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.