Panaracer FlatAway Review

September 24th, 2010 [print] 5 comments

Even though I have yet to put any miles on these new rolls of FlatAway liner, I feel I can still give a fair review since I’ve used the product in the past.

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I began riding very light semi-slick MTB tires with Forte LunarLite innertubes years ago–probably as early as 2000, if not before; in fact, back in those days, the tubes were branded as Performance, not Forte.  As light as the set-up was, I eventually began getting flats due to punctures.  I bought some Panaracer FlatAway, figured I’d deal with a tiny weight penalty, and see if things improved.

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Categories: Reviews Tags: , , ,

What Counts as a Century?

September 17th, 2010 [print] No comments

Photo Credit - fekimshura

I guess I hadn’t put too much thought into it before, but RoadBikeReview user Grumparoo brought up an interesting question in this thread:  What counts as a century?

If you don’t feel like clicking, he basically rode 100mi+ in a single day, but broke it up between three unrelated rides.  Typically, a century consists of one ride of 100 miles, with the occasional short break thrown in wherever you think you need it.  BUT, what counts as a break?  Obviously, there are no set rules, which makes categorizing a century that much more difficult.  So, let’s consider a few things:

Does a single ride mean you don’t return "home"?  Home, being wherever you’re staying, be it your actual home, a hotel, a bike shop where you and your group began, your parked car, etc.

What constitutes a break?  Is a 20-minute stop to pee and eat okay?  If so, how about 3 hours?  Maybe you have mechanical issues and have to wait for someone to bring you spare parts and/or tools, and it takes a couple hours before you’re back on your bike…

Does it all count so long as it happens on a single day/date?  And if that’s the case, what if you were to start after dark and ride into the next morning?

What if you did stop by home, even took 5 minutes to take a shower, ate a quick snack, and were back on the road in under 15 minutes?

Can you nap on your break?  If so, how long is too long?  I mean, what if you were to stop, nap on a park bench for 10 minutes, then finish the ride?

Does it count so long as it’s done within a 24-hour period, nothing else taken into consideration?  That seems fair, until you consider one could ride half the miles one afternoon, go home, eat, shower, sleep, then wake up the next day, go to the grocery store, stop by Home Depot, work on the deck/mow the lawn, and finish up before the exact hour they started the day before.  At that point, you’re within 24 hours, but it’s clearly two different days.

Can you ride half on a road bike, then swap to a trail bike and do half off-road?

So, if we say it has to be done in one ride, what constitutes a single ride?  How long can breaks be, and how many can you take?

If we say it counts so long as you don’t return "home", is that fair if you just stop home only to refill your water and grab a Clif Bar before you head out again?

Do we go by the "no sleeping" rule?  In other words, so long as you accomplish all 100 miles between waking and going back to sleep, is that good enough?  And if so, what if one were remain awake for 48 hours?

Or, do we go by the 24-hour rule, when that means you can break the ride up over two days?  That doesn’t really seem fair.

So far, I’ve ridden two centuries.  The first one, I left the house and didn’t return until I was finished.  The second, I locked my car and didn’t return until I was finished.  On both, I had minimal breaks, and I kept break times short, just long enough to eat a PowerBar or guzzle a sports drink.  To me, those were both classic examples of centuries, but because of infinite situations for every rider, at what point do we call it two (or more) decent rides, but definitely not a century?

One thing is for sure:  a "metric century" doesn’t count as anything but a cop-out.

Categories: Cycling, Miscellaneous Tags:

Continental Vertical Pro Review

September 15th, 2010 [print] No comments

There’s no reason to make this review any longer than it needs to be, so I’ll keep it short and to the point:

These are, by far, the worst mountain bike tires I’ve ever ridden and I hate them more than I’ve ever hated any bicycle component.  Honestly, I wish my vocabulary was better so I could go on a long diatribe about just how horrible these tires are but, like I said, let’s keep this short.

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Continental Vertical Pro 2.3"

I got these as a replacement for my favorite Kenda Kinetics Stick-E 2.35" tires a couple years back, since the Contis were supposedly intended for those days when the ground is harder and dryer (saving the Kendas for sloppy conditions).  One benefit was a weight savings of over 100 grams over the Kendas.  And when I say one benefit, I mean, literally, there was only one benefit, and that was it.  There Vertical Pros weigh in at right about 675g, each.

So, what makes them so horrible?

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Categories: Reviews Tags: , , ,

Seat vs Handlebar: Which Should Be Higher?

September 14th, 2010 [print] 2 comments

If you take a look at either of my bikes, you’ll see my handlebars are much lower than my saddles, by as much as 3-4" on my road bike.  To me, this is absolutely the most comfortable position to ride in.

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Tell a non-biker how high you like your saddle, and you’re likely to hear them scoff about how your butt is too high in the air, and how it must be uncomfortable to be leaning that far forward.  Most people haven’t ridden a bike since they were a kid, a point in time when it’s best to have your seat so low that you can put your feet on the ground when you stop.  These people, of course, have no idea what they’re talking about.

However, there are plenty of more casual riders, such as recreational types and commuters, who do know what they’re talking about, and they still prefer their handlebars as high as their saddles, if not higher.  I think both methods have their benefits, and each rider needs to determine what works best for their own body and riding style, as opposed to trying to look like Lance, when you ain’t Lance (or even close–yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. Elderly Guy whose belly is about to burst out of that too-small, highly decorated cycling jersey), or sitting bolt upright simply because you think it looks more comfortable.

With that in mind, there’s a great discussion going on over at EcoVelo, with plenty of valid points being made in the comments section.  If you’re happy with your current seating position, by all means, leave it alone.  However, if you think there’s room for improvement–either racier or more relaxed–then maybe you’ll get some ideas based on others’ input.

Link:  What’s Your Position on Position

Categories: Links, Miscellaneous 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: , , , ,

Return of the Race Face Turbine

September 11th, 2010 [print] No comments

I’ve been riding a set of Race Face Turbine cranks since 1999, and they still perform like the day I got them, along with the RF taperlock titanium bottom bracket I bought at the time.  These originals were machined in Canada, before RF decided to start out-sourcing a lot of their products to China.

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Well, after a few years absence from the market, the Turbine model is returning!  And although they still have a look similar to the older ones, they’re totally different.

The original Turbines used a classic square-taper bottom bracket, back before integrated spindles had ever been thought up.  The 2011 models, of course, are going with the integrated spindle, only you can have it made of North American-sourced titanium, or cheaper (heavier) steel.

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(image copyright Jacob Gibbons Photography)

The other obviously change is the 4-bolt chainring pattern, one less than the classic version.  They come in double-, triple-, or double+bashguard chainring combos.

I haven’t yet found where they’re made; hopefully they machine them in Canada, just like the good old days, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were out-sourced to China like everything else.  If you look around MTB forums, you find a lot of issues with RF cranks these days, with many older riders lamenting about the high quality of the older Turbines, back when quality control was better, and everything was made in-house.  If Race Face knows what’s good for them (and their customers) they’ll get back to making their own products, and stop with the low-rent Chinese vendors.

For now, though, I’m happy to see the return of the iconic Turbine brand.  Unfortunately, my classic cranks and BB are in such great shape, I have no reason to drop a few hundred dollars on the new ones.

For more on all of Race Face’s new products, check out Pinkbike.com

Categories: News 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.

Bicycle Boulevard, Columbia, MO

September 5th, 2010 [print] No comments

My hometown of Columbia, MO, has been increasingly bicycle-oriented over the last few years, thanks in part to our previous mayor, Darwin Hindman.  And though I could complain all day about their lack of attention to bike lanes filled with glass, road debris, sandy gravel, and unfriendly storm drains, at least they’ve given us the lanes to begin with.  Hell, it’s better than nothing.

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The city’s latest endeavor is what’s known as Bicycle Boulevard, which consists of Windsor St. and East Ash St., with a short connector on University Ave.  The goal of it is to piss off motorists allow easier access to the downtown area from East of College Ave., a notoriously bad road to ride a bike on, due to narrow lanes, high traffic, and high speeds.  To help bring attention to Bike Blvd., two 25’x25′ murals are being painted by artists Sandra Eccles, 63, of Canton, MO, and Tom Edwards, plus whoever wanders over to volunteer to help.

The East Ash St. mural was finished on September 5, 2010, with the Windsor mural scheduled for Sept. 11, as week later.  I stopped by and snapped some shots of the first one today, and I’ll add more to the gallery below once the entire project is finished.

You can read more about the making of the murals here:  ColumbiaMissourian.com

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Flickr Photoset

Fixie Studio & Pedal Mafia

September 4th, 2010 [print] No comments

If you’ve ever wasted time in Photoshop trying to simulate what your future bike would look like, then FixieStudio and Pedal ID will make your life a whole lot easier.

FixieStudio gives you few options to go with, but the results are far more realistic looking.  It’s also quite a bit easier to use.

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Pedal Mafia’s Pedal ID, on the other hand, gives you more frame types, and a lot more options, but you’re forced to rearrange the bike parts, in essence, building the bike as you go.  It’s also a lot less realistic looking, but you still end up with a decent idea of what your color combo will look like.

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I’m sure there are other sites out there like this, so if you know any, leave a link in the comments!

Categories: Links, Miscellaneous Tags:

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.

Katy-Trail, MO - Click for larger image

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.

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Categories: Missouri, MTB Tags: , , , ,