Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Yeah, We’re Still In The Mountains

When I left off yesterday, my crew (consisting of myself, The Dirty Party Cycle, and Lunchbox) were on the airstrip, which pretty much felt like the top of the world. The long climb we had to get there was worth it for the view alone, but there was plenty more. The actual “Airstrip” trail was next, and it was a long, twisty downhill section that made us all pucker up a little. The trail was a little slick with leaves and such, but we still had a blast hauling ass down this fun trail. When we got to the bottom, the sign told us what we just rode:

After consulting the map, we found the quickest way to our next destination, via the Corn Mill Shoals Trail. This particular trail has become part of the usual route for me in my many visits to the DuPont State Forest, so it was a welcome sight. After a little up and down action, we arrived at our destination, Bridal Veil Falls:

Here’s The Dirty Party Cycle chatting it up with a couple of hikers.

After a few moments on the observation deck, we headed down the gravel path to park our bikes:

We walked up to the falls, and we all just took it in. We had started munching on trail mix at this point for a little extra energy, when all of a sudden The Dirty Party Cycle just took off up to the top. We must have purchased different kinds of trail mix, because Lunchbox and I didn’t get that tremendous burst of energy that had befallen the DPC. He almost ran to the top, and we could barely keep up. I guess he was pretty excited to see the falls:

When we finally caught up, he wanted a closer look at this marvel of nature:

Lunchbox joined in, and they both enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the falling water:

It was cold though. Really cold. The sun was starting to go down, which made the temps feel a lot worse. Some of the water on the giant rock formation was still a little frozen too:

Even though we were getting a little chilly, the views were worth it. Watching the water rush down the rock made me remember why I wanted to take this trip in the first place. I just wanted to get away from it all for a while, and DuPont is the perfect place to do that.

We hung out there for as long as we could, but it was soon time to get back. The rest of the trail was fast and fun (aside from a few tough climbs, but those were fun too.) I jumped out in front at one point to catch a photo of Lunchbox enjoying his newly built bicycle:

We made it back to the trailhead with plenty of time to spare, but now we were on a different menu. We packed up our shit and made our way to Asheville for some awesome Mexican cuisine at our favorite spot, Papa’s & Beer. I was starving, so I ordered a big ol’ plate of slop:

Lunchbox and The DPC were chowing down too:

I even got to enjoy a big ass glass of Highland Brewing Company’s Gaelic Ale. Mmmm.

Yup, just what I needed. A great ride with some good people on some awesome trails was just what the doctor would have ordered (if I went to a doctor for such a thing.) I’m not getting the kind of saddle time I’d like to lately, so this kind of made up for it a little. Winter is fast approaching here in North Carolina, so I don’t know if we can do a repeat trip out there anytime soon. I hope so, for my sanity’s sake. I sure as shit don’t want to start putting in miles on the trainer just yet.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Just What I Needed

Yeah, the bikes were loaded on the truck, and it looks like we finally got the hell outta town. Our road trip was supposed to happen on Friday, but Mother Nature put a hex on the whole damn thing. Well, that and I was a little sick. For the last week I’ve been battling a cold, so I actually spent all day Friday in bed. I woke up Saturday morning feeling better though, so Lunchbox and I loaded up our shit and headed westward to pick up our good pal The Dirty Party Cycle.

His dogs were the first to greet us, but he was just as excited to be a part of this trip. We loaded up the Dirty Party Cycle’s new 29er Dirty Party Cycle and his accessories, and we got ready to leave. It didn’t take long, but while we were waiting I started getting a little nosey. I took a peek in the DPC’s recycle bin and I noticed a very disturbing sight:

PBR? Budweiser with Clamato? Wow, I thought he had better taste in beer than that. I know he enjoys the good stuff like I do, but this must be the kind of shit he drinks when there is nothing else to purchase way out there in the sticks. I mean, the DPC lives so far out in the country that they barely have running water and electricity, so I guess it’s too much to ask that they have good beer. I suppose he gets a pass on this one…for now.

Anyway, after that uncomfortable beer disruption, we got on the road. Our destination was the DuPont State Forest. The weather forecast looked good for the most part, but the temperature was supposed to be a bit chilly. I think the highs were only in the mid 40’s, but we had plenty of clothing to keep us warm. On the way out there, we were all reminded of why we love living in North Carolina so much. The views of the mountains were awesome:

The pictures weren’t as good as I thought they would be, but I’m sure you get the uh, picture. It was sure to be a good day on our bicycles, and I was looking forward to it. I even made sure to address my nutritional needs in the best possible manner:

Cheetos, the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.

After a litte over two hours, we arrived at the trailhead ready to go. It was still pretty chilly outside, but that wouldn’t stop us from having fun. It was a beautiful fall day in the mountains, and we all needed a little stress relief. I had the fellers pose for me at the kiosk before we set out on our journey:

We headed out on the the Reasonover Creek trail, hoping to get in a good ride. After a little bit of downill action, we made it to a creek crossing. Since the water was probably near freezing, we decided not to ride through the crossing. Instead, we made it across on a series of rocks:

No one fell in, so I didn’t have to treat for frostbite. We climbed a little bit after that, but it wasn’t too bad. I struggled at times though, since I was still recovering from my sickness. When we got to the top of some of the climbs, I kind of sounded like Darth Vader after Luke took off his mask.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, we were riding at DuPont. After climbing, for quite a while, it was time for some downhill action. I didn’t bring along my shitty helmet camera this time, so you’ll have to just imagine that the downhill stuff was fun. It was, so don’t feel like you’re cheating yourself or anything. When we finally got to the bottom of the downhill section, we found another creek to enjoy. This time we sat down for a spell:

After hanging out by the creek, I started getting a little nosey again (a recurring theme for our trip I suppose.) Up the trail a ways, I found an old abandoned hut.

It looked like it could have been some shelter for wayward hikers or something, but I figured that it was the summer home of the North Carolina Bigfoot. Lunchbox poked his head in there just to make sure:

We saw no sign of Bigfoot, so we headed back down the trail. Eventually we came up on a lake with a beautiful view:

Is is Lake Julia Rd. or Lake Juliard? You decide, but I already know what the answer is.

After the lake it was more climbing. It was only fire road at this point, so it wasn’t so bad. The Dirty Party Cycle took off ahead so I could capture his image for this blog:

After a short climb to the top, we were rewarded for our effort. We had reached the airstrip, and an awesome view of the surrounding mountains:

Yeah, it was pretty cool, and it was also a good place to take a break. This seems like a good place to cut this story short too. I don’t want to bore you to death in one day, so I’ll spread it out. I know you all have a short attention span (as do I), so I’ll continue where I left off tomorrow. Don’t worry, the review I promised last week is coming soon. You’ll probably be sorry that you had to wait so long for it. That’s what you get for reading this crap every day. At least you don’t have to write it though. Surely I’ll be back tomorrow, right?

Yes I will, but don’t call me Shirley.

R.I.P. Mr. Nielsen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Not The Review You Were Looking For

The review I’ve been talking about for the past few days will have to wait until another day. With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up tomorrow, I figured that most of you were concentrating on eating turkey and drinking beer anyway. Speaking of beer, here is my latest find:

This is a nice bottle of Decadent Imperial I.P.A. from Ska Brewing Company. I was in the local beer supply store da udda day and the bottle caught my eye. Not the fancy design mind you, but those three little letters (I.P.A.) The top of the bottle even looked cool though:

It looks like they used a wax-like substance (most likely wax I guess) to seal the bottle in addition to a standard bottle cap. I’m not sure of its purpose, but it looked pretty cool. I thought it would be difficult to open the bottle with that stuff on there, but it really wasn’t an issue. A standard bottle opener is all it took. That was a good thing, since I don’t need an extra step added to my beer drinking process.

I poured the beer into a glass, and took a sniff. Wow, it wasn’t overpowering, but you could tell it was full of goodness. I’ll admit, I’m really into hoppy beers, and this one looked promising. I took my first sip and I was in heaven. It was pretty strong (just how I like it), and the taste was phenomenal. It was a little sweet, but not too much that I felt like I was drinking liquid candy. The bitterness balanced out the sweet for sure. There was a nice hoppy aftertaste too. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

I swear I’m not copying George by posting about a beer from the same company. I just found this one, and I love it. I have yet to try the Modus Hoperandi that he mentioned, but I will get to it when I find one. Possibly soon, my friends.

Hopefully you all have a good Thanksgiving. You know, drinking beer, eating turkey, and all that good stuff. I’ll probably eat some turkey too (and drink lots of beer). I hope the turkey isn’t too big though:

On second thought, maybe I’ll just go for a bike ride on Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for big wheels, knobby tires, and singletrack anyway, and I certainly don’t need to stuff myself full of cooked bird and put on more “offseason weight.” Riding sounds like a better way to celebrate anyway. Lunchbox and I are planning an out of town bike trip on Friday, so I guess I’ll see y’all Monday. I need a break, and a road trip just might do the trick..

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Time To Move On

All of the bad stuff I talked about yesterday is over. I don’t want to dwell on it too much, so I’m through talking about it (well, in a minute anyway.) I had a bad experience at a business, and now I will take my money elsewhere in the future. I tried my best to tell you about it without really tearing into the shop (believe me I wanted to), and I feel like I got my point across. I appreciate the couple of comments and the shitload of e-mails I got yesterday though. I really do. Like I said, my intent wasn’t to bash them at all. I’m just a regular guy, and this is no different than me telling a group of my friends about a bad experience I had somewhere. Of course I have a much bigger audience here, and I always tell you what’s going on in my bicycling world.

Now, I’ll get off of my soapbox.

Guess what? I actually ride a bike. I know it seems like it’s been a while, but I actually got to hop on my two-wheeled beast over the weekend. Since I was on call though, I never got a chance on Friday evening to convert my bike to singlespeed. On Saturday I had to build up Lunchbox’s bike, so that took away my valuable conversion time. I did manage to get out to Sherman Branch on Saturday morning. I had to work for a little bit, but when they left me alone I headed out to ride with Little Miss Sunshine.

When we left the house it was kind of chilly outside, but at the trailhead it was nice and warm (at least to me.) The weather was perfect, and I couldn’t wait to get on the trail. Little Miss Sunshine headed out first, and I told her I would catch up. After hauling ass through the woods, I finally caught up to her. She said she was riding slow, but I beg to differ. She’s a lot faster than she thinks.

After a short break, we rode the rest of the trail together. The pace was nice, and I was happy to be back on my bike. I suffered no ill effects from my broken rib, and I was glad to be (almost) healed. I actually forgot I was hurt until we finished the ride. Little Miss Sunshine seemed pretty happy to be out on the trail, and even let me take her picture:

Since this is my blog, I begged her to get a photo of me. She suggested that I ride some of the features, but I already have plenty of photos of me hitting everything out there. I just wanted any photo of me riding, basically just to prove that I was there. Here’s what she got:

When we finished the ride, she headed out (we drove separately.) I decided that since my job hadn’t called that I would head back out for another lap. I refilled my water bottle and got right back on the trail. In the first section I started picking up speed, hoping to get in a fast lap time. As I rounded a corner by the trailhead, I saw someone standing next to the trail. It was world-famous blogger Rich Dillen. I didn’t have my camera out, so you’ll have to take my word for it. He said, “What are you doing? The team ride was earlier!” “Oh yeah”, I said, “we’re teammates now.” We shot the shit for a little bit, until some other local riding friends rode up. I decided that I would join in with them on their ride to see if I could hang. I need to ride with people faster than me, so here was my chance. Dicky would have killed me out there anyway, so I guess it’s a good thing I got there late.

I joined in the group and they started off at a good pace. I was feeling mighty fine, and I kept up with them. I was pretty proud of myself until we came up on a drop-off on the trail. You can either go around this drop off, or jump right off of the wood plank, roughly 2 ½ feet down (I’m guessing here, so don’t give me shit.) I’ve done this many times before (even once earlier that day) so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem. I came down a little sideways though, and burped my rear tire. I didn’t see any fluid leaking out, but I had lost all but about 10 p.s.i. of pressure. I hear someone from the group say, “Flat?” and I replied with an affirmative.

I wanted to keep riding, but I didn’t want to use my tube. Since I figured that all of the fluid was still in the tire, I busted out my Awesome Strap so I could use my inflator. The tire aired up just fine, and I heard a pop when the bead sealed. Excellent. I hopped back on and attempted to catch the rest of the group. One guy (Rod) came back for me, but I was a good ways down the trail by then. After I caught up, the group decided to split up.

I bailed on the ride at that point, and decided that I needed to get on with the rest of my day (I had a bike to build, you know.) I had a blast out there, but I didn’t escape the inevitable mechanical issues (flat in this case, but whatever.) Luckily it was only temporary, and The Big O will live to ride again another day. I also reviewed a new product sample that day, but since I’ve gone on long enough I guess I’ll talk about that tomorrow. At least I got back on the bike again, so now all is right in my world.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I’ll Take Care Of It Myself

Remember when I told you that I took Lunchbox's bike to the shop to get it replaced under warranty? Well, there’s more to the story. I guess I should start from the beginning. I took his bike to a different shop because it was close to my work, but in retrospect I should have taken it to Ride-A-Bike Bicycle Shoppe, where I got the warranty work done on my own bike. I thought it would be okay, but I have since learned that I made a mistake.

I won’t call out the shop here on my blog (at least directly), but you can find it by clicking here. This particular location is where my problem lies, so I won’t bash the whole organization (although they should pay closer attention to their individual locations.) Why did I take it to a different shop when I had such good service at Ride-A-Bike? Aside from it being closer to my work, I guess it’s because I thought they would take care of me. I’ve been in there quite a bit over the years, but I mostly used them to browse for deals on basics and consumables, and sometimes they had some good sale prices. I like to think that I support all of the shops here in Charlotte about the same, but in this case I was a little limited when it came to authorized Diamondback dealers.

When I originally called Diamondback, they said it would be okay if I took it to any authorized dealer. I didn’t mention before what happened when I first went in the store, but I guess now I should. I brought the broken bike into the shop and stated that I had a warranty claim. When I told the guy that greeted me this he said, “What do you want me to do?” I sensed a little attitude in his voice, but I shrugged it off since I had been in there several times. I figured that they were just messing around with me. They called me a little while later and said that they talked to Diamondback, and that they would send out a new rear triangle to replace the broken one. I was happy, and so was Lunchbox when I told him. I know I already mentioned that part, but after that things started getting strange.

After well over a week, I hadn’t heard anything. I called the shop last Friday and asked what was going on. The guy I spoke with said that he thought that they were sending out the new part, and he said he would call Diamondback right away. After about 30 minutes I got a return call. The guy said that Diamondback didn’t stock the part I needed, but they would gladly offer me a discount on a replacement frame. He gave me a quote of $165 for the frame and $100 for labor to change everything over (that’s what I paid at Ride-A-Bike.) I told him that would be fine with me, and to go ahead and get it going. I couldn’t wait to tell Lunchbox that he would be riding his (new) bike again soon.

A little while later I got another call from the shop. A different guy (maybe a manager?) said that they quoted the price incorrectly for the “warranty replacement.” He then told me that the cost would be $230 for the frame and $200 for labor. Really? All of a sudden it’s double the labor to swap parts to a new frame? The guy also told me the shock isn’t compatible. Bullshit. It is the same size shock (I’ve researched this bike in the past.) They basically sounded like they wanted me to either give up and go elsewhere, or get suckered into getting ripped off. The guy then suggested that I take the bike to a local sporting goods store, and that they should give me in store credit for the bike so I could buy a new one. I was pretty pissed at this point.

I called Diamondback, and they said that dealers basically buy the parts from them and can mark them up for a profit. This must be what happened. They probably thought that they initially quoted me too little, so they changed it. This didn’t explain them doubling the labor charge though. I told them I wanted to see who was jerking me around, and to make sure I should stay loyal to Diamondback. I spoke to the National Accounts Manager at Diamondback, and I was reassured that they were being fair. I thought that the shop was blowing me off or trying to hustle me for ridiculous labor charges though. I asked Diamondback if I could get a new frame directly from them, but they said that I had to go through a shop. That was understandable. I then asked if I could take the bike to another shop to obtain warranty service, and they said I could. I decided that I would retrieve the bike from the clutches of this not-so local bike shop and go from there.

I hurried down after work to pick up the bike, and as soon as I walked in they joked that, “The “local sporting goods store” is waiting for you.” I was pissed but I said nothing. I thought that I had a bit of a relationship with them since I went in there on occasion to buy stuff. They knew me from going in there so much, but that didn’t seem to stop them from trying to give me the shaft. I’ll stick with Diamondback, but I will no longer give my money to this "shop". I buy stuff from shops all over the area, and it’s mostly a matter of convenience. I know most of the shop owners in town, and I enjoy the feel of a “true” local bike shop. Lesson learned I guess.

Now I had a decision to make. I asked Lunchbox what he wanted to do. I actually have the same Diamondback frame (in a different size and color though) hanging around unused in the shop, and I told him he had a choice. We could try this again at a different shop, use the rear triangle of my old frame, or build up his bike with my entire frame. He picked the last one, especially since it’s a larger size. He also told me that since he wanted a 29er, he probably wouldn’t want to ride his squishy bike much anyway. I’ll get him a 29er soon, but in the meantime I had some bike building to do.

These two halves of the bicycle had to be put together, and then I could start building his “new” bike. I also had to install the Cane Creek headset.

This would be a bit of a challenge without the right tools though. I needed a headset press, but I didn’t want to shell out big bucks for something I wouldn’t use very often. After doing a little research on The Internets, I went out and bought the hardware to make this:

After applying a little grease to the headset cups, I lined them up and got ready to press them in:

Using two adjustable wrenches, I carefully pressed the headset into the headtube on the frame:

Success! I spent less than 5 bucks for this “tool”, and it did the job perfectly. I installed the rear shock and seatpost, and I was ready for final assembly:

When I started the build I cracked open a beer (as usual.) However, I got so into this build that I didn’t take a drink of it other than the initial sip. That’s odd for me, but I did get the bike built in record time. Also, I saved myself $200 bucks, and probably did a much better job than the “unmentioned” shop would have done. I’m not so bad at this bike mechanic thing, you know. Here is the finished product:

I rode this frame (built up nearly the same in fact) for a couple of years, and it served me well. Lunchbox was happy to be riding his own bike again, but we both know that this is temporary until he gets on big wheels. I can’t wait to see him out there tearing up the singletrack on his very own 29er, but this bike will do for now.

I will never visit that shop I mentioned again, but I am still 100 percent behind Diamondback. They stood up to their end of the deal, and I will keep riding their bikes. We have a ton of love for the fine folks at Diamondback Bicycles, and I won’t let my experience with one shop change that. I don’t mean to rant here today, but I wanted to share my experience. I’ll be back tomorrow with an actual ride report, and maybe some new product testing. Thanks for playing.