’ll look into replacing the fork with something else to remove close to another pound. At which point, I think I’ll finally be done.

For now.

Categories: MTB Tags:

Dropbar MTB

December 10th, 2012 [print] No comments

I promised pics, so here you go:

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One thing I’ve never understood is why road and mountain bikes have different cable pull ratios for brakes.  I suppose it’s so you have to keep buying more shit.  Well, since I just bought these Avid BB7s not too long ago, I decided to keep them, and go the cheap route by using Problem Solvers Inline Travel Agents, which allow road brake levers to work with mountain bike brakes.  Yes, they’re ugly, and yes, they add a little weight.  But I wasn’t going to give Avid the satisfaction of selling me a set of Road BB7s.  Also, by keeping the current calipers, I can easily go back to using a flat bar at any time.  Honestly, though, I can’t imagine I ever will.

Brake feel is still on par with what I had before, so the Travel Agents don’t make braking feel weird, either from the main brake levers or the ‘cross levers.  In the past, I rode rim brakes with 2mm or less gap between the rim, and my brakes had very little modulation.  I loved it.  Move the index finger 2mm, and you brake gently; 3mm and you brake hard; 4mm, and you’re dead.  It was wonderful, and I’m not being sarcastic.  However, now that I’m used to brakes that have actual modulation, I quite like it and, as I said, I’m happy with the feel.

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Here’s another ugly but tolerable add-on that I have to live with.  My fork has a mechanical lock-out remote that mounted to my old MTB handlebar.  However, there’s no way to fit it to a larger diameter road bar (even on the narrow section), so I had to get creative.  I ended up using a generic mount I found on eBay, which was intended to be used as a spot to mount lights.  I cut a 1.5" piece of an old Easton carbon bar that can’t be used anymore, and mounted the remote to that.  It’s still in close reach when I need it, but I though it’d look better if I could mount it directly to the handlebar.  Oh, well… compromises must be made when you’re building weird bikes.

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Here’s another look at the remote mount, as well as my super tidy cables.

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So, what was the point in this ridiculous set-up?  Primarily comfort.

Coming from mountain bikes, it took me awhile to adapt to road drop bars.  But, once I did, I began to love the race position they put me in, especially in the drops (I spend about 99% of my time in the drops, rarely using the hoods on my road bike).  I know, most people don’t think a race position is anything near comfortable, but for me it is.  I love that forward position, staring not at nature, buildings, birds in the trees, but at the road directly ahead of me, crouched like a cheetah ready to pounce.  To me, it’s Lay-Z-Boy comfortable for hours on end.

I’d been riding my road bike almost exclusively for about a year, when I signed up for that sadistic Cedar Cross race last Spring.  Since I didn’t have a real ‘cross bike (my Scrambler probably would have worked, but the widest tires I could fit were 32c, and I didn’t know if that’d be enough on the singletrack), I took my hardtail.  As natural as it was to ride, using a flat bar was no longer comfortable on the gravel roads or Katy Trail, and using the bar-ends didn’t help much.  All I could think for the final 30 miserable miles was, "Man, too bad this bike doesn’t have drop bars; then it’d be perfect!"

So, now the day has come–my MTB has drops.  Reach and drop are identical to my main road bike, and I feel totally at home riding it for the first time in a long time.  I haven’t had much time to ride singletrack, yet, but the little bit that I have done has gone well.  For steeper descents, I can use the ‘cross levers and get my butt behind the saddle, and for climbing, I have my choice of drops when I have traction, or hoods when I don’t.  Oh, and when I hit a fire road or pavement, I can just lock the fork, stand up, and sprint, just like I do on my road bike.

I also discovered a side benefit of using a road bar:  it’s very narrow.  My old flat bar was 22", which is considered too narrow by today’s standards (and too wide by mine).  My road bar is only 16.5", which gives me anywhere from 5 to 10 inches extra space between trees or fence posts than other bars.

I can’t say this set-up is for everyone (or anyone), but it works for me.  Thankfully, SRAM’s Exact Actuation throughout their higher-end component lines helps make this sort of thing not only possible, but extremely easy to do.  If you like the feel of a cyclocross bike, but want some fork travel and fatter tires, maybe give it a second thought.

Categories: MTB, Photos Tags: ,

Winter Update

November 24th, 2012 [print] No comments

Man, I can’t believe it’s been 5 months since I’ve updated this thing.

So far, 2012 has been my highest mileage year yet, with over 6,600mi ridden so far, and a goal of 7,000mi by the end of the year.  That will totally depend on how dry it stays outside, but so far it’s looking like it might happen.

I currently have almost 8,500 miles on my cheap FM015-ISP Chinese carbon frameset, and it’s still just as much fun to ride as the day I got it.  If you’ve ever thought about buying one of these Chinese direct frames, do some research on and don’t hesitate buying one, even if it’s just for an off-season training bike.  Personally, if I could do it all over again, I’d go with the FM039, but only because it’s a little more aero than what I ride.

Back in August, I swapped some parts on my Scrambler and temporarily turned it into a track bike again, so I could go do some laps at Penrose Velodrome in St. Louis.  I can honestly say it’s the bumpiest paved surface I’ve ever ridden, and it’ll scare the hell out of you if you’re going over 25mph on the back corner.  But even so, I had a blast doing it, and plan on going back once the weather gets nice again.

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For now, I’ve set the bike back up as a singlespeed, running some 30c CX tires.  I had a lot of fun running it as a 2×10 with derailers, but since I didn’t spend as much time on it as I’d planned, I’ve decided to re-purpose some of the parts for another odd project…

That’s right, I’ve put drop bars on my 26" hardtail:

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I just started swapping parts last night, and it’s nowhere near done, so just accept this as a teaser pic; I’ll post more photos once it’s finished.

Ever since the Cedar Cross race last May, I’ve been wanting to set it up like this.  To be more specific, ever since around the 85mi mark of the race, I’ve been wishing I had drop bars on it.  After becoming so used to riding in drops all the time on my road bike, using a flat bar with bar ends just wasn’t the same, no matter how low I tried to get the bar.  All I could think about for those last 30 miles was how much I’d rather be in the drops, so it’s about time to just make the switch.  I think it’ll take me some time to become accustomed to drops on an MTB, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be as fast on singletrack with this set-up, but overall, it should be more fun to ride than it has been in the past.


Post-Ride Recovery Drink

June 30th, 2012 [print] No comments

I’ve suffered from Charley horses for years, particularly in the summer months, or after longer, more intense rides.  So, to help combat that, I bought a giant jug of Hammer HEED, and add it to my bottles.  It works!  Unfortunately, it sort of tastes like strawberry-flavored piss.

Post-ride, I like to drink about 30-50 grams of whey protein powder mixed with water.  So far, the best I’ve found is Muscle Tech, which is drinkable, but tastes like chocolate-flavored piss.

However, this week, I made a great discovery:  chocolate-flavored piss, mixed with strawberry-flavored piss, makes for the best tasting health drink I’ve ever had the fortune of choking down.  In fact, it’s so good that I feel like I’m drinking something unhealthy.

So, here’s my formula:

— 2 scoops of chocolate whey powder (pick your brand, it’s all the same shit)

— 1.5 scoops of strawberry Hammer HEED powder

— 10-12oz of cold water

Shake vigorously, or put it all in a blender.  Trust me, it’s good stuff.  So good, I actually passed up a plate of beef today just to make myself a chocolate-strawberry piss shake.

Categories: How To, Miscellaneous Tags:

1,000mi in June

June 30th, 2012 [print] No comments

Last month, I hit a new personal monthly record of 752 miles, and I was pretty satisfied with myself.  Well, except that I’d intended to do 800mi, and fell short of my goal.

So, when June hit, I decided to go for 1,000, and I’m happy to say I did it–1001.18mi to be exact.  Most of it was spent on my carbon FM015, with a smaller ride on my EighthInch Scrambler, and zero on my MTB.  That poor mountain bike spends most of its time collecting dust these days, and not trail dust–storage dust.  But, we all go through phases, and I needed to fit in miles, which is best done on the road.


Like many cyclists, I record my rides with Strava, which I only discovered back in late April of this year.  And like many Strava users, I became addicted to it after I discovered the KOM standings for ride segments.  I’ve been in a lull for some time riding around the same city for all these years, so it’s given me a bit of entertainment by challenging me to beat others’–and my own–segment times around town.  Sure, the standings are as meaningless as Reddit karma or points on Whose Line Is It Anyway, but it still gives me something to shoot for each race ride.  It also helped me get through all those miles without giving up out of sheer boredom (sidenote:  the #1 reason I hate riding centuries isn’t fatigue, but because they’re so freaking boring after about the first 60 miles).

Anyway, it’s been a tough month, but a fun one.  My drivetrain is officially worn out after 5,000mi since last May when I built my bike, and is getting louder with each ride.  New chainrings and chain are on the way (I already have a new cassette), so hopefully they’ll arrive before this stuff is too shot to be rideable.

As for July, I plan to cut back to about 500mi, use some free time to take care of things around the house, and try to chill during the hottest time of the year.  My only goal will be to complete the Strava Rapha Rising Challenge, and lose about four more pounds.

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