Saturday, July 25, 2015

Her warm embrace.

My guess is that few among us (likely excepting Greg and Trina) could say with specificity when spring morphed into summer.  My hope is that many of us did indeed notice that day, even early in the morning, when our subconscious told our conscious self that there was no need for pants when shorts would do just fine.

Please enjoy a random smattering of moments beginning whenever spring ended and continuing up to and through the present moment.  

The summer season in Colorado is hard to beat in almost every way.  Long days, mild overnight temps, clear skies except during the blessed afternoon monsoons, with trails, rivers, and mountains to explore in every direction.  From where I sit it doesn't seem a stretch to say that summer embraces us almost as wholeheartedly as we cling to her.

Jeny outrunning mosquitoes on the Grand Mesa.

Greg practicing his boof on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison.

Camping under Marcellina, off Kebler Pass.

Brad just after picking himself up off the road, during the Grand Junction Off-Road.

Somehow Jesse didn't swim in the shot below.  Wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it myself. 

Jeny, Rustling.

Ganey in the Snake Pit, Cross Mountain Gorge of the Yampa.

Jeny, Rustling some more.

Greg rolling up after a boof gone sideways, Lake Fork of the Gunny.

Still life with PBJ, atop the Nest.

Ganey getting Osterized, Cross Mountain Gorge of the Yampa.

Milky Way at midnight, Numbers camp on the Arkansas River. 

Moody Marcellina at daybreak, happy Jeny with java.

Fatillac posing on the backyard trails.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Clyde (wheel) Conundrum.

I've built a lot of bicycle wheels--something like 14,000 and counting.  That's my job and has been for more than a decade.

In the course of that decade I've noticed a trend, or pattern if you will: Heavier riders (aka "Clydesdales") need dependable wheels, but rarely seem to have the $ to spend on them.

It took me a few years to understand why.  And I know this doesn't apply to everyone (what one theory does?!) but it seems to fit ~75 or 80% of the clyde scenarios I've seen.

Generally speaking, it works like this:

John (not his real name) either realizes or is told by his wife, doctor, boss, kids, BFF, etc... that he needs to lose some weight.  He agrees, and eventually determines that riding bikes is the best way to shed pounds without beating the crap out of his joints.  So far so good.

So John buys a cheap bike.  After all, he's not a serious mountain biker, so he doesn't need to spend a buncha money just to spin down the bike path or around the neighborhood with his kids.

But then John discovers two things:

1. He likes riding, a lot.

2. He's actually losing weight.

So he rides more, and more.  But because he spent so little to begin with, his cheap bike starts to fail.  Some of the failures are because John is new to riding, not very smooth, and has a lot of mass to put into the pedals.  Chains break, pedal spindles bend, rims get dented, seat rails crumple, freehubs fail, sometimes wheels taco and whole frames crack.

Now John is bummed, because his 'fix' is now broken.  He wants to ride but can't until he spends more money.  This is usually where I first meet 'John', because he'll send me an email asking for hub or wheel advice.  And almost invariably John will say something along the lines of "I don't want to spend more than ~$300 on a wheelset, because the whole bike was only $500".

$300 doesn't buy much for wheels even if you're only ~145#.  $300 for a clyde wheelset is basically throwing away money--money that will then have to be spent again in order to get a durable, long lasting wheelset.

So my advice to John is usually some variant on "In order to get you something that will last, and that is serviceable, you need to spend a lot more than $300".  Sometimes John 'gets it' and we discuss options, other times he throws up his hands and I never hear back from him.

Moral of the story is that most bikes, especially cheap ones, were neither designed nor intended for true clydes.  But that doesn't mean clydes can't happily and aggressively ride bikes all the live-long day--it simply means that they need to choose their bikes and parts wisely.  To that end, doing it right instead of doing it twice is less expensive in the long run.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Last round.

On-bike time of late has been limited, but what I've gotten has been on this setup:

Essentially, I wanted to split the difference between true 29+ and normal 29" in order to determine if this was just splitting hairs or if there was a valid reason to go down this road.  Tires are Panaracer Fat B Nimble up front and Maxxis Ikon out back.  Although the manufacturers print different numbers on each of these tires, what they actually measure out to, at my preferred riding pressures, after having been ridden for a few weeks, is 2.75" up front and 2.5" out back.

I was surprised by the ride of this combo.  On some trails I preferred it over 29+, and on every trail I preferred it over any other 'normal' 29" XC bike I've ridden in the last decade+.  The combo of light wheels with ample traction, supple tire casings, and reliable tubeless performance made it fast and capable.  Modern suspension and refined geometry made it fun.

Wrapping up the comparisons this week, then will start to condense my thoughts on where 29+ in general and this chassis in particular really shine, and where they make little sense at all.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Southcentral summer.

For years I've been fascinated by, possibly even salivating over, the creeks and rivers of Southcentral Alaska.  This area has been ground zero for the birth and evolution of packrafts and packrafting as we know them.

And while that evolution has since spread to a worldwide theater, there remains a dedicated core paddling group in Anchorage that continues to define and refine what can and should be done in a packraft.

 Each time I've paddled with Ganey, Brad, or Roman I've heard countless anecdotes about their favorite runs, to the point where it seemed flat wrong that I could recount some of these stories verbatim without ever having been on those rivers.

That needed to change.

Brad's invitation arrived at a particularly fortuitous time, and included an offer to both high-grade the local stuff as well as go deep and attempt an ambitious traverse with a potential first descent.

The story of the traverse will be told in detail at a different time and maybe in a different place.

And the high-grading?

Right here.

Massive thanks go out to Brad and Roman for looking after my every need throughout, and for holding my hand when the creeks got steep.  Hope to repay those gestures ASAP.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Meditations on a summer evening.

All this recent talk of +bikes, +tires, +forks, more +tires, and yet more +bikes has been overdue and mildly cathartic, but it has also entirely missed one essential point:

I ride bikes in large part so that I can spend more time with my best friend.

Last night we got to do just that, amidst ethereal light and breezes, on some of our favorite local trails.

Thank you Jeny Jo for *you*, and for all that you do for *us*.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Random 29+ test sessions.

The past ~month I've been more motivated to ride than at any time in recent memory.  Having two new and unique test sleds to suss out will do that to a guy.

Having some top-notch test pieces of various flavors out the back, front, and side doors does nothing to discourage that riding stoke.

Note front tire deformation below.  Rather substantial g-forces commence one split second after this pic was taken.

World-cup-winning XC forks can handle a lot more than you might expect.

Creative B lines are much more rewarding than blown out "A" lines.  Especially when ridden in reverse.

Not quite ready to spill the beans on where we've been and are heading with the Fatillac project.


Very, very special thanks to lovely Jeny for having the presence of mind to snag the video clips above while I was otherwise fixated on some piece of gearhead minutia and/or esoterica that few would notice and fewer still would care about.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


I've been continuing to experiment with options on this chassis.  Thus far I've used the MRP Stage fork @ 150mm of travel and the Manitou Magnum Pro @ 120mm.  Out back I've had 125, 110, and 100mm of travel courtesy of a RockShox Monarch RT3 w/Debonair.  And I've ridden all of the above with Surly Dirt Wizards on both ends, Bontrager Chupacabras on both ends, as well as a DW up front and a Chupa out back.

The truth is that none of these configurations have been bad, or even average, but each has indeed had it's own personality, and has given lots of insight on where 29+ FS shines.

I'll ride it as pictured here, with a 120mm RS-1, for the next ~week, then I'll start over and run through each configuration again, comparing fresh post-ride thoughts with the notes that I took on the first go-round.

The point of the second round of testing is that spring is morphing to summer: Trails are either drying out or getting blown out, depending on elevation and exposure.  Traction, soil moisture, and fitness are all evolving rapidly: Impressions from a month ago are likely to be different from today, and next week, and I don't want to make too many assumptions on a single sampling.

Going the extra mile, you might say.  Somebody's gotta.