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.