Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Next.




"We do not stop playing because we grow old; 

We grow old because we stop playing."

~Ben Franklin




A month ago I'd not have given much thought to the words above. I'd have been too busy putting gear away from one weekend trip, or plotting/planning/packing for another to give it much thought.

That was a month ago.




In the intervening four weeks I've learned more about my cervical spine than I ever thought I could, or would.

My summer effectively ended that Sunday morning, when I woke with intense neck/shoulder/arm pain and then spent the next few weeks digging deeper (chiro, MT, PT, DO, acupuncture, etc...) until an MRI gave the answer: 2 herniated discs in my neck, causing a chain reaction of muscle spasms and pinched nerves that continues to this day. 

All likely due to decades of being hunched over handlebars with my 8# bean suspended out there for too long with too little rest.

I seem to have arrived at mid-life.  Or maybe it has landed on me.

The most poignant single phrase that has been uttered to help me understand this new reality: This bell cannot be unrung.

Among other things, to me that means that denial and bargaining ended pretty quickly.  Time to figure out the new normal.




A recent weekend saw Jeny off with the girls and Fang on his own summer vacation, giving me reason to attempt to ride, fish, camp for the first time with my new limitations.

Riding, so long as it was at an old man's pace and on 5" tires, was OK.

Fishing was also OK.




Sleeping in the dirt will need some adaptation.  And maybe pain meds or muscle relaxers.

The main thing I came away from the weekend with had little to do with any of that: I missed my family.  Each activity seemed lacking in meaning without Jeny and Fang there to share it.  



And while that's not exactly true, it speaks volumes about where I've been and where I'm heading.  If you knew me 2, 5, 10 years ago you'd be nodding your head in understanding.

Onward.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Summerish.

August.  

In the desert that word is often synonymous with loathing and dread, or, at best, tolerance and patience.

Respite from the stifling heat and smothering smoke comes only when the rain does, and thus far monsoonal activity has been nil.  Trails have been ground into powder, air quality is about the same, and runoff in the rivers is a distant memory.

Despite the lack of measurable precip, we managed to get deep into a half-day ride when a micro-burst lasered in on us and dumped it's load. 


When we made it the last ~mile back to the car it was plain to see that not a drop had fallen there.  Sheesh.


Paddling right now means finding a dam release or trans-basin diversion.  Like it or not, our home state has no shortage.




I spent some time last month assembling Jeny's gorgeous new Meriwether fatbike, and listing her old one for sale.




Hard work keeping the old guy entertained.




Also spent some time debugging Jeny's new park bike.  180mm travel, tubeless carbon DH hoops, 2.5" dual ply tires, and slack-as geo.  A veritable grin machine.  




Jeny finishing a lap down Pucker Up on her old PBJ.










This storm packed a wallop.  Unfortunately it was two counties to the north so we got no precip from it.




Todd boofing Slaughterhouse Falls, back when it had water.




Best fatbike hubs going--building them daily now.







Shot from inside the bedroom last weekend.  They stayed, hunching ever closer to the house, until the last sliver of shade vanished after noon.  




Don't call 'em bling--they're 'finishing touches'.




As hot and dry as it has been, this view will feature turning leaves any day now.




Bumper crop of thistles and sunflowers this year.










Greg, digging.










Thanks for checkin' in.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Restraint.

Several months ago when winter was fading but the heat of summer hadn't yet crossed our minds, we woke one weekend with hopes of getting out and riding bikes on our backyard trails.  

The trails had been clear of snow for a ~week, but only just, and the warming daytime temps meant that riding on dirt needed to be done (like finished) before 9AM.  Otherwise you'd wreck bike and trail by trying to ride in the mud.

On this particular morning we woke late, and to fog, and it flurried off and on as we breakfasted while discussing options.




As much as we wanted to pedal, to shake off the lethargy of winter, it seemed like a poor choice.  Mud is no joke here--as you'll see in the vid.

So we loaded packs with boats and hiked an old road, met up with the Gunnison River, then floated back to town.

A slightly-too-leisurely start to the day meant we floated the last ~10 minutes in darkness.

Walking roads and floating flatwater never give the same satisfaction, those feelings of athleticism and accomplishment, that you get from riding tech trail or paddling whitewater.

But they beat the hell out of staying home and doing nothing.

Thanks for checkin' in.

MC 




Thursday, August 13, 2015

Phew.

Well, actually first I should say 'Harumph'.

And then, a week and a half later I can say "Phew!".




What's the hubbub?

For reasons still unexplained, my wheelbuilding website went down early last week.  Kaput.  At first, before I knew it was down, I was enjoying a lack of emails to respond to, allowing me to get caught up on a few things around the shop.

Sometime Tuesday it started to seem unnaturally quiet, so I went looking and found an error message when I tried to load the site.

Thus followed a week of almost unbelievable emails and phone calls to the old host (largely placed on my behalf by Greg Luck and Robb Reece) where no one could explain why the site was down, no one seemed to give a rip that it was, and no one showed any impetus whatsoever in helping to get it back up.




And that was when people bothered to answer the phone or respond to emails.

So I just essentially had an unpaid 9 days in the shop.

Compounding that, I woke with a pinched nerve last weekend and have been unable to ride, or paddle, or really do much of anything other than sit at my desk where nothing much is happening.

Fortunately, I had the time to tidy up some minuscule accounting details and if not for that I wouldn't have noticed a few unauthorized charges on my accounts.  While Europcar and GermanSingles might, in some future time, be businesses that I patronize, I have not yet done so.  Thus followed a few stressful phone calls and trips down to the bank to get all of that squared away.




While I was dealing with other things, Robb and Greg went to bat to get the site back online, with just a few minor details to touch up when time permits.

I'm sharing this because many people reached out in different ways to let me know the site was down,  many others were concerned that I'd stopped building wheels altogether, and others reached out to ask for a heads-up when the site was live again.

So there it is: The site is live, as am I, and as soon as the emails start to filter through the ether I'll be back to building wheels, business as usual.

As an aside, I have an inordinate amount of stuff for sale on my sale blog.  Please check it out and make an offer.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Mike Curiak
Proprietor and sole bathroom sweeper, LaceMine29.com


The pics above have no relevance whatsoever to anything at all that was written about herein.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Final Fatillac Manifesto.

Summer got busy (duh!) and I haven't taken the time to update this space about where we ended up with the Fatillac.  Sorry 'bout that.

First and foremost, why 29+?

In short, I already have a killer fatbike, a killer 6 x 6" trailbike, and a dedicated set of 29+ wheels/tires that I use on my fatbike when the need arises.

Because of where I live and what/where/how I like to ride, that 2 bike arrangement has taken care of 90% of my riding needs for years.

If I'm going to add a bike to the quiver, it needs to do something unique, or at least something much, much better than the other two.  Something more than that errant 10% that seems to be lacking.

I tried 650b FS and almost immediately had to ask myself: Why, Mike, would you want a bike that falls into 28" holes?  In short, I couldn't find a benefit to it compared to standard 29".

Then I tried B+ FS, and immediately asked myself: Why would I want a bike that falls into 28.5" holes *and* feels as slow as a fatbike on hardpack?  For where I live and ride, B+ almost seemed like the worst of all possible worlds.

I've tried various 29" XC bikes (~120mm trailbikes) and once the get-to-know-you period ends I end up not riding them much and then selling them shortly after.  The reason usually involves them having a lot of overlap with my all-time-favorite LunchBox, and not being enough lighter/faster/more efficient to warrant keeping a whole extra bike around.  So, largely, they collect dust.  I simply do not, cannot horde bikes, so if it hasn't been ridden in a ~month I sell it.  Period.

I suspected from riding the 29+ setup on my fatbike that that wheel/tire size was unique enough to command a place in the quiver, but I needed it to be fully suspended with modern geometry before I could honestly determine where it would fit.  I know, I know--there are lots of guys out there ripping on hardtails, and 15 years ago I was one of 'em.  These days I want real suspension on both ends of the bike whether the ride lasts 2 hours or 10 days.

So I got in touch with Devin Lenz, we had a few conversations revolving around where we thought this bike should go, and away he went to start shaping tubes and fabricating machined bits.

A month or so later Devin delivered a chassis that:
-could be set with 100, 110, or 125mm of rear travel,
-could be matched with a fork that had anywhere from 110 to 150mm of travel,
-had clearance for 3" tires on 50mm rims,
-had modern/sporty geometry: short chainstays, low-ish bottom bracket, slack head angle.
-had modern conveniences like stealth routing for a dropper and internal routing for the 11-speed rear der.





It took very few rides for me to realize that a 150mm travel fork with a 125mm travel rear was too much suspension for these high volume/low pressure meats.  The traction was outstanding and the bump absorption incredible, but the bike entirely lacked proprioception.  All that air volume combined with all that suspension was keeping me from feeling the trail, sensing the obstacles, knowing where the traction was and wasn't.  The bike was point and shoot in the most literal sense, requiring very little input from the rider to clean extremely technical trails.

Some of you reading this right now are saying "Awesome!  Sign me up!" and yes--you can build yours exactly like this if you like.

For me, it felt like a giant eraser, largely removing the challenge from most trails without giving back a sense of reward or accomplishment at having learned or improved my skills in any way.  There is clearly a fine line here somewhere, where too much technological aid is undesirable, and too little is not enough.  Each of us gets to decide where that line sits.

For me, this setup was a bridge too far.

So I swapped forks to get 120mm up front.  Changed levers and damper out back to drop to 110mm of travel.  Kept everything else on the bike the same, including tire pressures.  Rode some more.





I liked this configuration.  A lot.  I felt more connected to the ground, more able to sense where the tires were and what they were doing, to the point where I was able to fine-tune my preferred pressures to .25 of a psi.  I used an analog gauge to find those pressures, but got to where I could easily and immediately sense a 1psi change in either direction.  Neat.

The 120/110mm arrangement brought much of the challenge back to riding--I simply couldn't rely on the bike to do the heavy lifting, had to show up and provide body english, timing, and skill.

After ~10 days I swapped things around again, to arrive at 110mm up front and 100mm out back.  I have loved this setup, and consequently have spent the most time on it set this way.





It gives me all the confidence and control of 29+ shoes in a light, nimble, sporty, lively chassis.  I don't often stand to aggressively power up climbs on *any* bike these days, (largely because I don''t have much power!) but I find myself doing it several times per ride on this setup.  And on the descents, where with the longer travel iterations I felt glued to the ground for better or worse, on this setup I can hop and pop and be playful, lofting the bike at will whether to clear obstacles or simply place it into a different line.

In short, it rides *light* but still gives you the velvet steamroller effect when the tires are in contact with earth.

Finally, I removed the 3" tires and installed a 2.75" up front and a 2.5" out back, then spent some time on that setup in some of my favorite places.





The bike feels like a pure-XC speed demon when shod this way.  My subjective take is that what you gain in speed you lose equally in traction/comfort/control.  It is essentially like most other 29" FS bikes at this point, so no reason to belabor the explanation except to say that this is one of the few (only?) 29" FS bikes that can also be 29+ FS.

Got all that?

I'm leaving out many, many, many details but for now this is a good start at catching up.

More detail forthcoming as time permits.

Cheers,

MC

Monday, August 3, 2015

Pedaling and peddling, new neighbors, plus Fang!

A few months ago Jeny and I moved into what we can only describe as our dream home.

It is not dreamy because it is palatial, opulent, or any other word that translates to big, shiny, new.

No.

It is our dream home because it is small, simple, quiet, with lots of light, and very convenient.




While no place is truly convenient to everything, this one is mere minutes by bike from the things we deem important--like trails, rivers, lakes, and the shop.







On the subject of the shop, I am in the process of clearing out a whole lotta overstock and lightly used stuff.  Whole fatbikes, cargo bikes, lots of wheels and tires.  Watch this space often the next few weeks.







We've also discovered that our new home is really near to a great horned owl family, several writ-large mule deer, and a pile of frogs for Fang to exercise when the mood strikes.













It is not convenient to lift-served bike riding.  Can't have everything...












One of my two new commuters, below.  More on the second, soon.






Jeny getting after it on her new purple pony.






As neat as it was to have these two massive mulies *literally* in our back yard, eventually I had to waltz out and shoo them away before they completely denuded our baby aspens.  Varmints!






Bug season.






"That's close enough, bub."








Golden hour.










Fading to blue.




Thanks for checkin' in.