Sunday, November 22, 2015

Single Life

Today I took the newly reconfigured Waltworks out for a two-hour ride. I was a little apprehensive because I haven't been on a single speed in quite some time. Would I be fit enough? Single speeding isn't very enjoyable when you're walking up hills.

I needn't have worried about my fitness. Unlike my 42-mile ride on Friday, which I struggled to finish, I actually rode really well today. I was shocked at just how good I felt. Maybe all the riding lately is paying off.

The bike has completely changed with the new 38mm riser bar. Both the rider position and the handling felt great. The 30-inch wide bars slowed the steering down a bit, but the bike may have been a bit too quick before. As I have mentioned previously, the bike has a 72-degree head angle, which is pretty steep. I felt comfortable enough with the new handling to blow by a guy riding a full suspension bike on a downhill. That was pretty satisfying.

I noticed something interesting after riding a few downhills on this bike. It was the smoothest ride of any bike I have been on lately, yet it has narrow tires compared to the Niner and Krampus. So what's the deal?

I suspect the quality of the tubing is the main difference. The Waltworks frame and fork are made from True Temper OX Platinum and are designed specifically for my weight. The result is the kind of ride quality you hope for when you fork out the dough for a custom ride. It's also the lightest bike I own by far. It seems like a light bike moves more freely underneath you, isn't as jolting when you hit a bump.

The Krampus is made of a generic 4130 chromoly tubing, and the frameset has to be designed for anyone who might buy it, which might mean a 300-pound dude. It's simply not going to have the same ride quality as my custom bike, even with plus size tires. And it's a tank.

The Niner is aluminum, so it is stiffer than a steel frame by default. That said, it rides pretty well. Aluminum bikes have come a long way.

In the end there is obviously more to making a rigid bike ride well than just cramming fat tires in it. If that were the case, the Krampus would ride like a Cadillac.

Anyway, I had a great time on the single speed and I can't wait to ride it again soon.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Last Try

After making my mind up to unload the Waltworks, I just couldn't sell it without trying one last time to make it work. First I tried a 3/4" riser bar. Even riding around on the driveway I could tell the position still wasn't right.

To the Internet!

I found a pair of Deity 38mm risers (1.5") with a 9.5 degree bend. They sounded perfect for single speeding. After they arrived, I paired them with a 90mm stem and the bike has passed the driveway test. It feels pretty good.

Maybe I'll take it out tomorrow to see how it feels on the trails.


Thursday, November 19, 2015


Earlier this year I took the orange Waltworks single speed out for a ride. The old geometry, short fork and flat bars just weren't working for me anymore. I decided after that ride to sell it, but never pulled the trigger.

I did, however, sell the blue Waltworks in August due to the very poor rear tire clearance. So I was really without a single speed when the urge to ride one hit me a couple weeks ago.

To the Internet!

After scouring Craigslist and eBay for a cheap, suitable frame, I found this Monocog for a hundred bucks:

It's the same frame I had for a while some years back when I broke my wrist. The heavy beast did the job until I was ready to ride with a rigid fork again. I even raced it once.

Now I have one again. I have an old straight-steerer Reba for it and probably enough parts in the inventory to get it running.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I took the day off today because, well, working sucks. I wanted to ride, but I wasn't in the mood for dealing with cars or even concentrating enough to ride some singletrack. Sometimes I just want to shut my brain off. You know, get my Patrick on:

To the bike trail!

I threw the Jamis Dragon on the car and headed down. My goal was to knock out 40 miles, but with a late start, it would be tough to ride that far and be back in time to pick up the boy at school.

Taking off from the fish hatchery, I went hard from the start knowing I had to turn around at the 70 minute mark. As time expired I was at mile 19 and not feeling great. Unfortunately I had gone a little too hard, not eaten nearly enough breakfast, and had no food with me. I turned around knowing I had my work cut out for me.

Knobbies buzzing away, I dug deep to stay on pace. At one point I passed a roadie who then sat on my wheel for four miles. This is one of the things that drives me nuts about the bike trail. My aggravation at having him back there, sucking the wheel of a mountain biker, prompted me to go hard until I finally burned him off.

After dispatching my roadie foe, I limped in and finished the second leg in 68 minutes, averaging 16.5 miles an hour for the 38-mile ride. That's not going to win any Tour de France time trials, but I haven't done any speed work in years. The ride hurt a little bit, but it's fun to go out and test yourself once in a while.


Saturday, November 07, 2015

More Krampus

Today I took the Krampus out again on a 30-mile, 2800 foot ride. Yesterday I was left wondering whether the bike was really as slow as it felt. Today I would have to say it is. The thing is a big, fat pig. I asked myself a couple times during the ride why the hell I keep riding the damn thing.

Everything started off fine because the beginning of every ride from my house is mostly downhill. Even the first big climb was fine because I was still fresh and feeling strong.

When I hit the dirt the bike was mostly good. On one stretch of tight, twisty singletrack I actually thought the bike handled really well. I felt like I was going pretty fast. Just as I was feeling good about the bike, I hit another section where I bounced around like superball.

I have read a number of complaints online about the same bouncing issue with the Maxis Chronicle tires. Apparently there is a very narrow tire pressure range where the tires are effective. I have yet to find this mythical pressure.

The climb home was rough. I was a bit tired from all the riding this week, and it felt like I was towing an anchor behind me. When I finally rolled up the driveway, my legs definitely felt like I had dragged a really heavy bike over almost 3000 feet of hills.

After a number of rides on the Krampus, I feel like I have enough information to form an opinion: I'm not sold on the 29+ platform. I realize I have only been on one bike and used one tire, so I will move forward with an open mind. For me, I think the sweet spot would be a tire in the 2.7" range with a fast tread. Nothing like that currently exists, but maybe as the platform matures more size options will appear.

For now I definitely need to make some adjustments to make this bike more useful for how I ride. As currently built, the Krampus really isn't good at anything. First, the tires need to go. Switching to something like a Panaracer Fat B Nimble (765 grams) would shed almost 1.5 pounds. Going tubeless would help with the weight, too.

Where's that credit card . . .


Friday, November 06, 2015

War Pig

I have been doing a fair amount of riding lately, enough to shed seven pounds in the last few weeks. I don't look like a bike racer just yet, but it's a start.

Most of the rides have been over two hours long, and all have been mixed terrain using the Niner EMD. I really like that bike—the position, the handling, the rim/tire combo, everything.

As I prepared to go out for another ride this morning, I eyed the Krampus, a bike that isn't getting much use. For some reason I decided to take it out on a mixed terrain ride to see how it would do. I trued the rear wheel, which was pretty wobbly for a new wheel. I'm not hard on wheels, so this was disappointing. I also added a second water bottle cage, pump and a spare tube. Ready.

I decided to ride the same route I used for my last ride to see just how much slower the 29+ bike would be versus the Niner EMD. On Sunday I rode nonstop at a good tempo, even riding briefly with a pack of roadies, but I would try to match the perceived effort as best I could.

Rolling out of the driveway, the Krampus felt fine. I had more air in the tires than I would for a trail ride, so the bike rolled well. Down the first few hills, I ran out of gear due to the 1x10 setup. I found you can comfortably hit 28 miles per hour in the hardest gear, maybe 32 spinning your brains out. There are a number of places where you can get up around 40 miles per hour, so I did a little more coasting than I would riding a bike equipped with a triple crank.

Climbing was slower in most situations, which is to be expected. The tires are 1070 grams with an aggressive tread, at least compared to other plus tires. The only time I felt an advantage was on short climbs where it felt like the bike rolled up with minimal effort due to the momentum of the big, heavy wheels.

When I hit the first dirt section, I thought the Krampus would be in its element. However, it felt slower than the Niner. Uphill, downhill, rocky terrain or smooth, it felt lethargic in the dirt. It made me seriously wonder what this bike is good for.

The ride progressed in much the same way: observing different situations and being disappointed with the outcome. Over and over I kept thinking, man, this thing is slow. I completed the last tough climb and was glad it was over.

I rolled up the driveway and looked down at my GPS. Less than two hours. I said aloud, "That can't be right." I had to have missed a turn or something. I immediately took the Garmin upstairs to my office and downloaded the info. I was shocked to see that the ride on the Krampus was faster. Not only was it faster than Sunday's ride, it was faster than any other time I had done that route. Scoreboard don't lie. Here's the Sunday ride on the Niner and today's ride on the Krampus.

So did I just have a good day? Did I subconsciously ride harder to compensate for the bike? Can a particular bike change the way speed is perceived? I don't know the answer to any of those questions, but it will be interesting to see how the next ride goes.


Tuesday, November 03, 2015


This is the best video I have seen in a while. It's amazing how far the riding and film making have come in the last 10 years. Semenuk makes it all seem so very easy.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


It seems as if every life activity has a defined window right now. One activity butts right up against the next. The future can only be "penciled in" because the schedule is full and fluid. Every ride is rushed because there is somewhere to go, something to do, something to get done. I haven't been riding that much lately because it simply ceased to be fun; it isn't the mental and spiritual release it used to be. It is becoming something else to "get done."

And so it was today. I had a window to get a ride in before our Little League game. I went out to get it done.

We had a thunderstorm a couple days ago that dropped a little bit of rain in the mountains and foothills. It did little for our water situation (or our local pond, which is at about half its normal size), but the soil was actually slightly damp.

It has been a while since my tires have dug in to a tacky trail.

It was fun to hit the downhill corners with a little traction.

Fog this time of year is rare. The Sierras are out there somewhere.

It was a short little ride, but I managed to climb almost 1500 feet, so it was a decent workout.

On the baseball front, we stayed undefeated for the season. The boy went 2-2 at the plate with two hard singles. He also pitched two scoreless innings and made some fine plays in the field.


Saturday, October 17, 2015


Yesterday Jenn and I had a very rare day off together. Time to ride.

We started late due to a contractor being at our house, so we only had time for 20 miles.

The riding was nice, but as our drought continues on, the scenery isn't so great.

The river is low and barely moving.

The plan was to have sushi afterward, but Mikuni was so crowded the parking lot was overflowing. We settled for a nice lunch elsewhere and hurried off to pick up the boy from school. A nice way to end the workweek.


Saturday, October 03, 2015

Ride Report: Surly Krampus

I have been having a tough time with my motivation lately. I never feel like driving anywhere to ride, and after 12 years of living in the same place, I am sick of the same boring rides around my house. I needed something new to get me excited. Fortunately it was sitting right in my garage.

I started building my Surly Krampus months ago. During the build process I sold my 17-year-old Toyota truck to my stepson without really thinking things through. From a cycling perspective I replaced the bike transport duties the truck provided with a Yakima hitch rack for the Acura. It works really well, but unfortunately I found that neither the Pugsley nor the Krampus fit. In the case of the Pugs, the tires were simply too fat. The Krampus didn't fit because the tires were too tall; the hook that retains the front tire would not go high enough. I was disgusted with myself, missing my old truck, and suffering from buyer's remorse. Without a way to transport the damn thing, and the fact that it's not really a bike you want to take on the road, the Krampus sat.

A few days ago it occurred to me that I might be able to take off the stop that prevents the hook from going higher. It looked like everything was held together by a simple C-clip. I popped off the clip, pushed out the pin, removed the end cap, and I was in business. The three-inch tires fit in both wheel trays (barely) and I could now lock down the front wheel. Time to ride.

On the trail the first thing I noticed was how perfectly the bike fit. I usually struggle a bit with every new bike to find the sweet spot, but not this time. I went with the medium frame, which has a 24-inch top tube. Paired with a 90mm stem, I felt right at home immediately. The seating position with a layback Thomson post was also perfect.

The steering was in a word unremarkable. I leaned the bike into the first few corners and the bike tracked right through the middle of each turn without much rider input. I expected at least a little of the weird counter-steering you experience with a fat bike. The three-inch tires track more like regular mountain bike tires, only with seemingly unlimited traction. The 69.5 degree head angle seems perfect for this bike.

Acceleration was a little slower than a 29er, which I would expect. The tires and rims are quite a bit heavier. However, after a few pedal strokes the bike rolls really, really well. To me this is also to be expected since the tire diameter is about 30.5 inches. Remember the difference going from 26 inches to 29? This jump is not as dramatic as far as rolling resistance goes, but close.

The bike's front end comes up readily. Given the diameter of the tires I didn't think the chainstays could possibly be short enough to allow this. Once the front wheel is up, you can easily keep it there. This thing is a wheelie machine. The ease at which you can balance was amazing. I haven't had a bike that wheelies like this one since my Redline BMX bike when I was a kid. I found myself riding long ones whenever the uphill grade was right.

I attacked some short, smooth uphills hard early in the ride and really didn't feel like the bike was all that slow. However, this changed when I hit the first longer climb. When the big wheels' momentum runs out, things can get . . . slow. The bike is a bit of a pig. Granted, I didn't go for light weight with the wheels—14 gauge spokes, brass nipples, heavier rims, inner tubes. I am not going to beat many people to the top of a long climb with this bike.

On technical climbs the bike really shined. The traction, tire diameter and the ease at which you can balance made picking my way up rocky climbs a lot of fun. I skipped over gaps between rocks that would swallow even a 29er tire.

Downhilling was a lot of fun for the most part. Cornering and braking traction were excellent, so I was able to enter turns at a higher speed and maintain it through the turn. It took me a few tries before I could really trust the tires, but once I did my cornering improved.

While the tires provide a bit of suspension, it is undamped suspension. If the frequency of the bumps matches up with the rebound of the front tire (think braking bumps), you can find yourself holding onto a runaway pogo stick. This happened to me twice on the ride and it really sucked. I have never experienced this behavior with a normal sized tire on any rigid bike. Ever. It happens to a much lesser extent on a fat bike, but it's a softer, mellower bounce. This was awful. There must be something special about the plus size tire. Even trying a few different tire pressures didn't help. I hated it enough that I immediately started thinking about getting a suspension fork.

After one ride I think I like the bike, but I'm not sure. I need to ride it a couple more times in case I was just having a bad day.

Speaking of a bad day, this guy almost had one:

I missed his head by a half inch. It scared me more than him, though. He never moved. I finally had to chase him off so nobody else smashed him.

I have to wonder at what point we stop calling our local reservoir Folsom Lake and revert back to the American River:


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Labor Day Weekend

We spent the three-day weekend in Monterey. If it seems like you're seeing a pattern, perhaps so. We love going there. How can you go wrong with the ocean, sun, great food, the aquarium and miles of bike trail with great scenery?

On Saturday we rode north on the bike trail and put in 20 miles. The Boy is getting stronger and set the pace for much of the ride.

Sunday came and the team was a split between the people who wanted to walk and shop, and the guy who wanted to ride. I rode solo while they walked, going south along 17-Mile Drive and exploring some new roads around Carmel. I ended up riding 26 miles with lots of climbing.

This shot reminded me of Mexico:

How could I not stop to take a picture of this beauty?

On Monday we woke up early and rode through Pacific Grove, circled back through Monterey, and rode along the bike trail. We put in our 20 miles and headed back to the hotel to pack up.

In between the rides we had some great meals, visited the aquarium twice, walked, watched the wildlife, and enjoyed being away from home.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

And Another One

Today I unloaded the blue Waltworks on Craigslist. I liked the bike, but the lack of rear tire clearance was a deal breaker. I substituted a bunch of crap parts and put it out there for a good price.

The buyer only wanted the frame, fork and cranks, which was fine with me. I didn't want to give up the wheels and new tires anyway.

Man, the garage is getting thin.


Friday, August 21, 2015

#2 Pencil

Today I did the same ride as last Friday. After taking a bit of a beating last week, I went with the Canfield over the Niner.

I started early, and the trails were nice and empty. The weather was cool and overcast due to the overnight delta breeze bringing the marine layer far inland.

I haven't taken the Canfield out for a while, and at first I had to relearn how to steer. The slack head angle and long travel fork combination is a lot different than what I normally ride. The front tire washed out on me a couple times early in the ride. Once I got used to the bike, that seemed to go away.

As little as a year ago, I thought a 120mm fork was overkill for this area. But injuries and age are taking their toll. I can't ride a rigid bike every day. At the very least I need to use this bike more often to protect my hands. I also remembered how much fun this bike is.

On one of the rocky drops on my second lap, I took a bad line, but stayed upright. The fork bailed me out of a bad decision.

Riding a rigid fork is like writing in pen; you better be committed because mistakes can be permanent. A suspension fork is like a pencil; it can erase mistakes.

After being a long-time pen user, I might need to start using more pencils.


Saturday, August 15, 2015


Yesterday I took my Niner out to Granite Bay to try out the new wheel and tire combination on the trails. The frame is an older Niner EMD, which sat around unbuilt for years. I bought it to be my race bike, but I never got around to doing any racing. I finally built it up a couple months ago using a Salsa Firestarter steel fork and many of the parts from the Salsa Fargo I sold. Until yesterday it had only been used for mixed-terrain rides around my house.

I have always preferred the way a bike handles with a rigid fork. For most of the riding I do, suspension just isn't necessary. I also like climbing out of the saddle, and the bobbing of a suspension fork drives me nuts. And to be honest, riding without suspension (and going as fast as others) has always made me feel tough. Until yesterday.

After only 30 miles of riding, my back and hands were toast. In my defense, the trails are pretty beat up right now. What used to be an easy loop where you could take beginners is now quite technical in places. I think as suspension travel increases, speed also increases, and speed tears up trails.

I don't know if it's age catching up with me, or simply the combination of an aluminum frame and rigid fork, but I am very sore today. My back is usually pretty solid, so I am a little surprised.

As far as the tires go, I have never had better traction. The wider rims really change the profile of the tire, increase the volume, and allow you to run lower pressures. The sand over hardpack is usually quite slippery at times. On this ride I usually have a couple close calls with the front tire washing out, but I didn't break traction even once. I am sold on wide rims.

The only pictures I took were of the "lake." The drought continues, and I can't believe how low the water is. The shoreline should be up near the trees on the left:

The dam isn't doing much work these days:

This morning, as I flexed my sore fingers, I eyed the Rockshox Reba sitting in the corner of the garage and accepted the fact that it needs to go on my bike. I ain't so tough anymore.


Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Old Man and the Sea(lant)

I am pretty slow to adopt most new things in cycling. I rode with clips and straps for quite a few years. I used friction shifters long after index shifters hit the scene. I thought V-brakes worked just fine until fairly recently. And one look at all the bikes in the garage would lead you to say, "Hey, what's with all the rigid forks?"

I also resisted the tubeless tire. It just seemed like a lot of trouble to solve a minor problem. How difficult is it to change out a tube?

Eventually I come around to most new technologies (except press-fit bottom brackets). With a bumper crop of goatheads ripening on the vine, it was time to try tubeless. I bought a set of wheels utilizing Velocity Blunt 35mm rims. While these are not tubeless specific rims, people seem to have decent luck with them, and I wanted the added width for more tire volume. I bought some rim tape, valves and sealant, and got to work.

Everything went pretty smoothly. The only difficult thing was getting the beads set because my air compressor isn't very powerful. It was a little frustrating, but overall the process was much simpler than I anticipated.

My Bontrager 2.35 tires grew to almost 2.5 inches on the 35mm rims. On the road the flatter tire profile felt a little slower, but on the dirt they felt great. I ran 24/20 PSI, and even though this was 8 PSI lower than I normally run for mixed-terrain rides, the tires were still too hard.

One thing I noticed immediately was the lack of tire squirm going through corners. Solid. Wide rims are where it's at.

I was taught in my teens that the valve stem always lines up with the tire logo. Always. That's the "pro look" my mechanic mentors strived for. I have done it that way for over 30 years now without even thinking about it. The partially inflated tube goes in the tire, and the valve magically lines up with the logo. But on my first tubeless setup, I completely missed the boat. NOT pro.

On the second one I came to my senses and lined it up. VERY pro.

I am actually looking forward to the first goathead to see if my money was well spent.


Friday, June 12, 2015

First Summer Ride

Today was our first ride together during summer vacation. We rode on the bike trail starting at the hatchery.

We started early. The temperature was cool and the trail was empty except for the occasional retiree.

We followed it up with a Smash Burger lunch.

It was a great way to start our summer. Hopefully there will be many more days like this one.


Tuesday, June 02, 2015


Time has been difficult to come by lately. Whenever I find myself with a window of free time, I typically use it to ride a bike, not build one.

Anyway, today I cut the steerer tube, installed the cranks and hung a saddle on the bike. Getting there.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Early Bird

I had to get up early today to get a ride in before heading to the ballpark. I was out the door by 7:00 and it was a bit cold, too darn cold for May. I was able to witness a nice sunrise, which made the early hour a bit more bearable.

I was able to mix in a bit of gravel . . .

. . . some trail . . .

. . . some more gravel . . .

. . . and a bit of singletrack.

I went hard for 90 minutes and reluctantly headed home. After a quick shower it was off to our Little League game.

We lost, again, but the boy turned in a fine pitching performance: 3 innings pitched, no runs, no hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts.