Thursday, October 28, 2010

Small Steps

Well, last night I found myself with a little time on my hands, so I decided to make the most of it. My bike was a filthy whore, so I gave it a bath. I usually keep The Big O clean enough to eat off of, but I’ve been neglecting it for a while lately. Since I’m considering changing up the drivetrain I figured that it should be clean. After washing it, I grabbed some of these:

Yeah, I love Lizard Skins, but that’s not the main reason for using lever grips. Sure, they look nice, but they do serve a purpose:

They keep my fingers from slipping off of the brake levers, and my bike just looked naked without them. Lizard Skins sells some pretty cool bike accessories, so I suggest you go see what you can find for your bike. Okay? Good. Anyway, after that menial task was complete, I got rid of this thing:

Yeah, that’s my big ring. I don’t need it, so I just unbolted the chainring bolts and took it off. Wait, why did I even bother modifying the three speed crankset when I have a new one to replace it with? Well, for starters, I’m a little hesitant to change over to the crank. Not the crank so much, but the bottom bracket. When I got the cranks (and included bottom bracket), I assumed that it would be compatible with the Shimano external bottom bracket I currently use. I was wrong (a recurring theme for me), so that meant that I had to use the Truvativ BB with the crankset. After reading some reviews on the GXP bottom bracket, I learned that it pretty much sucks.

All of a sudden I wasn't so enthusiastic about using my new crankset. I decided last night to see if the included bash guard on the Truvativ crank would fit my Shimano stuff, and it did. After taking off the big ring, I put the bash guard in it’s place:

A perfect fit, and I was happy. I didn’t have time for much else, so I left it as a 2X9 setup. I will eventually remove the small ring, but I need a little extra time to completely remove the cranks from the bike. I did it the lazy way, but I don’t care. I had time for a little test ride, and it worked just fine. I won’t be shifting the front derailleur anyway, so I’m sure things won’t really be any different when I take that itty bitty ring off of there.

I’ll get to test it out thoroughly this Saturday though, when I head up to the Kerr Scott Trail System for a hell ride. I’ll be meeting quite a few of our local riders up there to ride on all three trails, one after another. Yep, Dark Mountain, to the Overmountain Victory Trail, to Warrior Creek, and back to the parking lot via the OVT again. We’re talking over forty miles of pain, er singletrack goodness. I probably won’t miss that big ring, but I’m sure I’ll be looking for some smaller gears towards the end of the ride.

As for tomorrow, I won’t be here. my boy and I are taking a much needed day off and heading out for a ride at Bent Creek near Asheville, NC. I’ll probably take the squishy bike, since Lunchbox won’t be down for any kind of hammerfest (and so I can be comfortable.) Hopefully I’ll come back Monday with lots of photos and stories. Hell, hopefully I come back alive. So yeah, that could be a reference to the upcoming Halloween “holiday.” Maybe I should be riding this:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Just Might Do It (The Single Life)

Of course I’m talking about the bike again, and not some dopey bachelor action. This is a bicycling blog, after all (with occasional sprinkles of skateboarding and other crap.) What do I mean by single? Well, ever since I took the plunge and started riding big wheels, I’ve really been considering loosing my gears. Most of you have been around here for a while, so I’m sure you already knew that.

Why single speed? Is it for the simplicity? Is it because all of the cool kids are doing it? Is it because I idolize the MadSS, his basket-weilding Mrs., or Dicky? No, no, and not really (wink.) The main reason I’m even considering switching my 29er over to the dark side is because I think it might make me a stronger rider. That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell.

Well, the time has come to do what my Grandma always said, “Shit or get off the pot.” (I really liked sitting on the commode when I was little I guess.) Some of the parts I’ve been waiting for include some singlespeed-specific stuff, and most of them have finally arrived. The first logical step in this whole mess o’ mine is to lose the front gears. I never use the “granny gear” or even the big ring on my three speed crankset. I used to like the big ring when I had to haul ass during some of my races, but I’ve weaned myself off of it in preparation for the inevitable 1X9 setup (a precursor to singlespeeding I suppose.) After several months of using only the middle chainring, I decided to find a new crankset to go all the way. Check it:

Yup, it’s singlespeed shit alright. I originally considered just putting a new middle chainring on the front with a bashguard, but I found a helluva deal on The Bay that I couldn’t pass up (I’m a sucker for a sale.) I haven’t installed it yet, but it will be on there very soon. I just haven’t had the time, and R2-D2 can’t do any unsupervised work just yet. Also included in that auction purchase was one of these:

If you have no idea what that is, then you probably don’t spend much time reading about bike shit on the Internets like I do. That, my friends, is a chain tensioner. A chain tensioner is basically used on bikes that aren’t singlespeed specific, meaning that they were designed to work with gears. Understand? No? Well, I can’t make it any simpler. If you need further assistance, please consult the “experts.”

Hopefully I’ll have time to convert my bike to 1X9 really soon. I have a big ride this weekend in the mountains, and I’d like to get everything setup by then. If I get the cranks on, then it looks like I’ll be doing my “testing” on a real ride. Nothing like getting your ass handed to you on an epic ride while trying out new parts. It’s gonna be hard enough keeping up with the people I’ll be riding with, let alone doing it without a few extra gears. Maybe that isn’t such a good idea. Whatever, I can take it (I hope.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pump Yer Brakes

Even though that’s a Ferrari, this post is all about bike stuff. The photo above represents what could happen if I kept riding the brakes I put on my 29er, The Big O. When I built up my big-wheeled bike back in April, I cheated a little to git er done. I used sub-par parts when it came down the the finishing touches, and I’ve been regretting it ever since. The brakes were the main issue, but I’m just now getting down to replacing them. Here is what I’ve been riding:

In case you can’t decipher any details from that shitty photo, I’ll tell you all about it. I’ve been riding on a pair of Hayes Sole hydraulic brakes. They are without question the shittiest brakes I’ve ever used, including v-brakes. I got them for next to nothing a while ago for another project I thought of doing, but when it came down to needing brakes for my 29er project (The Big O) I grabbed them. Big mistake. They are sort of a hybrid hydraulic brake, with manual pad adjustment on the calipers. They don’t do well stopping my 225 pound ass on big ass wheels. One could argue that I was faster riding with them, but I’ll tell you that I actually used more brake than necessary on more than one occasion. I did a lot of panic stopping, since I never really trusted them.

Anyway, after scouring the Internets for a suitable replacement (pretty much anything would be a suitable replacement), I finally settled on something a little better. Rather than sticking with a brand that I was familiar with (I have Avid Juicy 5’s on my 26 inch-wheeled bike), I took the plunge and went with something else:

These are Hayes Stroker Trail hydraulic disc brakes. They’re not top of the line, but they aren’t even close to bad either. I read a lot of good reviews, and I’ve also talked to a few folks that use them. I got these brakes on the cheap (which is a huge plus), so I couldn’t pass them up. They have tool-free adjustable levers, which enables me to change the lever position on the fly. I like simplicity, so these brakes fit the bill so far.

Installation was a breeze too. So easy in fact, that I didn’t bother activating R2-D2 to help (I got my own beer this time too.) In a matter of minutes, I had removed my old brake levers, my custom Lizard Skins lock-on grips, and shifters to make room for the new brakes. I got everything installed on the handlebars, and then it was time to move onto the calipers. They were just as simple. Here is the result of my, uh, hard work:

After a little tinkering on the work stand, I had them adjusted properly for optimum stopping power. I took a small test ride on the road in front of my house, and I was shocked at the difference. Actually I shouldn’t have been shocked at all, since the old brakes were worse than trying to stop my bike Fred Flintstone style.

Satisfied with the installation, I headed out for a little test ride. I went to North Meck, since it was close to me and the trail is really short. If I had some kind of catastrophic brake failure, then I’d rather not have to walk my ass off to get back to the trailhead. Anyway, the initial test ride was a success. I was actually faster, and I didn’t need to use a lot of brake power to adjust my speed before the turns. I’m happy with it so far, but a more in-depth test is in order. I have plenty of riding crap going on this weekend, so I guess I know for sure then.

Wait, and entire post about new brakes? Yup. I have to write something, and this is it. You can’t expect me to shit out a gem every time I sit here to write stuff, can you? Now, go find something more productive to do with your time, since you’ve wasted enough of it here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some Time Away From The Bike

While it is indeed the “offseason”, I’ve still been trying to get in as many miles as possible on the bike before winter shows up and the weather turns to shit. Saturday was an exception though, as the family and I headed to the mountains without our trusty two-wheeled conveyances. We decided a little hiking was in order, so we took off for Chimney Rock State Park near Lake Lure, NC.

Just like every other tourist that heads to the mountains this time of year, we were hoping to see the beautiful fall colors while we enjoyed a nice walk in the woods. I have to admit though; it felt odd to be on a trail without my bicycle. Little Miss Sunshine and Lunchbox agreed.

Since most of my readers prefer photos to actual “words” on this here blog, I’ll pack this one full of pictures for your enjoyment. Here goes:

We hiked to the top of the mountain (at least as close to the top as we could) and enjoyed the view:

Here are Little Miss Sunshine and Lunchbox taking a break while enjoying the view:

We saw a few odd things up there, including this dude that thought winter was already here:

Okay, now back to the scenery:

It’s been a while since our last visit to the park, and some things had changed. We used to be able to hike to the top of the falls there, but we discovered that the trail was closed:

That sucks. A while back, the park was actually privately owned. When the state of North Carolina took it over, they decided that some of the trails weren’t safe enough, so they have been “temporarily” closed. The one to the top of the falls was one of the main reasons we like hiking there (less people), and now we weren’t able to enjoy it. There’s talk that it could open back up in a few years, but we’ll probably not return until that happens. The magic is gone from Chimney Rock for us. Now it’s just a bunch of “stairs” everywhere:

There were still some cool views, including a nice rock in the shape of a devil’s head:

Here’s the “chimney” from another vantage point:

Since we couldn’t hike to the top of the falls, we had to settle for the bottom. With the drought conditions we’ve experienced here this summer, the falls were not as full of water as they usually are:

Lunchbox found a cave and took a break:

Little Miss Sunshine posed for a photo op too:

I had to prove that I was there I guess:

Oh yeah, we did see some fall colors:

This sign was on the trail that we hiked to get back down the mountain:

Yeah, it’s sad that you have to tell people not to vandalize nature, huh?

When we finished, we had dinner at a local Italian restaurant with a nice view of the state park:

It’s not as exciting as a bike ride in the mountains (at least for you to read about anyway), but we enjoyed it. It was nice to get away from the city for a bit. We did a ton of hiking, so at least I’m not sitting on my ass in the offseason. I did get back on the bike over the weekend, but I’ll save that for another time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nothing New Yet

Yup, that’s what I'm feeling right now. I’m waiting for some new shit to roll into the B-43 compound, but nothing has arrived yet. I’ve heard that things are on the way via various shipping means, but as of yet I am left empty-handed. In the meantime though, I decided that I would keep my new little helper plenty busy until I get some stuff delivered here. First, I had R2 install my new 11-34 cassette that I showed you yesterday:

After installing it, I asked R2-D2 to adjust my gears. He has to earn his keep around here, so I put his little metal ass to work:

It didn’t take him long, probably because he is used to pretending to work on large spaceships and the like. I wasn’t satisfied with the amount of work I was getting out of him, so I had him grab the shock pump to check the air in my suspension components:

Yeah, that’s real exciting, huh? Actually, it only got worse from here. I guess the little fella got tired of me bossing him around, and he started getting a little sassy. I don’t think the work bothered him so much as the fact that I kept interrupting him to ask for more beer:

Thanks again to Bike29 for the beer koozie, by the way.

After finishing that particular beverage, I asked him for one more. I decided I would run the video camera this time to show you folks at home what a neat little droid he is. I think I picked the wrong time to film him though:

Yep, fail indeed. The little bastard must have been tired of the questions or something, because he just threw the damn beer at my feet. Maybe I’ll take him down to Anchorhead to have his memory erased.

An entire post devoted to my new mechanic? Yup. I figured that you folks would like to get to know him a bit better. I’m starting to think I should let one of my cats take over the mechanic duties. It might cut down on the headache factor around here.

As for upcoming events, there are none right now. I’m holding out hope that some of my new shit comes in today or tomorrow so I can have something to talk about. I’ll get out on the bike for sure this weekend, but I haven’t decided where. I think I’ll just grab the skateboard after work today and forget about this whole “sassy mechanic issue.” Maybe I should just see if C-3P0 is available to work for me. I’m sure I could keep him busy and he wouldn’t mind.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

There's More Work To Be Done I Guess

Since it’s now the “offseason”, I gotta find some shit to keep me busy. The days are getting shorter, which means soon I won’t even be able to ride after work anymore. Currently I’m able to get out of work, haul ass over to one of my local trails, and get a lap in before dark. The other day I had a nice surprise though, since I got out really early and had time for some daytime riding at Sherman Branch.

Sorry, but I don’t have any “action shots” from the trail. The ride was fast and fun. I was worn out when I finished, and that was the goal I guess. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it. One of these days though, I’ll get one of those fancy helmet cameras and start making some videos. That will surely help pass the time around here. Videos are always a good thing. For now maybe I can show you a sex tape:

Anyway, since it won’t be long until I’m only riding on the weekends, I have to keep my new little helper busy. I did mention that there are a few parts and such slowly trickling into the B-43 Worldwide Headquarters though. I have lots of “projects” in mind. Changing the wheels on Little Miss Sunshine’s bike was one of them, and now I can cross that off the list. Another thing I’ve been wanting to do is to change the rear shock on my full squishy bike, Goose.

Back when I broke it and got a new one, I knew I would eventually need to change the shock. My 2008 Diamondback Sortie 3 had four inches of rear travel, and the 2009 Sortie 3 and later all have five inches. When Diamondback sent me a new frame, they didn’t send a new shock. The shop just used the old one.

It was a nice shock, but it kind of screwed up the ride. My bottom bracket and pedals were lower to the ground, so I kept bumping into stuff (like rocks.) This kept me from really enjoying the bike when I rode it, so I finally ordered a new shock.

It was basically the same shock, but a little longer (matching the original specifications from Diamondback.) This was an easy thing to replace, but I still let R2-D2 do it. I sat back with a beer as he removed the old shock from the frame:

After replacing the mounting hardware, R2 installed the new shock, inflated the air canister, and tested it. I took the photo:

I took a little test ride and I was amazed at the difference. The bike handled a lot better, which is probably why these bike companies spend tons of money on shit like research, engineers, and other fancy stuff. Once again my R2 unit did a great job on the mechanic work. There will be plenty of work for him in the future, including this:

Yeah, that’s a new cassette. There’s been talk of me doing the single speed thing on my 29er, but for now I may put this cassette on so my rides will be a little “easier.” It’s an 11-34, and I’m currently running an 11-32. It won’t be a huge difference, but it will help me in the offseason should I choose to drink more beer and ride my bike fewer miles (which is very likely.) I know, I should be training in the offseason, but I’ll probably just take it easy for a while. Maybe I’ll just look for a tandem bike and have someone pull me around the trails this winter…