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.