Saturday, November 10, 2007

This blog is moving

I've moved this blog to a new endeavor, which will expand things from just my cycling blog to cycling, skiing, and other such pursuits, as well as hopefully we'll be having some other bloggers contribute, do a bunch of video, real stories, podcasts, and more. The new site is, for the time being, at I would like to get some longer stories going on the site, and if anyone has a story they'd like to contribute, and you have photos or other media to use with it, please let me know.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Awesome Road Ride with 16% Grade Dirt Road Climb!

I planned a fairly epic (for me) road ride on Saturday. It did not disappoint. First, it was cold - 41 degrees when I left, and stayed that way through the shaded country roads for most of the ride. I made it harder on myself (not on purpose), but not putting my jacket on until halfway through. I had a windproof type jersey on and a windproof fleece-lined vest, but when it's really cold, those just don't keep you warm. Heh, I was also wearing not only a skullcap, but also my Surly wool cap. I wished I had something to close/block the major vents in my helmet though (if anyone thinks a modern helmet like the Giro Atmos makes them hot, they're crazy).

View Larger Map

RoadRide_3Nov2007-1.jpgI had plotted out my ride on Google Maps, targeting 50 miles. Late in the ride I was having some leg strain, so I took one short cut, and the ride wound up being 47 miles. The ride featured just shy of 4000' of climbing, took 3 hours and 18 minutes (ride time), and featured some interesting roads!

RoadRide_3Nov2007-2.jpgThe first 15 miles occurred on roads I'd ridden before. From there though, I turned onto Battle Creek, and shortly thereafter things got interesting. The road started out small and right off there was a cool covered bridge to ride through. I believe this was the first covered bridge I've ridden over. About a mile or two later though, the climbing began, and then, almost immediately after that the road turned to dirt! And, to make things even more interesting, the grade just kept increasing. It hit 13% right quick, and then throughout the rest of the climb, there were sections of 16%. Ya baby, mini Giro! Ok, yes, very mini, but hey, I dig this stuff.

RoadRide_3Nov2007-3.jpgSo, while I'm loving this, the road of course had to then turn into a descent. Now normally, this would be much welcomed, but two things: It was 41 degrees, and more tricky, it was a relatively steep dirt and gravel road descent. I enjoy this, but had to watch it of course, not wanting to flat. The climb had been a mile or two, and the descent was probably a solid two miles. Chilly, but pretty fun. I was surfing back and forth across the gravel central line looking for the smoothest side. Good times.

RoadRide_3Nov2007-5.jpgOh, the other tricky point... the dirt roads, with a bunch of little offshoots, didn't inspire confidence that I'd known when I'd hit Panther Creek, or how well it'd be marked. Just as I was getting a bit nervous though, ah, Panther Creek and pavement. I had mixed feelings about the pavement though. I actually love riding dirt roads on my road bike. I'd held off from them for a long while after getting my custom Calfee and riding Reynolds carbon wheels, thinking I wanted to protect them. But these days I've been riding them more (I'm also riding my Campy Eurus wheels though).

The other half of this loop, Wolf Creek, featured a pretty sweet descent. Luckily by this time I'd put on my jacket and was somewhat warmer. The temps were up to maybe 44-46 at this point, but honestly, I was still pretty chilly. Time for some food. Sucked down a Clif Mojo bar (my favorite), and headed towards Crow.

RoadRide_3Nov2007-8.jpgBy the time I arrived in Crow, my right leg was feeling a bit strained, like a cramp might be coming on. I realized it was the first time in a long time I hadn't taken Sport Legs before riding, and I didn't have any Enduralytes with me. I stopped in at the Crow County Store, as V8 was calling. After passing by the big dudes buying cases of Bud, I snagged a V8 and some peanut butter/cheese crackers. V8 has got to be the most well kept secret when it comes to mid-ride convenience store liquids.

This is also where I took my shortcut, cutting out about 2-3 miles. I was back on familiar roads. Another freezer descent, but then back into the sun. I was in the final stretches, with of course the final climb being fairly burly (gradients in the teens). Pushed through, with one stop for the nice fall color on the final climb. Arrived home, psyched, but fairly blown. Inhaled some recovery drink, oh, and ya, some more V8. I had also warmed up nicely by now.

RoadRide_3Nov2007-9.jpgNot long after it was off for burgers and Bloody Mary's. And after that, I was in that blissful, yet totally knackered, post big ride, post big food, state - an achy and great, near coma state.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Great, Cold Road Ride

Yesterday I did a great road ride, that was also very cold (which was mostly my fault). I headed out in the morning for a 40 miler. It was about 45 degrees when I left. I was dressed reasonably, except when doing long descents at 35-40mph! I had mapped out a route using Google Maps, but one roughly 4 mile chunk of my ride turned out to be a non-existant road! I should have used the Hybrid view in Google Maps to determine if the roads existed as looking at that I'm sure I would have second guessed it (the road does not show connecting, etc.). It didn't matter though, as the road I was on that I thought it forked off, continued to the same eventual point anyway. But, this particular road, is a 4 mile descent, and a good one at that, with sustained speeds of 35mph+ (I think I hit in the low 40mph's during the descent and I wasn't pedaling much, because I was freezing).

I say the cold was my fault, because I didn't take a jacket. Dumb, but I thought I was set sufficiently, based on the ride I'd done the day before that was just about as cold, and where I was dressed a bit too warm. Yet this ride, I was wearing fleece-lined tights (day before had just knee warmers), Pearli Amfib shoe covers (day before none), and then a wind proof and fleece-lined vest (no vest day before). But, that long descent just froze me to the core. The temps were a bit lower than the day before, but still. It took me a good 20+ minutes to get relatively warm again, and for the rest of the ride I relished the climbs. But, it was an overall great riding day, and the ache the cold and decent mileage (for me) put in to my legs felt great. It has motivated me to do a 50 miler tomorrow (Saturday). I've made sure to check the roads with the Hybrid view in Google maps this time. Still some potential for bad, but these roads look more "major" (as far as country roads go :) Oh, and they aren't called "Foot Path", which I think was truly a foot path, and not a road.

With the slight route deviation, the ride wound up being 38.3 miles, 3550' of climbing, and took about 2 hours 38 minutes. The most interesting bit from my cyclometer had to be the max percent grade that occurred during the ride: 18%! Wowzers. I know there are some steep sections along the way, but I think that is bogus. I've climbed up Blanton the steep way, and that seems to max out at about 16-17%, and I don't recall anything on yesterday's ride being as steep, but who knows. It's not exact either of course.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Retirement Tour Off to a Great Start

Matt and I have been having a great time during the first two days of our riding adventure. I flew into Phoenix yesterday, and we headed out to ride the old Cactus Cup course. This is a short loop, only about an hour, but mildly technical, and fun. Of course it was pretty damn hot, but that's par for the course in Phoenix. We'd met up with Fletcher, a friend of Matt's, who was in full racer mode during the ride (we saw him for about the first 15 minutes). After that, headed back to Fletcher's house for lunch, showers, then we jumped back in the Sportsmobile and headed to Flagstaff.

In Flag we returned the Niner RIP 9 I had rented, and I requested a refund on my 2nd day rental fee (Matt picked up the bike two days prior), as they were idiots and put what was likely an 18" flat handlebar on the bike. Seriously, no, really, I mean, I felt like I was riding with my hands on each side of the stem. Oh, also, they'd thought to replace the shift cables the day before, but negelected to stretch the cables, and so I had to re-adjust the rear derailleur. It doesn't end there... about half the threads in the pedal hole of the cranks arms were stripped/gone, and I actually had one of my pedals unscrew on the trail. Nice job guys, way to ensure your demo rider has a good experience on the bike!

Grand Canyon
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey

Anyway, grabbed a quick espresso and sandwich and hauled ass for the Grand Canyon.

Unfortunately we arrived after dark at the GC. But, thankfully I had my tripod and DSLR, and managed to get some shots that make it look like we were there during the day! Pretty amazing place - I'd never been before, need to go back.

Camp outside Moab
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey

After that we drove late into the night to 30 miles outside Moab, and found a clearing a ways off the road to spend the night. Nice and quiet and dark, perfect. Asleep before 2am Utah time (lost an hour). Up the next morning to a nice sunrise, got the espresso/moka flowin', and headed into Moab.

Click the photo to play the video

In Moab we hooked up with Michael and Sylvi, and four other friend's of Matt's, and rode Sovereign trail. Absolutely great trail. About a 2hr ride, on prime Moab terrain - very rocky/slickrock, sandy, technical stuff. I rode my rigid Niner, which was brutal at times, but actually quite nice at others (really nice for rolling up and over ledges). We had the helmet cam in full effect. Should have video avail, once we get a chance to edit down the couple hours we have. Matt wore the camera to chase Nicole (former pro DH racer) down, which was sweet (this woman can fly!). I am renting a full suspension bike for tomorrow, as we're doing a mega downhill shuttle (as long as it doesn't snow at the top).

Finally, back into town, had some food, hung out, then a great dinner with Michael and Sylvi at Buck's. Massive double pork chop, wine, stories. Now, back in the Sportsmobile, calling it a night soon, early shuttle ride tomorrow morning.

For all the pictures, check my Retirement Tour tag on Flickr.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Yesterday's Road Ride

I went out on the road yesterday. As I was getting ready, it was pouring, no dumping, no, I started looking for scuba gear! I almost bagged it, but then the rain let up a bit, and I was really eager to ride. I had the waterproof tights on, booties, jacket, rain gloves, hat, etc. I also had a new set of Specialized All Conditions Armadillo Elite tires (my review here).

I rolled out in the rain, and plunged down the descent from my house to the first climb. Up and over that (it's steep, but short), and out into the Lorane valley. The first 20 minutes or so are on Lorane Hwy with heavy trees, almost tree-tunnel type setup. It was wet. But upon popping out of the tree tunnel area, and passing the Grange... what was this? It was dry, and partly cloudy! I hammered on.

About 15 minutes later, it'd gotten darn near hot (at least when you're wearing all the rain gear), and I stopped by the side of the road to shed. Off came the booties and jacket, stuffed into my rear jersey pockets. Onward, but then was really getting warm (well, relatively, was probably in the low 60's). Stopped again and shed the rain gloves. Riding at this point felt like I had a big messenger bag on - my jersey pockets were totally stuffed with rain gear (plus the food, pump, etc. I had in there already). Now for the series of climbs.

The climbs are quite nice back in this area. There are wineries, and just the most beautiful trees at this time of year. Red, orange, yellow leaved maples line the road, making for a beautiful ride. I continued through the countryside, and wound my way back home. As I got back to the tree tunnel area, it was a little wetter, but fine.

Now then, up the steep climb to my house, where obviously it started to rain again :) The rain was light though, and I didn't need to put any gear back on. This was a great ride. Oh, and the tires worked really well, amazingly well in fact - killer in the corners, and I've never seen a road tire spray up so little water in the rain, a definite bonus!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Specialized All Conditions Armadillo Elite road tires

The rainy season appears to have begun here in Eugene, OR. My road bike is now setup for it, with the final change being to mount up some Specialized All Conditions Armadillo Elite 700x23 tires. Last year I ran Conti GP 4 Seasons, and prior to that nothing special in terms of a winter tires.

Right off the bat, you can tell these things are grippy, but still seem to roll pretty well. Not as fast as my regular Vredesteins, but good (and I think better than the Contis). Today's ride started out in some pretty heavy rain, and of course with the usual fast long descent from my house down to the first climb. The tires worked great on the descent, and I was immediately noticing how little water they threw off, or rather, threw off at me. Very nice!

Next up, the rest of the ride... What was particularly nice about today's ride was the complete spectrum of weather (absent snow, I guess if you want to be a stickler). I rode for a ways in the rain and then about 30 minutes in, the sun was shining and the roads were totally dry! This gave me a chance to try these tires out under "normal" conditions. Worked well - same as mentioned, slower than the Vreds, but faster tha the Contis, and good all around.

Not much later, I was stripping off my booties, jacket, and gloves, it was getting warm! I also got a chance to do some more significant cornering on descents, and these tires caught my attention - they railed!

Finally, on the final about 20 mins home, it was raining again. Good little descent, and again, great in the corners. Then the burly climb. All in all, very happy wit the new setup.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Crossmax 29er Wheels and Tubeless Setup

Niner Crossmax Update
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
I received my C29ssmax (Crossmax 29er) wheels yesterday, and got them mounted up today. They are sweet! First, I'm stunned by how easily I was able to mount up non-UST tires tubeless. I used some used Panaracer Rampages with Stans. When I first mounted them, I was worried because they fit really loosely. But, amazingly, I was able to inflate them first shot, with a floor pump! This doesn't even work half the time with UST tires (at least in my experience). Very nice.

The wheels ride great. They feel a smidge lighter than my WTB Laserdisc Lites (they should, they're a 1/2 pound lighter, but I haven't weighed the bike to see what the overall weight difference is, given the other factor of tubeless vs. yes-tubes).

Crossmax disc bolts
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
Another interesting bit is that my front 7" disc is now perfectly quiet, whereas before I was getting some rub and squeek, even after several remounting/adjustments. Check out the picture of the disc bolts though - they just go straight through the mount. Wild.

Very happy to have these wheels, and I can't wait to get into some terrain that really showcases the tubeless advantage. Need to go ride MRT again or something.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bike parts, clothes, frames, etc. for sale

Recently got a bunch of photos and descriptions of random bike stuff I have for sale. Just a bunch of random stuff, but check it out.

Monday, September 24, 2007

6.5" Travel Niner On the Way

It's super exciting to see Niner getting close on their 6.5" travel freeride 29er! While I don't see picking one of these up myself very soon, I could in fact see ditching my DH bike, and using this instead. MOre versatile, pedalable, etc. I could use this at placed like Black Rock, Tahoe/Northstar, Whistler, etc. And, for what I'm after these days, it'd be sweet. I'm not as into doing the big drops (well, what were big for me, at the over 6 foot range, but below 10').

This bike has some really well thought out bits: dishless rear wheel, use of Maxle oversize axle and QR in on rear wheel, very short chainstays, etc. Go check it out, this is going to be a superb ride.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

McKenzie River Trail

Saturday was my first ride on the famous McKenzie River Trail (MRT). BIKE magazine named the MRT one of the 10 best trails in their December 2004 issue, and I was excited to see why.

I heard about the ride on the DoD mailing list, and joined up. The DoDers have been good at showing me trails, and this was a great opportunity, especially since riding the MRT involves a shuttle. Nine of us met in Springfield to carpool: Candy and Steve, Laurie and Bianca (her dog :), Lee, Mike, Tim, Chris, Chris, and Chris (me).
Tim rode with me, on the 45 mile drive out to the bottom of the MRT, where we dropped one car. From there, the remaining cars drove another 20 miles up Hwy 126 to the top of the MRT.

We all saddled up, and headed out on the trail, primarily guided by Steve and Laurie (although I believe at least a few others had done the trail, and some had done parts).

About 10 feet into the trail, the stunning scenery starts. Right off we cross a bridge with a beautiful river and the beautiful color of the turning trees surrounding it. We jumped into the singletrack, and a short bit after, we're riding above a lake, again with just amazing scenery. We were barely even getting warmed up, and I was already wanting to stop every couple minutes to take pictures! This vibe was brought down a bit shortly thereafter when Mike broke his chain, for what would be the first of four times (yes, you read that right). Luckily he quickly fixed it, and we were off again.

Continuing on, was more stellar singeltrack - really fun stuff, great flow, super fun. A brief break next at Sahalie Falls, which is a really cool waterfall. It was hard to get a great photo of it, but was quite nice to see.

Bring On the Lava

The top half of MRT is known for it's lava sections of trail. This is a really killer, technical section of trail. Hands down this was my favorite length of trail. It's not as hard as somewhere like Grouse Ridge, but there are definitely a few tricky sections. I was able to ride everything, except I believe two or so tiny "climbs" (more like quick upturns in the trail). The lava took its toll on tubes though! We had several flats in the group during this section, and also found two people had tubes with tears at the valve stem of their spares. We wound up scrunching one of my 29er tubes into Tim's rear wheel.

I can't wait to get back to the MRT to ride the lava section again. While technical, everything still had a great flow to it, and you could really get after it. I was rocking this on my full rigid Niner, and just loving it! In my past cycling life, I would have thought I was nuts to ride a rigid, but the Niner particularly ripped it up through here. I survived without flatting, and couldn't wait for the rest of the trail.

Lunch at Blue Pool

Backing up a minute (got carried away thinking about such a great section)... A ways into the lava, we stopped at Blue Pool to eat. I sucked down a PB&J, while we waited for Mike who had stopped just a bit up the trail with a flat. I talked to Laurie while we hung out, and watched Bianca take after her (wink wink, Laurie). Mike had still not shown, so Lee walked back up to find him. This is when we found out his spare tube, had a rip at the valve stem, and then his pump broke! Dude was not having a good day, mechanically.

After the lava section, the trail turns more buff, and gets going faster. I was following Laurie for most of it. Laurie was spun out on her 29er single speed, with Bianca trailing close behind (man can that dog run!). We were pushing it nicely, and it's darn good I had someone in front of me to show the trail. We both could have gone faster (if Laurie had gears, and if I was being smart and knew the trail), but it was perfect as is. Somewhere along the way I think Mike broke his chain one or two more times. We were probably two-thirds of the way at this point.

The rest of the trail is pretty consistently super sweet, twisty, fast, flowing, fairly buff singletrack through the trees. We stopped occasionally to fuel up, and then got to a point where Mike broke his chain for the final time. He was about out of chain, and it was getting late. We had to send Mike out to the highway at this point. It was a bummer for him, but a good call.

Laurie and Bianca
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
Through the last sections of trail, it was gorgeous... The sun was getting lower in the sky, and the cool fall air had crept in. It cooled things down enough to rev up the goose bumps both from the cool air, and the great trail. This is the kind of ride that you really don't want to end. Ok, maybe stop for some monster burritos, then keep going.

After 5.5 hours on trail (although only about 2.5-3 ride time) we arrived back at the remaining car at the end of the trail. A really great ride, good company, and stunning scenery. The route (GPS data/info) was 25.5 miles, with about 1070' climbing, and 2700' descending. The drivers piled into Lauri's mobile, and retrieved the cars at the top. We all then hauled ass home, I'm guessing most of us thinking about what we'd ride next, or when we'd get to ride MRT again...

Full set of photos available here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Gear Testing Ride

Did a quick ride at Ridgeline this evening, mainly to test some things before tomorrow's big McKenzie River Trail ride. I was testing a few things:

  • New 7" rotor up front

  • Camelbak's energy drink pills

  • New Specialized BG Comp shoes

  • New Canon Powershot G9 camera

  • New Novara/REI gloves

I had to stop twice to reposition the caliper on the disc brake, but by the second time it was dialed: no rub, no sounds when braking, etc. And, yes, more power, nice.

The Camelbak drink pills were interesting. Very light flavor, which is nice, and the flavor was pretty decent, not ideal, but pretty close. I'm thinking I'll go with my tried and true Powerbar stuff for tomorrow, but then continue to try the Camelbak stuff (which will ba damn convenient for travel).

The gloves worked well, and were a nice deal at $19 on sale. I will ride these tomorrow for sure, while I wait for Troy Lee to send me a new pair of SE gloves (story on that in a future blog post).

The shoes... Well, I'm a serious fan of Specialized shoes, and had simply worn out my last pair. These new ones were dialed pretty quick. They do need some breaking in, although oddly, the left shoe felt great, and only the right shoe had some slightly less comfy points. I actually "downgraded" this time around, not going with the most high end shoe, mainly for reason of cost, and not feeling I needed the carbon soles. So, I went with the BG Comps.

Finally, the camera. I bought this camera for the sole purpose of being able to take lots of pics on rides. Carrying around my Canon Rebel XTi DSLR was just way too much. I also wanted something that was quicker to get going on the trail. The G9 is killer, because it's basically most of the features of the DSLR packed into this tiny unit. IT's not as small and light as many folks' point and shoot's, but it's got way more features, such as adjustable ISO, all the normal Canon shooting modes (P, TV, and AV being the key modes), hot shoe, and it shoots video, etc. It has some other really slick features. And, best of all, or well, a great thing, is that it shoots RAW (or JPEG of course).

This little camera kicks ass. I have it in a neoprene type pouch secured to my Camelbak strap. So, I don't have to take off my Camelbak, and can get to the camera really quickly. The particular pouch seems extremely secure (it's a very tight fit on my camera, a bit tighter than I'd like, but even if the flap opened up, the camera wouldn't come out, and it's got a super secure attachment to the Camelbak strap). The camera takes excellent pictures, and I'm just ramping up on full use of it, and all the features. This will just be great to have.

Can't wait for tomorrow's big ride...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Retirement Tour 2007

Matt and I have finally settled on some dates for what I've nicknamed the "Retirement Tour 2007" (in hopes that there will be more in the future). Matt sold all his houses (yes, multiple), and picked up a small place in Silverton, CO, and a Sportsmobile (SMB) and is now traveling around, doing a lot of riding, traveling, and this winter, chasing powder. He's Living The Life. Since I recently quit my job, and am only now working part time, I'm temporarily, and partly retired. So, I'm joining Matt for about a week to do some good riding. Matt will start off in Silverton in the SMB, visit some family, and then we'll meet up in Flagstaff. We'll do some riding around there, Sedona, etc., then likely head up to Moab for a day, then to Fruita and Grand Junction for more riding, where I'll finally fly back from Junction. Here's a map of Matt's SMB route.

I have chosen to bring my Niner full rigid on the trip, but will be renting a Niner Rip 9 for my time in Arizona, thanks to Absolute Bikes in Flagstaff. I plan to get a full suspension 29er next spring, and it's down to the Rip 9 or Specialized's new Stumpjumper 29er. This will be a great way to get in some serious test riding on the Rip 9. I'm waiting to find out about any full suspension 29ers that Over the Edge Sports has in Fruita. If they have something, then I may rent there as well.

The flights for me, flying from/to Eugene airport, are pretty crappy (i.e. the only flight out of Eugene to Flagstaff on the 13th, departs at 5:40am!), but it's a small price to pay for should be a great trip. During the trip, we'll "live" in the SMB, as we did at Mountain Bike Oregon. This should give us great flexibility in where we want to go on any given day, and we don't have to worry about hotel reservations, etc. We are also thinking we'll take a short side trip to the Grand Canyon, since essentially neither of us have been (Matt was there when we was too young to remember it), and we'll be right in the neighborhood.

While my family is a bit bummed that I'll be gone for six days (especially since I'll have only been home for two after the business trip I have right before this, and then we leave for Hawaii a day after I get back :), it's really something I need to do at this point. I would even like to turn such trips and experiences into more than just something I enjoy, and have been scheming about how I might actually turn this into part of what I do for a living. I give it a pretty outside chance right now (especially since I've been used to the nicer lifestyle afforded by being a software developer), but who knows - passion can take you far!

Also, if you have favorite trails to recommend for Flagstaff in particular, as well as any of the other places I've mentioned, please do tell. I can't wait to ride in some of the new places, as well as revisit places I've ridden, but not for at least a couple years. I will be blogging the trip every day once it's underway.

New Road Compact Cranks and Wheelset

My road bike has gotten some changes recently. The primary change was to put compact cranks on, and in doing so, finally rid myself of the Dura Ace cranks, and get some carbons/Campys. Dura Ace cranks are some of the finest on the planet, but on an all Campy bike, and a dark colored bike, etc. etc., I wanted them off.

I also am currently riding a new set of Campagnolo Eurus clincher wheels. This is mildly embarrassing, but I bought these as my "winter wheels" :) I decided I wanted a set of non-carbon wheels for "harsher" winters here in Eugene. I rode my carbon wheels in the winter in Rocklin, in plenty of rain, so I doubt it was necessary, but from what I hear here, there is obviously much more rain/wet, and then also a fair bit of road grit and gunk, and occasional snow and ice (definitely will be ice on the hills around my house). Also, I just sent one of my Reynold's clinchers in to be rebuilt, and I'm in the middle of removing the glue on one of my tubulars, so couldn't ride a complete wheelset (a pathetic reason to buy new wheels, but, hey, any reason will do!) Whatever.

So I now have two rides on the new setup. More importantly, pictures are posted. As for the result...

First, the cranks are phenomenal, I wish I'd gone compact sooner. I push the pace on the steeper hills now, and I can sit in the big ring more of the time. A great setup. The Campy compact cranks use a 34/50 chainring setup (as opposed to some who use 36/50). I'm using an 11-25 cogset with that, so I have a real nice range (and greater range on both ends as compared to my previous setup of 39/53 + 12-25). Along with this came a new Record compact front deraileur, chain, and cogset (as said).

One thing I'll note, Campy chain setup is nice. They include this special little pin that goes in before the regular link pin. It does a few things: holds the chain together while you're working on it, gets things aligned properly, and then it has a pin that sticks out the back that you put the real link pin onto ensuring that that real pin goes in a certain way (as it can only go in one direction). Was the easiest chain install I've done in a while (in this new world of wacky chain link pins).

The wheels. Well, they're stiff, and they look cool, and they sure as hell seem to roll fast, but wow, they certainly reinforce my feeling that carbon wheels are the shit. The Eurus are a lot rougher riding - they just can't absorb like the carbon Reynolds. I also need to swap out my special carbon pads (I thought they'd said they worked on alu too, but they don't seem to work that well). These will be my "winter wheels", which I know, is kind of embarassing (to have such a nice "winter" wheelset), but hey, what can I say. I don't feel they are any stiffer than my Reynolds deep sections, hell, I don't even know if they're as stiff (the rims almost for sure are not, but the spokes in the Eurus are significantly beefier than the Sapim CXRay's in the Reynolds). I thought they weighed more than my Stratus DV's, and they sure feel like it, but according to printed weights, they're only a few grams heavier (both are 1500-1550, or so depending on where you read the weight :) In reality, the wheels are pretty great as far as I can tell, but I do love my carbons, and will be glad when my Reynolds wheel comes back (sent it in for a rebuild), or when I ride my tubies instead.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Camelbak Transalp vs. Blowfish

I've been using a Camelbak Transalp pack for rides for several years now. Until the somewhat recent explosion of pack choices from Camelbak, it was their largest pack. Recently however, I've been wanting something lighter and smaller. Enter the latest Blowfish.

Some of you might be questioning whether "lighter and smaller" go with the Blowfish, since, as Camelbak cycling packs go, it's currently the second largest (or largest depending on how you calculate) pack. Camelbak no longer makes the Transalp, and the HAWG is their largest cycling specific pack (when compared to the Blowfish not expanded, but also as compared in a more visual or general sense).

The Blowfish has over 700 cubic inches of storage space by default, and expands to 1000. The HAWG has 801. There is actually another pack, the Havoc, which holds 794, but wasn't what I was after. The Transalp I believe will hold well over 1000 cubic inches of gear, I'd guess it's around 1200-1500.

Anyway, numbers aside, the Blowfish is very streamlined. It has no extra straps, flaps, partial pockets or other such things on the outside as compared to the HAWG and most other packs. While it can hold a fair bit, especially as compared to smaller packs like the Mule, it feels minimal and efficient. I felt I wanted to comfortably be able to carry tools, tubes, jacket, energy bars/gels, and of course the 100oz bladder. I only looked at packs that can hold 100oz reservoirs, as I frequently need to carry that much water (or more).

I've now used the pack a few times, so how does it compare to my trusty Transalp? First, check the picture for a visual difference. Check. Now, I should note, this pack definitely feels smaller and lighter, but really only once you have drained the 100oz down to probably 60 or less. When it's fully, it feels just as big, heavy, and less stable than the Transalp. The Transalp is wide, so it tends to stabilize heavy loads very well.

Getting down to it... I expect to use this pack on many of my rides, but likely when it comes to the bigger rides, or in winter when I need to carry more gear, I may likely reach for the Transalp. As big and bulky as the Transalp can seem, when it's on your back, it really carries very well, especially when heavily loaded. In the name of efficiency, here's my pseudo-list of pros/cons:

  • Blowfish has sleek, non-hiker geek/non-Macgyver look and feel. I could even wear this on my road bike for mega-epic road rides where I can't get water somewhere along the way.

  • Good organization: I really like the very slim front/outer pocket, which is ideal for stashing a half dozen gels, or some gels and a bar or two. I also say a big thanks for putting in what I call the car key leash in the second/tool pocket. The Transalp is missing this, and it's a simple, but very effective addition.

  • For me, at 6'2" the shoulder straps are way too short. In order to ensure the weight is carried low on my back, I have the straps almost completely extended, which means there's not much coming around in terms of the padded straps, and the sternum strap I have all the way at the bottom, yet it is too high on my chest.

  • The Blowfish, when fully loaded is a bit unwieldy and sways side to side on your back, at least compared to the Transalp. If you plan to regularly carry 700+ inches of gear, and a full water bladder, I'd suggest looking to another pack. The HAWG seems wider, and may work better, or one of Camelbak's multi-purpose packs like the Alpine or something might be better.

  • I was able to carry multi-tool, tube, two other small tools, 4 gels, 3 bars, water filter, extra jersey, extra gloves, cell phone, GPS, and small first aid kid in the pack without expanding it. This was maxed out without expansion, and was pushing it to not expand it. But, it means that if I'd needed, I could have added a big water bottle, jacket, more food, and so on with the pack expanded.

  • Good price. I think I paid $70 for this pack, which included the 100oz Omega reservoir. A HAWG in comparison was $100.

  • The one thing I'd have liked to have seen, but would have likely made it a bit bulky, is the built in rain cover. The Transalp has this (see that little zipper on the bottom of the pack), and it's just an awesome addition when you need it.

Anyway, so, upshot... If you don't regularly need to carry a lot of gear, but want to have the ability to on occasion, or if you only want one pack, and you want something very sleek and streamlined, etc., this is a good choice. Otherwise, you might want to go with a HAWG (or if you only do roughly two hour rides, and in pleasant weather, etc., you can likely use some other pack), or if you really need to haul some serious gear, check out an Alpine, or the Octane 14+ which actually looks like a really sweet pack. The Octane 14+ is likely what I'll replace my Transalp with when that time comes.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Waldo Lake Inaugural Ride

Today was my first experience riding the Waldo Lake trail. What an experience it was! This has to be one of the most beautiful trails, scenery wise, I've ever been on. It is also a superb ride. 22 miles of rolling singletrack through the forest, as you parallel the lake's edge.

I began by driving out to Oakridge, where I hit the Willamette Mercantile bike shop to pick up a forest parking pass, as well as the USFS map, which has a lot more detail than the Tread map. McKenzie was there, and gave me some good tips on the ride. He and another guy suggested starting at Shadow Bay, instead of the North Camp, which I'd planned to. This was a much better choice, as it was a fair bit less driving.

Upon arriving at the Shadow Bay boat launch parking area, it was a rather chilly 43 degrees! I quickly suited up, and went looking for the trailhead. It was actually right across from the parking lot, but then that teed into another trail. A bit of map and compass work and I figured out the particular point, and headed out, looking for the next important trail junction which was the key to getting started properly for a counter-clockwise ride.

Once on the trail, it was a joy. Buff, yet frequently rooted singletrack, all rolling. I don't think I did a climb all day that was more than probably a 50' elevation gain. In the 22 miles of riding, it was a mere 1670' of ascent. I turned the gas on, to get warm, and to keep the pace high, as I knew I was pretty time limited today.

I made it up to the North Camp in 45 minutes, at which point it was another bout of exploration to find out where the trail continued. Weak signage, and I had to guess a bit, but it worked out. Interestingly, in this area, the sun peaked out briefly, which was quite welcome. Into the large burnt section of forest I went. This was a real change, and felt desolate. This section started to have a few more technical sections. Nothing overly hard, but kept it interesting. I ran into some hikers here who I talked with for a while, and then another rider. I motored on.

The burnt section ended, and I was back into some truly beautiful areas, right along the water's edge. So peaceful. If it weren't so chilly, I'd have gone down to the water, but I needed to keep going. I then came upon Day Camp, and this cool little bridge crossing a really nice little creek. At this point, I said to myself I had to take some pictures, even if it was just with my camera phone. Also popped a Gu.

Continued on, and not too far after this was this sweet section of shale. It reminded me a lot of Glass Mountain in Tahoe, but not as challenging to ride.

I cranked on for a while, and then came across the most technical section on the trail. The pictures do NOT do it justice at all. This rock chute/slot was very much like the rock slot area on the Watson Lake section of TRT, but I'd say harder. There were two tough drops, but making it harder, was how to make the turn between them.

I had to try this four times, and was feeling like it wasn't going to happen. My fork is also not happy with me, as I managed to scrape a good chunk of paint off of it, as I ground it across one of the large rocks during a failed attempt. On number four, it came together, and while I had a foot out at one point, I rode it all, including having to hop the bike around a bit to make that turn. Sweet!

There was an alternative line that involved going all the way down on the right side, but when I tried it, my rear tire wanted to make sweet love to my ass in order to let me pass, and, well, I wasn't into that.

It turned out that the next about 4 miles included a bunch more technical sections. Nothing anywhere as challenging as this one, but it was a really killer few miles, both of techy descents, and some tricky climbs. Rode it all!

From there, it was a couple miles of, quite damp at this point, singletrack back to the car. There was one climb I was unable to ride. It was very steep, and by now I was feeling the ride, and just couldn't swing it with the 1x9 (it'd have been a trick with a granny gear too, but rideable).

At the car, I quickly stripped off my wet clothes, and donned a nice toasty hoody, and headed off to Oakridge. When I left Waldo, it gotten up to about 46 degrees I think. Arriving in Oakridge it was completely sunny and 68 degrees! I stopped off to quickly thank McKenzie, and ask for a burrito place. Hit Mazatlan, for a bit more than your average take out burrito (burrito on a plate, smothered). Scarfed half that down, and headed home. Awesome day.

Ride stats... 22 miles, 1670' climbing/descending, 2 hours 37 minutes of ride time, about 3.5 hours of total time. Complete set of full size photos here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stellar Ride Today, and I Think I'm Back!

This morning I headed to Brice Creek for a ride.  After navigating my way through the 2200 roadies taking part in Cycle Oregon (which I may try to do next year, just found out about it this morning), I arrived at the trailhead, where it was 52 degrees.  Luckily, the slight rain had let up, and the trail was likely to be in perfect condition.  I was riding my Niner 1x9, and was excited to see how the 1x9 worked out on this trail since it's a rough trail (check the potential chain jump), and has some extremely steep climbing.

I took off and immediately began to work up a good sweat.  I had arm warmers and a vest on and shed the vest pretty quickly.  The trail was feeling great, and I was going nicely.  I made it to the trail junction for the waterfall in 45 mins, and started up the climb.  The climb was brutal, and I walked at least half of it.  It was like doing intervals, because the pitches are so steep (even to hike), and then you get a short breather, and then another bitch of a pitch.  All of a sudden I reached the falls, and quickly realized, I'd screwed up again, just like when I rode it with Matt!  I went up the descent!  Argh--I'd promised myself not to do that.  The problem with this direction of climbing, is that it is 700' of gain in 1 mile.  Yep kids, that's a 13% grade on average.  Uh, huh.  

However, I was actually pretty psyched that I'd done this in 25 mins, as memory says it took Matt and I like 40 minutes (of course that day it was also in the 80's, and I know I was suffering on the hike much more).  I thought for a moment that I'd turn around and head back down to enjoy the descent, but then said, no, I want to see how I screwed up and turned too early, so I headed down the other side.  This is a fun descent as well - rolling on the top half, and steeper on the bottom.  Got down, and now know that I have to ride the trail until I get to pavement, then make the 20' hop up the pavement to where the proper entry into the climb lies.  

Now is where I start getting pretty excited about my ride though.  I was feeling good, and so I turned around and rode back up to the falls again!  Ya baby!  Climbing this direction it's also 700' of gain (probably more like 850' given that you do a few mini-descents in there, which I saw were 50' of drop or so), but in 2.5 miles.  As an interesting comparison, this climb I was able to ride much more of, and it took 27 minutes - much longer mileage wise, but the milder overall grade means it only took 2 minutes longer.  Sweet.

I proceeded to ride the full rock wall section, and then up and under the falls, and then ripped the descent.  This side of the descent, being a lot steeper, is just a ton of fun.  And at this point, I was truly in the zone.  I was just flying, and maneuvering the bike like nothing else existed, really working the front end hard, and at one with the bike and trail.  Combine this feeling with the happiness of being able to want to do the climb again, and I was quit high (no Rich, not like that).  

At the bottom of the climb, I could smell the campfire of a nearby camp, and boy did that smell good.  Just added to the buzz.  I also realized how little time it'd taken overall so far.  With that in mind, I put it in race, and flew over the remainder of trail back to the car.  I finished up the ride, in a total of 2 hours, 44 minutes, for 2800' of climbing.  Not an epic by any means, but very stoked.  Further, during various points in the ride, I was doing a lot of standing up and hammering, and it was the first time, in, well, I can't remember, that I actually felt I had some power in my legs.  This was a really big deal for me, and I am just so psyched!  It has no doubt helped, that I've ridden 4 times in the preceding week (which is about 3-4 more times than normal ;-)

The weather was extremely helpful for me today.  As folks know, I don't like the heat at all, so the temps today (stayed in the 50's all day) were outstanding.  I did wind up putting the vest back on on the first descent, and never took it back off (even for the 2nd climb).  Again, just an outstanding ride for me as everything came together, and it is the best I've felt on a ride in a long, long time.  To top it off, I wasn't even tired when I finished, and had contemplated going back out for another lap, but knew that I wanted to save some juice for tomorrow, as I'm hoping to go ride Waldo Lake, which I hear is about 4-5 hours.  

Lastly, the 1x9 worked out just fine.  There were a couple sections I could have ridden if I had a granny gear, but the majority of the super steep pitches I'd have had to hike even with a granny gear.  I had two close calls crash wise: one where I hit my pedal pretty hard going round a corner at high speed, throwing me a good bit, but rode it out, and second where I lost the front wheel in a fast corner, having it slide a ways, but then I think it caught on something and carved out the rest of the turn.  A very good day, can't wait to see what tomorrow brings...

If I could run any retail business...

Matt told me about Mojo this evening, as we discussed my new espresso machine setup.  One of my dreams for a while now, has been to open a combo high end bike shop and high end espresso cafe.  Both would be done top notch - it wouldn't just be another bike shop that happened to have an espresso machine inside with untrained, or poorly trained baristas (aka the bike shop folks who've been told quickly to slap some coffee in the portafilter, and press a button, etc.).  Anyway, this Mojo shop in San Francisco looks pretty close to what I'd want to do.  Now I just have to make a zillion bucks first, so I can bankroll the shop, and know that I likely wouldn't actually make money running such a shop (Mojo might make it in a place like SF where there's a crapload of money, and good taste in coffee, but many other places it'd be tough).  

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Niner Converted to 1x9

Niner 1x9
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
Yesterday I converted my Niner to a 1x9 drivetrain. Came out quite nice. I used a Spot bashguard and an N-Gear JumpStop to keep the chain on the chainring. I had already shortened up my chain when blocking out my big ring, so that was dialed. Pulled off the front deraileur and shifter, dropping probably 3/4 of a pount. Bike weighs exactly 27.05 pounds now according to my digital scale.

I have also put on a WTB Weirwolf 2.55 LT tire up front, but haven't been very impressed. Here's my review of that. I've basically been riding this bike as 1x9 for the last several rides anyway, so should be great.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

WTB Weirwolf 2.55 LT 29er First Impressions

Today was my first ride on the WTB Weirwolf 2.55 LT 29er tire.  I had it mounted up front on my fully rigid Niner.  After inflating it, I was rather disappointed in the size.  It seemed smaller than my Panaracer Rampage 2.35's.  Upon measuring them, the Weirwolf has a wider casing/volume, but the Rampage has wider knobs.  The "LT" portion is definitely true as well, I'd call this tire a semi-knob, as the knobs are very short, and not aggressive.  

I rode the local Ridgeline area, which is mild.  The tire has decent volume, and felt squishy enough, but I did not find I felt confidence with it in the corners.  It was fine on tacky soil, and at slower speeds, but when things got going fast, and there was a bit of loose, and really, I mean, only very minimal loose dirt, covering harder soil, it just didn't feel like it was holding that well, or felt like it was going to go at any second.  I did not lose it, but, I didn't feel I could push it as hard either.

In part, I suspect this tire is not intended for technical, or really aggressive riding, but who knows.  It certainly seems to roll fast, and the large volume is great (although I didn't feel to be much more noticeable than the Rampages).  If you ride mild terrain, and want a large volume, fast roller, it's probably a good choice.  For me though, I think I will likely not be using it much more, but sticking with the dual Rampages, as they simply rock.  I'll put some more rides on the Weirwolf to see for sure though.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Maverick Speedball R seatpost: get one!

I recently put a Maverick Speedball R on my Reign. After only one ride, I can't imagine not having one of these on my all-mountain bike! This thing simply rocks! I chose the Speedball over a Gravity Dropper for two reasons:

  • The infinite adjustability within the range of travel.  The Gravity Dropper has two settings, drop 1" or drop 3".
  • The more polished/refined design.
Now, the Gravity Dropper may be your only choice depending on your seatpost/seat tube size, because the Mavericks only come in 30.9 and one other larger size I believe, whereas the Gravity Droppers can be had in 27.2, etc.  

What I found, as others told me, is that once you install one of these and ride with it, you will use it a lot!  And indeed I did.  The first ride I had it on was the Middle Fork trail in Oakridge, OR.  This is a trail that is over 30 miles of rolling singletrack.  There is a lot of variation.  The first section for example has a lot of switchbacks (descending), and I dropped the post down all the way for these super tight switches.  Much of the rest of the trail has a lot of medium-level technical stuff (roots, creek crossings, tight turns through trees, etc.).  I love being able to drop my post just a little bit for a lot of this, as I'm 6'2" and being able to simply drop my center of gravity, and get a bit more wiggle room while remaining seated makes the bike perform a lot better.  The Speedball made this so convenient: no stopping to drop the post (or before the Speedball, in many cases I wouldn't have stopped), and then the ability to be right back to full seatpost height when needed.  

I can't say it enough, the convenience factor, of not having to get off your bike, but being able to adjust your post height is just huge, and you will find you use it a lot.

To really drive home how much I like this post, consider this: I am looking at a new full suspension bike (I want a 29er FS, now that I am completely sold on 29ers).  The Speedball is so key to me, that it may directly determine which bike I buy!  Right now I think I'll go either with the new Specialized Stumpjumper FSR SJ 29er, or a  Niner Rip 9.  The Sumpjumper has a 30.9 seatpost size, and would allow me to just move my Speedball over.  The Rip 9 uses a 31.6 which happens to be the other Speedball size.  Phew!  I had thought I would rule out the Rip 9, because my Niner MCR 9 has a 27.2 seatpost and I thought that the Rip 9 would as well, but luckily it does not.  But, that drives the point home - I almost ruled out a bike based on the seatpost size because I wouldn't be able to run a Speedball!  

The Speedball (and the Gravity Dropper) are very expensive in terms of a seatpost ($250 for the remote versions, which you should definitely get - don't even bother with the non-remote versions), but 100% worth it.  This has to be the best accessory I've come across in a long time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mountain Bike Oregon 2007

This past week/weekend, eight friends and I attended Mountain Bike Oregon.  There were some rough edges for the event, but we wound up having a pretty great time, and some superb riding.  Matt took his new Sportsmobile on pretty much its maiden voyage here, and I slept in the top bunk during the trip - very cush, and certainly nicer than camping.  Some of the others had an RV, and Rich and Barry each slept in a tent.  

On Thursday when some of us had arrived, we did a quick two hours on the south side of the Salmon Creek trail.  This is a really cool trail.  I'd expected something kinda lame, since we could just ride to this, and heard it was just a quicky loop from town, but it was very good!  Very scenic bridge/river crossing bit at the end too.  

Friday was the big epic shuttle of the Middle Fork.  33 miles I believe, about 5 hours +/- riding time.  The chaos began in the morning with a bus ride gone wrong: driver got lost.  What was supposed to be a 1.25 hour shuttle, became 3 hours!  John, our Google Earth guy, used a GPS and the map and got us on the right track, and we all made the ride and loved it.  

Saturday we did the Tire Mountain/Alpine shuttle, which was just awesome.  I was totally knackered on the climbs, but the descents were so sweet!  Lots of long, flowy, fast, tight singletrack, some extreme switchbacks, and just great stuff!  I ran out of water with about an hour to go, which sucked, but oh well.  This was a really great trail. 

Sunday it had rained all night the night before, and was still in the morning, and most of us had to get going, so we just packed it in and headed out after breakfast in the rain (the MBO folks had put up some tents/EZ-Ups, so it was fine).  

A few of us took pictures:
I rode my Reign for the duration.  It was great on the Middle Fork, but I think I'd actually rather of had my Niner on Tire.  There were some rough spots, but I just love my Niner, and the lower center of gravity.

The Specialized folks were at MBO, and I got to take a quick spin on their new 5" travel 29er.  No doubt about it, that's my next bike - will be getting rid of the Reign for that.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Two Great Rides This Weekend

Matt was visiting for a few days, and we rode on Friday and Saturday. Friday we did Brice Creek, and Saturday Larison Rock. Both were good rides, even if I screwed up and had us do the Falls loop portion of Brice backwards (we probably had to hike 3/4 of the climb).

Matt did a good job with the photos and blogging of them, so check these out:

Brice Creek

Larison Rock

Make sure to check out the photos page - you'll see we rode under the waterfall, and so on.

Also, as Matt said, we know now that we'll almost for sure want to try to get in the Larison Rock shuttle while at Mt. Bike Oregon. I was absolutely hating life on the climb, but the descent was superb, and will be a great shuttle. It's not real long (3.5 miles), so we will be able to tack that on to whatever else we do say on Saturday. Probably a good Saturday will be to shuttle Alpine and shuttle Larison Rock. We may be knackered after Friday's epic, so a couple great shuttle runs will be sweet (Alpine has a few climbs during the descent, but it's probably 17 miles of descent and 1 mile of climbing :)

It was harsh having been off the bike for a couple weeks, and just getting back from traveling, but what a great couple days we had. Matt had also scoped out this great hidden hot springs (we soaked in water up to 108 - or Matt tried the 108 pool, the 106 was plenty for me, and the rather chilly river was fun too).

I also found that that Sport Legs stuff is quite effective (thanks Matt). And, that damn if the lemon-lime Sport Beans aren't awesome tasting (and I think working) when you are seriously bonked out.

I rode my Niner at Brice, and the Reign at Larison. Have the Lyric fork dialed in fairly well now, liking that. Wished I had the Niner on the climb up Larison, but was glad to rip the descent on the Reign. I've upgraded to 8" front, 7" rear rotors on my Reign now (and may go
to 7/7" on the Niner as well), for the long descents here. Makes a really nice difference, as I was getting some fade and such out of the dual 6" I was running before (especially somewhere like Alpine or Crawfish where you're into 5+ miles of continuous descent).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Figuring Out the Percent Grade of A Climb

You always hear about the percent grade of climbs during the grand tours, or other road races. The final climb up to my house after any road ride is a fairly harsh way to finish up a ride, and I wanted to see what it was.

I realized I wasn't truly sure how they determined what the percent grade of a climb was. As it turns out, it's pretty simple, it's just rise over run, or the tangent of the angle. So, you can easily figure out the average gradient of a climb by using Google Maps for quick distance, and Google Earth for the elevations. You don't need addresses in Google Maps, just find the area on the map, and right click to set start and end points. In Google Earth you can just hover over the spot and look at the status info at the bottom to see the altitude (in meters). Using that, I found that the average gradient, over the .7 mile last climb to my house is 9.2%. Not too shabby.

Now go figure out the pain of your local climb...

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Brice Creek Ride On Niner

I rode Brice Creek today. This is an excellent trail, and was perfect for what I wanted today. It's on the shorter side as compared to the mtb rides I've done here in OR so far, as I spent exactly 2.5 hours out on the trail, which included flailing around at one trail junction trying to figure out where to go (which turned out to be relatively easy, but I had mis-interpreted the directions I had).

The trail has some nice rocky bits, and superb views, of both the river/creek, and the waterfall. The pictures linked to above show the waterfall, which is cool, because you can actually ride behind it. This was certainly the first time I've ridden behind/under a waterfall.

I rode my Niner today which was wonderful. I just have so muc fun with this bike. Sure, it does float over the rocky bits, or land airs like my Reign, but it's just a ton of fun, and is a nice change of pace.

Drove home, and as I got into town, conversed with the family, and picked up some excellent Mexican at Fina Taqueria, and ate at a park. Gorgeous day too.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Loving the Kent Ericsen ti post!

I've ridden the custom Kent Eriksen ti post I got for my Niner a few times now. It is awesome. It has a noticeable bit of flex to it, which I love because my Niner is fully rigid, and I wanted a bit more help :) It also looks really nice on the bike, as the ti color matches the Niner lettering, and the orange head/clamp hardware fits with the orange paint.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Swiss Stop King/Flash Brake Pads - Phenomenal

If you ride carbon rims (and maybe even if you don't), you should immediately get yourself some Swiss Stop King brake pads! These things just rock. I'm running them on my Zero Gravity brakes stopping Reynolds Stratus DV wheels/rims. The improvement is just amazing (and that is coming off the pads that Reynolds recommended/supplied). I feel that my brakes work equally as well as any aluminum rim combo now.

The pads come in Campy/Zero Gravity, or Shimano/SRAM compatible versions, and come in pairs (total of 4 pads). Unfortunately the Campy version costs $15 more, which I can't understand why, but maybe it's just the "Campy tax").

2007 Swiss Stop Race 2000 Yellow King Carbon Brake Pads for Campagnolo

2007 Swiss Stop Flash Yellow King Carbon Brake Pads for Shimano/SRAM

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Custom Eriksen Seat Post

Eriksen Seat Post
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
I received my custom Kent Eriksen seat post, and have now mounted it on my Niner. This is absolutely a beautiful piece of jewelry, I mean, bicycle component! Check out the picture. At 430mm it's very long (which I needed, or wanted to ensure a longer than minimum extension down into my frame). Another picture on my Flickr page shows the length if you're interested.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Crawfish Ride

I rode Crawfish yesterday, which you can do starting at the same place as
Brice Creek. Here's the map. Many say Crawfish is better. I'd seen these pictures of Brice Creek and was eager to ride it. The DoD guys had just ridden it last weekend, but Brock suggested Crawfish, possibly hitting Brice at the end. We wound up not doing Brice, but that was no problem.

We did Crawfish as a full loop, but many shuttle to the top, because the
initial climb is 6 miles up gravel road, and took our group 2.25 hours
(and I was the first to the top, so you get an idea of the group's
climbing speed :) Four of us were riding: Brock, Steve, Sarah, and myself.

But then the descent just rocks! Best ride I've done so far here.
All singletrack, all the time. And, there were rocks! The descent
had full on rock gardens, including a couple uphill sections, and then
just tons of twisty, sometimes rooted, singletrack that went on for
2.5 hours. Superb.

Brock and I loved it. Sarah and Steve were not as enthused, as
they thought it was a bit too technical. Sarah commented at one point that we were riding down a river bed, not a trail. Heehee, that was one of my favorite sections! I do love the rocks. We were going to tie in Brice Creek at the end, but everyone needed to get back, and/or was wasted.

Total ride was over 5 hours, with 5000' of climbing, 16.7 miles, two broken spokes (Brock), and this was the first mtb ride here where I didn't run out of water!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hut-to-Hut Mountain Bike System Opening for Mt. Hood

Back in 1995 I did the trip from Telluride to Moab. It is one of the best bike trips, vacations, and things I've done in my life. So, I was excited to see that there is a now.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Big Ride at Alpine (Creampuff course) on Saturday

Did a big ride on Saturday with Dan. We rode the Alpine Trail, which is also the course for the Cascade Cream Puff 100. Of course we only did it once, they do it three brutal times. The ride worked me over! It's 16 miles of climbing to the top, then you do the descent, which has a bit of climbing mixed in as well. All in all, 5260' of climbing, in 32 miles is what I registered. By the time we got to the top (about 3.5 hours for me :(, I was pretty much wasted. I was also out of water, which really sucked, because we had about two hours to go! The Alpine trail singletrack descent is really nice though. Very narrow singletrack, super high quality. It wasn't technical, but it was fast and fun for sure. I used my GPS and posted the map.

I am fairly eager to go back to Alpine, because honestly, I wasn't fully able to enjoy the descent. I was out of water, bonked, and so was mainly working to get down fast, not cramp (any more), and so on. It was also raining a good chunk of the time, although mostly the latter half of the climb, at the top where it was fairly cold (there was still some snow left). So, I know at minimum I'll be riding this again in August during Mountain Bike Oregon, and we'll do it as a shuttle, so that'll be very nice.

Oh, last bit. This was the maiden voyage on the Lyric fork. It worked great so far. I did notice that it's a bit taller, and I don't have the Flood Gate dialed in, so it was diving under braking and steeper sections more than I'd like. I think when I get the Flood Gate going it'll be sweet, as when I played with it quickly, it clearly has the platform type effect.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Avid Matchmakers: cleaner bars - rider's view

If you run Juicy 7's and X-9's or other compatible combos, you should run out and get some Avid Matchmakers. These create a single bar clamp for both, and clean up your bars nicely. It's a small thing, but it's really slick. This picture shows the rider's view, and it's just nice and clean.

You still get a dual-bolt setup, so you can now take off both your brake levers and shifters without removing grips, etc. This shot is from my Niner. Unfortunately the X-9's on my Reign are older and aren't compatible. I will try to resist getting new X-9's simply to be able to use Matchmakers ;-)

Lyric 2 Step mounted on my Reign

Today I mounted up my new RockShox Lyric 2 Step fork on the Reign. Easy of course. I have to say, as per my previous post, the Maxle is just amazingly easy and nice to use. See my Flickr photos for more pics if you want.

Maxle: the Ultimate QR/Axle?

Today was my first exposure to RockShox' Maxle 20mm thru axle/quick release combo. I mounted up my new Lyric fork, and of course it has a Maxle. All I can say is, this is it, this is the ultimate axle/QR I've used! It is so darn easy to use, and it seems to combine all the good attributes of any of the other designs. For example, I liked what Manitou did with their hex-axle, so that the axle wouldn't twist/spin. Maxle solves that because it threads in. Maxle's quick release is trivialy easy and nice to use, and there are no pinch bolts, no tools needed, etc. Basically, all the advantages of 20mm thru axles, combined with all the advantages of a standard QR. I love it. Now I can't wait to ride the Lyric. Maiden voyage will be this Saturday (unless I sneak out sooner).

Decline Magazine

Decline magazine is a new (to me) magazine that looks interesting. Seems to focus on DH, freeride, and the like, and doesn't look to do stupid reviews of $1000 bikes. Their web site has lots of good stuff, including a lot of links to great movie snippets and chunks of video, etc. I've ordered up a subscription, so we'll see how it is.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Mountain Bike Oregon

Just signed up for the August date of Mountain Bike Oregon, an awesome 3 day riding fest. I've started to ride some of the trails in Oakridge, now that I live an hour away, and it's very good stuff. In fact, my first ride there was on the Middle Fork (not quite all of it, as there was still snow at the top), which is a featured shuttle ride for MBO. Anyway, check it out. Matt, John, and Shannon will be joining me so far.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

29er Tubeless Wheels

I've been starting to look into a tubeless wheelset for my Niner, since I swear by tubeless on my Reign and DHi. I'd also like to have two wheelsets so that I can keep one with my town nearly-slicks, and one with my trail tires. I am fairly adamant about UST as the tubeless system. I've used Stan's rim strips before and think they suck. Bontrager might be ok, but why did they not do UST and create yet another mechanism - I don't like that kind of thing. I heard Mavic will have 29er UST wheels/rims soon. I checked in with Speedgoat on things, and here's what they had to say.

No, the Stan's rims are not UST-compatible. Neither are Bontragers. There are currently no UST-specific 29er rims, and, given your weight, you'll potentially experience bad times trying to run a converted regular-tire/sealed up rim setup on a 29er (hope you don't ride on rocks). Mavic will be releasing a 29er wheels fairly soon, and it does look pretty damn nice. We may well start seeing 29er UST tires, too, though they'll be from the like of Hutchinson and Michelin only, and will probably weigh over 1,000g each.

Best to wait on the Mavic then, or go with an Industry 9 Stan's Flow wheelset. The I9 stuff is amazing, but we've never had a single order for their hubs alone. Everyone wants the wheelsets, and with good reason. They're just plain excellent, but again, they're not UST.

So yes, I'll be waiting for Mavic. Normally I also only run true UST tires, so it'll be interesting to see what comes out there. I've run a lot of converted tires, but they don't work as well usually, so I've gone with only UST. In 26" wheel land, there are plenty of UST choices in the 2.3-2.5 (and upwards) range these days, so it's no longer a problem. But in 29er land, it may be a challenge for a while.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cycling Podcasts

I just found the Crooked Cog podcast, courtesy of the site. Haven't listened to it yet, but looks like it has potential. I've listened to a couple of Specialized's podcasts. What others are out there that are at least halfway good?

I should note that I'm familiar with VeloNews, Bicycing magazine, Zipp, and various other more commercial entries, but haven't been interested in those. Obviously everyone's taste varies, but if you have ones you really like, lemme know!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Oakridge: Middle Fork Ride

I gathered with 14 other riders for a ride setup by the Disciples of Dirt, which is Eugene's very active mtb group (which mostly amounts to a slew of folks on the same mailing list, who do a lot of riding, and a lot of trail maintenance!). Two of the folks, Andy and Megan, had driven down for the weekend from Seattle. Andy was probably one of the best riders of the group, and Megan hung just fine (and was a Daily Distraction to boot). This was a "Slow Boyz" ride as the DoD group has a few self-classified sub-groups (others include the "X-Men" who are the hardcore guys that are out to win the Creampuff (which makes the death ride look easy), 3 of which we came across going the other way, as they did the 50 mile variant of our ride, primarily on single speeds).

The ride was aptly named Slow Boyz. There were some good riders, but it was a bit of a party ride - each stop was a bit longer than at least I (and a few others) would like, but that's also par for the course with 15 people on a ride! The people were all very friendly and nice, and it was a nice mix, likely age range from about 30-50 (I know one guy was 50). The courtesy level was very high, and the DoD hosts were great about keeping everyone together and ensuring folks knew where to go, etc.

We rode the Middle Fork trail in Oakridge. This is a great trail. There was still snow at the top so we put in a bit lower (Chuckle Springs), but overall got in 22 miles of 100% singletrack! We were out riding for 5.5 hours. During that time I kid you not, we must have done 20 creek crossings, about half of which were not really rideable, and also went over these awesome log bridges (probably a half dozen of them - killer views of the river while walking across - wish I had my camera). The trail was primarily flat/rolling - even with 23 miles, we only did 1100' of climbing, and 2600' of descending.

Not as technical as I'm used to, but I got the impression that it was on the more technical side for the area(?), as there aren't a lot of rocky trails there (technical = rocky, for me). It sounds like the more technical or harder trails there tend to be super steep stuff. I plan to get out to "Heckletooth" and "Larikin" (sp?) soon. Also Tire Mountain and I think it was Black Bear or something. I've ordered up the super sweet laminated Tread maps of all this stuff. And then there's Willamette Pass, which is a small ski area, but does the lift-served stuff in the summer, and puts on a bunch of DH races, etc. I will be hitting this hopefully, as I hear it's quite good. There is also Oregon Adventures ( that does shuttle and guide service. Randy and his crew sported two vans to shuttle us up to yesterday's ride. This was very cool, and I plan to use that service again for sure (as well as possibly some guided rides, so I can learn the trails faster).

Anyway, the trail is a river trail, meaning we followed the river the whole time, crossing back and forth a few times. I rode my rigid Niner (to the disbelief of nearly everyone on the ride - there were a couple Nomads, a few other Santa Cruz's, a Turner, two Reigns, and then a couple hardtails, etc.). The Niner performed superbly! I am absolutely sold on the bigger wheels acting like a form of limited suspension. I won't say it was a plush, but the thing just charged that trail, and I love it. I am fairly beat today - my feet are sore, and my shoulder is sore from all the bike portages over creeks and bridges (I usually hang my saddle on my shoulder, which isn't overly comfy to begin with). I also ran out of water with over an hour of time to go.

After the ride, we hit the Trailhead Coffee Shop, for beers and dinner. The whole thing with at least the Slow Boyz is very social, and it was a fun time. Nice that folks are so welcoming and friendly. THC has got to be making a good half of it's revenue from mountain bikers, as 100% of the folks in there at dinner were post-ride, and we met there in the morning as well, where some folks were grabbing breakfast, we got coffee, etc. Anyway, finally drove home, and rolled in about 10pm. A pretty long day given that I'd met the carpool folks at 8:30am. All in all a lot of fun, and I'm psyched to see the various other trails. I definitely plan to ride with the Slow Boyz again (the Creampuff is not my idea of fun).

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ridgeline Ride Today - Lots of Off-shoots

I rode the Ridgeline trails in Eugene this morning. It's a small place, but boy are there a ton of little off-shoots! I really need to spend some time with the GPS there and map stuff out - so many interesting looking little chunks of singletrack. Today I did the main drop down towards Amazon Parkway, but at a fork at the bottom I went left. This took me over to W. Amazon which lead back to Fox Hollow, which I then rode back up to the park and did another loop on the main trail. Quick and fun.

This was also only my second ride on dirt on the Niner. Definitely still getting used to lack of suspension (I nearly ate it on a relatively mild rooted descent). The bike rolls so nicely though, just have to learn how to ride it better in the rougher terrain. Tomorrow's ride at Oakridge (never been there) ought to be interesting :)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ordered: RockShox Lyrik 2-Step Air Fork

I bit the bullet tonight, and ordered up a new fork for my Giant Reign. My Nixon has failed too many times, and is being sent back again. They hopefully will send me a brand new fork, that I can then just sell and be done with.

So, ordered a RockShox Lyrik 2-Step Air Fork. These things are grossly expensive, but, uh, well, uh, ok, I have no way to rationalize it. Why did I choose this fork, especially given that I've stayed away from RockShox for soooo long now? Basically, it had the right mix of things for me: 20mm Maxle (didn't have to be Maxle, but 20mm axle is the only way to go for me), adjustable travel, and adjustable under 160 where the fork performance is not diminished/altered, ok weight, not a Manitou, etc. Fox 32's don't have 20mm, and I didn't want to go with a Fox 36. Marzocchi doesn't have a 20mmm axled for that fits the bill either. Maverick could have been interesting, but I guess I didn't trust them in terms of how it'll hold up.

This weekend, since my Reign has no working fork, I'll be riding the Niner at Oakridge. This is my first time to Oakridge now that I've moved to Eugene, and I'm quite excited to get out there and see what all the hubbub is about! We'll see how badly I want my Reign back (or not!?) after riding the fully rigid Niner.

Avid Matchmakers

I recently installed some Avid Matchmakers on my Niner. These things are great little widgets. Short story: if you have Juicy brakes, and newer SRAM trigger shifters, get some Matchmakers and unclutter your bars! In addition to uncluttering, the other big win is that you can take the brake and shifter off without removing grips (you could do this with brakes before, but the shifter clamp was single bolt). Sure, I use lock-on grips, which make this easy as well, but the whole thing is just a nicer overall setup. I highly recommend them.

Also, for those who may be wondering - there is some adjustment in terms of how the two levers are positioned in relation to each other. The shifter mounts to a bolt on the brake lever's clamp. This bolt fits within a hole that gives you rotational movement, allowing you to rotate the shift lever either all the way up against the brake lever, or maybe as much as half an inch away. I run mine nearly right up against the brake lever, so it's a non-issue for me, but I suspect the range would suit nearly everyone.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Bits and Bobs

I've returned from a week of travel, and am very eager to be back on the bike. While I was gone, I received a new Syncros FL Stem, and the Panaracer Rampage 29er tires. This weekend I'm planning to head out to a local, small trail system here in Eugene, with my GPS and maybe camera, and map it out. The trail map I have shows it as a simple line, but in fact, it's at least a loop, and has several off-shoots. Nothing spectacular, but as a fun exercise I'll go map it out and try out the Niner with some real mtb tires and such.

I may sport the Endura Humvee 3/4 shorts again too. I'm still mixed on whether I can pull off the nicker variant, but I like these things a lot. They're nice and light, the cell phone pocket works very well for me for town riding (unlike the review I read - but super fit messenger boy probably gets more movement out of it than me :) They're an ideal town riding short/knicker.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I've Forgotten How To Ride Casually

I realized today, as I pedaled around town, that casual riding feels completely foreign to me. I've ridden in such a serious, competitive, or hard core way for so long now, that I can't get on a bike and not want to go hard, wear the full gear, etc. I can't seem to bring myself to get on a bike and not be wearing a $100+ chamois, gloves, cycling shoes, and so on. Not wearing a helmet is out of the question (and should be required for anyone whose brain is worth saving; if you think you don't need to wear a helmet...).

Anyway, so I'm relearning how to ride "casually." How to ride at a pace where I don't break a sweat, to fully enjoy the scenery, to ride with no intention other than to be on a bike and out enjoying life, ride for transportation, or whatever. It's been fun getting back to this. Don't get me wrong, I am still going to be hammering whenever I can, but this adds a new dimension to my cycling life, and I love it.

Today I actually hit the grocery store as part of my ride. Picked up a few things for dinner. It was the first time I've locked up a bike (other than on my car's rack), probably since college!

The next phase in this process is to ride into town and work a few hours in a coffee shop (Wandering Goat probably) once in a while. Luckily the big hills are always on the way home, so I can coast and soft-pedal it down to the shop, then get the workout on the way home. This way I also won't be stinking out my cafe mates :)

Schwalbe Big Apple 29x2.35 Tires

Got a chance to put in some good time on the Schwalbe Big Apple 29x2.35 tires today. What a blast. They're basically a nearly-slick cruiser tire - big volume, great ride. I did an all-pavement, town ride today. Goofed around on and off sidewalks and other urban areas, powered up some solid climbing, ripped some very fast descents. These things are just so fun. They provide some much desired extra suspension on the fully rigid Niner, and I'm looking forward to the Panaracer Rampage 2.3's that are on the way for off-road duty.
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