Cut Vinyl Outline Retrofit for Rockart Directional Arrows

Earlier this year CRAMBA took on a project to install durable trail marking at River Bends Park using fiberglass marking posts and decals from Rockart. After installation a significant lingering issues was the visibility of the decals for the Single Track: Yellow (Main Trail) sections. The stock Rockart decals (eg: 10-124) are a single color printed over a reflective white base, and even with ordering gold color decals (eg: 10-124-10, a darker yellow) the contrast was so low that the arrow was hard to see.

We considered a few different options including custom decals, hand-tracing the arrows with markers, or re-coloring this loop, but settled on retrofitting the existing decals with cut vinyl outlines. One of our volunteers — Ken Markiewicz  — made short work of getting us enough cut vinyl to fix up all the signs in the park, and as seen above it’s radically improves the visibility of the decals.

So that others running into similar decal contrast problems can do the same, I am providing the templates here under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license, for all to use:

This template contains outlines for both the 10-124 (straight) and 10-125 (diagonal) decals. Outlines are 2.5mm wide with the outer curved square placed evenly over outer colored/white edge and the arrow inset on the white area. We found this provided the best result for keeping the arrow visually separate from the outline.

FattyStripper Tubeless Thoughts

A reliable fat bike tubeless setup is pretty important to me, and over the years I’ve tried a number of different methods. Typically some sort of tape works (eg: TPP350 or Scotch 8898) well at first, but over time tends to fail as the adhesive is weakened by sealant, in part because of difficulties smoothing the tape into a concave rim. My current wheel setup, DT Swiss BR 2250, has worked somewhat-well for the last year, but has regularly had intermittent problems problems holding air. Going into another winter (it’s only ~4 months away!) I want to have a solid tubeless setup, as I’m planning to do some lengthier solo snow rides; not the time to end up with a flat.

The biggest problem stems from the BR 2250 being rims with cutouts; a necessary compromise for keeping weight reasonable while building a stronger rim. I considered going to a solid rim such as Nextie carbon or HED B.A.D. to sidestep the problem, but as I’m otherwise really happy with the wheels (great hubs, solid rims) I decided it’d be best to exhaust all tubeless conversion options first. Having gone through most tape options, next up was the FattyStripper, a latex rim strip that’s not unlike the split tube method. I find it preferential to the split tube method, though, as it appears to be lighter, easier to trim, and being thinner should interfere less with the bead lock that’s so important for keeping a tire seated at low pressures.

To get started I decided to convert the front wheel first. This one had been mostly holding air for a year, but would drop pressure noticeably over a couple days; something a good tubeless setup shouldn’t do. Upon disassembling the wheel and removing the tape I found that it had the expected failure mode of some sealant blowby where the tape layers overlapped, making it only a matter of time before a more persistent leak developed.

After reviewing the FattyStripper Installation Instructions I decided that my plan would be to leave the DT Swiss rim strip in place, then install the FattyStripper over that, securing it in place along the edges with 3M Super 80, a spray adhesive designed to bond rubber (such as latex) and metal. My hope is that this will keep the FattyStripper in place through multiple tire changes, allowing this to be a solid, long-term, reliable tubeless adaption for the BR 2250 wheels.

Removing the tape left a bit of both adhesive and tubeless sealant residue, so I first cleaned that off before fitting the rim strip. After the strip was in place I glued each side in place, one at a time. The strip was rolled back, adhesive sprayed, adhesive left to set up (working time is 4-30 minutes), then carefully rolled/placed the back along the rim, paying particular attention to get it nicely settled in the bead seat. The gluing process was a bit of a pain, as getting the rim strip nicely in place required carefully pressing it into place with a combination of fingers, a small rubber tool, and a washer that I rolled along the bead seat / rim wall intersection. Dispensing the adhesive resulted in some web-like overspray which settled on the spokes (and a little on the rotor), but this cleaned off easily with an alcohol-soaked paper towel. When doing the front wheel I’ll either wipe off or applying some masking tape to the top edge of the side wall to keep overspray off of here, as set up adhesive in this location made it difficult to cleanly trim the strip after tire installation.

Overall, gluing took about 40 minutes.

Once the FattyStripper was installed and stuck in place it was time to fit the tire. I’d left the sealant in the tire and not cleaned the bead to help wet/lube the bead during inflation, which seemed to do the trick. Tire installation was fairly uneventful, and I was able to get the tire to seat without resorting to a strap clamp, taking about 30 PSI to get the tire fully seated. After valve installation and a quick shake I trimmed the overhanging strip by pulling it away from the bead and using a new hobby knife blade to cut it. Most of this worked well, but on locations where adhesive oversprayed on the top of the sidewall it didn’t trim cleanly and adhesive residue and a bit of latex is visible. This is not a practical concern, but doesn’t look too great up close. I will likely attempt to clean up this residue either by rubbing it off or with a citrus solvent.

After sitting overnight the assembly seems to have held pressure quite well. Based on this I’m going to convert the rear wheel within the next few days.

While the current setup seems solid, I have a few long-term concerns. Most of these should be answered when I switch to snow tires (likely in late December / early January):

  • Will the latex-based sealant (Stan’s) bond the tire to the latex rim strip? How will this complicate removal of the tire?
  • Will tire removal overpower the adhesive or tear the rim strip?
  • Will the thickness of the rim strip interfere with the bead lock mechanism at low pressures? (Unlikely, can deflate tire to manually check.)

At this point if this installation of FattyStrippers aren’t working out I will have a couple options:

  • Use a second/spare set of FattyStripper strips to redo the process. This’ll work for winter, but long-term isn’t good as I don’t want to spend $12 plus time (old strip removal, new application, etc) whenever I swap tires.
  • Attempt some other tape-based method. Perhaps another method of applying TPP350 or Scotch 8898.
  • Go back to using tubes.
  • Acquire new wheels, without holes.


Marquette Mountain Biking for Trolls

Over the last two years I’ve taken a few trips to the Marquette area to ride bikes. I’ve become reasonably familiar with the trails and been asked by downstate friends for suggestions of trails to start with, where to ride, etc. These had previously been shared via email or chats, but now I’m consolidating my suggestions here, in a more public form.

This is not a thorough overview of all trails in the area, but instead recommendations from a Lower Peninsula rider’s perspective for how those new to the Marquette area can get started riding comfortably on fun and challenging trail, without getting in over one’s head too quickly. The greater Marquette area offers a huge range of mountain biking, with trails that anyone who is comfortable riding in Southeast or Southwest Michigan (eg: Stony Creek, Potowatomi, Pontiac Lake, Fort Custer, Yankee Springs) can thoroughly enjoy.

To start, visit one of the many great local shops (eg: SportsRack, Down Wind Sports, Lakeshore Bike, Quick Stop) and pick up one of the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN) Maps. Slightly older versions of these are available as PDFs on the Marquette Township Documents website (under Recreation CommitteeRecreation Maps), but it’s a really good idea to have an up-to-date copy in your pocket until you are familiar with the trails. The South Trails have maps at most intersections, but the (slightly easier to memorize) North Trails do not. These shops are all great and can help with both route suggestions and bike parts/work.

For those of us from lower Michigan, we’re pretty accustomed to one-way trails. In the UP the trails are all two-way, unless marked otherwise (typically only downhill trails). When I first rode two-way trails I was a bit worried about how it’d go, but in practice it’s not a problem. Trails in and around Marquette are much lower traffic than those downstate, and tend to be a little wider with better sight lines. Same as one does for hikers, keep an eye out for other riders, keep to one side or stop and let them by (downhill riders yield to those climbing) and all works out well. When passing, tell the other person/people if you are riding alone, how many more there are behind you, if you are last, etc. (eg: “just me”, “two more”, “last one”.) Others will do the same, and this’ll lets everyone know what to expect.

In the Marquette area there are effectively four different systems of trails, South Trails, North Trails, RAMBA Trails, and Harlow Lake area. Here’s my take on each:

South Trails

Overview: Located just south of downtown, these are generally seen as the main Marquette trails and are the most popular riding in the area. The main trailhead off of M-553 (McClellan) is where the widely-photographed trailhead sign, picnic, and changing areas are at. A huge range of trails start here; this is a great place to begin. (These trails are built and maintained by the NTN.)

What To Ride: Start with the Purple-signed Grom Loop. Yes, the kids trail. It’s a great warmup, and a fun ride to get a glimpse of the rolling terrain in the area; comparable in difficulty to Addison Oaks. Next ride either Green (Morgan Creek Loop) or Red (Pioneer Loop) clockwise. Access these by following the signs and crossing M-553. Green CW begins immediately across the road on your left, Red requires a climb up Benson Grade (the gravel two track) and then begins straight ahead. Ride down the two track at the top of the hill for 100′ or so and then veer left on to the trail if you don’t want to ride across the top of the pipe.

Green is pretty smooth, with some twisty turns, good ups and downs, and the trail takes youover the top of a waterfall. Red starts out with a bit of rock and roots and has some (signed) optional tech lines, but then gets smoother and more flowing, particularly as you enter the Greywalls golf course area. Two good routes that mix up Green and Red and make for some fun riding are:

Trailhead → Climb Benson Grade → 9 (via Red) → 10 (via Red) → 11 (via Green) → Trailhead (via Green)

Trailhead → 11 (via Green / Carp Eh Diem) → 10 (via Green) → 5 (via Red) → 7 (via Red) → 6 (via Red) → 8 (via Red) → Trailhead (via Red)

Near the end of Red, before getting back to the trailhead, you’ll find yourself back at M-553. Cross, turn right on the sidewalk, and a few hundred feet later at the top of a rise look for a trail sign on your left. Enter the woods here and ride this section (known as Mossy) and you’ll pop back out at a road. Cross at the crosswalk and continue along M-553 for a short while longer and you’ll be back at the trailhead.

After riding Red and Green, for more of a typical UP feeling with rocks, roots, and exposure, take Yellow (Gorgeous) east from the trailhead down to the Cliffs Power Road trailhead, the Blue back to the main trailhead. This section has a good bit more climbing and is a lot harder than Red or Green, but is still fun. Just before returning to the trailhead on Blue there is a split labeled More Difficult and Less Difficult. This choice is in relation to the very last section ridden, and the More Difficult section has chunkier rock than anywhere in SE Michigan; it’s quite a sight to see. This route is as follows, but has a few unmarked intersections. Just go straight, following the more-worn groove:

Trailhead → 17 (via Grom) → 18 (via Gorgeous) → 13 → 15 → 16 → Trailhead

Finally, be sure to climb Benson Grade again and ride Down Dogger and Eh Line. Down Dogger is a flow trail that’s completely rollable with only a bit of rock. Keep speed in check and anyone comfortable riding fast on twisty SE MI single track will have a blast. Eh Line is a jump line that begs to be ridden fast getting in the air, and can be ridden by starting part-way up Benson Grade on the right (at a set of large rocks — this is Eh Line) or by riding all the way to the top and starting on Upper Eh Line and crossing Benson Grade to the regular Eh Line. Both of these trails are just to the left at the top of Benson Grade, just over the pipe. We have no trails like these in Southeast Michigan.

Don’t be afraid to go explore; trails here really aren’t as remote as they may seem when riding. They almost all cross two track at some point, and many adjoin neighborhoods. You won’t become truly lost. Anything labeled as Black Diamond (Very Difficult) should be doable to an experienced rider from SE Michigan, but will be a step (or three) beyond what is found downstate. The only section I would suggest avoiding at first is the climb from 18 to 19 into Marquette Mountain Ski Area. It’s a fairly uninspiring climb, and finding one’s way through the ski area and back down can be a bit confusing. This can be a fun ride, but isn’t as good as other parts of the South Trails.

North Trails

Overview: Often overlooked or dismissed as too-easy, located on the north side of town, across the lake from the popular Tourist Park campground. Typically more mellow and smoother than the South Trails, but with some truly beautiful views and fun riding. (Built and maintained by the NTN.)

What To Ride: Everything here should be ridden. I suggest starting at the easterly Tourist Park Trailhead and exploring to the west, sticking to the single track. This is easier climbing and far less technical riding than most routes on the South Trails, but still a lot of fun. Some of my favorite sections are the climb to (and descent from) the Blue Heron Overlook, Collinsville Cut, The Oxbow, and portions of EZ-PZ which run directly along the river. Be sure to ride under the penstock itself on the way to Collinsville Cut. This is the large wooden pipe seen in countless MTB tourism videos (and above).

There are a number of small offshoot / casual trails along here, so watch for the main groove and stick to it. In some places the trail spiderwebs a bit, but don’t be afraid of getting lost. It’s a pretty easy area to understand. If you feel like exploring, head east off of Blue Heron Overlook down the two track and look for the Snow Bike Route (SBR) signs on your left. This is some fun single track which crosses an active railroad and connects to the Noquemanon Trail, an XC ski trail that’s open to bikes which can be ridden east back to the Tourist Park trailhead.

By heading east on the North Country Trail from the trailhead (blue rectangular blazes) one can get quite close to Lake Superior and connect to the bike path into Presque Isle or town. Note that as of mid-July 2016 much of The Pines trail near Wright St. has been destroyed by construction, and as of now it can’t easily be used to link up to the Board of Light & Power Trailhead.

The North Trails are extremely popular with runners and dog walkers, so keep an eye out for other users, particularly in late morning or after work.

RAMBA Trails

Overview: Mostly located in the space between Ishpeming and Negaunee, about 20 minutes west of Marquette, built and maintained by the Range Mountain Bike Club (RAMBA Facebook Page).

What To Ride: These are a collection of hand-built, rugged trails. Maps of some trails are available via Trail Genius, Trailforks, or in print at shops. This area is a spiderweb of trails that is somewhat signed, but can still be confusing to navigate. Head out here, parking at Jackson Mine Park in Negaunee or off of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail (IOHT) in Ishpeming at Cognition Brewing Company (which is one of the official RAMBA trailheads.)

There are two weekly RAMBA group rides open to all levels of riders. The first is on Wednesday at Cognition in Ishpeming, and the second on Thursday at Chappers Pub in Neganuee. Both rides leave at 6:30 pm during the summer, moving back to 6:00 pm as the year moves on. (Check the RAMBA Facebook group for details.) At these rides there are groups which range from extremely fast locals who intimately know the trails to more casual riders who will head out for a stroll on the two track. Introduce yourself, ask around, and find a group that seems right to ride with. The groups ride is an excellent way to see the RAMBA trails and meet up with some great people.

These trails to range from fast and fun to rocky and challenging, with a number of sections that are currently way beyond my skill level. Each time I’ve gone to ride here alone I’ve become a bit lost and frustrated that I couldn’t find trails I’d been on in the past, but still had a good time. One of my favorite parts is riding through the Negaunee Caving Grounds / Old Town Negaunee, a portion of the town which was literally undermined and closed down. Trails run along the old streets, sidewalks, and stairways which are now a park.

Harlow Lake

Overview: Trails located in and around Harlow Lake and the Little Presque Isle Cabins.

What To Ride: Home to some of the more photogenic and technical trails in the area (such as Bareback, seen in a Trail Genius video here), Harlow Lake is often touted as some of the best riding in the Marquette area. However, I do not recommend that someone from SE Michigan head here for first rides in the area.

Trails in this area are effectively unmapped, are unsigned, and are some of the most rugged, rocky, and technical in the area. If up for some exploring, then head out here, parking off of 550 at 46.6150311, -87.4690363,441, and planning to do a lot of way finding. TrailForks has some of the trails recorded here, but a couple of these (eg: Climb Trail) aren’t quite accurate and most trails simply aren’t listed. There’s everything from dirt roads and two track to burly rock stairways. Cell phone service is spotty, this area is fairly remote, and you’re unlikely to encounter others, so be prepared.

Riding in the Marquette area is great, because it’s usually possible to safely ride from wherever you are staying to the trails. In Marquette itself there are rail trails, multi-use paths, and safe residential streets that connect almost everything. One can even get to the RAMBA Trails from Marquette via the IOHT and up into Harlow Lake via dirt roads that connect into the SBR (off of the North Trails). When I’m staying in the area I’ll typically ride from wherever I’m staying to the trails. It’s a great way to see the town and warm up or cool down one’s legs before getting to the single track.

After a day of riding you’ll want food and beer. Here’s a post I did in mid-2015 covering good places to eat in Marquette: Marquette Food Recommendations.

Finally, the great trails in the Marquette area are all built and maintained by volunteers. Sign up for a Noquemanon Trail Network Single Track membership (I’ve got the $45 level myself, which seems good for an out-of-towner) and give a bit back to the trails you enjoyed. Support RAMBA by clicking the Donate button at the bottom of their page and tossing them some money as well.

Broken American Classic Disc 101 Rim

This morning, when removing the tires from the American Classic Disc 101 wheels that I built for the Vaya (so I could redo the tubeless tape) I found a crack near a spoke hole on the rear wheel. With only 2441 miles and 140 hours on the wheelset, I’m a bit disappointed. The wheels were built to very even tension and are still very true, but it may be time for a new (or another) rim…

Trailforks, Pinkbike, and OSM

For years I’ve been pretty enthusiastic about OpenStreetMap (OSM) and using it to map trails (MTB and otherwise). While there are a bunch of other ways to map trails online (Google Maps, MTB Project, Trailforks) I have stayed away from contributing to them because of the one-way nature of submissions; your contributed data gets locked behind their license. While MTB Project and Trailforks both claim to allow some manner of reuse of data, it’s nothing as useful as OSM‘s Creative Commons (CC) based licensing. Effectively being the Wikipedia of GIS makes it extremely useful for those of us who want to both contribute data and build open maps on the larger set.

Then suddenly last night I read this article on Pinkbike discussing how they took OSM data, parsed it to highlight mountain biking routes, and are now using it as the base map for their Trailforks mapping site. They built a tool on top of the open data and made something great.

This is really, truly excellent.

This sort of reuse of public, open data in OSM is the exact reason why I contribute to it. The folks at Pinkbike / Trailforks have taken a useful set of data from all over the world, processed it, and made something good. This would not have been possible with the data locked up in Google, MTB Project, or even the stuff contributed directly to Trailforks.

I look forward to where this’ll go. The Pinkbike article mentions that they’ll be reimporting the data a little different in the future, and talks about how they are going to have another article about tagging to better support Trailforks. While OSM has some minimal standards for MTB tagging (eg: mtb:scale:imba) I look forward to a bit more de-facto standard around this.

Flat Bars?!?

For years I’ve been riding mountain bikes with fairly swept handlebars (1, 2), commonly referred to as “alt bars”. After trying a few I’d settled on the 23 degree sweep, 710mm wide Salsa Bend 2, and it’s been comfortable for pretty much all of the mountain bike riding that I do. Whether fast single track, dirt roads, or winter exploring, they seemed to work.

I recently picked up a 2015 Salsa El Mariachi SS and it came with an 11 degree sweep, no rise, Salt Flat 2 bar. Not having any spare Bend 2 bars I decided to give it a go. At 700mm it’s roughly the same width as the Bend 2, and on the first few rides on the SS it was comfortable. I’d noticed that on the Bend 2, coupled with the Ergon GP1 grips, I’d often have my hand rotated so the grip sets diagonally across my palm, effecting the same grip as a less-swept bar. So, I decided to swap out the bars on my other two mountain bikes (the rebuilt El Mariachi Ti and the Blackborow) and give it a go.

Thanks to a combination of eBay, Facebook, the MMBA Forum, and some personal connections I was able to get a take-off 750mm Salt Flat 2 and a Salt Flat Carbon for a total of $100. Cutting down the 750mm bar was easy, and save for having to shorten the front brake cable on the Blackborow (to prevent rub) swapping bars on both bikes was easily done on a lazy Saturday morning.

Now I’m just waiting for weather to get better so I can put in some good, long rides and see if they work out as well as I’m hoping. At $100 out of pocket I think it’s a worthy experiment. If it works out I hope to sell the Bend 2 bars for about that, or if not, sell the Salt Flat bars to cover a Bend 2 for the SS. (I don’t really like the orange, anyway…)

Goodbye, 2013 El Mariachi Ti

Today it was time to say goodbye to the 2013 Salsa El Mariachi Ti. After getting a warranty replacement for the broken frame then buying and selling and shuffling parts to rebuild it into the beautiful blue 2014 bike, the call tag to have the frame sent back to Salsa still hadn’t arrived… until this week.

Prior to today I’d been storing the frame at my house, hoping against a return, hung on the wall of my office (alternate view) where I’d see it every day. Sure, this is just a bike frame, a mostly-static piece of metal that held together more complicated bits to form a bicycle, but it was also the focal point of a machine on which I experienced an entire range of emotions and adventures.

From finally completing Lumberjack 100 to getting in over my head on the NTN Singletrack in Marquette, from the first trip to Brown County State Park to getting caught in straight-line winds at Stony Creek, from hard and long rides at Poto to all-day adventures from home simply enjoying the local trails… This frame was a big part of what I’ve experienced on a bike. Every time I looked down between my legs or up after a crash, there it was.

183 rides…
5200 miles…
459 hours of glorious movement.

No longer ridable the frame had become art to me. A piece of material embodying memories; a memento. Something to look at every day and remember past good times and think about those coming in the future.

Still, I understand why Salsa doesn’t want broken frames out in the wild, so tomorrow morning I’ll be dropping it off at Rochester Bike Shop where into a box and off to the scrap heap it’ll go. I’ll still have all the great memories, it’ll just be time to find new art for that wall…

…and keep riding.

Mission Blocks

When up riding at the Vasa Winter Sports Singletrack with Kristen we met up with a group which included Patrick Mier, and he gave us samples of his new product: Mission Blocks. These are a new, and very tasty, chewable food intended for eating on the go; a better version of Clif Shot Bloks and whatnot.

These are around 100 calories/pack, which seems pretty good. Wanting to take in ~300 calories/hour when doing extended rides I’ve never been fond of using blocks like this as a primary food source, but they are a great way to get a little extra sugar as needed, or if you just want something tasty to give a few calories on a shorter ride. Much nicer than the traditional gel packet.

The most immediate difference I noticed between these and other blocks that I’ve tried is the texture. Even when out on a cold day these are much softer than other types of gummy blocks that I’ve tried. This leaves them much more palatable and less likely to stick to your teeth.

The only downside I currently see  — and this may be key to the softness — is the use of gelatin. Based on a Facebook picture this appears to be beef-based, but the origin wasn’t disclosed on the package. This could be off putting to anyone who doesn’t eat beef, so hopefully there’ll be a switch to a non-animal gelatin source as the product matures.

With the product just getting off the ground it’s going to be neat to see where it goes. Patrick’s definitely on to something good here.

Salsa El Mariachi Ti Rebuild (2013 to 2014)

Just before Christmas I was cleaning up my beloved 2013 Salsa El Mariachi Ti to put it away for the winter when I noticed a crack in the frame (photos: 1 · 2 · 3). Back in mid-October, around the time of the Fun Promotions 8 Hours of Addison Oaks race, I began hearing a ticking sound when pedaling hard. I chalked this up to cassette noise that’d plagued the bike in the past and kept on riding. It turns out this noise was a mostly-broken seat stay; something which I didn’t notice until I finally washed the bike. Something which I likely rode on at Iceman 2015 and in Marquette…

Since this was purchased new I was eligible for a warranty replacement, but as Salsa no longer makes this frame I was only able to get a 2015 Spearfish, with Fox CTD rear shock, as a replacement. A great frame (photos), of comparable value, but not what I wanted.

After a bit of searching I found Belgen Cycles in Richmond, VT who had brand new, old stock, 2014 Salsa El Mariachi Ti frames available. I purchased one (new, and thus another warranty), picked up a few parts, and rebuilt my bike. Using a mixture of parts from the 2013 El Mariachi Ti and some new bits (drivetrain, tires, saddle, bottle cages) I’ve now got a bike that I’m excited to ride once trails are ready.

The complete build is as follows:

Frame: 2014 Salsa El Mariachi Ti, Medium, w/ 142×12 Alternator dropouts
Fork: Fox Racing Shox OE, CTD w/ Open Bath Damper (Rebuilt by Fox)
Headset: Cane Creek 40 ZS44/EC44
Crankset: Truvativ 2011 2×10 X0 GXP (00.6115.422.070, Blue)
Bottom Bracket: Truvativ GXP (XR / Black)
Chainring: SRAM X-SYNC Direct Mount, 32t
Derailleur: SRAM GX 1×11
Shifter: SRAM GX 1×11
Shift Cables: Jagwire (Bulk)
Cassette: SRAM XG-1150 (10-42)
Brakes: Shimano XT, Levers: BL-M785, Calipers: BR-M785, Front Rotor: SM-RT67-M (180mm), Rear Rotor: SM-RT67 (160mm)
Stem: Salsa Pro Moto 1 (100mm)
Bar: Salsa Bend 2 (23°)
Wheels: Light Bicycle 35mm rims, DT Swiss 240 hubs w/ Bontrager 54 point ratchets, XD driver
Tires: Front: Schwalbe Racing Ralph HS 425 29 x 2.35″, SnakeSkin, TL Easy / Rear: Specialized Fast Trak GRID 2BLISS Ready, 29 x 2.2″
Seatpost: Thomson Elite (Straight, 27.2mm x 410mm)
Seatpost Collar: Salsa Lip-Lock (32.0mm)
Saddle: Specialized Phenom Comp, 2016 style, 145mm
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 (Blue)
Grips: Ergon GP1 BioKork (Large)
Other Bits: Niner YAWYD top cap w/ Southern Tier cap, Garmin Edge 510, Garmin GSC-10, Mirracycle Original Incredibell, Specialized Zee Cage II (1x Left, 1x Right), Planet Bike Superflash Stealth

The bike is currently built with tubes, and as pictured weighs just under 26 pounds. For now the tubes serve to stretch the tires and press the rim tape into place. Once it’s time to ride I’ll switch to tubeless which should drop a bit more weight. While the rear-center of the bike is slightly shorter due to pivoting the Alternator dropouts all the way forward, I suspect that this build will ride nearly identically to the 2013 El Mariachi Ti. I hope it does, as that bike helped me complete quite a number of personal accomplishments. I hope that just as many great memories can be made on this one.

Big, big thanks to Zac and Josh and the other folks over at Rochester Bike Shop for helping me through the warranty process, getting a replacement, and dealing with my very particular order for the other parts that I wanted.

Photos of the complete bike, including some of the parts and steps of the build process, can be seen by clicking either the image above or here.

Full CD Collection Ripping Workflow

Back in 2003-2004 I ripped ever CD I owned to 192kbps AAC, a very good sounding format which was cost effective to store on disks of the time. This was a great achievement, and for the last 12 years I’ve enjoyed having all of my music in a central digital format. Now that storage is cheaper and I have some time, and before data rot sets in, I wanted to re-rip the collection to archival-quality Apple Lossless format. (This format was chosen for compatibility with my currently preferred software and hardware players, and being lossless can easily be transcoded to other formats as needed.)

My previous ripping operation was performed with a dual CPU PowerMac G5 and iTunes. While iTunes’ eject-after-import feature facilitates disc swapping, the workflow was selecting a stack of CDs, inserting them one at a time, then manually validating tags and artwork. At the time CD metadata providers didn’t have many of the discs, so a great deal of manual cleanup was needed. This was tedious, and something I didn’t want to repeat…

Not to mention there was no good way to assess the accuracy of the resulting rips…

Twelve years later, with better tools available, and finding some time in the form of a holiday break (Christmas Eve to after New Year’s) I began thinking about re-ripping my CD collection. Having recently moved my web hosting (this site, to Linode, my old server was sitting unused at home and I only needed some modern software and an autoloader to set up a high performance CD ripping workstation. The requisite tools were purchased and I got to work. 411.3 GB later and most all of my physical CDs (1241 albums) have been imported as cleanly as possible, ready for listening on a myriad of devices, hopefully for years to come. (Duplicates were not ripped.)

Since ripping an entire CD collection is a desire of many friends of mine I wanted to share  the general setup and workflow that I used. It went well and was mostly hands-off, with only occasional manual intervention needed when the auto-loader jammed and then tool-assisted cleanup of tags and artwork. By using high quality ripping software which supports AccurateRip I was able to ensure that the vast majority of ripped tracks are affirmed error-free and effectively digital archival quality.

Most Inaccurate tracks were caused by damaged discs; typically reflective layer scratches, cracks, or scuffed polycarbonate.

Success Results:

  • 14069 tracks (92.3%) are Accurate
  • 144 tracks (0.95%) are Inaccurate
  • 1024 tracks (6.7%) were not in the AccurateRip database.
  • 1 track was a hidden track 0 in the pregap, which had to be ripped specially, and thus couldn’t be checked with AccurateRip.

Hardware / Software Used:

  • HP ML110 G7 w/ 24GB RAM, 64GB SSD, 3x 1TB HDD, USB 3.0 Card, AMD Radeon HD 5450 (Needs to be a sufficient computer to handle ripping, encoding, and displaying Aero graphics with ease. Built-in video card was not sufficient.)
  • Dell 2005FPW Monitor (1680×1050)
  • Acronova Nimbie USB Plus NB21-DVD
  • HP SATA DVD Drive (Internal, identifies as hp DVD-RAM GH80N.)
  • Samsung USB DVD Drive (External, identifies as TSSTcorp CDDVDW SE-218CB.)
  • Epson Perfection 3170 Scanner
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • dBpoweramp and PerfectTUNES (w/dBpoweramp Batch Ripper and Nimbie Batch Ripper Driver)
  • Mp3tag (Incredibly useful tagging tool with powerful scripting.)
  • CD cases organized into numbered boxes of 30-50 discs.


  1. Use dBpoweramp Batch Ripper to rip all CDs. Label output folders by the box numbers containing each CD; this will make manual metadata validation/cleanup easier.
  2. For each disc that is rejected, use dBpoweramp CD Ripper to rip the entire disc. This is likely a metadata issue as CD Ripper has access to more metadata providers than Batch Ripper. Or it may be the drive failing to recognize the disc.
  3. Use AccurateRip from PerfectTUNES to scan the entire directory structure, then use the built-in information tool to get a text file listing all “InAccurate” tracks.
  4. For each disc with “InAccurate” listings:
    1. Delete entire disc. (I opted to do this instead of re-ripping just the InAccurate tracks, as metadata differences between CD Ripper and Batch Ripper could lead to file names that are clumsy to fix.)
    2. Look disc over and clean if necessary. This, coupled with using a different drive, seems to resolve about 50% of ripping issues. Be sure to use proper technique: soft/clean/low dust cloth, wiping from inside to out (not circularly).
    3. Re-rip discs using dBpoweramp CD Ripper in fast mode.
    4. Re-rip individual tracks with secure mode as needed. Note that re-reading of bad frames can take hours per track, and that some tracks just won’t match AccurateRip or even rip securely. (Some of my discs are sufficiently damaged that I was not able to rip certain tracks.)
    5. Some discs may need to be ripped with Defective by Design settings, particularly in case of copy protection.
    6. Make a separate list of discs which have been accepted issues.
  5. Run AccurateRip (part of PerfectTUNES suite) to confirm all tracks and check against list of accepted issues. Repeat #4 as needed.
  6. Run the Fix Albums tool within Album Art (part of PerfectTUNES suite) to attempt automatic acquisition of artwork for all albums.
  7. Start with the PerfectTUNES suite components to fix artwork and metadata:
    1. In ID Tags go through a series of directories at a time sanity-checking metadata. Compare each CD case to the tags as needed, confirming that artwork looks sane. Keep a document listing artwork to later review.
    2. Use the Album Art tool to attempt bulk fix of art on all albums.
    3. One box at a time add artwork using a scanner and online resources. Then fix Low Resolution artwork.
      1. An Epson Perfection 3170 scanner connected and configured in automatic mode, clicking … next to an album then Acquire (from Scanner) will automatically scan, rotate, and crop artwork from a scanner. This seems to fail on thick-case (Digipak, clamshell) albums and is inconsistent on mostly-white artwork.
      2. Decent artwork can be obtained from Discogs.
      3. Add observed metadata errors to a document for later review.
  8. Use Mp3tag to clean up tags. Useful filters and suggestions include:
    1. (albumartist MISSING) AND (compilation MISSING) – Find tracks that are not part of compilations but did not get Album Artist set.
    2. %_covers% IS "" – Find tracks without artwork.
    3. compilation IS 0 – Find tracks with Compilation set to No. This can be removed using the Extended Tags editor.
    4. "$len(%year%)" GREATER 4 – Find tracks with Year fields longer than four digits (some metadata includes month and day).
    5. (totaldiscs IS 1) AND (discnumber GREATER 1) – Find disc numbers higher than 1 when the total number of discs in the album is 1.
    6. Selecting all tracks, exporting to CSV, then reviewing in a spreadsheet program can help find misspellings, duplicates, etc. For example, look at unique values in the Artist column to find misspellings like “Dabyre” vs. “Dabrye” or “X Marks The Pedwalk” vs. “X-Marks The Pedwalk”.
    7. NOT %ACCURATERIPRESULT% HAS ": Accurate" – Show all tracks that do not contain the AccurateRip header indicating an accurate rip.
  9. Fix any noted errors using a combination of ID Tags, Album Art, and Mp3tag.
  10. Prepare for archiving by renaming all files using Mp3tag:
    1. The following Format string for the ConvertTag – Filename renamer will move files to e:\final_move with the following formats, without most invalid characters for Windows filesystems, truncating the artist, album, and track lengths to 64 characters: e:\final_move\$if(%albumartist%,$validate($replace(%albumartist%,\,_),_),Various Artists)\$validate($replace(%album%,\,_),_)\$if(%albumartist%,$replace($validate($left(%artist%,64)-$left(%album%,64)-%discnumber%_$num(%track%,2)-$left(%title%,64),-),\,_),$replace($validate($left(%album%,64)-%discnumber%_$num(%track%,2)-$left(%artist%,64)-$left(%title%,64),-),\,_))
      1. Tracks with Album Artist set: ...\Artist\Album\Artist-Album-Disc#_Track#-Title.ext
      2. Tracks without Album Artist set (compilations): ...\Various Artists\Album\Album-Disc#_Track#-Artist-Title.ext
  11. Make a backup. Make many backups…
  12. Import into your preferred music player. In my case, iTunes on OS X:
    1. Album or artist at a time, delete the old, MPEG-4 versions and import the Apple Lossless tracks.


  • Autoloader would occasionally jam. Seemed to be caused by:
    • Discs sticking together; ensuring they are gently placed in the loader seems to help.
    • Some discs are particularly thin or thick; these would often fail to load properly. Manually rip these.
  • Autoloader only supports standard size CDs, so mini or artistically cut CDs must be ripped in a normal drive. The USB drive is a laptop-type with a snap-lock spindle, which is better for artistically cut CDs.
  • Off-balance artistically cut CDs must be ripped at 1x to mitigate vibration. This can be problematic during initial spinup.
  • Some discs didn’t read well in one drive or another. If a rip would not be error-free in one drive, it’d frequently be fine in another.
  • Some discs are not present in AccurateRip.
  • Dirty discs caused more problems than I’d anticipated. Discs seemed to be scratched or dirty for a number of reasons:
    • Previous poor storage techniques (DJ or CaseLogic-style slip cases).
    • Outgassing of liner notes caused cloudy white buildup on some discs; could be removed with alcohol.
    • Discs lacking paint over the reflective layer are more susceptible to damage; particularly if stored in slip cases.
  • I suspect that less-common discs may have invalid information in AccurateRip. (Tip: The number after the Accurate Rip CRC indicates how many other users the rip matched with.)
  • In order to use either dBpoweramp CD Ripper or Batch Ripper via Remote Desktop, the following group policy must be enabled: Local Computer Policy → Computer Configuration → Administrative Templates → System → Removable Storage Access → All Removable Storage: Allow direct access in remote sessions. This setting is detailed in this article from Microsoft.
  • PerfectTunes Album Art will lump together albums with differing versions specified with parenthesis. For example, “Pearl’s Girl (Tin There)” and “Pearl’s Girl (Carp Dreams…Koi)” will both show up simply as “Pearl’s Girl”. This can make artwork assignment challenging. To work around this I’d name albums something like “Pearl’s GirlTin There)” until artwork is assigned, then change the name afterward.
  • PerfectTunes ID Tags will occasionally fail to set the Compilation tag when it is the only attribute being edited. Work around this by using Mp3tag and editing the extended tag COMPILATION to 0 or 1.
  • PerfectTunes Album Art will not always show missing art. Work around this by using Mp3tag with filter %_covers% IS "" to find specific tracks without art assigned.
  • Mp3tag had issues renaming the artist “Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia…” due to the ellipses at the end. By replacing the three dots format (…) with precomposed ellipses (…) the issue was resolved.


  • Time: Hard to fully quantify, but overall process took about four weeks of spare time. Most time was spent waiting for the autoloader on initial rips and then manually cleaning up artwork and metadata issues. I was typically able to run 3-4 boxes of discs through the autoloader per day, then spent some lengthy evenings working on tagging and artwork. The use of the autoloader then PerfectTUNES and Mp3tag made the process feel very efficient.
  • Hardware:
    • Acronova Nimbie USB Plus NB21-DVD: $569.00
    • USB 3.0 Card: $19.99
    • Internal Power Cable: $1.99
    • AMD Radeon HD 5450: $31.76
  • Software:
    • dbPoweramp and PerfectTUNES bundle: $58