Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fixed Mountain Baby Steps

Got out for a little fixed fun this afternoon. Especially cool since I didn't think I would have the opportunity.
Headed NW into the wind figuring I'd do about an hour loop on the road, and be home in time to drive Kim and the kids too the pool.
As I was passing the res., I said "Oh why not"!
Turning onto the first fireroad, the grade immediately pitches up. I knew instantly a 75" gear might not be ideal! But then again, it wasn't as bad as I thought. The worst part was how narrow my bars were, and that my right brake lever was loose from torquing on it.
Controlling speed is becoming much easier; I hardly touched my brakes the whole ride. Nice to know they're there though!

To make it an official Mountain Fixed ride, I veered onto singletrack for about a 1/4 mile. The big gear and 700x32 tires made it Charlie Chaplin comical, but I did succeed in cleaning at least two logs.

I love how smooth and silent this bike is too. I never thought of my singlespeeds as anything but quiet, but they don't have that super smooth drivetrain feel the Fun Machine has. It is quickly becoming my favorite bike.

Sorry for the crappy picture, but the sun was low and the kids were itching to get in the pool when I got home!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


It was 19 F when I left on my ride this morning. It warmed up to a balmy 24 F by the time I got home. But the wind had picked up, so the wind chill brought it down below 10 F. I've been out in worse, but usually not until December. Most years we only get a handful of days below 20 F; preview of things to come or a weather anomaly?

Friday I tried the Surly cranks on the Juice. First pedal stroke; snap, crackle, pop! No good. When I got in to the cover of the woods, I pulled over and checked the torque on all the crank bolts. Seemed good, added a little more pre-load, and off I rolled. Crankle, snap, pop!

Ugh! I hate a noisy bike! At least the leaves will drown it out while I'm in the woods.

When I got home I removed the pedals, re-lubed and torqued back on. Crackle, crackle, crackle!
Lube the chain. Snap, snap, snap!
Fine tune the chain line. Pop, crackle, snap!
File the chain ring teeth. Snapple, popple, crack!
Change the chain-ring, which included adding a link to the chain since all I had was a larger ring. Crankle, crackle, crack!

The only thing left was the bottom bracket cups. They were silent with the XT crank, but there wasn't anything left to change.
Yanked the cups out of the Stumpjumper (where I had taken the Surly cranks from), cleaned them, lubed them, crossed myself, and put them in.
In the stand everything sounded and felt good. But what about when I actually was riding the bike?

As I rolled out this morning, and pedaled away from home all was quiet! WooHoo!

Tinkle, tinkle tink!

What the F@#*!
As I gaze down at my cranks, distraught, I see the tag from my teabag hanging out of my bottle flapping against my seat-tube.

Ahh, silence!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nothing Shook Loose: Shakedown update

After another night fumbling through the dark, the Juice is still solid and complete.
I cut the "Lower Antler Trail" out of my ride because I heard something howling in the wetlands and getting closer. I had no desire to see if it was a coyote or a wolf or how large Eastern variants get.
Switching to Ignitors made a huge difference; they're only a pound lighter (for both), but boy did they improve the ride! Bike seems to have more "zip" and traction.
Bar light did dimmed over the course of the ride. I'll swap batteries to see if it's because of the cold.
I'm definitely putting 175's on it. I got myself into a couple of situations last night were that little extra leverage would have made a difference.
Today I get to see how it rides in daylight!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Just built the Soma Juice up again as a Winter bike. What better way to give a bike a first ride shake down than a night ride?
Fortunately a very uneventful ride.
Conditions couldn't have been much better. What ground water hadn't evaporated or run off from Saturday's deluge was frozen or on it's way to being so. I was a little surprised when I went to take my first sip from my hydration pack only to find my valve frozen. I didn't realize it was that cold.


I did really like the Avid bb7's. The power was there, and I prefer the lever feel to Juicy's.
I still do not like WTB Weirwolf 2.55's. Sure they're great if you're trying to stay on top of snow, but for being so big, they shouldn't need so much air not to bottom out...and they're heavy. I'll have to switch to tried and true Ignitors, since the fatties aren't giving me any extra cush.
I might have to swap the cranks. I'm running 170's on it now, but I've grow accustom to the extra leverage 175's provide, so we'll see how it works out over the coming months.

On a lighting note, my helmet light was much brighter than my bar mounted light. They're identical lights and batteries. I think it might have been that the bar light was exposed to the cold being strapped to my stem, where as the helmet light's battery was tucked away in my leaky hydration pack. The cold might have effected the flow of current.

Finally, one good thing about all the doping scandals in pro cycling is I get killer deals on disgraced and disbanded teams cycling caps!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fixie Fever!

I seem to always get to the party late. I didn't start singlespeeding until 2006, or a 29'er until 2007. In fact I was of the opinion that singlespeeds were stupid, and 29'ers wouldn't be any good for some one my size, riding the twisty technical terrain we have in New England.
Guess what? I was wrong.
With fixed gears I was never quite so opinionated. They seemed interesting, but I never really took the time to try one out.
I made a couple of lame duck attempts, but didn't receive instant gratification, so I put it on the back burner.

Friday was damp and drizzly. My rain bike, the Fun Machine, had been hanging on a hook since Winter, stoically waiting for it's turn. Perfect time to give it another try.
I headed North towards Tariffville. My first challenge was descending Talcott Notch Rd. As my speed picked up, I instinctively tried to coast, and was greeted by my cranks insistence that I can not. Uncontrollable terror filled my gut and mind as I tried to reign the speed down. A trial by fire, I faced with again, as i descended into Avon. By the time I got to Tariffville, I began to be able regulate speed a little better, and even relax on the descents a bit trusting myself and my bike, knowing the road would tilt up again soon. Confidence grew and grew, and by the time i got to my street I was trying to do scorchers.

Saturday it was actually raining. The Fun Machine is the only bike I have with full fenders, so I decided lets keep the good times rolling.
I thought I had had an ample breakfast, but by about the third pedal revolution, I was having hunger pangs. My initial ride plan was to do a little loop around W.htfd, and try and hook up with CB1 for his morning fire-road flyer. After hitting some rough pavement and hearing my fenders rattle, I decided against such nonsense and head back towards Avon and Simsbury. I picked up the bike path by Avon Old Farms school, and rode it to Weatogue. I'm usually not a fan of bike paths, but I figured I'd have it to myself giving the weather, and I did, except for all the leaves. It gets a little confusing around Rt 44.
In Weatogue I jumped back on Rt 10 and headed to Nod Rd to head home.
Remember that hunger? When I connected back with Rt 10, I saw a beautiful oasis of light; Avon Cider Mills fritter stand was open! The scent of apple cider donuts and fritters wafted to the street. Me, not one red cent! Note to self put money in saddle bag!
Oh well, I solider on home enjoying the control and connection I was gaining with the bike, planning my next ride.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Velo Nocturnus

Tonight was the first meeting of Velo Nocturnus, and although the group was small and I had to be a party pooper, what great fun.

Brian, Kerry and I met at Cornerstone @ 6:00 PM, and snuck into the res. through Sunset Farm. I felt we needed to keep a brisk pace until we were sufficiently up the hill so we wouldn't have to worry about "the man". We'd regroup not at intersections of trail and fireroad, but randomly deep away from any motor-vehicle access.

I think I had my light pretty well dialed in; I was still able to maintain a decent pace, and only met up with a couple misplaced rocks. We took a couple of leaf induced detours, but nothing too crazy. Fireroads were great too because you could go full on.

I believe it was Brian's first night ride, and he was using borrowed lights. He made it half way, and decided to call it a night.

Unfortunately Kim had a meeting w/ other Girl Scouts leaders so I had to skip the after ride pizza and beverages, but Kerry and I had a blast and are planning on making it a weekly thing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Due to circumstances beyond my control (a customer put a sink on hold that I was sort of bending my schedule for today and tomorrow around) I ended up with some free time this afternoon. I could rake the lawn, get a hair cut, or go for a ride.
I tried to get one of those fancy store bought haircuts, but my regular guy was out, and well it was just too darn nice to waste precious daylight moving leaves around so...
Went to the res, as per usual, for my out and back route.
This is a 15.5 mile route w/just under 1800' of climbing that starts at the main lot going counter clockwise and follows the regular loop backwards with a couple of extra hills, and lesser rode trails thrown in for good measure. Once I get to the private property after little Moab, I turn around and follow the regular loop back to the lot. I have "time checks" along the way to gauge how I'm doing.
Things started out pretty routinely; I wasn't trying to set the world on fire, just enjoy an unexpected midday ride. My first 3 check points, things were looking decent, nothing exceptional, but right around where I like to be. It was good to be back on "Mary Jane" after riding my Ol' Pal Stumpy over the weekend.
The zip-ties on my computer were a little loose, so it rotated out of my field of vision. When I got to my turn around spot I straightened it out and was surprised to see I was still in the sub-hour range. I was about a minute off my record to this point, but anything quicker than an hour, and I'm pretty psyched!
I really didn't feel I was busting a nut or anything, just keeping loose, and try to stay smooth. But hitting the turn around sub-hour put ideas in my head though.
Now I was trying to go fast. Try too hard and things will get sloppy. Take it too easy, and it's just another ride. Nothing wrong with that, but I was all amped up now.
If I got to the top of the fence line around 1:30, it takes me 13 minutes to descend from there, and I'd be back at the lot right around my record.
Computer rotates out of view again.
I get to the fence-line and take a quick peek at the time: exactly 1:30. With the leaves and the darkness on my rides lately, my 13 minute descent has been creeping up to 14 or 15 minutes. But the sweet elixir of riding while I should be working must have had a positive effect. Back at my truck at 1:41:21. Two minute faster than my previous record. Yeah! I'm faster than me!
The first time I ever recorded "the record" was after a strange ice storm in December of 2006. The trail was a frozen solid gritty surface. Everything was smoothed out; it was like a skate park. Riding my Ol' Pal Stumpy rigid, with big old 2.4" Mutanoraptors, I posted a 1:44. I never thought that would fall. This summer after a ton of road riding commuting to work, I broke that with a 1:43 and change on Mary Jane set up rigid.
Now what? Whacking 2 minutes off it is setting the bar pretty high, and I ain't getting any younger...
Here's the song that was in my head whilst riding this afternoon.
Hope I have some free time tomorrow...

Just a Reminder

Let your voice be heard!
Now that I've fulfilled my civic obligation and right, I feel perfectly fine with a little afternoon election day hooky ride.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Product Review: FSA SLK Saddle takes one for the team

I was having a hard time finding my "go to" saddle lately, the original Sella Italia Flite, so I thought I would give the FSA SLK saddle a go.
The price was right, and the advertised weight was good.
I first tried it on my road bike.
The subtle difference from one saddle to the next make a huge difference between a happy Charlie, and well, not so much.
The SLK is slightly wider at the nose, and with the smaller Q factor on a road bike, my thighs of thunder would rub said nose. I'd get used to it after a while, and didn't cause any chaffing or other ill will to me, but annoyed the crap out of me.
Next stop the MTB.
One the MTB, with the wider "Q", there was no rubbing. Hallelujah! But with a Thomson seat post I couldn't tilt it completely level. Very odd. I switched to a Ritchey post where I could level the saddle and it was firm, but comfortable. However once tilted level, if you have to get behind the saddle, your shorts and or naughty bits can get caught on the cut outs at the back of the saddle. Another strike if you ride steep techie stuff.
But today as I was hurtling over the bars trying to descend the "Chair Trail" stupid fast the SLK showed uncommon valor as it took the brunt of a tree, saving me and my Ol' Pal Stumpy from harm.

Plus': Light, relatively affordable, comfortable.

Minus': Doesn't work with all posts, wider nose, gelding maker