Monday, June 30, 2014

Winter park Race #2 Report

   Saturday was the second race of the Epic Single Track series in Winter Park. This was the first actual race, not a dumb 'ol hillclimb. This was a shorter race at 18 miles, and not any terribly prolonged climbs. Here's what the course looked like:


   The race took a weird route that had us on the same trail twice near the beginning / end. It does't say much about me that I had didn't recognize a trail I was on an hour earlier. I only noticed it after looking at the map.
   This race I tried something new by using a GPS watch to track my distance. I used Natalie's Garmin Forerunner. It's great because you can customize what it shows you. I chose tome of day, elapsed time and distance:


    I took the race profile form the WP site and figured out where the points of interest were:

Race profile

   Armed with this information, I was able to figure out where I wanted to push it and where to rest. I wrote these distances down on a piece of tape and stuck it to my bike like so:

Important distances

   The was helpful because I knew how long I had been riding and how far to go and all that. It could be distracting if you were too neurotic about checking, but it helped a lot with my limited amount of energy. And it seems to have helped:

Definitely not last place

   I am super stoked on this finish. The last race was pretty discouraging, and I came into this one determined to push myself harder and battle harder for position. That was easier on this course which featured some technical climbs, some fast descents and even a hairy water crossing. Looking forward to the next race a lot!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Big Cassettes and 1x10

   A popular build for mountain bikes recently has been to exchange the multiple chainrings for a single chainring, combined with a wide ratio rear cassette.

1x11 Drivetrain

    This reduces weight and complexity, and simplifies shifting. Initial reports are that this 1x11 system is great. It's simple, efficient, and reliable. It is even starting to show up stock on some 2015 models. All you need is to yank off your derailleur, get a chainring you like and put on a wide ratio cassette. The thing is, the new cassettes can be quite pricey!

Sram XX1 - $400

   SRAM is rumored to have a cheaper cassette coming out soon, but in the meantime, several companies have come out with alternatives to a whole new cassette. 

   First up is the Twenty6 cog. This cog comes in 40 and 42 tooth configurations and is the most common type of adaptor - remove one of your cogs from the middle of the cassette and slap this bad boy on the top. Usually it's the 14t or 16t that are removed. Retail: $95. 

Twenty6 40/42t cog

   The Ari cog is the same thing, $5 cheaper. You can see that both come with some machined ramps to help with the chain get from from the previous large cog onto this new monster cog.

Ari 40/42 cog

   Next is the OneUp Components. This one comes with a 16t cog to help smooth out the jump made by removing the 14 or 15 or whatever. It's also $90, and comes with another cog, so it seems like a good deal.

OneUp Components Cog and 16 Tooth spacer

   Finally, here's the Leonardi General Lee. This replaces the last three cogs on your cassette. It comes in at $160, which is approaching the cost of a whole new cassette. Some cassettes come with the last few cogs attached together, so this is meant to replace that whole set, all while smoothing out the jump to the largest cog.

Leonardi General Lee Cog

  All in all, these are great options for the economically minded, it will be great once some performance reviews start coming out. look out 1x11, here we all come!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cool Bike Racks + Locking Tips

   Who want to lock their bike up to a boring old bike rack? Not me, no sir.  I only lock my bike to the finest and most creative of racks. Here are some of the finer racks around:

'Bike' bike rack

Another 'bike' bike rack

Ladies rack

Potato masher rack

   Seems like a lot of civil designers are getting some freedom to be creative with their bike racks. I love it, who knows what we'll be locking to in 5 years.
   Regardless of the rack, it means nothing if you're doing a crap lock job. What is a good lock job? Three things:
  1. Secure front wheel
  2. Secure frame
  3. Secure rear wheel
   Bonus thing:
  1. Seat
   What this all means is that any part of your bike that comes off needs to be locked up. Here's a great way to use a U lock to keep the rear wheel and frame safe (the frame can't be removed over the wheel like this)

Rear wheel and frame secured

   This is a classic way to use a cable lock and a U lock together. The cable has the front wheel, and the U lock takes care of the rest. 

Hard to steal!

  Last but not least,  write down or take a picture of your bike's serial number. This is found under the bottom bracket, and is the best chance you have of getting your bike back if it's stolen.

Serial number location

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Victor Bike

   This is a concept bicycle from Canadian designer Christophe Robillard. This bike has a craaaaazy set of tubes:

Single seat stay

Opposite chain stay

   This bike has a crazy cool design - there is a right (drive side) seat stay, and a left chain stay, and no seat tube!

8 Tubes

5 Tubes

   You want an animated GIF? Here you go!

Disco fever

   I do like that without a seat tube, you can jam that rear wheel right above the bottom bracket. The article here says that it requires less material - but as the commenters point out, you have to compensate elsewhere for the lack of support. Also, I think that that argument falls somewhat flat. There certainly isn't a movement for fewer bicycles due to a steel shortage. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Winter Park Race #1 Race Report

   This season I'm racing the Epic Single Track series in Winter Park. This season I'm going to give a little race report after each race. The series kicked off last Saturday with the Excel Hill Climb.  We climbed from the base of Winter park to the top of Mary Jane.
   This is also my first race in the expert class. Here is my shiny new expert number plate:

404 seems lucky enough

   Around the start everyone was riding around warming up. The starting hill was a bit steeper than the rest of the course and everyone was eager to get over this part and into the meat of the climb

Warming up

   Here is a shot of the profile from Strava, pretty straightforward. Not a lot of places to rest in there.

Race profile

   ... as well as the map. The switchbacks were the steeper parts. There was one flat-ish spot about 4 miles in that was a good place to recover.

The route

   Last season this race went well and I took 4/11.  This season that was not the case.

It's going to be a long season.

   I rode about 30 seconds per mile slower this year compared to last. On the way up seeing my class ride away form me I found myself bargaining, "Hill climbs aren't my thing." "I didn't have enough time to warm up." "I'll regroup and catch them in a bit." things like that. The truth is that I should have grabbed the wheel of the last person to pass me and hung on until I bonked. Could I have ridden 5 minutes faster? Probably not, but I wasn't tired enough afterwards to feel good about this race.

   In any case, the foundation of my plan to lull the rest of the class into a false sense of security is well laid.

   Nothing like a bad finish Saturday to get you motivated to ride hard Monday:


Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday WTF: Bicycle Snow Plows

   With winter long gone, temperatures pushing 90 degrees, and the paths dry and warm, let us remember the horrors of winter riding with a collection of bicycle driven snow plows:

   This one is the most stable by far, with three wheels (dog not included):

The sideplow

   This one you drag behind you:

The whale tail

   Pulled with rope and weighted with Diet Coke, this is sure to never yank your bike out from under you:

The drag behind 2

   ... and lastly, this monstrosity designed to flip you on your face:

Fly swatter 5000

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trek Crossrip LTD

   Someone at work came in on this Trek Crossrip LTD the other day, and it caught my eye. It has a nice polished aluminum finish and disc brakes. It's a smart looking package.

2014 Crossrip LTD

   One thing that stands out is the brakes:

Crossrip brakes

   This bike comes with the TRP HYRD. This is a pretty cool braking system that converts a cable brake lever to a hydraulic brake caliper. In the past, the only way to do this was to have a remote converter. This one, also made by TRP, is mounted under the stem. I saw one of these at the NAHMB Show last year.

TRP Parabox

   What TRP has done here is combine the converter and the caliper onto one piece. It feel pretty solid, although you know there is a cable in there somewhere. The instant engagement of hydraulic brakes is not there. I am not sure how well it self adjusts either, which is one of the major advantages of a hydraulic system.

   These area  good option because you can run them with any lever system. At $150 a piece they're not cheap, but less than the $500 SRAM option. Full review here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sodding the Yard

   Our side yard had some pretty wacky landscaping, not unlike our backyard. There was a lot of bark and some pretty old weed guard surrounded by some rocks. It was time for an update! This is what it looked like at the beginning: 

Original landscaping

   What took the longest was bagging all the bark and pulling up the weed guard. After that I dug up all the dead plants and tossed them. I was left with just the weed-y dirt.

Almost flat

   I took a rake and shovel and turned over the dirt a few times and then raked it as flat as possible. Once it was flat, I added 6 bags of manure / peat mix to feed the soil. 

Flat and fertilized!

   Now, on to the fun part - watching the sod go down! Calvin and Natalie couldn't wait to get on the new, cool grass.

Testing out my work

   Even the neighbor kid was checking it out.

All done!

   It was about a $200 project, not counting watering it heavily for the next month. Well worth it considering we now have a great little play area. Now the only challenge is keeping it alive.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Monarch RT3 Rebuild

   I got a sweet new mountain bike last summer from a guy who ran some kind of training camp. This meant the bike had some miles on it. I had noticed that the rear shock wasn't working like it should, so upon a visit to The Fix, I started the rebuild. The PDF from RockShox helped a lot, as well as this slightly outdated video.
   I needed some specialty tools for this project,  here they are:

All laid out
    • RockShox Monarch RT3 Seal kit - 6 new rubber washers and O-rings
    • 350 psi capable shock pump - for secondary air chamber
    • RockShox air valve adaptor - for secondary air chamber port
    • Parket O-Lube - for seals
    • 7 wt suspension fluid - for the piston
    • 17mm crows foot - to remove the piston form the air chamber
    • 15w 50 oil - for the air chamber
    • Strap wrench - to remove the air chamber
    • Isopropyl alcohol - to clean everything
    • Plastic beaker - to put the 7 wt oil in
    • Valve core removal tool - to pull valve cores from the air chamber and secondary chamber
    • Aluminum soft jaws for vice - to protect the shock from the vice
    • 2mm, 5mm, and 10mm allen key - various applications
    • Grease - for all nuts and bolts
1. Pull the shock off the bike - This was no sweat. I emptied the shock of air from the main canister, and then loosened the 5mm bolts to release the shock. I put a rag around the frame so it wasn't resting on itself.

Shock off

2. Pull the valve from the main air can and nitrogen cylinder - This shock has a second air chamber. Using the core removal tool, pull the valve core out of both the main canister and the nitrogen canister. Now the shock is empty of air. Pull the valve core's out as well.

Core removal tool

Valve core (1 of 2)

3. Remove the main air can - Stick the shock in a vice with some aluminum soft jaws to protect it. Using a strap wrench, loosen the main air canister from the shock body. I had to hit the shock with isopropyl alcohol to get excess grease and dirt off so the strap wrench would have a good grip.

Strap wrench on

   The air can resisted a bit, but with some love it came off.

Pulling the main air can off

4. Remove all seals from the air can - Careful not to damage any part of the shock, I took all the seals from the canister. I labeled where they went just in case.

Seals from main air can

5. Remove the piston head from the damper body - Removing the piston head allowed me access to the oil chamber. This was on really tight and I used the soft jaws again to protect the shock from the vice.

Piston in vice

Piston removed from damper body

   Removing the piston body revealed that the oil level was about 1/4 low, which explained why it was bouncing around so bad.

Damper body and piston head

   Here I went through with the isopropyl alcohol and cleaned everything thoroughly. The alcohol is great because it removes everything, even grease, and evaporates quickly.

6. Replace oil and put piston head back on damper body - Poke the piston head back into the damper body, and measure how far down it goes. Mine was 49.4mm. There is a chart on the RockShox PDF with measurements on it. After it's at the proper depth, replace the oil.

Filling the damper with oil

7. Put piston head back on - Using a crows foot socket and a torque wrench, tighten the piston to 250 inch pounds on the damper.

8. Inflate secondary air chamber to 350 PSI - This required a little adaptor, an a pump that would go that high. Most only go to 300. I didn't have access to nitrogen, so went with regular old garage air.

Inflating secondary air chamber

9. Grease up the seals - Once everything was back together, put the new seals on, and grease them with some Parker O-lube. Everything was squeaky clean and well lubed.

Piston and damper ready to go back into the main air chamber

10. Screw main air chamber back on - Using the strap wrench, screw the main air chamber back onto the piston. Pump it up to 150 and stick it back on the bike.

   The whole process took a little under an hour, and was pretty enjoyable really. The shock performance is noticeably better! It made me wish I'd done this last season.