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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.

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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 RoadBikeReview.com 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.

 

SMSG MBT Race Rescheduled

October 30th, 2010 [print] No comments

After spending a lot of time getting my bike (and myself) tuned properly for the Show-Me State Games MTB race last July, rain hit, and the race was canceled.  I was pretty bummed about it, especially since I’d decided about a year before that I would race it this year.  In fact, it was just the night before the race that I was out on the trails, checking trail conditions, and seeing what changes were made by park officials to counter destruction due to heavy rains in the spring.  As I was 3/4 through with a lap, thunder hit, the skies went black, and I high-tailed it to my car, just in time for a massive storm to hit.

Anyway, the race was called off, and we were told we’d have to wait until July 2011.  A lot of racers were disappointed, though, and I guess there was a push to bring the race back.  I found out last Tuesday that it would be held today, but with no really prep time, and a bike that would need to basically be rebuilt after my rail-trail mods, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  Besides, who wants to race in the cold?  It would have been over 100° in July, but today it was about half that.

Oh, well.  I’ll still be waiting until next year, and by then, I’ll have a little more angst to take out on the race track.  In the mean time, I’ll get the race results posted as soon as they’re available.

Categories: Missouri, MTB Tags: , ,

Katy Trail Century

October 10th, 2010 [print] No comments

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I wanted to ride the Katy Trail in Missouri, from Jefferson City to St. Charles in a day.  At the time, it was supposed to be my second century ride, but ended up being my third, after a 60mi training ride got out of hand and turned into 100.  Anyway, I’m happy to say everything worked out, and on the 25th of September, I did the ride.

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Categories: Missouri, MTB Tags: , ,

Impromptu Century

September 13th, 2010 [print] No comments

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In planning for my Katy Trail century across Missouri, I thought it’d be a good idea to do a 60-mile ride on Sunday.  I left for my ride equipped how I plan to be for my Jefferson City-to-St. Charles ride, just to get an idea of how my stuff would feel/perform.

My original plan was to start at the smoke stacks on MU campus in Columbia, MO, and do exactly 30 miles, then return.  Somewhere along the way, though, I decided to go ahead and ride all the way to Jefferson City.  My thinking was, it’d only be a few miles more, and as long as I’m going in that direction on a beautiful day, I might as well take it the whole way.

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Categories: Missouri, MTB Tags: , , , ,

Prepping for a Century

September 7th, 2010 [print] No comments

As far as I’m concerned, my Katy Tail Century is a go.  But, being a bike weight-obsessed dipshit, my first thought was, how do I get my bike to its lightest before the ride?  Fortunately, I have years worth of experience in this sort of dipshittery, so I’m hard at work making my wife question marrying me eliminating weight from my Fisher Wahoo before the big day.

Getting my bike under 18.5lbs is actually easier than it sounds, since many of the parts currently on it were initially bought with light weight in mind.  Still I had to swap a few things…

My SR Suntour Epicon RLD fork weighs just shy of 4lbs, so I replaced it with the Carbon Cycles eXotic rigid fork I took off last fall.  That’s a savings of roughly 1.9lbs, and I don’t really need suspension for a flat trail anyway.

Next up, and even more importantly, was to get rid of rolling weight.  I swapped to a set of Kenda Klimax Lite tires which, together, weigh about the same as just one of my more aggressive tires alone (649g/pr).  I put in some Forte LunarLite tubes, as well.

Since I already run 1×9 gears, I decided to swap the Shimano XT 11-32 cassette for a Sram PG-970 11-23 9-speed road cassette, shaving off close to another quarter-pound.  The close gear ratios will also help keep my cadence steady as I spin my cranks for 7-8 hours.

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Finally, I pulled an old Easton CT2 carbon handlebar out of my parts bin.  It’s been chopped down to 20.5" and weighs 119g with end plugs, 28g less than my Titec Ti 118 bar (I told you I was being ridiculous).  I actually prefer the narrower width of the Easton bar on the long flats I’ll be riding, so it wasn’t all about taking off weight with this piece.  I normally don’t trust carbon bars for XC riding, but on the Katy, you could just about ride a bar made out of straw and not worry about overloading it.

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I didn’t have any foam grips laying around (I swapped back to rubber grips after having the foamies come loose a couple times), so I used some Easton road bar tape instead.  I’ve been wanting to try this out to see how it feels on a trail bike, so I figured this was a good excuse.

All told, the bike is now at 18.33lbs.  I have a Selle Italia Signo T1 triathlon saddle on the way ($26 on eBay–woot!), so that’ll add 30g back on, but it’ll be worth it to have the additional padding since I never have reason to stand up while pedaling on the Katy.

I’m also re-thinking my food and water situation for the trip.  I had planned on 100oz of water in my CamelBak, plus two 33oz bottles on the bike with Gatorade in them.  Since I’m passing through 22 towns along the way, I may take a 70oz bladder of water, and stick to just one bottle, refilling them along the way when needed.

Less weight means an easier bike to push for all those miles, and I see no sense in making it anymore difficult than it needs to be.  Colin Chapman would be so proud.

Planning My 2nd Century

September 1st, 2010 [print] No comments

I started biking in ’98, then waited some 12 years to ride my first century.  This time, though, I think I’m going to keep it to around 4 months.

Last time, I kept to the road, mashing my pedals all around my hilly city on a singlespeed.  My legs hurt, but all the time out of the saddle, standing during climbs, kept my butt from feeling too much pain.  This time, though, I’m swapping my SS road bike for a geared MTB, the roads for a rail-trail, and the hills for the flattest trail around.

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Sometime before the end of September (I hope, but it’s dependent upon the weather), I’m going to ride the Eastern section of Missouri’s Katy Trail, from Jefferson City in the middle of the state, to St. Charles in the East (map).  Total distance is about 104mi, according to this chart, so it’ll be my longest ride to date.  I’m figuring on about 8 hours, if I average 13mph, but that’s if my legs die on me.  If I can keep around 15mph, then that should drop to 7 hours.  It’s sort of a toss-up between more time seated–thus an unhappy ass, but less tired legs–or a faster, more tiring ride.

I have a few parts to swap on my bike first, namely lighter tires & tubes, my rigid carbon fork, and a smaller cassette (I don’t need 32T gearing), just so I have less weight to propel all that way.  Other than that, I think I’m in shape for it, so I won’t do any training ahead of time (what sort of pansy prepares for epic rides, anyway?).  I’ll be sure to take my camera along so I can return with plenty of boring photos of flat, straight trail, as well as the 22 small towns that I pass through on the way.

Tentative date:  September 25.

I’ll keep you posted.

Flickr

Categories: Missouri, MTB Tags: , , , ,

Hateful Rock

August 11th, 2010 [print] No comments

After I slammed pretty hard last week, I figured I’d take a couple weeks off from trail riding to heal.  Of course, I got bored with that idea about 4 days later, and headed back to Rock Bridge for a re-do.  Along the way, I found the rock that I faceplanted on when I flew over my bars.

It was still sitting on it’s side, same as it was when my chin came in contact with it.  I snapped a photo, then chucked it about 30ft into a lower-laying creek bed.

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The little fucker is about 5" high and 9-10" long.  Had it been on its side, I doubt I would have made contact.

Anyway, the whole point of my ride was to put together the ultimate Rock Bridge ride, flowing as much as possible, and hitting all the major trails (aside from Karst, which is too far removed from the rest).  It also has 5 climbs:  one is a long, two-stage climb that’s part of the SMSG race course, with lots of rocks and roots; two are in the High Ridge series of trails on grass; and two others are damn near impossible, just the way I like ’em.  As soon as I get a chance to put a map together, I’ll post it.  All together, it’s a little less than 13.5mi, which is doable even after a long work day, but still challenges you quite a bit.

Categories: Missouri, MTB Tags: , ,